Do You Know the Basics of DIY Car Repair?


By: Steven Symes

7 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

Can you change your own oil, or are you running to a quick-lube shop every 3,000 miles? Know where the cabin air filter goes, or what the recommended pressure for your tires is? Can you replace your brake pads when they start to squeal? If you consider yourself a car repair master, take this quiz to test your DIY car repair IQ!

Everyone has different preferences regarding car styles and colors, but there's one thing everyone can agree on -- cars are expensive! In fact, the average person spends more than $9,000 a year on their car, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of those costs are obvious, like just under $2,000 a year for gas, and $3,600 for payments or money down. The rest is stuff you might not think of when budgeting for your vehicle, but these costs add up to more than $3,000 per year and include not only routine maintenance, but also unexpected expenses like a blown engine or oil leak.

The good news is that you can reduce these costs with a bit of elbow grease. While they may seem intimidating, many basic car maintenance tasks are surprisingly simple -- especially with online resources like YouTube videos to guide you through the process. Doing the job yourself will not only help you save money, you'll also save time and avoid unscrupulous mechanics trying to charge you for fixes you don't need. Above all, you'll get a feeling of pride and satisfaction from a job well done. 

Think you've got what it takes to fix a flat or replace an alternator? Take our quiz to find out!

Warming up an engine briefly before changing the oil is:

When oil is cold, it doesn't flow freely. Since the oil in your engine can contain all kinds of contaminants, plus has lost viscosity, you want to heat up the engine for only a couple of minutes before starting , ensuring it will flow out freely. You don't need to run the car for a long time, since heating everything up to normal operating temperature isn't necessary.


Do you need to only use OEM parts for vehicle repairs?

You do need to be careful which aftermarket parts you use, since not all are made equal. Some aftermarket parts are designed and manufactured to work just as well, and sometimes even better than OEM components, meaning they're more than suitable for a repair.


What should you use to support your car while you climb underneath?

Jacks, no matter the type, aren't designed to keep your car stable, which is why you should use jack stands since they're made to prevent accidents. If you have vehicle ramps, those work as well. Of course, a lift is ideal, but most people don't have access to one.


Why do headlight lenses become cloudy, without any water inside the housing?

The plastic headlight lenses oxidize just like all other plastics, from exposure to the sun's rays. You can buy a kit at the store to remove the oxidization and restore the look of your headlights, which improves forward visibility. Some people swear by using toothpaste or other common materials to remove the oxidization.


Do you need to flush your coolant periodically?

Even though modern cars don't overheat as often, flushing the coolant is still necessary. If fact, all the aluminum components in modern vehicles need better corrosion resistance, which fresh coolant provides. Check in the owner's manual to see how often the manufacturer recommends doing flushes, and follow that schedule.


How often should you change your cabin air filter?

It might seem like a small thing, but a clogged cabin air filter can put serious strain on the air conditioning system. Clogged filters also cut down on the flow of hot air entering the interior in the winter. Staying on top of this simple maintenance item makes a huge impact.


How do you repair a broken defroster grid on a car's back window?

The defroster grid on your back window can be easily damaged, which leads to frost, fog, etc. accumulating on the glass. Repair kits cost little, and are simple enough to use that anyone can successfully take on this DIY job.


Why does the order that you torque wheel lug nuts matter?

You should use an accurate torque wrench to torque each lug nut. Always torque the lug nuts in a crisscross pattern, after you've tightened them by hand. Not tightening them properly can make your wheel come loose, while over tightening might damage the lugs, bolts, brakes, etc.


Over inflating your tires will result in what?

Over-inflating your tires not only makes them wear faster, it also increases the harshness of the ride quality. If you roll over debris or a pothole, an over-inflated tire is more likely to sustain damage. One advantage of over-inflating your tires is improved steering response and handling, which is why it's a popular tactic in motorsports.


Why should you keep your wheels clean?

Just like the body of your car, most modern wheels have a finish, plus most are painted. If you neglect the wheels by not washing them regularly, the finish and paint will wear off. You can add more protection by periodically waxing your wheels, plus using a tar and bug remover as needed.


Which of the following should you never do with a stuck bolt or screw?

A stuck bolt or screw can be maddening to deal with. Instead of giving up, tightening it slightly or tapping on it with a hammer can break loose any corrosion on the threads, so it will start moving again. Letting a penetrating lubricant sit and work its way around the threads will also make the job that much easier.


Which of the following isn't a proven way to fix dents in your car?

Dents look horrible, but you can repair them pretty easily with the proper methods. Just remember, if you use dry ice, wear protective gloves and goggles, because the stuff is extremely cold. When heating up the dented panel, pay close attention to the paint, or you could cause serious damage.


The first step to swapping old brake pads for new ones is?

You can't effectively remove the wheels with the lug nuts tightened, and you can't loosen those once the car is up in the air, unless you have air tools. All you need to do is loosen the lug nuts before you jack the car up and put it on stands, then remove the wheel and start working on the brakes.


What are the three things your engine needs to run?

Your engine works through the basic principles of combustion. That means it needs fuel, or there's nothing to burn and the engine won't run. A spark catches the fuel on fire, and the air feeds oxygen to keep that fire going.


Thrust angle, caster, toe, and camber are all measurements of what?

Wheel alignment is actually a combination of factors involving numerous angles associated with your car's suspension. You might notice some symptoms of a poor alignment, like uneven tire wear or the steering pulling to one side.


Where do you find the paint code for your vehicle?

Most modern cars have the paint code listed on the sticker in the driver's door jamb, while some list it next to the VIN number you can see at the bottom corner of the windshield. Depending on your vehicle, it might also be listed on the inside of the glove box, on the passenger side sun visor, or in the spare tire area.


How often should you change your car's oil?

It used to be the rule that cars needed oil changes every 3,000 miles. Thanks to modern innovations, that's no longer the case. Some can go well over 10,000 miles between oil changes. The manufacturer will list in the owner's manual how often you should be changing the oil, which is the recommendation you should follow.


Do you need to set the gap on new spark plugs?

Spark plug manufacturers might make the same plug to fit in dozens or even hundreds of engines. That means the spark plugs might already be gapped to the manufacturer's recommendations, or they might not. The only way to check that is with a gap tool, which helps you gently make adjustments, if necessary.


Which of the following is not a possible benefit of throttle body cleanings?

Over time, dirt, varnish, and other debris can collect on a throttle body, making your engine run rougher than it should. You can clean it with a special spray, but it's something you need to use outside since the chemicals are pretty harsh.


Which is best to use for washing your car?

While other soaps might be strong enough to remove grime and old wax buildup, they can also harm your car's paint and finish. Instead of taking that risk, use soap made specifically for cars. You can get a big bottle at the auto parts store, and it's cheap.


Besides wear and tear, what causes wiper blades to leave streaks on your windshield or back window?

Sometimes people replace the wiper blades, when all they need is a good cleaning. Lift up each wiper and run a microfiber cloth along the blade's edge to remove whatever dirt and grime has built up over time. Many times that will fix the streaking problem.


How often should you check the tire pressure on your car?

Thanks to air seepage and changes in ambient temperature, you should be checking your tire pressure often. This will ensure you catch pressure fluctuations before they cause problems. Your tires will last longer, and you'll get better fuel economy, too.


How often should you wax your car?

Heat, rain, pollutants, etc. take a toll on wax, which actually shields your paint from all that damage. You don't have to use a paste wax each time, because plenty of the liquid waxes work just as well, and they're easier to deal with.


Which activity should you avoid when trying to remove a stain from cloth upholstery?

When you rub a stain, it can set in the upholstery, so it may never come out. Heat will do the same thing. It's a good idea to apply Scotch Guard or something similar to your seats, carpeting, etc. before you spill something that could stain them, making your cleanup efforts more likely to succeed.


When installing a halogen light on your car, what should you avoid doing?

The oils on your skin contacting the quartz glass can cause hot spots, even if your hands are clean. The result is the glass will crack or bubble, and some of the halogen gas leaks out. You'll notice the bulb doesn't last as long, which costs you more money.


What is the most common cause of a car heater blowing cold air?

Because your heater literally is powered by the coolant, low levels can mean you get cold air instead of hot. Check the overflow reservoir for the coolant system. If it's low, carefully open it up and add a mixture of water and coolant to the marked level on the reservoir.


How can you clean debris out of windshield washers?

Dirt, road salt and other debris can get inside the nozzles, but periodic cleanings will remove the blockages. While you're at it, point the nozzles so they spray the windshield, instead of overshooting and giving the car behind you an unwanted shower.


What color is fresh transmission fluid?

If you're not sure about the condition of your transmission fluid, check the color on the dipstick. Anything but red means it's becoming contaminated and likely should be changed out. Let some of the fluid drip onto a white paper towel, if you're having trouble distinguishing the color.


How can you keep door locks from freezing in the winter?

The little red tube that comes with WD40 bottles is perfect for squirting the lubricant into lock cylinders. Just remember to move the dust shield aside first, giving the tube free access.


What can you do to keep doors and windows from freezing shut in cold weather?

You should apply the silicone before you experience problems, If you wait until a door or window won't budge, you'll need to find a way to thaw out the weatherstripping before you can use this trick.


Why do exhaust systems sag?

The rubber hangers for your exhaust system can crack and break over time. Replacing them is a cheap and easy project anyone who isn't afraid to get under the car can do, and your exhaust will stop flopping all over the place.


What government agency provides recall information for every vehicle?

No matter how old or new your car is, going to will provide all the recall information you need. Having the VIN handy makes the process easier, although you can still look everything up by make and model.


What is the easiest way to clean battery terminals?

If you haven't picked up a battery terminal cleaning tool, they're affordable and super effective. Corrosion on battery terminals can cause all kinds of electrical problems with your car, including it not starting. It really pays to keep the battery terminals clean.


What should you put around the seal on the open end of an oil filter before installing it?

Every time you put a new oil filter on your car, remember this step. Forgetting to put oil on the seal could lead to the filter fusing to the car. After paying to have that mistake fixed, you probably won't forget again.


Before working on the electrical system, what do you need to do?

The single biggest risk to working on the electrical system for your car is electrical shock. When you disconnect the negative battery terminal, most of the electricity in the system stops flowing through. The negative terminal is labeled with the color black and a minus sign.


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