The most frequent excuse for the poor maintenance of a vehicle is lack of time. Work, family, various commitments, everything contributes to taking away the few minutes which would be sufficient to use the parking spot by the house to carry out those little jobs which do not necessarily require the services of a mechanic. And if there were no “problem of time”? It is not necessary to be odd-job, mechanical or electrical professionals, in order to derive pleasure from this activity; all you need is a little manual dexterity. Not least because it is often the law which defines the limits beyond which drivers are not allowed to go, for safety reasons.
DIY yes, but not for everything
There are certain national standards in place which dictate the regulations. In Italy, for example, the law sets out that all vehicle repairs and services must be undertaken by suitable workshops, but excluded from this list are “the activities of washing, refilling with fuel, and the replacement of the air filter, of the oil filter, of the engine oil and of other lubricant or cooling liquids, which in each case must be carried out in due compliance with the relevant standards in matters of atmospheric pollution and the disposal of waste”. Nevertheless, the possibilities go well beyond this, since you can also deal with the bodywork and the interior, with results which can prove truly gratifying.
We start with tyres and oil
In order to gain confidence and a taste for the job, you can start with the most elementary and economical checks, which have the potential to avoid serious and costly damage. Such as checking the tyre pressure or the degree of wear on the treads (Read more: How to identify worn out tyres) of the four tyres (five if there is a spare tyre, which must not be overlooked), or the topping up of liquids, all of which is fundamental. Starting with the engine oil, which on modern cars enjoys extended periods before it needs changing, between 15 and 30,000 kilometres, or alternatively every year. The due dates for replacement are indicated by the manufacturer, sometimes with reminders from the dashboard, and should certainly not be disregarded, especially the expiry times for those who use the car for short journeys. Because intermittent driving, with an engine which does not always reach its ideal operating temperature, is more stressful for the oil, which deteriorates more rapidly.
OK, the level is correct
Topping up is a simple operation, because the cap is easily identifiable, and big, and can be reached without difficulty. However you need to ensure that you do not over-fill, because this could damage the engine, starting with a blockage of the airbox. It is not therefore necessary to fill the receptacle up to the rim; the ideal level is indicated by a notch on the dip-stick, which should be removed and re-inserted several times into the body of the engine in order to check the right quantity.
It is time for a change
It is a little more complex to make a complete oil change, as the plug on the engine's oil sump which you use to empty it can be reached easily only if the car is on a ramp in a workshop. With a little effort you can unscrew it also by stretching out beneath the car, but two items are a fundamental requirement: a good-quality spanner, in order not to strip the head of the screw, and having the car on a level surface, in order to promote a complete emptying. The emptying process should be carried out when the engine is warm, by slowly unscrewing the plug and placing a suitable container beneath the hole. Once the emptying process has been completed, the plug should be screwed back in after it has been cleaned and after replacing the brass washer. The quantity to be refilled is the amount indicated in the service manual.
Responsible waste disposal
But beware, as set down in the law, that used engine oil is considered to be dangerous waste. If it is disposed of incorrectly or used inappropriately it is in every aspect an extremely strong pollutant. Indeed, four kilos of engine oil poured into water can contaminate an area equal to that of a football pitch. For this reason it must not be poured down a drain cover, and the disposal must take place using the centres of the appropriate recycling consortium, by taking the sealed container to an authorised discharge centre.