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DIY Car Maintenance May Not be a Smooth Ride

Most people should learn how to do easy fixes on their cars

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I still think folks should learn how to change a flat tire.
Chaya Milchtein, a former mechanic and automotive educator.


One of the biggest aspects of owning a vehicle is the maintenance. It is costly over the life of a car and can be even more so when a person takes on overly technical tasks without the proper knowledge.

“I don’t recommend folks change their own oil,” said Chaya Milchtein, a former mechanic and automotive educator. “Although it can seem easy, there are details that if you mess them up can quickly and negatively impact you and your vehicle.”

Error of Your Ways

In fact, some of those concerns include not using the jack properly to change a tire, which could cause the vehicle to fall to the ground, possibly on the shade tree mechanic.

If the drain plug isn’t properly tightened and the rubber seal from the oil filter isn’t in place, the oil could all leak out as you drive down the road, Milchtein said.

Maintenance Tips

Even so, Milchtein said there are plenty of other easy maintenance tips that any driver can learn to save money and make the vehicle last much longer.

“You can and should check your own tire pressure and fluids,” she said. “Checking your tire pressure will help save you money in tire replacement and on refueling your vehicle.”

Learning how to change a tire for some was a right of passage; something that was taught not long after a young driver secured his or her license.

“I still think folks should learn how to change a flat tire,” Milchtein said. “Although ‘run flats’ and roadside assistance have become more commonplace, it’s still a necessary skill. You never know when it will come in handy.”

Car owner Tony Trumble said he learned to work on his own vehicles watching his own father work on vehicles when he was a kid.

“He always did all of his own work and I hate to pay for anything that I can do myself,” Trumble said.

Some of the things he does on his own include changing the oil, changing out brakes, checking fluid levels, checking tire wear, and air pressure.

“I hate to pay for anything that I can do myself,” Trumble said.

Nevertheless, the last time he took his wife’s SUV to a quick lube shop for an oil change, the final bill was $96.

“I was scared to do it because it was a newer vehicle, but really there’s nothing different,” Trumble said. “An oil change is an oil change.”

Trumble admits that he does have a lot of experience from working with his dad when it comes to working on cars.

Don’t YouTube It

Milchtein said experience is much different than the shade tree mechanics to base their knowledge solely on watching videos on YouTube before attempting to tear into their own vehicles.

“YouTube is good for certain things where there is little room for error,” she said. “But it doesn’t teach you how to fix a car.”

She said people can learn simple tasks on YouTube like how to change a flat tire, change a filter or check tire pressure.

Meanwhile, a quick search of YouTube will bring up hundreds of results of videos from professionals to shade tree mechanics demonstrating everything from how to change your oil to how to replace an entire engine.

Milchtein said she’s had experiences with people who tried to change their own brake pads and failed.

“They don’t properly clean the sliders and they cause the brakes to make a lot of noise,” she said. “Or they damage other parts of the brake system while they’re at it.

“There are honestly tons of examples of things people try to repair and fail.”

New Tech is a Challenge

Milchtein said the other thing people should know is that modern vehicles have a lot of technology that really should be left to the experts.

Car enthusiast Jared Gravitt said he loves to work on older vehicles but leaves the heavy work on his newer vehicles to professionals.

“The way the new cars are set up, they are ran by computers and to have the things to work on them is way out of my price range,” he said.

On the older vehicles, he will change the oil, replace brakes, change air filters along with numerous other maintenance projects. He will check and change filters on the newer vehicles.

“My grandpa was a mechanic and if I wanted a car when I turned 16, he said I had to know how to fix it and keep up on things,” Gravitt said.

Milchtein encourages people to learn how to do those simple tasks to maintain their vehicles so that they only need to visit the local mechanic for the bigger jobs.

The important thing, she said, is to know when you don’t know how to do something and be willing to ask for help.

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