13 Easy Auto Repairs
Family Handyman|June 2020
Simple solutions to save you money
By Jay Cork

If you’ve ever had to take your car to a mechanic (and who hasn’t?), you know that costs can easily spiral out of control, especially when you’re not sure what’s causing the problem. Here are solutions to some common (and not so common) issues. The goal is to save you money, or at least allow you to hold a more informed conversation with your mechanic.

Lightbulb burnout

Headlamps and lightbulbs are expensive, and it can be very frustrating when they keep blowing! This is often caused by handling the bulbs with bare hands. If we touch a headlight bulb, the oils on our skin will transfer to the glass. This will cause hot spots, resulting in a blown bulb. A loose ground, a shorted wire or even a small water leak can also cause bulbs to blow. If you find that you’re still blowing bulbs even after doing everything right, a faulty voltage regulator may be the culprit. Time for a visit to your mechanic.

A/C blows warm air

It’s no fun to turn on your A/C on that first hot summer day and discover ... hot air blowing out! Before you take it to the shop, I suggest trying to recharge the system yourself. Modern cars use R134 refrigerant, which is sold at all auto parts stores. Most brands offer refrigerant with a sealant added to help keep the system healthy. Buying a can with a gauge is absolutely worth the extra cost. It’s critical to monitor the pressure in the system while you add refrigerant, and you can keep it for next time. A large can with a gauge costs about $35. For complete instructions, go to familyhandyman.com and search for “charging AC.”

Stinky air conditioning

Does it smell a little musty when you turn on the air conditioning? You might simply need a new cabin air filter! Changing this filter is easy; they’re often located under the dashboard near the glove box or in the glove box itself. The dealership is always more than happy to do it for you, but you’ll pay a lot for the convenience. Expect to pay about $20 for cabin air filters.

Check tire tread

Tread depth is an important safety concern in wet or winter weather, but proper tread depth also contributes to shorter stopping distance, better gas mileage and a smoother ride. You don’t have to take your car in to determine when you need new tires. Just pick up a tire tread gauge ($6) at an auto store. If your tread measures 4/32 in. or less, it’s time for new tires.

The check engine light just came on

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