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I have the privilege to be married to a serious grease monkey. No joke… this man can and has fixed just about every problem that is possible with a vehicle, replaced entire engines and has even painted his own cars. Now that we have been married for almost 6 years, I myself have learned quite a lot! All the tips he has taught me have been so helpful. One of my first thoughts was that, “Gosh! If only all Moms, or women for that matter, knew these things that the hubby has taught me! The money they would save on labor, the confidence they would gain from these accomplishments, being a role model for their kiddos, etc.” Repair shops charge hundreds and even thousands of dollars to perform simple tasks that without seeing how simple they really are, we are forced to pay our hard-earned money for these repairs and maintenance items.
Buckle up! Today this post will change the way you look at your vehicle and how you can take back some of your independence and conqueror some simple vehicle maintenance tips!
Here are just a few of the simple tasks that you can put under your belt so that you can keep your vehicle healthy, dependently running, and save some cash! Now remember, every vehicle will have a unique placement of parts. So be sure to get familiar with what parts do what under the hood! For example: We have more than one family vehicle. So under the hood of our car vs our van may look slightly different. Most times each piece will be labeled, but just in case do a once over of your manual to make sure you know what you’re looking for.
The Ultimate Vehicle Maintenance Survival Guide – for Moms!
Air Filter: Typical repair shop cost: $60-$75 vs DIY cost: $15 or less!
I listed Air Filters first because they are one of the first maintenance items that keep a car running for the long haul. A clean filter can make sure that your airflow to the engine is clear of dust and dirt. This is the stopping point for all the yucky things that can damage your engine. It’s a domino effect because once you keep your engine clean, you are sure to have better acceleration, horsepower and overall better performance! If you open your manual you’ll probably even see that it’s one of the first things that they tell you to look out for and maintain! The best part about this upkeep is, it is EASY and QUICK, seriously less than five minutes!
- Your air filter should be located in/or around this location.
- Carefully pull the tabs down off the seam to allow the lid to come off.
- Pull out the old filter and toss in the garbage but pay attention to how it is sitting in there because this is exactly how you will position the new one.
- Lay new filter right into the case and make sure it is laying flat and fits well.
- Replace the lid, and secure the tabs back over the seam.
The FRAM Air Filter that I used in this post says to change the filter out every 12,000 miles OR annually. However, make sure that you follow the recommended change intervals as noted in your vehicle owner’s manual.
Windshield Washer Fluid and Wiper Blades: Typical repair shop cost: $75-$100 vs DIY cost: $15-30
Windshield wipers and fluid may seem minuet, but if you don’t truly take care and keep up with them it can do damage. I will admit, before my hubby was around to teach me otherwise, I was abusing these. I would use them to clean off the windshield when it was covered in snow and hard ice. OUCH. I would also allow my wiper fluid to run empty and not change it forever, just hoping that the rain water would enough. But the truth is, if you try to run the washer fluid without the fluid, it can burn up the pump that sprays the fluid and the motor that RUNS the wipers! MAJOR OUCH. I also didn’t realize that running dry wipers over the windshield can actually damage your windshield with scratches. They may seem like little perks to have for your vehicle, but the truth is.. they need to be taken care of for your SAFETY and visibility! And thankfully they are an easy upkeep.
- You will want to make sure that year round your fluid is refilled and kept up with. You can do this by constantly keeping a container of fluid in your trunk. That way if you see that it is getting low, you can easily be prepared and refill it.
- You will want to make sure your wipers are also kept up with. This means, when you start to notice they no longer cleaning your windshield in the rain to a streak free shine that you take action. Use rubbing alcohol and a paper towel to clean the rubber blade that contacts the windshield as the first action. If this does not solve the issue, look to replace the blades. Blades are sold by different lengths and each car has its own particular size which can be different on the passenger and drivers sides. Your repair store will have a book with all of these sizes correctly laid out for you to easily find the right blades for your car and most auto repair stores will install them for free if you buy them in a pair.
Keeping your vehicle clean is one of the key things to remember when maintaining a car for the long haul. Cars these days are SUPER EXPENSIVE so why not get the most for your money and keep it a decade or two. I don’t know about you, but my vehicle ALWAYS seems to get dusty inside. To keep up with this, I always keep a microfiber cloth in my glove box. That way at stop lights, drive thru’s, or parking lots I can take a second to wipe over the dashboard, and it instantly picks up the dust. I also like to keep some Windex wipes inside the car. This helps with cleaning up after the kids or dog. (Make sure to do a small stain test first on your interior beforehand). Paper towels are another nice thing to keep handy. That way any spills or worse can be kept at bay.
We also make sure to keep our vehicles exteriors as clean as possible, even in the winter. We live up north and the danger that the salted roads can do to the bottom of your vehicle is terrifying! You’ll want to keep up with washing it off to prevent any rust. Also, keeping the outside of the vehicle clean will prevent scratches, rusting or paint pealing off.
Car washing, especially in the summer time can be a fun family activity! Little ones can play in their own buckets of soapy water and feel like they are helping, and the bigger ones can actually be a good help! Just make sure to NOT keep your phone in your pocket, because usually these end in an epic water battle. Remember to use a car washing soap, not dish soap which will strip off all of the wax or protecting agents off the paint causing premature wear.
Oil: Typical repair shop cost: $50-$100 vs DIY cost: $25
Keeping the oil maintained in your vehicle is a huge life line. You will want to make sure that your oil life matches up with your mileage, but continually checking its color, smell, and level. Typically in your owner’s manual it will tell you after how many miles to change your oil, and on some newer vehicles there is an option to see your oil life right on your dashboard! Even with these suggestions you will want to still check every once in a while, just to be certain.
Make sure you use the proper grade of oil for your car. This is usually written on your oil cap or in your owners manual. Typical values for this are 10w-30 or 5w-20.
Checking the oil is simple.
- You can check your oil by simply removing the dip stick from the oil’s engine bay.
- Clean it off, and re-dip.
- Look for the line on your dip stick compared to the line your oil makes. If the oil is dark and thick, or if it smells like it has been burning, then it will need to be replaced.
- Replace your dip stick and secure.
If you need to change the oil here is the easy how to!
- Remove the oil cap off the engine bay.
- Place oil pan under the oil drain underneath the vehicle.
- Remove bolt plug.
- Drain oil into pan.
- Replace bolt plug.
- Move oil pan over to the filter location. Hand twist off the filter and let the remaining oil drain.
- Replace filter with a new one making sure to rub some clean oil on the rubber gasket of the new filter and make sure the old gasket from the old filter isn’t still stuck on the engine.
- Fill new oil into the engine bay. Constantly check levels to make sure you aren’t over filling, but are reaching more than the minimum amount but below the maximum. These lines are clearly shown on your dip stick.
- Replace oil cap, and secure.
Tires: Typical replacement cost: $400-$1000
If your tires are in poor condition, it can be deadly! Remember, your tires are the only part of your car that actually touch the road so don’t skip this step. It is important that you make sure your tires are in tip-top shape. The treads should always be worn evenly across the width of all four tires. Check your tires every time you fill up with gas. If you see the inside edge or outside edge of your treads either bald or severely worn then you most likely have a bent suspension component or your car is in need of a four-wheel alignment to ensure all four wheels are rolling in a straight line down the road and not caulked. Your air pressure should also always be checked. You will want to check this especially when the weather starts to get colder or warmer. Tire pressure too low can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Too much pressure can cause the same problem. Both too little and too much pressure will cause your tires to wear out much faster than they were designed for causing costly replacement. If any of these things aren’t up to good status, then you should look into getting them corrected. Replacing tires requires expensive shop tools to pneumatically remove the tires from the rims which typically cannot be done at home. Make sure when you need to replace tires or have tires patched or repaired you choose a well-known and honest shop. I hate to say it but most chain stores/shops have bad reputations for damaging cars and over charging customers for their services. Don’t be afraid of the local mom and pop shop down the road. They usually will go out of their way to give you great service.
Brake Pads: Typical repair shop cost: $250-$400 vs DIY cost: $50 or less!
Do you have an icky squeaking or loud squealing sound every time you hit the brakes? Then you should probably check your brake pads. I shouldn’t really have to express the importance of having good brakes. This one is a no brainer! Having your brake pads changed at a shop can also cost a fortune at times. So to save you some cash and a headache, I have listed the steps to change your pads. This may seem intimidating.. but trust me, if I can do this.. so can you!
- Loosen the lug nuts but do not remove them yet.
- Using a jack, lift the car working only on one wheel at a time and support the car with a jack stand or blocks under the frame just in case the jack would fall. Be sure to check your manual to make sure you are placing the jack on the correct jack supports.
- Remove the lug nuts and the wheel. Don’t be afraid to kick the tire in toward the car hard with the bottom of your shoe to loosen it if the wheel is stuck on the car by rust.
- Inspect the brakes for missing or lose parts and spray them clean with an aerosol can of brake cleaner to remove all of the black brake dust.
- Look at the backside of the brake calipers, you will see four bolts. 2 large and 2 small. Loosen the top small bolt of the brake caliper that encases the brake pads. Don’t remove this bolt just loosen it 5 turns or so to hinge the caliper upward on this bolt. Don’t be afraid to look in the box of new pads to see exactly what the pads look like so you know what parts you are trying to remove and replace.
- Remove bottom small bolt from the caliper entirely.
- Lift up the brake caliper like a hinge.
- Remove brake pads. There should be one located in front of the rotor and one behind. Each should pull out pretty easily but make sure to look at their orientation and how they are installed so you can install the replacement pads the same way.
- Apply some brake specific grease to the new pads where they are held into the brackets and place new brake pads in their spots.
- Now comes the hardest part…you now have to squeeze the big round piston on the caliper back into the caliper to allow for the new pads to fit. This big round piston is what pushes on the pads when you push the brake pedal and moves outward as the pads wear out. Since the new pads are brand new and thicker than the worn out pads you must reset this pistons position to give the new pads enough room. Simply do this by using a 4″ C clamp to squeeze the piston back into the caliper the whole way until it stops.
- Reinstall the brake caliper, replace bottom bolt, and tighten top bolt. Make sure these bolts are back just as tight as you found them.
- Put the tire back on and tighten the lug nuts and move on to the remaining wheels.
- Make sure before moving your car for the first time with new brakes that you pump the brake pedal a few times until it gets hard to ensure everything is aligned correctly and you are ready to roll down the road.
This sounded complicated but once you have the wheel off and have practiced on the first wheel, each additional side should take less than 5 minutes.
It is so nice to be able to do these upkeep’s myself. Not only does it feel like I’m helping out the hubby, but what happens if he is out-of-town and I need it done? What happens if we can’t afford to have a shop do it? What happens for single mothers or single gals? These tips will not only save your cash, but will seriously add to your ego. It feels good to be able to accomplish something that is not typically a “girls job”. After accomplishing one of these babies you will seriously feel so great about yourself and what you can achieve that is out of the box. Give yourself a pat on the back!! You deserve it!
Remember that FRAM Engine Air Filter I mentioned before? Well I found mine at Walmart! You can find yours in the Auto Department. As you can see there is a long aisle with all the same type of product. However, you vehicle will need a specific product number. So be sure to check the book that is hanging in the aisle. It will show what you need based on your vehicles make/ model/ and year.