Car maintenance is a daunting task for many car owners, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you have mastered a few of the most basic car repairs, you’re well on your way to becoming a car maintenance connaisseur. Here is part two of a two-part series detailing some of the most basic car repairs that you can do at home—and just about anyone can do them.
For part one of this series, see Car Repairs that Anyone Can Do: Part 1.
Changing your car battery
Changing the battery in your car is simpler than you think. First, it’s a good idea to confirm with a car battery supply shop that your battery is truly dead. Often they offer a battery test for free, and if your battery still has life to it, it’s a simply matter of charging your battery with a battery charger overnight. In the case of a dead battery, you’ll want to have gloves and safety goggles on hand to protect you from the harmful chemicals in car batteries. Locate the positive and negative terminals on the battery under your hood, disconnect the negative terminal by disconnecting the cable clamp, disconnect the positive terminal, remove the battery, clean the terminal clamps and battery tray, and use the reverse process to install the new battery. Applying grease to the terminals after installation of the new battery will help to prevent corrosion.
Jump starting a car
Sometimes a dead car battery is simply a matter of having left the light on or of having left the keys in the ignition. To jump start a car with a temporarily dead battery, you will need a jumper cable and a similarly sized car. Turn off both cars completely and park them close to one another. Locate the positive and negative terminals on both car batteries. Then, connect your jumper cable to both car batteries’ terminals in the following order: a positive clamp to the positive terminal on the dead car battery; the other positive clamp to the positive terminal on the donor car battery; the negative clamp for the donor car battery on the negative terminal of the donor car battery; and the negative clamp for the dead car on a piece of grounded metal in the dead car (such as on the chassis). Then, start up the donor car, followed by the dead car. The dead car should turn on at this point, and you should then drive for about 30 minutes to allow the alternator to charge your battery properly again.
Replacing your headlight and taillight bulbs
Every car is different when it comes to the details on changing your headlight and taillight bulbs, but there is a wide variety of resources of the web that can guide you through the bulb changing process. Video tutorials geared toward owners of your particular car model are especially helpful. Just be sure to have a pair of gloves on hand, because one of your bulbs will need to remain free of finger oils during installation. A good tutorial will alert you on this particular step.
Deoxidizing your headlights and taillights
Many mistake the foggy look often seen in headlights and taillights as built-up dirt on the surface of the plastic, and they attempt to get rid of the foggy look by cleaning with an all-purpose or glass cleaner. Since the root of the issue is oxidation, however, this approach is ineffective. Instead, you can buy an affordable headlight deoxidation kit at your local discount department store and use it in combination with your power drill to gently buff away the oxidation. Another affordable method that many go for is using simple toothpaste (not of the gel variety) and a washcloth to gently buff away the oxidation. This typically isn’t quite as effective, but it can do the job in a fix and is significantly easier. It’s a good idea to apply a thin layer of wax when you are finished to help prevent your headlights from oxidizing and yellowing as quickly.