The biggest hurdle in convincing someone they can handle car repair is the fear factor, but here’s the thing: It’s actually pretty hard to permanently screw up a car. You might break something temporarily, or a fix might not work in the long run, but you probably won’t set yourself or your car on fire just because you banged too hard on a valve. Cars are resilient machines and regardless of the year or make, there are plenty of repairs even the clumsiest and technically challenged can handle provided they have the confidence to push through.
For a little background, I didn’t own a car for about eight years, and before that, I had a small car I barely had the sense to put gas in, let alone repair anything on. Then, a couple years ago, I was handed down a small truck. Within the first couple weeks, a hose connection leading to the radiator cracked. I took a picture of the part that seemed to be leaking, walked into an auto parts store, showed it to them, and they found the replacement part for me. Twenty minutes later it was in and the truck was working again. Since then, I’ve helped friends with a wide range of repairs so I could learn more and practice.
For DIY repairs, your computer is your friend. AutoMD and Expert Village are both excellent resources of general purpose videos, how-to guides, and diagnostic assistance for the most common car problems. AutoMD also has an iPhone app with guides optimized for mobile viewing. If you need help deciding if a repair is worth your time, RepairPal is an excellent resource for checking the average cost of repairs in a shop and can help you decide if it’s worth the time and effort to do it yourself.
As for the repair work, consider your phone, tablet, or computer the manual. Bring it out to the car with the video guide loaded up or the walkthrough in front of you. Watch and read over the directions several times so you feel comfortable, but keep your technology ready in case you need to reference a step. Take a picture of the section you’re going to work on with your phone or a digital camera before you start so you know exactly how the engine is supposed to look if you get lost in the directions. If you feel like you need paper, you can always print directions or purchase your car’s official guide.
You will also need to purchase new parts for your car if you’re doing a replacement. If you purchase these from an auto parts store online, you will enter your car’s year, make, and model into a form before searching for the part you need. If you’re unsure of the technical name for a part, you can find the part number on the piece in your car, or you can head into a parts store for expert advice. Every car is slightly different, so make sure you enter the correct information to get the correct part and always hold onto your receipt in case it doesn’t match up.