Do It Yourself: For the Road

Whether it's changing your car's filter or staying cool in an emergency, these tips are essential.


In most late-model cars, the engine air filter and cabin air filter can be easily replaced without the specialized tools and equipment required for other repairs. Start by watching the YouTube video for your make and model. Now check your car. The air filter is under the hood, typically in a large, plastic housing on either side of the engine. It can usually be opened by releasing four or five clips. The cabin filter is likely in a compartment hidden behind the glove box; it’s easy to access once you’ve watched a video for the correct steps.  Pop out the old filters and slide in the new. Fram makes economical filters for almost any car; they typically sell for $15 to $25. According to repairpal.com, a mechanic or dealer would charge about $50 to $80 to install each filter. Save your money—and save your receipts as proof that you completed this part of your car’s maintenance. —KS

Lettering and illustration by Angela Southern

Roadside emergencies happen. Even if you are enrolled in a roadside-assistance plan, you should consider some simple precautions.

To begin, have your spare tire checked periodically for air, and make sure the correct jacking equipment is accessible in your trunk. You might even want to practice changing a tire in your driveway. Make sure your owner’s manual is in the glove box, and acquaint yourself with each warning symbol on your dashboard. A flashlight with backup batteries is a must. A high-watt headlamp is best; it allows you to work hands-free under the hood or while changing a tire. Keep a flare gun (with backup flares and instruction manual) on hand. A wireless phone charger or backup battery is also helpful.

Before a road trip, stock your car with a gallon jug of water and high-calorie protein bars. If you’re stuck for more than six hours, you’ll need about half a gallon of water per passenger, especially on a hot day, or if anyone is feeling panicked or ill. A basic first aid kit can also come in handy. You should carry a tool kit, or at least an adjustable wrench or socket set to fit multiple bolts. A fire extinguisher and a small, ball-peen hammer are handy; the latter will help if you need to break a window to escape after an accident.

During cold weather, be sure to carry a blanket and winter gear like a hat and gloves. Remember, if your engine isn’t running, your car’s heater won’t work. And if you have an older car prone to leaks, you might want to carry extra oil, steering and brake fluids. —LY

Lettering and illustration by Angela Southern

In the last year, more than 141,000 speeding tickets were issued in New Jersey, according to the state’s Judiciary Municipal Courts Department. For many, a citation raises the question: Can I fight the ticket on my own?

“Yes,” says New Jersey attorney Anthony J. Vecchio. Someone with a speeding citation carrying “two points with an excellent record can go themselves and speak with a prosecutor.” With the right evidence and the appropriate attitude, you just might win.

For starters, choose the right words when talking to the ticketing officer. “If you have an excellent driving record or other compelling reason why a warning may be more appropriate than a summons—if you hold a commercial license, for example—these are appropriate things to bring to the officer’s attention,” says Vecchio. However, he warns, being rude or aggressive will get you nowhere.

If you are still cited, here are some tips for fighting the ticket:

Know the Rules: Exceeding the speed limit by up to 14 mph could land you with two points on your license; top the limit by 15 to 29 mph and you get four points. Beyond that, it’s five points.

Request Records: Ask the police records department for complete discovery. “Discovery refers to the reports and evidence the state has in its possession that are relevant to your case,” says Vecchio. The items include a copy of the summons; the officer’s radar certification; and certificates of accuracy for the radar device, the speedometer in the officer’s vehicle, and any devices used to calibrate the machine on the day in question (often referred to as “tuning forks”).

Make Your Case: When you meet with the municipal prosecutor, you can negotiate your citation down and try to keep points off your record. “The municipal prosecutor has the sole discretion to dismiss or downgrade a ticket or complaint,” advises Vecchio. “Complaining about the officer who issued the ticket or asserting your innocence will not be productive.”

Fair Warning: If you receive a citation carrying four or more points, and you have a less-than-stellar driving record, you should probably seek professional advice.—JK

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