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Car Care You Can Do and When to Pay a Professional

Some car care you can manage yourself, but other times you need the help of a car repair professional. How do you tell the difference?

car care

Car care is increasingly more complicated these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make some repairs on your own. There are plenty of car repairs anyone can do even though there are more complicated issues that are best left to experienced professionals. Here are several common car repairs you can safely and easily do yourself and some that are best left to the car care pros.

Car care anyone can handle

Changing a flat tire

Flat tires are a nuisance and they seem to strike at the most inopportune moments. You can call AAA services for help with the job or you can try to tackle this one all on your own. The process isn’t complicated and the tools to do the job should be in your car. Once you find the spare tire, jack and tire iron, you can remove the flat tire and pop on the spare, although it’s not always that easy.

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Changing a battery

Dead batteries are another nuisance that can strike at any time. Call for roadside assistance to get a battery delivered to you and installed properly. You can replace a battery yourself, but keep in mind there are specific procedures for safely replacing a battery.

Replacing a light

Headlights, tail lights and turn signals tend to burn out and legally need to be replaced before you drive. If you can manage changing a household lightbulb, then you can change many of the bulbs in your car. Find the correct bulb at an auto parts store and then follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to see how to access and remove the old bulb. Keep in mind, not all lights are created equal; for example, some headlights require removal of the bumper cover to gain access to the bulb.

Replace an air filter

The job of keeping your engine free from dust and dirt goes to the air filter. Eventually, it gets dirty and needs to be replaced as a part of regular car care. You’ll find the air filter in the engine compartment beneath a cover that may be held on with screws, clips or clamps. Once you remove the cover, take out the the filter and clean the housing before installing the new one. Your owner’s manual has guidelines on how often this should be replaced, but a good rule of thumb is to do it every 30,000 miles and check the filter’s condition with each oil change.

Adding oil

Checking your oil should be a regular part of monthly car maintenance and is essential to keeping your car in working order. If you check and find the oil is low, then it’s easy to add more. Purchase the correct grade at a gas station or auto parts store. Pop the hood and unscrew the oil cap. Pour in the fresh oil and once the dipstick shows it’s full, your car is all set.

car care

Car care best left to professionals

Timing belt

Plenty of people try to replace the timing belt, but it’s not a good idea. This car care job requires taking apart a good bit of your engine. It also requires reassembling it correctly when the job is done. If you make a mistake putting things back together, then what was originally an inexpensive car repair could end up being very costly.

Shock absorbers and struts

Not only is this a tricky job that can require special tools to perform correctly, but because you will need to jack up the car and climb under it to perform the job, it can be dangerous. Rather than risking injury and a poorly performed repair, it’s best to pay to have this done by a professional.

Radiator

This is a big one that people dread because it’s not cheap to repair. Depending on the vehicle, this can also be a difficult and time-consuming job. If you don’t follow procedures correctly a radiator replacement could turn into a much more expensive repair. This is such an important part of car care that doing it improperly could mean needing a whole new engine. Instead of taking that risk, have a professional do the job and you’ll know it’s done correctly.

Fuel pump

The fuel pump supplies fuel to the fuel injector at just the right pressure. It is a sensitive part and an expensive one to replace. This might tempt you to try the job on your own, but that isn’t a good idea. In many cases you need to remove the fuel tank and depressurize the fuel system. This is definitely a job for the pros.

Brakes

Replacing your brakes isn’t the most complicated job, but it’s not one you want to do wrong. Your brakes are what stand between you stopping at a traffic light or careening into an intersection. If you don’t know how to do this correctly, is that a chance you’re willing to take? We didn’t think so. Seek a professional for this auto repair rather than risking brake failure.

What would you add to our suggestions for repairs anyone can handle versus those that should only be done by professionals? Let us know in the comments!

For discounts on repairs and quality you can trust, check out our AAA Approved Auto Repair facility locator here.

This post was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated. 

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