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Ten Car Maintenance Skills Every Driver Should Know

Change a Flat Tire

Replacing a flat tire is an essential automotive skill every driver should master. A punctured tire can ruin your day, but switching it out for a spare is a straightforward process anyone can tackle.

  1. Use the lug wrench to loosen the wheel lug nuts securing the flat tire.
  2. Jack up the car high enough that the flat tire clears the ground.
  3. Remove the lug nuts completely and pull the flat tire off.
  4. Pick up the spare tire and align its holes with the wheel lugs. Push it flush against the hub.
  5. Screw the lug nuts back on by hand until tight.
  6. Turn the jack to lower the car back to the ground.
  7. Check and re-tighten the lug nuts to ensure that the spare tire is securely fastened.

Jump-Start Your Car

You may someday find yourself in a situation where knowing how to jump-start your car can save you precious time rather than waiting for roadside assistance.

  1. Put both cars in neutral and turn off the engines.
  2. Connect the red jumper cable to the positive battery terminal on each car.
  3. Attach one end of the black cable to the negative terminal of the working battery.
  4. Attach the other black cable end to a piece of unpainted metal on the car with the dead battery.
  5. Start the working car and let it idle a bit. Then, start the other car.
  6. If the car starts, let it run while you disconnect the cables in reverse order.
  7. Drive the car for a few minutes so the battery can recharge.

Change the Oil

When it comes to your vehicle, clean oil makes all the difference. By changing your oil regularly, you can boost your car’s performance and extend the engine’s life. Follow these simple steps for a smooth oil change:

  1. Carefully remove the drain plug and empty out the old oil.
  2. Replace the oil filter and dispose of the old filter.
  3. Securely replace the drain plug.
  4. Add new, clean oil to the recommended level.

Change Spark Plugs

Is your car not starting properly or lacking its usual pep? Are you noticing a rough idle, decreased gas mileage, or that dreaded “check engine” light? These could all be signs that your spark plugs need replacement, especially if it’s been more than 100,000 miles since your last tune-up. Worn-out spark plugs reduce engine performance and efficiency, but installing a fresh set can keep your car running smoothly.

  1. Locate the spark plug under the hood.
  2. Detach the wire or coil connector from the old spark plug.
  3. Unscrew and remove the spark plug.
  4. Install a new spark plug.
  5. Reconnect the wire or coil connector to the new spark plug.

Change the Battery

A weak or dead battery can leave you stranded. Luckily, replacing your car’s battery is a straightforward DIY project. Follow these steps for a smooth battery swap:

  1. Take off any protective battery covers.
  2. Detach the negative cable from the battery post.
  3. Disconnect and remove the positive cable.
  4. Unscrew and remove the old battery.
  5. Install the new battery in place.
  6. Reconnect the battery cables, positive first.

Change Wiper Blades

Clear visibility is crucial for safe driving. Don’t let worn windshield wiper blades compromise your view. Replacing them yourself is quick and easy:

  1. Lift the wiper arm and press the tab to release the old blade.
  2. Align and click the new wiper blade into place.

Replace Air Filters

A clean air filter is vital for your car’s engine health. Replacing a clogged filter improves performance and prevents engine wear.

  1. Locate the air filter box under the hood, attached to a large hose.
  2. Open the box and remove the old, dirty filter.
  3. Insert a new, clean air filter into the box.
  4. Close up the air filter box.

Replace Brake Pads

Properly functioning brakes are critical for safe driving. Replacing worn brake pads restores braking power and prevents accidents.

  1. Use a jack to lift the vehicle off the ground.
  2. Take off the tire to access the brake area.
  3. Unscrew the caliper bolts and remove them, then carefully move the caliper off of the rotor.
  4. Slide out the old brake pads.
  5. Press the caliper piston into the caliper housing to make room for the new pads.
  6. Install the new brake pads.
  7. Reposition the caliper and reinstall it.
  8. Put the tire back on and lower the car.

Replace a Headlight or Taillight

A burned-out light bulb affects visibility and safety. Luckily, replacing your car’s bulbs is a quick DIY job:

  1. Unscrew the light housing from the mounting bracket.
  2. Detach the wiring harness from the old bulb.
  3. Insert a new bulb and reconnect the wires.
  4. Reattach the light housing to the mounting bracket.

Fix Scratches

Scratches in your car’s paint can make it look worn and weathered. Repairing them yourself saves money compared to professional detailing. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Gently sand the scratch to smooth and feather the edges.
  2. Use a rubbing compound to blend the sanded area into the surrounding clear coat.
  3. If the scratch is too deep for this method to work, apply touch-up paint and clear coat.
  4. Apply wax to the repaired area to restore the shine.


This page was last updated by Marc Gregory