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6 Most Common Car Problems You Can Repair Yourself

Without fail, the one time you need to get somewhere quickly is exactly when you’ll run into car trouble. But have no fear! Most common car problems are things you can fix yourself with just a few simple tools you likely already have around the house. Here are the top six most common breakdown issues and ways you can avoid and repair them yourself.

1. Dead Battery

If you left your headlights on and drained the battery while you were in the grocery store, then a jump pack can get your car started in a matter of minutes. Simply connect the positive lead to the appropriate terminal on the battery, connect the negative lead to an engine ground or the chassis (NOT the negative battery terminal), turn on the pack and start your car. Once used, put your jump pack on the included charger overnight to recharge it for next time.

No jump pack? Hopefully you keep a set of jumper cables in the trunk. You will need a friendly neighbor or kind passerby to supply a second vehicle for the battery jump. Connect the jumper cables to the appropriate terminals on the helper vehicle first. Take care to keep the clamps from touching at the dead vehicle end. Connect the positive jumper clamp to the dead battery  positive post and connect the negative cable clamp to a grounded  metal component on the engine (like a front engine drive accessory bracket). Crank the helper vehicle and let it charge the dead battery for five minutes, then try and crank the dead vehicle. Once it is running disconnect the jumper cables in reverse order, again taking care to not let the clamps touch while energized.

2. Flat TireYou can fix your own flat easily.

Oftentimes, a flat tire is the result of running over a nail or object that punctures the tire. Of course you can always replace your flat tire with the spare donut in your car, but if you keep a can of tire sealant in your spare tire well, you can temporarily repair the full size tire and inflate it all at once and be on your way. Tire sealant not only covers up the puncture, but it also inflates the tire and allows you to get the car safely to your local mechanic for further repair or replacement. Once you have arrived safely at your preferred tire shop, make sure to let them know you have used tire sealant so they can be prepared for any messy residue. You can then have the tire professionally patched or replaced.

3. Headlight Bulb

Bulb replacement is easy to perform, especially if you keep a spare pack of bulbs in your glove box. Every car may differ slightly, so be sure to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions. To change headlights on most cars, open your hood and, from the back of the lamp assembly, remove the rubber boot that protects the headlight. Unplug the wire harness and release the clip that holds the bulb in place. Be sure not to touch the glass part of your new bulb with your finger, as the oil from your hand can cause it to burn out prematurely. Replace the bulb in reverse order. When in doubt simply refer to your owner’s manual to learn exactly how to change the bulb on your exact vehicle.

4. Wiper Blades

Keeping a spare set of wiper blades in the trunk of your car will help keep you safe when you discover your old ones are no longer effective when it’s already pouring out. To replace the blade, slide the small clip that attaches the blade to the wiper arm down and discard the old blade. Now install your new blade into the same groove, making sure it clicks into place. Make sure to replace your wiper blade with the exact same length as specified in your owner’s manual for optimum performance.

5. Hose Leak

Over time, your radiator hoses can dry out and leak, causing your car to overheat. When this happens, a hose repair kit comes in handy and can get you back on the road quickly. First, allow the engine to cool down, then use a knife to cut out the leaking section of hose at two spots across from each other. Apply the included rubber cement to the coupling in the kit that fits your hose, and then install it along with the included clamps. With the hose repaired, you can make the trip to your local NAPA AutoCare facility to have the hose replaced entirely.

6. Blown Fuse

If something electrical in your vehicle suddenly stops working, it might be a blown fuse. Check your owner’s manual to find the location of your fuse box (there may be more than one). Your owner’s manual will also help you identify which fuse powers which components. Typically there is also a diagram on the lid of the fuse box. Start by removing the fuse. Some vehicles have a handy fuse puller tool included, otherwise use a small pair of pliers or even just your fingers. Most fuses can be checked by holding them up to a light. If the wire inside the fuse is broken or the fuse is discolored, it is likely blown. Replace the fuse with the exact same amperage rating fuse. The fuse blew for a reason and using a higher amperage fuse could cause greater damage.

Sometimes common car problems are as simple to repair as having the right tools on hand. Keeping a jump pack and a few other small items in your trunk can get you off the side of the road quickly and safely. It just takes a few minutes to stop by your local NAPA Auto Parts store and stock up on a few key emergency repair parts.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on avoiding common car trouble, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy of Morgue File.

Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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