Do It Yourself Car Repair: How to Get Started

Do It Yourself Car Repair: How to Get StartedThere are many reasons why you may want to work on your own car:

  • For fun!
  • For the pride in doing it yourself
  • To save money
  • and/or to become more independent

Whatever the reason, this guide will tell you what you need to get started repairing, maintaining, and even upgrading your car. This is the first of many of DIY automotive posts. This first post will get you started down the path towards becoming your own personal mechanic. Let’s get the wheels rolling.

Supplies You’ll Need

Before starting on anything, make sure you have a good car. Even if it’s your first car, make sure it’s a good one like those on this list: Good First Car for Girls (or really anyone).

More people would work on their own car but they don’t have the proper tools. That’s a fair point. If you have no tools, it’s demotivating. The cost in tools will probably be as much or more than if you just paid someone to do your first job. But remember, that’s just for the first job. The tools will last you many, many jobs. Good tools will last your entire life. Especially if you’re young, tools should be looked at as an investment. Eventually they will more than pay for themselves.

What does it cost to change your own oil?

If you go to a garage, it’ll cost about $40 for an oil change. You’ll also have the time and the wear and tear expense of driving to someone else’s shop instead of just doing the job in your own driveway. If you have never done an oil change before you’ll need a few tools:

1) A floor jack. This will raise your car so you can slide underneath to pull the oil filter and oil pan drain plug. $32 on Amazon.

2) Jack stands. While these aren’t necessary, they could save your life if your jack would give out. A pair of 2 for $24 on Amazon will do the trick.

3) A wrench for your oil pan drain plug. You could find an individual wrench for about $1 but you’ll likely want a whole set if you plan on doing more work than just an oil change. Here’s a set of 11 open-end metric wrenches for $25 on Amazon.

That’s $81 for all the tools you need to do an oil change. Consider another $30 for oil and a filter (depending on the size of your engine, the make of your car, what type of oil the car takes).

For your first do-it-yourself oil change, it will cost you $50 more than paying someone else (minus the saved cost of driving your car over to someone else’s shop). This seems depressing. But eventually the tools will get paid for and you’ll be in the green. Plus, you’ll use the floor jack, jack stands, and wrenches for more jobs in the future. Remember, all this spending should be considered an investment.

Environment You’ll Need

If you want to get serious about working on your car, you need to have a space to work. You’ll need a space for your car, your tools, and room enough to maneuver around the car when you’re working on it. Check with your building manager/landlord/Home Owners Association if working around your house is allowed. If it’s not allowed, you can still do it in your garage. Some people even work on their cars on the street. However, this is not recommended for obvious reasons.

Resources You’ll Need

Cars are complicated. They have thousands of moving parts. Use the internet. It is your automotive friend. If you drive a 1995-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse for example, you have multiple forums to use online like Most forum members are friendly and ready to help you for free. A lot of challenges you will face (like how to do an oil change) have already been solved by people on the forums. They can help you. Also, the factory service manual for your car is your best friend. This is what the professionals at the dealership use. Simply Google ‘Factory service manual for (insert make and model of your car here)’. You will likely come up with a massive PDF describing nearly everything about your car. See the one for a 1995-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse here.

Skills All Good Mechanics Will Hone

A good mechanic is not just good with his hands. Other skills are necessary to develop. A good mechanic is organized. Remember, when you rip a car apart, you’ve got to be able to put it back together. A good mechanic has detective skills. They know how to detect a problem, determine a solution, and ask people for help. A good mechanic is also time-oriented. Before working on a car, they need to have a good idea how long it will take. It’s not good for a car to sit idle (bad car pun).

Do you have what it takes for do-it-yourself car repair?

As stated earlier, this will be an ongoing series of posts. Please subscribe for future updates about becoming an auto mechanic.

There are many reasons to become your own mechanic. No matter your reason, there’s no better time to get started than right now.