Simple Car Maintenance: How to Guide


I travel near and far to photograph my clients. Sometimes we fly, sometimes we even take a train, but most of the time we drive. It is so important for me to have a safe, reliable, and well-maintained vehicle. With that said, regardless if you travel for your job, it is imperative to have a safe car and to keep up with checking your oil, radiator, and transmission fuel is all very valuable. And in time of need, it can be paramount knowing how to change a tire.

We’ve all had scares while driving, near misses, and strange noises coming from under the hood, but under the hood is a foreign place full of wires and hoses that seem to connect to nothing and everything all at once. Where to start when it comes to car maintenance can be a bit daunting, but if you’re looking to save money and pick up a few valuable skills along the way, it can be quite rewarding.

This post is a really simple read and hopefully will encourage more women to be able to work on their cars without relying on their husbands or auto mechanic. #girlpower

How to Check the Oil

After turning your engine off, pop the hood. Don’t a scared. Checking the oil isn’t fancy or complicated; you just search for the dipstick, which is usually a yellow plastic loop sticking close to the front of the engine. If you get a bit lost, just look for the genie lamp symbol (It’s really an old-school oil can) inscribed on the covering to your oil reservoir. Pull the dipstick out entirely and wipe it clean on something you don’t mind being stained. Reinsert the dipstick, and remove it again.

At the very tip you will notice either two holes spaced approximately an inch apart or two lines with max at the top and minimum at the bottom. If the oil is below the minimum line or isn’t visible at all, you need more oil desperately, like yesterday. Otherwise, you’re in the clear for now. You should check your oil about once a week just to stay in the habit and avoid possible damage from lack of oil.

How to Check the Radiator Fluid (or Engine Coolant)

If you thought checking the oil was easy, checking the radiator fluid will be a breeze. Just look for an opaque plastic container with a top marked with the caution symbol. No worries, so long as the car has been off long enough for the engine to cool down, there won’t be any pressure built up so cause any injuries. On the side of the container should be a line somewhere near the top which is the full line. If the liquid inside doesn’t reach the line, open the container carefully with a rag covering your hand, and add an equal part mix of coolant and water. Be sure to check your coolant levels regularly as the plastic can crack or become damaged enough to allow leaks.

How to Check Transmission Fluid

For transmission fluid, you’ll want to turn the car on, but first search for the transmission fluid dipstick. It will look a lot like oil dipstick but is typically a red plastic loop instead. After turning the car on with the gearshift in neutral or park, remove the dipstick, clean it, replace it, and remove it again.

If your transmission fluid is brown or dark colored, it needs to be changed right away. A pinkish color that is still slightly clear is exactly what you’re looking for.

Also, check the level, ensuring that the fluid is not below the minimum line. Older model vehicles will need the transmission fluid checked more frequently, but you can typically check about once a month without any worries.

How to Change A Tire

Changing a tire can be a bit more complicated and requires the use of some tools. However, anyone who drives should always know how to change a tire. First, locate your spare or doughnut tire (usually in the trunk underneath the floor mat), a jack, a lug wrench, and wheel wedges.

These for items are essentials which every driver should always carry in their vehicle as you never know when you might have a flat tire. Second, make sure the vehicle is in park with the parking brake on and remove the rim from the tire. This is typically relatively easy since most are just plastic. Use the lug wrench to ‘brake’ the grip on each lug before placing the jack. Jacks can be a bit tricky since placing it in the wrong place can cause damage to the aesthetics of the car.

Search for a metal piece of the frame located near the wheel and place the jack there. Only raise the jack far enough to touch the piece of metal until after you place the wheel wedges behind the two wheels closest to the injured tire. Continue jacking the car until the wheel is raised off the ground and unscrew the remaining lugs. Be careful as the tire is likely to fall. Remove the tire and replace it with the spare, screwing on the lugs by hand first. Lower the vehicle and finish tightening the lugs with the wrench using a star pattern to ensure proper alignment. The lugs should be as tight as possible, so throw your weight into it; you don’t want the tire coming off somewhere down the road.

Checking these things on your vehicle should be second nature in no time, and (trust me) changing a tire gets easier with practice. And, don’t worry, everyone was a beginner once!! Just give it a shot, and don’t be scared of what’s under the hood.

simple car maintenance guide

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