If you have recently bought a new car, this article is only partially for you. If you own a car that is still under warranty, car maintenance should be done by the dealer as messing around with your car internal parts can void your warranty.
Warranty is different for different brands, but most commonly it is 5 years or 100,000 km, whichever comes first.
Most car maintenance for vehicles under warranty should be done by dealers in order to preserve the warranty. The only things that you should do are some basic tasks and only if they have no impact on your warranty.
However, once the warranty is over, most owners opt for private mechanics to do their car maintenance in Singapore as they are usually cheaper than dealers. Expertise is rarely a problem for private mechanics with a good reputation and most of them are specialised in models made by a particular brand.
Moreover, after 5+ years that a model has been on our streets, independent mechanics should be familiar with peculiarities that some new cars introduce.
Having no warranty anyway means that you can safely reduce your maintenance cost but a good mechanic is not cheap even if they are independent. If there are some simple things that you can do yourself, why not save time and money at the same time?
Here are some car maintenance tips that are easy and safe enough for DIY.
1. Changing Fuses
If an electric feature in your cars stops working for no apparent reason, the most likely reason is a blown fuse. They are very easy to replace, as long as you know where the fuse box is. In some vehicles there are two places where you can find fuses and in most cases they are either under the bonnet (usually somewhere closer to the cabin) or in the lower part of the dashboard, somewhere under the steering wheel, or in the glove box.
It is smart to learn where the fuse box is in your car before you have any problem. You can find that information in the user manual.
Every car has tens of fuses and the fuse box cover usually has an explanation which fuse is in charge of protecting which electrical component. Once you find the fuse, simply take it out and put in a new one. You don’t need any tools (although you can use pliers) or special knowledge.
Just bear in mind that you need to replace the blown fuse with one that has the same amp rating. There is usually a writing on it, or, if not, always use the one that is of the same colour as the blown one. If you don’t have the same one, make sure you use the lower-amp fuse as an emergency solution until you buy the right one.
A higher-amp fuse can let too much current through and damage the electric component it is supposed to protect.
Moreover, fuses are very cheap, so this is a very easy and affordable fix that you can do anywhere.
2. Replacing Wiper Blades
Though not as cheap as fuses, windscreen wipers are also an affordable part and usually very easy to replace. Different weather conditions and materials make it difficult to predict how often you need to do this, but as soon as the wipers are worn it should be changed.
All you need to do is buy the same blades that you have on your car, pull the wipers away from the windscreen until they lock, rotate the blade at 90 degrees, remove the old blade. There is usually a locking tab that you should press to release the blade and install the new blade (make sure it snaps into place firmly).
Always make sure you test the new blades to make sure you’ve done everything right and never do the test on a dry windscreen.
3. Changing Lights
Most modern cars, due to their cool designs and plastic covers under the bonnet, might require some knowledge to replace lights bulbs. However, on most cars, after you have seen this done once, changing bulbs should not be a problem for you. Even if the front lights are out of reach, brake lights should be easier to access from the boot. Your user manual should give you all the information needed.
Once again, make sure you use the right bulbs. The easiest way to determine if you have the right ones is to compare them to the ones you are removing from the vehicle.
4. Replacing Air Filter
Your user manual should tell you how often you need to replace the air filter, but it is usually after a few tens of thousands of kilometres. This requires a bit more work, but it is pretty straightforward.
Pop the bonnet and remove the engine cover. There should be a plastic container near the engine and along the air intake. It is usually held in place by a few clips and/or screws which you will need to remove. Make sure you place the new filter inside in the same way the old one was positioned and put all the clips and screws back on.
5. Cleaning Drains
Clean the drain channels on your car every now and then. If they get clogged by leaves, debris or dust, you may experience some serious problems with water ingress which can range from wet interior to serious problems with electrics.
Even some higher class cars had issues with this. Most infamously, the W220 generation of the Mercedes S-Class was notorious for problems that come from clogged drain routes and that was a flagship model of one of the most revered manufacturers in the world.
Simply clean the drains every now and then and that’s it. It is very easy, fast and completely free.
6. Adding/Changing Fluids
Power steering fluid, coolant, engine oil, transmission oil, brake fluid and windscreen washer are the most common fluids in cars. They are not all the same and changing some of them requires more work than others. Also, the work, tools and the possibility for DIY depends on the car model, so we will go through some basic information.
Power steering fluid needs to be reddish and clean. If it is black, it should be replaced.
Coolant needs to be replaced every few years and mechanics can test to see if the time has come for your coolant to be replaced. Your user manual also gives the information, usually based on the kilometres covered.
Engine oil change intervals depend on the particular engine, but very often they are at no less than 10,000 km or 6 months. If you want to do this yourself, make sure there is someone to guide you through the process when you are doing it for the first time. Also, always change oil filter when you are changing oil.
Automatic transmission oil should be changed by experts and usually after about 60,000 km, although some manufacturers say their auto gearboxes need no oil change.
Brake fluid change should be done by experts. It is a pretty straightforward thing to do, but you need to make sure all the air is let out of the system. Having in mind the importance of brakes, this should be done by someone who knows what they are doing, since testing if brakes work is not as easy or as safe as testing if windscreen wipers work.
Windscreen washer fluid is something you can add yourself completely fuss free. Make sure you know which fluid goes where, since putting in the wrong fluid can cause serious damage to some parts.
Many drivers tend to stay away from DIY for their cars for fear of messing up the engine or electronics. However, it is good to know how to change the basic things in your car to know your car better and save cost.
If it’s something that you really do not want to dabble in, it would be best to bring your car to a reliable car workshop to get it settled.