Having car trouble can be stressful and expensive. But there are several relatively easy car repairs you can tackle yourself. This article covers five of the most common car problems and how to fix them on your own.
Problem 1: Dead battery
A dead battery is the leading cause of breakdowns. Try these DIY steps to get your car started again:
- Make sure battery terminals are clean of corrosion using a wire brush.
- Connect the red jump starter cable to the positive terminal of dead battery.
- Connect the other red cable end to the positive terminal of helper battery.
- Connect the black cable to negative terminal of helper battery.
- Connect the other black end to unpainted metal of dead battery.
- Start the helper vehicle and let idle for 5 minutes to charge dead battery.
- Remove cables in reverse order after successful jump start.
Problem 2: Flat tire
A flat can happen anytime. Follow these steps:
- Turn on hazard lights and park in a safe spot.
- Loosen the lug nuts of flat tire before jacking up the car.
- Position jack under specified jacking points. Lift car high enough to fit the spare tire.
- Remove lug nuts and flat tire. Mount and secure the spare tire.
- Tighten lug nuts in a star pattern and lower the car.
- Have flat tire repaired as soon as possible.
Problem 3: Overheating engine
An overheating engine needs immediate attention. Here’s what to do:
- Safely pull over and turn off the engine.
- Let the engine cool down before opening the radiator cap.
- Check coolant levels and top up if low. Use a 50/50 mix of coolant and distilled water.
- Check hoses for leaks. Replace any cracked or damaged radiator hoses.
- Make sure the cooling fan runs properly. Clean debris off it if blocked.
- Monitor engine temperature on your drive home. Stop if the temperature rises again.
Problem 4: Faulty alternator
A broken alternator can leave you stranded. Try these troubleshooting tips:
- Check for warning lights indicating low charging voltage.
- Start the engine. Headlights that slowly dim point to alternator issues.
- Test alternator output voltage using a multimeter. Should be 13-15 volts with the engine running.
- Check for loose belt connections. Tighten as needed.
- If the alternator still doesn’t charge properly, it needs professional replacement.
Problem 5: Malfunctioning starter
Problems with the starter motor often manifest as a clicking sound when trying to start. Things to try:
- Use a multimeter to check for power in the starter circuit when the ignition turned.
- Hit the starter lightly with a hammer/rubber mallet as you turn the key.
- Check all starter wiring for corrosion and tighten loose connections as needed.
- Make sure starter mounting bolts are tightened securely.
- If issues persist, the starter needs professional servicing or replacement.
Learning basic car repairs allows you to get back on the road quickly and cheaply. With the right tools and precautions, these five common problems can be fixed in your own garage. However, more complex issues should still be handled by auto service professionals.