Regular Car Maintenance You Can Do in an Afternoon
Regularly maintaining one’s car can only be a good thing. Keeping it fine tuned, replacing old or corroded parts, will not only keep the car in good driving condition, but can also maintain a higher resale value. A lot of us prefer to take our car to the shop, we didn’t all go to a school for mechanics after all. However, there are actually quite a few things you can do yourself in a single day.
Maintenance is an important part of owning a car. We’ve talked about different kinds of maintenance before, a lot of which we can do for you at our University Mitsubishi service center. Many of us visit a service or mechanic shop when our car needs a replacement part or a simple tune-up, however there are some things you can do on your own. Simple stuff that you can do yourself in an afternoon with a couple of tools and a little elbow grease.
Regular Maintenance You Can Do in the Afternoon
It’s a good rule of thumb to give your car a tune-up every 30,000 miles, but some will stretch that to 50,000 miles. Regardless, here’s a few maintenance routines can do in a single afternoon.
Replacing Spark Plugs
It’s always good to make sure your spark plugs are in working order. The best time to check them out is at night. If you see or hear any sparks, a spark plug may be damaged. An idling engine doesn’t put much stress on the ignition system. For good measure, take some regular water in a spray bottle and spray it around the plug ends. If you see electrical arcs or hear a snap-crack, then your wires may be leaking, or are exposed, cracked, burnt, etc. If there’s visible damage, you can either go to a dealership or aftermarket auto store to get replacement spark plugs to install.
Replace the Air Filter
When it comes to replacing the air filter, there is no test to indicate if it needs to be replaced. It’s just good practice to replace it every so often, between 15,000 and 30,000 miles, especially if there’s a funny smell when starting up the engine. To replace the air filter make sure the engine is off, lift the hood, and locate the air filter box – usually closer to the front car vents. Remove the cover and remove the old filter.
When taking out the old filter, remember the direction it was facing and the side that was facing you for when you install the new one. Clean out the filter box with a vacuum or damp cloth. Then install the new filter in the same position (direction and forward-facing side) as the old one and reattach the cover. Check around the filter box and make sure there are no cracks or damaged hoses, and if not you should be good to go.
Replace the Fuel Filter
A little tougher, we need to lessen the tension and pressure on the fuel system and cut the fuel being fed into the fuel lines. To do this, we have to park the vehicle on a flat surface, loosen the fuel cap (the cap removed when filling up); newer cars may not have a cap, and for this refer to the owner’s manual. Remove the fuel pump fuse from the automobile’s fuse box (check owner’s manual for fuse box and fuel pump fuse location).
Now turn the car on and let it idle until the engine shuts off and the fuel has been expended. Crank the ignition a few more times for good measure, then let it sit. Now, disconnect the negative terminal on the battery to keep the engine from turning back on throughout the rest of the filter replacement. The fuel filter will either be in the engine compartment or under the fuel tank. If necessary, use a car jack and jack stands to lift the rear end of the vehicle.
If there are bolts, loosen and remove them and then the fuel filter. Make sure you have the right fuel filter for your vehicle by comparing the old and the new one. If the same, install the new fuel filter with the arrow pointing towards the engine. Tighten the bolts back on if there were any to remove previously. Reconnect the battery cable, lower the vehicle if raised. Return the fuel pump fuse and tighten the fuel cap. Now turn the engine back on and check for any leaks. All clear?
This is the one most of us leave to a pro, but it’s actually the easiest one on here. You need gloves, safety goggles, maybe even a face mask for doing an oil change yourself. Also a funnel, a good box-end wrench, an oil filter wrench, and baking pan. To start, turn the engine on for just a minute or two so the oil is a little less viscous and pours like syrup instead of molasses. Don’t let it run too long, or the oil you will be working with will get as hot as cooking oil.
Turn the engine off, park the vehicle on a flat surface with the emergency brake engaged. With a car jack raise the car and use some jack stands to support the car’s weight. Open the hood and locate the oil fill cap on top of the engine – remove it. Then get under the engine and put the baking pan right under it. Remove the oil drain plug with the wrench and allow the oil to drain completely.
Now with the oil filter wrench, remove the oil filter and wipe off the filter mounting surface with a clean towel. Coat the new filter gasket with clean engine oil and install it by hand until the oil filter gasket connects to the filter mount. Turn the oil filter one extra rotation to seal it, and then reinstall the oil drain plug with a new washer.
Back at the front of the engine, pour engine oil through a filter into the engine, using the amount referenced in the owner’s manual. Put the oil fill cap back on, turn on the engine, and check for leaks. If not, lower the vehicle back down, and check the oil with an oil dipstick.
That’s it. With some preparation and free time, you can do all of this in a single afternoon. Now give your car a nice wash and take it out on a little drive to relish in the tuneup you did yourself.