Nearly half of UK motorists couldn’t change a flat tyre if they had to, according to some research from Gocompare.com.
Young motorists in particular come up short when it comes to basic automotive tasks, with 64% of them not knowing how to change a bulb for a headlamp, tail light or brake light.
This is a sorry state of affairs. Of course, you can’t be expected to be able to change an engine or diagnose an erratic misfire. But there are lots of simple and easy car maintenance jobs which could save you a few quid if you could do them yourself - and with the sun shining outside, why not get out there and have a go now?
So, polish up that £19.99 socket set, retrieve your screwdrivers from the drawer in the kitchen marked ‘stuff’ and read on...
Change the wiper blades
You don’t need to pay a tenner of your hard-earned cash to replace your old smeary, squeaky wipers.
The old ones will slide off the wiper arms with a firm shove. The new ones slide in by reversing the removal process.
Nothing will explode, the engine won’t fall out, your children won’t cry, and as long as you’re not too ham-fisted, you should come away with all your fingers intact.
If the concept really bakes your noodle, worry not, as the instructions are all there on the box.
Once the new wipers are fitted, you can jump onto the bonnet; beat your chest and growl in an authoritative way at passers-by. Try it, it’s a good feeling.
Change the battery
This is generally quite an easy task. A car battery will not zap you, nor will it set your hair on fire. It does, however, contain a sulphuric acid electrolyte solution which is highly corrosive, so take care.
There are also several points to consider - make sure you know your radio code as removing the battery will wipe it out, and check the handbook for information on the immobiliser. However, most cars will be ok if you’re quick enough. Just be careful and methodical. It's also important to make sure you've got the right battery for your car.
Ensure everything electrical is turned off first. Take the negative connector off, then the positive. Then, lift the battery out and drop in the new one. Reconnect the positive connector first, followed by the negative one.
Finally, tighten everything up, spray on a bit of terminal protector and jump in your car. Turn on all the lights, crank the radio up to 11, beep the horn and work all the electric windows simultaneously, because you can.
Change a fuse
Unless there has been a fire or explosion, a suddenly inoperative electrical gizmo normally points towards a blown fuse.
So, before you book the car in at the dealership to be charged whatever extortionate labour rate they’re working to this week, check the fuses. Your car’s handbook will tell you where they are and what they do. The cover to the fuse panel (normally under the dash) will have its inners embossed with the info, too. You might need a pair of bottlenose pliers to extract the offending fuse, but that’s all.
Simply pull the fuse out, look at the wire bridge within the fuse and if it’s broken, that’s probably the issue. Change it with a fuse of an equal rating and away you go.
Change a tyre
Cars tend to come with a spare wheel for you to use if you need to, and it’s a doodle to swap over if you do it right.
Make sure the car is on an even surface and make sure the handbrake is on. Some cars come with little chocks to go behind the other wheels, use them if you have them – you don’t want a car rolling over your fingers.
Loosen the wheel bolts and nuts with the car on the ground, use the correct jacking point and raise the car. Swap the wheel, lower the car, and tighten the nuts up and away you go.
Oh, and if you have a space-saver wheel, keep it below 50mph for your onward journey?
Remember that it's illegal to change a wheel on the motorway. Just call for help via an orange phone and wait on the banking, far away from the car.
Change a bulb
Changing a bulb isn’t something one should get into a panic about. Plus, should a bulb fail as you’re driving along at night, you’re going to have to change it or risk getting stopped by the police.
With that in mind, always carry spares. If a bulb should fizzle out, just pop the bonnet, open up the access panel behind the light cluster and swap it over.
Some cars, like the Rover 75, have the access panel within the front wheel arch, so check there, too. Rear lights, even on new stuff, tend to be a lot easier.
The access panels are in the boot and the bulb tray should unclip from the light itself. You’ll then be able to motor along, happy in the knowledge that you’re not going to drive the wrong way down the M42 because you can’t see.
Change the oil
This is the most technically involved of the six jobs we’ve covered, but it isn't impossible. Get it wrong however, and you’ll ruin your driveway, your clothes, your hair and your self-esteem.
That said, all it takes is a jack, a pair of axle stands (safety first, folks) and a spanner, some new oil and an oil filter.
All you need to do is jack the car up, rest it (via the correct points, consult the hand book for this) on the axle stands, pop off the oil cap on the engine, slide beneath your steed, unscrew the sump plug and then let the old oil flow from your motor.
The oil filter just screws off and on, but if it’s a bit stiff you can buy a £4.99 tool for the job. Swap that for the new one, fill the engine with the oil it craves and then you’re done.
See, how simple was that? Once it’s done your engine will be thrilled, leaving you to smear some dirt on your cheek, walk into the house and tell your partner how incredibly technical and capable you are. Now that’s a win in anyone’s book!
Don't forget, making sure that your car's bits and pieces are in roadworthy condition is something you're obliged to do as part of your car insurance and breakdown cover agreements. Neglecting your car could end up costing you dear through a void claim. So be vigilant, and don't put it off.