Car Repairs – to DIY or not to DIY?

Flow with the Fluids

Checking fluid levels is, without exception, the easiest task and one that automakers make efficient with no tools required. It only takes a few minutes to find and verify basic items such as engine oil, coolant, brake, washer, and power-steering fluids on most mainstream vehicles. For engine-oil checks, pull the dipstick before starting the engine in the morning (if the car’s parked on a relatively level grade). This way you won’t have to wipe the stick and reinsert it but simply take the reading on the first pull.

Let There Be Light

Replacing bulbs is probably the repair item least likely — yet easiest — to be completed by vehicle owners. Most bulbs are accessed from the backside of the lamps, and often headlamp-bulb replacement is made easier by either removing the entire lamp or whatever engine bay component is jammed up against it, such as the battery or coolant reservoir. If you don’t have to take anything out of the way, bulb replacement is usually a tool-free job. Most owner manuals provide clear instruction on accessing the bulb in question, and some even indicate a generic bulb identifying number. If you don’t know the bulb’s number, simply take the old one into the parts store for an accurate match. If you have a lamp troubled by condensation, simply tie a few desiccant bags to a piece of string and feed it inside the lamp through the bulb-hole, seal the hole with paper towel held by an elastic and let it dry for a few hours.

Breathe Easy

A simple maintenance item that can pay off quickly in terms of improved fuel mileage is the replacement of the engine air filter. For just about any average vehicle, the air filter is easily removed. Simply unlatch the cover of the filter box, lift off the lid and pull out the element.  If it’s discoloured, or has visible grit trapped in it, then it needs replacing. Most part stores can spec out the correct filter with the year, make, and model of the vehicle and its engine size. The other air filter that can now be found on many models is the cabin-air intake element.  This time of year it’s crucial to make sure this filter doesn’t get plugged as it will reduce the volume of air flowing through the heater and defrost ducts. These filters are either accessed at the rear of the glove box or through the engine bay (check your manual for details). Speaking of air, checking the tire pressures from time to time is a good idea, even if your vehicle is equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. Popping the valve down with a pressure gauge can keep it from seizing, as the valves attached to tire pressure sensors are prone to doing.

Wipe Out Worn Wipers

Lots of car owners know this is something they should be able to do, but they get frustrated when the blade won’t release from the arm. Every wiper blade has some type of spring clip that needs to be released in order to pop it off the arm. If it’s frozen, warm it up with your hand or a blow dryer. Sometimes a small screwdriver comes in handy. There are various types of releases used today, and of course that seldom-read manual usually has the how-to details. Replacement blades are identified by year, make, model and length of the blade in inches. Simply flatten the blade against the windshield and measure it from tip to tip.

There are many other items that can be easily handled depending on experience, skill, and the proper tools and equipment.  And, no, YouTube can’t turn an amateur into a pro, no matter how many videos you watch.

And like the repairs you can manage, there are some you shouldn’t try at home.

Safety Systems

Just about anything that has anything to do with a vehicle safety system or component should be left to the pros. This includes (but is not limited to) brakes, steering, fuel lines/tanks, exhaust systems, air bags, seat belts. Many in the auto-repair industry have complained for years that home electrical and heating component suppliers won’t sell certain components to unlicensed contractors due to safety concerns, yet auto-parts stores will sell anything to anyone.

Don’t Get Rolled Over

Most do-it-yourself injuries happen when someone tries to work on, or under, a vehicle supported by a wheel jack, ramp or jack-stand. For this reason, many municipalities have by-laws prohibiting people from doing auto repairs or maintenance on residential property. The only safe way to raise a vehicle without a hoist is with a proper hydraulic floor jack and four suitably rated jack stands. This set up is only safe if the vehicle is on a level grade and the stands are properly placed and are supported by a solid surface (blacktop pavement isn’t safe on hot days). Vehicle weight can shift when components are removed or added. No one (and this can’t be stressed enough) should ever work under a vehicle without a spotter who can call for help if things go wrong.

Voiding Your Warranty

Remember when considering your vehicle – if you are feeling savvy and decide to repair it on your own, you will be voiding you warranty.  Mitsubishi cannot warrant repairs that are not performed and receipted by a certified technician!  So stick to fluids, filters and checks if you are under warranty.

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