Thursday, June 14, 2012

Auto Maintenance Even a Girl Can Do

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Growing up my dad made sure that I knew the basic ins and outs of my car. I knew a few tricks to keep it maintained on my own.  It was a great lesson. I used those tricks several times while I was in college.

However, after I got married and my husband started handling all of the car maintenance, it seems I forgot how to do even some of the simplest tasks. This past week my oil light was coming on indicating low oil pressure. I knew with the light on I needed to stop and put in at least a quart of oil so I wouldn't ruin my engine. I had to call my husband and ask him several questions about what type of oil he used when he changed it and if it mattered if I put synthetic in or not.  That frustrated me because these things I once knew. But I did it...and you can too.

Here are several car maintenance tips that every woman should know. And your college students that are leaving home for the first time this fall?   Teach them too. =)

Changing the Air Filter - Rule #1 that only your dad will tell you is that when it is dirty, you don't necessarily need a new filter.  Take it out, bang it on the concrete a few times to get the "big dirt" out and put it back in.  After two or three times of this though, you need a new filter.  All you'll need is a filter (say $15, but it varies between vehicles) and possibly a screwdriver.  Make sure when you open it that you note how the filter sits in the housing so you'll know how the new one goes in.  I had a oil change place try to charge me three times the price of my filter to do this once.  I politely declined telling them I was perfectly capable myself, but thanks for letting me know it was dirty.  Saved $30 right there.

Changing Windshield Wipers - Okay - this may not be a big deal to you because most auto parts stores will do this for free if you buy your wipers there. But in case you pick them up somewhere else, you can do this. Don't pay for someone else to do it for you. Note how the old ones come off and simply install the new ones the same way.

Replacing Fuses - If you've ever had a fuse go out on you, it could be really frightening at first. All my lights are off?  Is the battery okay?  First tip here is to keep a "multipack" of fuses in your glovebox. It will have an assortment that will cover you in a pinch.  Locate the fuse box on your dashboard (probably on the side or underneath but could be on driver's or passenger's side). There will probably be one under your hood too, but check the one inside first. Read the little key on the cover of the box to tell you which one is the likely candidate to replace. Simply pull the fuse out with your fingers and replace it with the same kind.  They are even color coded by amperage to make this easier on you.

Checking and/or Adding Oil - So changing your oil might be a bit over your head (it's really easy from what I hear though and my husband saves us a LOT of money by doing it himself). But if your car is an older model (or even if it isn't), you'll need to know how to pull the dipstick and read it and where to add oil if you're getting a little low.  This is in no way meant to replace an oil change, but just to get you through until it can be changed (like if your oil light is on like mine was).  Pop the hood of your car and locate the dipstick.  It will be the little handle (either looped on top or a T shape) that says "OIL" on it. Pull that stick out. Wipe it off with a rag and reinsert.  Now pull it out again and read the lines on the stick. It will tell you how much oil you have in there by the location of the oil on the stick. If you need more, buy a quart of the oil weight your car uses. Locate the twist-off cap labeled "Oil" that is probably near the middle of your engine. Carefully pour that oil directly into that hole. Be careful not to spill any, as it will smell awful as it burns off if you miss.  But a steady hand is usually good enough. If you don't trust yourself, get a cheap funnel when you buy the oil.

Check and (if needed) Inflate Your Tires - If you own a car you should know how to use a tire gauge and keep one in your car. It can be checked anywhere at any time, as long as the car isn't moving (yeah...that wouldn't be recommended). Unscrew the tire cap, hook up the gauge, read the pressure.  Your tires should have their recommended pressure written on them. Top off to that amount using one of those air stations at many gas stations. Your car will run better and you'll get better mileage with properly inflated tires.

Change a Light Bulb (headlight, turn signal, etc) - Okay, I'll admit...this is a lot easier on some cars than others.  Some make it nearly impossible to get to the lights without disassembling part of the engine. But most are user-friendly. If you can get to our light housing, it's as easy as changing a bulb in your house.

Change a Flat Tire - Trust me on this'll want to practice in your driveway before you've encountered this one real-life.  This is one of those things that might be needed whether you have a brand new car or a 25 year old legend. It can happen any time, anywhere. If you don't want to wait for 1-1/2 hours for roadside assistance or trust the stranger that pulls along side to help to not be a mass murderer (okay, that might be excessive), learn to do it yourself.  If you've practiced, you'll be able to do it in 10 minutes or less.  If you haven't, it will cost you more time. Time that you don't want to be sitting on the side of the road as a potential abduction target or just a target or oncoming traffic that gets dangerously close.

Refill Wiper Fluid - It doesn't get easier than this. Buy a bottle of the stuff at a local retailer or gas station (possibly sitting outside between the pumping stations), pour into the wiper basin. It's labeled. It's probably white. Unless it's completely empty, you'll be able to see the old blue wiper fluid in it.  If it is entirely empty, go ahead and pour that whole bottle in. Easy peasy.

So there are eight things that you can do. All by yourself. I promise. No matter how mechanically inclined you are (or are not), you can do each of those tasks.  So go buy some fuses and a tire gauge on your next outing and while you are at home, do a few tire changes using your jack (and your owner's manual if needed).

Stay safe...and save some money while doing it! =) 

Have you ever had to do these things? Tell us your story in the comments.


  1. Its a very good point - sadly I was never taught to "fix" a car and our car is very modern and they aren't very friendly when it comes to home fixing. i don't think I could even change a tyre, a bit sad to confess.

    1. There are things that will always be the most of the items above. Wipers, oil, etc...that stuff won't ever change probably.

      Go out there and learn to change a tire. =) It will save you heartache one day possibly (although I hope not!) and you won't have to rely on a stranger or wait on a roadside assistance person. =)

  2. Thank you for those tips, Kaye! These tips will surely help car owners to do some DIY repairs for their vehicles in case of emergencies. And, I do agree with your point. Every car owner should know some basic info on car repairs and maintenance. Arming yourself with knowledge about your vehicle will help you to identify the problem, and do some quick fixes in times of a car emergency.

  3. That is great stuff for you! We have a saying that "you run get away from your DNA," so there are times when you also fall in love with what your parents loved to do. In your case, it’s their fascination with cars. And that’s a good thing because even the most basic of tricks will help you a lot when you're on your own. And who says ladies can't do the dirty work? Well, staying safe is for everyone. Cheers to you, Kaye! :)

    [Erwin Calverley]

  4. These would truly help the women out there who are still new to owning a car. For one, knowing how to change a tire is indeed a top essential as a car owner. It would come in handy especially when one is driving alone. Also, basic tools should be in the car’s compartment.

    Tyra Shortino

  5. Those are very helpful pointers, Kaye! I think everybody should bear these tips in mind, so they will know what to do in case of car troubles. Knowing a thing or two about repairs can save you in times like this. And it would not hurt to add something to your skills and knowledge.

  6. I hope your experience can inspire other women to be more independent and become more powerful without being dependent on others ...... :)