During this time of social distancing and staying at home, many of us are running out of things to do. There are only so many closets to clean and cabinets to organize. At some point, we need some more chores for ourselves. At the same time, we may be doing our limited driving in a vehicle that needs some attention. By putting these two problems together, you can fill some of those idle hours while positioning yourself to avoid breakdowns and repair costs when things get back to normal. Here are four maintenance tasks you can perform on your vehicle at home.
Changing the Oil
Old, dirty oil is a recipe for disaster in your car. Skipping regular oil changes can cause major problems. The engine will seem to perform just fine, maybe for years, but it will eventually suffer the effects of the substandard lubrication and end up needing major repairs–or replacement. Oil changes are easy to do with just a few basic tools and about $30 for materials, and it doesn’t take a lot of skill; even an inexperienced person can change the oil in less than an hour. Bear in mind that oil that has water mixed in or is unusually dark could be a sign of a more serious mechanical problem. Save some of the oil and let a mechanic take a look at it.
Replacing Air Filters
Another sneaky problem that can develop in a car is a dirty air filter. The combustion inside your engine requires air, and that air is filtered on its way to the engine. As that filter collects dirt, insects, grass, and other debris, the air moves more slowly through it, lowering fuel efficiency and increasing your fuel costs. Driving with a dirty air filter is like exercising with your mouth taped partially shut. For peak performance and the longest possible life for your engine, check your air filter regularly and replace it when it’s dirty. Filters generally run less than $20 and can be replaced with little more than a screwdriver.
Examining the Belt
Your engine turns the wheels as its primary job, but it also powers a lot of other components. The air conditioner, water pump, power steering pump, alternator, and more all receive power directly from the motor thanks to a belt on the front of the motor. (Some vehicles have their engines mounted sideways. In these cases, the belt will be located on the side of the engine compartment instead of the front). Known as the serpentine belt for its snakelike route around the various pulleys that it turns, this belt can leave you high and dry if it breaks. Raise the hood and check both sides of the belt for any cracks or wear. Replacement is actually fairly easy to do yourself as well.
Topping Off Fluids
Your vehicle has so many fluids in it that it’s almost like a sponge. Oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, antifreeze, and windshield washer fluid are all important for safe, reliable performance. Check the levels of each. If any are low, review your owner’s manual for specifications and fill them up. Your windshield washer fluid gets used up, of course, so it is expected to run out. However, everything else should stay at or near the “full” mark on its reservoir or dipstick. If not, something may be wrong. Also, you may find spots of brown, black, red, or green under your vehicle. Follow up with a mechanic if there appears to be a leak in any system. If your transmission fluid is low when the engine is warm, it may be low enough to cause damage. Refill it and call a repair shop.
Every day has 24 hours, but there sure seem to be more when you’re not going out to shop, eat, or socialize. One great way to fill that time with something constructive is to perform these simple car maintenance tasks.