Sim­ple ser­vic­ing

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Editorial -

I‘ve lost count in re­cent years of the num­ber of times some­one has said to me: “You can’t work on mod­ern cars at home. There’s too much elec­tron­ics.”

My an­swer is al­ways the same: “Yes, you can. They’re still ba­si­cally just an en­gine with pis­tons ris­ing and fall­ing.”

In fact, I think ser­vic­ing an en­gine these days is much eas­ier than when we had to con­tend with dis­trib­u­tors, ro­tor arms, points and con­densers. It re­ally only takes a few hours of your time to keep your mo­tor run­ning healthily.

Just think what parts are re­quired for an an­nual en­gine ser­vice or sched­uled ser­vice. You’re look­ing at or­der­ing oil, an oil fil­ter, air fil­ter, fuel fil­ter, pollen fil­ter (if fit­ted), wiper blades and a set of spark plugs – just seven items for a petrol en­gine ser­vice. That’s all. Diesels won’t even need the plugs. Prob­a­bly the hard­est part of the job will be de­tach­ing the sump guard!

The most fid­dly com­po­nent to fit will be the fuel fil­ter, de­pend­ing on where it is lo­cated. Some air fil­ters are only changed ev­ery two years – the same ap­plies to pollen fil­ters. Spark plugs will vary ac­cord­ing to the make and model of ve­hi­cle, but some can last for up to 100,000 miles. Wiper blades can sim­ply be in­spected to see if they will last for an­other sea­son, although I pre­fer to change blades an­nu­ally.

Ad­di­tional items can be checked fairly eas­ily too. Top­ping up screen­wash is a dod­dle, while en­sur­ing the strength of the en­gine coolant is made sim­ple with a cheaply-bought an­tifreeze tester. Same ap­plies to brake fluid – a quick test with the ap­pro­pri­ate tool shows how much wa­ter has been ab­sorbed by the fluid. In fact, we have a spe­cial fea­ture on fluid testers in the next is­sue.

Drive­belts can go on for many years with­out grum­bling, but it’s best to in­spect them an­nu­ally. Any squeaky belts or pul­leys will need to be dealt with be­fore they get even noiser.

Go­ing fur­ther will de­pend on your level of skill, but most jobs are well within the scope of a home me­chanic. These in­clude brake checks once the road wheels are off and an in­spec­tion of sus­pen­sion com­po­nents.

A good set of tools helps tremen­dously, of course, but most of us will have built up a col­lec­tion of es­sen­tial items over the years. It has al­ways as­tounded me the amount of money a pro­fes­sional me­chanic will spend on tools, but most Diy­ers needn’t fork out a for­tune on equip­ment that will only be used once in a blue moon. For us, build­ing up a tool­kit bit by bit over a pe­riod of time is a good way to teach us about what’s needed to deal with the ma­jor­ity of jobs.

An­other way to learn about work­ing on en­gines is to buy a sec­ond­hand unit that is ei­ther scrap or has had a tim­ing belt/chain fail­ure. Sit­ting it on a ded­i­cated en­gine stand at home will give you hours of fun as you dis­man­tle it and see how it works. Even though you may never dis­cover why the en­gine failed in the first place, you’ll learn things as you take it to pieces.

Keep on top of ser­vic­ing and your car will ap­pre­ci­ate it. There’s noth­ing more sat­is­fy­ing than an en­gine that never fails to start and never brings on any man­age­ment fault lights.

Our 10-page fea­ture on ser­vic­ing from home will hope­fully spur you to tackle these tasks your­self. Af­ter all, ser­vic­ing your own ve­hi­cle will not only save you cash, but can be lots of fun, too.

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