While you might feel the urge to head to a car shop every time your car gives off the odd shudder, you don’t have to. Car repairs get expensive over time, especially if you’re relying on professionals working for dealerships to maintain your car for you.
Alternatively, learning how to repair small elements of your car on your own cannot only keep money in your wallet, but it can save you emotional distress if you end up stuck on the side of the road somewhere without easy help.
If you’re new to car maintenance, there are some good places for you to start learning how to take the care and keeping of your car into your own hands. Once you know how to handle these tasks on your own, your car depreciation will be much less intimidating.
The tools you’ll need
First things first: you’ll need to organise and keep an emergency tool kit somewhere in your car. Should something happen to you while you’re on the road, you can handle the smaller accidents that come your way. Make sure your tool kit includes:
A car jack
2 wrenches – one adjustable, one torque
Phillips and flathead screwdrivers of varying sizes
Socket and ratchet set
Changing a blown tyre
It’s a scary thing when your tyre goes out in the middle of the road. Whether it’s just a hole poked in the rubber or a full-on blow out though, you can replace your car tyre with its provided donut without the help of a tow truck or repair shop. Ensuring that you have the tools and know-how to handle a blown tyre will lower your maintenance costs and stress levels in the long run.
Step 00: Call someone. This doesn’t mean you need to call a tow truck, but let a family member or loved one know what’s happened. This way, should you be delayed or your maintenance not go well, someone will know where you are.
Step 01: Make sure that, once your tyre light comes on or you notice that your ride is no longer so smooth, you pull over to the side of the road or into a rest area immediately. Turn on your hazard lights to let other drivers know to give you room to breathe.
Step 02: Make a damage assessment. How badly has your tyre been punctured? Is it leaking from a nearly invisible hole, or can you see the rubbery interior? Either way, you’ll need to get your emergency tool kit and remove the tyre. Before you do anything, park your car securely on level ground.
Step 03: Using your adjustable wrench, remove your hubcap, then loosen your wheel nuts. A wheel nut wrench will also be helpful in this scenario. Do not remove the wheel nuts at this point.
Step 04: Follow the instructions included on your car jack in order to raise it off the ground safely. Instruction should generally be similar, but make sure you follow them to the letter and keep the jack on a non-plastic element of your car.
Step 05: Remove the wheel nuts.
Step 06: Remove the flat tyre.
Step 07: Replace the tyre with its spare one.
Step 08: Replace the wheel nuts, making sure to only tighten them with your hand.
Step 09: Lower your car and remove the car jack from its position behind or in front of your replaced wheel. Tighten the wheel nuts with your available wrench.
Step 10: Replace your hubcap. You’ll be able, at this point, to drive at a lower speed to either your destination or the nearest car shop, where you’ll have tyre expenses to consider as you shop for a replacement tyre.
Working with car smoke
You may also have the less-than-comforting experience of having to identify the type of smoke coming out of your car. The good news is that different colours and smells of smoke mean different things, and that some of these conditions are less severe – and thereby more treatable – than others.
If you see something billowing out from under your hood, don’t necessarily panic immediately. Instead, consider our smoke guide:
White smoke: This smoke usually smells sweet because it means your coolant is burning. The good news is that if you pop your hood and can see the spot in the hose that’s leaking, this is an easy fix. Just replace or patch the hose and you’ll be on the road again in no time.
Blue smoke: If you haven’t decided to have your car produce decorative smoke, blue fumes from your exhaust could be a sign of a dirty PCV valve or worn engine seals. You can replace these smaller elements in your garage or on the side of the road, provided you have the necessary equipment.
Grey smoke: Does this smoke also smell like cooking chicken? That’s less than ideal. It’s possible that your engine oil is burning, at this point, and that you’re at risk for an engine seize. Pull over and call a tow truck.
Black smoke: Stop your car, turn off the engine, and preferably get a good distance away. Black smoke means that your fuel is burning, either because your fuel injector is leaking, you have a defective carburettor, or a cracked fuel pressure regulator. All of these troubles can be solved in your home garage, but you’ll be wanting a tow truck to make sure you get there safely.
Water vapour: The good news is that this is normal! When your exhaust system heats up, water trapped inside your car will burn off, producing this harmless vapour.
You can also, with the right materials, jump start your car battery, replace your battery, change your own oil, and maintain your car’s air filter all without going into the mechanic. All that you need to do is tinker with your car and make use of the mechanical community around you, and you’ll be lower the cost of your car’s maintenance in no time at all.