Assembling IKEA furniture and troubleshooting car problems can be highly frustrating tasks. However, whether to save money or learn a new set of skills, more are tackling the ‘do it yourself’ trend.
DIYing IKEA furniture, at worst, may result in an upside-down wardrobe and a lot of hair pulling. Car troubles, on the other hand, can lead to costly and unsafe issues if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Whether you consider yourself a DIY pro or not, regular car maintenance is vital – especially when it comes to the family car. However, with more Australians failing to properly care for their cars, basic car care has never been so important.
The Dangers Of Self-Servicing Your Car
Before you tackle the task, ask yourself why you’re DIYing.
Self-services have the potential to be cost-effective – when done properly. But not everyone has the skills, patience, time, money or resources to fix common car problems. This is where a novated car lease may benefit some drivers.
If you want to DIY to save money, a fully maintained car lease could be more beneficial. Car leasing takes care of all running and repair costs, including regular car maintenance and servicing. Costs are bundled into one easy-to-manage payment and paid with your pre-tax income. Not only does this offer drivers tax benefits, but it gives you access to qualified mechanics to ensure your ride runs smoothly.
Improper self-services may invalidate your warranty or car insurance policy. Some repairs and maintenance are also better left to the professionals.
However, that doesn’t mean car maintenance shouldn’t be DIYed. While lack of basic car care knowledge limits many of us, there are some things that can be tackled using replacement parts and ordinary hand tools. Here’s what you should and shouldn’t DIY:
DIY Car Check-Ups That Are (Usually) Safe To Do
Regular Oil Checks
The RAC recommends your car’s oil levels should be checked every week to keep your vehicle running smoothly between services. Oil and oil filters are generally best changed every 5,000km to 10,000, or every six months.
To check your oil, park on a level surface and wait until the engine has cooled. Remove the dipstick, wipe with a clean cloth and put back in and remove again. Check the oil level against the high/low mark. Oil levels should always be between the two lines.
If the oil level doesn’t reach the higher mark, top up with a small funnel. Refer to the owner’s manual to determine what oil to use.
Fluid Top Ups
Regular fluid top-ups, such as windscreen wiper fluid and coolant, are as easy as oil checks to perform.
Dirty, streaked windows can be dangerous and affect your driving abilities. To top up, find the windshield wiper fluid reservoir under the hood (labelled washer only), remove cap and fill with water to the indicated line. Add dishwashing detergent for an extra boost of cleanliness.
To prevent vehicles from overheating, engine coolant checks are important. Check coolant once the engine has cooled (labelled engine coolant). Use the lines on the reservoir as a guide and never overfill. Because coolant is a mix of water, anti-freeze and corrosion inhibitor, you’ll need to consult the vehicle’s manual to confirm the type needed.
Replacing a car battery yourself can save an average of nearly $60.
Depending on its quality, batteries usually last around four years. If your battery dies and it can’t be recharged, you’ll be left stranded. Therefore, knowing how to replace a battery is a great skill to have.
To find the right battery for your car, check the manual or purchase the same battery as the one you want to replace. You can replace your car battery using these simple steps.
New Brake Pads
Brakes that squeak, grind and whine aren’t just annoying to listen to, they’re a sure sign you need new brake pads. As the single most important safety device on your car, brake maintenance is something that shouldn’t be skimped on.
To replace brake pads, you’ll also need to be familiar with how to jack up the car and change a tyre. Here is a step-by-step guide. Once the new pads are on, carefully ‘break them in’ by driving around the block and alternate between braking hard and soft before they feel ‘normal’ again.
DIY Maintenance to Avoid
An overheated engine can be the result of multiple problems. Although some overheating issues can be rectified with cooling-system maintenance, you’ll need a qualified mechanic to diagnose and fix the issue.
Fixing overheated engines should never be attempted as a DIY job. Not only do you run the risk of damaging your car, but it’s unsafe unless you have the right skills and expertise. A poor DIY job could also cost thousands of dollars to fix.
Cars have fuses, wires, connectors and sensors. If you don’t know how all the automotive electronic gremlins tie together, stay away from them.
While fuses may be a DIY job, run-of-the-mill electrical repairs are better left to the professionals.
AC System Restoration
A reliable air conditioning system is essential living in Australia, especially during summer. Some cars can go five-years without needing a re-gas, but most heating and cooling systems will need to be serviced and re-gassed every one-to-two years.
Your AC system may be small, but there are many parts that may need to be replaced for a restoration. AC systems that don’t operate properly or have a musty odour can be a result of a coolant leak or bacteria or mould build-up.
When the system is serviced by a professional, all critical parts will be inspected. This includes hoses and components, drive belts and pulleys, leak detectors and the condenser temperature checked. New refrigerant oil will also be added and the vehicle run to check air vent temperature.
Anything transmission related is a big DIY no-no.
Transmission fixes means dealing with a maze of thousands of small parts. Specialised transmission professionals have the right tools and knowledge to fix, replace and put back parts where they belong. Add in sensors, finicky clips, bearings and rods in the way, and it’s not something you’ll want to attempt.
There’s a fine line between tackling a DIY car repair and knowing when to call an expert mechanic. Make sure you know when to hang up your DIY hat!
Have you ever DIY’d your car service? Tell us below: