DIY Auto Maintenance
What you need for the job.
The auto industry has changed quite a bit over the span of one persons lifetime. I would say it will continue to change quite drastically with the push into zero emissions. What needs to be maintained is not the same as it was 30 years ago. Wheel bearings don't need to be greased, brakes and ignition systems hardly have to be adjusted. Yet, there are still some typical maintenance items you can do yourself to save some money for just a few hours of work. Other items you may just want to let the professional take care of while you're out golfing or shopping.
Being prepared for the job is vital. nobody wants to make multiple trips back and forth to the store. Basic maintenance items will include changing your fluids, filters, brakes, light bulbs, and even rotating tires. You can dig deeper with DIY repair, but sometimes they become so time consuming it would be better to let a professional get it done quickly.
Before you embark on this journey of maintenance, you will need to make sure you have a few things. These items typically are not able to be rented. You may possibly borrow them from a friend, but if you plan on doing this for a while, just buy them. So what are the common tools you will need?
Hydraulic jack and jack stands.
You’re going to need to lift the wheels up off the ground at some point in your journey. A hydraulic jack is a quick and easy way of doing so. Most vehicles are equipped with a scissor jack, but they take extra time to lift the vehicle. Jack stands provide a safe way of keeping the vehicle suspended in the air while you are underneath. Relying on just the jack for this is very unsafe. You can also add more safety by chalking one of the wheels with a brick or block to prevent it from rolling away.
Breaker bar or 4 way.
Whether your changing brakes, rotating tires, or even just inspecting for a noise, you may need to pull off a tire to get better access. You’ll need extra leverage when breaking those lug nuts loose. Thats where a breaker bar or even a 4 way lug wrench comes in handy. They are longer than your typical ratchet, which is how you get more leverage.
Everything from brakes to a wheel bearing have bolts on them or retaining them. They come in all sizes too. Now you won't need every socket known to man, but you will need a decent selection especially if you have a couple different brands of automobile. You can buy sets that have everything you need. They are fairly cheap at auto parts stores. Even super-center and hardware stores will have them.
Drain pan and transfer container.
When draining old fluids out from the vehicle you’ll need to catch it in something. It can be a bucket or pan, I've even used an ice cream container, just make sure it has the correct capacity of what you are draining. Once the catch pan is full, you'll need a way to dispose it. Be sure you have an enclosed container to take it back to an auto parts store or other facility capable of recycling it.
All the other hand tools.
Not everything will take a regular socket in order to be removed. Having some common wrenches, screw drivers and a couple styles of pliers may also be necessary. The only specialty tools I would recommend keeping on hand would be a wrench to remove oil filters and spark plug sockets. Just about all other specialty tools can be rented through auto parts stores.
Even though you wont be packing wheel bearings anytime soon, you will still need to keep some parts properly lubricated. As far as I can see, Tie rod ends, ball joints, and universal joints (if equipped) will still need to be greased to ensure a long life. Just keep in mind that some of those parts are sealed and not intended to be serviced. They will typically have a shorter life than ones with a zerk fitting.
Information about the job.
There are a few pieces of technical information you will want before starting a certain maintenance job. First of all, every machined bolt has a torque specification. Meaning the has to be tightened to a certain amount in order for it to stay tight and not go too far as to break. Typically each bolt will have a different torque setting including lug nuts. All fluid systems will have a certain capacity it requires to correctly fill it. Even the gap of a spark plug will need to be known.
This is probably the most important piece to invest in. I’m not saying you need to go to school and learn how to be a mechanic, but understanding what you’re working on is very important. There are too many resources out there to not comprehend how something works. YouTube is probably one of the biggest ways to see how to. You can even get advice from some auto parts stores and consultants, just be aware not everyone that works at a parts store is or has been a mechanic. My favorite resource is a repair manual. They have digital copies but personally I like the old fashioned book.
I know what you may be thinking, this sounds expensive. Well it can be. You need to do your due diligence on what to buy. Unless you are doing repair work as a career choice, you don't need top of the line tools. Auto parts, hardware, and even super-center stores all have these items. They even usually have different grades of the same tool. These are the places where DIY people should be getting their tools from. Just think about the cost of tools the next time you think your mechanic is overcharging you. Their tools cost a lot more than the ones you get at the hardware store, because they are being abused daily. The good news, is that these tools are pretty universal. You can do various other jobs around the house with them also.
Life is getting expensive. We are seeing inflation on everyday products, and pay never seems to increase enough. So why not save on very simple stuff. Doing your own maintenance can be pretty satisfying also. Not to mention it will keep you vehicle in good working order for years to come. Having these tools will help get the job done faster and save you money over the course of many years. So the question is, what are you working on this weekend?