7 Car Maintenance Tasks You Can (And Should) Do Yourself

With the right tools at home, car maintenance is easy and inexpensive, too.

man fixing car
Harbor Freight

Keeping up with your car’s maintenance is one of the most effective ways to avoid a breakdown and a high repair bill down the road. Owning a car can cost nearly $800 a year in maintenance, according to a AAA study. No wonder one in three drivers skip or delay their scheduled maintenance, according to the same survey.

Postponing the basic needs of your very complicated machine is never a good idea, as deferred maintenance comes with its own price to pay. A far better approach: Learn the basic maintenance tasks you can do in your own garage, at very little cost to you. Quality tools don’t have to set you back either, and stores like Harbor Freight Tools make upgrading to a pro-level kit affordable. Read on for seven at-home tips that keep your car in top shape easily and inexpensively.

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Rotate your own tires.
rotate your own tires
Harbor Freight

One of the simplest ways to get more life out of your current set of tires is to rotate them every few thousand miles as per your car’s maintenance schedule. In addition to a good impact wrench, you’ll need jack stands and a floor jack. These lightweight Daytona jack stands support up to three tons, and the Pittsburgh Automotive floor jack helps you lift up to 3,000 pounds in three and a half pumps.

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Change your oil.
change your oil
Harbor Freight

Specialty tools for changing your oil will include a set of reliable steel ramps (a must-have for any DIYer) as well as an adjustable oil filter wrench — ideally, one with a compact, low-profile design for better gripping in tight spaces. Don’t forget a container to store all that old oil in, because no, you’re not allowed to pour it down a storm drain.

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Check your fluids.
check your fluids
Harbor Freight

It’s a simple job, but things can get dark and messy under the hood when topping off fluids like brake, washer, power steering and antifreeze, so a good set of lights — like this folding magnetic LED work light by Braun that fits compactly into your toolbox — will go a long way.

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Swap those spark plugs.
swap those spark plugs
Harbor Freight

Over time, spark plugs can become corroded and covered in carbon. Swapping them out requires access to the deep corners of the engine bay, such as the back or near the bottom. Not to worry. A capable toolset will include deep sockets to hold spark plugs and extensions to reach the tough spots.

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Breathe easy with new filters.
breathe easy with new filters
Harbor Freight

Both your cabin and engine air filters are cheap and easy to change. You only need some simple hand tools to do the job, like this 130-piece kit. If you break a plastic fastener, don’t fret: They’re cheap and easy to replace, too.

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Give your car a thorough detailing.
give your car a thorough detailing
Harbor Freight

A thorough detail is not just about appearance, it’s a chance to clear out potential clogs in drainage holes where dirt and leaves can clutter up, leading to leaks in a car’s interior. It’s also an opportunity to knock off road grime that could hide moisture traps, resulting in rust. Use a pressure washer, like Portland's 1750 PSI 1.3 GPM Corded Electric Pressure Washer, for the best results. After a good rinse, dry your car down with a chamois like this leather one from Harbor Freight Tools.

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Keep your battery charged.
keep your battery charged
Harbor Freight

When you’re on the road, a portable jump starter is an essential piece of any emergency kit. Adding a simple and affordable charger to your trunk like the 750 Peak Amp Portable Jump Starter And Power Pack or 12v Manual Charger With Engine Start can be a welcome security blanket. A car battery charger/maintainer like this one from Viking can come in handy at home, too, if you ever have to maintain your car battery over a period of time (like a long winter season).

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