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Simple DIY for Maintenance

I’m rather new to the DIY repair and maintenance of cars. We have street parking and no garage and my wife worries that someone will run me down while I’m working on our car. Nonetheless, I’ve learned from youtube how to change my own headlamp bulbs and I can’t believe I’ve ever paid anyone to do that task.

Next up I’m changing air filter which appears pretty simple and fast.

What are some other tasks that I should be considering? When I was 14 I changed out my Dad’s alternator on his 94 Chevy S10 pickup, but that’s when I was young, reckless and didn’t drive. I’d like to work my way up with some simple stuff first.

Looking forward to your suggestions and to getting to know everyone on the forums!

Welcome :smiley: ! How busy is your street and how steep? If it’s not too busy or steep you could probably change your oil and filter yourself. Do you have ramps or jacks and jack stands for lifting the car up? If you have jacks and stands you could probably do tire rotations too

Thank you! :slight_smile:

Street isn’t too busy most of the time and it’s flat. Right now it’s downright treacherous as the gas company is detouring people through our street (all summer) while they tear up the entire town.

I have neither ramps nor jacks. I’ve shimmied under the old Vibe a time or two because the plastic bit came off and I quick-tied it back up so it wouldn’t vibrate everywhere. Very tight fit!

I would not recommend any sort of car work in which you have to lift the vehicle or get under the vehicle for any reason. Even on a street that sees light traffic, all it takes is for that one drunk idiot to come along at the right time and slam in to the back of your car…

Stick to the stuff you can do quickly while standing. If you want to get into more, wait until you’ve moved to a place with a garage, or at least a driveway.


I appreciate your honesty and straight-forwardness!

My wife’s terrified of me getting hit on the street, and I’m not keen on that happening either. What are some other things I could do while standing?

Air filter’s a good one. Spark plugs when needed. Plug wires/coil packs when they break. Cabin filter (that’ll be inside the car). Wiper blades.

Don’t do anything involving fluids - if you spill it’ll go into the storm drains and pollute the river, and if the authorities find out they will not be happy with you.

Really, your available tasks are pretty limited without a workspace and tools and a place to store those tools.


The limitation is a bit of a bummer but I get what you’re saying.

I’ve done my own wiper blades for years.

Your right, we’re right on the Ohio River, that would be very bad to spill fluids.

Never attempted anything with spark plugs, so that should be very intriguing! Nor did I think about the cabin filter, I’ll have to do some research on that as well.

Thank you shadowfax!

A friend of mine had a Vibe…very tight is putting it politely! I would go with @shadowfax advice and forget my thought on the oil and filter earlier. Fortunately, those are cheap to have done by a local mechanic :slight_smile:

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To do things from underneath, find a friend with a garage or private driveway (or at least covered parking).

To feed your interest in the meantime, you can clean up battery terminals, maybe change the PCV valve and do maintenance checks of things like the belt.

[Edit: no one seems to have brought up two additional points. First, and as Tom and Ray would say, listen to your wife. Second, check the local laws for your town/city regarding whether car repair on a public street is ok.]

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I say just don’t do it. The few dollars you might save will be a small percentage of your hospital bills plus missing work.

You need a couple of these.

I lived in a house with no driveway for years. I did almost all repairs and maintenance myself on the street. I never had any problems. I sometimes had the car on jack stands for a couple days at a time. My street wasn’t very busy and it was fairly wide. I wouldn’t want to do it on a busy or narrow street though. I watched a guy on youtube do an engine swap on the side of a very busy street.

Is this you?? (just kidding)

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I would suggest driving to the auto parts store with the tools you need for the task and using an out of the way space there to change the parts you buy, if you discover you need a tool, they probably have it.

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TSM: You’d think that truck in the photo above would get something bent in the wheels or suspension tilted like that. I guess that stuff is pretty tough to stand up to that treatment. Or maybe wheel alignment is the least of that guy’s problems … lol

OP: I concur w/most of the others here, if you don’t have a level place out of traffic, stick to stuff you can do without working under the car. Light bulbs, engine air filter, spark plugs, coils, top the oil and other fluids off between changes, replace the thermostat, windshield wipers, hosing off, washing and waxing, vacuuming the inside, those can all be done from the front or passenger side of the car, and without having to lift the car to do anything underneath it. Keeping the door, hood, and trunk hinges lubed is a good idea, will help make the car last longer and reduce door rattles.

When I was a college student years ago and had a similar situation I would drive my truck to the rear parking lot of city hall on a Sunday when nobody was there, lots of flat space with no cars zooming past to work on the truck. After I was done w/the truck work at I’d fly my gas-powered model airplane the same place. Flat and unobstructed works for both.

Thanks for the tips and suggestions. I wouldn’t have thought about something as simple as keeping hinges on the doors, hood and trunk lubed. Great suggestion!

Someone above mentioned about having their car jacked up on the street for days. That’s begging for a fine here. If your tires are low or go flat you’ll get a knock at the door and a warning or a fine. I can’t imagine what they’d do if I put the car on jacks and left it there…they’d probably tow it off! I can’t complain though, because the town keeps the streets looking nice and clean.

LOL, I think that’s the least of that truck’s worries. Notice that the guy is welding… right at the gas tank! :joy:

I share your wife’s concern, and as an apartment dweller, I encourage you to find a safer place to work if you’re going to crawl under your car. Simple maintenance like changing an air filter or a light bulb is fine on the side of the road, but anything where you’d jack up and climb under a car should be done in a safer place, like a friend’s driveway.

I am pretty much like you. I started working on the car this summer and this board has helped me immensely.

That said, I have not read all comments, but when it comes to changing oil, I strongly recommend oil drain valve like EZOilDrain or Fumoto. There are many who recommend against as it can leak but on Forester forum, everyone is crazy about them. Some have it for decades with no issues so I installed it on both the vehicles, easiest oil change ever. That will reduce the risk of staying under the vehicle on a street.

If you can not loan anyone’s driveway, how about doing some small work very early in the morning during summers?

On a public street is too sketchy for my taste for anything more than changing an emergency flat. There are just too many people out there on their cell phones and not paying close attention. Even if you are standing while wrenching under the hood, your legs are going to be in a pinch zone between your bumper and the car in front of you. The kid rolling down the street on their phone and slams into your car then pushes your car into the car you are parked behind and now you just lost your legs.

Back in my college days, I worked on my truck in the parking lot frequently. I once welded an exhaust system under the truck in the parking lot. I bough new long tube headers and wanted some of those incredibly annoying cutouts to dump under the truck. My brother had a pipeline welder that I borrowed. I purchased aluminum intake and heads and swapped out the top end of the engine in the parking lot. I replaced the clutch more than once in the parking lot. My tires and clutch did not last very long from all the burn outs and hot rodding that I did. Lucky that I survived college with minimal tickets and good driving record.

I ran a motorcycle chop shop out of the bed of my truck. People would give me old non running bikes and I would take them to the campus cops and run the vin. After everything checked out, I would completely disassemble the motorcycle while strapped down in the bed. I would sell the parts off on ebay from my dorm room. My coffee table was a truck tool box where I could store the bike parts while they were listed on ebay. I’d generally make about $1,000 for each bike I parted out. Lucky for me the campus cops were cool about it. They never gave me a hard time and sometimes stopped automotive for advise.