Auto Maintenance Services You Can DIY
You can do most of the routine maintenance checks and replacements on your vehicle—all of them if you’re auto savvy—and it won’t void the warranty you may still have on it. With a few basic tools, some time, and access to the Internet and an auto parts store, you could save yourself some serious cash. And learn more about how your vehicle runs.
For how-to videos, step-by-step instructions, maintenance guides, and diagnostic assistance on any of these fixes, check out AutoMD or Expert Village. Repair Pal can help you decide if a repair is worth your time and compare the average cost to go to a local shop to have it done.
1. Replace Air filter
Time: 10 min.
DIY Cost: $10–$15
This is one of the easiest replacements you can do on your own. Consult your owner’s manual to find the replacement recommendation for your vehicle, but it’s usually once a year or every 12,000–30,000 miles, whichever comes first. Replacing the filter doesn’t require any tools (unless it’s secured by screws or wing nuts), and you should be able to easily find it under the hood in a black rectangular box.
A mechanic or dealership may charge you $30–$100 or more for this service.
2. Replace Windshield Wipers
Time: 15 min.
DIY Cost: $15–$40
The suggested replacement schedule is twice a year—more if you notice an ineffective blade diminishing visibility through the windshield. Spring and fall are good times to do this. It’s as easy as going to your local auto parts store and looking up the make, model, and year of your car in their database (either in a large book or digital kiosk) to purchase the right pair. From there, watch any of the myriad videos online on how to replace the blades.
Be prepared to hand over $30–$80 or more for this service at a mechanic or dealership.
3. Replace Spark Plugs
Time: 20–30 min.
DIY Cost: $20–$80
Most spark plugs last around 30,000 miles, but of course you should check your owner's manual for your car’s specifications. You’ll need a basic socket wrench or ratchet for this job, but with patience and a helpful video, this is a doable at-home replacement.
The price at a mechanic or dealership may be upwards of $150 for this service.
4. Change Oil and Oil filter
Time: 30–45 min.
DIY Cost: $25
It’s one of the dirtiest car DIY jobs, but when you consider you’ll be changing the oil and filter 4–5 times a year, depending on how many miles you drive, it can be worth the grease stains. It’s recommended you change your oil every 3,000–5,000 miles.
You’ll pay someone else $40–$80 to do it, plus the time you spend in the oil change shop.
5. Radiator Flush
Time: 30 min.
DIY Cost: $20–$50
A radiator flush keeps your vehicle’s cooling system clean and working efficiently and should be done every 1–2 years, depending on mileage and owner’s manual recommendation. You’ll need a few more items for this DIY project—Phillips-head screwdriver or wrench, rags, radiator flush solution, coolant, funnel, used coolant receptacle—but the savings are well worth it.
You’ll easily shell out $55–$175 if you go to a car shop, possibly more at a dealership.
6. Battery Connection
Time: 20 min.
DIY Cost: $5
Sometimes all that it takes for a properly maintained battery connection and charged battery is a wire brush, corrosion removal fluid made from water and baking soda, and 20 minutes of your Saturday afternoon. Keeping your battery terminals (also called posts) clean also helps your transmission work smoothly, because the computer inside the car that operates the transmission gets its power from the battery!
If you catch this issue early, it may not cost much for a fix at the mechanic’s, but it’s going to cost you in time waiting in line, or in further damage to the battery terminals or cables.