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Covers the basics of oil change-battery maintenance.


Even though most new cars are becoming increasingly complex for the average do-it-yourselfer, there are still many tasks that every car owner can perform.  Saving money on labor and learning basic maintenance in the process.  Most importantly most of the basics are quick and will leave you plenty of time to accomplish the myriad of other things that must be done in your busy schedule.


Use the links below to jump to the section you want to read.
Oil and Oil Filter change
Changing Spark Plugs
Auto Air Filters
Battery Maintenance
Replacing your Thermostat


Changing The Oil, and Oil Filter

  The oil in your car is essentially the life blood of your vehicle.  The thin layer of oil keeps the metal parts inside your engine from grinding against each other.  Irregular oil changes or neglect is very harmful to your engine, and in a lot of cases can lead to major repairs down the road (or not down the road if your car wont make it there)!

Getting started:  First you need oil. Refer to your owners manual if you are unsure what weight to use.  Also find out what oil filter your vehicle uses, you will want to change the filter every time you change the oil.  
     Equipment needed:
                                      Car Jack
                                      Jack Stands (
                                      Funnel (
good, clean, plastic one)
                                      Oil drain pan (
should easily hold 5 quarts)
                                      NEW Oil Filter
                                      Oil Filter Wrench
                                      Plastic container
                                      Old Rags
                                      Ratchet set
                                      Rubber gloves (
                                      Socket set

                 (note: a lot of these you will have already, that's good on saving money)

  Before starting this run your car for about 10 minutes.  Warm oil drains better than cold oil. Park on a level surface.  After securing your car crawl under and locate the oil drain plug, this is  located in the front center of the car.  Place the oil drain pan under the oil drain plug, loosen the oil drain plug using a ratchet with the correct socket.  Then using your fingers unscrew the oil drain plug and remove it, placing it somewhere clean and out of the way. Drain the oil into the oil drain pan.  Once the oil has drained out, wipe the drain opening and oil drain plug with a dry, clean rag.  Reinstall the oil drain plug by hand then tighten with the ratchet and socket.  Take special care not to strip the threads make sure it goes on correctly!  
Locate the oil filter. It's usually on the side of the engine. Position the drain pan under the filter to catch any remaining oil. Use the oil filter wrench to unscrew the old oil filter. Wipe off any old oil where the filter mounts to the engine. Put some new oil on the rubber seal of the new filter and screw the filter into place by hand.
Next locate the oil filler cap on top of the engine. Place the funnel in the opening and pour in the new oil. Replace the cap, run the engine, then check the dipstick. Add more oil if you need it.

Wipe away excess oil with a rag. Pour the old oil into plastic containers and dispose of it properly. Take it to either a recycling center or an auto repair shop that takes used oil.

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 Changing Spark Plugs

Spark Plugs: The fire down below and how to spark new life into your vehicle.

Spark plugs are located in the cylinder, their purpose is to take in high voltage electricity at one end and create a spark at the other end.  Once that is done the gas and air mixture causes combustion which ultimately powers the vehicle.  Also spark plugs remove heat from the combustion chamber and are basically the "window" into your vehicles engine.  By evaluating the condition of plugs upon changing them it is easy to determine the state of your engine.  It is recommended to replace all spark plugs every 30,000 miles.

  Changing your spark plugs is relatively simple, but their are some very important things to take note of.  By changing the plugs your need to be very sure about the way you thread the new plugs.  It is best to put the plug in by hand AND hand tighten the plug.  Be very aware of the ease that it turns, it is easy to cross thread a plug and it should not be hard to turn.  Then once it is hand tight use the spark plug socket to tighten the plug down the rest of the way.

Tools Needed To Change Your Spark Plugs

5/8 inch spark plug socket
with integrated swivel

Socket wrench

10" extension

Spark Plug Boot Remover

Gap Gauge


The Procedure
Check your owner's manual before you buy replacement plugs to make sure you have the right spark plugs. 

Make sure your engine is cool before starting.

Before starting, you need to set the gap between the center electrode and the ground electrode for each plug. It must be the exact distance recommended by the automaker. You will find this information in your owner's manual.  A gap gauge will determine the exact distance, if it doesn't match the specifications, carefully bend the ground or wire electrode until it does.

Using the spark plug wrench, carefully remove each plug by turning it to the left. Install the new plugs by screwing them to the right. Start by hand and then use the spark plug wrench to tighten them. Don't over tighten! Plugs can break. That's basically it.

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Dust, dirt and other abrasive particles will cause severe damage if they are permitted to enter an engine. One way these particles are carried is in the outside air which is drawn into the engine through the carburetor. The role of the air filter is to remove these harmful contaminants before the air reaches the cylinders- assuring that only clean air goes into the engine.

Installation Replacement of a dry-type or dual media filter is a quick and easy procedure. First, loosen the wing nut from the engine air filter housing and remove the lid. Lift out the old filter, then clean the housing with either end up, unless one end is wider. In this case, the wider end goes on top.

Changing Crankcase Breather Element
This filter is located in the air filter housing and can be checked at the same time as the air filter.

  • Remove lid of air filter housing and remove air filter. Disconnect crankcase breather hose. Remove metal clip and save, unless it is supplied with the new element.

  • Normal replacement is with air filter. If dirty on inspection, replace.

  • Install new breather element and secure with clip. Connect breather hose. Replace air filter and lid of filter housing, and tighten wing nut.

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Battery Maintenance

  If the battery and cable connections are corroded or loose, the car will be harder to start, and in cold weather that means more unburned gasoline diluting the crankcase oil, affecting engine lubrication. Just a light film of corrosion -very hard to see- affects the ability of the battery to accept a charge, so wire-brush the cable and battery terminals at least once a year. Don't forget the other end of the cables- the ground connection (s) to the body and/or engine also should be wire-brushed clean, then tightened, and the positive cable connections should be tight.

  Keep the plastic surface of the battery clean. After you've cleaned the terminals, rinse the surface with warm water, wipe down with mild detergent to cut the grease, and rinse again. This will prevent an oily film from collecting dirt- which is conductive and will discharge the battery slightly day and night. Finally, cover all the exposed metal parts of the terminals and cables with grease to prevent further corrosion.

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Replacing your Thermostat

Sometimes the thermostat will stick and prevent proper operation. If it sticks closed, the engine will overheat possibly causing severe engine damage. When this happens you will usually find the radiator at normal temperature while the engine is severely overheated. If the thermostat sticks open, you will find that the engine will not heat up quickly enough on cooler days. Your heater will also take longer to get the passenger compartment warm.

Changing a thermostat is a simple procedure, just follow these six steps:

Drain enough coolant to bring the level down below the level of the upper hose. The coolant can be saved and reused if it's not too old. Remove the thermostat housing bolts. Tap the housing lightly to break the gasket seal and lift the housing off. Note the position of the thermostat.  Remove the thermostat and stuff a clean rag in the opening to prevent contamination. Scrape the old gasket off the engine and thermostat housing.  Thermostats sometimes stick closed when they're new. "Exercising" the new thermostat will help prevent this. Insert the new thermostat with the spring end pointing down. Use a new gasket and gasket sealer. Replace the thermostat housing and tighten the bolts evenly. Refill the system with coolant, bring the engine to operating temperature, and check for leaks.

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