6 Car Maintenance Jobs You Can Do Yourself

By Alex Perdikis

In the old days, backyard mechanics could do most car maintenance and repair jobs themselves. Modern cars come equipped with computers and often require diagnostic tools only available to manufacturers and certified repair shops.

But, if you keep your car in top running shape, you can avoid many of those costly repair jobs down the line. Follow these DIY car maintenance tips to keep your car running smoothly and save yourself a little money, too.

1. Change your air filter. A dirty air filter makes your car’s engine work harder and uses a whole lot more gas. A general timeframe for an air filter change is every year or 12,000 miles, but check your owner’s manual and follow its recommendations.


“If you often drive down dirt roads, change your filter more often.” — Alex Perdikis


You’ll see a huge difference in performance and gas efficiency with a clean air filter.

2. Change your oil and oil filter. If this one sounds a bit daunting, it’s OK to take your car to a service and pay someone to do it. But, changing the oil in your car isn’t really difficult if you know how and have the required tools and space. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended oil change timetable and type of oil required for your vehicle. Most manufacturers recommend changing your oil every 3,000 miles. You’ll need a place to work on your car, a car jack, ratchet, oil pan, funnel, new oil, new filter replacement and work clothes. Wait at least two hours after running your car before attempting to change the oil to avoid burns from a hot engine.

3. Replace your windshield wipers. Replacing your wiper blades is an easy repair to do, and it just might save your life. Change the blades every six months to a year or anytime you notice a degraded performance. Depending on the type, you might need a screwdriver to replace your wiper blades, or your hands may suffice. Directions are typically included with newly purchased sets.

4. Change your spark plugs. Replacing old spark plugs with new give you better fuel efficiency and a smoother ride. Replace your spark plugs after 30,000 miles or as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Changing the plugs is not difficult, but you’ll need to follow a specific order, replacing a single spark plug at a time.

5. Replace the brake pads. This is another maintenance job that could save your life. Replace brake pads every 20,000 miles or as recommended in the owner’s manual. Consider replacing them sooner if most of your driving is stop-and-go. You’ll need a place to jack up your car and lug wrench, Allen wrenches, a hammer, c-clap and possibly other tools depending on your car. If you’re at all unsure about this one, leave it to the pros.

6. Flush your radiator. Deposit buildup in the radiator reduces a cooling system’s efficiency. Make sure the engine is cool before attempting this maintenance job. You’ll need rags, a wrench, screwdriver, coolant receptacle and new coolant. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.

Even if you do just one or two of these car maintenance jobs yourself, you’ll save a few bucks now and perhaps a major repair or two in the future.


Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

7 Tips to Better Communication, Professionally and Socially

By Alex Perdikis

Communication is one of the keys to a fulfilling  life. The lack of communication and the ensuing misunderstandings cause a tremendous amount of strife both at work and at home. Communication skills come naturally to some people, but others struggle with finding the right words and articulating their thoughts.

If you struggle with turning your thoughts into words, you’re not alone. But, you can learn to communicate effectively and in a positive way that brings out the best in others. Follow these tips to learn how to communicate better in every aspect of your life.

1. Listen to others. The most important skill a great communicator has is not a way with words, but the ability to listen. To listen doesn’t mean you’re thinking about what you want to say as soon as the person you’re talking to takes a breath. It means letting the speaker finish and understanding what the speaker said.


“It’s OK to say nothing while you take a few moments to think. If you don’t understand something, ask.” — Alex Perdikis


If you’re not sure you understood, repeat in your own words what you heard and ask for verification. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree. Understanding the other person is the first step to opening the doors of communication.

2. Learn to read people. Words aren’t the only form of communication. Pay close attention to the body language and overall demeanor of the speaker. If someone says they’re fine as they nervously tap their pencil on the table, they probably are not fine. They could be nervous or upset, but it’s likely they’re troubled about something. Learn to see the person as a whole and learn to read signs beyond the spoken word.

3. Observe how others communicate. You’ve known some great communicators. They’re the people who know how to say it, when to say it, when to listen and how to respond. Observe how those great communicators handle different situations and learn from them.

4. Heed the “silence is golden” rule. Communication doesn’t mean there has to be a constant barrage of back and forth chatter. Moments of silence during a conversation give participants time to reflect on and absorb what’s been said and serve to calm if the exchange became heated.

5. Find common ground. If a conversation becomes heated, diffuse the situation by agreeing with an aspect of what the other person said, if possible. At the very least, let them know you understand they’re upset and open to discussing possibilities.

6. Genuinely care about others. If your co-workers and staff know you genuinely care about them as people, you’ll find the lines of communication open wider. Honor the feelings of those around you and treat them with respect.

7. Take deep breaths before responding to an upsetting email or text message. Written communication is often much trickier than face-to-face communication. When you speak with a person in front of you, you have the added benefit of hearing the tone of voice, seeing the expression and observing the body language. You have none of those advantages with email or text messages.

Before you respond to what appears to be an upsetting email or text message, take a few deep breaths. Is it possible you misread the meaning behind the message?  Don’t shoot off a response immediately. Once it’s gone, you can’t take it back.


Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Driving Instructors Tell All: Stories and Tips for Parents

By Alex Perdikis

If you have a teen driver in your family, or will soon, sit down and take a deep breath. Now is not the time to panic. Parents everywhere survive this moment and you will, too. All it takes is a little fortitude.


“It’s hard to believe, but some people choose to teach teens how to drive. Thank goodness for driving instructors, though. Otherwise, it would all be on you.”

— Alex Perdikis


One thing driving instructors don’t run short on is stories to tell. Here are a few of the funny and sometimes bizarre happenings from the day in the life of a driving instructor.

It’s a Beautiful Day to Die

Instructor Mac Demere jokingly claimed those words as his motto over the course of his driving instructor career. Anyone who sits in the passenger seat next to an unskilled teenager can relate.

Demere sees this story as a cautionary tale for parents. It was the first lesson for a 15-year-old. As the teen pulled up the first stop sign, he hit the brake hard. Both driver and passenger lurched forward.

Recovering from the abrupt stop, Demere suggested a gentler approach to braking next time. Unfazed, the teen managed to brake hard no matter what Demere said or did for the next 30 minutes. Realizing the futility of continuing that day, Demere went back to the teen’s house and invited Dad into the driver’s seat.

Demere’s plan was to give Dad some pointers to help his son practice before next week’s lesson. As Dad approached the same stop sign where his son slammed on the brakes, guess what Dad did? He slammed on the brakes. Pounding the brakes was apparently a family tradition.

An Army of Jack Russells

Drivers have to be ready for anything, but driving instructors try to eliminate distractions on the first lesson. Most instructors head out to the country or find a quiet, little-used road and give first-time drivers a low-pressure experience.

With this in mind, the instructor took his young student to a quiet road. A large bush lined the road on the left, but the lane was free of traffic. “It’s the perfect starter road,” he thought.

Though a bit nervous, his young student was ready to take her first short drive. She set off and reached a speed of approximately 10 mph when three Jack Russell terriers shot out from the bush and surrounded the car, yapping away.

Seconds later, their owner jumped out from the bush as well looking very much like the Incredible Hulk. The young driver slammed the brakes; the instructor controlled the stop and, happily, everyone survived. The instructor earned a few gray hairs, though.

Pajamas and Pit Stops

After instructor Saeed arrived at a student’s home and sent a text message letting her know he was there, he was surprised when she didn’t come out. She was usually right on time.

Saeed knocked on the door of the student’s home.  Her mother answered. Mom said her daughter was still in bed but would wake her up and send her out. Saeed went to the car expecting to wait at least 20 minutes.

Instead, Saeed’s student came out immediately — in her pajamas. It was a first for Saeed, but he decided to go with the flow.

Not surprisingly, the student needed to make a stop to use the restroom before they’d gone too far. They stopped at a nearby restaurant, and the student went in. Saeed waited and waited, but she didn’t come out. He texted her. There was no answer. What could’ve happened?

She finally reappeared after 40 minutes. What was her explanation? When she dashed inside to use the restroom, she saw the guy she had a crush on eating breakfast with friends. She hid in the bathroom until he left. After all, she couldn’t let him see her that way, could she?

Tips for Parents from Driving Instructors

Driving instructors are never at a loss when it comes to stories, but they’re also a great source of tips for parents. Each state requires a minimum number of driving hours to get a license, but the more time you devote to helping your teen drive, the better driver your teen becomes.

Follow these tips from professional driving instructors:

    • Stay focused: Remember, you’re sitting next to an inexperienced driver who’s in control of a very large vehicle. Focus your attention on the task at hand.
    • Rest up: This one goes for both you and your teen. Don’t practice if either of you is overly tired.
    • Review before leaving the driveway every single time:  Pay particular attention to reviewing brake and accelerator locations. Your teen might protest, but it’s worth the trouble.
    • Don’t push too hard: There’s no law that says a teen has to get a license at 16. You know your child better than anyone. If driving seems a bit too difficult or too much at this stage, don’t push.
    • Practice for a reason: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that letting your child drive you on errands is practice. Set aside two hours of practice driving time per week. Spend extra time on skills your child needs to work on.



Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.