Basic DIY Car Maintenance You Can Learn to Do at Home

Struggling with a streaky windshield? A heater that smells stinky or dim headlight bulbs? You got this. We’ll walk you through easy DIY car maintenance you can do at home in the comfort of your own driveway or garage–and mostly without tools. You’ll save money on simple auto repairs and drive into the sunset feeling accomplished!

blog image - wrenches

Replace windshield wipers.

Replacing your windshield wipers is one of the easiest DIY car maintenance activities you can do. There’s no way you can accidently render your car inoperable. Plus, wiper systems don’t involve a lot of pieces or technology and no special tools are required.

When your view starts to get streaky, head to your local auto parts store and tell the associate your car’s make and model. They’ll show you the wiper options for your car. You can also find this information in your owner’s manual.

To replace your windshield wipers:

  1. Consult your owner’s manual to learn how to remove the old wipers. You’ll likely need to lift the wiper arm away from the windshield, and then press down on a small tab on the underside of the wiper. The wiper blade should slide off the arm when the tab is pressed.
  2. Slide on the new wipers. Slide the new wiper blade onto the arm. You’ll hear a clicking sound when the new blade locks into place. Gently lower the arm back on the windshield and repeat this process on the other wiper.
  3. Double check your wipers. Once you’ve replaced both wipers, turn them on! Test that they’re securely installed and working properly. You don’t want to try your wipers for the first time in a downpour, only to find out that they’re loose or the wrong size.

Change your car battery.

Most of us have experienced the dreaded “click” of a dead battery on a cold morning. Avoid getting stranded by replacing your battery before it’s DOA. You’ll need pliers or a wrench for this bit of DIY car maintenance.

To change your car battery:

  1. Buy a new car battery. Consult your owner’s manual to learn which battery size and type is best for your vehicle.
  2. With the engine off, pop your hood. Detach the black (negative) battery cable from the old battery. You might need a wrench or pliers to loosen the nut.  
  3. Detach the red (positive) battery cable using the same method.
  4. Remove the battery “hold-down” clamp with a wrench.
  5. Remove the old battery. This will likely be the hardest part of the process, says Pep Boys, as batteries can be heavy.
  6. Place the new battery in the battery tray. Secure it with the “hold-down” clamp.
  7. Attach and tighten the red cable.
  8. Attach and tighten the black cable.
  9. Check that the new battery is securely attached. Does the new battery jiggle or move around? If so, you might need to tighten the “hold-down” clamp or cables.

Do not throw your old car battery in the trash. Batteries are loaded with chemicals that can harm both you and the environment. Instead, bring your old car battery to a recycling center near you. Turn to Pep Boys for an in-depth explanation of how to replace your battery.

Replace the cabin air filter.

Your cabin air filter helps keep the air inside your car clean. Its job is to filter all of the air that comes through the car’s HVAC system to prevent pollutants, such as dust, pollen, smog and mold spores from entering, says Angie’s List.

The air filter is an easily accessible part, too. You can usually access it through the glove box or just under the hood of the car.

To replace your cabin air filter:

  1. Buy a new air filter. Consult your owners manual or ask an associate at a local auto parts store. They’ll direct you to your air filter options. Cabin air filters cost about $15 to $25.
  2. Again, turn to your owner’s manual to find out how to access your air filter. You can also search online for “how to replace cabin air filter” + your car’s make and model. DIY car maintenance videos and instructions with pictures are widely available.

NAPA Filters has a great general step-by-step guide for replacing cabin air filters.

Replace headlight or tail light bulbs.

Bulbs only cost about $15 to $20, but you can expect to pay upwards of $50 if you have your headlight or tail light bulbs replaced by a mechanic. Replacing a bulb is a simple DIY car maintenance item you can take care of in 20 minutes! It’s just a matter of buying the right bulb and consulting your owners manual.

Note that on some vehicles, like various Subaru Outbacks, you have to remove the wheel to get to the headlight. If this is the case for your car, you might want to take it to a professional.

Take advantage of free car repairs and services!

If there’s a particular check or repair that you’re not comfortable doing solo, go online and start researching where you may be able to have it completed for free. Many part shops and nationwide service centers offer free inspections, tests, and repairs.

  • AutoZone offers free battery charging, oil and battery recycling, and loaner tools to complete DIY repairs.
  • Pep Boys offers free battery testing and installation, tire pressure checks, code retrieval, brake inspection, windshield wiper installation, and free tire rotation.
  • Discount Tire offers free tire rotations, flat tire repairs, and air checks–even if you purchased your tires elsewhere.
  • Firestone Complete Auto Careoffers free tire pressure checks and refills, brake checks, battery checks, and code scans.

Big or small, car repairs can quickly get annoying. Please consult a professional if you’re uncomfortable performing any of these fixes at home. And remember, nothing lasts forever… including your car. If all signs are pointing you in the direction of a new car, check out today’s new car loan rates and apply for a car loan today. myAutoloan will connect you with multiple auto loan offers in just minutes.