By on July 9, 2018

Image: Matthew Guy/TTAC

If you’re expending bandwidth on this site, chances are you’re a bit of a gearhead. In addition to eating, breathing, and talking cars, I’m willing to wager more than a few of us turn a wrench on our own vehicles when the need arises.

Such a need popped up in our house this week.

Our six-year old Dodge Charger, the first car I’ve ever kept long enough to pay off, threw a couple of idiot lights at us on Thursday. Both the traction control and ABS lamps illuminated simultaneously and are now burning as kind of an eternal flame to internal combustion. The cruise control stopped working, as well.

Astute readers will pin this malady on a wheel speed sensor, and they would be correct. The luxury of having a two-car garage is not lost on your author, so into the concrete cave it went to be hoisted aloft on an ancient but sturdy Motomaster floor jack. A bolt or two and electrical harness later, all was well. A new part wasn’t even required; simply a cleaning of the old one and its wiring connection (remember blowing into Nintendo cartridges?) did the trick. And yes, I know, blowing into Nintendo games actually did more harm than good.

I am always willing to accept help, but this task was well within my scope. Big suspension work, though? That’s where I coil up and shock myself into springing for a bit of help. At what point do you run out of talent, if at all?

[Image: Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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126 Comments on “QOTD: Your Level of Wrenchitude?...”


  • avatar
    Maymar

    I do my own biyearly winter tire changes, although most other routine maintenance is done by dealer. I can do oil changes and such, but as long as I want to preserve the powertrain warranty (and frankly, a condo parking garage isn’t extremely conclusive to wrenching either), might as well fork over the money a couple times a year.

    When one of my rear springs cracked last year, I took that opportunity to install lowering springs (got the kit cheaper than the stock springs. I was able to install the rears in a parking lot, but getting the front struts apart was beyond my tools and ability.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Considering how little it costs to get an oil change done, I don’t think it’s worth the bother to do it yourself. Plus you then have to deal with the old oil and filter.

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        FORMER

        You are correct. Oil changes cost about the price of materials.
        What cured me of DIY oil changes was 20 yrs ago.
        I had a Nissan SE-R.
        The oil filter was in an IMPOSSIBLE to reach location. Impossible.
        I still have that oil filter on my bookshelf as a homage to [email protected]#K DIY oil changes.

      • 0 avatar

        For me the trouble is finding the time to have it done. That and around me jiffylube is cheap but most of the places I trust are not. While it doesn’t save me any money I can wake up in the morning and change the oil in either of my cars in less then 10 minutes.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Mopar, I agree. The time lost having an oil change is greater than DIY. Of course, if I am due for an inspection, I usually let them change the oil as well. Money can be replaced. Time cannot.

        • 0 avatar
          focus-ed

          “For me the trouble is finding the time to have it done.” – I call this BS. It takes more time to stop at a shop and wait in line than to park the vehicle in your own garage (and at the time that suits you), lift the vehicle (if needed), drain, replace the filter and pour fresh oil in. Plus you know what comes out and what goes in. And no way it’s cheaper at a shop unless you accept crap, do it every 3k and your hourly wage (or ego) is too much to get your hands dirty every 8 months.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        Yeah the cost is low, but the risk of letting some unmotivated mongloid touch your car is immense. I remember how I took my RAV4 to the dealership for an oil change once. The car was less than 2 year old. One of the monkeys in there sprayed the rear door hinges with WD-40, unprompted of course. That washed out the factory grease and the door started creaking. There was nothing I could do about it, I had to put up with that creak for the rest of the term with the car (taking off the door that big was asking for a larger trouble — what if I dinged it?).

        Oil changes – never again. I understand that sometimes a dealership visit is unavoidable. The risk/reward calculation is different then, because the problem is too large and you have no choice but run the risk. But something small like oil change? No, thanks.

        • 0 avatar
          mankyman

          ^ This is credited. I was burned once by iffy-lube. They didn’t tighten the oil pan bolt and all my oil came out of my car as I drove out of the place. I was lucky to save the engine.
          Never aqain. I have a system and can do it in less than an hour from jackstands to putting the old oil back in the container.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “but the risk of letting some unmotivated mongloid touch your car is immense.”

          I had a Safari van and wasn’t too concerned about longevity so I would get Walmart to do the oil changes. They stripped the drain plug which turned into 3 months of arguing with their insurance company. The adjuster was a d!ckhead and finally tracked a manager who expedited the repair. They wanted 2 quotes so I went to two local Chev/GM dealers which were the most expensive shops in town. They mailed me a cheque and I found a chepo shop to do the oil pan change with a jobber part and pocketed around $300 dollars for my hassles.

        • 0 avatar
          b534202

          I usually don’t take my car in for anything.
          The one time I took my car in for the Takata air bag recall and the tech promptly scratched up my head unit while taking apart the dash.

          Even for tires I take off the wheels and just bring them in loose for mounting.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        I do my own oil changes. The type of oil that goes in, to me is irrelevant as long as it is what is called for. The filter on the other hand is not. Right or wrong, and I could be wrong, I believe that paying for a good filter is worth $$ and I am fairly certain the low cost oil change is not giving me the best filter I can get.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          I agree on the filters for a couple of good reasons.

          First, I have read several tests where they cut the filters open and see what they are made of and I certainly dn’t want one with cardboard end caps that lets the oil flow around the filter when the pressure is high.

          Second, I was at a dealership and there were two cars getting a new engine and there were two (quickie type lube that just opened) branded oil filters on the service desk that were burst like a Coke can that froze.

          On our 2000 Durango I do my own oil and use Mobil 1 oil and filters and if they are out of those filters there are a couple other brands that I have seen cut open that I trust. It has 190k miles on it and gets changed every 6500 miles per the manual.

          The roadster gets Royal Purple or Brad Penn and it gets changed every spring. I have run Castrol as well with good luck but if I used the synthetic Valvoline I would lose oil pressure under hard acceleration or cornering so I am assuming it gets thin ans sloshed around too much.

          The Avenger had a bunch of free service so it has always gotten changed at the dealership. Those are up so I haven’t decided whether to continue.

          The Rogue gets the cheap oil change. The local FCA dealer charges $15 and I swear if the engine goes on that it would almost be a blessing.

          I do hate trying to find all the grease fittings though on the truck.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            In principle I agree about using quality parts. I definitely agree about super cheap filters splitting open in the cold (certain engines have a reputation for aggravating this and it depends on their cold oil pressure on a freezing winter morn and design details in their oil system).

            But I stopped being obsessed with getting the highest quality filter possible for a couple simple reasons. The tiniest bits of foreign matter don’t really do any damage if they circulate once or twice before getting filtered, and even cheap filters catch the big and medium stuff.

            Funny thing about oil filters is if you do obsess about getting the highest quality filter then there are some inexpensive, off brand gems that are re-labeled high quality filters. The gouge is easy to find with a google search. (I’m not putting anyone down for obsessing over oil filters, not by any means. It’s just something that I personally stopped caring about.)

      • 0 avatar
        13kRPM

        Doing your own oil changes has little to do with saving money or ensuring that Jippy lube doesn’t let the drain plug go MIA. It is really about checking the health of your car on a regular basis. Consider it like unto a annual physical, except more frequent. I have caught many a developing problem preemptively just because I took the time to get under the car and have a look around with a flashlight while doing a quick oil change. This is especially true with cooling system issues where a small drip hanging on the bottom of a pulley or trace of green the side of the engine block is almost always a sure sign of bigger trouble to come. The inspection process I do probably adds an extra 5 minutes to a normal oil and filter change. On many vans, trucks and SUVs you don’t even need to jack them up, just throw down a old piece of cardboard and have a look around while the oil drains. If you really want to know what is going on with the main engine seals, water pump, power steering system, trans output seals, oil pan gasket, or other cooling system components you have to get under there such is the magic of gravity. Oh and if you think that the “techs” at jiffy lube are going to say anything about anyone of those systems which is puking out fluid I can tell you now it ain’t going to happen. Their operating mantra is get it in and get it out and only look for things they can repair and replace aka wiper blades, air filters and maybe a belt.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I love doing my own oil changes, that way I know it’s done correctly, the oil/filter is one I chose, etc.

      I’ve had some bad experiences getting it done at places, but I will if I am on the road or too busy.

      I have some buckets I put scrap metal in, so my used oil filters go in there. I have some 5 gallon buckets with lids that I store the used oil in, and I can either dump it at an auto parts store or other appropriate used oil receptor.

      I also change the trans fluid/filter in my vehicles, the next service on my Taurus will be due at 250k.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Add me to the camp of “at least I know it’s done right.” My brother had a customer with an older 3.8L Caravan that always took their van to a local Valvoline shop for oil changes. One day they tell them “can’t get the drain bolt off, it just spins.” Wanted to charge them for a new oil pan and denied any wrongdoing on their part. My brother got the job to replace the pan. Turns out someone over-torqued the bolt so bad that the welded-on nut on the inside of the pan broke free. Didn’t matter that they had receipts for only taking the car to Valvoline with recorded mileage and everything, they just threw their hands up. The cheap places are also horrible about not reinstalling splash shields correctly, losing half the clips (or just throwing them out to save time).

        I find it satisfying to drain the old dirty oil and pour in the fresh stuff, the engine always seems to run smoother afterwards :) As others have mentioned its an excellent opportunity to check over the rest of the car, grease some zerks on steering linkages and driveshafts if so equipped. I dunno, there’s even a point of pride for me to have the hood up on a nice weekend morning doing an oil change or some other job and having the neighbors walking by with their dogs and whatnot. I also always get a kick out of shopping for engine oil and filter, sick I know. I’m not super particular about absolutely sticking with only one brand, for my 1990s vehicles I like a middle of the road synthetic-blend “high mileage” 5W-30. Oversized Motorcraft FL1A for my Rangers (still made in USA!), Denso for my 4Runner (now made in China…grrr)

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Not interested in doing a clutch job at home, the transmission is too heavy to move by myself and I have no way of getting the car far enough up in the air anyway.

    Engine wise, I’m not going to remove the cylinder head. I’ve done cooling system stuff and a timing belt. If the engine needed internal repair I’d get a rebuild or a crate engine, but have someone else do it. I’ve never kept a car long enough to need an engine anyway.

    Brakes, shocks, struts, no problem.

    That’s on street cars. On race cars, I can go further, on my Formula Ford I routinely pulled the head and lapped the valves, and pulling the engine every other year, to be sent off to be refreshed, was routine. Race cars are much easier to work on, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      I built the engine in the roadster and did the clutch but I absolutely refused to touch the synchronizers in the a833 transmission that I got used.

      Swapping heads or intake manifolds isn’t too bad to do. Most things I CAN do but sometimes it is worth paying someone else to do it.

      I don’t do upholstery repairs.

      The kids help out now and then as well. The 8 year old boy helped me replace a brake light switch and the 16 year old girl replaced the shifter boot. A decade in the desert sun did the leather no favors.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      This is about my level as well. I have years of fairly modern DOHC engine and manual transmission building experience and I have the ability to do pretty much anything mechanical aside from opening an automatic transmission, but without access to a shop, I don’t think I would do my clutch myself. Same problems – can’t get the car high enough in the air and the transmission is too unwieldy for me to move it around in that limited space. I am more likely to hurt myself than the money saved vs. paying someone to do it when the time comes.

      Engine work – if I can do it in the car, I’d probably do it, but I’m not going to pull a motor in my garage.

      Maybe the real problem is that I don’t have any friends that would be willing to help and I also prefer to work alone.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    In my younger years I did all the regular maintenance myself, including new exhaust systems, oil/filter changes, valve adjustments, carb adjustments, brake pad/disc changes and fluid changes, strut/shock changes, points and condenser replacement/change, fiberglass rust repair and repaint, water pump, radiator, and hose replacement, and bearing/joint greasing, but fortunately never had to do any internal engine or gearbox repairs. Today many of those regular jobs are no longer needed because of electronics and better materials, and I no longer own ancient cars, which means much less to do. On the other hand, given that I seem to have less time and more money, I usually pay to have someone do what little remains to be done.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I can do a lot, but things I’ve either never attempted or wouldn’t want to:

    1. Engine machine work
    2. Chroming / re-chroming trim
    3. Lifitng an entire body off a frame/subframe.
    4. Seat upholstery
    5. Rebuilding an electronically-controlled automatic transmission.
    6. Tire mounting and balancing.

  • avatar

    I’ve done a lot with cars. From rebuilding engines and transmissions, suspension work, electrical, and even body work. As i’ve worked at a dealership and an NHRA race team. It’s given me a lot of opportunities to learn new skills while turning wrenches.

    For my daily drivers? I take it to the dealership. My Tacoma has scheduled maintenance covered until 100,000K miles, So I only pay for wiper blades and brake pads. The crosstrek and Miata get so few miles that I have the local shop do oil changes at every yearly state inspection. Along with any other maintenance they need. I just don’t have the time nor desire to be out in the driveway on a hot summer day nor a cold winter evening changing brake pads anymore. Those cars just need to work.

    My motorcycle is my project, and i’ll spend all day in the garage rebuilding the shocks or pulling the drivetrain to lube the splines. Because that vehicle was purchased to be my outlet to turn wrenches on. And that’s the big difference.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      100,000,000 miles of maintenance? Damn, that’s gotta be several times more than the cost of the truck.

      • 0 avatar

        Buy a vehicle with standard Toyota Care and maintenance is covered for 2yr/20Kmi. But purchase the extended warranty and it’s bumped up to the duration of the warranty. I’ve only got 16Kmi on the truck now and I’m already happy I shelled out for the extras. I convinced them to switch me to the ‘heavy duty’ schedule, so now every 5,000mi I drop my truck off, drink some coffee, surf the net on my phone, and then pick my truck up with fresh oil, tires rotated, and all the fluids topped off.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Thus far, I haven’t ventured into doing a head gasket, so I’d say that is where I call it quits.

    I’ve done struts/springs, rack and pinion, brakes, radiator, water pump, harmonic balancer, valve covers, intake manifold. wheel bearings/hubs, all on FWD cars and clutch/slave cylinder on a RWD truck.

    I’m pretty much self-taught, and in recent years, YouTube has been a big help. I’m wanting to expand further, so I’m constantly on the lookout for cheap cars in need of repair. I have also learned a lot from dismantling parts cars.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The thing with a head gasket, they don’t just get tired and let go, something else is causing it. My experience is that either the cylinder head or block is no longer true.

      Nowadays it’s more likely that you’d just get a rebuild, unless it’s for a classic or antique.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        With today’s aluminum-intensive engines, I have little doubt that you’re 100% correct. I have seen older (iron heads/block) engines that just needed the gasket itself, and ran reliably for many years and miles after it was replaced.

        One engine I know will crack up even after a relatively minor overheating event is the much-ballyhooed 22RE Toyota engine. Every single one I’ve seen with a blown head gasket also had a cracked block. I warned my cousin of this very fact a few years back when he bought a low mileage 4Runner that had barely overheated. He spent quite a bit on a reconditioned head, new injectors, etc and it still wouldn’t run right. Sure enough, cracked block.

        • 0 avatar
          Pete Zaitcev

          My only experience with the head gasket came a courtesy of Mopar 2.0L. All of those engines blew gaskets. However, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the motor. The dealership replaced the gasket and it lasted 120k miles afterwards. They didn’t even bother with disconnecting everything on the head: just took the chain off. Drained the fluids, peeled the old gasket off, slid the new one in, slapped the head back on. I was amazed that such things were possible. Well, it was 1990s – 20 years ago.

          • 0 avatar

            The neon 2.0 was an actual head gasket problem. Not head or block so yeah unless something awful happened alot of times you got away with just the gasket. The report is that Mopar engineers knew the part would fail but were overridden on developing and making a more costly but reliable replacement by the the management who preferred to save a few bucks a car.

          • 0 avatar

            Chrysler in the 90’s was still using old cork head gaskets. I learned a lot from my Neons and changed a few head gaskets on those myself. Once they switched to a multilayer steel design for the gasket the HG problems went away.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        In some cases it’s a defect. The first year (2005) of the second-gen Tacomas had a known issue with the head gasket on the right side head on the 1GR-FE V6, with the water passage near the rear (number 5) cylinder, that’s resulted in a lot of replacements.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Yep early run 4th gen 4Runners with the V6 (03′-05′ ish trucks) are known to sometimes pop HGs around 150k miles. Conversely many make it to 200k+ just fine.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t think I have ever done one with both aluminum block and head. Plenty of old iron on iron ones with no issue. Aluminum and iron I sent the head out to be checked on the couple I have done and they were fine. One of the shops my dad used to use for machine work once told me that early 2000 Subaru head repairs put his kids thru college.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The thing is a block or head just doesn’t go out of “true”, something-else caused it like overheating. With MLS head gaskets it isn’t as common but back in the early days of aluminum heads on iron blocks it was the head gasket that just got tired and let go. The fact that the gasket let the coolant go where it wasn’t supposed to was the root cause of the overheating that warped or cracked the head or caused erosion of the head or block.

  • avatar
    gtem

    On my own in my driveway/garage I stick to brake/suspension/engine maintenance work, some light body work. Assisting my brother I’ve done as far as helping with an engine swap (just a helping hand). I’m honestly very wary of going too far down the rabbit-hole with serious engine work, and honestly even some of the suspension work on older cars have turned into real battles due to rust (lower control arm on my Pilot). I got off easy replacing the exhaust from the cat back on the 4Runner last week, I had the luxury of soaking everything in PB Blaster for a few weeks while waiting on parts and just driving the Ranger until I got enough motivation to tackle it. It all came apart by hand with a 1/4 inch drive socket!

    I’m increasingly realizing that I’m not enjoying some of these wrenching sessions as much as I sometimes convince myself in my head. Weekend time is becoming more valuable to me now that I have a house and the maintenance and projects that go along with that, to say nothing of starting a family soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      That was possibly the start of my disillusionment. Once you have young kids and have to take them to their activities, visits, etc. weekend time becomes scarce. Particularly if you also have house maintenance/upkeep to worry about.

      Then when your partner is driving the kids here and there, particularly in bad weather, you become concerned about having the ‘safest, most reliable vehicle possible’ for them to travel in. Thus the purchase of a new or newer vehicles. When you have a vehicle that is under warranty, the tendency for many is to do even less work yourself.

      Eventually I assumed the attitude that “I can make more money, but I can’t make more time”, and changed my priorities regarding how I would spend my time.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I think I’m good for one more round of beater driving and then I’ll pack it in. I have a friend with an awesome garage full of high end air tools from his days of driving seriously modified turbo Mitsubishis. He’s got a kid now and a demanding career so he’s upgraded to leasing an AMG Merc. Still gets his kicks behind the wheel, and a lot more comfort and safety :)

      • 0 avatar

        Do to money I still wrench with the family cars. I still enjoy it but there is a difference between working because you have too and want too. When It makes sense I have hired out jobs I would normally do to wanting more time with the kids and less under the car. I will be doing a wheel bearing in the coming weeks but that, should not be a big deal. I’m dreading the heater core on my Durango (wife’s daily driver) I have it bypassed for the summer, but the huge amount of labor vs cheap parts means I will need to find time to do it on my own this summer.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Same here, I tend to do the oil changes and other maintenance on my parent’s and some extended family’s vehicles. I’m actually doing my cousin’s MDX later this week.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Me too. If it is my primary vehicle, i’d rather just pay someone to fix it. I do most of the wrenching on any motorcycle I’ve ever owned since no one else is dependent upon it. I also prefer to do most of the work on my own bikes due to some close calls because of someone else’s shoddy work/poor maintenance.
      I like to tinker on my kid’s bicycles and have been teaching my 16 yr old to work on his bike. The kid is a wrecking crew so I’m always showing him something.

    • 0 avatar
      94metro

      Previously I would top out at oil/ATF changes and external filters, but now that I have a garage for the first time in my adult life I am just starting to get more into doing my own maintenance and repair. But even in this honeymoon period where it is a lot of fun it only takes one grueling weekend struggling with stubborn bolts and unforeseen delays to fully deplete your enthusiasm.

      Once you have young kids you have so little time without any type of responsibilities. You’d have to really like wrenching to expend a weekend’s worth of free time to save 50 bucks on a brake job.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “to save 50 bucks on a brake job.”

        (Un)fortunately the savings are vastly more than that. I’ve seen some receipts from friends just going to non-dealer chains and it is mineblowing how much margin there is in brake jobs. I paid a total of $150 in parts to get front and rear rotors and pads for a friend’s Mazda3. A all-4-corner brake job with rotors and pads is like $700 even for a fairly pedestrian car these days. I had the dealer try to sell me $1200 of rear rotors, calipers and pads on my wife’s Camry when the pads started to drag a bit from some rust on the calipers that just needed to be cleaned off and re-lubed. It was laughable. Cleaned the calipers up, $60 set of pads and I was all set. Given how easy they are, I’ll keep doing brakes myself on any out-of-warranty car I own.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s the truth even some of the lower cost independents have even started doing it. Brakes seem to be a big money driver in the service side. 200-250 a pair seems to be the base line here in CT. Some of this is the techs are swapping parts without the car needing them. I know one tech who puts on new rotors calipers, pads and hardware on every brake job whether it needs it or not. I have had very few caliper failures in years of driving 10-20 year old beaters which makes me think that’s a bit nuts.

          I did the brakes on my 300m recently rear caliper stuck and the outer pad wore out and ground a nice groove while the other pad looked like it was less then half worn. Changed the rear pads and rotors. Bought new front pads and swapped them in with the old rotors (50k miles on the car) worked fine. I know some people automatically change the rotor but I again think that’s is a bit overkill.

  • avatar
    RSF

    Like most others I don’t have access to a lift at home, so I mainly stick to brakes, filters, and detailing. Oil changes are too messy and I don’t really save much doing on my own so I just go to my local independent shop. I did over the weekend replace a “Shift to Park” switch on my wife’s 2014 Explorer Sport. The dealer wanted about $700 to do the job and 3 other shops wanted 400-500 to do it. A youtube video and a $30 part, and an hour of my time was all it took to replace this switch.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah even when i can afford to hire it out sometimes the pricing pisses me off and I do it myself. Brakes are one of those things. I spent $120 and less then 2 hours doing my brakes a few months ago, cheapest shop wanted $450 my local indie I like (who is usually somewhat reasonable) wanted $525.

  • avatar
    earthwateruser

    I replaced the front brake rotors and pads on my car a couple of weekends ago. It took more effort than should have been required due to what I would call an overapplication of Loctite on the OEM caliper bracket bolts. First side was tough but doable. Second side entailed a broken breaker bar, a propane torch, a couple of shiny new box end wrenches and a nice length of galvanized pipe. It all ended well and I saved enough cash to buy a new set of tires! I’ll do disc brakes, but I won’t mess w/ drums. Fortunately, that’s not much of a problem these days.

    • 0 avatar

      Drums aren’t bad it’s just a different thought process. Once you know how to adjust them and the layout of hardware they don’t take all that much more time then discs. My first job at my first job was rebuilding brakes on a boat trailer, luckily I had learned how to do it in auto shop and working with my dad before that.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        “Drums aren’t bad it’s just a different thought process.”

        The secret: Open up both sides, but finish one side first so you have the second as a reference (then reference the first). Assuming, of course, they were done correctly the previous time.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Back in the early 2000s, I had two 1980s G-bodies. Did engine swaps on both of them. One was a 355 where I bought a short block, put on heads, swapped the engine in, did the timing, and got everything running just fine. I felt like a real mechanic, but when it came time to swap out the TH200-4R transmission, I had a shop do it.

    The thing I hated most about working on cars? Getting underneath one – sure I used all the right equipment but I still didn’t like doing it.

    Also: if you don’t have the right tool to do the job, it greatly multiplies the time factor.

    These days – and given the ultra tight hood space underneath MINI (and most other cars) I have someone else do the work. Though I do change the oil on my MINI, and have done some minor repairs, like a new glove box door on my wife’s car.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Quite frankly my eyesight isn’t what it once was, my body is not as flexible and I have broken every finger, often multiple times and they just do not bend as well as they were intended to.

    Now old age and mileage are not always an excuse. One of my close friends is the same age and he can and does do any and all wrenching and rebuilding. But then he was always a talented mechanic and enjoys it.

    As others have stated, with environmental regulations, it is much easier and about as inexpensive to have my local independent conduct oil changes. And he knows my vehicles and inspects/checks them at the same time.

    It is almost impossible to reach some sparkplugs and now that they last so long, I am not going to risk having one break when trying to remove it. On my older vehicles, I used to change them annually, without any problem.

    Having grown up working on full size GM cars with small block V8 or even 6 cylinder engines or Dodge/Valiants with slant 6’s, I am flummoxed by the lack of accessibility in most current vehicles.

    And often even the ‘smallest’ job is now over complicated. Consider what is required to change a headlight or even a cabin air filter on an older Buick LaCrosse/Allure. Often it appears that the engineers/designers are trying to discourage any casual do it yourselfers.

  • avatar
    GTL

    A few years ago the alternator gave out on my wife’s Mazda minivan. OK, I thought, I’ll just pull it off and get it rebuilt. Raised the hood and once I finally found where it was, I just closed the hood. You didn’t have to pull the engine to get to it, but just about everything else!

    OTOH, the starter is about to go on my ’98 Ram pickup. It’s pretty easily accessible; I’ll probably do it myself.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Vans are a special case. I had an alternator go out on a Mk 1 Focus, did that one myself. The alternator went out on my wife’s Odyssey, I let Honda deal with that one.

      Not much room under the hood of a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      I had an experience with A/C compressor on Galant like this: basically the whole front-end had to come out. The only thing left was the timing belt, thank heavens.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Any more, I hire a trustworthy shop to work on my cars, though that wasn’t always true. With my first car I was willing to do almost anything that didn’t require specialized tools and equipment (no engine crane, for instance.) I even did some of my own body work, leak detection, paint prep, etc. Even under the hood was fair game.

    On the other hand, as cars became more complex, my efforts moderated to the obvious and relatively simple–I was far more willing to work on cockpit electronics than on the engine after 1980, though I did work under the hood of a ’90 F-150 not all that long ago (change out thermostat, clean air box (very oily as the PCV valve had never been changed and a lot of oil made it into the airway.) Still, I’m just not in the same kind of condition I was when I was doing almost all my own wrenching.

    Oh, speaking of wrenching reminds me of that Olds Calais article with the aftermarket cruise control… something I did with a ’73 Ford Gran Torino almost as soon as I got my hands on it in ’86. Easy install, even using three magnets on the driveshaft. Once you get used to using cruise control for longer trips, you don’t want to give it up. Even today, if I weren’t using cruise, I’d probably be getting speeding tickets every time I hit the freeway.

    My wrenching today is limited to monitoring fluid levels, refilling as necessary and maybe some very minor work. Even changing out light bulbs has become a complex process in newer cars.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I had a wheel speed sensor go bad on my 2004 BMW 3 series after sitting outside in the rainy airport parking lot for a week. I believe they just had some light surface rust.

    I drove off and before I could leave the parking lot, the DSC and BRAKE lights lit up orange. The car drove fine. I drove home and they never illuminated again. That was about 2-3 years ago.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    For the ’60s and ’70s cars I owned, I did all the maintenance and most of the minor repairs (outside of opening the engine or transmission). However, when I got my ’84 CRX, I ordered a factory shop manual so I could do my own work. The manual showed me I had neither the skills, tools, diagnostics, or tiny fingers to do anything other than minor stuff. Even changing the spark plugs involved losing skin and blood from my hands.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ve done almost everything except rebuild a transmission, and I’m no good at cosmetic work.

    I don’t have the tools for tire mounting, nor any ability whatsoever with upholstery.

    I’ve even aligned a couple cars using crude tools, but I wouldn’t put them up against a proper computerized machine. But the tires didn’t wear,and the cars tracked straight.

    However, when the wiring harness failed on my 96 Grand Voyager, I walked away. Too much work, and the parts were more expensive than the car was worth.

    At this point, I’ve got slightly more money than time or patience, and my aging body isn’t as happy bending over an engine as it used to be. That, plus my expectations are higher for the newer cars than the stuff from the 1970s and 80s, so I’m unwilling to expend a lot of energy on a modern car that’s turned sour.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m not as ambitious as I used to be, so I nowadays I stick to oil and filter changes, brakes, spark plugs, etc. I’ll tackle anything where I have a comfort level of getting it done, like vehicle speed sensors, clocksprings, interior stuff (but not upholstery, if it involves hog rings), and other weird stuff.

    Back in the days of OHV V8s and carburetors, I felt comfortable rebuilding carbs, replacing distributors, water pumps, fuel pumps, etc. I’m no OBD-II expert, but I’ll try repairs of that type, if it’s easy enough to get to a fix.

    Sometimes I wonder how many more years I’ll be able to work on cars, and then I see Wayne Carini’s assistant Roger (he’s gotta be 80, if he’s a day) crawl under a car, and I don’t worry so much.

    I’m learning to do some tasks standing up rather than while squatting, like the other day when I changed rear disc pads on my daughter’s Forte Koup. For example, it used to be that I would leave the caliper mount in place, and pull the slider pins and clean and re-grease them. Now I’ll unbolt the caliper mount, put it on the bench or one of our rolling trash carts, and take it apart, clean the pins, and re-grease them. It’s two more bolts that have to be removed, reinstalled, and torqued, but it’s easier on my back and my knees.

  • avatar
    srh

    I do less than most here. I’ll rotate tires, bleed brakes, and swap pads. Mostly in support of track days. I did install a super-charger in my BRZ with the help of a friend who had a lift, but I probably wouldn’t do that again.

    All that said, both the picture on this post and the verbiage strongly indicated that you opted to use your trusty old jack without the assistance of jack stands. I may not be (actually, definitely am not) an expert on any of this, but one thing I do know is that $50 worth of jack stands can save you from death or, perhaps worse, a lifetime of immobility.

    I wouldn’t do /anything/ on my car without putting it on jackstands.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      That’s a good point. Quality jack stands and a level surface are necessities if you have to get under the car.

      How are you liking the supercharger? I’m looking at getting something more track friendly in a couple of years and the BRZ is my leading candidate, although lately my head has been turned by a slinky Italian model named Giulia.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        The SC definitely changed the feel of the BRZ.

        At my local track (Portland International Raceway) I ran bone-stock 1:39. After fitting tires (Dunlop Direzza) and brakes I was running 1:36. $6000 worth of supercharger and probably 30 hours of labor got me to 1:33. But even then I couldn’t hang with the M3s on the straights (though I’d reel them in on the corners).

        That said, while it was a fun experience in hindsight I probably wouldn’t have done it. At the end of the day, after purchase plus mods (tires, brakes, suspension, supercharger) I had about $45K into the BRZ and obviously voided every aspect of the warranty. I never quite trusted it for DD duty and even with street pads the brakes howled like a banshee. For $45K I could have gotten much more car, particularly used. After a divorce I needed something more reliable and ended up selling it for $20K. Some local enthusiast got a hell of a deal, but we all know that aftermarket mods decrease the value of a car, no matter how much they cost.

        The BRZ is a great little track car with light modifications (tires and pads). Unlike the heavier, high-power cars you won’t drop a fortune on consumables. But at least in my opinion (and as of three years ago) it doesn’t really warrant more substantial (and expensive) power mods.

        • 0 avatar
          Pete Zaitcev

          Thanks for the insight. I heard from savagegeese that putting a blower on BRZ produces some problems with heat rejection, so in his case it started a chain of mods to address raising temperatures, which turned into a money sink in the end.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Smart. I’ve always carried jackstands in the trunk of my cars, and I use them – even for a tire change.

  • avatar
    18726543

    I still have all the tools from my dealership days in the early-to-mid 2000’s and still enjoy using them quite a bit! I do all the service work on my CR-V, Mustang, and my girlfriend’s Crosstrek (though I will take the Crosstrek to the Subaru dealer for the transmission change because you have to set the fluid level with the trans at operating temperature and the best way to do that is with the Subaru scan tool).

    I enjoy all simple stuff like fluid and brake changes, I don’t mind electrical work, suspension work is fine. I’ve never had to do any engine disassembly at my house but I would if necessary. I don’t have a hoist for engine removal so I’d draw the line there. Also, press-fit stuff is a pain in the ass so typically I’ll remove an assembly (like a knuckle) and let a local shop do the press work.

    I recently picked up a 1997 Saturn SL2 off Craigslist for 500 bucks with 58k confirmed miles. It’s been sitting for years and my girlfriend and I have been having a lot of fun getting it road-ready together! Needed a fuel pump, all fluids changed, and various this-and-that and it’s been a cheap and enjoyable experience getting it running and ready for inspection!

  • avatar
    vvk

    Every time I have doubts about doing a repair it turns out to be fine. I work on pretty much anything. I prefer working on BMWs most of all because they use metal that does not rust, so all fasteners are easily undone. Also, BMW replacement parts are of much higher quality than aftermarket. I do not enjoy working on Hondas and Nissans because everything is made to be difficult for the owner to repair. I find American cars difficult to work on, too. SAAB, Volvo, Subaru — very easy. Timing belt replacements on Subarus are particularly impressive, very well thought out.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Hondas and Nissans because everything is made to be difficult for the owner to repair”

      I find Hondas to consistently be very DIY-friendly, aside from rusted hardware in the salt belt of course. They’re kind of finicky with insisting on factory-only fluids, but I was relieved to find that the OE transmission had a simple drain/fill procedure and a dip stick to check level. Honda is good too about making the rear bank of plugs accessible on their transverse V6s (perhaps no longer the case on DI cars?). The older 4cyl cars are especially DIY friendly.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        > I find Hondas to consistently be very DIY-friendly

        I still shudder remembering how hot oil was leaking onto my shirt when I helped change oil in my friend’s 1992 Accord. Sadistic placement for an oil filter. Same goes for virtually every Nissan I have worked on. And don’t get me started on the fragile CV joints that Accord had.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Oh, the most obvious Honda-fail in my mind are the captive front rotors on Accords. Separating a lower balljoint to change a rotor?! Gimme a break Honda! And yeah older Hondas definitely seem to have shorter lived CV joints than most, and lower balljoints that need replacing sooner (or else losing your wheel at speed, as I saw 3 different times this spring).

          • 0 avatar
            millmech

            Captive rotors = rotor bolts to the back of the hub?
            OK, hammer out the wheel bearings.
            You’re not going to re-use hammered-on wheel bearings, are you?
            Better buy the new wheel bearings from the dealer, since there’s no adjustment.
            Really, you’re not going to hammer in the new wheel bearings?!
            No, you should gently press them in.
            Golly! Wouldn’t it bolt to the outside just as well?
            Mazda also did it that way.
            OK, back to the Audi 100LS…

    • 0 avatar
      18726543

      I agree gtem. Especially through the 90’s I always appreciated Honda’s ability to design an engine compartment that wasn’t loaded with vacuum and coolant lines. If you compare a late-model Acura Legend’s 3.5L to a GM 3.1L of similar vintage it’s quite a difference. Working around the 4 cylinder engines is extremely simple.

      However, working INSIDE a Honda sucks. Removing a radio from my 98 Camaro was a bezel and 4 bolts. Removing a radio from most Honda things means start at the center console armrest and work forward.

    • 0 avatar

      See I find US cars the easiest to work on. Usually not much issue getting in places. Of course it depends on which car you work on. If you tried to do a timing belt on a PT cruiser you may curse American cars for decades.
      Now European cars I find interesting to work on, but not easy. Some of that is comfort level. I like them because they don’t tend to rust as much and they were designed with interesting engineering. But they are often overly complicated like having to dissemble half the engine accessories to access the thermostat on a VW 2.slow. Or the stupidly complex PCV breather system on 5 cyl volvos. Both of which that comparable jobs on most American cars will take you literally minutes.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        “See I find US cars the easiest to work on.”

        The easiest cars to work on are the ones you understand.

        I’m firmly convinced there is a “national ethos” in terms of building cars. There are certain ways things are done on American, British, German and Japanese cars. They are different, but once you have a broad understanding of the underlying logic it makes things easier.

        I can work on a pre JLR Jaguar or a Land Rover and things are similar. Same for Fords and GM’s, they each have a certain way of doing things that is different from JLR, but each makes sense in it’s own way.

        One isn’t better or worse than the other, just different. I think that’s partly why Jaguar has a bad reputation in the USA, and vice versa American cars in Europe are regarded as junk – the local mechanics simply don’t understand the imports, and perhaps more importantly don’t want to/can’t be bothered to understand the differences.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          On the one hand, there undoubtedly are cases of Manufacturer X having a better and more serviceable gizmo than Manufacturer Y.

          On the other hand, there has to be some truth to your theory. An extreme example: Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension. I’ve heard some US pundits weigh in on it as if it’s total witchcraft and is horribly unreliable. But would it really have been in production for half a century-plus and gone on thousands of cars if it weren’t basically a sound, reliable concept?

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @Jagboi and Featherston, SU carburetor is another example. I love them. I understand the weak points that need extra attention, what the variations over the years mean in terms of drivability and so on, how to repair the things to keep them working when they get really old, and just how to keep them in tune. (It so happens that I haven’t worked on one in about twenty years, but anyhoo…) On the other hand, there are plenty of gearheads who despise the things. These people are usually smart, skilled people who happen to have cut their automotive teeth growing up in North America. No biggie, there is room for all kinds of people in autodom.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I’m handy with the recurring stuff; fluids, filters, rad flushes, brake parts, etc. Anything that’s predictable, can be done with basic tools, and which is worth the learning curve because you know you’ll be doing it again and again. It’s about pride.

    I’m less enthusiastic about the one-off jobs, especially if they involve specialized tools, diagnostic skills or superhuman patience. Watching some Youtuber spend twelve hours trying to swap out a set of corroded power steering lines is enough to make me hire a professional who can do it in three. It’s about economics.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My brother did the timing chain tensioner on his ’02 XL7 a few years back, 12 hour book time. Good thing he is a mechanic himself. He should have swapped the chain over too as its making noise again on start up. That and swapping the CVT in his wife’s 2010 Rogue with a reman unit. At least his youtube channel gets him some ad revenue when he posts these drawn out repairs as 4 part series haha

  • avatar
    OzCop

    Old guy here…wrenched all my life, or so it seems…still do at 75, playing with race cars, although getting up and down off a creeper is a bit more difficult. I’ve done everything except machine work, and actually did a bit of that. I still have my dad’s old liquid cooling based, Black Hawk valve grinding machine and valve seating tools. Everything from flathead 6 and 8 cylinders, to the modern, turbo charged, computer controlled engines, transmissions, clutches.

    My specialty at one time was auto transmission rebuilding. I had a slight advantage working in my dads service station, garage, and body shop from the time I was 12 til I graduated HS. Even during a long police career I continued playing with cars and doing my own work.

    I was doing suspension work and wheel/balance/alignments at 14. Dad had one of the first Hunter on car, high speed, wheel balancers in the county, and state police from all over brought their police units to us for alignments and wheel balancing. I was doing front end alignments on a Hunter Lite a line 4 wheel alignment machine when huge bending tools and porta power units had to be used on several styles of front suspension.

    I rebuilt transmissions on a dozen sheriff cars back when a good portion of county roads were not paved, and the first hour was spent getting the cars on jack stands, and prying the mud and grime off the bolts just to get a socket on them. It was while spitting dried mud and dirt out of my mouth while laying under those cars that I decided I would prefer driving them rather than working on them. Thus, I began my police career in 1966…

  • avatar
    mittencuh

    I’m fine with doing the majority of maintenance. Not a fan of replacing struts/shocks on my own though. And I’m not confident with any electrical system work beyond replacing sensors.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I do minor cosmetic repairs, maintenance, and upgrades. I am grown but single and my parents are elderly and disabled and I visit them about 1 weekend a month. They have a garage and live in a rural area. I like to have a minor project I can tinker with on-site, so I can be present, but not under their noses 24/7. I also do regular junkyard visits as a hobby to see what I can find that I can use. I don’t bother with self oil changes anymore. Some projects: struts on a Mazda truck, numerous audio upgrades, light replacement, air filters on many cars over the years, extra 12v outlets, extra interior and trunk lighting, add variable intermittent wipers to a Protege just by swapping a switch, add autodim/compass mirror to a Protege, install precut window tint (impressed myself with that one), rotate tires, installed a hitch on a Focus, retrofit Focus with a cabin air filter, leather autoshift knob on Focus, replace worn cruise control buttons on Focus. Future: more interior lighting in Focus, add homelink hardwired garage door opening scavenged from a Lincoln LS, extra hardwired USB ports. I attempted to rattle can refinish a set of alloy wheels and would not recommend that. I don’t do anything that takes more than 2 consecutive afternoons, or has any potential to disable my car if something goes wrong. This weekend I need to investigate a line leak in my windshield squirts.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Having spent many, many happy hours working on cars, I find it impossible to imagine being an enthusiast without having the ability to actually repair the objects of my affection. The expense would be exorbitant, and the frustration of dealing with hired hands overwhelming.

    As far as what I farm out, it is mostly major stuff that requires lots of specialized equipment–stuff like short block rebuilds, transmission rebuilds, extensive body/paint work, A/C charging, alignments. Everything else, I do. I may not be as fast as a pro, but I usually get the job done.

    With regard to doing my own oil changes, I do it myself to save the time and frustration associated with taking my car to a pro. By the time I drive down to Jiffy Lube, wait in their line, tell the idiot that the air filter he is showing me is perfectly serviceable, and that no, I don’t need the air in my tires changed, and get back home, I could have done oil changes on all three cars in my family fleet.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I would probably farm out more work on my car if a pro did work half as carefully and neatly as I do. I have had VERY few experiences of paying for service in which the work met my standards for quality.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Well I’ve never rebuilt transmissions, repaired a manual trans or two and replaced solenoids and sensors on Automatics. But otherwise since I spent many years where my day job was as a mechanic means that I’ve done virtually everything else. I spend a couple of years where 90% of the work I did was engine replacements, either with a used or rebuilt engine.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I avoid doing anything that’s too heavy. I don’t own a cherry picker or a floor jack. So, for example, on my car the fuel tank needs dropping if I wanted to change the fuel filter (there’s no hatch in the floor). The tank is held in place with its skid plate that bolts up into the frame on top. I’m not going to do it at home. Same goes for transmission or exhaust work. Not even contemplating a new engine, although I helped friends who did it.

    One other thing I can’t do is suspension bushings. It needs a press. I knew people who did it with HiLift, but I’m not that handy.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I’ve always bought the factory service manuals. That’s a basic first step and just being able to verify work done by others can easily save the cost of the manual. Now online resources can help a lot, but manuals are still handy for part numbers.

    I have done shocks but not struts. No transmission or internal engine work. I have replaced sensors, filters, reset tpms sensors, rotate wheel sets, hvac motors, install or repair power door lock sets, repair power window motors, install trip computer, trim paint and rust jobs, simple body work, easier suspension bushings, replace door hinge bushings, line interior with sound deadening materials, replace latches, weatherstripping, program keyfobs. That sort of stuff. My only fancy car tool is a torque wrench.

    I don’t see how anyone can afford to own a Ford or Chrysler if they can’t do this sort of stuff by themselves.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Any opinions about whether washing air filters makes sense? I put a simple one in the washing and it appeared to come out just fine. They are waterproof. Filters are not cheap any more, and replacing them adds up to a lot of money over the life of the cars.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      really?

      I just replace them. $3-8 each on amazon for normal cars, up to 11 or 13 for german cars.

      The most expensive car air filter I ever had is on a Ferrari, and that was $30 from ebay.

      even $30 isn’t worth washing it IMHO… air filters are too important.

  • avatar

    I will do most things. I hire out when the time cos thing makes sense. Last year I had the timing belt on my car done and the wife’s car had ball joints done by a shop because I didn’t think it was worth my time vs what the shop charged. Over the years I have swapped engines and transmissions when something major goes nowadays I usually just buy another car. (easy decision when you typically buy sub 5k beaters). I have never done differential work and have only done minor work on transmissions on my own. I have done internal engine work on some cars but not much, does not scare me much as I was a marine mechanic at one point and tearing into small block and big block chevy’s was a weekly occurrence. Used to work for a shop that rebuilt marine engines for a while.
    I have done fiberglass and metal body work (I’m better at glass I suck at welding) I’m OK but I’m not good with a paint gun. I have done upholstery work as well but not very good at it.
    About 10 years ago I had access to a shop with a lift. Man I miss that. Right now I do everything in my driveway which is not that fun except in the spring and fall weather wise.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I used to do my own oil changes, but it’s so messy and you don’t save much money when local shops will do it for 20 bucks. I haven’t changed my own oil in 10 years.
    Living in the Upper Midwest means sucky roads that beat the crap out of everything that’s unsprung weight, so I’ve been doing brakes and shocks for some time now. I’ve also had to do some wheel bearings (bolt-on hubs are way easier than press-fit bearings) and CV axles. Next up: front control arm bushings on my wife’s Sienna. I’ll buy all-new arms with bushings already installed. But I will have to pull a couple of motor mounts and jack the engine a couple of inches to get at one of them, so it’s not an easy job.
    Best tool in my garage- a $50 electric (120V) 1/2 inch drive impact gum from Harbor Freight. This one tool has saved me hours of work in just the last few years.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    The best tool is Youtube. If you’re good at describing the problem, the internet can help diagnose. Once you have that nailed down, you can then decide if it’s worth your time and trouble.

    I’ve taken on more than I ever thought I could, just because somebody else did it before me and was kind enough to post a video.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I still think the Forums are better than youtube.

      I wade through so many BS youtube videos where its like
      “How to rebuild your engine”
      One hour later- “then just take it all apart and put it back together again”. Huh? You just blabber about BS no one cares about and never actually cover the hard part?

      Do you know how many “How to replace your power steering pump” videos somehow spend 30-45 minutes and never actually remove the power steering pump?

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Agreed on Youtube with the caveat that one must read the public comments in addition to watching the video, to see what if any errors were made.

      I was about to take on a busted power steering line in my old F150, until I saw three separate videos in which a DIYer was driven to the edge of insanity trying to separate rusted parts from salvageable parts. Suddenly paying three hours’ labour didn’t seem so bad.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        Time versus money. You might save the money, but you’ll never get the time back. Especially if you eff it up and still have to pay someone to fix it!

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Second this. Youtube + forum comments. This has helped me identify rattles, even this simplest things.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Like most, I do what I can brakes oil changes etc.

    CEL, depends on what it is. I can usually diagnose are repair on my own though this is fairly infrequent. The Suburban, thus far has been easy to keep up brake switch on the brake pedal was causing cruise control to stop working; $80 part and an hour. No big deal.

    My Vette’ popped a throttle position sensor a few months back, called around dealer wanted close to 2k, indie shop wanted $1300 all to replace the throttle body. I pulled it off cleaned it with carb cleaner, put it back on and the light went off. At least 2k miles later, still no light back on. All said it was an hour + to remove the part. I did in half an hour while enjoying a Miller Lite. Go figure. Repair cost was 1 ML.

    Youtube pretty much tells me if I can do the job or not.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Agree about YouTube being a huge help nowadays. Haynes manuals that were written up into the early 1990s were really great. The ones since then have been hit and miss.

    I don’t have a press so when I needed a new wheel bearing (front wheel drive hub) then I brought that in to a shop to get done.

    Exhaust work is rare nowadays that everything from the factory is stainless steel. My younger self built my own cat-back poor man’s/shade tree exhaust systems from raw materials, and I brazed patches over rust holes or used clamps and a lot of muffler cement. Nowadays? Any exhaust work other than replacing an odd bracket would be straight to the shop.

    I’ve lapped valves and replaced valve seals before but nothing more complicated than that in terms of DIY top end work. I once put a cylinder head in a cardboard box, balanced the box on the crossbar of my bicycle, and walked my bike two miles to a machine shop that would mill the head. The nice part was the ride home took a lot less time! I guess I could have got a ride from someone or just taken the bus… anyhoo… A few days later I retrieved the head using the “reverse of the above procedure,” as the saying goes.

    Hard to reach spark plugs? Let the dealer or a shop remove all that stuff. My younger DIY self probably would have got the right tool for the job, which would have meant multiple trips to the store for a double reverse elbow ratcheting blind articulated widget extension… and got the tool in both 1/4 and 3/8 drive sizes.

    Brakes, drum or disc? I’m still DIY. Fluid bleed/flush too. Basic preventative maintenance like filters and fluid top off, same.

    Oil changes? I like getting under my cars and looking at the bottoms with my own eyes. I guess I don’t need a reason to do that but an oil change serves that purpose. Automatic transmission drain and fill and transmission filters too. I have a lot of gallons of old oil, stinking up my garage, and I need to bring them in… somewhere… for responsible recycling and because they’re taking up more and more space.

    I have an OBD-II scanner but the most use it’s been in the last several years was to narrow down one or two engine sensors whose wiring harnesses weren’t seated well anymore. Spray cleaning with Corrosion X or similar solved that problem. The scanner and trouble codes made it about a five minute job to narrow down the problem. I like this technology!

    I year ago I busted off a new vehicle speed sensor in a hard to reach place on my beater car. The old one stopped working before I got the car (the car is old enough that it had the “odometer doesn’t matter anymore” thing as part of the sale). Embarrassing and frustrating. I cleaned the grime off of the transaxle with some powerful solvents and then I covered up my mistake with Pro Seal (like JB Weld but even better- huzzah!)… this is not the kind of car that I’ll accidentally drive too fast and get a ticket. Thus I still occasionally do a redneck repair and my inner redneck are still alive.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    About the only thing I’ve not done is rebuilding an automatic transmission, simply because I’ve never needed to. I’ve stripped a 1966 Jaguar to bare metal and rebuilt it, including designing an adapter system to use a Mustang 5 speed in place of the original automatic, and putting EFi/Distributorless ignition on it.

    Did everything else myself, including wiring, paint, bodywork, and upholstery plus all the rest of the mechanicals.

    My Saab had a security module fail, so had to get a module from a UK breaker with key, recreate the dealer computer (since there are no Saab dealers anymore) then pair the security module to the immobilizer, then program both those and all the keys to the car. Success! A car that started again.

    So far in 20 years of owning Jaguars and Saab’s there hasn’t been anything I have not tackled that hasn’t worked out.

    Next project is taking the supercharged 6 cylinder from an XJR and retrofitting that to one of the older Jags, along with all the electronics. A big job simply because of the shear amount of wire in the XJR that needs to be gone though. Much quality time has been spent with the Electrical Guide…

  • avatar
    cammark

    I spent a few years “apprenticing” at an Japanese import repair shop while earning my degree in the engineering field. Prior to that I took all three levels of auto technology vocational courses in high school.

    With the exception of jobs that require larger/expensive/specialized equipment (alignments, refrigerant recycling, heavy engine machine work) I shy away from nothing. $500 craiglist truck in a field by a trailer park that maybe starts. Fun project. Spun rod bearing in my daily driver in the first year of ownership… inconvenient, but fun project. Making a 45 year old Toyota roadworthy again after sitting for 10 years as a pile of parts? Yep, fun project.

  • avatar
    TheBlueSoap

    I rotate the tires, change out the brake hardware when needed, change light bulbs, change the oil myself when oil and oil filter are on sale making it cheaper to do my self, and change spark plugs if needed. Anything else that requires a lift or is more involved, the shop can deal with it.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I’d just like to say nice work creating a new word: “wrenchitude.” I like it!

  • avatar
    TW5

    I only do major work that will save me money. Suspension and bushings. Brakes. Water pump. Alternator. Power steering. I generally keep complete factory service manuals for my vehicles or at least a good Haynes or Chilton or whatever.

    My talent runs out when it comes to powertrain, transmission, fuel system or other technical complexities like ball joints or body work. But I have the chassis manual for my Jeep in case I need to coax my long-time college buddy to bring his welder so we can make some repairs.

    Generally, I let professionals handle mundane routine maintenance like oil changes, mainly because I hate playing around with oil filters and oil recycling. Plus, the major oil change chains have so much pricing leverage, it nearly costs the same if you do it yourself. As long as they do no harm, and they don’t try to extort money for additional services it’s worth it to me. That’s not always a guarantee though.

  • avatar
    arach

    I have a really weird take on it:

    I will only pay people to do what I CAN do myself.

    some people think its weird, but here’s my take: If I don’t know how to do something, I want to learn how to do it. That means I’ve swapped engines, transmissions, clutch jobs, etc.

    However, my time is too valuable to waste doing lame oil changes and similar.

    So I only do:
    1. Jobs that are interesting enough to be educational and worth my time
    -or-
    2. Jobs that take less time to do it myself than to take it somewhere.

    So for example, my headlight is out on my porsche cayenne? Pop that sucker out and I’ll throw a new one in. (2 above)
    Air filter in the cayenne? Bringin’ it to the dealership! (You have to like take off the bumper and stuff on these cars. its nuts)

    Oil change? to the dealer!
    cracked radiator? To the garage! (at least the first time)

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I pretty much do my basic servicings and basic maintenance.

    I even manufactured rear mud flaps for off roading. My next job is to pull the steering rack and overhaul it, whilst my pickup is on stands I’ll put the E Locker in the front diff and a rear step bumper with high lift points.

    I tend to do as much as I can and learn about the vehicle. Its a soothing way to spend free time….. and use my toys collection (tools).

    In my younger days I did all from building engines to mods.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m fairly good at very small jobs, but in general, I can only turn a wrench half-way, meaning I need help from someone more knowledgeable than I with anything pertaining to electronics, engines and transmissions.

    All the major stuff is irrelevant now because I own newer cars that don’t require much, and when they do, the dealership takes care of it.

    In other words, I still remember how to work on old cars up through the early 1970s, but after that, forget about it.

  • avatar
    stuart

    I avoid mufflers, bodywork, and upholstery. I’ve done some of everything else, including rebuilding an automatic transmission (bad result) and a manual transaxle (good result). Lotsa brakes, timing belts, cooling systems over the years… I’ve rebuilt two engines, have a license to do A/C. Last big project was a clutch; next big project will be re-animating the A/C in our big Econoline. I have factory shop manuals for most of my vehicles; if the vehicle+problem isn’t popular on YouTube, the factory manual is a godsend.

    I do my own oil changes. I generally despise the chore, but console myself that A) the shop is no cheaper, B) I won’t screw up the car, and C) doing it at home is probably quicker than taking it somewhere. But I still hate changing oil.

    I’m greatly heartened to see all the folks here that do their own work. I had thought car-DIYers like myself were extinct.

  • avatar
    IanGTCS

    It depends on which car for me. When I had crappy winter beaters I’d do everything but oil changes or things that really need a lift. Lifted an impreza, brakes on a few cars, a rad, front sway bar, wheel bearings, power window mechanism and some other things on those. Youtube has been a huge help for some of those things. Not that I couldn’t figure it out, but when you can see someone else do it you learn little tricks that can help a lot.

    My wifes car always goes to the shop. To me the piece of mind from paying the mechanic my work uses (so I know him quite well and know his quality) is well worth it for the primary family car. My current cars are a 2011 Mustang and a 2012 Soul and haven’t needed any work that weren’t covered by warranty.

    Damn, writing this I’m missing having crap boxes that required work. Time to look for some sort of motorized project…

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I have access to just about any tools I would need (including a tire machine), and more than enough space for any , and yet I do very little beyond the bare minimum of wipers, fluids, tires, underbody cleaning, and interior upkeep. I have all the equipment, and not much of the aptitude–that is, I can probably fix or replace anything if someone tells me what the issue is, but beyond obvious belts and hoses I can’t pin symptoms to any underlying issue.

    On my last car, I didn’t even change the oil myself after the first few times, because I realized that for the time and effort it took me to do it plus the expense of oil and filter vs. the cost I was “saving,” I was working for less than minimum wage.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I do most, up to head gaskets, T-Belts. Diagnostic is fun for me, and with an EE background I like tracking down faults. I try to avoid exhaust work as I could do without rust in my eyes but sometimes I’ll go there. No clutches, or rear end removal or engine removal. Too heavy and risky.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    I’m good down to head gaskets and timing chains. I once held one of the crankshafts in my hands but I wasn’t the one putting that one back together, as that was a spun bearing/bendy conrods affair. (Go Renault!) I’m much better with electronics and those hard to catch gremlins (the car only hesitates after I park with the nose up my 15% inclined driveway, not the office car parks 12%), but you can’t base a business on that, so I’m stuck pushing buttons during the day ;)

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “but you can’t base a business on that,”

      Oh yes you can! My brother and his circle of friends do pretty well with mobile diagonostics, his one buddy in Staten Island who works the used car lot/indie shop circuit down there makes an absolute killing. $105 up to the first hour of diagnostics for driveability problems, $135 first hour of immobilizer/security/PCM resetting. As in, you’re paying that $105/135 right off the bat whether it takes 5 minutes of the full hour. The guy is a beast and cranks through anywhere from 20 to 30 cars in a day, and a lot of folks down there are paying cash. Surprisingly lucrative line of work. Throw in some youtube ad revenue on the side and that’s the cherry on top. They don’t have to pay rent or the other expenses associated with a brick and mortar place, and for most mechanical issues stop at just the diagnosis so they’re not hauling around bearing pullers and acetylene torches or anything like that. They do invest pretty good into having a full array of different scanner for different age vehicles, but my bro’s #1 tool is a test light.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’ve done a lot of stuff myself. Oil changes, brakes, suspension, filter changes. Never had to do a clutch but if I did I’d have a shop do it. I’ve had timing belts done professionally as well.

    Oil changes are something I’d never farm out since they’re so simple on my cars, especially with a Pela extractor.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Basic stuff: Oil changes, brakes and other fluids, filters. Our Sienna is covered by ToyotaCare until the lease end, so I don’t care about it.

    I’m almost at a year of ownership on the VW and just did its first oil change. Very simple and as someone mentioned above, taking a few extra minutes to crawl under the car to assess its basic health is time well spent. Certainly better than the waiting room of the service department.

    I’ve used Pep Boys in an emergency because I figure someone who wrenches on cars daily is better than my basic shadetree skills.

    The only car I’ve held long term was our Mazda 5. 10 years and 59000 miles isn’t a lot, but it stayed alive.

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    There’s really not much I won’t try, currently about to rebuild a Ford C4 trans. With a Motor manual and the ultimate set of tools I’ll try just about anything.

  • avatar
    azfelix

    Change flat tire, rotate tires, plug holes.
    Air, cabin, oil & fuel filters, PCV valve.
    Oil, transmission, coolant fluid changes.
    Power window regulators, interior door handles, various interior & exterior trim pieces, wiper blades.
    Reinforced/rebuilt sagging trunk floor piece.
    Replaced battery, fuses, relays, MAF sensor.
    Spark plugs, ignition coils, timing cover gaskets.
    Serpentine belts, accessory belts, tension pulley.
    Brake pads, rotors, drums, re-greased caliper pistons, brake fluid.
    Water pump, alternator, fuel pump.
    AC compressors, hoses, condenser, radiator.
    Radiator, coolant hoses.
    Drive shafts, motor mounts.
    Custom horn, speakers.
    Headlight assemblies, bulbs.
    Hung new pine tree air freshener from rear view mirror.

    Always bought the dealer shop manuals.

  • avatar
    amca

    I just did the 65k mile service on an A8. My lack of wrenchitude cost me $943.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    For me it’s brakes, shocks and other easier suspension components, interior work, spark plugs depending on accessibility.

    Cars go to the indie for fluid changes – I don’t trust quick lube places and I can’t be bothered with the disposal. I generally like to avoid things that risk turning the garage into a superfund site, but I am probably going to suck it up and tackle a waterpump/t-stat replacement.

    I read DIYs and watch youtube videos and estimate the frustration level and make the call based on that. If it’s a knuckle-buster that has to be done by braille, it goes to the shop. If it requires potentially dangerous tools (spring compressors), it goes to the shop. Expensive specialty tools – shop. You get the idea. It has to be somewhat fun for me, otherwise it is just a waste of time.

    I find it interesting how many people in this thread won’t touch upholstery. Note to self – no upholstery work.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      This. If it looks fun and “plug and play”, I’ll do it. If it involves a great deal of patience, work or tools, no thanks, I’ll pay to have it done. I’ve never had a project car and don’t have room for it, so I supposed wrenching could be fun, but wrenching on a daily would, for me, be a headache.

      Everyone has their own financial situation and aptitude, though. You gotta do what you gotta do.

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