Even basic car repairs and maintenance can be quite daunting for any newbie. Whether it’s the technical terms, the lack of tools or just a lack of experience, many car owners are afraid to pop open the bonnet and get stuck in.
Just like learning any new skill, all it takes is some research and a little bit of practice. While you probably shouldn’t be too ambitious with the first steps on your DIY mechanics’ journey, there are plenty of basic car repairs that you can quickly and easily master.
So, while we’d recommend you wait a little while before taking your car’s engine apart, we’ve put together a list of car repair projects that are ready for even the newest of newbies to have a go at.
Not only will learning these basic car repairs give you some handy new skills, but it could end up saving you a lot of money in the long run as you won’t need to pay garages or breakdown companies to fix simple problems anymore.
What car repair tools do I need?
Obviously, this completely depends on the repairs needed but if you’re new to general car maintenance, a great first step is to get yourself set up with a basic toolbox. You don’t need to go overboard with one the 1000-piece sets, just a couple of essentials can be a real lifesaver in tons of different situations.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A set of screwdrivers (Get a mix of sizes and heads including Phillips head)
- A set of spanners (Get a range of sizes from 8mm to 17mm)
- A socket set
- A pair of pliers
- A tyre pressure gauge
- A can of WD40
- A torch
- Duct tape
- An Allen key
Once you’ve got the tools for the job, you should be ready to go and tackle these 4 basic car repairs. First up we have, how to change a wheel.
Changing a wheel
A flat tyre can be a real pain, especially if you only discover it when you’re out and about. What can be an even bigger pain is having to have changed. You’ll either have to sit and wait for some breakdown assistance or risk driving on it to take it to a garage.
Of course, like all the car repairs on this list, changing a tyre is actually pretty simple and straightforward if you have the right tools and a bit of know how.
For changing a tyre you’ll specifically need a spare wheel, which you should find in your boot, a jack to lift the car, a wheel wrench and the locking wheel nut key which you can usually find in the glove box. If you are changing a tyre on the side of the road, you should probably have some sort of high vis jacket and a warning triangle.
You should already have most of these tools in your car but if you don’t, go ahead and get them as soon as possible so you’re not stuck next time you have a flat tyre.
Once you’ve got all your tools, the first thing you want to do is loosen the wheel bolts with the wheel wrench, turning anti-clockwise. Be sure to use a bit of force when first loosening the bolts. One of the bolts may need the locking wheel nut key to unlock it.
After you’ve loosened the bolts, you need to jack up the car. You can find the jacking point in the owner’s manual. When the jack is in place, a few clockwise cranks should be enough to get the tyre up. As soon as there is light between the ground and the wheel, you have enough room to change the tyre.
Next, you need to remove the loosened bolts – remember to keep these bolts in a safe place and take off the tyre.
With the new, inflated tyre, line-up the holes for the bolts and hold the wheel in place. Screw one of the wheel bolts in to make sure it’s all positioned correctly and then, by hand, insert the rest of the bolts.
Using the wheel wrench, tighten all the bolts before slowly lowering the jack until the wheel is back on the ground. When it’s on the ground, tighten the bolts again so they are as tight as you can make them.
Remember that spare tyres are not meant to be driven on long term so when you get home, be sure to arrange to have a new tyre fitted as soon as possible.
Jumpstarting a car
Another car issue that can be incredibly frustrating is a dead battery. We’ve all been there, continually turning the key over and over again, hoping and praying that the engine will start. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to jump-start your car using another vehicle.
Jumpstarting a car is very simple and straightforward. First, you’ll need jumper leads. These are another car maintenance essential and could really save the day in an emergency.
Take your jumper cables and ensure that both vehicles are parked in neutral with the engines off. Take one of the red clips and attach it to the positive (displayed as POS or +) terminal on your battery and the other red clip to the positive terminal of the car that will start.
Then you need to take one of the black clips and attach it to the smaller, negative terminal on the other battery. The final unused black clip should then be connected to an unpainted metal surface on your car that isn’t near the battery.
Once all the clips are in place, one on your battery, two on the other car’s battery and one on the metal surface, you can start your engine and leave it running for a few minutes.
If your car still won’t start, check the cables are correctly positioned, otherwise, you could have a dead battery on your hands. Don’t panic though, changing a battery is nothing to worry about.
Replacing a dead battery
First things first, ensure the vehicle is turned off and in neutral. You might want to lay some old sheets or tarpaulin down to protect your car.
Now, carefully remove any plastic casing around the battery and remove the cable on the negative terminal first using one of your smaller spanners. The terminals will be identified by a NEG or “–“ sign.
Then do the same with the positive terminal cable (displayed as POS or +). Take both cables off and set them to one side.
Before removing the battery, and generally throughout the whole process, look out for any leaking acid or dried out sulfuric acid. If you do spot any, DO NOT touch it with bare hands and if there is a large leak, leave the battery change to a trained professional.
You can now remove the battery, removing any extra screws or bolts as you go. Place the old battery safely to the side and pick up the new one. Ensure that the new battery is placed facing the same way as the broken battery.
Make sure you reattach any bolts that were securing the battery and then reconnect the positive terminal ensuring it’s as tight as before. Do the same for the negative terminal now and you’re all set.
You must dispose of the old battery properly, you can’t just chuck it in the bin. A quick google search for a battery recycling centre will give you all the answers you need.
Changing your wiper blades
An often-overlooked car repair that many drivers avoid is changing your wiper blades. If your wiper blades are causing streaks, splits or squeaking noises, you will need to change your wipers, otherwise, you risk damaging your windscreen.
It’s incredibly simple to change your blades, so it’s time to stop avoiding the job and master it, plus the whole job takes just a couple of minutes.
First, you’ll need to know the size of your wiper blades. You’ll just need to know the length of your wiper blade which you can easily find out using a tape measure. If you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, companies like Halfords can help you find the right blade size by simply entering your reg number.
Once you’ve got the new blades, you’ll need to remove the old ones. Lift the wiper arm off the windscreen and pop open the locking tab or press the locking button – then simply slide the old wiper blade out.
Be careful to gently place the wiper arm back on the windscreen or this metal arm could seriously damage your screen.
Now all you have to do is take the new wiper blades and gently slide them into the wiper arm making sure to hold the arm steady at all times. The locking button should click back into place automatically when the new blade is in position.
Ensure the new blade sits comfortably on the windscreen, give it a quick test and that’s it, you’re all set.
See, we told you it was easy!
These are just some of the easy car repairs you can master in no time at all. We’ll have more car maintenance projects for you to try your hand at very soon!