You'd be forgiven for thinking that most mechanical jobs on a car take a long time, but in reality there are plenty of tasks that can be completed in mere minutes, and certainly less than an hour. Here's a list of the quickest, and most unexpectedly straightforward fixes.
Air filter removal and replacement
Time – 5-15 mins
In virtually all cars made in the last 20 years the air filter will be housed in a plastic box on top/to the side of the engine.
Simply remove the lid to access the air filter within. Many have a lid that is affixed with clips so no tools are needed.
Others are secured with a selection of small bolts which can be released with a basic socket set. Once open remove the old filter and drop in the new.
TIP: Remove any debris that's managed to get past the air filter before installing the new one.
Battery removal and replacement
Time – 10-30 mins
While care should be exercised whenever dealing with vehicle electrics, swapping the battery is a simple task.
Some cars have batteries housed in a plastic box, others have a 'jacket' around the battery, and older vehicles just have a battery sitting in the engine bay (It's not that common but some cars have the battery mounted in the boot, or behind the seats, so make sure you identify where yours is).
Take a photo of the connections, so you know where everything goes, then loosen the wires on the + and – terminals.
There's usually one bolt holding a metal clamp which secures the bottom of the battery in place. With that bolt removed the battery will lift out, and refitting it... you've guessed it, is the reverse of removal.
TIP: Make sure you know where your stereo code is (often in the handbook) otherwise you may not be able to use your headunit after reconnecting the battery.
Light bulb removal and replacement
Time – 5-15mins
A word of caution here – While changing bulbs on many cars is a straightforward and simple task, on some cars it's fiendishly hard and can involve having to remove wheels or even bumpers!
So our advice would be to Google it first and see if your application is an easy one. If it is, it's a case of unclipping the plastic cover on the rear of the light, wiggling (carefully) the connector off the rear of the bulb, then freeing the bulb from the headlight, either with a twist, or with a metal clip.
Generally speaking the same principle is true for other front or for the rear bulbs.
TIP: Remove the connector from the rear of the bulb before removing the bulb from the headlight, you're less likely to damage the bulb that way.
Spark plug removal and replacement
Time – 10-20 mins
The actual act of changing spark plugs is incredibly simple – with the correct sized socket it's just a matter of undoing the old and refitting the new.
Accessing the plugs isn't always straightforward on some newer cars – but on older vehicles with HT leads (rubber cables with a 'boot' at the end which fit over the spark plugs) it's a doddle.
Once you've identified where they are it's a quick task. Put the new plugs in by hand for the first few turns to ensure they're not cross threaded, then tighten with ratchet and socket (not too tight!)
TIP: Do them one at a time to make sure that you've put the HT leads back in the right order.
Wiper removal and replacement
Time – 5 mins
While there are a myriad of clips and fixings available it's a very straightforward task to take off the old wiper blades, and fit the new ones providing the kit you've bought comes with the correct fixings. Take your time, don't force anything and you'll be done in no time.
TIP: Before dismantling anything ensure you have the correct fixings that match what's already on the car.
Oil filter removal and replacement
30mins – 1 hour
It's always worth replacing the lifeblood of any engine at regular intervals, but it needn't be a costly garage-only affair. The biggest job is going to be removing the vehicle's undertray (if fitted) which is a large plastic tray that fits underneath the engine.
Some cars have an access hatch in the undertray that allows you to get to the sump drain plug (where the old oil is drained from) but make very sure you're undoing the correct bolt!
It's a messy business, and you do have to get rid of the oil so it's not a task for everyone. But DIY oil changes are often a fraction of the cost of a garage job.
TIP: Before draining the oil ensure you can loosen the oil filter! Don't remove it completely just yet – but making sure it will come loose prevents aggro later.
Brake pad removal and replacement
Time – 30 mins to 1 hour
Changing brake pads is way easier than you'd expect – but it's one of those areas that unless you're 100% confident you need to have someone mechanically knowledgeable helping you the first couple of times.
With the vehicle securely jacked up and the wheel removed it's almost always a matter of removing two bolts which secure the caliper in place and then sliding out the old pads. They're often held in place with clips that can be a little fiddly.
The pistons then need pushing back into the calipers (with some decent quality water-pump pliers or a G-Clamp etc) and the caliper needs bolting back in place.
If all goes well it will take longer to jack the car up and remove the wheel than it will to change the actual pads.
TIP: Apply small amount of copper slip to the rear of the pads to help reduce squealing