In Parts One and Two of CAR DIY, we had a look at the why’s and what’s of taking care of your own car. Save money, do it yourself.
Some DIY projects involve a sharp saw, a hammer, a first aid kit and a good lawyer. We’re going to simplify it and walk you through giving your car a basic service. For the basic tools you’ll need, check out Part One. For a list of tasks to be carried out, check out Part Two.
Any basic car parts that need replacing, most stores such as AutoZone or Midas will be able to help you out if you know the exact model of your car. Let’s get started.
Change Your Oil
Oil pan, socket wrench, rags, new oil filter, new engine oil and a new washer for sump plug – just in case. The key to this job is being methodical. Let your car idle for a few minutes beforehand, just to warm it up. This will make the job easier. To do this, you’ll need to get underneath your car. You could jack the front of the car up on both sides and put a couple of jack stands or cinder blocks under there to prevent you from dying, but ideally, invest in a pair of ramps.
Engine oil is stored in the sump at the bottom of the engine. Once your car is up, place some cardboard beneath the sump area and put your oil pan under the sump plug. The sump plug is a bolt attached to the lowest part of the sump, which you then remove with your socket wrench.
To avoid having a nervous breakdown, try not to drop the plug into the oil pan.
The warm oil will gush out, so best avoid getting your hands in the way. While the old oil drains (it could be up to 5l) remove the oil filter, as well as the engine oil filler cap on top of the engine.
Both of these should come off with good old elbow grease, but if you struggle, there is an oil filter wrench specifically designed for this.
Wait for the oil to drain. Once it’s done, you can throw the old filter away. Line the inlet of the new oil filter with some new engine oil and then gently screw it onto the fitting. It should sit firmly with the rubber seal. You then need to top your engine up with fresh oil.
If you haven’t put the sump plug back in before doing so, you’re in for fun and games.
Once you’ve topped the oil up, check the dipstick, and do so after regular intervals until the oil remains at the ‘full’ mark. If satisfied, start the engine and allow it to idle for 5 minutes. After that, check the dipstick again and add any necessary oil. Do not overfill. Afterwards, check the filter and sump for any leaks. Then comes the fun part…
Change The Air Filter
New air filter, your hands and perhaps a screwdriver. The engine needs air to run. The air mixes with fuel, the piston compresses the mixture, the spark plug provides the spark and just like that, you’ve got internal combustion. So, for maximum efficiency, the air needs to be as clean as possible. For that, you need a clean air filter, made of porous, paper-like material. Most filters are rectangular, but older cars that have carburettors use a donut-shaped air filter.
The air filter is connected to the engine’s intake manifold. Open your bonnet and locate the air filter box. This is usually a black plastic box on top of, or beside your engine. Open the box up and remove the old, dirty filter. Put the new filter in, make sure it’s the right way round and fits snugly. Close the box.
Aaaaaaand, you’re done.
Replace Your Car Fuel Filter
New fuel filter, rags, line wrench and screwdrivers. Firstly, the area you work in should be well-ventilated. It goes without saying that lighting up a cigarette while doing this job is the easiest way to get yourself killed.
If your filter is located underneath the car, you’ll have to jack the car up, or move it up onto ramps, and secure it. Again, stay far away from sparks and flame.
A clogged fuel filter could eventually prevent your car from running at all. While some may last a long time, it is still advisable to replace it every now and then.
Your car may have either an in-line fuel filter or an in-tank fuel filter. The latter is infinitely more complicated to replace.
An in-line fuel filter (pictured above) connects to the main line of the fuel system. To replace an in-tank fuel filter, though, will require lowering the fuel tank to remove the fuel pump assembly. If your filter is located in a hard-to-reach place, it’s probably better to get a professional do the work. These jobs do require considerable expertise.
The filter may be in the engine compartment, mounted on the firewall, under the vehicle, mounted on the frame near the driver’s side, or close to the fuel tank. If you don’t see the filter, you can follow the main fuel line from the engine towards the fuel tank.
Let’s look at how to replace the easier in-line fuel filter.
First, you need to relieve the pressure in the fuel line, before disconnecting it. To do this, loosen your petrol cap and then remove the fuel pump fuse. Every car has a small fuse panel, either under the hood or under the dashboard. On the lid of the box, you should find a description for which fuse goes where. After removing, make sure your gear is in neutral, handbrake is up and then go ahead and start your engine.
Let it idle until it stalls. Now you’re ready to disconnect the fuel line.
Disconnect the negative (black) battery cable. Clean the fittings on both fuel lines connected to the filter, to avoid contamination. Make a note of how the old filter is connected – they usually have arrows printed on the case. The new one must be installed the same way.
Disconnect the fuel lines. This could involve removing hairpin clips or unscrewing the nuts which hold the lines in place. If there’s a clamp or bracket holding the filter in place, remove this as well. Follow the same steps in reverse order to install the new filter and reconnect the fuel lines.
Reconnect the battery, place the fuel pump fuse back into its slot and start the car. Check for any leaks around the filter while the car runs.
Presto! Your car is almost serviced.
While You’re Here: CAR DIY Part One – Save Your Money
All that remains is topping up your brake fluid, water, steering fluid and engine coolant, which shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. You could also check your brakes, shocks and rotate your tyres if you have the means to do so.
Some services also include changing the spark plugs, which we will teach you how to do yourself in the future, as well as a bunch of other nifty DIY tricks and methods.
Keep an eye out for future CAR DIY articles!
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