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DIY car maintenance: the car diet we should all be on

Why waste money on the high street (or edge of town shopping complexes as is often the case with many bike and car superstores) when you can easily take on tasks on your car yourself?
The Haynes car manuals give you great and easy-to-follow advice. For example, when buying wipers and spending on the cost of new and which need apparently ‘expert’ fitting, you needn’t be fooled. You can do it yourself if you try; and often quickly too.
Why replace wipers yourself? Well, we all need to do it on a semi-regular basis, which is why Haynes have put it in their online manual to ensure drivers know exactly what to do when the rain is beating down and your wipers have been doing overtime and given up the fight.
To be precise, car wiper blades are recommended to be replaced approximately every twelve months as the rubber wears out after this time and with the UK’s propensity for rain, it’s no wonder.
Other Haynes ‘how-to’ guides involve how to change a wheel, check and inflate your tyres, jack up a car, check and change engine coolant, change a headlight bulb, change engine oil and an oil filter and change a car battery.
It can seem daunting to approach doing your car up and maintaining it yourself, but you shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown. There are plenty of YouTube videos that can help too. A search for ‘changing a car tyre’ threw up 990,000 results so you are spoilt for choice for a good video on the subject. And if this many people are prepared to put up videos, you shouldn’t feel alone in your quest for saving money on your car’s upkeep.
The site ‘www.moneycrashers.com’ is all about conserving your pennies. It suggests eight DIY car maintenance tips that the layman (or woman) should be able to handle including; air filter, spark plugs, oil and oil filter, battery, radiator flush, brake pads and fuel filter – and, you’ve guessed it – windscreen wipers. The site gives an estimated cost (admittedly in dollars, but nothing an online money converter can’t solve). An example which is actually even lower in the UK is the fuel filter which suggests it may be $20 (about £15)– but a quick check on Autopartspro.co.uk – says you can get them as low as £1.98, dependent on car type.
The AA website has some top tips for car maintenance too. It recommends checking the lights are working every week (we all don’t do this nearly often enough), and to make sure you have a well-equipped tool kit, including an adjustable wrench, torque wrench, socket and ratchet set, a set of pliers, a Phillips and a flat-head screwdriver and a jack.

One thing the AA do state on their website though, is to be mindful of not taking on more than you can chew and ruining your car or making it dangerous to drive. The site tells us that there are certain car repairs that shouldn’t be tried by novices. Car maintenance that should be left to the experts include: changing the clutch which is very fiddly, air-conditioning which requires a good knowledge of thermodynamics and pressure, air bags (because they contain small explosives), gears which require precision fitting and electrics on modern cars – if you mess with them you could void your warranty. The battery and replacing the windscreen you are advised to attempt only if you feel confident and with certain caution – you might drop the windscreen or misapply the glue. Batteries too, can be complicated if it’s more than a jump-start that is required.

Of course, if you are feeling really up to the challenge, you can book yourself on a DIY car maintenance course. On hotcourses.co.uk, there are 198 courses in the UK, but this list is not exhaustive by a long shot. You can get yourself a Level 1 certificate in car maintenance – the most basic certificate right through to Level 3 (A-level standard) advanced apprenticeships, depending on your level of interest. If you find a flair for it, you can always become a fully-fledged mechanic and start yourself a new career avenue.

Otherwise, it’s just about saving your money for the more important things in life. Some garages can be dodgy and we’ve all seen on T.V. shysters who try and rip you off by pretending that your car needs more doing that it actually does. ‘Kenyon Confronts’ presented by Paul Kenyon, was a great programme rooting out the dodgy car gangsters of today, that many people watched on primetime television. It’s a good example of why you might want to try car repairs for yourself.
If you are bold enough to make the switch to DIY car maintenance though, you’re doing yourself a big favour, and once you’ve done one piece of maintenance successfully, you’ll hopefully have the confidence to go on and try more out. Go on – give it a shot, 990,000 YouTubers can’t be totally wrong.

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