These days, vehicles are getting more and more technological, which means some common repairs that you used to be able to do yourself now have to be left up to a professional. As long as you have a common car built before the last few years, there are still some maintenance projects that you can do on your own. Here are some simple ones from our fleet fuel card company:
Oil & Oil Filter
As long as your oil pan and oil filter are accessible, changing your own oil is pretty simple. Start by letting the car cool for 15-30 minutes. Then, jack it up so you can comfortably lay underneath the car. Locate your oil pan and place a container underneath (to catch the oil). Unscrew the drain plug and let the oil drain into the container. When it’s completely drained, replace the drain plug.
Next, unscrew your oil filter (you may need an oil wrench to help loosen it) and discard. Open your new oil filter and place a few drops of new oil onto the seal to ensure a strong bond, then screw in the new oil filter. Locate the oil reservoir under your hood and pour the new oil into it using a funnel. Be sure to only add as much oil as your car needs (you should find the amount in your owner’s manual).
Battery maintenance is relatively easy to do yourself, and only requires a couple tools. To clean your battery terminals and make sure that your battery connection is strong, first turn off the car engine and let the car cool. Remove both battery terminals, making sure to remove the negative cable first. Then, with a wire brush and a corrosion fluid, clean the terminals. Once clean, rinse with a little bit of water and dry them with a rag. Reconnect the battery terminals, starting with the positive cable.
Most spark plugs should be replaced every 30,000 miles, but check your owner’s manual to see if your car is different. Locate a set of thick, rubbery wires underneath your hood – these connect to either four, six, or eight spark plugs (depending on how many cylinders your car has). Grasp the wire of the first spark plug as close to the engine as possible and wiggle/pull it out. Use a spark plug socket and ratchet extension to remove your spark plug.
Install your new spark plug by screwing it in by hand, then tightening it with a wrench (just be careful not to over-tighten). Repeat the process for the other spark plugs – be sure to remove and replace them one at a time.
Before you begin a radiator flush, make sure your car is completely cooled down. Then, jack it up so you can comfortably reach your radiator drain plug. Once you’ve located your drain plug, place a coolant receptacle underneath it, unscrew the plug, and let the radiator fluid drain into the pan.
Replace the drain plug, then unscrew the radiator cap located under your hood. With a funnel, add radiator flush cleaning solution to your radiator and fill the rest up with water. (You can also just use water for this process.) Replace the radiator cap, start your car, and turn your heater to the hottest position. Let the car run for about 10 minutes, then let it cool completely.
Once it’s cool, unscrew the radiator drain plug and drain the cleaning solution and water. Replace the drain plug and unscrew your radiator cap. Using a funnel, fill your radiator with 50% new coolant, 50% water. Then, replace the cap.
Break the lug nuts on your tire, then jack up your car and rest it on jack stands so that it’s secure. Remove the tire and wheel, then remove the bolts that secure the brake caliper. Pull the caliper up gently to remove it, making sure you don’t disturb the brake line (the black hose). Secure the caliper somewhere (don’t just let it hang from the brake line) and slide the brake pads out.
Slide the new brake pads in where the old ones were and secure them. Using a c-clamp, compress the piston until you’ve moved it far enough to place the caliper back on. Secure the caliper and then replace the wheel and tire and tighten well.
To replace your air filter, simply locate it under the hood (it’s usually housed in a black casing with metal clips on either side). Unclip the clips and pull the air filter out, taking note of how it was sitting in the case. Then, install the new filter the same way, close the casing, and secure the clips. If you have a reusable air filter, wash it, dry it, and put it back in your car instead of buying a new one.
Replacing your headlight and/or taillight bulbs is pretty easy and can save you the cost of labor at a dealership or garage. To change a headlight, pop your car’s hood and look for a trapezoid-shaped plug with three wires stemming from it. (Sometimes these plugs are housed underneath soft, rubbery covers.) If there is a metal clip securing the plug, unclip it. Then twist and remove the plug from its holder. Unscrew the bulb from the plug and carefully screw in the new bulb, making sure not to touch it with your fingers (the oil from your hands can compromise the bulb quality). Twist the plug back into the holder and re-secure the metal clip, if necessary.
To change a taillight, you may need to pull back your plastic or carpeted trunk lining. Depending on your car’s taillight fixture, you may also need to unscrew the taillight housing from the back of your car. Once you have access to your taillights, look for a trapezoid-shaped plug with wires stemming from it. (Again, these plugs are sometimes housed underneath soft, rubbery covers.) Use the same steps from your headlight replacement to replace your taillight. When you’re done, make sure everything is re-secured.
There are some maintenance projects that need to be done by a professional and at Fuel Express, we offer an easy way to manage your maintenance budget. Our fleet fuel cards can be designated for maintenance purchases only, so you can easily keep track of your expenses.