Car Servicing for a Complete Novice

Hi all,

 I have a MK1 ('91) which I would love to try and service myself, not only because I think its very rewarding to have a proper understanding of your car, but also to save some money!

I have the original manual and Rod’s Enthusiasts Workshop Manual.  Being a compelte novice alot of the terms are totally alien to me, so I’m spending a great deal of time reading, reading, reading!

 I aim to do:

oil change, oil filters, air filters, spark plugs and I though about changing the antifreeze but not sure.

 Does anyone have any tips or advice on the above?  This is my only car so I really can’t afford to make any mistakes!  How long would you estimate this would take me to do?  Obviously have to wait until its decent weather before I begin.

 Many thanks for your help!


 All of what you would like to do is easy (will the oil filter change is a bit of a pain). I find that once some one shows you how its easy. So my advice is to find if there is a member that has done this before and lives near you.


G’day mate, Welcome to the Forum

Some bits from the faqs

Hi Anna, where abouts do you live, there may be a tech day with your local area , they are a great way to learn about this sort of stuff


thank you for the replies!  It does seem intimidating at first, but I’m determined to give it a go! [:)] I would love to go to one of those tech days you suggested, I live near Thame in Oxfordshire.

 On another note there has been alot of sloshing noises in the car, whichI know is probably blocked drain holes.  I thought I had a good look yesterday but damned if I can see them!  Are the between the indentations where you would normally but your jack?


 Thanks again


With the roof up, look to the side of the seat belt towers and lift the carpet up.  Underneath there is like a bucket thing with a 10-13mm hole in the bottom.  That’s the drains, you will need some flexible wire to gently push down to clear the crud. When you have there will be a satisfying dribble of water under the car.

It’s suprising, I have no trees near to me but they blocked during the summer on mine and filled the sill with water…

Armed with the book you have servicing is easy.  I would say for the 1st timer put aside a day and take your time on each operation.  When releasing the sump plug put loads of newspaper under the car, as no matter how careful you are oil missed the drip tin… or is it just me.

Then when complete, pat youself on the back and go and take your MX for a spin [H]


Hi Anna, have a look in this forum

There are several references to drain holes. This is probably the best 

Thanks for that.  Another question, spark plugs.  I know that I can use NKG BKR6E11, but have read somewhere that iridium BKR6EIX11 might be better as they last longer and possibly help with fuel consumption? Any thoughts or are they just overkill?

Hi, the standard plugs are fine, you will see no benefit from the more expensive plugs    

Nope I manage to spill oil every where when I do an oil change. No matter how careful I am.

Heres a good tip. Dont do an oil change on a windy day, you’ll be suprised how far the dripping oil will blow all over your nice drive way or front of your house.

Geoff Walton’s second link shows where the drain holes are - they are basically gaps in the welding of the seam and very small.  You may need a paperclip to clear them at first, then you can enlarge them with a small screwdriver.

Get one of the oil extractors from Screwfix or similar -;jsessionid=4AV312NL3EM2ACSTHZOSFFQ?_dyncharset=UTF-8&fh_search=fluid+extract&searchbutton.x=0&searchbutton.y=0

Iit makes changing the oil a mess-free experience (apart from the small dribble from the filter of course, but just pack loads of rags under it and remove it quickly).

How would you use this on the 5? I’m might get one.

Surely thats not going to be as good as a proper job?
What about heavy stuff sitting at the bottom of the sump, it might not suck all that up!

For reference/whatever 

Geoff’s links all go to the (now locked & inaccessible) staging forum just remove the “staging.” part from the address, or use ammended the links below- 

Hi Anna, if you are a complete novice I wouldn’t bother trying to service your own car, apart from the tools you will need to buy changing the oil/filters and spark plugs although important is a small part of a service, I get some  cars in my work shop that are owner maintained and to be honest some shouldn’t be on the road others come in on the back of a transporter with a box of bits (thought i’d do the clutch myself how hard can it be) in this case it can cost more in the long run. Ask friends and family who they use and if they are happy with the service they get recomendation is the best advert for any garage. PS where do you live. Regards Mike

 “Don’t even think about servicing the car yourself, take it to a professional mechanic”, says a professional mechanic (who isn’t trying to drum up business, of course [;)])! Not very encouraging, is it? I’m in the same situation - I’ve never done any car servicing before, but now I have my MX5 I’m going to undertake to learn how to do the basic elements of servicing (fluids, filters, plugs, etc.). I’m not a mechanic by any means, but I’m fairly engineering-minded (I’m an electrician) and I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to handle it just fine. To be honest, if it was me asking the question, and someone had replied in such a negative way as that, it would only make me even more determined to do it myself!

If your not confident then borrow a friend who has done it before to give you a hand, once you have done it yourself you wont look back. Its not really rocket science just a bit fiddly.


Changing the oil is the hardest bit and its only one bolt to remove and a filter. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and dont worry if it doesnt go as easy as you hoped, it all comes with practice.

A friend helped me about 8 years ago and I havnent used a garage since for sevicing. only for repairs beyond my tool kit abilities.


good luck.

Gareth I wasn’t being negative I was being realistic, you say your an electrician if some one on a forum said ive never done this before but im going to have a go at rewiring my house or fitting some new plug sockets or im going to replace some light fittings what would you say “its not rocket science” have a go, which in essence it isn’t but to some one who has never seen the other side of a ceiling rose before it may come as a supprise to find so many wires and only two colours? to you as professional electrician it’s not a problem easy even. you use tools all day ok there different to mine but tools all the same, i don’t know what this young lady does for a job but chances are it’s probably not a job like ours so, first job oil change to me easy do it my sleep, for you probably not a major problem, whats this youg lady (or you for that matter) going to lift the car off the ground with? jack yes there’s one in the boot sorted under you go spanner in hand good hard pull on the sump plug cos some ■■■■ head mechanic has over tightened it you give a good pull the jack slips or gives way your dead or very badly injured.

No one would be that stupid you may say but to some people a jack is a jack. When I was a mobile mechanic i personaly witnessed and probably saved a blokes life when his car did just that, he had the car up on the vehicles own jack with his legs under the car trying to undo the oil filter gave it a good pull over it went traping both his legs under it. I was about 5 houses up the road heard the scream (his wife) who came running up to me for help, with my 3.5 ton jack (proper workshop one) not a £20 halfords job lifted the car off of him, he spent best part of 4 months in hospital and didn’t go back work for over a year.

 I now look after all his families cars and have done since that day, he was a weekend mechanic who thought he would have a go.

So Gareth i’m not being negative at all im also not trying to drum up work, things can go wrong even for us professionals (i bet youv’e had more than one electric shock in your time as a PROFESSIONAL electician) and for someone that has no idea things can go realy wrong.