With over a thousand parts, both moving and not, a car will inevitably have a breakdown no matter the brand. Sending your car to the shop can be time consuming and expensive but what if you become your own mechanic? Not only do you save on labor costs but you can also get to learn more about your car as you work on it.
But before you start dismantling your car in an attempt to fix it yourself, here is a guide to get started on working on your own car. After all, DIY means Do It Yourself, not Destroy It Yourself.
Research is key
Remember that no cars are built in a similar manner. When changing a fuse, for example, some may be in a different location from one type of car to another. Some may have easier access, others, more complicated. With the help of the internet, gathering information about your car is easier, as well as a treasure trove of reading materials such as Haynes Manuals and enthusiast magazines. Once you get to read up about your car, you'll have a better understanding of what you will be dealing with
Location, location, location
Safety will always be a priority when working on your car. One cannot just do repairs on any road, no matter the surface. Look for smooth, paved and level ground when you do fixes as it not just prevents tools, nuts and bolts from rolling around but also reduces the risk of the car itself rolling forwards or back. Also, look for a relatively open space where you have room to move around and not trip over parts one may have left lying around. Having an open space also prevents you from becoming overcome by fumes in case you have to start it.
I once had a bulb explode on my hand when I tried replacing a (really hot) headlight bulb. Fortunately, I was wearing relatively thick gloves at the time and, apart from shock, I emerged unscathed from the incident. Gloves are a vital piece of protecting yourself when doing DIY work. You will encounter hot parts and sharp edges when working on your car so, to save your skin, let the gloves take the beating instead. It's important to protect your eyes too and a pair of goggles or protective eyewear may come in handy as well. The goggles will shield your eyes from dust, grime and the occasional loose bolt.
Secure the car
When doing work under the car, do not rely on the scissor jack to hold up the car. Not only do you risk permanent frame damage but it may collapse if carrying heavy loads for extended periods of time. It's best to invest in an alligator jack and a set of floor stands to better secure the car when the wheels are up. To prevent the car rolling, a set of wheel chocks (kalso) will do the trick.
Pack the basics
Last time out, we listed down 12 surprisingly handy things to keep in your car. There are a few items that do come in handy in the weekend mechanic's arsenal. Electrical tape, duct tape, zipties and a big bottle of distilled water are helpful when doing DIY work. Also handy is a bottle of spray lubricant (ex. WD-40) for getting rid of surface rust, as well as loosening hard to remove screws. A flashlight helps you see better in the harder to reach areas of the car's engine or undercarriage while rags keep things from getting messy.
All tooled up
As the old saying goes, find the right tool for the job. It goes without saying that a complete set of wrenches will go a long way. A wrench set typically comes in many sizes for the different kinds of bolts in the car and won't leave you with an unfinished project. The same goes for screwdrivers and pliers. When the going gets tough, you can also get a torque wrench as a helping hand. For more complex jobs, a socket set is recommended.
A friendly reminder, before attempting any DIY work on your car, ask yourself if you can successfully finish the job. If you have any doubts in your mechanical abilities, there's no harm in consulting a professional. It also helps to bring a mechanically-inclined friend along if you plan to work on your car. Remember, working on your own car requires a lot of patience and dedication. At the same time, it can be a therapeutic learning experience, knowing that you have the ability to wrench your own car.