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10 Easy Car Upgrades for DIYers

Fix up your car with a little time and effort with these 10 easy car fixes. They don't take much but they'll make for a better ride.

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Step Up Your TiresFamily Handyman

Step Up Your Tires

Tires range on the spendy side as far as upgrades but a new set of tires provides one of the most noticeable, instant upgrades. There are some great sites out there to help find deals on wheels like Simple Tire or Discount Tire, which can deliver those tires to your local shop. Rotating tires every 6,000 miles will help ensure your car’s proper alignment and keep your ride smooth. Pay attention to the tread ratings, tires with high tread wear ratings tend to be more responsive to steering changes. A touring style tire produces a quieter ride while traction ratings — which go from AA to C as best to worst — let you know how well the tire can handle rain, snow and ice. Learn to make your tires last.
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Swap Out an Old BatteryFamily Handyman

Swap Out an Old Battery

There’s nothing worse when a battery goes out on you. It can be a major inconvenience. Save yourself some trouble by keeping track of your battery’s life. A handy tip is if you’ve got a maintenance-free battery, check what color is showing. Green is good, if it’s yellow or has no color, it needs to be replaced. You can keep that battery in good shape by cleaning the terminals and cables. Pay attention to the tell-tale signs of a failing battery as well. When lights begin to dim while idling and brighten when you rev the engine it means the battery is fading.
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Change Your Brake PadsFamily Handyman

Change Your Brake Pads

Getting your brakes done at the shop can run hundreds of dollars but you can some money by replacing brake pads on your own. How often you’ll need to replace your brakes will depend upon the type of driving you do. If you’re driving in the city mostly, then you’ll want to replace your brakes every 40,000 miles or so, if you’re driving on highways, then the recommendation is usually around 80,000 miles. If you choose to bring your car to a shop, know what to ask about a brake job.
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Replace an Air FilterFamily Handyman

Replace an Air Filter

Replacing an air filter ranks high in terms of instant gratification for car improvements. A new air filter can boost performance and increase fuel mileage by as much as 10 percent. It’s also one of the easiest fixes to do on most cars. Find out how to change an air filter.
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Change Your View With Windshield WipersFamily Handyman

Change Your View With Windshield Wipers

Don’t skimp on windshield wipers. A good pair of wipers will save you from a long winter of frustration and make things safer for you and your passengers. Drive streak free and with a clear windshield with new wiper blades. Wiper blades can be replaced and installed easily.
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Brighten Your Path With Clean HeadlightsFamily Handyman

Brighten Your Path With Clean Headlights

Over time your headlights can dull or fog up but instead of replacing the entire unit you can improve it on your own. It takes some sandpaper and polish. Sand the plastic headlight and then polish it. Find out how to fix your headlights.
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Stainless Steel Brake Lines

Stainless Steel Brake Lines

Stainless steel brake lines provide a longer lifespan and better braking response opposed to the factory rubber lines. They’re more expensive but make it up with their performance. You won’t have to worry about a mushy feeling in the pedal with stainless steel brake lines. If you’re making the jump to stainless steel be sure to follow through with the maintenance because dirt particles can make their way into the lining and cause a leak. Find out how to check your brake fluid. Photo: Courtesy of
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Stay in AlignmentFamily Handyman

Stay in Alignment

A tread depth gauge can help you see if your car is out of alignment. If it is out of alignment it can cost you in a lot of ways. If your tires are out of alignment by just .017 inches it could cost you $150 in wasted gas, not to mention a new set of tires or new struts. Some shops offer free alignment checks so be sure to take advantage of those as well. If things are real bad you might have to learn how to fix struts.
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Install Polyurethane Steering Rack Bushings

Polyurethane bushings are an inexpensive car upgrade for DIYers because they come in at less than $50. The bushings can improve the feel of the driving experience and tighten things up with relative ease. It can upgrade the handling and decrease any noise from driving.
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Get a Transmission Fluid FlushFamily Handyman

Get a Transmission Fluid Flush

Flushing the transmission can sneak up on you if you don’t keep a maintenance record. If you start to see the performance of your vehicle start to slip, it’s probably time to flush the transmission fluid. A transmission fluid flush is recommended from 30,000 miles to 100,000 miles, depending on the vehicle. This car upgrade is one you can do at home and save yourself some money. Follow these steps to change your transmission fluid.