Basic Car Skills to Keep Your Car Well Maintained
A well-maintained car can outlast a neglected one by hundreds of thousands of kilometres. It’s true but it can be confusing. Getting dirty and fearing breaking something or not being able to put it all back together are things that a lot of car owners fear. But you don’t have to.
Basic car skills are pretty broad. The importance of them varies with models, and of course, how much money owners are willing to part with for servicing.
Check out these basic car skills to up your game.
“Only car wash products, clean water and microfibre cloth should ever touch a car’s paint”. This expert tip is almost impossible to follow but a lot can be taken away from it. Washing a car is a simple no-brainer. Clean cars sell for a lot more than scratched, dirty ones, plus they look a lot better.
Did you know that some washing detergents and soaps can contain acidic or damaging additives? You should only ever use dedicated car wash liquid. A simple and cheap purchase can save paint fade. Furthermore, try to only use soft microfibre cloths to wash and dry your car. Other materials can actually scratch clear coats (the surface of car paint), especially noticeable in sunlight.
Top Tip: If you drop cloth on the ground when washing your car, don’t use it until you wash it. They can pick up debris from the ground and scratch paint.
Once you change the oil in a car, you’ll realise it’s much easier than it may seem. You’ll need to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions and always purchase the correct oil grade and oil filter size. Never change the oil when the engine is hot as it can burn. Here’s a simple rundown:
1: With the engine OFF, place a container large enough to collect your oil quantity under the oil sump. Spills on garage floors can be nasty.
2: Undo the sump plug and try to avoid it dropping in the container with the old oil. Wait several minutes for it to drain completely. Replace the sump plug gasket (if possible) and reinsert the sump plug.
3: With the old oil out, remove the old oil filter. Be careful as it may drip old oil. Replace with a new one. Lube the new oil filter with a little oil to make sure it screws on easily and tighten as per manufacturer guidelines.
4: In the engine bay, pour in the new oil, making sure to fill the exact amount as per your owner’s manual. Check the dipstick regularly to make sure you’re spot on. Do not over or under fill the oil. Replace fill cap in the engine bay.
Basic car skills always include air filter replacements. Most cars have two; one for the air the engine ‘breathes’ in to mix with your fuel and another one for your air conditioning. This one is often known as a cabin or pollen filter. Obviously, different cars have different sizes so make sure to buy the correct one.
The air filter is often located in an airbox in the engine bay. With the engine OFF, unclip or unscrew the airbox and remove the old one taking note of how it comes out. Replace with a new one and reconnect/close the airbox. If you’ve got an extremely dirty one, you’ll notice a difference.
The cabin filter will allow your A/C to flow more efficiently and filter out dust. Old ones can also result in bad smells. Most costs around $40 and are commonly located behind the glovebox, which you’ll need to remove to access the cabin filter.
Simple cleaning basic car skills are all that’s needed in most cases. People spend a long time inside their car so it makes sense to keep them clean and somewhere you want to be.
Windows: You won’t need to clean the inside of your windows as often as the outside, but visibility can really improve with a quick clean, especially at night.
Seats and door trim: With cloth seats, most only require a vacuum so show signs of improvement. Products like Armorall are available to protect and clean door trim and leather seats.
You may have seen older cars suffering from a yellowish discolouration on headlights. This is caused by UV exposure. Not only does it look terrible, but it also lowers visibility at night when you turn on your headlights.
Headlight restoration kits are available for home use. You may need to apply a bit of elbow grease, but the end result is worth it.
There are also mobile headlight restoration services available in most Australian cities which can come to you.
Do you always run your car on the cheapest 91 octane fuel? It’s worth adding some premium fuel sometimes. Always make sure it’s safe by consulting the owner’s manual or talking to a mechanic.
95 or 98 RON fuel contains additives designed to clean engines and allow them to burn fuel more efficiently. As an added bonus, most drivers report a significant decrease in fuel consumption when using higher octane fuel. This is especially true with performance cars and turbocharged engines. Note that mixing 91, 95 and 98 is fine with most engines so don’t worry about mixing fuel grades to fill up an empty tank.
The Bottom Line:
Basic car skills are essential to keeping a car in good condition. You’ll also save money by doing it yourself as you won’t have to pay a mechanic for their time. Furthermore, DIY maintenance really helps owners understand and appreciate their cars.
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