Money & Banking

Five minute fixes: car care and repair on a budget

Five minute fixes: car care and repair on a budget

All those seemingly unimportant cosmetic problems with your car can add up when it is time to sell.

Here’s how to fix a range of automobile problems yourself quickly and efficiently.

A rock chipped my windshield

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A pebble tumbles out of a dump truck on the highway, your windshield smacks it at the maximum speed limit and your day is ruined.

Not necessarily – small chips and bullseye cracks are easy to repair.

First, keep dust, mud, bird droppings, and such out of the crack, because they will interfere with the repair.

So pull over and put some clear plastic tape over the windshield crack until you can make your permanent fix.

Then tend to the crack as soon as possible.

Changes in temperature and everyday vibration caused by driving can worsen the crack.

Swing by an auto parts store and pick up a clear epoxy repair kit designed specifically for windshields.

They can be pretty cheap.

Apply the adhesive according to the package directions.

Do-it-yourself fixes won’t work well for cracks larger than, say, 30 centimetres.

For those, you’ll need to have the windshield replaced by a professional.

Someone scratched my car's finish

Image: Shutterstock

Rub your finger gently over the scratch.

If you can’t feel the indentation made by the scratch, you’re in luck.

Only the surface clear coat was marred, not the paint layer.

Go to an auto parts store, pick up a polish (many feature scratch-removing properties), and follow the package directions. If you can feel the scratch on the surface of your car’s finish, buffing and polishing will not help.

The only solution is to paint over the scratch to make it less noticeable. Browse through the fingernail polish available in your home, a drugstore, or a department store.

When you find a shade that matches the colour of your car, delicately paint over the scratch and let it dry. If you mess up the patch job, dab on a little nail polish remover with a cotton swab to clean it up, let it dry, and start over.

Auto parts stores also sell touch-up marking pens and coloured polishes that will disguise a scratch temporarily.

I ripped my car seat

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If you’ve cut a gash in your car’s leather or vinyl upholstery, find duct tape that matches the colour of the upholstery and cut a piece just large enough to cover the rip.

Auto parts stores sell duct tape in a wide range of colours.

The tape will mask the wound until you can get it permanently repaired at an upholstery repair shop.

Auto parts stores also sell colour-matching adhesive repair kits for leather and vinyl upholstery.

Duct tape and do-it-yourself repair kits don’t work quite as well on fabric, however.

For large fabric tears, you’ll need the help of an auto upholstery shop.

I'm worried my child's car seat isn't secure

Image: Getty Images

You never want to put your kids in harm’s way. But an incorrectly installed car seat is doing just that.

To find out if your car seat is up to snuff, take a quick ride to your local police station.

Most police are trained to spot a faulty car seat and will be able to secure yours properly.

In addition, many libraries, doctor’s offices, day care centres, and other places where kids congregate hold free car-seat checkups.

Find out when the next one is scheduled.

My car has been dented

Image: Getty Images

Here are two ways to fix a dent without taking your car to the shop:

If the dent is on or near the wheel arch, you’ll be able to tap it out with a hammer, but only after you unscrew the black plastic shields under the arch.

To do this, first make sure the emergency brake is in place. Next, using a small screwdriver, unscrew the four to six screws holding the shield in place.

Depending on the size of the dent, use either your fingers or a hammer to knock out the dent. Of course, if the dent is on the plastic shield itself, there is no need to take it off.

Just get underneath it and push out the plastic with your fingers.

If the dent is on the side of your car, you’ll need a little suction to repair it. Find anything with a suction cup attached.

Many automatic pencil sharpeners, for instance, have them on their bases. Most auto supply stores sell suction cups for pulling out dents. They cost about $7. Take the cup, place it directly over the dent, and pull it off.

That wonderful pop sound indicates you’ve pulled the body back into shape.

I got car wax on my bumper

Image: Getty Images

Until they make car wax that easily comes off plastic car components, thank goodness for WD-40. Spray a little of it on the wax and wipe it off with a rag or an old toothbrush.

This also works for wax that gets into crevices.

All those seemingly unimportant cosmetic problems with your car can add up when it is time to sell.

Here’s how to fix a range of automobile problems yourself quickly and efficiently.

I can't jump-start a dead car battery

Image: Getty Images

You found a kind soul to help you cable up your reluctant car battery, but the engine still won’t turn over. Don’t despair.

The good news is that a car battery might get really, really weak, but it’s never completely dead.

If your jump-start isn’t working and there’s a lot of corrosion around the battery terminals where you attach the cables, pour a can of cola on the corroded area.

The acid in the cola will dissolve the corrosion, improving your connection and increasing your odds of a successful jump-start.

The cola also contains electrolytes, which will help improve the electrical flow.

Once you get home, wash the battery with a little bit of water to get rid of the cola residue.

My car is specked with stubborn sap

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Soap and water won’t remove sap stuck to the finish of your car.

But there is a simple solution.

Pour a drop of rubbing alcohol directly on the sap spot, rub with your fingertips, and watch the marks disappear.

No need to rinse, either.

The alcohol will evaporate.

This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.

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