Many aspects of automotive repair must be performed by professionals at an auto service facility. However, there are a few simple maintenance tasks that you can do on your own that require few tools and limited mechanical ability.
Checking your battery
The best time to check the state of your battery is before you are left stranded far away from home. Because your battery is exposed to moisture, corrosion may form on the terminals and the clamps that secure the battery cables to them.
You will need an adjustable wrench to loosen the nuts that hold the cable clamps in place to inspect the terminals. When the nuts are loosened, twist the cable clamps back and forth as you lift them from the battery terminals.
If the terminals are covered with corrosion, which appears as a white powdery material, they must be cleaned, because corrosion will interfere with the battery's ability to be recharged. Use a piece of fine sandpaper to clean both the terminals and the inside of the cable clamps, then replace the clamps.
Checking and filling fluids
You should check your oil while it is warm after driving, but wait at least ten minutes after parking to allow the oil to drain from the engine to the oil pan. The vehicle must be parked on a level surface to get an accurate reading.
The oil dipstick is located near the engine. Pull it from the holder and wipe it clean on a paper towel or rag, then insert it again fully before pulling it out to check the oil level.
If the oil level is between the "fill" and "add " lines, it is sufficiently full. If the level is at the fill line, you can add one quart. Check your owner's manual or an online source for the type of oil required for your vehicle.
If the dipstick has little or no oil, you must add oil gradually, and check the level repeatedly, until the level reaches the "fill" line. Overfilling may cause gasket seals to rupture and cause major damage to your engine if all of the oil leaks out while driving.
After filling, you should schedule service with an auto repair facility if the oil level is very low. This indicates either an oil leak or issues with oil consumption that must be addressed.
Coolant / antifreeze
You can check your coolant level by inspecting the clear plastic overflow reservoir tank that captures coolant as it expands from being heated and flows over from the radiator.
There will be a "fill" and "add" indicator line on the side of the tank. Fill the tank to the "fill" line with a coolant mix that is recommended by the owner's manual. You don't need to worry about overfilling coolant, because it will simply run out of the overflow tube, however, you don't want to waste money by overfilling the tank.
Never open the radiator cap to check or add coolant when the vehicle has been recently driven. Pressure can cause hot coolant to spray onto your face and body, causing severe burns. Add coolant to the reservoir.
Coolant is also poisonous to pets and small children, so clean up any puddles that result from spills.