15 DIY Car Accessory Tips To Make You A Better Car Owner

6 min. read By Kevin Joshua Ng on

(Editor’s note: In this series, we give you do-it-yourself tips on car maintenance amid the lockdown. These should only serve as guides and must be followed with utmost care. If you’re unsure about tinkering with a certain car part, it is always best to leave the job to professionals.)

While car accessories don’t necessarily affect your car’s performance, it certainly affects your car’s roadworthiness. Busted lights and faulty wipers can make your driving experience slightly less pleasant and worst-case, even dangerous.

Luckily, car accessory replacement is the easiest to DIY. All the tools you need can already be found in your toolbox.

In this first part of our DIY Car Maintenance Series, we’ve listed a few tips to get you started on your journey toward replacing, installing, and fixing common car accessories—while saving you a few hundred pesos in the process.

1. How to replace wiper blades

To tell when your wiper blades need replacing, simply press the washer button and see if your blades wipe clean. If they streak, they need to be replaced.

A visit to the auto parts store will solve your problem quick. We recommend you go for a name brand instead of cheaper blades because they use higher-quality rubber that wipes better, has better UV protection, and lasts longer.

Follow the installation instructions on the package. Be sure you have a firm grip on the wiper arm once you remove the old blade. If it retracts back, it can hit the windshield with enough force to crack it.

2. Replacing hydraulic window or hood lifts

Have a helper hold the hood or liftgate while you disconnect and replace the worn lifts. Many styles simply unbolt using a metric socket set. Others have a ball and socket style connection held in place with a spring clip.

To disengage the spring clip, simply shove a small flat blade screwdriver between the clip and the cylinder. Then pull the cylinder off the ball stud.

3. Replacing non-headlight bulbs

To access a busted license plate, side marker and fog light bulbs, just remove the retaining screws and pry off the lens. Pull the bulb straight out of the socket.

Handle the new bulb with gloved hands or hold it with a paper towel to prevent skin oils from depositing on the thin glass, which can cause premature bulb failure. Then push the bulb into the socket until it clicks.

4. Replacing a broken antenna

Replacing a fender mount antenna is easy. Just unscrew the broken antenna and replace it with a new one.

Replacing a pillar mount antenna is a bit more challenging but nothing a screwdriver can’t tackle. Disconnect the antenna from the radio first then unscrew the antenna mount from the pillar and pull the old antenna and the string straight out.

Attach the new antenna cable to the string, pull the cable back into the vehicle and connect it to your radio. Then secure the new antenna to the pillar using the screws provided.

5. Invest in an air compressor.

An air compressor has a lot of utility, especially when you want to be a DIY legend. You can use it on almost every car maintenance task such as cleaning your vehicle, oil change, filling your tire with air, powering your power tools, and a lot more.

6. Wash dirty components before re-installing.

Dirty components mess up your repairs and replacements: Dirty bolts cross-thread easily and gasket adhesive won’t stick well.

Add a parts-washing brush and twi gallons of concentrated degreaser to your toolbox and you’re ready to clean all those greasy, grimy parts and bolts.

You can also use these to clean your tools too. Just give them a quick wipe to dry them off before you put them back in your toolbox to prevent rusting.

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7. Use sheet metal to line your tool drawer.

If you use wooden cabinets in your workshop, it’s a bad idea to throw oily, greasy tools into those drawers because the wood will soak up everything.

Take careful measurements of the width, depth, and height of the inside of your cabinet drawer. Cut out sheet metal based on these measurements then line them up inside your cabinets.

8. Get a torque wrench.

You may not think you need a torque wrench to install spark plugs or work on your lawn and garden equipment. But studies show that most DIYers overtighten just about everything. And overtightening leads to broken bolts, stripped threads and damaged equipment.

With a torque wrench and the equipment manufacturer’s torque value in hand, the problem is solved: A “clicker” torque wrench makes an audible click when you’ve reached the set torque, and with a “beam”-style wrench, you just watch the scale and stop at the right number.

9. Need a light? Go for LED.

When it comes to working in small, dark spaces like your engine and underneath your vehicle, flashlights are normally too unwieldy. What you need is a rechargeable and magnetic LED light.

The battery on these babies lasts longer (up to five hours on a charge) and recharges faster. So these LED lights are perfect for DIY auto and small-engine work, as well as home repairs.

Some even allow you to switch between a broad 120-degree beam and a focused, flashlight-size beam.

10. Free up a stuck trailer hitch.

Buy a can of penetrating oil. Spray the opening to the hitch receiver. These new, space-age penetrating fluid chills the metal, causing it to contract and break the rust seal. Then use a hammer to knock the rust loose.

To prevent it from rusting up and getting stuck again, coat it with a rust converter or waterproof marine grease.

11. Add graphite to door locks.

Old door locks can get stuck because of the accumulation of dirt and grime inside the mechanism. Keep these delicate mechanisms moving freely with a blast of dry graphite powder.

You may need to push the dust protector flap back slightly with a small metal nail file to get at the lock. A quick pump of the tube will dispense enough graphite.

Move the lock cylinder with your key several times to work the graphite into the mechanism. Do this to your trunk lock as well.

12. Clear clogged windshield washer nozzles.

If you hear the pump going but don’t get fluid, you probably have clogged windshield washer nozzles. Clear the clogged windshield washer nozzle with a pin, then disconnect the windshield washer tubing from the reservoir.

Use compressed air to blow the debris backward through the hose, connect the tubing back to the reservoir and test your windshield washer nozzles.

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13. Remove a stuck Phillips screw.

Spray the screw with rust penetrant and let it work for at least 15 minutes. Then spray it again and tap the screw head dead-on several times with a hammer. Then try to unscrew it again.

If that doesn’t work, apply a valve grinding compound. The compound contains a fine grit that helps the screwdriver bite into the head.

14. Restore a cloudy headlight.

Wash the cloudy headlight with warm soapy water then rinse with plenty of clear water. Let the headlight sit to dry. Then mask the area around the lens with an adhesive tape so you don’t scratch the paint.

Soak the sheets of sandpaper in water, then start with the grit that suits your situation. Sand in one direction.

With sandpaper, the higher the number, the finer the grit. If the headlight is just dull or yellowed, start with the 1,500 grit and work up to the 2,500 grit. If there are light scratches, start with the 1,000-grit paper.

15. Prevent car-plate theft.

Turn away car-plate thieves by using special screws that require a special wrench to remove. They’re inexpensive and take only minutes to install. These are available in most auto accessory shops.

Have more tips to share? Share them in the comments.

About the author

Kevin Joshua Ng

Kevin Joshua Ng Kevin Joshua Ng is a digital marketing professional and car enthusiast who has written for In The Garage, a trusted resource for car owners in North America.