Common car problems with DIY solutions

Cars are becoming ever more technologically advanced, and that means many of us rely heavily on mechanics when something goes wrong. There are, however, plenty of common problems that afflict our vehicles that we can deal with without the help of an expert.

Common car problems and how to fix them

Pic: Getty

So even if you're a motoring novice, here are a few of the issues you can fix yourself.

Flat tyre
Since most drivers are safe in the knowledge that a breakdown recovery service is on hand should they need one, even a flat tyre is enough to make us pick up the phone. The truth is that you could save yourself hours of roadside waiting if you changed it yourself.

Your car should be equipped with a good spare, along with car jack, lever and wheel brace, and that's all you need to get back on the road. As a general rule, it is easier to loosen the lug nuts while the car is still on terra firma, then jack it up on a stable part of the frame (if you have a manual, it will show you exactly where to place the jack).

Once the car is jacked, you can simply remove the nuts completely, take off the tyre and replace with the spare, and replacing and tightening the nuts. It really is a simple job, but for those of you who have yet to even look at the spare tyre, it is worth checking that all the necessary implements are close to hand, and that the key for locking wheel nuts (if you have alloy wheels) is also within easy reach. Of course, you'll need to get a new spare at the earliest opportunity.

Most modern cars may not have a spare wheel but have run flat tyres, so the driver can keep driving at a slower pace until they reach safety. Some cars have what's called a space saver which is a very small spare wheel and can only be used at low speeds and short distance.

Flat battery
There's nothing worse than jumping into the car, turning the ignition, only to find that the battery is flat. When this is the case, you'll find the car barely turns over, if at all, but to double check, switch on the lights and check to see if they are working. If not, the battery may be the problem. If the lights still work, it could be a problem with the starter motor and a mechanic should be next your port of call.

If you test the battery and find you need a new one, it should be easy to replace, as long as you know the make, model and engine size of the car. First, make sure the key is not in the ignition. With a new battery in hand, it's a case of removing the casing, and replacing the old battery and linking it up to the positive and negative cable clamps (there should be a plus or minus sign to show you which is which).

When fitting the new battery, make sure you don't touch together the two terminals by accident when tightening the terminal cables with your spanner. When you purchase the new battery it's worth asking if they will dispose of the old one for you.

It's always handy to keep a set of jump leads or a jump start power pack in the car so that you can get the vehicle running long enough to get to a garage.

Hanging mirrors
Anyone who parks their car regularly on the road will know all too well the frustration of finding their driver's or passenger side mirror hanging, limp and useless, on the side of the vehicle.

Car manufacturers make it more and more difficult to take inside trims apart but if the car has a Haynes manual, it's worth checking there first. As a general guideline, within the car is a triangular cover panel which, once removed, exposes screws so you can see what needs to be done.

Once you've bought your replacement mirror, unhook the cover panel and screws beneath, and remove the existing mirror. If you have electric side-view mirrors, there will be a power connector that plugs in. All that remains is to replace the cover panel and screw tight.

Dead headlights
A common cause of MOT failures, a dead headlight costs only a few pounds to replace if you do it yourself. Check your make, model and year before heading out to purchase a new one.

It's a good idea to invest in a Haynes manual for your particular car when changing a bulb, as location and disconnection can vary. Generally, though, you'll be able to see the rubber cover with the car bonnet up. From there, you will need to disconnect the wiring plug, remove the bulb holder, and then the bulb, either squeezing a spring clip to release it or pushing and rotating as you would a household lightbulb. Ensure that you fit the new bulb in exactly the same way, and Bob's your uncle - job done.

If you do plan on trying a simple motoring DIY job yourself, it is essential that the engine is inactive, and has been for some time to allow all parts to cool before you begin working on it. And if you have a manual, it's always worth having it close by.

Remember: Only tackle jobs if you're confident you can fix them - as mistakes could turn out to be costly in the long run. Also keep in mind that safety procedures should be followed (beyond the remit of this short feature) when changing a tyre and fixing your vehicle.

Do you fix your own car? What are your top tips for DIY success? Leave your comments below...