No More Damsel In Distress: Learn the 12 Things Every Woman Must Know How to Do To Their Cars
Yes ladies. I said it. For those of you who are automotive-ly capable, we applaud you, but to you helpless women who can’t jack up a car and change a tire or check your oil in a pair of heels, this article is for you! It’s time to stop relying on your husbands, boyfriends, fathers, sons and complete strangers to assist you with your car. Auto mechanics like to prey on any unsuspecting or unknowledgeable patron so knowing how to perform these simple tasks yourself can keep you away from the auto shops and away from paying high prices for unneeded automotive services. Sometimes you don’t have a man around to help and sometimes the men that are around know even less about cars than you do. I learned a long time ago NOT to let my boyfriend help me with my car. He insisted on changing my windshield wipers for me, (because he believed that girls were helpless when it came to cars) and the idiot left the covers on the blades. I nearly got into an accident the first time it rained! Don’t be a victim, maintaining your car is easy! There are at least 12 things that every woman should know how to do, and are completely capable of doing when it comes to your own automobile. Some of these you may already know, and others, well, you may not realize how easy they really are to do. Lets break free from any stereotypes and impress the men with your automotive knowledge.
Don't Be THIS Girl... its not that hard. Trust me.
12 Things Every Woman Should Know How To Do To Thier Car:
1. How to Check Your Oil: Number one thing a woman should know how to do, and this could not be any easier. When should you check your oil? More often than just waiting for the check engine or oil light to come on in your car. It wouldn’t hurt to check the color/quality of your oil once a month.
How to check: When your car is off (and your engine is cold) open your hood using the lever inside your car and prop it up. Most hoods come with a pole that keeps the hood from falling back down on you. Make sure this is in place. Locate the dipstick. Typically, located toward the right side (your left if you are looking at the car) of the engine it will look like a small little handle or loop. Take a rag or paper towel and wipe the end of the dipstick clean and dry. Notice the color of the oil. If the oil is really dark and muddy looking, its definitely time for an oil change. After cleaning off the stick, drop the dipstick back in place so it fits all the way down and pull it straight back out again. Look closely at the bottom of the dipstick. You’ll be able to see what level the oil has reached and be able to determine if your car is at the correct level. The reason we check when the car is cold and turned off is A. for safety; B. because the engine and heat, as well the shifting in a previously moving vehicle, can cause the volume of the oil to change or register inaccurately.
When should you get your oil checked or refilled? Aside from oil changes every 3000-7500 miles, if you wipe off the dipstick, put it back in your car and pull it out again and it comes out low, let alone bone dry... it's a no brainer ladies... chances are your car needs some oil. In fact, before you take it right down the street to a mechanic to check if you've got an oil leak, make sure you put oil in the car. Check your user's guide to see what type, get a funnel and a few quarts that can even be purchased right and a grocery store and take it to the shop right away. Never drive a car without oil, you'll destroy your engine.
2. How to check your tire tread: Very important. Next to oil, tires are the most neglected part on a vehicle that needs proper care and maintenance for your safety and to extend the life of your car. Most people don’t replace tires until it’s too late - they either get a flat or go skidding on ice or water into another car. Check your tires often.
How to check: Couldn’t be easier. Get a penny and place the penny in the tire tread so Lincoln’s head is closest to the rubber. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to get new tires!
3. How to check tire pressure: To check the pressure all you need is a tire gage. Remove the cap, attache the gage and you’ll get the reading. The correct pressure for your tire will be located on the inside of your car’s door frame, visible when the door is opened. Gauges can cost $1 to about $20 from a store or you can also use gages located at tire pumps as well. You want to check the air pressure when your tires are cold. If the car has been in motion the air gets heated up and the pressure is inaccurate.
4. How to put air in your tire: Go to any gas station and you’ll find an air pump. Some may cost a few quarters while others are completely free. Remove the cap off your tire, attach the hose and flip the lever. Within seconds the tire will fill. Check the pressure and repeat with the other 3!
5. How to change your battery: Harsh winters can lead to dead batteries. So can inadvertently leaving your lights on all night. Even though it may be scary, changing a battery is actually one of the easiest things you can do to your own car and it will save you time and money. Not only that, returning your old battery to the auto parts store will usually save you money on your new battery.
How to change: Locate the battery. On most cars it will be very accessible, under the hood toward the front of the left side. (Your right if you are looking at the car.) Other cars actually have the battery located in the trunk. Simply locate the battery, using a wrench disconnect the terminal cables attached to the positive and negative terminals and remove. Then remove any brackets that are holding the battery in place. Once the battery is free, just lift it out of the car. Be careful when removing, the average car batter can weigh about 40 lbs, most of this weight being lead. Get the new battery, drop it in place and reconnect it the same way you removed the old one. Check for any corrosion on the terminal cables and clean them with a wire brush before reconnecting to ensure proper charge and flow from the battery to the engine.
For more information on replacing batteries, and how easy it is to do on your own, here’s a quick video that takes you step by step:
6. How to charge your car battery (or “jump” your car). This is another automotive technique every driver should learn before they get behind the wheel. You never know when you may leave your lights on while driving somewhere and come back to find your car dead in the parking lot. Every driver should have a pair of jumper cables handy. They also sell kits and power units that allow you to charge your own car battery without the assistance of another car.
For detailed instructions on how to charge a car battery using jumper cables click here: Guide to Jump-starting your car
7. How to change your car tire: Changing a car tire is not difficult at all, but many females will have problems with this simply because the lug nuts on the car may be rusted on or tightened very well, making it impossible to remove. Another concern is jacking the car up correctly. Most people, men included may be intimidated on how to use a jack, or may not know how to use it properly. Always consult your owner’s manual for proper use and placement of the jack before you attempt. Doing it wrong can be dangerous if not fatal. If you do it properly, there are no issues at all.
How to change your tire:
Step 1. Find a safe spot to pull over. If you're on the freeway, taking the next exit is the safest bet, even if you have to drive on a blown tire. Otherwise, pull as far onto the shoulder as possible. Don't park in the middle of a curve where approaching cars can't see you. Also, choose a flat spot; jacking up your car on a hill can be a disaster. If you have a manual transmission, leave your car in gear. Be sure to set your parking brake!
Step 2. Turn on your hazard lights. Get the jack, wrench, and spare tire from the trunk of the car and bring them over to the tire that is flat. Use other tools or supplies, if needed.
Step 3. Use the wrench to loosen the lug nuts. You may need to remove the hubcap. Don't remove the lug nuts at this point; simply loosen them by turning the wrench to the left (counter-clockwise). If the lug nuts are really tight, try placing the wrench on the nut and standing on the wrench arm to use your full weight on it. You can also try hitting the wrench arm with a rock.
Step 4. Use the jack to lift the vehicle off the ground. Different car models may have different places to put the jack; consult your owner's manual for specific locations. Once the jack is securely in the correct spot, jack up the car until the tire is about 6 inches off the ground.
Step 5. Remove the lug nuts and pull the tire off the car. Make sure to place the lug nuts in a pile that won't get scattered, and pull the tire straight toward yourself to remove it from the wheel base.
Step 6. Place the spare on the car. Line up the lug nut posts with the holes in the spare, and push the spare all the way onto the wheel base until it can't go any farther.
Step 7. Put on the lug nuts. Don't put them on tightly, just make sure they're on enough for the spare to stay on the car for a moment.
Step 8. Lower the car back to the ground. Use the jack to bring the car back down to ground level. Remove the jack from underneath the car.
Step 9. Make sure the lug nuts are tightened. With the car back on the ground, you can now tighten the lug nuts. Rather than tightening them one by one in order, start with one lug nut, tighten it about 50%, move to the opposite nut (across the circle) and tighten that one about the same amount. Keep tightening opposite lug nuts gradually in turn until each lug nut is as tight as it can be.
Step 10. Put your flat tire and tools back in your trunk. Make sure you don’t leave anything on the side of the road.
8. How to change your windshield wipers. Very easy to do. You have two options - you can change the wider blade itself or change the entire wiper blade with the wiper bar attached. Most people opt to change the entire wiper bar. All you have to do is unclip the wiper bar from the wiper arm (or wiper blade from the blade clamps) and go into the auto store and look up which wiper blades will fit your car. Take notice that on some cars, the right and left wiper blade arms and blades will actually be two different sizes. Bringing in the old ones helps you compare. After you get your new blades simply clip the wiper bar back onto the wiper arm (or slide the blade back into the wiper bar and secure it with the blade clamps) and you are all done! Make sure to remove any wiper blade covers from the blades before using! Some guys don't know to remove these. Trust me, I know!
9. How to check your coolant levels: As the name implies, coolant, aka antifreeze, keeps your car running cool. If you ever run low on coolant, your car's probably going to overheat. The coolant is inside you radiator and you can typically check it by simply removing the radiator cap when the car is cool (never check it when it’s hot or your car is running) and looking inside. Once you remove the cap you should see a line the coolant should come up to. If it’s low, you can add more, but make sure you add the same type of coolant currently in the car. Check your owner’s manual to be sure what type you have. It can be purchased at any auto store.
10. Wiper fluid: Simply check under your hood and locate the container with your wiper fluid. The cap will have a windshield log on it. Its typically plastic and very easy to see right through the container. The level will be listed on the outside. If the level is low, simply wait until your engine is cold, remove the cap and pour in more wiper fluid. The fluid can be purchased inexpensively at any auto store.
11. Changing a headlight bulb. On older models this may be tricker because they force you to replace an entire headlamp, but changing a headlight bulb couldn’t be easier on newer cars. Simply purchase the correct bulb for your car’s make and model at any auto store. Open the hood or trunk (depending on which light you are replacing) and look for the compartment that opens to the back of the head or tail light. It may be covered by a plastic hood, or simply be a wire leading into a screw that you can turn to pull the bulb and wire out, and remove the bulb. Replace with the new bulb and screw or snap the bulb back in place.
12. Charging your air conditioning: After awhile you may realize that your car’s AC isn’t as cold as it used to be. Auto shops can charge an arm and a leg to recharge your car’s air conditioning, but truth be told, you can do it yourself very easily for about $50.
Step 1. Go to an auto store and get the Refrigerant kit that is the right make and model for your car. It can cost anywhere between $30 and $80 depending on the size and type. The nozzle tends to be reusable for future recharging, allowing you to only have to purchase a canister next time.
Step 2. Assemble the dispenser - usually you have to put the cable and nozzle onto the can to allow you to recharge.
Step 3. Start your car engine and turn your A/C on to the maximum and your fan on to the maximum.
Step 4. Locate the low pressure port on the side of the A/C system. It will have an L printed on it. Remove the cap. Typically it will be located on the left side of the engine (while you are facing it). DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE IN YOUR ENGINE. Low pressure side hoses are fine, but the others along with all other engine parts can get hot.
Step 5: Attach freon can. You will want to do this quickly. Put the connector on the end of the L port and lift the sleeve off the connector. Squeeze the trigger for two seconds to release any air out of the hose. While still squeezing the trigger press the connector firmly down on the port, and release the outer sleeve so it snaps into place. Release the trigger and make sure the connector is attached firmly.
Step 6. Take your pressure reading to make sure you need recharging.
Step 7. Squeeze the trigger for 5-10 seconds shaking the can and tipping it but never turn it upside down.
Step 8. Wait 30 seconds for the pressure to equalize. Check the levels. If still too low, continue filling.
Step 9. Check the pressure one last time before removing the hose and replacing the port cover. Do not add too much refrigerant. Dispose of the empty cans properly.
It's not so bad to work on your own car. Want to get even crazier? Check out our website for more tips and Do-It-Yourself videos for car maintenance and repair. Also, YOUTUBE is a glorious resource for How To videos on everything automotive from how to wax your car to rebuilding your transmission. Carponents takes no responsibility for anything you may attempt to do on your own car so if you are unsure, please exercise caution and seek the help of a professional to learn these techniques properly, especially when it comes to jacking up a car or putting your hands near hot engine parts. Have fun and be safe!