Before we begin, let's get something straight: When you're working on your car, it's important that you have the proper tools, the proper instruction, and the proper safety gear. Rule No. 1: Don't work on a car when right after you turned it off or when it's running. Pipes are hot, caps and fluids are under a lot of pressure, and liquids aren't at accurate levels for measurement. You'll just end up hurting yourself. Wait for everything to calm down.
I grew up in a fortunate, and, from what I've learned, pretty rare environment. As a teenager and in his '20s, my dad used to fix cars with his best friend for fun. Instead of fiction, he read manuals. Even today, he doesn't even listen to music in his car, because he likes listening to the sound of the engine. How's that for gearhead status? What this meant for me was that I always grew up wondering why people would ever take their cars to somebody else to get them fixed. On some level (until I grew up), I believed that all garages and dads were like mine, meaning we had a garage with two of every tool imaginable and a dad that knew exactly how to use each one.
As I grew, got my own cars, and was forced to deal with car issues of my own, I became his assistant in the garage. I learned what the camshaft was, what the catalytic converter does, and most importantly, that it's always better (and cheaper) to find the source of a problem, buy the parts yourself, and learn how to fix it. Why? Aside from quality control and learning an incredibly useful skill set, you know you won't be bleeding money to an untrustworthy mechanic.
That's why, when I got to high school and saw what my roommates did in college, I was astounded at how afraid they were to go anywhere near their cars and how willing they were to hand it right off to a stranger. Some of them (grown-ass men, mind you) didn't even know how to change a tire. I was basically considered the hero of the house, because I was able to help fix plenty of their car problems, saving them some cash that they could later use for $0.75 triple wells on Thursday night. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not even close to my father's level. He's an electrical engineer and can see and read things about a car that I still could never wrap my head around. However, I've got a pretty decent knowledge of what people should be able to fix themselves.
If you're serious about investing time and effort into this, we suggest purchasing these items:
- Helms' Service Manuals - These essentially tell you how to completely tear your car down and put it back together in excellent visual and textual detail. Extremely useful in trying to figure out how to get to a part or how to take something apart.
- Basic garage tool kit: A car jack, support stands, complete sets of open-end and socket wrenches, complete sets of phillips and flathead screwdrivers, drain pan, and a complete set of pliers.
- A Multimeter - This is an important tool for testing electrical current throughout the car.
- An OBD Code Reader- These might seem expensive, but you plug this into your car, and it will tell you exactly what the problem is, when your "Check Engine" light comes on. There are even types that you plug in and wirelessly connect to your smartphone.
Starting with the easiest and ending with the hardest, I'm going to go through a few "problems" that you should be able to fix in the comfort of your own garage or driveway. Obviously, as has been pointed out to me, not ALL of these issues will be so easy on ALL cars. Many cars have parts like spark plugs that are tucked away and require some serious work and serious tools to even get to them. I understand that. But on most basic cars, these problems should be accessible. Save some cash and learn your car with these 10 Common Car Problems Every Man Should Probably Be Able to Fix Himself.
By Tony Markovich (@T_Marko)