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5 DIY Car Care Projects

Dec 07, 2015 05:57AM ● Published by Family Features

It’s no secret that regular maintenance helps prolong the life and performance of your vehicle, but you may be surprised by how many routine maintenance tasks you can complete by yourself at home. Get in the garage this winter and tackle that cabin fever with these DIY car care projects that can be done all at once and not only save money by helping prevent repair costs in the long run, but also help you save big on service fees.

1. Air Filters
Not only do you want fresh air while you drive, so does your engine. If your air filter gets too dirty or clogged, your engine won’t be able to suck enough air into the combustion chambers. Engine performance will be reduced, especially when you are passing or merging onto a freeway. If an air filter becomes sufficiently dirty and damaged, it could also allow harmful, abrasive contaminants into the combustion chamber, accelerating engine wear.

Changing an air filter requires no more skill than hanging pictures around the house and is one of the easiest DIY car care projects, regularly taking less than 10 minutes to complete. Changing your air filter every 12,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first, will provide better engine protection, but give careful attention to seasonal concerns such as fall leaves, debris hidden in dirty snow and road salt which can clog air filters. Designed and constructed with advanced features to capture and hold more dirt to keep engines cleaner in extreme driving conditions, FRAM Tough Guard air filters are ideal for strenuous driving conditions such as idling in heavy traffic, driving on dirty, dusty roads and towing heavy loads, all of which can put heavy strain on the engine. Learn more at FRAM.com and refer to the vehicle owner’s manual for air filter location and specific instructions.

2. Oil
Oil is one of the most vital components of your engine’s overall health. It allows the engine parts to operate smoothly together, removes heat and prevents accumulation of things like carbon and varnish in the engine. Your owner’s manual will guide you to the right oil for your vehicle, but you may need to do some comparison shopping to find the right performance blend for your specific driving conditions and needs. Today, many auto manufacturers tout intervals of 5,000 miles and longer. However, those change intervals are based on using the correct oil and a quality oil filter, which should also be changed when changing the oil. A qualified repair technician can help you determine the best schedule for your vehicle and driving habits.

3. Transmission Fluid
The transmission fluid is another liquid vital to your engine’s proper operation. Gear shifting, cooling the transmission and lubrication are all critical roles that transmission fluid plays, and all that work causes the fluid to deteriorate over time, particularly with harsh driving conditions. Your owner’s manual is a good starting point; it will tell you the change interval and the specifications for transmission fluid. Transmission fluid is highly specialized now and requires a fluid that meets the original equipment manufacturers’ specifications.

4. Cabin Air Filter
A cabin air filter cleans and circulates the air that enters through your car’s ventilation system. Contaminants can enter your vehicle with outside air and become concentrated, exposing passengers to higher levels of dust, dirt and allergens while also potentially limiting the effectiveness of your car’s air conditioner and defrost system, making it important to keep the cabin filter unrestricted. In general, a cabin air filter should be changed every 15,000 miles or once a year, but can vary depending on driving habits. Your owner’s manual may list the recommended service interval for your vehicle, but replacing all of your air filters at the same time is good practice and winter is the optimal season to make a change after catching fall debris and allergens.

5. Spark Plugs
Although many spark plugs are designed to last as long as 100,000 miles, certain conditions can damage the plugs, resulting in engine misfires, poor fuel economy and other malfunctions that affect overall engine performance. These performance issues indicate that at least checking, if not replacing, your spark plugs is in order. In addition, used car buyers should check the condition of spark plugs if no service history is available.

Replacing spark plugs is a quick job requiring few tools, but it’s important to change one at a time so you do not mix up the plug wires. Take note of the condition of the spark plugs you remove: they should be slightly dirty, but a white or oily appearance may indicate other problems. Choosing the right plugs for your vehicle is as simple as talking with the staff at your local auto parts store; they’ll be able to point you to the right plugs for your vehicle. Always replace spark plug wires or boots that are worn, cracked or oil-soaked and reference your owner’s manual for more information.

Install an Air Filter Like a Pro
Replacing your own air filter is an easy way to save the time and expense of a trip to the repair shop. Follow these simple steps from the experts at FRAM to be on your way to cleaner air in your vehicle in just a few minutes:

1. Use proper protective gear.
2. Loosen wing nut or other fasteners to remove filter cover.
3. Remove old air filter.
4. Clean filter cover and housing using a shop vacuum.
5. Install new air filter. Be sure it is sealed around the perimeter.
6. Replace cover and fasten.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images (family loading car and man installing air filter)

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