I took auto shop in high school. I mostly learned that swearing is un-ladylike (which is perhaps why I talk like a sailor now, in retribution); I am scared of the machine used to put tires on wheels; and almost nothing can be done to fix a drooping headliner on your car’s ceiling. Yet, I still consider myself totally qualified to save money on car repair by spending obscene amounts of time doing it myself. Here are some handy tips I’ve learned along the way.
1. When you take something apart, keep the bits organized so that you can easily put it back together. Tossing everything into a heap is a great way to become totally flummoxed later on and waste huge amounts of time looking up repair manuals with incomprehensible exploded diagrams (yes, that’s the technical term) of various components.
2. Some things, like brake pads, have right and left sides. These should be installed in the orientation the manufacturers had in mind.
3. Save the old parts you are replacing. If the new part you purchased from the auto store looks different from the old one, they probably sold you the wrong item. You will proceed to partially or totally destroy your car, leading to a massive bill from a proper mechanic having to fix what you made more broken when you fail to do this.
|Be sure to wear the right outfit for the job|
4. When your car starts making weird noises, it’s Ok to ignore it if you like the idea of being stranded in the middle of nowhere for hours on end.
5. When you suddenly start seeing lots of exceedingly friendly people driving past you and waving energetically, it’s quite possible your engine is on fire. Instead of vigorously waving back and carrying on, consider pulling over to assess the situation.
|Not exactly a repair job, but getting stuck in shin-deep mud brings its own set of possibilities for creativity|
6. It’s probably a good idea to have a look at your engine compartment before something breaks, so you have at least a vague idea of what it looks like intact.
7. If you can’t find the right tool for the job, get creative; but consider that this might lead to personal or automotive injury. For example, there are tools designed solely to remove and replace brake pad springs--> — but a creatively cantilevered screwdriver will do the job in twice the time with the additional fun of injuries to boot!
|Maybe a bigger tool will do the trick|
8. You might consider driving around with spare oil and water, and some emergency rations, in case the first two items fail and you find yourself stomping around in the snow trying to find a cell signal to call for help.
9. Build a relationship with your local mechanic so that you can sheepishly bring rusted-together parts over for him to help break apart with his pneumatic tools. Also, he can fix whatever new problems you create with your inventive repair job, possibly without overcharging.
10. Always make sure you have cold beverages in the fridge to celebrate completing the job; to soothe burns if you get too ambitious and don’t let the engine cool down before getting started; or to bribe someone to help you complete a difficult job.
How awesome have your car-repair experiences been?