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5 Basic Car Maintenance Skills Every Driver Should Have

Figuring out how to do your own car repairs is becoming more difficult as cars increasingly rely on complex computer systems (no doubt part of the reason the auto repair industry in the U.S. is predicted to grow about 9% between 2012 and 2022), and no one is expecting you to take on the most complex and expensive problems such as engine and transmission repair on your own. However, there are some basic car maintenance skills that all drivers should still have. Here are five things you should know how to do, no matter what kind of car you drive:

Assessing Tire Pressure
A good tire pressure gauge should cost about $20. Check your tire pressure before the car is warmed up, and inflate to manufacturer specifications laid out in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that tire pressure warning systems will only alert you if your tire pressure is very low, so your car’s sensors are no replacement for a simple manual check.

Checking Fluid Levels
Actually changing your fluids is often better left to the professionals (if for no other reason because improperly disposing of car fluids can severely damage the environment). But you should still know how to pop the hood and locate your oil dipstick, transmission dipstick and coolant reservoir. After that, you should just be able to read the markings to ensure your fluids are at adequate levels.

Replacing Wiper Blades
Your local car repair shop can take care of this for you when you get an oil change, but it’s a good skill to have in case your current blades aren’t cutting it when you’re already out and about in poor conditions. You’ll simply need to slide the old blade off the arm and click the new one into place. Investing in high-quality blades is a good idea, too; for a cost difference of maybe $15-$30 per set, you’ll get better visibility, which is a low price to pay for added safety.

Jump Starting the Battery
Every car should be stocked with an emergency kit that includes jumper cables, but that does no good if you don’t know how to use them. Pull a car with a good battery up to the hood of the car with the dead battery and turn both off. Connect the batteries with the cables (red on both batteries’ positive terminals, black on the good battery’s negative terminal and a ground on the car with the dead battery). Start up the car with the good battery first, then try starting the car with the dead battery.

Reading Auto Repair Quotes
Knowing how to read and compare auto repair quotes is a vital skill because it applies to all the maintenance and repair work you can’t do yourself. On clear and fair auto repair quotes, all auto repair costs should be broken down into at least parts and labor. You may also see separate categories for shop overhead and materials fees.

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