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But I have to admit… when I had my first Jeep, I was a little hesitant to get under the hood. An engine may be an engine, but this was a Jeep — my Jeep — and I didn’t want to risk breaking something important.
If you’re just starting out and you’ve never worked on your Jeep before, following are some easy tasks to help build your confidence, save some money, and keep your Jeep running great.
Download the repair manual for your Jeep.
One of the best ways to get to know your new vehicle is by doing your own maintenance — loving it, taking care of it, and then fixing everything you broke while out abusing it. Basic maintenance is the first step in keeping your vehicle in tip-top condition. There is nothing worse than having to cancel a trip because of lack of maintenance, except for being “that guy” who breaks down on the trail, delaying the whole group. Enough breakage happens off-road without neglect adding to the problem. Source
Here are some simple DIY Jeep maintenance tasks that you don’t have to be a mechanic to accomplish with ease:
#1 – Prepare Your Garage Workspace
If you live in a warm climate like I do, working on your Jeep in the driveway is asking for heatstroke and sunburn.
The first thing you should do is deck out your garage.
Clear out all the stuff you’ve been storing in there, organize the things are staying, and make it a car-friendly area.
Not only does this make your garage a nicer place to be, it removes hazards and makes it safer, as well.
TIP: If you haven’t inspected your garage door in a while, it might be a good idea to do that. Here’s what to look for. Make sure all the moving parts and springs are in good shape. If any pieces are showing wear and tear, think about replacing them. Don’t hesitate to hire a professional to do any garage door repairs.
#2 – Do These Basic DIY Jeep Maintenance Tasks First
The best place to start when it comes to getting under the hood of your Jeep is learning how to do basic car maintenance. You know, the stuff they should’ve taught you in high school, but didn’t — but I digress.)
Personally, I started with changing the air filter — here’s how to do it.
Some other things you should do are:
- Check your oil. Checking the oil level is the easiest way to tell if you’re having problems with the inside of your engine. Check your Jeep’s owner’s manual to see how much oil you should have in it.
- Check the tire pressure. Properly pressurized tires help your gas mileage and help your Jeep grip the road properly — whether you’re driving on the road or off. Again, check your owner’s manual for the proper tire pressure.
- Take care of your battery. You don’t want to get stranded with a dead battery. Keep your terminals clean of corrosion. You can pour Coca-Cola on them to dissolve battery corrosion, or just pick up some battery terminal cleaner from your local auto parts store.
- Check your fluids. Your Jeep has more fluids than just oil that need to be checked. Make sure your radiator fluid, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid levels are correct. Check your owner’s manual to see exactly where they should be.
- Change your wipers. There’s nothing worse than starting up your windshield wipers, only to have them leave streaks on your windshield — or worse, start to shred instead of wipe away the rain. Switching out the wipers is easy. And if you off-road, then consider upgrading to some heavy-duty wipers that can handle rain and mud.
Basic car maintenance will do wonders to keep your Jeep running smoothly.
I’m ashamed to admit that neglecting an oil change led to a nasty engine knock. I’ve since gotten that fixed — but it was a good reminder that postponing something as simple as an oil change can cause all sorts of problems!
#3 – Change The Oil In Your Jeep Next
Speaking of oil changes, a DIY oil change is one of the simplest things you can do to get yourself in the groove of working on your Jeep.
BONUS: Jeeps are usually high enough off the ground that you don’t even need a jack and jack stands to get under it!
Changing the oil in a Jeep is simple.
Here’s how to do it:
- Locate the oil pan. In the pan, you should see a drain plug.
- Place a catch basin under the drain plug.
- Remove the drain plug, and let the old oil drain out.
- Once it has drained completely, locate and remove the old oil filter.
- Reinstall the drain plug.
- Put a little bit of fresh oil on the gasket of the oil filter, and screw it into place.
- Finally, put the correct number of quarts of oil into your engine.
You can ask the crew at your local auto parts store if you’re not sure how much oil to put in. Or you can check the owner’s manual. (Trust me, your Jeep’s owner’s manual is a treasure trove of information!)
#4 – Then Check Your Jeep’s Spark Plugs And Wires
Changing out your spark plugs might seem like a bit of a challenge, but it’s actually a pretty simple step that can open up a whole new world of internal engine work.
You’ll need a couple of special tools:
- A spark plug socket – a deep-well socket (usually either in 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch sizes) with a magnet or rubber grip in the top of the socket. It’s designed to grip the spark plug once you’ve loosened it.
- A chalk pencil or a grease pencil – to mark the wires before you remove them.
Changing the spark plugs is simple. You just remove the old spark plugs, make sure the gap is correct on the new ones, then screw them back in.
TIP: Don’t tighten them too much — over-tightening the plugs can damage the threads and compromise the compression in the chamber.
Replacing the spark plug wires is also simple. In most cases, they’re plug-and-play. Use the chalk pencil (or grease pencil) to mark each wire and its position on the ignition coil or distributor. (Note that if you’ve got an older pre-1990s Jeep, then you’re probably dealing with a distributor.) Simply number each wire as you remove it, and then put your new wires in the same location.
TIP: Don’t get the order of the wires mixed up — it could cause your engine to misfire if you do.
Jeeps are some of the best vehicles out there — though I may be a bit biased.
If you’re worried about working on your Jeep, start small and slowly work your way up to bigger projects. If you’ve got questions, there are tons of Jeep forums for you to ask questions and get advice — so don’t hesitate to ask!
More DIY Jeep Maintenance Tips For Newbies
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you get comfortable working under the hood of your Jeep:
- Download Your Jeep Owners Manual (2004 to present)
- 6 Things You Should Do Every Time You Work On Your Jeep
- Intermediate-Level Jeep Maintenance For Beginners
- Summer Jeep Maintenance Tips For New Jeep Owners
- Download Your Jeep Repair Manual (all years)
- Spring Cleaning & Maintenance Projects For Your Jeep
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I’m an automotive journalist, YouTuber, and blogger who babbles about Jeeps, RVs, and other vehicles on the Internet. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my wife and 2 sons, working on our home & lawn, and watching the Pittsburgh Penguins.