4x4 Off Roading ›› Mechanical ›› Repairs and Servicing

Car Repairs and Maintenance

Learning how to repair and maintain your own car means there are hundreds of tasks you can fix without having to pay for the services of a trained mechanic.

This section explains the common troubleshooting processes you should use and it lists the most important car jobs that you can do on your own.

Important Car Repairs and Maintenance

Knowing how to perform basic vehicle maintenance tasks will help you keep it running.

Moreover, learning how to troubleshoot common car problems can also help you prevent breakdowns and severe road traffic accidents.

The good news is that you can do many of the simple tasks - and even some annual maintenance jobs - yourself.

As a result, this often means you can avoid having to take your motor vehicle to a garage or having to call a mechanic.

Note: You can check how often a vehicle needs to have regular maintenance, as well as the frequency period for servicing, in the manufacturers' handbook.

Car Care Tips for Beginners

In general, there are five key areas to address for do-it-yourself car and van maintenance. Following the tips and advice in each section will help you keep the vehicle safe, roadworthy, and in good working order.

Annual Inspections

Most manufacturers recommend you have an annual inspection carried out for servicing at least one time per year. You should be checking things like the brake pads, fuel filters, and spark plugs (if appropriate for your vehicle).

If you paid a car mechanic to conduct an annual maintenance check instead of doing it yourself, they will usually flush the radiator. Even so, learning how to remove the old liquid and replace it with clean fluid is not a difficult task to perform.

Annual vehicle inspections may also include checking the sensor for the anti-lock braking system (ABS), the fuel pressure regulator, and the timing belt.

Note: Another section explains how to perform basic diesel engine maintenance yourself with tips for avoiding some of the common problems associated with diesel-powered vehicles.


Battery Care

When a car battery goes dead, you will probably need some roadside assistance to get you moving again. But, you can avoid getting stuck by checking it on a regular basis (e.g. every six months or 6,000 miles).

You can use a car battery tester to check it yourself unless you prefer to have a mechanic check it on your behalf.

Note: Check out a step-by-step guide on how to jump start a car with cables (e.g. if your battery's dead) and how to safely attach the jumper cables to the vehicle.


Checking the Lights

It is important to check that the interior and exterior lights are all in good working order. Furthermore, be sure to check the headlights, brake lights, indicators, and the fog lights.

Note: Another section explains the best way to clean the interior of a car with pro tips for cleaning shabby trim and plastic surfaces.


Fluid Levels

Besides changing the engine oil at regular intervals (usually every 6 months), there are many other kinds of fluids used in modern cars that also need checking. You should check and refill most of them every 5,000 miles.

Remember to check the brake and power steering fluid levels, the coolant, antifreeze, transmission, and the windscreen washer bottle.


Keeping Tyres in Good Condition

Failing to take care of car tyres is a common reason why vehicle breakdowns happen. Thus, keeping all the tyres in tiptop condition is an important part of basic vehicle repair and maintenance. As a result, tyre care should include:

  • Checking that the pressure in the tyres is adequate at least one time per month. Driving a vehicle with underinflated tyres can affect fuel efficiency (especially on long journeys).
  • Rotating the tyres (usually every 5,000 to 10,000 miles).
  • Inspecting the tyre condition at regular intervals. You should be visually checking the tread for signs of bald spots or bulges. It is important to replace the tyre if you identify anything amiss.
  • Checking for signs of uneven wear. Tyres wearing out unevenly usually indicate a problem with the wheel alignment. If so, you should get them aligned without delay.
  • Making sure the spare tyre is inflated and in good condition in case you get a puncture and need to use it. Check spare tyres on a monthly basis if possible.