It's fun to work on your car. A professional auto mechanic is indispensable for big repairs and fast service, but there are plenty of auto maintenance chores you can handle if you're willing to get your hands dirty. A few hardy souls spend many hours tinkering with just about every aspect of their car, from simple oil changes to minor auto body repair. With time and experience comes wisdom, and many DIY auto repair enthusiasts have developed many techniques and tricks that they use to make their work safer, faster, and more efficient. Here are a few tips and tricks that a DIY auto mechanic can use to stay safe and work more effectively:
Properly Secure Your Car Before Working On It
Many car repairs are only possible if you can raise the car off the ground. It's important to remember that a car is a very heavy piece of machinery, and if it falls while you are underneath it, it could cause serious injury. Your life depends on making sure your vehicle stays put while you work on it.
It's easier to lift a car than it is to safely keep it up in the air. Don't rely on the lifting device as the only prop holding the car up. If the jack fails, the car will fall. This is especially true of hydraulic jacks. While hydraulic jacks can lift a lot of weight, if their seals let go, the car will drop immediately. To stay safe, a DIY auto mechanic should add either a pair of jack stands, wheel chocks, or both. Some inventive auto repair enthusiasts have made their own stands from 2x4 wood blocks. The more secure you keep your car, the less chance you will have of a serious accident.
Use Penetrating Lubricant for Stubborn Nuts and Bolts
Dealing with stubborn nuts and bolts might be the worst part of DIY auto repair. Rust, dirt, and corrosion can act like glue to keep you from getting those nuts and bolts loose. A pro auto mechanic uses penetrating lubricant to help loosen stuck nuts and bolts. Penetrating lubricants like PB Blast or Liquid Wrench work well to get inside the threads to help release whatever was holding bolts and nuts.
More Help With Stubborn Bolts and Nuts
Even with using a good penetrating lubricant, you still may need significant force to remove a persistent bolt or nut. Auto mechanics have come up with a couple of solutions. If you are using a ratchet, you can make a breaker bar, AKA, a "persuader". By attaching a long metal pipe to your ratchet, you can leverage the longer overall length to add more force to persuade the stubborn nut or bolt to come loose. If you are using a box/open end combo wrench, you can hook the closed end of a second wrench over the open end of the first wrench to make a breaker bar. This will give you more twisting force to use on those stubborn nuts and bolts. While this can get you out of tricky situations, a DIY auto mechanic should use this technique with caution. Make sure you keep the leverage straight onto the direction you want to turn. Anything off-center may result in the wrench slipping, resulting in busted knuckles.
Fix a Stripped Screw With a Rubber Band
Sometimes, you try as hard as you can to get a screw undone but just can't do it. In fact, sometimes screws can become unusable due to overzealous attempts. A good trick that a DIY auto mechanic might try would be to take a wide rubber band and lay it flat across the head of the stripped screw. Then use your screwdriver as normal. The rubber will help the screwdriver grip the metal of the screw. It will also help eliminate any gaps created from those unsuccessful attempts. Hopefully, this will give you the extra edge to get the screw out. If you do manage to remove the screw, remember to replace it if at all possible. Putting a stripped screw back in place is a recipe for a repeat disaster.
Keep Your Battery Terminals Clean
Over time, battery terminals tend to corrode. The corrosion occurs due to battery acid leaking on the terminals. Corroded battery terminals can lead to poor connections, and just plain looks bad. You can identify battery corrosion by the buildup of white crystal-like growth around the terminals. Corrosion is easy to clean with a wire brush, a little baking soda, and water. You can also get a specialized battery cleaner to use to clean the terminals. Even better, you can prevent corrosion using anti-corrosion gels or washers. This will help corrosion from happening in the first place.
When In Doubt, Bring It to an Auto Mechanic
Even the most dedicated DIY aut mechanic is bound to run into problems they can't handle. If you're unsure how to safely perform the repairs your car requires, it makes sense to bring it to a pro. Auto mechanics have better tools and know-how, and they have all the parts and tools they need close at hand.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, visit West Coast Tire & Service for great auto service, and friendly advice.