Image Credit: Subaruoutback.org
Working on your car is not only personally rewarding, but it is usually much cheaper than going to the shop. In order to get into wrench turning in your own garage, there are a few things you need to plan for. We also recommend picking up a service manual for the particular make, model and year of your vehicle too.
If you ever went to put a part back on and couldn’t find a bolt, then you need to organize yourself better. If you are blindly grabbing at tools and parts you’ll increase your repair time and probably end up screwing something up. Worse, you’ll probably end up losing one tiny important bolt – and if it’s something that needs to be special ordered, then you are out of having transportation due to one tiny lost piece of metal. Keep your parts organized, and in a place they won’t accidently be knocked around, or kicked, or roll away. Keep them organized however best works for you. You always want to know where each screw, bolt, clip and/or part came from when you took it off, so don’t just start willy-nilly throwing this stuff into a tool box or on the garage floor. Organize, organize, organize!
4 Proper Tools
Research every single screw, bolt and/or clip you will have to remove in regards to size and type. There is nothing more annoying then removing three parts to get to the one you need to fix and finding you don’t have a big enough socket, or the right type, to get it off. At that point, if you don’t have another ride to the tool store you are S.O.L. and will have to put all those parts back on just for a five minute drive. Even if you think you may manage to get something off without the proper tool, then plan for the time and pain and possible failure of completing that repair. Some people have natural talents in improvising however, a skill you will build up as you work on more cars. For instance, my MINI Cooper requires a special tension tool to get the serpentine belt off. The tension tool is costly and a special BMW tool. I ended up using an extra long screwdriver, BUT we needed two people for the screwdriver method due to the positioning of the belt. The BMW part would have been the only way to fix the belt with a one man team and would have made it much easier. Still, we did it! But it’s always risk you take in improvising tools!
3 Buy the highest quality parts and compare them to the old ones
There are plenty of part manufacturers out there, but you want to make sure you are researching the best one for your particular fix. You never want to go cheap when fixing your car if you intend for that repair to last. Why put cheap ignition wires in your car and save a little cash only to have to replace them just a bit later, and possibly end up broken down on the road? You should judge how you use the vehicle and how long you intend on keeping it if you are hesitant to buy the best stuff. No matter what quality part you buy, once you take the old part off, compare it to the new part to make sure they are exactly the same as far as fitting and size. This will save you time and a headache – the last thing you want to do is spend an hour trying to get a part on that won’t even fit because it’s a couple centimeters off.
2 Manage your time from start to finish
Do not rush anything. This is the most important aspect of home car repair. Carefully assess the repair and allow for plenty of time to do the repair so you do not feel rushed. You never know what may occur when working on your car. Those who drive through snow and salt may spend a good couple hours just trying to get an old part off (let me tell you about the time it took me half a day to get an old wheel hub off my car due to rust). Because you never know what will happen during any one repair, or you just make a mistake, plan alternative transportation for yourself. Even better, plan a weekend where you know you will have a full two days to work on the vehicle, and know which auto stores are open on Saturday and Sunday that can serve you if you need to pick up a tool or part. The worst thing you can do is try to do ‘an easy fix’ a couple hours before work on your commuter car and something goes wrong. A fifteen minute fix could turn into a two day fix if you strip a screw (or do/find something worse).
1 Jack Stands
This seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people out there simply don’t take the time to set up jack stands under their car and solely use the jack lift. I think you can imagine the dangers of this: if a jack goes down (as they can VERY easily do) and you are under your car, death is a likely occurrence. Jack stands are not very expensive at all, just be sure to check the labels on them to see if they can support the weight of your car. Find the proper places underneath your vehicle to place the stands. Most cars have specifically designed points for jacks and stands. Never set the car down anywhere else as this is both unsafe and will cause major damage to your vehicle. Some cars may not have these points, so research where the safest parts to jack these cars up and stabilize them are via professional mechanics with experience.
Time management, safety and preparation: these are valuable skills that any do-it-yourselfer needs to be aware of before getting under the hood.