DIY Car Maintenance Checklist

While your existing car maintenance checklist may include basic tasks, such as checking your vehicle’s fluid levels and replacing your windshield wiper blades and headlights, there are many other services that you can perform on your own.

This is possible even if you are new to driving and/or do not have a lot of do-it-yourself (DIY) experience when completing automobile repairs.

Knowing how to maintain and repair your vehicle without the help of a professional can save you money and remove the hassle of bringing your car or truck into a repair shop. This includes tasks like performing an oil change and changing spark plugs.

Purchasing a car maintenance insurance policy may also help to save you money on future repairs for newer vehicle makes and models. However, restrictions do apply and these types of policies vary widely by insurance company. In some cases, an extended auto warranty may be a better option for you.

Regardless of the insurance method you choose, you will save the most money over time if you learn how to perform simple repair and maintenance services on your own. Our basic car maintenance checklist below can help you to get started.

Build Your Own DIY Mechanic Shop at Home

Before performing basic car maintenance on your motor vehicle, you need to make sure that you own several types of tools. While the tools you need will vary depending on the type of service you wish to perform, there are a few basic items to keep handy, including:

  • A socket set.
  • Torque wrench.
  • Pliers.
  • Wrench set.
  • Screwdrivers.
  • Breaker bar.
  • Rubber mallet.

To perform an oil change, you will also need the following:

  • An oil drain pan
  • An oil funnel
  • A car ram
  • A floor jack
  • A jack stand

Moreover, a digital multimeter and OBD-II scanner can help you to diagnose potential issues with your vehicle, saving you from costly diagnostic fees at local auto shops.

To successfully complete the items on your car preventative maintenance checklist, you will also need latex gloves, a work light, zip ties, jumper box and penetrating oil, as well as lubricants and part cleaners. This includes:

  • Rust penetrants to prevent rust and removing bolts.
  • A brake cleaner to quickly clean your breaks and other metal parts.
  • A silicone lubricant to eliminate friction.
  • A citrus degreaser to remove oil-based products from various motor vehicle components.

As you learn basic car maintenance techniques, it is important to refer to your vehicle’s factory service manual for specific information about maintaining and repairing your car. Your vehicle’s recommended oil change frequency, preferred oil and gasoline type and car maintenance schedule will depend on its make, model, year and manufacturer.

Your DIY Car Maintenance Checklist by Mileage

When creating a regular car maintenance checklist, you will have a list of services that you can perform at home without hiring a professional mechanic or technician. However, keep in mind that you must first familiarize yourself with the frequency at which these services must be completed.

For instance, oil change intervals vary depending on your vehicle’s make, model and year, as not all automobiles need fresh oil every 3,000 to 6,000 miles. Refer to your vehicle’s operating manual for specific information about these recommendations.

Services that you can complete on your own include:

  • Knowing when to change car air filter. Typically, your vehicle needs a new air filter every 12,000 miles, or approximately every 12 months. Learning how to change oil and filter for the first time is a simple task that requires just a few basic tools such as an oil pan, funnel, wrench and ratchet. When changing the filter on your vehicle, you will also need to purchase a new filter for around $10.
  • Learning how to change spark plugs. You must replace your vehicle’s spark plugs around every 30,000 miles. To complete this simple task in less than 30 minutes, you need a spark plug socket, 12-inch socket extension and socket wrench.
  • Learning how to change windshield wipers. Experts recommend inspecting your vehicle’s windshield wiper blades once every 6,000 miles, or every six months. However, you typically only need to replace your windshield wipers once they start to squeak or smear your windows.

If you are learning how to maintain and repair your vehicle for the first time, there are plenty of YouTube videos to walk you through the process. To reduce the risk of damaging your vehicle or harming yourself while making repairs, be sure to watch more than one video before completing a task on your own.

What Your Old Car Maintenance Checklist Must Include

If you drive an older vehicle, inspecting it on a regular basis and performing basic maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer will keep the vehicle in good condition for many years to come. Here are several things you can do to maintain your older vehicle without paying a professional:

  • Learn how to change air filter in car and replace the oil as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Check the vehicle’s fluid levels according to its ownership manual.
  • Inspect the vehicle’s cooling system, including its coolant and heater hoses.
  • Inspect the vehicle’s brakes, including its brake fluids, and make replacements as necessary.
  • Schedule a professional tune-up every 10,000 to 12,000 miles.

“How often should you change your car air filter if you drive an older vehicle model?” you may wonder. To keep your vehicle in good working condition, it is important to check the air filter once every 6,000 miles. However, you should plan to change it every 12,000 miles, depending on how often you drive the vehicle.

What is the average car maintenance cost per year?

By creating a car maintenance checklist and performing several basic tasks on your own, you will reduce the cost of owning, maintaining and repairing your motor vehicle.

While the cost varies depending on several factors, you can expect to spend as little as $100 per year on car maintenance if you learn how to perform certain tasks by yourself. However, this estimate does not include the cost of repairing a vehicle, as these expenses will likely be higher.