Drivers have been advised on the car repairs they could safely carry out themselves at home, and those that should always be left to a professional mechanic.
In order to help motorists save money, experts from LeaseCar.uk have urged drivers to change their car’s windshield wipers, headlight bulbs and even air filters themselves – but to leave suspension, timing belt and airbags well alone.
The cost of running a vehicle is ever increasing, and quite often these costs come from hefty one-off charges to repair car parts or for simple maintenance tasks.
A large portion of these costs come from garage’s labour charges, which can be as much as £200 per hour at certain dealerships.
In some cases, these charges can be drastically reduced or even avoided altogether, by carrying out certain jobs yourself.
A spokesperson for LeaseCar.uk said: “You probably wouldn’t call a builder around to hang a picture up in your lounge, so why take your car to the mechanics to fix something you’re likely very capable of doing yourself?
“In saying this, we’re not advising that drivers start tampering with areas of their vehicle that could prove dangerous, so we’ve included a few of the car parts that should always be left to a professional – though this list is by no means exhaustive.”
The car maintenance and repairs you can do at home:
- Engine air filters
It’s fairly easy to inspect and replace your engine air filter, just unscrew or unclip the air filter box retainers and remove the old filter. Then hold a shop light behind the filter to see how much light passes through. If the filter blocks 50 percent of more of the light, replace the filter. If not, put it back in, secure the air filter box cover and keep driving.
- Flat tyre
Often, a flat tyre is the result of running over a nail or object that punctures it. Of course you can always replace your flat tyre with the spare donut in your car, but if you keep a can of tyre sealant in your spare tyre well, you can temporarily repair the full size tyre and inflate it all at once and be on your way. Tyre sealant not only covers up the puncture, but it also inflates the tyre and allows you to get the car safely to your local mechanic for further repair or replacement.
- Windshield wipers
You’ll need new wiper blades every six months or so, but this isn’t a job you have to reserve for your mechanic. Wiper blade setup differs quite a bit from car to car, so you may have to follow a few different steps according to your owner’s manual, but essentially the process is similar to changing your air filter. Lift the blades, as if you were washing your windshield by hand, and remove the old blades, paying attention to how they connect to the meta arms. On most models, you’ll see a tab on the underside of the wiper. Push this tab to remove the old blade. Now attach the new blades, being careful not to bend the wiper arms or scratch your windshield. Line everything up and make sure the new ones are secure and tight.
- Headlight bulb
Bulb replacement is easy to perform, especially if you keep a spare pack of bulbs in your glove box. Every car may differ slightly, so be sure to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions. To change headlights on most cars, open your hood and, from the back of the lamp assembly, remove the rubber boot that protects the headlight. Unplug the wire harness and release the clip that holds the bulb in place. Be sure not to touch the glass part of your new bulb with your finger, as the oil from your hand can cause it to burn out prematurely. Replace the bulb in reverse order.
The car maintenance and repairs you should leave to a professional:
- Transmission maintenance/repair
Automatic transmissions contain thousands of small parts, precise tolerances, and narrow passageways for hydraulic fluid, so it’s best to leave the tinkering to a specialised transmission repair shop, and keep maintenance like flushes and fluid changes to skilled mechanics.
Suspension pieces like struts, arms and bushings look deceptively easy to replace, but there are plenty of ways this kind of repair can go wrong in the hands of the uninitiated. Beginners might not understand the tremendous force that’s in a compressed coil spring, or they might not realise that part of the suspension supports the front subframe – and the engine. It’s also impractical and cost-prohibitive for a home mechanic to own some of the specialty equipment – such as a wheel-alignment rack – needed to get the job done right.
- Timing belt
The job of the timing belt is a very important one, as it keeps the engine in sync, but over time, it wears off. Do replace it, it requires a massive dissembling of the engine, something which is better left to a professional.
Think twice before working on or around the airbag, especially if you need to dismantle anything near the steering wheel or dashboard. Remember, every airbag in your car is powered by a little pack of, well, explosives. Airbags can cause harm even when working as intended. Messing around with them is too dangerous for the average DIY, so leave it to a professional.