Owning a car in Singapore is one of the most budget-consuming things you can do. From the COE to the fuel to the actual vehicle itself (notwithstanding the fact that you only get to keep the car for 10 years), the overall price tag would bring you to your knees. Instead of piling on the expenses, here is an area in which you can save a few good bucks – car repairs. An average trip to the car servicing workshop ranges in the hundreds between $100 to $600, depending on how major the maintenance. Why not put the cash back into your pocket, and whip out the toolbox? It’s time to get down and dirty with these seven easy car repairs that anyone can handle without going to the professionals.
1. Fixing surface scratches
Cosmetic damages like these are inevitable. But you don’t have to get the car repainted and polished up every time it gets a little scrape. For just a few dollars, you can buff out the blemishes with a bit of toothpaste. Start by cleaning the spot so there aren’t any dirt. Then, take a wet sponge or cloth, apply some toothpaste, and rub it gently on the scratches in a circular motion.
Alternatively, there’re also several brands of quick-fix scratch repair pens sold in the market for such cosmetic defects. Typically, these pens are applicators which are filled with clear coat resin with claims to provide professional results in a few easy steps. However, both methods only work if the scratches are minor, and haven’t cut deep into the paint coat of your car.
2. Fixing dents
Accidentally bumped into a hard surface, or had someone crash into you? Skip the mechanic. You can fix it yourself with a handful of items you probably already own. Below are a few methods that are worth a try!
- Boiling Water
Simply pour a pot of boiling water over the dented surface (making sure to arm yourself with thick, protective gloves), and then push the dent out from the inside of the car. However, this method may only work for plastic or PU bumpers.
On top of the boiling water method, you can also try sticking a plunger on the surface, and sucking the sunken patch out. This method may take a few tries.Finish off by pouring cold water over the spot to cool it down. If the surface area of the dent is larger than the size of a plunger, approach a professional workshop to get it repaired.
- Hair Dryer & Compressed Air
Another popular method for removing car dents, if the surface is made of plastic, involves the use of a hair dryer and compressed air. Hold the hair dryer inches away from the dent, turn it on to the highest heat setting, and wave it in an up-and-down motion. When the surface is hot enough, grab the can of compressed air, turn it upside down and begin spraying at the dent surface. The cold air will cause the surface to contract, thus popping the dent.
- Other tools
Similar to the scratch repair pens, there are also dent removal tools available in the market. You may want to invest in one of those.
3. Replacing spark plugs
When you’re going under the hood to fix the actual components of a car, you’ll need a few more tools to do it. For this project, these are the items to prepare: A spark plug socket, a ratchet, an extension bar, some gloves, and the appropriate spark plugs for your car. You may also need a flathead screwdriver and an Allen wrench to unscrew a few bits and pieces to get to your spark plugs.
First, make sure the engine is off and has cooled completely (this can take a few hours). Locate your spark plugs, and unscrew any covers if you have to. They should be in a row at the top or side of the engine. Disconnect the wires attached to the caps, and pull the ignition coil out. To reach the plugs at the bottom, use your ratchet (connected to an extension and a spark plug socket) to get a hold of the plug and unscrew it out. Replace it with a new plug, attach it to the socket, and screw it back in. Repeat this procedure for the rest of the spark plugs, and you’re done!
4. Replacing headlights or tail lights
When your headlights or tail lights aren’t functioning properly, the simplest remedy is to replace its bulbs. There are a few types of bulbs available out there, from the most common halogen bulbs, to the high-voltage HID variety, which may not suit every car and tends to be quite dangerous to deal with on your own. Halogen bulbs, on the other hand, are much simpler to handle. Before starting this process, make sure to get the appropriate bulbs for your specific car. To access the light bulbs, pop the hood or trunk, locate the back of each light, remove any covers, and disconnect the wire cord. You should be able to pull out the bulbs, and replace them with new ones, making sure to hold them by the base only. Put everything else back in order, and you’re good to go.
5. Changing flat tyres
While changing a flat tyre requires quite a bit of physical effort, the process isn’t complicated at all. You’ll first need a lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts, located near the centre of the tyre. Next, take a floor jack to elevate the side of the car, where the flat tyre is, just enough that the tyre is lifted off the ground. There are a few different types of jacks that you can get, but a small, simple one will suffice. Remove the lug nuts, and swap the flat tyre for a new one. Screw the lug nuts back on gently, lower the jack, and for the final step, tighten each nut (followed by the opposite nut) in a clockwise direction until they’re completely secure.
Check out the video above for a step-by-step tutorial!
6. Fixing cracked windscreens
If left unattended, a small crack on a windscreen can turn into a bigger one and jeopardise the safety of your vehicle. Lucky for you, you don’t need to spend a lot of money fixing it. To begin, clean the spot with a towel soaked with alcohol or a glass cleaner. Use a pin to make sure there aren’t any small glass shards on the surface. You’ll need a windshield repair kit, which you can get for under $20. It comes with a circular, doughnut-shaped seal, a pedestal, a tube of resin, a syringe, a razor and a plastic sheet.
Apply the seal on the windscreen with the tab pointing upwards, and the cracked spot in the middle of the hole. Peel the outer layer of the seal, and attach the pedestal (a plastic bit with a tube extending outwards) to it. Pour ¾ of the resin into the tube of the pedestal, stick the tip of the syringe into the tube, and pull the syringe up. Lock the syringe in position and leave it for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gently knock around the area of the crack to release the air bubbles. Then, remove the syringe to let some air in, put it back on, and lower the syringe a little to put pressure on the crack. After 20 minutes, remove the syringe, seal and pedestal, put a drop of the remaining resin on the crack, and cover it with the plastic sheet. Leave it in direct sunlight for 15 minutes, before removing and scraping the extra resin off the glass.
7. Changing engine air filters
There are two types of air filters in your car: the engine air filter, and the cabin air filter. While the latter is located under the dashboard or glove compartment (and is a little harder to access), the engine filter can be found under the bonnet, in a black rectangular box to the side. To change the engine air filter, all you need to do is unscrew its cover, remove the old filter, clean the inside of the container, and fix in a new filter, which can be bought from your local auto supplies store. No fuss, no muss.