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Car Care Month: A DIY Car Maintenance Checklist

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No need to go to a mechanic for basic car maintenance—you can do it yourself!

It’s not a coincidence that Car Care Month falls on April, a ripe time for life and an overall season of renewal. It is the perfect time to jolt your car from hibernation and prep it for spring and summer driving whose open and oftentimes overwhelming roads lead to some of the most breathtaking places you’ll ever see (think Pacific Coast Highway, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the like).

But before taking everything in—the sceneries, the sensations, the stir brought by steering the wheel—it’s a must to check your car for issues that may have manifested or been overlooked during winter and ensure it is in top shape. This is, after all, what Car Care Month is about.

So here’s a list of repairs you can do on your own before gassing up for your getaways:

Fix Up Filters

Air, oil, fuel—all these filters play an important role in keeping your ride’s efficiency at a high level: drive with a dirty air filter and it affects fuel economy, keep using a damaged fuel filter and you put your engine at risk of costly damage. It is critical to fix up new filters, especially when your old ones have been around for a while. Installing a new fuel filter could be a complex job but shouldn’t be a problem for a seasoned DIYer.

Out with Old Oil

If your ride has racked up significant mileage, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 miles, chances are, your oil has already broken down and needs changing. It’s good practice to change your oil not just to ensure proper lubrication but also—and this is particularly true for the summer, a season of soaring temperatures—to guarantee that its viscosity matches the requirements of your car. If the temperatures are higher, you need heavier oil. Same thing if you’re driving an old vehicle model. Disregard this and you could be looking at potential engine damage.

However, be sure you’ve done research prior to upgrading your oil because not all makes and models perform well with thicker oil.

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A no-no when changing oil: proceeding when your engine is hot.

Waive Worn Wipers

Unsightly streaks on your windshield can ruin its look and be a distraction when you’re driving. If you’ve been using old, worn-out wipers, they might be responsible for these ugly streaks, so ditch your old wiper blades and swap them for new ones. Do this every year—and clean them using windshield wiper fluid and a paper towel—and you’re guaranteed an unobstructed view of the road.

It can take less than 20 minutes to install new wiper blades, but it can change your view of driving—literally.

Looking for quality wiper blades? Here are some bang-for-the-buck options:

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Drain Dirt and Debris

Your car’s radiator can be such the indefatigable workhorse. But as it performs overtime, it builds up deposits that can take a toll on your cooling system and cause decay on its chief components. How do you stop this from happening? One way is to use a cleaning solution to eliminate the harmful contaminants. It is imperative, though, to drain your old coolant first, flush it out with all the dirt and debris that come with it, then dispose it properly. Afterwards, it’s time to fill up your car with fresh coolant.

Stop! Hammer Time

You don’t scrimp on something that can save your life. You can invest on high-quality brake pads, but if you know how to change them without having to visit a mechanic, you can cut costs without compromising your safety on the road.

Changing your brake pads (every 20,000 miles as suggested by experts) is a DIYable task that involves a bevy of tools: C-clamp, wrenches, pliers, pry bar, wire brush, floor jack, jack stands, and…a hammer.

See, when you have an older car, you might have to use a hammer to secure in place your newly installed pads with the retaining clips that once locked the old pads in. It’s a nifty hack, but it needs to be done with caution.

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An advanced DIY project, replacing brake pads should be done with the right equipment and expertise.

Yes to Connection, No to Corrosion

No list of car maintenance tips is complete without a mention of the battery. Checking the battery from time to time should be second nature to any owner as it is important to vehicle performance.

When it comes to battery upkeep, maintaining clean and snug connections remains to be the most critical part of the procedure. There is no place for corrosion on battery terminals because once rust sets in, the terminals’ ability to conduct power is curtailed.

While soda is a viable option and is said to be effective, it’s still wise to get a professional product (or use a mixture of baking soda and water) to rid your battery of those powdery blue and white corrosion mounds. Make sure to dry the posts with a clean rag after the cleanup.

You’re all set! If you’ve ticked these items off your maintenance checklist, then you can go back revving on the road in no time.

Want a step-by-step breakdown of more maintenance tasks? Check out these expert-guided car repair videos:

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