Car Maintenance You Didn’t Know You Could DIY

You're likely aware that you can handle some car fixes yourself. But there are several car maintenance tasks you probably didn't know you could DIY.

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A man repairing his car by putting safety gloves on his hands
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Safety First

Just because you’re not a mechanic doesn’t mean you can’t handle some repairs and tune-ups yourself. There are plenty of car maintenance tasks you didn’t know you could DIY. However, you should still keep basic safety practices in mind when working on your car. Always wear appropriate protective gear, be sure that your car is properly immobilized when working on it, and when it doubt, take it to a licensed mechanic for diagnosis.

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Automotive Air Filter Replacement at home
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Clean and Change Air Filters

The air filters in your car are relatively easy to clean and change. Once you’ve removed them, vacuum them to get the large clumps of dust and debris removed and then wash them with dish soap diluted in water. Make sure the filters have completely dried before returning them to the car.

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Buffing out car paint scratches at home
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Buff Out Scratches

You might see paint scratches and worry that you have to take your car in for it to look right, but in fact there are a few different methods to fix this issue. Buffing out paint scratches is much easier than you think.

Small scratches can be polished away with ease. Simply wet and then sand down the area until the scratch looks dull and then apply polish to bring back the shine. Medium scratches can be fixed with scratch removal products, while large scratches will require a little more elbow grease. But all three types of scratches can be repaired at home.

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Pull Out Dents

When it comes to car maintenance you didn’t know you could DIY, pulling out dents probably seems like something better left to professionals. And if you’re really worried about trying this then feel free to take it in. But removing dents can be done at home, as long as you have the right tools on hand.

Start with a clean and dry car. Then, sand the whole dent and wipe it clean. Prepare your filler and apply a “tight” coat first. Then, follow up with a “thick” coat to fill in the whole dent. Go over the filler with your sander to make sure the shape matches the natural contours of the car. Apply finishing glaze, sand that, and then prime and paint over the fix.

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Woman sitting in car and cleaning dashboard with rag
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Detailing

Detailing your car seems difficult but is something that you can DIY as long as you have the time and the tools on hand. Despite the upfront cost of materials, it is cheaper in the long run to do it yourself.

For the interior you’ll need a good vacuum, the right cleaners for your interior (carpet, leather, glass, etc), and something to get into crevices. When focusing on the exterior, be sure keep some microfiber cloths handy. Block out plenty of time so that you don’t feel rushed.

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Misfiring car spark plug replacement and repairing of vehicle at home
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Change Spark Plugs

Did you know that you can change your own spark plugs? Different cars have different sized plugs so some brands are easier to work with than others. You’ll also need a spark plug socket, a torque wrench and possibly an extender in order to reach the plugs.

Once you’ve gathered your tools and popped the hood, start by cleaning the area with compressed air. Then, remove the ignition coil. Use your socket to remove the plug and then immediately gap it. Finally, use your torque wrench to install the new spark plug, replace the coil, and clean up your workspace.

Rebecca Wright Brown
Rebecca has been her dad’s DIY assistant since she was old enough to walk. Prior to Family Handyman, she worked as a freelance writer and editor across industries.