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Car Repair Tips for Fast Fixes

Updated: Oct. 15, 2019

Want to keep your car running smoothly and problem-free? We asked our ace mechanics for their best DIY fixes, tips and their most avoidable “oopses.”

FH080111_002_CARFIX_02-2Family Handyman
Even if you're not a car-geek, doing some simple, basic maintenance on your vehicle will keep it out of the shop and extend its life. Here's a collection of 10-minute fixes you can easily do to your car that will save you money immediately or prevent future repair bills.

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Coolant change

Change your coolant on schedule

Coolant doesn’t last forever. You have to change it every 24,000 miles (green coolant) or 100,000 miles (extended-life coolant). If you keep driving on worn coolant, expect to replace the radiator, heater core and water pump.

Change your fluids regularly

Neglecting oil changes will cost you

Transfer case fluid and differential oil changes are cheap and easy. Replacing these components will cost you about $1,500 each—a high price to pay for neglect.

Cabin air filter

Replace the air filter annually

A clogged cabin air filter puts an added load on your car’s A/C system and reduces heat in winter. Replace it at least once a year.

Test your coolant

Use a voltmeter to test coolant

Test your coolant with a voltmeter. Set your digital voltmeter on the lowest DC setting reading and dip the positive probe right into the coolant. Touch the negative probe to the negative battery terminal and rev the engine to 2,000 rpm. If the reading is .4 volts or more, your coolant is toast.

Clean your headlights

Clean cloudy headlights

If you have cloudy headlights, you don’t have to replace them or live with them. Clean them with a specially designed kit.

Buy a specially designed restoration kit

Buy a headlight restoration kit at any auto parts store ($20) and follow the sanding and buffing instructions.

Clean corroded battery terminals

Clean terminals prevent electrical problems

Corrosion puts added strain on your charging system and can mess with computer-controlled systems. Cleaning is your cheapest insurance against electrical problems.

Defroster grid out of action

Use a repair kit to fix it yourself

Yes, you can fix this yourself. Pick up a Permatex Quick Grid repair kit ($13) at any auto parts store. Follow the instructions and you’ll be defrosting in no time.

Don’t mix different types of coolants

An easy avoidable “oops”

Green, yellow, red, orange and blue coolants create cool “mud” when mixed. Cost of a new heater core: $400 to $1,000.