Photo Courtesy of http://atlautomotive.wordpress.com.

Photo Courtesy of http://atlautomotive.wordpress.com.

If you own a car, you are probably used to taking it to a garage every 6 months or few thousand miles for an oil change. Well, if you do not do this already, you better start! The best way to keep your car running smoothly is by regular maintenance! You will end up keeping your car for much longer than if you neglect your car and run it into the ground.

Many people, like me, do not know much beyond basic car maintenance. I have been learning the last few years a few things I can do on my own to keep my car in top shape. Since I am still living in an apartment complex, I do not have an area where I can perform my own oil changes. There are still a few things I can do myself that do not require a garage though. Check your car manual for DIY instructions as every car is different. Look on YouTube for instructional videos on how to do things yourself. You will keep your car in good shape and save some money!

Checking the oil levels

This is latest DIY car maintenance I am adding to my list. Every single car has a dipstick where you can pull it out to see what the level of your oil is. Wait until your car engine is cold before doing this. Then, pop open your hood and look for the dipstick. It is a long metal rod with a loop at one end. Pull it out, clean off the oil with a rag, then dip it in again. Hold the dipstick horizontally and look at where your oil level is. There should be an indicator of how full it is. If it’s not full you might need to add some oil to keep your engine running smoothly. Since I have not had to add oil to my engine before, I would probably ask someone who has done it before to help me at this point. It is supposed to be as simple as finding the cap for the engine oil and putting a bit of oil in, and then checking and rechecking with the dip stick. It is recommended to check twice a month.

Tire pressure

I have been checking the tire pressure for a few years now. Yeah! One of the first DIY car care items I learned about! It is recommended to do this weekly, but I think I end up doing it every other week. My Corolla uses the general bubble tires and is a light car so pressure holds fairly well. I have not checked the Prius yet. By keeping the tire pressure at their optimal levels, you will get the best gas mpg. Having the tire pressure be higher or lower will lower your gas mpg.

Check your tires only when cold. You will not get an accurate reading if they are warm. Make sure to buy your own tire pressure gauge. These can be as little as a few dollars or over ten for the fancy ones. I have a simple one and it works just fine. I never use the ones at the gas stations because they are so well-used they might not be accurate anymore. Open your driver’s door and check the panel inside for the optimal tire pressure. Then go around to each tire, unscrew the cap, and press the gauge firmly against each tire valve. If done right, the indicator in the tire gauge should pop out. You should not hear too much hissing from air escaping.

If the tire pressure is low, fill it up to the right tire pressure. You can do this at a gas station, or get your own tire inflator. I bought a Slime tire inflator that works off my car battery. It was easier for me to use this than using a gas station since I live in LA. Most gas stations are so small that the air pumps are shoved into an almost inaccessible corner.

Changing the cabin air filter

By changing the cabin air filter myself I save on maintenance fees! I also know exactly what type of filter is going into my car. The cabin air filter filters the air coming into your car from debris and sometimes bad smells. A simple air filter will only filter out dust and debris, a charcoal filter will also filter out smells. The latter is of course more expensive. For high traffic areas, usually a carbon filter is recommended. I currently have a regular air filter in my car, but next time I want to try the carbon version. Filters generally run $15-$25. It is recommended to be changed every 10,000 miles.

Check your car manual for the best directions to change your cabin air filter. For my Corolla, my filter is located behind my glove box. I have to unscrew and pop out the glove box, then I can just pop out the old one and put in the new filter. The used air filter can be pretty disgusting so use gloves if you want. Mine was originally white but had turned a dark gray. There was a dead bug, a pigeon feather, and a few little leaves in there too.

New windshield wipers once a year

Changing your windshield wipers might be a little tricky, but somehow I have managed. There is usually a little latch to pop off the old wipers, and then you have to pop in the new ones. When you buy wipers, usually it comes with instructions. If not, there is always YouTube. It is important to have wipers that work well of course so that you can see when you drive. By changing wipers yourself, you can save some money on maintenance fees. So do not be afraid to get the more expensive option. I have tried various brands, but spending a little more means longer lasting wipers that do not streak.

Be careful to know exactly what you are doing when changing your wipers. Once you take the old wipers off, make sure to put the metal piece down on your windshield. These are spring loaded and if they snap back onto your windshield without the rubber wipers attached, they can really do serious harm.

What kind of DIY car care do you do? Do you have any tips?


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