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How to do a basic service on your own car

Tyler Heatley

03 Mar 2021


Car maintenance can be a costly business for you, and a very profitable one for others. In most cases people will surrender the keys to their beloved chariot and wait for the call where the’ll be relieved of a few hundred pounds. Serving a car is actually not too difficult or time consuming providing you know what end of a spanner to use and have said spanner in your possession.

Paying someone to service your car is either convenient, or you’re basically being charged for your ignorance. Here’s a quick guide highlighting what a basic service involves and what you can do at home.

Before you begin

It’s important to note that newer cars under warranty typically have to be serviced with a dealer. Sending it elsewhere or doing the job yourself will likely void the warranty, so it’s best to stick to the rules on that front. Cars that are being leased or being paid for monthly sit in the same category.

If you’ve bought a car privately, have something old or the car is out of warranty, you’re good to go.

Tools for the job

Servicing a car isn’t as simple as topping up the windscreen wash as you’ll need to get underneath at some point. It’s really important to have the right tools for the job to keep things safe and prevent unintentional damage.

You’ll need either a proper car ramp or axel stands, a good socket set, spanners, maybe some screwdrivers, a jack and a means of checking tyre pressures. In terms of things you’ll need to fit or top up, you will require; the correct oil, new spark plugs, air filter, coolant, screen wash, potentially power steering fluid.

What to do

Each car is a little different, so it’s worth seeking out a few tips and tricks online that are specific to your model. Regardless of the car, your to do list will includes an oil change, fitting new spark plugs, replace the air filter, check the tyres and top up all the fluids.

The oil change is the biggest and messiest job, so it’s worth getting that out of the way first. It’s wise to run the car for a few minutes just to warm up the oil, something that will make draining it easier. To get to the oil plug for draining, you’ll need to get underneath your car. Safety is paramount, so make sure you’ve got a ramp or some axel stands. Jack up the car, secure the stands, then remove the sump plug and drain the oil. Once empty, refit the plug and replenish with fresh oil to the manufacturer’s specifications. Be very careful not to overfill as this will damage your engine.

Your spark plugs typically live on top of the engine – check a manual if you’re unsure. You’ll need to remove some leads to gain access to them, but they easily come out with a socket wrench and a plug removal head. Replace with the new spark plugs and reconnect the leads – done. While under the bonnet you can top up your fluids to tick that off your list.

The air filter is one of the easiest things to switch out. Open the air box, unclip the old filter and replace with the new component. It’s a similarly easy story when it comes to the tyres. To check the tread depth you’ll need a dedicated depth indicator or a 20p coin. Place it into the grooves and if you can’t see the boarder of the coin, you’re good to go. Check for any damage to the tyre and replace where necessary.

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Tyler Heatley

03 Mar 2021