How to Know Which Part Repairs to Do Yourself and When to Go to the Mechanic

Written by a Guest Blogger

Some people just seem to GET cars, they’re usually the ones who’ve managed to fit the contents of an entire auto body shop into their home garage. However while not all of us may be naturals when it comes to toying with our cars, there’s usually room for a little DIY improvement in our lives; the trick is knowing when to tackle the problem yourself and when it’s time to call in the experts. This answer will largely depend on several things such as: your level of automotive experience, available time and resources, and finally, your comfort level.

While the decision to change your own battery or air filter is easily made, there are some parts of your car that have a direct impact on safety and resale value. Tinkering with things such as your brakes, belts, airbags, and other electronics can have disastrous consequences if mishandled, so always approach these types of tasks with care.

The internet has allowed people to educate themselves to such a degree that, if you’re able to marshal the required resources, it’s possible to build your very own car—however, we’d recommend starting a bit smaller. Things such as your wiper blades, tires, air filters, and batteries are simple and routine enough that doing them yourself could save quite a bit of money in the long run. Getting familiar with these things will also make it easier to progress to more difficult or time intensive repairs and part replacements.

Preparation is vital to success in most endeavors, and DIY tasks are no exception. Be sure to do some research before taking on a project—especially if you have limited experience with cars. Watching videos, reading articles and scouring the web for reviews can not only save you time and money, but will also make you an expert on all things car related in the process. There are countless videos detailing the ins and outs of even the most mundane DIY projects.

TOOLS

If you’ve decided to shoulder the lion’s share of your automotive work you’ll want to invest in some variation of the following:

 

  1. Reliable Sources

These can be anything from a close friend with a wealth of experience, to videos from the internet. Sites like YouTube are gold mines of information that allow you to visualize instructions and examples as many times as needed.

 

  1. The Right Tools

This one is fairly direct. Investing in a well-made automotive tool kit is a must for anyone  planning a DIY fix. While most of us have some form of a tool kit at home, try to find an automotive tool kit—one fitted with ratcheting wrenches, sockets and other car-specific tools.

 

  1. OBD II Code Reader

Your car might be telling you something, and the only way to understand what it’s saying is to invest in an OBD II code reader. OBD II code readers plug into your car, usually somewhere south of the steering wheel, and allow you a limited interface with your car’s self-diagnostics software.

 

This is exactly what your local mechanic uses to find what’s ailing your car  when you bring it in for a check-up. Investing in an OBD code reader grants you in depth access to the health of your car—there are even smartphone apps that help you monitor your fuel efficiency!

 

Lastly, an infrastructure of DIY classes, and even DIY automotive shops has sprung into place to assist the growing number of people determined to “do-it-themselves,” however not all of them are free. It might be worth paying for access to any local or location independent classes that can teach you the skills needed.

 

Easy level repairs (most novice mechanics should have the tools to perform, video instructions are simple to follow)
Car battery replacement
Headlight bulb replacement
Air filter replacement
Spark plug replacement
Oil change
Mass Air Flow meter
Brake pads

Intermediate level repairs (mechanic should have some experience and be comfortable working on cars, have the right tools and be able to learn from manuals/video instructions)
Struts/shocks
Brake rotors & calipers
ABS control module
Headlight assembly
Radio

Advanced level repairs (mechanic needs advanced level of automotive expertise and experience working on cars, best left to professionals)
AC Compressor
Steering rack/gearbox
Turbocharger replacement

Fuel pump

If you’re looking to start a new project, or need help with a current one—be sure to visit the Buy Auto Parts How-To Guides to make sure your project is a success!

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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