100 Super-Simple Car Repairs You Don’t Need to Go to the Shop For
Vehicle repairs and maintenance tasks don’t always have to be done in the shop. You can easily do these in your own garage.
Use a Code Reader
Diagnose car problems without going to a mechanic with an auto code reader. Simply plug it into the car’s computer system, then interpret the trouble code readout to see what repairs you might need to do. See how to crack the code of a code reader here.
Replace Your Wiper Blades
It’s easy to tell when your blades need replacing. Simply press the washer button and see if your blades wipe clean. If they streak, they’re toast. The auto parts store will have lots of economy blades, but go with a name brand instead (ANCO, Trico or Bosch). They cost more than economy blades, but their higher-quality rubber wipes better, has better UV protection and lasts longer.
Follow the installation instructions on the package. Be sure you have a firm grip on the wiper arm once you remove the old blade. If it gets away from you, it can hit the windshield with enough force to crack it.
Service Your ‘Tuck-Under’ Spare Tire Lift Now!
Loosen and lubricate a corroded spare tire lift so you can get to your spare tire when you need it. See how to keep that spare tire lift loose so you can get the tire when you need it.
Solve Rough Idle by Cleaning EGR Valve
Rough idle? A good dousing with throttle body cleaner may be enough to restore your EGR valve to near-mint condition, transforming a harsh idle into a soothing hum. Clean a EGR valve with these instructions for one of those easier car repairs.
Fix a Leaking Valve Cover Gasket
Replace a leaky gasket cover on a 4-cylinder engine easily and in less than an hour for less than $25. We show you how to fix a leaky gasket here.
Replace Sway Bar End Links
Fixing a clunk when your car hits a bump is a trial and error process. Start with the stabilizer bushings and then the bar end links, using a special tool. Replacing sway bar links is way cheaper than you think, see how to replace sway bar links and how much it costs.
Repair a Dim Headlight
Simply clean the ground connection to restore the brightness of dim headlights. And apply a little dielectric grease. Or replace the bulb if you see a gray/brown film on the inside of the glass. See how to locate the ground connection and how to clean it.
The hardest part of the job is choosing a new bulb. You can spend more time shopping for the bulbs than it takes to install them. The choices are mind-boggling. Every bulb manufacturer has its own confusing names for each style, making comparisons difficult. But it boils down to four upgrade categories—brightness level, life span, light color and energy consumption. See which bulb to pick and how to install a new headlight.
Fix a Stuck Power Antenna
Fix a stuck power antenna by replacing a burned out motor or bad cable/mast. You can do both in about two hours, and you’ll avoid the $50 – $100 dealer service fee. You need only one special tool, an antenna wrench. See how to fix an antenna here.
Fix a Horn Problem
Use a simple fused jumper to pinpoint the problem with a bad horn. Often the fix is simple and cheap. Check out how to fix a car horn here.
Clear Up Cloudy Headlights
Clear your fogged or yellowed headlight lenses in 45 minutes for less than $15, rather than spending $100s to replace them. Learn the secret to cleaning headlights here.
Remove a Stuck Phillips Screw
Frustrated by a Phillips screw that’s starting to strip out? Salvage the situation with one of these tips before you go through the misery of drilling out the screw.
Replace a Thermostat
Replacing a car’s thermostat (or T-stat) is an easy and inexpensive repair, and in most cases will cure an overheating or no-heat problem, sparing the time and expense needed for expert diagnostics. Learn all the steps to replace a thermostat here.
Troubleshoot Windshield Washers
A windshield washer that doesn’t pump enough fluid is annoying and even hazardous. Find the solution to fixing a troublesome windshield washer.
Clean Your Air/Fuel Intake System
Do you get a crummy idle or poor engine response when you put the pedal to the metal? You may have soot and carbon buildup on the valves, intake manifold and throttle body assembly, as well as clogged fuel injectors. Shops charge $80 and up to perform a fuel induction cleaning service. But you can do the same thing in about 30 minutes with the 3M No. 08963 Do-It-Yourself Fuel System Tune-Up Kit; $35 from amazon. com. Watch the instructional DVD. Then grab the kit, a screwdriver, goggles and rags and you’re ready to bust crud.
Fix Your Power Door Locks
Repair broken power locks by replacing the actuator, which is a common problem on late-model Fords. You’ll save on the shop fee plus some of the new part cost. Find out how to fix power door locks, you could save up to $100.
Replace a Broken Wheel Stud
Tightening lug nuts without a torque wrench can be a recipe for disaster. If worse comes to worse and you break the wheel stud, here’s how to replace it.
Find and Replace a Blown Fuse
Cars run on electricity as well as gas, and almost all of it runs through fuses. Learn where they are, how to spot a blown fuse, and how to replace them. It takes about five minutes, costs about $1, and it’ll save you the hassle of a trip to the repair shop.
Recharge Your Car’s Air Conditioner
Improve the cooling of your car’s air conditioner with an easy-to-use A/C recharge kit. You can do it in four simple steps.
Change Your Spark Plugs
Change your spark plugs yourself to maintain peak performance and high gas mileage. In most cases it’s a simple job as long as you have the right tools. See how to replace spark plugs.
Replace a Serpentine Belt
Automatic belt tensioners, standard in most cars now, make changing a serpentine belt a simple DIY repair. Check out how to replace a serpentine belt in about 15 minutes.
Refinish Wheels and Wheel Covers
Sometimes a middle-aged car can still look fine except for wear and tear on the wheels and wheel covers. Fortunately, you can fix this yourself for very little cash. Removing the rust and painting your wheels take a full day. (Don’t panic—mostly you’re waiting for paint to dry.) Then the wheels must dry for 24 more hours after painting before you remount them. So make other arrangements for transportation for a day. The supplies cost about $50 from any auto parts store. See how to refinish wheels at home.
Replace Struts Yourself
If you’ve put 80,000 or more miles on your struts, they’re worn out and must be replaced. We know they’re expensive (about $700 for front struts replaced at a shop). But in the long run, driving on worn struts actually costs you more. You could save $300 doing struts yourself, see how to do it.
Replace a Pickup Bumper
A rusty or dented bumper can drag down the whole appearance of a pickup that’s in otherwise good shape. Having it replaced by a pro will set you back $1,000, but you can save $500 or more in labor and parts by doing the job yourself. It takes only a few hours. Get complete instructions here.
Free Up a Sticking Hood Latch
If your hood doesn’t latch and unlatch easily, chances are it’s just rusty and dry. You can fix the problem in about 10 minutes with spray rust penetrant and spray lithium grease. Pop the hood and saturate the entire latch mechanism with rust penetrant. Latch and unlatch the hood several times until the mechanism works smoothly. The rust penetrant won’t last long, so you’ll have to apply a better lube. Open the hood and spray all the moving parts with white lithium grease. Latch and unlatch the hood several more times and you’re good to go. There is a difference between rust penetrant and WD-40, which is still great at scaring away spiders, believe it or not.