Advanced Winter jobs to take on

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If you're a competent DIYer, and fancy tackling some more advanced jobs on your car to save money and get the satisfaction of having done them yourself, you’ll love this list of jobs you can do this weekend.

Inspect and replace the battery

There are basic battery testers available to check the condition of your car battery, and the alternator, or you could purchase a multimeter which will do the same job and also be useful for diagnosing other electrical issues with your car.

Leave the car overnight before you check the output of the battery, so you're testing it in its 'resting' state. Testers usually indicate the condition of the battery with a series of coloured LEDs, and with a multimeter you should be getting a reading of no less than 12.6volts. With the engine running that figure should jump to between 13.8-14.4volts.

If the battery is charging correctly (13.8-14.4volts) but the battery is not holding a charge (bear in mind that a reading of 12.4volts means the battery is only 50% charged) then you need to look a replacement.

To replace the battery simply remove the leads on the existing battery, and the battery clamp (usually one bolt) and refit the new battery.

Handy parts and tools

Expert tip

If you don't know the code for your headunit, or want to preserve the car's electrical settings invest in a simple battery memory saver.

Inspect, service or replace your brakes

While you can often check the basic condition of your brakes with the wheels in situ - it's best to jack the car up, secure it on axle stands, and remove the wheels in order to do a full inspection.

With the road wheel removed, check the pads for even wear (cars with single piston calipers often wear more on one pad than the other, and it's often the inner pad which is hard to check with the wheels in place).

Check carefully as they can also wear in a 'wedge' shape, and appear to be ok at first glance. If any area of the pad is 3mm or less then replace. Always replace the pads as a full set across an axle, never just do one side.

Check the condition of the discs to make sure they're not too worn - if the pad isn’t in contact with the disc correctly there may be a rusty area around the disc face (commonly on the rear discs).

Replace the discs and pads if so. There may well be a small 'lip' at the edge of the disc which is to be expected, but a pronounced lip indicates the disc is overly worn and in need of replacement. If the disc face is very grooved, or scored, it also points to excessive wear. As with pads, always replace discs in pairs and don't reuse the old pads.

If you have rear drums it's wise to periodically remove the drum, check the condition of the wheel cylinders (to make sure they're not leaking) and clean the inside with brake cleaner. If the rear shoes are excessively worn, or scored then replace while you're at it.

Handy parts and tools

Carry out an oil change

Changing the car's oil is simple task, which you can carry out at home. First buy the correct oil and filter for your car, and it makes sense to buy a new drain plug washer (or a drain plug if you're feeling flush) while you're at it.

When you have everything you need, jack the car up and secure on axle stands. Locate the oil drain plug (which can sometimes be hidden behind an undertray which you'll need to remove first).

Once located remove the oil filler cap and put a suitable container or oil drainer underneath the drain point. Remove the plug and allow all the oil to drain out - or at least as much as you can get out. Some people prefer to use an engine flush first, but that's optional.

You'll also need to remove the oil filter. These should only ever be hand tight, so should be removable with a pair of rubber gloves and a firm hand. If it's not for budging then you can get an oil filter wrench which can come in very handy!

Fit the new oil filter (after first smearing some clean oil around the rubber seal), refit the drain plug (not forgetting the washer) and refill the oil using a funnel to the correct level. It's always best to check the level frequently as you're re-filling – it's easy to add more, but a pain to drain some out if you go too far and overfill.Replace the oil cap, start the car, and check for leaks. Tighten the plug or filter if necessary. Don't forget to refit the undertray!

Expert tip

Warm the engine first - but NOT hot - More oil will drain out, and more quickly than if it was less viscous cold oil.

Handy parts and tools

Replace the auxiliary/serpentine belt

Not to be confused with the timing belt, aux belts were once called fan belts, as they just powered the fan and/or the alternator. But on modern cars aux belts also power the water pump, air con pump, power steering pump, and alternator. They go round a series of pulleys, and a tensioner pulley (which as the name suggests keeps the belt at the correct tension).

The ease of replacement depends on access - on some cars it's straightforward, while on others it can be a dismantling nightmare so we'd advise Googling the job first to make sure it's within your ability.

Once you've got access to the belt it's a matter of loosening the tensioner to a point where the old belt can be slipped off, and replacing the new one the same way. Some cars require an aux belt tool to loosen the tensioner, and if one is available then buying it could save you a lot of agro.

Expert tip

Draw a plan of the route of the belt BEFORE you remove it. The layout can be quite confusing, and guessing where it goes can be tricky.

Handy parts and tools

Diagnose running faults

The beauty of modern cars is that the engine's ECU is a clever bit of kit. Not only can it control a myriad of functions to make sure your car runs like a dream, but it can also tell you what's wrong with the car in the event of you experiencing running issues.

Often the car will 'flag up' a problem by illuminating a 'check engine' warning light on the dash (there is no industry standard so check what your car's tell-tale is). The car may also go into what's called 'limp mode'.

This is where the ECU retards the engine to safeguard it, giving you just enough power to get the car to a safe place to call for help. When either of these things happens the car will log a fault code, and this code will help pinpoint where the issue is.

Garages can charge handsomely to read these fault codes as they have very sophisticated equipment that they need to pay for, but actual DIY OBD code readers are surprisingly cheap and if you buy one it will pay for itself the first time you use it!

To use it you need to locate your car's On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) port (Google the location for your car!) it should be accessible from the driver's seat without the need for tools.

Once you've found it plug the code reader in and turn the ignition on. If you have any fault codes they will most likely begin with a P followed by four digits - so P1121, or P0217 etc. Google the code and it will help direct you to the problem, whether it's a sensor, a relay or something else electrical. You can then swap out the problem part, clear the code and you're good to go.

Expert tip

Always keep your code reader in your car. It can be invaluable if you break down miles from home!

Handy parts and tools

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