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DIY Tips from Raymond Cox, ASE Master Mechanic and Longtime Valvoline Motor Oil User

By on July 30, 2014

I started my automotive service career in the early 70s, working part-time while attending college. I found that I truly enjoyed fixing cars and decided to become a certified technician; eventually, I was promoted to repair shop manager. To help consumers find trustworthy repair shops, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was formed, developing curriculum and testing processes to certify automotive technicians. Although I retired from wrenching professionally, I still have my ASE Master Certification, give advice to consumers, and help out my family whenever I can.

Valvoline motor oil has been a part of my family for over 75 years! My dad, who also worked in the automotive industry, introduced me to Valvoline and I still use their products today. I’m frequently asked questions about auto repair and maintenance and I want to share some DIY tips that I think everyone with a car can use:

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Here are my top DIY tips:

  1. Learn to change your own oil: it’s the easiest way to learn the condition of your vehicle. Working from the top and bottom of the engine compartment you can see the most important and expensive part of your car – the motor. It really is an easy job that will take a new DIY’er less than an hour to complete. While under the hood, take a few moments to take note of the engine compartment’s condition. Also check the vital fluids including your coolant, power steering, and brake fluid.
  2. Get to know your owners manual: while a modern motor can be intimidating to a newbie, most of the key components and their functions are the same. Unfortunately, most manufacturers have obscured, hidden or eliminated many of the basic components (including dipsticks and spark plug wires) in the name of efficiency, fuel economy and emissions requirements. Take a look at these two 6-cylinder motors and you will see what I mean.

    Here’s a 1973 engine compartment:

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    And here’s one from 2011:

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    While these two engines are nearly 40 years apart, knowing where the essential parts are located and being able to check fluid levels are critical in getting the most life from your vehicle.

  3. Check your tires with a quality tire pressure gauge monthly: Consult your owner’s manual for the correct PSI: the number on the side of the tire isn’t always correct for the vehicle. Whenever you’re filling your gas tank, take a walk around your vehicle and look at all four tires for any signs of damage.
  4. Know what your vehicle sounds and feels like when it’s healthy: Over time, it’ll be easier to pick out a new squeak, squeal, clunk, thunk or grinding noise and guess where it may be coming from. Also, note the speed or RPM at which you hear the sound. If the diagnosis and repair is beyond your skill level, your mechanic will appreciate the help narrowing the potential problem areas to investigate.
  5. Keep records: by keeping track of your last oil change, tire rotation and alignment, etc., you’ll easily add value to your car. Whether your ride is a box stock sedan or a sweet sports car; nothing increases the value of your vehicle more than proof of upkeep. Note the mileage on the receipt for the oil and filter and put it in a file for safekeeping – it’s just that easy. Whenever I help a friend or neighbor with a vehicle pre-purchase inspection, I always look for a manila folder or envelope with the critical receipts documenting regular oil changes and basic car care.
  6. See a professional when you don’t have the technology, tools or patience to tackle a problem: As we saw above, modern engines are marvelous things, producing more power and MPG’s with fewer emissions and increased reliability in a smaller package than ever before. The “check engine” light can represent a myriad of issues that may require an OBD-II code reader to make sense of. Look for the “ASE Certified” logo when you are considering a shop to repair your vehicle.

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