Do it yourself, Parts
Car repairs can be expensive – especially if you’re hiring a mechanic to do the work for you.
Besides shelling out money for parts, you’ll also be paying a premium for labor. Each hour that the official books say the repair should take will be added to your invoice. And that adds up quickly!
But, there are several car repairs you don’t need a mechanic to do. These repairs are straightforward and don’t require a ton of specialized tools.
So roll up your sleeves and prepare to get your hands a little dirty with these five basic car repairs. Your wallet will thank you!
1. Change Your Air Filter
An air filter ensures that debris and dirt don’t make their way into your car’s engine. It’s important to change it out regularly.
How? Pop your hood and look for the large plastic housing unit. It’s often along one of the sides. Once you’ve found it, you’ll want to examine it to see how it’s connected.
Depending on the make or model, your air filter housing will be attached by bolts, screws or hand-detachable clips. Once you’ve found the housing, remove it and then take out the used air filter.
Next, visually inspect the filter. You’re looking for any signs of wear, or a buildup of dirt. If your filter looks fine and it’s been changed in the past 15,000 miles, you’re probably okay to continue using the same filter. Just slide it back in.
If it’s time for a new one, you’ll simply insert it where you pulled the old one out. Just be sure it’s facing the same direction and goes all the way in. Lastly, replace the housing and close your hood.
If you’re a visual learner, here’s a quick video to show you how it’s done:
2. Change Your Brake Pads
Brakes squeaking? It might be time to replace your pads. This DIY job is a little more complicated than changing a filter, but it can definitely be done at home.
First, grab a floor jack to lift your vehicle and jack stands to support it. You need to make sure your vehicle is firmly supported so it doesn’t crash down on you while you’re working!
Once your car is lifted, it’s time to loosen your lug nuts to remove each wheel. Take time to visually inspect your brake rotors – if you notice any grooves or roughness, it’s time to replace those as well. Rotors to be smooth to function properly.
Now it’s time to remove the bolts or pins that are holding down your calipers. Then slide the caliper and brake pad off and away from the rotor. You won’t be able to remove them completely yet though, so just get yourself some elbow room.
If you have a caliper compressor, you’ll use that to compress your caliper. Otherwise, a large C-clamp will work.
Before you begin compressing, loosen the brake bleeder screw just a bit. It’s on the back of the caliper.
Once you see a little brake fluid leaking from the screw hole, you’ll be able to easily compress the caliper. You need to squeeze the caliper pistons up into the bores. Some rear brake systems will require you to twist the caliper piston as it goes in, so if you’re struggling try that. Then when it’s fully compressed, tighten the bleeder screw and remove your clamp.
You should be able to pull the brake pads off now. If they seem stuck, try using a small pry bar or flathead screwdriver to loosen them up.
Now you can start mounting your new pads. Slide or clip each pad into the caliper. When working with brake pads, be careful not to touch the friction surface very much to avoid getting the oil from your fingers on it.
Once your pads are connected to the calipers, take time to apply a light coat of brake grease to your pins and the caliper. This essential step helps prevent squeaking. Make sure you don’t get grease on your new pads though.
To reinstall the caliper assembly, you need to push it over the rotor. Then simply fasten the caliper back in place with the bolt or pin you removed earlier.
And remember to bleed your brakes once you’ve installed all of your pads. Since you opened the brake bleeder screw, air could have entered the brake system. Bleeding the system will ensure there’s no air left. If you’ve never bled brakes before, here’s a good tutorial.
Next put your wheels and lug nuts back on. Then carefully raise your car a bit more with the floor jack and remove the jack stands. Lastly, lower your vehicle back to the ground and ensure your lug nuts are tightened to specification.
Here’s a video to walk you through the process.
3. Change a Broken or Worn Seat Belt
Seat belts play an important safety role in vehicles.
Since they get used a lot they can wear out or break. If you need a new seat belt, it’s a job you can tackle yourself. All you need is a wrench and a screwdriver.
First, you need to find the bolts that hold both ends of your current seat belt. You can usually find these attached to the side of the seat, on the floor or on the door’s side panel. However, the bolts may be under a plastic cover you’ll need to remove first.
Seat belts have two main parts, the retractor side that’s the actual seat belt you pull on, and the receptacle where it snaps in. Unbolt both of these components and remove your old seat belt.
Some cars have electrical components tied into their seatbelts. If yours does, simply unhook this connection before removing the belt.
Now, line up the holes of your new retractor with the hole from the bolt you removed. Bolt the new piece in place, and use the wrench to ensure it’s tight. Remember to hook up your electrical connection again if applicable.
Next, line up the receptacle and bolt it snugly in place. Lastly, test your seat belt and ensure it retracts correctly. And don’t forget to make sure it snaps into the receptacle and stays fastened.
If you need help with this process, here’s a great step-by-step video.
4. Replace Your Radiator Hoses
Your radiator hoses work to keep your engine and coolant at the proper temperature. If you get a leaky hose, they’re simple to replace yourself.
Since the radiator hoses have fluid, you’ll need to drain the system a bit before the repair. Make sure you have a bucket or pan that holds two gallons and fits under your radiator drain.
WARNING: Only work on the radiator system when the car is cooled. The hot fluid builds up pressure that can cause injury or death if you try to remove the cap too soon.
Once your bucket is in place, remove the radiator cap. Next, remove the valve on the radiator drain above your bucket. Liquid will begin leaking out. Once it’s drained, close the valve again.
Now remove the old hose by removing the clamps on both ends. Since the hose will also have fluid in it, be careful when removing it. Let the liquid drain into your bucket.
Take time to use a degreaser to clean the fittings where you’ll attach the new hose. Then attach the new hose and clamp it down.
You can either pour your old fluid back in, or use a 50/50 mix of new coolant and water. If any debris has gotten into your bucket don’t reuse it.
You don’t want to completely fill your radiator system while the engine is off, so start your car. Slowly add more of your coolant mix as the level drops. Once you’ve gotten it up to the MAX line, shut off your car and replace the pressure cap.
Lastly, you’ll want to drive your car and keep an eye on your pressure gauge. When you get back home, double check that all the clamps are still tight.
Here’s a video showing this DIY repair.
5. Replace Your Windshield Wipers
Your windshield wipers help improve your visibility on the road. It’s essential that they’re not damaged.
But there’s no need to pay someone to tackle this repair for you – it’s easy to DIY.
First you have to remove the old wiper blade. While there are a few styles of windshield wipers, our directions are for a very common system.
Lift the wiper arm away from the windshield and locate the small tab. You’ll want to press this down while you slide the blade off.
Next, line up your new wiper blade with the wiper arm. Slide the hook on the arm over the clip on your new windshield wiper blade.
Pull the new blade tightly, and ensure it clicks into place. Lower the arm, and replace the other side if necessary.
Lastly, take time to ensure your blades still work properly once you’ve made the switch!
Here’s a quick video to walk you through the process.