With the increasing complexity of car technology, and the need for garages to keep up with the latest repair equipment and keep their mechanics training up to date, comes ever-increasing car repair costs. You may think that you could do some of this yourself “if only I knew how to fix my car”, well fear not, here is a quick guide to set you off on the right track.
As you can well imagine, the subject of vehicle repairs can be vast, I could write a ten thousand word article just about spark plugs. I won’t do that (here) though, instead I have broken it down into four key areas: Electrical, Engine, Brakes, and Suspension. Obviously there is a lot more to a car than that, but these are the most common areas of a vehicle that get asked about. I have also decided to keep the technical content fairly light in this article, but if you want me to go more in depth in any area, please let me know in the comments box at the end of this article.
Often the cause of much dread to any vehicle owner, the electrical system can be vast and complex, and paying an auto-electrician to find a fault can become expensive. Here are two videos that will look at how to test for the most common electrical troubles you are likely to come across.
Parasitic Amp Draw: This is when your car battery goes flat overnight, even though the car and everything is switched off. Lets have a look at a video by Schrodinger’s Box as he explains how to diagnose this problem:
Testing Car Fuses: sometimes an electrical component in your car isn’t working, such a headlight, and even after you thought you fixed it, such as replacing the bulb, it still doesn’t work. A good place to look now is for a blown fuse. Simply locate the fuse box in the car, most cars have more than one and they can be in various places so it’s best to look it up, and use the following method to test the fuse for the particular component or circuit that is not functioning. As you will see in the video it is possible to do this with the fuse still in place in the fuse box. Here is a great little video from Helpful DIY:
The engine turns but won’t start: This is known as a “cranking no start”, because the engine is cranking over, but it will not start. Here is a great video from Chris Fix with a simple step by step process to find the problem if this happens to you:
Two things to note from the video above: 1) the garage the owner took the car to replaced various (and expensive) parts but didn’t find the problem, and yet the customer still had to pay for it. 2) some procedures, particularly to do with the timing, are for that make and model of car, you should look up the timing marks and process for the particular engine you are working on.
The engine won’t turn at all: Here is a video from Eric The Car Guy as he demonstrates some quick and simple checks you can do if your car engine won’t even turn over:
Corroded brake pipe: this is when the metal brake pipes (or lines) that come on a car from the factory corrode to a point where they are either leaking brake fluid or they are about to. In the United Kingdom there is no measurement for this, so the MOT tester will use his judgment to decide if the brake pipe is safe or not. It can be an expensive job to pay a garage to replace brake pipes, so save yourself some money and watch the following video from O’Reilly Auto Parts:
Replace brake discs (rotors) and pads: Here is a great little video from Mick’s Garage to show you how to replace discs and pads on your car. Please note that the exact procedures for your particular car may vary slightly, but generally it’s much the same:
Replace ball joint: often an MOT failure may list this as “excessive play in a pin” basically what they mean is that it is worn out and needs to be replaced. Have a look at this video from Milanmastracci to see how easy it is to carry out this repair:
To replace drop links/ anti-roll bar links: often a knocking noise over small bumps can be caused by play in an anti-roll bar link, here is how to replace it by Bluudys Garage Car Mods:
As you can see from the videos above, making car repairs yourself can be easily carried out at home with basic tools, and maybe the odd specialist tool if need be. As I have mentioned already, most of these repairs and techniques will differ slightly from one vehicle to the next, but generally it basic principle is the same. It would be to your benefit to look up the torque settings, and any other specific information relevant to the vehicle you are working on. Often a quick Google search is all it takes. As always, work safely, use wheel chocks, axle stands, gloves, eye protection, and so on. Doing your own car repairs really can be very fun and it is definitely rewarding when you complete a job knowing that you did it all yourself and saved a ton of money in the process. As I’m sure you can imagine, there as still many car repair jobs out there that I have not included in this article, if there are any you’d like to see, just let me know in the comments section below.