November 7th 2013 | Comments

How to service your own car

Recently, we found ourselves the owner of a car built by a noted French manufacturer. We’re not quite sure how this happened, for the Frenchman is no gentleman, nor do they – in the main – have much of an idea how to build a good automobile.

Keen on being the true British gent and do our own servicing, we looked under the bonnet to find that the engine was covered by a large metal plate and the notice “Keep your dirty hands out of here, you filthy Rostbif. This bit is for skilled hands only.” The metal shield had three holes in it, where they trusted you just enough to top up the oil, water and brake fluid.

We caved in and traded for something British. A Nissan. Alright, almost British.

The engine is open to the elements, and openly invites you to meddle with the moving parts. And no true gentleman should take to the road without knowing how to service their car.

We’ve spoken before on ideal books for gentleman, and here we would like to add one more: The Haynes manual for your car. It shows you everything you need to know about anything that could possibly go wrong, and how to fix it. When it becomes perfectly clear that you do not have the expertise, you can hand your machine over to the professionals, but for a few simple jobs, you should have no problem.

For example, changing the air filter takes no more than five minutes and can improve fuel consumption by a quarter. Just buy the right item, unclip the housing, and replace old for new. Done, and you’ll notice the difference straight way, particularly if the old one looks like you’ve just fished it out of the bottom of a swamp.

service your own car

More complicated, but no less satisfying, is changing your plugs and points. You’ll need some tools for this job, but little feels better than taking out the old plugs, setting the gap on the new ones, screwing them in tight, and the replacing the high tension leads. The sense of relief when you turn the key and the engine roars into life will keep you going for the whole week.

It’s sad that modern cars do so much to dissuade the owner from doing their own servicing. That’s why we deliberately drive an older model that appears to be falling to pieces. Never mind the 1997 plate, feel the quality.