Becoming comfortable working on cars can feel like an insurmountable battle without schooling or mentorship. However, with a clean garage or driveway and the right tools, routine maintenance can be turned into a learning experience fit to have you fixing up friends and families’ cars in no time!
Unfortunately, when it comes to vehicle maintenance, the most common and easiest fixes are the most often overlooked. Granted, oil changes are easy to shrug off on your local mechanic, but don’t be afraid to throw on your rattiest jeans and drive to your nearest auto parts store! In your vehicle’s manual, you can find the recommended type and amount of oil, as well as the filter. While you’re at the store, don’t forget to pick up jack stands, an oil pan, and a few different sizes of filter wrenches in case the one already on your car decides to be a bit stubborn. Many stores also have a free used-oil recycling program, so be sure to ask while you’re in there!
Depending on the age of your vehicle, underneath the steering wheel may be a panel hiding a port with answers to all your check-engine light woes! This diagnostic port is used by mechanics to check the function of critical instruments that keep your car running smoothly and notify the mechanic of any problems using codes. Available to anyone, however, are diagnostic scanners that can be used at home with results sent right to your phone!
With a Fixd Car Diagnostic Tool or something similar, you can diagnose your vehicle’s engine problems and consult the manual before even peering under the hood!
Light Bulbs & Spark Plugs
Swinging by your local auto parts store to pick up replacement bulbs for your out-of-commission turn signal seems like a no-brainer, especially after a week of using hand signals to get anywhere (you have been using hand signals, right?). For many people, this can be a great way to start getting comfortable working on your vehicle, with very few tools needed. Often, replacing a burnt-out signal or brake bulb is as simple as popping open the casing from beneath the hood or inside the trunk and carefully switching the bulbs! On some newer models, these casings might be more difficult to get to, so be sure to consult your manual (or Google!) for the proper method of accessing these.
Brakes and Rotors
The squeal of your brakes as you’re stopping at a red light is never a happy sound. They’ve just started grinding. Now what? How much longer before they have to get replaced? Will they hold up if I have to make a hard stop? These questions are nerve-wracking and scary, especially with precious cargo! Picking up the correct brake pads and rotors is the easy part, but once you make it home and get the tires off, you might find you need a few more tools than initially assumed. Fortunately, living in the age of information, we can quickly make a list of tools we may need (like a brake caliper compressor) before we leave home for the auto parts store. Changing one set of brakes a day, either the front or back can allow you to check your work and feel comfortable with your newfound skill!
It’s easy to feel intimidated when building a new skill, especially one as complex as working on cars. However, building on smaller skills, such as tire and oil changes, can help you feel considerably more comfortable working under the hood of your beloved vehicle. When getting started, never be afraid to turn to your manual, Google, or your local mechanic, because every person you’d trust with your car began where you are now!