Altering the oil, headlights, and brake pads: what you may repair your self in vehicles

“Now I’ll Help Myself”, “This Is It Done” or simply “Repair Instructions” used to be the names of some standard bookshelf work when it comes to saving money and doing your own work on the car. With modern cars, it’s not that easy anymore.

Electronics have replaced mechanical components in many places. But saving by screwing up can work. Even modern cars still offer the ability to do some maintenance yourself, says Malte Dringenberg of the Automobile Club of Germany (AvD).

“However, the prerequisite is minimal manual skills and appropriate equipment.” The spectrum ranges from changing the oil to checking windshield wipers and replacing brake pads—”it requires solid specialist knowledge,” says Dringenberg.

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The most common work drivers do themselves is changing windshield wipers and replacing lights, says Holger Ebben of Auto Zeitung. The trade magazine has noted a general increase in car hobbies over the past two years.

“During the Corona period, people are more interested in their cars again, which indicates a significant increase in demand from sellers of spare parts,” says Eben.

Car repair by yourself

There are also more garage meetings where like-minded people gather to work on their cars. “Most of the time there’s at least one person out there who has specialized knowledge, because without that you don’t have to mess with your brake or exhaust system,” says Holger Eben.

However, sometimes even a job that is supposed to be as simple as changing the bulbs on some vehicles is difficult. “It works well with European types of vehicles, less so with English and Japanese vehicles, and with luxury vehicles sometimes need special tools.”

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On Saturday (07.01.2012) two cars were intriguingly installed on - or rather next to - the car park in Much (Rhein-Sieg region).  When parking, the 79-year-old driver probably confused the brake pedal with the accelerator pedal and caused some €37,000 in damage.  Photo: Rhein Sage Police Department |  Worldwide use

Hands-on driver classics include an oil change, a wheel change and minor paint damage repair. But even just filling up wiper water saves money, because garages often charge twice the product price for a windshield cleaner.

After repairing the car in the specialized workshop

However, sometimes a well-thought-out fix turns out to be the opposite. For example, when a hobbyist reaches his limits. “Then you have to first invest time and money in screwing it up yourself, and eventually the car has to be fixed by a specialized workshop,” says Eben.

A cabin filter for a Mercedes costs about 40 euros. If you know how to change the filter, you can save a lot of money. Because sometimes a specialized workshop is charged for this purpose 160 euros.

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But without manual skills, amateurs quickly reached their limits. Self-service workshops can be a good and inexpensive address for all types of business. They rent fully equipped work platforms by the hour or day.

“Especially in urban areas, this particular form of workshop has experienced a renaissance in recent years,” says Dringenberg. These self-help workshops are usually found in commercial areas on the outskirts of the city.

What about the warranty if I do the tightening myself?

However, personal business must remain manageable, especially with younger vehicles, in order not to jeopardize any warranty claims. “Often, manufacturers will require maintenance and repairs to be done by a specialist brand company in order to support claims,” says Daniela Melchin, an attorney who specializes in traffic law.

If inspections are always carried out in an authorized workshop according to the checkbook, the owner can also change the lamp or filter without losing the warranty.

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“In principle, every owner is free to maintain and repair his car as he pleases.” Action like this will have no effect on any warranty claims in any event.

“As part of the warranty, the seller is responsible for defects that were already present at the time of delivery,” Mielchen says. So this relates to the damage that was already there when buying a car.

However, the expert advises to refrain from “self-repair” of any kind, especially for rental vehicles. “Here, the renter usually undertakes the vehicle to be serviced and repaired by a specialist company,” she says. Anyone who still reaches out may be in breach of contract. This may lead to problems when returning the rental car.

Modern electronics in the car

Modern vehicles have more electronics, so they generally offer less DIY capabilities. But that doesn’t stop ingenious inventors from taking a different look into the car’s depths, as Holger Eben knows: “Electronics has long been a taboo. There are now diagnostic devices with prices starting at €25 that anyone can use to access the OBD II interface under the wheel leadership,” he says.

What you can do in the car by yourself

Using special devices, you can get an overview before visiting the workshop using the OBD II interface

Source: dpa-tmn / Robert Gunther

In this way, for example, all existing fault codes can be read before visiting the workshop. “If, for example, a brake warning light appears in the cockpit, this OBD II tester can be used to find out more about them, for example whether there is a defect or whether the wear limit has been reached,” Eben says.

Using such a device, drivers will be able to drive to the workshop with a certain information feature. This way they can provide more accurate information about what needs to be fixed. This also saves money.

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Under no circumstances should drivers of electronic cars or hybrid vehicles interfere with components marked in orange. “High voltage current is flowing through these parts or cables, and it’s dangerous to help here,” Dringenberg says. Even in specialized workshops, work on these components should be carried out only by appropriately trained personnel.

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