By Dawn McCaslin
There are a number of very simple things you can do to help keep your car in tip-top shape, without spending a ton of money at a mechanic. Some tasks are more important than others for proper maintenance, and some require a little more patience, but in the end, being able to service your vehicle is both rewarding and economical.
Every vehicle comes with a manufacturer recommended tire pressure range. Tire or air pressure is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch). It is a common misconception that the PSI on the side of the tire is the recommended level. This is incorrect. The PSI on the tire is the MAXIMUM level the tire can hold. Additionally, having too low of a PSI may cause damaging wear on the tires, which can lead to poor fuel efficiency and flat tires.
Watch our how-to video for checking tire pressure and use the step-by-step guide that follows to help you check and manage your vehicle's tire pressure.
Keep these items in your vehicle at all times:
- Tire pressure gauge (either a standard or a digital)
- Wipes for cleaning your hands
- The only way to know if a tire is truly at the appropriate pressure is by using a gauge. Often a tire will look fine, but it is actually low. When you check tire pressure, be sure to check all four tires.
- Most gas stations and some car washes have air machines, and they usually charge 25 or 50 cents for air. Don't insert your money until you're ready to start filling your tires, as some machines run on timers.
- Find the recommended PSI for your vehicle. The best place to locate this information is on the inside of the driver's side doorjamb. As a back-up, check your owner's manual.
- It's best to let your tires cool and rest prior to checking their pressure. If you check them while they're hot, you will not get an accurate reading.
- Remember that you'll need to work on all four tires (or two if you have a motorcycle). Locate the small little hose on the tire that is the air valve. Remove the cap and keep it someplace safe like your pocket. You don't want it to roll away or get blown or kicked under your car. NOTE: These air valves are usually dirty so if you don't have gloves, avoid touching your clothing until you can wipe your hands clean.
- Press the tire pressure gauge against the valve. Use firm pressure and ensure that the seal between the gauge and the valve is completely solid. Release after a second or two. NOTE: If you hear any loud hissing, you're letting air escape and you won't get an accurate reading.
- To read the tire pressure gauge, look at the piece that should have been pushed out from the end of the metal tube (if you are using a gauge with a circular dial, simply use the number that the needle indicates). The following image demonstrates how the gauge should look if you've taken a correct reading. The number that is closest to the metal base is your PSI reading.
- Add (or release) air to match the recommended limit. The air machine nozzle must be firmly and securely pressed onto the tire valve or you will let air out of the tire.
- Check the pressure again to make sure it's correct. And remember, never overfill the tires.
- Repeat for each of the remaining tires. If you feel really motivated, check your spare tire, too!
Replacing wiper blades is easy once you get the hang of it. You might fumble the first try, but after doing it once or twice you'll be a pro. You can usually ask for assistance from someone at an auto parts store if you would like additional help.
Watch how simple it can be to replace your wiper blades
Our mother-son team demonstrates how easy it can be to change your wiper blades once you understand the basics of the blade assembly and connection points. Print out the instructions that follow and use them as a guide the next time you need to replace your windshield wiper blades.
You will need:
- A screwdriver
- New wiper blades
- Wiper blades come in many lengths and sizes, so check your owner's manual to determine the type of blades you'll need. Most auto stores now offer reference manuals that allow you to reference your vehicle by year, make and model to find the appropriate blade size. At the very least, you can always remove one of the wiper blades and take it into the store to find a match.
- To remove a wiper blade, lift the wiper arm off of the glass as you would to clean your windshield. You should see a small clip or hook that holds the moveable rubber blade to the arm. Push the clip, using the screwdriver if necessary, to release the blade and pull it off the arm. Removing the blade can be tricky if you've never done it before, so take your time. Each clip is a little different. Study it closely and give yourself a few tries to get it right.
- To install the new wiper blade, simply press the new wiper blade onto the arm in the same way you pulled the old one off. You may need to hold the blade at a slight angle in order to catch it on the arm latch, and it should snap into place when it's in the correct position. Be patient and look closely at the two pieces. You can usually see how they fit together.
- Once the wiper blades are installed, give them a try and make sure they work properly.
Print these easy-to-follow steps and keep them in your glove compartment for easy reference!
See our schedule below for future articles. If there's something you would like to learn about, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may use your idea or question for a future article!
Schedule of articles
Winter 2008: Part 1 - Jump start a vehicle
Spring 2009: Part 2 - Check tire pressure and replace wiper blades
Summer 2009: Part 3 - Change a flat tire
Fall 2009: Part 4 - Checking fluids and review the ‘Check Engine' light