Many car owners shy away from routine maintenance, heading straight to the repair shop instead. Letting your mechanic do the dirty work while you run errands is the easy option, but it often costs more. You’re just as qualified to do some repairs, so why not keep your car on the road and some cash in your pocket?

Basic Car Maintenance

The building blocks of vehicle maintenance are simple. Pay attention to these details, and you can save money down the road.

Your Car’s Maintenance Schedule

It’s important not to skimp on routine service. Your owner’s manual tells you when to take your car in for a checkup. Note the intervals when fluids need to be changed and when belts and brakes should be inspected, and act accordingly.

Check under the Hood

You may not be a mechanic, but you can check under the hood and make sure your vehicle’s fluids are in good shape. Most owner’s manuals show the location of dipsticks for the engine oil and transmission fluid and markings that tell you if you’re low on brake fluid, antifreeze or windshield washer fluid. If fluid levels are low, fill them to the proper level with the correct fluid.

Check Your Tire Pressure

Properly inflated tires have two benefits: they last longer and optimize fuel economy. Look in your owner’s manual, or on the driver’s side door jamb, to find out how much air should be in your tires. Use a tire pressure gauge to check your tires weekly. Most gas stations have a pressure gauge and an air tank. All you have to do is stick in quarters and pump.

DIY – Replacement Car Parts

Replacing simple car parts is easier than you think. These components are easy to replace, and a repair shop might markup parts and charge you an hour’s labor to do the work. You could save around $55 just by changing your own headlight, for example.

Replace Your Wipers

Replacement Wipers for 2005 Honda Accord

Shop Estimate: $16 - $30

Store Price: $11

Replacing worn windshield wipers is a snap. But it isn’t just important vehicle maintenance, it’s also crucial for your safety when bad weather hits.

1. Most auto parts stores have a book in the windshield wiper section that will tell you which type and size to buy.

2. To swap the blades, pull the wiper arms away from the windshield until you feel them lock into place. You’ll see a small tab on the wiper assembly that locks the wiper blade onto the arm. Depress this tab to unlock the blade and pull off your old wipers.

3. Line the new blade up with the connection on the wiper arm. You’ll notice that the wiper arm is probably shaped like a hook where it connects to the new blade. When you attach the new blade, let the hook face the plastic clips on the new wiper blade. Move the hook over the clip and pull up until you feel the new wiper blade snap into place. Lower your new wiper back onto the glass and repeat the process on the other side.

Change Your Battery

Replacement Battery for 2005 Honda Accord

Shop Estimate: $88 - $151

Store Price: $96

If you turn the key and here a clicking sound, but your car won’t start, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a dead battery. However, if your battery is really drained you may not hear anything. As a general rule, most batteries last about four years. If you’re battery is younger than that, you may just need a jump start, but if it’s older, it may be time for a replacement.

Fortunately, changing your battery is quick and easy. Pop the hood and locate the battery. Then, using a wrench, disconnect the negative terminal, followed by the positive terminal. Remove the old battery and put the new one in its place. Connect the positive terminal first, then the negative. Close the hood and you’re all set.

Changing Light Bulbs

Headlight Replacement for 2005 Honda Accord

Shop Estimate: $62 - $85

Store Price: About $30 - $50

Changing burnt-out bulbs on your vehicle is easy if you take your time and have a few simple hand tools. Consult your owner’s manual because there are usually instructions on how to replace your vehicle’s lights. Then, head to the lighting section of your local auto parts store. Most have a catalog that you can use to find the correct lights for your car’s year, make and model. To replace taillights you may have to remove a panel or two inside your vehicle’s trunk to access the bulbs. Headlights are usually accessible after you pop the hood.

Know What’s Wrong with Your Car

Sometimes maintenance isn’t as obvious as a burnt light bulb or an old windshield wiper, but there are several ways to discover what’s going on under the hood. As always, start by consulting the owner’s manual. On some cars, something as simple as a loose gas cap can cause the check engine light (CEL) to come on. Burnt-out light bulbs or low tire pressure can trigger other sensors.

Search for Answers

Unless you drive an exotic car, there’s a good chance that someone else has experienced the same maintenance issues as you. Hop online and you’ll likely find articles and car-specific forums to help you tackle simple maintenance. Here’s an example, which outlines how to replace the taillight in a 2005 Honda Accord.

Head to the Auto Parts Store

Auto parts stores are often a source of free advice when your car is displaying a CEL or having electrical issues. Most major chains have a scanner that can tell you why a CEL is displayed and clear the code if necessary. It’s known as an OBD-II scanner, which stands for on-board diagnostics. A staff member will hook the scanner up to your vehicle’s computer and tell you why the light came on.

CEL Diagnosis for 2005 Honda Accord

Shop Estimate: $92 - $118

Store Price: Free (at most chains)

In addition to diagnosing your vehicle’s engine, most auto stores can also analyze your electrical system using a voltage meter. They’ll hook it up to the battery and have you start the car. Then, the meter will analyze the performance of your battery and alternator, telling you if there’s any cause for worry.

Charging System Diagnosis for 2005 Honda Accord

Shop Estimate: $92 - $118

Store Price: Free (at most chains)

Maintain Your Vehicle

Don’t be afraid to take care of your car yourself. Not only will you save cash, but you’ll also be better informed if something needs repair down the road.