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A Beginner's Guide to DIY Car Repair

June 05, 2015

DIY Car Repair
There are few things worse than taking your car in for repairs. Not only can the bills pile up quickly, but you’ll also have to sit around and wait for hours while the mechanics pore over your vehicle.

While there are certain repairs best left to professionals – body work, brake rotors, massive engine repair – there are many more that you can easily do by yourself. Here is what you need to get started, as well as a few tips and tricks:

Prepare for the repair

No matter what, don’t dive head-first into your next major auto repair. You’ll need to prepare beforehand.

The first step is to find a place to work on your vehicle. Many apartment complexes frown on DIY vehicle maintenance, so if you rent, your projects may be limited. The best option is, of course, the home garage. If you have one, clean it out ahead of time. Give yourself ample room to work around your vehicle and a fairly clean floor to lie on.

Next up you’ll need a few tools, regardless of the repair in question. Keep your garage stocked with:

  • A jack
  • Wheel chocks, which prevent tires from rolling
  • Basic wrench and tool set
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Computer

DIY Auto Repair

Yes, a computer is on this list. Why, you ask? Because technology is your friend during auto repairs. You’ll be able to research the part in question, watch repair videos and figure out what parts or tools you need to buy to make the repair.

Be as organized as possible

It is no understatement that a vehicle has many parts. Even for the most minor repairs, you’ll want to keep track of everything you touch, remove or replace. In some cases, you’ll have to move a part to get to another part, and misplacing one critical piece could send you to the mechanic regardless.

This is why the smart move is to document your actions. Take pictures of your vehicle before you get started, and then write down each part that you take out. Also remember to put them all in an easy-to-reach place (where they won’t roll away) so you can get them all back when needed again.

See-through drawers, plastic bags, labels and any other organizational tool you can think of will be beneficial for a DIY mechanic.

Which projects should you tackle?

Now that you are ready, the next step is to figure out which auto repairs you can do alone, and which ones require the professionals.

“Pick repairs you are comfortable with.”

The short answer is anything that affects vehicle safety is better left to the professionals. One of the big ones is a brake replacement. Changing brake pads and rotors can be a bit tricky, and you don’t want to make a minor mistake that comes back on the road.

Here is a list of simple vehicle repairs that you can do today:

  1. Tire replacement – Changing a tire is a handy skill to have. You’ll need a tire iron, a jack and some wheel chocks for the tires that remain on the ground.
  2. Fluid levels/oil change – Changing fluids is an easy job, and one that you can do alone. If you get a fluid-related warning light on your dash, check out your owner’s manual to see what’s up. Then, buy the appropriate fluid and find its home under the hood.
  3. Windshield wipers – Few people actually change their windshield wipers often enough, but this easy task should be on your list. Head to your nearest auto parts store, buy your desired blades and then replace. It is often a simple task of swapping the old for the new.

A DIY attitude can save you a lot of money, but always remember: If you’re not confident, there is no harm in asking a professional. Other than that, performing simple maintenance is an easy and smart way to save you time and the hassle of visiting the nearest mechanic.

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