One of the most empowering things I’ve ever done for myself was assert myself at a mechanic’s shop when the salesman tried to sell me on an oil change and tune up in addition to my tire rotation and balancing. I was pleasantly able to tell him “No thanks” and feel confident in doing so. I had just checked my oil and knew it had only been a little over 1000 miles since my last change, and because I knew I had just changed my compartment air filter and gotten a new battery.
There are several basic tricks of car maintenance that are super easy for anyone to take on. I encourage you to teach yourself how to do a few of these things and you can likely find yourself saving time AND money!
Here in Louisiana, we all have distinctive weather seasons, which means keeping our wipers in good shape is a MUST. Spring and summer give way to pollen and rainy season where bad wipers can impair visibility during a typical summer rainstorm. Fall brings about more pollen and lovebug season, and winter can bring about even more storms. You can find wipers at any big box store or auto parts store usually for less than $50 and in less than 10 minutes. A jug of washer fluid is usually only a few dollars and takes less than 2 minutes. Give it a try!
One of my biggest fears is to get a flat tire on the Causeway. To make it easier to prevent this from happening, I pay close attention to my tire pressure and keep my tires inflated properly. Believe it or not, cars with too much or too little air in them can cause lower gas mileage as well as be very dangerous on the road, especially at high speeds. The first thing to know is that the factory recommended settings for your tires can usually be found on the inside of your driver’s side door as well as in your owner’s manual. Buy yourself a simple tire gauge to keep in your glove compartment to check it regularly. From here, you can go to any gas station and add air as needed, for free. Another tip is that you should regularly have your tires rotated and balance (which is usually free when you buy tires). Information on how often you should do this should be in your owner’s manual, as it may vary from vehicle to vehicle.
One of the biggest ways you can save yourself expensive engine repairs and poor engine performance is by being sure to regularly check your oil. Once a month, take the time to make sure your engine oil is at an optimum level. Also, be sure to follow the oil change instructions from your vehicle’s manual. These days, some cars and trucks can go up to 7,000 miles before needing an oil change, but you should still always check your oil level to make sure your car doesn’t have a slow leak. If your car doesn’t have enough oil, your engine will seize and that can be a very costly repair. Also, if your oil doesn’t get changed regularly, this can affect gas mileage and cause wear on the engine that can cause it to fail. It’s super easy to check and takes no time at all and it is way better than spending a few thousand dollars on a new engine!
Two summers ago, I was about to head out on my lunch hour when my car had trouble starting. Fortunately, I got some juice flowing and I headed straight to the auto store where I had my battery tested. I discovered that my battery was almost dead. Fortunately, I was able to buy a new battery right there and get it installed. If I wasn’t able to get to the store, I would have still been ok, thanks to learning how to jumpstart my own car. It is always a rule that you should have jumper cables in your car, but the question is, do you know how to use them? Also, while they are good to have, it is even better to have a rechargeable battery pack to keep in your trunk so you don’t have to wait for someone to give you a jump. This can be especially helpful if you are out in the middle of nowhere without someone to give you a jump, or if it is 100 degrees out and you have a cranky kid in the backseat who needs a nap!
When I got my first car, which was a 1989 Buick Skylark (yes, it was that cool, note sarcasm), the first thing my dad taught me was how to change a flat tire. Of course, he also equipped me with a AAA membership so I wouldn’t have to do it, especially on a busy highway … But I knew how to do it in case I couldn’t get help or if I was in the middle of nowhere. While I still prefer to hand this task off to my husband or Triple A, I can do it if the need arises. This is one of those things that can be really helpful if you are on a busy highway. Nothing sucks more than being stranded on the side of the interstate where people don’t slow down or pay attention leaving you at risk for injury. The first tip I give when changing a flat tire – drive till you find a parking lot or someplace safe, if possible. Otherwise, follow the directions as given in the how-to video. Being able to do this for yourself is great and incredibly empowering because you don’t have to rely on a man to do it for you!
These days, cars run by computer systems. If you have had your car for a length of time, you have probably experienced your “Service Engine Soon” light coming on. This is the computer in your car giving you a signal that something is amiss in the engine of the computer. It can sometimes be something as simple as you not closing your gas cap tight enough all the way to a faulty sensor. To save yourself a pricey trip to the dealership or mechanic, you can either go to any auto parts store and have them read the codes for you, or you can buy one of these and check them yourself. From there, you can determine whether or not it is something that can wait or if it is a simple fix, and it can save you money!