For many of us, our personal vehicle is more than just transportation. It’s more than just a significant financial investment. It’s our pet. Our pride and joy. It’s as much a piece of who we are as what we wear. We fill it up with premium gas, and we keep it washed and waxed all year. Maintenance is done regularly, and kept track of religiously. Some people think that we’re just being vain, but the truth is we’re saving ourselves a lot of money. You’ve heard the expression, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Well, that holds true with automobiles. Take good care of it, and it’ll take good care of you.
Leave it to professionals?
You say you’re not a mechanic, well neither am I. And, I’m not really much of a do-it-yourself kind of person either. There are many things that I leave to the professionals. The trick is knowing your limitations. That, and knowing your warranty too. There are things that will void your coverage if you attempt to fix them yourself. You can also end up with a worse problem if you don’t know what you’re doing. That being said, I still believe that you can save a small fortune by doing whatever you can do.
What things can you do yourself?
This is where it gets tricky. I’ll break it down to three categories of skill levels and the tools you’ll need, and you decide where you fit.
Level one. These “repairs” need only very basic tools and very basic procedures.
- Cleaning. Keeping you car clean is actually a form of preventative maintenance. Rust builds quickly on a dirty car. The tools required are just a bucket, a hose, a towel and some elbow grease.
- Oil. If you don’t count cleaning as actual maintenance, changing your oil is “entry level” mechanics. The tools required are a wrench or socket to loosen and tighten the drain plug, and an oil filter wrench. You may need to raise the front end of the vehicle to access the drain plug.
- Wiper blades. Most of these don’t require any tools. You just slip them off and on.
- Tire pressure. Another repair that doesn’t need much in the way of equipment to remedy the problem. You do want to use a tire pressure gauge, so that the amount of pressure is consistent in all tires.
Level Two. These fixes require at least a decent assortment of tools. Sockets, open end wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers are all essential.
- Spark plugs. This can be done with a minimal amount of skill. A socket wrench and a feeler gauge are the only tools needed.
- Brakes. This is a bit more advanced, but nothing that you can’t do with a moderate supply of basic tools and an accurate repair manual.
- Wheel bearings. As with brakes, the tires have to come off, so you will need jack stands in your list of tools.
- Auto Ac Repair. The job is not very involved, but you certainly need professional tools and know how.
Level Three. This is where I usually bow out. Repairs in this category require not only a professional level of tools, but a higher level of skills.
- Transmission repairs. The transmission will usually have to be removed first. This requires more tools than most of us have to begin with. Then, the housing needs to be opened. Again, special tools will be needed.
- Internal engine repairs. Crankshafts, valves and pistons are all dependent on very precise measurements. The bolts have specific torque requirements. There are more than a few “specialty” tools needed for this level of work.
- Emission adjustments. The tools used to make the adjustments are fairly basic, but the machines that read the emissions are very complex.
The most important thing you should take from this article is summed up in a Clint Eastwood movie quote; “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Do what you can yourself, it saves you money and gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment. But, don’t get in over your head. Use the internet, check out a book or just ask someone at the parts store.