Cars are great when everything is running smoothly and you’ve got a full tank of gas. Let’s face it, though, when there is a problem your wallet tries to hide from the inevitable expensive bill. After handing a hefty chuck of change to the repair shop, you’re left with a blow to your finances and an uneasy feeling of “will it happen again”? That’s why it literally pays off to learn how to fix your own car during times of trouble. Although you’ll want to stay up to date with all service check-ups, there are a few emergency situations you’ll be able to handle yourself without calling for help or taking your car into the shop. Here are the most common minor car issues you can easily learn how to fix yourself.
Before beginning to pull things apart, it is highly recommended you purchase a few tools that will help you save so much money in the long run. Buy a service manual specifically for your car’s model and make and purchase a basic toolkit with a complete set of pliers, screwdrivers, and open ended/socket wrenches, a car jack, drain pan, and some jumper cables. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car at all times that includes a flash light, batteries, a first aid kit, air compressor, booster cables, and, in some cases, a flare or emergency whistle.
Change A Flat Tire
You’re on the road to meet a couple friends for dinner when you hear a loud thud and your car tilts to one side as you scramble to get on the road’s shoulder. A flat tire is one of the most common car problems that can be caused by a nail, glass, or any other sharp object on the road. Although fixing a flat tire usually costs less than $20, you can save that money to put towards dinner and save the time it would take for roadside assistance to show up by learning how to fix the flat yourself.
After pulling over to the side of the road or any other spot deem safe, turn on your hazard lights and locate the spare tire, car jack, and wrench. Use the wrench to loosen the lug nuts of the flat tire. You don’t need to remove the lug nuts, however, if the lug nuts seem too tight, use a hard object like a rock to loosen them up. Place the car jack in the correct spot (consult your owner’s manual) and lift the tire approximately six inches off the ground. Completely remove the loosened lug nuts and pull the tire towards yourself to get it off the car. Line up the spare tire to the lug nut holes and carefully insert each lug nut to secure the spare to the car. Lower the jack and tighten each lug nut to ensure the spare will stay on the car. Congratulations! You just learned how to change a flat!
Jump A Dead Battery
Unless you have a friend who knows what they’re doing and can do this for you, this service certainly is not free and having it towed can cost between $50-$75. Make sure you have some jumper cables handy and all you need is another car. If you’re near the highway, try flagging down a good Samaritan to help you jump start your car or call a friend. Both vehicles must have the ignition shut off and the car must be in Park or Neutral with both parking breaks engaged. Open the hoods of both cars and use your owner’s manual to locate the battery. Place the red end of one of the cables to the POS or + of your battery. Attach the other red cable to the POS/+ to the other car’s battery. Attach one of the black clips to the negative (-) terminal of the other car’s battery and place the other black cable to a metal part of your car away from the battery. Ensure that each cable is properly positioned and try to start your car. If the battery is indeed the problem, the car should have no problem starting. If the car doesn’t start, your battery may need to be replaced or the problem can lie within the starter or alternator. If the jump is successful, drive around for at least 30 minutes to recharge your battery.
Change The Oil
You need to know several things before you decide to change the oil on your car. First, an oil change is due every 3,000-5,000 miles driven which depends on how old your car is and what type of oil is used. Once you know how often and what type of oil your car needs, changing the oil isn’t a terribly difficult task and you will save between $20-$50. You’ll need your owner’s manual or book to locate the oil pan bolt and filter and decide how much oil the car can hold. When you’ve established this information lift your car up using a car jack and brace it using jack stands (do NOT work under the car without jack stands). Let the oil warm up by idling your car for a couple minutes then open the car’s hood and remove the oil cap. After removing the oil cap, carefully crawl under the car and loosen the oil pan bolt using a wrench to drain the old oil into a drain pan. Add a small amount of oil to the filter before replacing it and tighten the oil pan bolt. From the hood of the car, use a funnel to pour the pre-determined amount of oil into the car and replace the oil cap.
Learning how to change a flat tire, jump-start a car, and change the oil may sound too easy to be true but the best news is that it really is that simple! Be sure to read all instructions thoroughly before attempting any of these DIY repairs. Not only will you not need roadside assistance and the bill that comes with it, but you’ll be putting over $100 back in your pocket by learning these simple DIY car hacks!