The 5 Big No's Of DIY Car Maintenance

How NOT To Do DIY Car Maintenance.

We all know how important it is to “learn from our mistakes”, but as far as this applies to DIY car repairs, how many of us fully understand the implications of the truism that “history often repeats itself”? It is easier than you might think  to make the same mistake twice when trying to repair your car yourself, so to help you avoid the painful, and often expensive consequences of “not having learned anything”, we have compiled this list of the top 5 mistakes DIY mechanics make. So take heed, because it could cost you a ton of money if you choose to ignore the valuable, free advice we are offering you here. So here is what NOT to do-  

Don’t act on gut feelings.

It is said that a little knowledge can be dangerous thing, so don’t assume that since the car does this, or that, that the problem must be following thing. However, we understand that not everybody has the diagnostic insights of Honest Joe down at the Corner Garage, but the thing is that some problems can produce symptoms that mimic those of other, unrelated problems.

Some diagnostic procedures have to be done in certain ways to produce the desired solution, and more often than not, DIY mechanics spend hours and lots of money “repairing” the wrong thing, simply because they did not ask the right questions during the diagnostic procedure. Much of modern automotive diagnostics involve several processes of elimination, and “Eureka” moments are few and far between.

So the moral of this story is that unless the problem is obvious, and you have clear and unambiguous proof that a component is defective, leave the diagnostic procedure to professionals.


Don’t NOT rely on the repair manual.

Repair manuals were created with only thing in mind- to provide step-by-step instructions on how to take a car apart, and then to re-assemble it again in such a way that there are no parts left over.

The smartest thing any DIY mechanic can do is to invest in a repair manual for his vehicle. In it, he will find instructions on how to change the oil, replace the sparkplugs, rebuild the transmission, and where to find whatever it is that needs fixing. More importantly though, a manual will have wiring diagrams, and explanations on how to find the cause of anything from  low fuel pressure, to transmission noises, to why the radio stopped working, and even where to find the fuses.

Don’t assume you can’t do it.

We are not suggesting that you should tackle any repair job blindly, but many aspiring DIY mechanics assume that they cannot do anything themselves. In fact, there are dozens of things anybody with even a modicum of technical ability can do to maintain their own cars, but some mechanics and repair shops are very good at exploiting the myth that “nobody can work on their own cars anymore”, and many DIY types are only too willing to believe them

Many common, but easily repairable car problems give plenty of advance warning that something is wrong, such as weird noises when you apply the brakes, and it is common mistake among DIY’ers to ignore the symptom because it “looks too complicated to fix myself”. Get a manual, some basic tools, and see what the problem is. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you can save a significant amount of money by replacing the brake pads yourself.

Don’t use the wrong oil.

There is a common misconception among many people that all engine oils are the same, and that the differences spelt out on the labels are just money-making gimmicks. Oils are different for a reason, and if synthetic oil is much more expensive than mineral oil, it is because synthetic oil provides more lubrication bang for your maintenance buck.

Using the wrong oil can have devastating effects on an engine or transmission, regardless of what  Uncle Fred, or anyone else says about it. In fact, some engines and their emission control systems demand synthetic oil, and to use anything else is just plain dumb. If you are unsure about what grade or type oil your engine needs, ask the dealer, or consult your repair manual.

Tip: When you do an oil change, it is very important to do only one thing at a time. For instance, if you drain the oil, replace the drain plug immediately- don’t do something else that can make you forget that you have not tightened it. Also try to do the whole job in one go- there are many stories of DIY mechanics who slipped off for a cup of tea while the oil drained, only to take off for the shops afterward with no oil in their engines. Don’t let this happen to you.

Don’t NOT label parts.

If you are new to the DIY car repair scene, don’t forget to properly label parts as you remove them from the car. It is very easy to think that you will remember what goes where, and in what order, but this almost never works.

Before you start any repair job, collect all your tools, get some containers to keep all the bits and pieces together, and then stand back to get a sense of what the re-assembled part or system should look like. At this point it is a good idea to take some pictures from as many angles as you can, and make notes on what goes where if you can’t take pictures.

When you begin taking things apart, take a picture of every step, and make notes of any features that you cannot photograph. Next, compare the replacement parts with the defective ones, and begin the re-assembly process in the EXACT reverse order of removal only if you are absolutely certain that you have the right parts. Refer to the pictures and notes you made at every step of the way, and tighten every fastener as you insert it. Good luck!