5 car fixes you should be able to do yourself

by Matt Bladin

For many Aussies, having a little automotive knowledge can go a long way in avoiding uneccessary costs at the mechanics. Here's what you need to know.

For many Australians, their car is one of most valuable assets they own (outside their home). Despite this, "car repairs" is a phrase that strikes fear into a lot of drivers. Luckily, the smallest, simplest repairs don't have to break the bank (or leave you at the financial mercy of the mechanic). In fact, some can be quite easily be done at home by yourself with a little bit of knowledge and a can-do attitude.

So if you're looking for a bit of help when it comes to keeping your motor running, here's a few things you should know:

Please note: Always let the engine cool before you start working on it.

  1. Air filter

    It doesn't get much easier than changing an air filter, yet it's something that should be done every year or so to keep your car healthy. It doesn't require any tools and requires pretty much no mechanical know-how – just grab an air filter from your local auto shop (a sales attendant should be able to help you find the right one).

    1. Find the metal case your filter lives in under the hood. It will most likely be a metal box with clips. If you can't see it, consult your manual.
    2. Open the box and take note of how the air filter sits before removing it.
    3. Place the new air filter in the same way. Close the box and fasten the clips.
  2. Windscreen wiper rubber

    Windscreen wiper rubber might be a mechanic's best friend. This extremely cheap and easy repair ($10 or $20), when coupled with parts and labour costs can easily set a customer back $100 or more. In reality, you can easily pick up replacement rubber from an auto shop and change them over using these simple steps:

    1. Lift your windscreen wipers up. Pay attention to how the current rubber connects to the metal arms.
    2. You're likely to see a tab on the underside of the wiper arm. Push the tab and you'll be able to remove the rubber.
    3. Attach the new blades. You may need to cut these to size (you can use the old rubber as a measurement). Follow the instructions on the packaging about how to attach the new blades, being careful with the wiper arms.
  3. Replace a headlight bulb

    Headlights wear out like any other light bulb and can be a hassle to take in to get fixed, but it's illegal to drive with a broken brake or tail light so it's best to get it done as soon as you notice the bulb's blown. You're going to need a screwdriver for this one.

    1. Head to your local auto store and get yourself a headlight or brake light bulb. Speak to the sales assistant to get an idea of wich one's right for your car.
    2. Remove the light housing. This is often done from the back of the housing: within the hood or boot. If you're unsure, check the manual for your car.
    3. Turn the older socket a quarter turn anti-clockwise, this should unlock. Now remove the bulb from the socket.
    4. Replace the bulb in the socket (taking care not to touch the bulb) and turn it a quarter clockwise, this will lock it in place.
    5. Reattach the housing securely and test before driving.
  4. Remove a bumper sticker

    That ‘Hang Loose' bumper sticker you picked up from Bali when you were 18 used to seem pretty cool. Yet, you've now realised this self inflicted defacing of your car was a horrible idea to begin with and is seriously hampering your ability to sell it. Here's how to remove it with out leaving a scar/remnants:

    1. Find the loosest corner of the sticker and begin to peel back.
    2. Spray a lubricant, like WD-40, to the sticky glue/car side.
    3. Continue spraying and peeling slowly until the bumper sticker is completely removed.
    4. Wipe away the remaining lubricant.
  5. Check your tire pressure

    You're not going to get too far in your car without working tires. Thankfully, tires are relatively simple things; rubber rings with the right amount of air in them. It's when this air (or tire pressure) starts to drop that you can run into all sorts of avoidable problems.

    Let it get too low and pretty soon you've gone from an easy tire pressure check-up to a much more challenging tire-change. Here's how to avoid that frustrating jump:

    1. Check your owners' manual or the inside of your door for what your standard cold tire-inflation pressure should be. Note that sometimes, depending on the vehicle, your front and back tires may need different pressure.
    2. Head to your local petrol station and find their air pressure gauge.
    3. Unscrew the valve stem cap from the stem on the tire. This will be a small pen sized valve next to the hubcap.
    4. Attach the air pressure gage to the end of the stem. If you hear a hissing noise it means it is not fully connected. Next, let the air pressure gage take a reading of the tire and compare it to your manual.
    5. Record your reading and replace the stem cap, making sure it is reattached properly and no air is hissing out.

    Armed with these quick and easy solutions, you should feel confident in keeping your car healthier and on the road for longer, but make sure you do consult an expert if you feel like you're out of your depth.

    That being said, there's only so much you can fix before you need to call in the professionals. So if you find yourself under the hood more than behind the wheel, it might be time to look into a loan for a new set of wheels.