When my car died, my parents sat down to have the heavy conversation – fix it up and tow it down to college for me to use, or get me a new car that I can drive down there myself? Ultimately, we decided to go for the purchase of a new vehicle that could drive up hills without suddenly dying that would last me longer than a quick-fix for one reason: “I won’t be down there to save you if the old one breaks down from all of its problems.” Away at college, having dad come to the rescue isn’t always an option. Neither is having a boyfriend that you might not have come and fix it for you. However, there are a few things that any student going off to college could learn to fix on their own and more helpful hints.
Things you should take to college with you include:
1. A screwdriver
2. A disposable rag of some sort
3. An Oil Pan
4. A wrench set (make sure to have a lug nut wrench)
5. A spare tire
7. Car Jack
Changing the Oil
The oil in cars should be changed about once every 3,000 miles or about 3 months – depending on the climate and altitude things may vary. Be sure to dress appropriately in clothing that you won’t mind getting a little dirty when doing this.
First, you’re going to want to warm up the oil you’ll be draining – like most liquids, warm oil will drain out of the car more quickly than cold oil. Some suggest running the car for about 10 minutes. If you’re changing the oil in a cold climate or season, I’d agree. However, if it’s summer and your car has been sitting out in the sun all day, it should be OK to just go.
Make sure your car is securely parked in a street or somewhere where any accidental oil-staining won’t be a big problem and put the oil-pan underneath it. You’ll then want to consult your owner’s manual to make sure you know exactly where the plug for the oil is, less you accidentally drain something else out of your vehicle. Make sure the pan is aligned with this plug and then use a screwdriver, or your hand if possible, to unscrew the cap until the oil starts coming out. You’ll want to hold onto the plug so it doesn’t get lost in the pan of oil. If needed, reposition the pan to catch oil that may be making a mad escape.
Once the oil is finished draining, wipe off the plug and the gasket it came from and then secure it. Don’t make it too tight, less you find yourself never able to pull it out again.
Now wipe of your hands on a rag you’re OK with destroying and pop the hood of the car. On the engine there should be a cap that says ‘OIL’. Remove that lid and start pouring in the new oil. Don’t pour in too much – around four to five quarts should be enough. Find the dipstick of the car (It should look like a handle similar to one that would start an old lawnmower) and pull it out. Wipe any old oil off of it and wait a few minutes – the oil will take a bit to settle.
Once the oil seems to be settled, take the dipstick and put it back into the slot it came from, then pull it out again. Along the stick there should be some sort of marker of what the ‘right’ level of oil is. If your oil hits that mark, you’re OK. If not, put some more in.
Put the cap to the oil back on. Once the oil you removed cools, put a funnel into the mouth of one of the empty oil bottles to pour it back into for disposal purposes. Make sure any containers of oil you have make it to a auto shop for recycling and not down a drain.
Replacing a Broken Light
I don’t mean in the house, but a turn signal or brake light. These are fixes that will save you from traffic citations, as well can be easily done with a screwdriver and a bulb in hand.
First, determine how to access the bulb – if the plastic casing on the outside of the light has a screw on it, it can be accessed from the outside. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to pop the trunk open and remove the plastic cover on the back of the light. Once the bulb is exposed, remove the bulb by pressing down on it and turning at the same time. If you don’t already have a replacement bulb at this point head to the automotive store to find a match to the one just removed for your next step. If you do have a bulb, push it into the slot and turn it into place. Make sure the bulb is lined up correctly.
Replace the plastic cover, whether it is the one on the outside or the inside, and then hit the brake and have someone check to make sure that the light turns on.
Ta da! Done.
Replacing a Tire
Always make sure to check the pressure in your spare tire every month, just to be sure it isn’t flat. When changing the tire, make sure that your car won’t be rolling away and isn’t blocking traffic. If there’s heavy traffic, pop the engine as a warning sign to other cars that you’re making repairs.
If your wheel has a hubcap, remove it before starting.
Loosen the bolts which hold the wheel on so it can be removed. However, do not remove the bolts themselves. Once the wheel is loose, use a car jack to lift your car off of the ground, using the owner’s manual to find the safest place to jack the car up by. Remember to jack the car up a little higher than it will take to remove the flat tire – the spare tire will be inflated and will need more room to be put on. Remove the bolts holding the tire on and put them somewhere you won’t lose them. Remove the flat tire and set it aside. Lift the new tire onto the wheel studs which held the tire on and the bolts were connected to so that the valve where air gets added to the tire is facing outwards.
Put the bolts back on so they’re tight enough to secure the tire so it doesn’t come off. Try to work the bolts across from each other, not in a circle when putting them back on. Once the wheel is on, lower the jack, give each bolt a final tug to make sure it’s secured, and replace the hub cap if you need to. There are several places online, such as eHow, which give instructions on how to fix certain things on cars if you ever need help. The above are just a few basics that will help the most mechanically un-inclined get by when needed.