DIY Engine Maintenance

Any auto technician will tell you that the best way to keep your vehicle’s engine running well is to keep up with routine maintenance. It might seem intimidating at first, but with a little patience, practice, and basic tools, you can affordably take care of some of your engine’s most important needs. The payback? An engine that runs stronger, longer, and is less prone to costly breakdowns. 

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Some of the most important pieces of an internal combustion engine — and those most prone to eventual failure — are also the easiest to maintain or replace. Here’s a quick look at critical components that you can evaluate and replace if needed, without breaking your back or the bank.

Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are essential for your engine to start and run smoothly because they create the spark that ignites the fuel/air mixture in your cylinders. Plugs should be changed every 30,000 miles or so. If you’re not sure when they were changed last and your engine is running rough or having trouble starting, bad spark plugs are a common culprit.

You can check your plugs by popping off the plug wires and using a socket wrench to remove them. The electrode — the end of the plug that is in the engine — should be brown or light gray. Black, wet, or deposit-covered electrodes are a common sign of a plug that’s no longer doing its job. Changing spark plugs is simple on most engines. It’s best to remove and replace one at a time so you don’t lose track of plug wire placement.


You might think that your car battery is a part that is left alone until it’s dead, then replaced, but that’s not the case. It’s common for battery terminals to develop corrosion over time, which can impact battery performance and life. To keep your terminals clean, remove the cables (negative first, then positive, and opposite when putting them back on), then scrub the terminals with a wire brush and a mixture of baking soda and warm water. Clean connections on the cables as well. Maintaining your battery can make it last a good 5-7 years and provide you some peace of mind.

Air Filter

Your air filter makes sure your engine draws in clean, fresh air, guarding it from harmful dirt and debris. Since blocking dirt is their job, air filters eventually become clogged and no longer flow as well well as they should. Replacing your air filter is easy and often requires nothing more than a screwdriver, if any tools are required at all.

Serpentine Belt

Most modern vehicles rely on a single serpentine belt to operate the alternator, power steering, air conditioning and water pump. These belts last a long time — 60,000 to 100,000 miles — but they do eventually wear and crack. Swapping a belt can usually be done with basic wrenches and a ratchet and socket set or, if needed, a serpentine belt tool kit.

Oil/Oil Filter

Changing your own oil will, without question, save you thousands of dollars over the course of your engine’s lifespan. You also need a few more tools for this one including a decent jack, jack stands and an oil filter wrench, in addition to sockets or wrenches. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for oil quantity and miles between oil changes. Something to note is that when you change your oil, you’ll need to dispose of the dirty oil responsibly at a recycling center, auto parts store or service center.


Old or dirty fuel can cause all sorts of problems, including hard starting and poor engine performance. Fuel should be used within 30 days if possible, or treated with a stabilizer, to avoid the development of gum and varnish and the loss of ignition vapors.


There are two significant areas in which Sea Foam can help maintain your vehicle’s engine and those involve fuel and oil. For vehicles that are driven regularly, adding one or two cans of Sea Foam Motor Treatment to your gas tank every 2,000 to 5,000 miles will help keep your entire fuel system clean, lubricated, and protected. Adding Sea Foam Motor Treatment to your crankcase before your next oil change can help clean harmful residues and deposits that can restrict oil flow and lubrication of critical parts. 

SEA FOAM MOTOR TREATMENT Works fast to overcome engine stalls

Using Sea Foam Spray is another simple way to keep your engine running strong. Applied through the intake, it cleans and lubricates intake valves and upper engine areas where fuel cleaners can’t reach.