With more than 270 million cars on the road, there is hardly any doubt that Americans love driving. For many folks, it is hard to imagine life without a car and they are indeed an important part of everyday life.
People love their cars and there is all manner of things you can do to make a vehicle your own. You can add car window tint to protect against UV rays and to protect your car’s upholstery. You can add a speaker system to blast music as you drive. You can even add detailing work to make your car stand out.
As important as cars are, they’re not indestructible and they do fail every now and again. For many folks, it seems like cars break down at all the wrong times. When that happens, you‘re left without transportation and usually left to shell out money for costly repairs.
Some repairs are best left to professionals, but there are many car repairs you can do at home. Not only will you save money, but by taking the time to learn car repair, you can get to know your car a lot better.
Changing Your Oil
If you want to learn car repair, a good place to start is to learn how to change your oil. Plainly put, your car needs oil to run smoothly, so it’s important to check it regularly.
When it comes to DIY auto repair like changing your oil, it boils down to several basic steps:
- Removing the oil drain plug
- Unscrewing the oil filter and then emptying it
- Putting back the filter and drain plug
- Taking off the oil filler cap and pour fresh oil into the reservoir
- Checking your oil levels on your dipstick to make sure there’s enough.
Thankfully, you can find any number of tutorials online that will guide you step-by-step, so you can change your oil correctly. Depending on what type of vehicle you have as well as its condition, you might be best served changing your oil every 3,000 miles or so. But if you have a newer vehicle, you might be able to go 5,000 or even 7,500 miles before you need to change it.
Changing A Flat
If you’re going to learn car repair, learning how to change a flat tire also has to be near the top of your list. You could argue that next to the engine, the tires are the most important part of a car or truck. On that note, there’s nothing worse than driving along when all of a sudden you hear the thump, thump, thump of a flat tire.
How do you do it? Again, there are many tutorials where you can learn car repair, but the basics of changing a flat tire include:
- Jacking up the car, often with a jack stand
- Taking off the lug nuts and removing the tire
- Putting the new tire on and putting the lug nuts back on
- Lowering the car and checking to make sure the lug nuts are tight
Nothing can anger a car owner faster than finding a scratch on their car. Even the tiniest scratches can be a major source of annoyance. A body shop can remove any dents and scratches from a vehicle easily, but it can also be a costly move. You can deal with scratches yourself by following several steps:
- Figuring out the depth of the scratch
- Sanding the scratch
- Cleaning the area and applying a rubbing compound
- Polishing the scratched area with the compound
- Washing the polished area and then waxing it to seal it off.
If you choose to do this as you learn car repair, many places sell DIY kits that allow you to repair several different kinds of scratches.
Changing Spark Plugs
Spark plugs help ignite gas to get your vehicle running. But the effectiveness of spark plugs dampens over time and they need to be changed about every 10,000 miles. To fix them at home, you simply remove the spark plug wire from the old spark plug, take the spark plug out, put the new spark plug in and reattach the wire.
Changing A Battery
As if flat tires and car scratches weren’t enough, it seems like car batteries also die at inconvenient times. If your car battery is on its last legs and needs replacement, you can easily change it in the comfort of your own driveway.
Changing a battery is as simple as this: take off the battery cover, disconnect the cables—negative cable first—put in the new battery and then reconnect the cable clamps. Another thing you might want to do, especially if you still have a working battery, is cleaning up the terminals. You can easily use a water and baking soda mixture or Coca-Cola to clean your battery terminals, which will help conduct a better flow of electricity and keep your battery functioning as it should.
Fixing Headlights And Taillights
As you learn car repair, you’ll learn that, for some repairs, you can easily go to shops that sell auto body parts or even discounted used car parts you can buy to do the job yourself at home. One such job is replacing headlights and taillights.
Essentially all you need is a replacement bulb (or frame if that’s broken) and a screwdriver. You remove the screws that connect the headlight bracket, disconnect the electrical connection, put the new bulb in, reconnect the electricals, and put the frame back. This saves you some money, but it’s also illegal to drive with a broken headlight or taillight.
Putting In New Wipers
You might not appreciate your windshield wipers as much as say, your engine or your tires, but they sure do come in handy during heavy rainfall or snowfall. Thankfully, you can pick up a pair of new wiper blades and install them yourself—if you’re unsure which ones you need, ask an employee at an auto parts store.
All you do is lift the wiper arm, pull the tab that allows the blade to come off, line up the new blade with the arm, and put it in place. In the middle of a storm, you’ll be thankful you’ve got functioning wipers that keep your windshield clean.
Jumpstarting A Car
As you learn car repair or learn truck repair, another important piece of that puzzle involves learning to jumpstart your car or truck. Even if you have roadside assistance as part of your auto insurance plan, it’s very useful information to know and it’s easier than you think.
If you find yourself in a spot where your car won’t start, you can attach jumper cables to your car battery and the battery of the car giving you a jump. Attach positive and negative on each set of terminals and start your vehicle. You can also buy jump starter kits that essentially have a battery pack so you don’t need the assistance of another car.
There are some car repairs and tweaks that require the experienced eyes and hands of folks an auto body shop, but it’s important to educate yourself on all aspects of your car.
Whether you drive a truck, a car, or an SUV, you need a vehicle that’s properly aligned. Your tire alignment, in particular, has a great impact on how a vehicle handles, the amount of wear and tear on tires and the condition of your car’s other systems.
If you take your car into an alignment service, you’ll likely learn about three important aspects of alignment:
- Camber: This refers to how tires are angled if you’re looking at a vehicle straight on from the front. If you, or an auto body shop worker, look at a car or truck, the wheels needed to be vertical and perpendicular to the road.
- Toe: This refers to how your tires might be misaligned if be looked at from above. Ideally, the tires should be straight and parallel to a car’s centerline, as if you were standing up straight and looking down at your feet.
- Caster: This involves the alignment of a vehicle’s steering with respect to the centerline of the vehicle’s wheels. This can cause your car or truck to drift left or right while you’re driving.
Imagine for example that you run a truck delivery service. It is no doubt imperative that you have a fleet of trucks that can do the jobs they’re tasked with doing. With poor alignment, your trucks’ tires can wear out fast and other problems—such as poor steering and poor suspension—can make for an unpleasant ride, if not a dangerous one. That’s why it’s important to do a routine alignment check to make sure your trucks are in ship shape.
Another important thing to know as you learn car repair is how your car or truck’s transmission works. Odds are you’ve had your transmission fluid checked during routine maintenance, but you might not know what it’s for.
Your transmission helps receive power from the engine and then carries (or transmits) that power to the vehicle’s wheels. Without a working transmission, your car or truck can be dead in the water.
Taking your car in for transmission service will allow you to learn all about your car’s transmission. Autoworkers will be able to show you all the parts of a transmission, including the input shaft—which connects your car’s engine to the gearbox—and the output shaft, which delivers the engine’s power to the rest of the vehicle’s drivetrain.
No one wants to get in a car accident; that’s why they’re called accidents. But the fact is they happen all the time and they cost folks a lot of money. In fact, it’s estimated year that car accidents cost the U.S. upwards of $230 billion.
An important thing to know as you learn car repair is what happens to your car in the event of an accident and how your car repairs might be covered.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, an auto accident attorney can look at the specifics of your case and help you seek a settlement to cover medical expenses. But if you walk away from an accident with a totaled car, you might be wondering what comes next.
Depending on how comprehensive your insurance is, you may have rental car coverage where you can get cars or trucks for rent and your insurance company will cover a certain amount of the rental cost per day.
You’ll also want to check on the extent of the damage to your car. If your car requires significant repairs, you’re likely going to be responsible for $500-$600, depending on the size of your deductible. If in the event your car is totaled and you still owe money on it, your insurance will usually cover the actual cash value, which is the vehicle’s fair market value before it was damaged. You may end up with nothing at the end of it, but at least you may not owe money on the damaged car and you can go get yourself a new vehicle.
Taking care of your vehicle—no matter how big or small—not only keeps you on the road, it shows that you care about your vehicle. By doing repairs at home, perhaps using online tutorials, you can learn car repair and get to know your vehicle inside and out. Likewise, by taking your car in for repairs to an auto body shop or a dealership, you can learn a great deal more about your vehicle from more experienced hands.
The need for car repairs often arises when we least expect it and sometimes at inopportune times. But by learning the most basic of car repairs and knowing how to react in different situations, you can make simple, cost-effective repairs that will allow you to get back on the road faster and get back to work or vacation or wherever you are headed.