Car Maintenance: DIY vs Pros

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The more technology they put into our cars, the more expensive they seem to get for the simplest of car maintenance tasks. How do you know the car maintenance you can do yourself and what to leave to the pros? Here is a list of common car maintenance tasks you can do by yourself, how to do them, and the ones that should be left to the pros:

  • Air filter replacement
  • Windshield wipers
  • Engine oil
  • Clutch
  • Air conditioning
  • Balance and rotate tires

DIY Car Maintenance

Here are some important tips to follow when you do your own car repairs:

  • Read the car manual
  • Check all the lights every week
  • Make sure you have a well-equipped tool kit
  • Make a record of everything you do with pictures, notes, and diagrams

Air Filter Replacement

In order for your engine to run, it needs air to mix with the gas in order to create internal combustion. Air filters are connected to the engine’s intake manifold and prevent dirt and particles from getting into the engine. Replacing it regularly increases fuel efficiency, prolongs engine life, and reduces emissions. You should change your air filter every 12 months or 12,000 miles, or more frequently if you live in a particularly dusty place.

How to Change Your Air Filter

The total time isn’t long to change your air filter, maybe about a minute. You’ll save a total of $10-$15. Watch this video to learn how.

  1. Check your owner’s manual to figure out which air filter to buy.
  2. Open your hood and locate the air filter box.
  3. Open the air filter box and remove the dirty air filter.
  4. Check the old air filter.
  5. Put the new air filter in.

Windshield Wipers

Wiper blades can wear and should be inspected and replaced every 6 to 12 months. They help remove mud, rain, sleet, and snow from your windshield and can take a beating during the winter months.

How to Change Your Windshield Wipers

Changing your wiper blades is an easy task. You could potentially be saving anywhere from $10 to $20, and it is a quick task. Learn how to replace them with this video.

  1. Measure the wiper blade length or check the owner’s manual.
  2. Remove the old wipers.
  3. Attach the new blades.
  4. Test them.

Engine Oil

Changing your oil in your car isn’t brain surgery, but it can still be an ugly chore. It’s the single most important task you can do to help make your engine last and keeping up with your regular oil changes is important to ensure it runs properly. On average, newer cars can go 5 months or 5,000 miles – whichever comes first.

How to Change Your Engine Oil

Make sure you have the proper tools for replacing your engine oil. If you already have them, this task could save you anywhere from $20-$60 to replace it on your own. Watch this video to learn how to change your oil.

  1. Pull out the drain plug and install a new gasket (if required).
  2. Remove the oil filter.
  3. Add fresh oil.
  4. Recycle the old oil.

Car Maintenance for the Pros

Sometimes a car problem can be too complex or too dangerous to do yourself. Leave it up to the pros to fix bigger problems that you aren’t 100% confident on.


Every car with a manual transmission has a clutch, as well as some automatic or tiptronic transmissions. The clutch contains a large friction disc that comes into contact with the engine’s flywheel. When you don’t press down on the clutch pedal, movement will travel from the flywheel to the friction disc, then into the transmission.

Since the clutch plays such an important role in the car’s operation, you want to treat it carefully. Using it gently could increase its use by 20,000 miles. Repair costs for a slipping clutch can cost anywhere from $600 to $1,100.

Air Conditioning

The air conditioning in your vehicle is designed to keep you cool and comfortable even when the conditions outside are not. There are many components to your car’s air conditioning system like the refrigerant, compressor, condenser, receiver drier, expansion value or orifice tube, evaporator, lines, accumulator, and other components used in a heating system.

While there isn’t much you can do to elongate the life of your air conditioner, you don’t necessarily need it in your car if you don’t mind having the windows rolled down. Repairs for the air conditioner can start around $500 but can go over $1,000.

Balance and Rotate Tires

To keep your vehicle driving smoothly, it’s important to regularly have your tires rotated so that they wear evenly. Tires that are worn unevenly will be less fuel efficient and will need to be replaced soon rather than later. Tire replacement, rotation, and spin balancing require special equipment.

The need to balance and rotate your tires comes with how often you drive your car and where you’re driving it. The average tire balancing cost can be about $40, but it could range between $15 to $75 depending on where you go.

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