While it’s certainly a good idea to have that favourite mechanic or auto garage on speed dial, you don’t always have to bring your car into a professional shop for every single maintenance issue. Here are five basic tune-up items that anyone can perform from the comfort of their own driveway.
• Engine air filter
A good, small but essential part to replace is the air filter for the car’s intake system in the engine bay. The process takes only five to 15 minutes for most makes and involves unbuckling a few clamps, removing the old unit and installing the new one. As a bonus, new vehicles often have a warning system that alerts drivers when it’s time to replace, usually between 24,000 and 48,000 kilometres.
• Cabin air filter
Like the filter for your engine, the cabin filter is responsible for ensuring all the unwanted bits floating around in the air from outside of the car are trapped so they don’t enter the interior. Time for install depends on the design of your specific vehicle — some simply require popping open a panel under the dashboard to gain access, while others may need you to take out the glove compartment to get to it.
• Tire pressure
This maintenance item is extremely easy to do, yet is often overlooked or ignored. Having the correct tire pressure is important because either overinflated or underinflated tires can lead to premature wear. The latter causes increased rolling resistance that could also lead to poor fuel economy. Checking only takes a couple of minutes and all you need is a tire pressure gauge — just remember to measure the reading when the tire is cold to get an accurate reading. You can find the proper manufacturer-suggested psi on the driver’s side doorjamb.
Especially at night, the exterior lighting on your vehicle is the primary way you stay visible to other motorists and pedestrians. That’s why it’s something that should be inspected regularly. Walk from the front to back and side-to-side ensuring all headlights, taillights, brake lights (get a friend or family member to assist with this one) and running lights are in working order. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
• Wiper blades
If in good condition, windshield and rear window wipers help to clean the glass and keep the road visible. To test the health of your blades, hit the washer spray button and see if the operation is smooth and streak-free. If not, head to the dealership or local parts retailer to pick up some new ones. Removal and reinstallation is fairly painless if you follow the instructions on the back of the package. It’s a good policy to replace your blades at least once a year, as the rubber can turn brittle over time.