Benjamin Franklin once said a penny saved is a penny earned. So, as a tribute to Franklin, Honest Abe, and other self-made greats, here’s a car tip with a riddle attached: you’ll need a penny, but you don’t need to spend a single cent. Stumped? In this DIY Ditty, Jonathan and Drew Scott will enlighten you (in Presidential style).

DIY Ditty Track #7: Hail To The Tread

Let’s take it step by step

Save yourself a trip to the shop with this quick way to test your tire tread depth.

  1. Insert a newish penny into your tire tread groove, face pointed down and toward you.
  2. If you can’t see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires are still good to go.

Keep your tires in good shape — Honest Abe says it’s honestly that easy.

The DIY mechanic

Naturally, you’ll want to take in your car for its regular checkups. But just as an apple a day keeps the doctor away, you can take a few simple steps to check on your car between visits to the shop. Here are some tests you can do at home.

Lights: check

Don’t let a police officer be the one to tell you that your light is out. Avoid a ticket by checking them yourself. Test low and high beams, tail lights, turn signals, dash lights, and hazards to make sure they work. Grab a buddy to verify your brake and reverse lights are in good working order — or if you don’t have someone handy, back up to a wall and check the reflection.

Oil: check

Whether or not you’re up to changing your own oil, checking it is easy. Your owner’s manual should have instructions, but the basic steps are pretty uniform. While the car is turned off and the engine cold, remove the dipstick (usually has a brightly colored loop at the top to make it easy to identify) and wipe it clean with a rag or paper towel. Near the bottom of the dipstick, identify the minimum and maximum level marks. Then, dip the stick back in and pull it out. Your oil should cover the stick to a point between the 2 marks — preferably closer to the top. If the level is low, it’s time for a top off.

Check out:  How to Clean Your Tires for Under 5 Bucks

Filter: check

Like the lint trap on your dryer, the air filter on your engine can make a big difference in how efficiently your car runs. The Humble Mechanic, via our friends at Allstate, has a great step-by-step guide to inspecting your air filter to see whether it’s replacement time.

There’s nothing as American as the DIY spirit. From Esurance and the Scott Brothers, we hope these DIY Ditties have inspired you to get stuff done — in your own inimitable style.

More cool hacks and helpful tips

Keep your ride in top shape with tips that will make you a regular pro.

A pro tells you how to clean tires for under $5

Learn how to fill ’em up (and fix a flat)

Impress your mechanic by knowing these 6 car fluids

Catch up on DIY Ditties

Everything Is Brighter

Get A Grip

Thanks To The Walnut

Three Sweeps You’re Done

Cabinet Action

Smooth Again

DIY hacks | For your car

about Lauren

A recovering English professor, repatriated expat and startup geek, Lauren speaks several languages, including Spanish, French, Academese, and Tech Lite. When she isn’t writing for Esurance, you might find her reading, marathoning Netflix, or gathering data to decide which San Francisco museums host the best nightlife events. She has a complicated relationship with the Oxford comma.