David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance. He writes about money management topics including insurance, home improvement, getting out of debt, and DIY projects.
When it comes to saving money on car insurance, DIY projects are probably the last thing to pop up on your radar. A car running at peak performance, however, is much less likely to break down and cause an accident, and fewer accidents means lower auto insurance premiums. By properly maintaining your vehicle you can reduce your likelihood of having to file a claim, keeping your premiums at the bare minimum. Here are 5 DIY car maintenance tips that can keep you safe and save you money.
5 DIY car maintenance tips
1. Change your spark plugs.
Consult your owner's manual to find out how often your spark plugs should be changed. Get yourself a socket wrench designed specifically for spark plugs, and remove all the old plugs. Most spark plugs these days no longer require gapping or proper spacing, but consult an auto supply store to be sure. If they do, check the Internet for videos on how to do this, as the process can be involved. When you remove the spark plug wires, make sure you keep them in order as it can cause a serious problem if they're not reinstalled correctly. Consider marking them with masking tape to be sure. Install the new plugs, without over-tightening them, and then re-attach the wires.
2. Keep tires inflated properly.
Simply stopping by your local gas station and putting some new air into your tires isn't necessarily the best way to go. Get out your owner's manual and find out exactly what the best air pressure is for your tires. Many standard air inflation stations don't come with gauges, so find one that does or invest in one for yourself. You can find tire gauges on Amazon for under $20.
3. Replace the air filter.
Your air filter should be replaced every 30,000 miles, but you should also inspect it on a regular basis, especially if you've done a lot of off-road driving in the recent past. Replacing your filter can go a long way in the long-term performance of your car. Stop by your local auto supply center and ask for an air filter for the make and model of your car. When you're looking for your air filter, look for a large box with a black plastic cover - it's usually at the top of your engine. Pop the caps, pull the old filter out, and replace it with the new one. Resnap the caps and you're done.
4. Install new wiper blades.
Functioning wiper blades are essential for good visibility in bad weather, and better blades greatly reduce your chance of an accident. Most wiper blades fit into "hooks" on your car's wiper blade arms. If the instructions you receive with your wipers are unclear, do an Internet search for how to change blades on your car's make and model. You should be able to find an easy explanation, along with some photos on how to complete the task.
5. Change your oil.
First, make sure your car's engine is cool. Raise your vehicle up with car ramps. Your oil pan is large and flat with a plug in one of the corners. It's usually located near the front of your car, under your engine. Pull the plug with a socket wrench and drain the old oil. Refill your car with new oil – and make sure you purchase the correct oil for your vehicle. When the project is done, find a local gas station that accepts used oil so you can dispose it there. You should also change your oil filter at this time too. Simply remove your oil filter with an oil filter wrench, rub a bit of oil on the seal of the new filter, and screw it in.
Some of these DIY tips are easy to implement, while others require a more significant time commitment. By doing the proper research and taking your time, you can save money and reduce your risk of an accident. The time is now to get your car running in tip-top shape. Further on down the road, you're going to be glad you did.