How to Service Your Vehicle

For many of us, servicing your own car is something that we leave to the professionals, but it needn’t be that way. There are some very good reasons why you should consider servicing your own vehicle and they all make very good sense. This article explains why that is the case and describes the processes behind a typical vehicle service.

Why Should You Service Your Own Vehicle?
Nowadays, most vehicles are incredibly tough and far less maintenance is required in comparison to thirty years ago. But you should still ensure that your car receives a proper service when the handbook dictates. If you start to miss these recommended dates and opt for a longer period between services, your vehicle may start to develop issues. If you are concerned about the costs of paying for a garage to carry out the service on your behalf, why not look into another option?  Millions of motorists service their own vehicles and if they can do it, why can’t you?

Service Intervals
Modern vehicles are designed to take a lot of punishment, but when the basic maintenance is ignored, they soon begin to malfunction. If you are unsure of when your car or van requires a service, consult the handbook and you’ll soon find out. A general rule of thumb is every 6000-10000 miles or every year if you cover less mileage. You don’t need to be an expert to carry out the service, but some basic skills and the right tools will certainly help. You should try and keep an afternoon or morning free for this activity and never try to rush a vehicle service.

Ensure that you have all of the correct tools before starting the service procedure, your local Fiat or Alfa Romeo parts shop should be able to advise you on the exact specifications. Here is a list of the bare minimum toolset that you should have to hand for your vehicle service:
  • Oil filter removal tool
  • Spark plug spanner
  • Basic screwdriver set
  • Car jack/Axle stands
  • Oil catch pan
  • Basic socket set
  • Feeler gauge
Service Parts
As well as the proper tools for the job, you will also need the correct service parts for your vehicle. Check your handbook for the exact sizes and specification required, but if you are in any doubt please speak to your local Fiat or Alfa Romeo spare parts centre. Here is a list of the required service parts for most cases:
  • Engine oil – ensure this is the right type for your vehicle
  • Oil and air filter
  • Anti-freeze coolant
  • Spark plugs
Ensure that you have a clear area for your vehicle service and keep at least 3 hours for this activity. Start your engine and run it for about 10 minutes before you begin, this will make the oil change easier. If you need to jack up your vehicle, please check that the ground area is level and try to do this away from the road if possible.

Oil Change
It is generally best to tackle this job first, as mentioned previously, warm the car up prior to this job as it will make the oil easier to flow out of the engine. Jack the car up first and use axle stands for your safety, keep the handbrake on for the most stable results. Remove the oil cap and put it somewhere safe. Place the oil catcher underneath the sump plug and put on some gloves. You’ll need to get under the car now and ensure that you are comfortable in confined spaces before tackling the next phase. Locate the sump plug and select the correct socket, loosen the plug and as the oil starts to drain, make sure that the oil catcher is in the right place. Cleaning dirty oil from your driveway or garage floor is no joke, and the oil will be very warm so avoid any extra contact for safety’s sake. Locate the oil filter and remove carefully using the removal tool, and again you should position the oil catcher carefully. Allow the oil about 5-10 minutes to drain fully and refit the sump plug, and then remove the oil catcher once the oil sump plug is back in place. Following the handbook, pour the fresh oil in carefully and try not to spill any. Replace the oil cap and start the engine up, run for 10 minutes to ensure the new oil is distributed around the engine nicely.

Spark plugs
Ensure that the engine is not too hot and select the correct spark plug spanner, remove the individual lead and remove the plug carefully. Disconnect the plug from the lead and attach the new spark plug. Ensure that the gap is the same as the handbook, and use your feeler gauge to check this distance. If the gap is incorrect, use a small hammer and the gauge to correct this. Use the spark plug spanner to refit the plug, but ensure that you do not over-tighten it. Repeat this until all of your spark plugs are replaced, but keep the old plugs to one side for later disposal.

Air Filter
This is the easiest part of the vehicle service, but is just as important as the rest of the process. Locate the air-filter and remove the dirty filter, simply replace it with the new one and ensure the unit is clipped in place correctly. Even if the filter looks clean enough, a lot of the dust and grime will be hidden under the surface.

For the final part of the service, you need to ensure that the engine is nice and cool, or otherwise the coolant will be hot and could cause a safety issue. Locate the radiator drain plug and use a catch object before undoing the plug. Once you are sure that all of the coolant has drained, refit the plug and put the contents away to dispose of later. Ensure that you mix the fresh coolant with water to achieve the correct percentage mixture. This can alter depending on the seasonal temperature.

Waste disposal
It is very important to dispose of all of the waste from your vehicle service in a responsible manner. The oil should be taken to your nearest waste oil recycling bank and the remainder should be treated as landfill waste.

Enjoy your vehicle
Before your next journey, it is worth checking for any leaks that may have arisen and double check that the floor is nice and coolant/oil free. Now you are free to enjoy your nicely serviced car until the next service interval. Remember to mote the mileage and date and keep all of the receipts in case you decide to sell your vehicle in the near future.

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