Car maintenance isn’t just for anoraks and amateur rally drivers. With a little bit of effort, every single person can do some simple car maintenance tasks and improve the health of their car.
In this article, I’ve collected 16 simple DIY car maintenance tasks that anyone can do regardless of their technical skill level. If I’ve missed out any good ideas, just leave a comment and I’ll add it in.
#1 Replace Your Windscreen Wiper Blades
Bad, broken and worn wiper blades aren’t just annoying. If they aren’t clearing the water and dirt from your windscreen and your vision if obscured, that's downright dangerous!
To see if your wiper blades need replacing, press the windscreen washer button and watch the glass. If your wipers don’t clear all the water — for example, if they leave streaks or miss segments — it’s time to pick up a new set.
Check your car manual for wiper blade requirements then order replacements online or pick them up in-store. I’d suggest going for a branded product as the generic ones tend to degrade very quickly.
Actually replacing the blades is pretty straightforward. Most blades are held on with a clip so just press that, pull off the old one and slide the replacement on.
All blades are fitted in slightly different ways so check the instructions for in-depth details.
#2 Track Your Maintenance
One of the toughest parts of car maintenance is keeping a track of what you’ve actually done. It’s easy to lose an oil change here and an interim service there, which can lead to you redoing work when you really don’t have to.
The best way I’ve found of tracking everything is using a smartphone app. Check out our blog post for the 10 best apps on Android and iPhone.
#3 Clean Your Air Vents
Air vents are dust magnets, collecting mountains of the stuff over the years. The problem is that they’re also a nightmare to clean with the opening obstructed by loads of plastics bars and other aerodynamic accoutrements.
To get in and clean up the dust, pick up a long-bristle artist brush and brush in and around the vent. Keep a rag handy to wipe off the brush and keep it clean.
#4 Clean Your Carpets
Your carpets are some of the hardest working bits in your car, taking the beating of shoes, boots and trainers every single day. So why not show your carpets some love and give them a deep clean?
If you’ve got removable carpets, whip them out and scrub them with carpet cleaning liquid and a brush. (A carpet cleaning machine will save you a bunch of time but they are relatively expensive so might not be worth it.)
Once the carpet looks clean, rinse it with water until it runs clear then leave it to dry. Once your carpets are dry, pop them back in and enjoy your refreshed cabin.
#5 Remember the Recesses
There’s no point in getting the inside of your car looking spotless only for the crevices and crannies to stay dirty. To get into the recesses, wrap a flat screwdriver with a rag and gently run it along the crevice. This should pick up most of the gunk or push it to a point where you can collect it.
#6 Wash the Windows
Neglect your windows and your car turns into a grimy tank with limited visibility. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Grab a sponge and some window cleaner and scrub off all the dirt and grime the wipers don't reach.
With your side windows, don’t forget to clean right down to the rubber seal and wash out any gunk that’s built up in the nooks. Also, roll your window down slightly and clean the top of the glass as this is almost always missed because it's hidden in the rubber seal.
#7 Check Your Window Belts
Window belt strips are the plastic fittings that sit at the bottom your window and form a tight seal against the wind and rain. Over time the rubber will naturally deteriorate and crack. If this happens, water can seep into the door frame and damage the metal work and electrics inside.
Every few months, walk round your car and check your window belts for damage. If anything looks serious, consider having the window belt replaced.
#8 Changing a Flat Tyre
Changing a flat tyre is a super useful life skill and one you only realise you need when it’s too late. If you have a flat, you use a jack to raise the car off the ground, remove the old tyre and fit the new tyre. Exactly how you do so is reasonably complicated so I’ll pass this over to our friends at the AA.
One last thing to point out is that ‘skinny’ spare tyres aren’t designed to be used to any length of time or at high speeds. Once it’s fitted, drive slowly and safely to the nearest garage and have them replace it with a proper tyre.
#9 Touch Up Small Scratches
There’s nothing worse than coming back to your car and finding out that some clumsy person has left a long scratch down the side. Not only is it annoying but it’s pretty pricey too with paint repair shops commonly charging upwards of £100 for a simple fix.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to repair deep scratches yourself. For a deep dive on the types of scratches and how to repair them, check out our article here.
#10 Checking Tyre Condition
If you want your car to run safely and smoothly, your tyres need to be in good condition. And 'good condition' means the tread is deep enough and the tyres are in good nick overall.
Checking the condition of your tyres isn’t too difficult either. Just take a walk around your car every month and check each wheel.
For the tread, you need at least 1.6 mm. If you don’t have a tread gauge handy — and who does? — you can use a 20 pence piece. Slide the coin into the tread and if the rim disappears, you’ve got enough tread. Remember to check a couple of different spots as the whole tyre has to have enough tread.
The general condition of a tyre is a bit harder to check. You’re basically looking for anything that’s not right — think cracks, bulges, cuts, stones, nails, screws, glass fragments. If you spot anything, take it to a garage as soon as you can. If you catch damage early enough, the garage can often repair it and get you back on the road without a big bill.
#11 Checking Tyre Pressure
Tyres need to be at the correct pressure to operate properly. If they are under inflated, they add extra drag and if they are over inflated they decrease grip. Both under and over inflation also increase the risk of the tyre failing.
First, make sure your tyres are cool. Hot tyres will have hot gases inside them and this will give you an artificially high pressure reading.
Second, unscrew the valve cap and put it somewhere safe.
Third, attach your handheld pressure gauge or air pump nozzle to the tyre valve and push down firmly. The gauge or pump should now give you a pressure reading.
Fourth, once you’ve got the reading, detach the gauge or nozzle and screw the valve cap back on.
#12 Inflating Tyres
If your tyres are under inflated, you need to add more air. The most common way of doing this is via an air pump at your local petrol station. Just type in the correct tyre pressure, remove the tyre valve cap and push the pump’s nozzle onto the valve firmly. Keep it pressed until the pump either beeps or indicates the correct pressure on the screen then remove the nozzle.
Some air pumps will work slightly different so it’s a good idea to check the instructions out before using it.
#13 Top Up Windscreen Washer Fluid
Windscreen washer fluid allows you to keep your windscreen clean and clear. Without it, you’ll be peering through a grimy window trying to work out whether the blur ahead is another part of the road or an oncoming truck.
The good news is that topping up your washer fluid is actually pretty easy. Just open your bonnet and secure it with the latch. Then locate the windscreen washer bottle cap (it has a washer jet symbol on it) and flip the top off. Using a funnel, pour in windscreen washer fluid to the maximum level then replace the cap.
While you can use water or water mixed with washing-up liquid, we recommend you use actual windscreen washer fluid as it freezes at a much lower temperature and is better at breaking down dirt.
#14 Check Your Engine Oil
Engine oil is essential for a healthy car. And while your oil is usually replaced during your service, it might need topped up in between services.
To check your engine oil level, open your bonnet and secure it with the latch. Then find the oil dipstick and pull it all the way out. Clean it with a rag, replace it back into the hole then pull it out again.
If the oil level is between the two notches, everything is great. However, if it’s below the bottom notch, you need to add more oil.
#15 Top Up Engine Oil
If your dipstick shows your engine oil is below the minimum level, you need to add some more oil.
If your engine is hot, stop right now and come back when it’s cool.
Now your engine’s cool, find the engine oil cap (it’s indicated by an oil can symbol) and open it slowly. I usually cover the cap with a rag just in case any oil spurts out.
Once you’ve removed the cap, add more oil to the reservoir using a funnel. Add the oil slowly and check the level with the dipstick after every pour. Once dipstick is showing the oil level is over the minimum, screw the cap back on and close the bonnet lid. Be careful not to overfill the reservoir as getting oil out is much more difficult than getting it in.
#16 Top Up Engine Coolant
Engine coolant is essential for an engine to keep working properly. Without it, the engine would overheat and start to damage itself.
To check your coolant level, find the coolant reservoir (usually marked by a thermometer in water symbol) in your engine bay and check the sides for the maximum and minimum marks. The reservoir should have a translucent or transparent portion allowing you to see the liquid level behind the minimum and maximum marks.
If the coolant is below the minimum level, you obviously need to add more.
To top up the coolant, wait until the engine is cool and then open the coolant cap slowly. I usually cover the cap with a rag just in case any coolant sprays out.
Then slowly pour in coolant using a funnel. After each short pour, check the level on the side. Once the level of the coolant is above the minimum mark, screw the cap back on and close the bonnet.