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Any experienced mechanic will say you should always deal with the significant issues by taking your car to a garage with a solid reputation. We at Jennings Ford Direct also believe this. More than once we’ve seen cars land in the repair shop with damage caused not by wear and tear but by hack mechanics.
At the same time, we wouldn’t begrudge someone taking on the task of car repair alone. If you have managed to master oil changes and tyre rotations, you may be ready to take the next step.
We have some guidelines to help you when taking on that first big car repair.
Your first step is to find out what tools and parts you need to carry out the repair. We recommend picking up an aftermarket shop manual for your car model. These are good because they offer an essential overview of what you need to do in a step-by-step format.
Another excellent resource is Internet forums. Amateur mechanics like you often post tips and tricks on how to perform specific repairs. Many of them will format their guides as manuals complete with photos and videos. These help if you’re a visual learner.
But what if you drive a strange car model only found in a tiny community in Indonesia?
There’s something for you too. The best sites Jennings Ford Direct has come across are JeepsUnlimited and VWvortex.
Do bear in mind though that a manufacturer’s service manual cannotbe substituted by a group of amateurs talking in an Internet chat room.
Just because you are an amateur mechanic doesn’t mean you should cut corners. Treat your first big car repair as if you were running a repair shop yourself. Create a space on your property for carrying out the repairs.
Make sure you have enough space. There’s nothing more embarrassing than attempting to take out the engine only to discover you have no space for your hoist. Position your vehicle to provide maximum space for you to work around it.
A repair that would take a few hours in a garage may take a few days or a few weeks when you try it. This is something you will have to anticipate, yet so few amateurs do. If you aren’t willing to make mistakes, bite the bullet and take your vehicle to a garage.
Don’t take into account the repairs alone. While your car is out of commission, you should arrange an alternate way to get to work.
The biggest mistake an amateur can make is to take apart the car on Friday evening with plans to drive away on Monday morning, only to realise they’re barely a quarter of the way through, despite tinkering all weekend.
Ever noticed how a mechanic will take an engine apart and put it back together with no problems? It took him/her years to get there, and now he/she remembers every piece off by heart.
You, on the other hand, don’t. All the bolts, washers, and clips will quickly lead to chaos and anarchy if you do not have an effective system of organisation. Go to the stationery store and pick up a marker and some labels.
A smart tip is to use sandwich bags and egg crates to store parts when you’re not using them. Take pictures of various stages of your project. If you put the wrong part in the wrong bag, this will serve as a method of seeing what goes where later on.
You can use a whitepaint pen for metal parts. Note down what they are and how they were orientated. To make this work you need to pick out a universal reference point. For example, you may choose the front of the car. Every arrow assumes you’re starting at the front of the car.
You may feel that this is adding a lot of time to your project, but it will save you even more time later on. In time, you will start to recognise parts without labelling them. Until that happens, save yourself the trouble.
When a customer chooses Jennings Ford Direct as their garage and second-hand car retailer of choice, they know they are going to use a set of experts who use final checklists to ensure nothing has gone wrong. Even the professionals use a final checklist, and so should you.
Amateur mechanics often get carried away when they’re coming close to the end of their projects. They skip through the last bit of wiring and tightening in an effort to say that’s a job well done.
And this is what separates the hacks from the professionals.
It may seem like a dose of perfectionism, but small mistakes make a big difference to performance. In some cases, it can even lead to further repairs later on. The extra few minutes you spend now will pay dividends later.
As part of your final checklist, do not forget to test your torque before you drive out of the garage. Don’t get carried away with the urge to rush out onto the roads again.
Should You Try Any Repair?
There are plenty of hobbyists who have the skills to turn professional. Car enthusiasts who have built up a solid skillset over years and years of tinkering are capable of carrying out practically any repair they like.
Unless you have this experience, though, you should not take on every project you come across. Even if you find a step-by-step guide online, many repairs are extremely technical and require a lot of experience just to not cause further problems.
If you’re in any doubt, take it to a reputable mechanic. Don’t put your primary mode of transportation at risk. Save the tinkering for a second-hand car you picked up for a few hundred dollars.