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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Quick background, I have mentioned before that I am a timid person and so doing anything that has a high potential for damage makes me freak out. I did my first oil change on my car back in 2005. I was a nervous wreck and it did not help that my oil catch pan had a defective drain cap. Long story short, the oil change turned out fine but I left a dinner plate sized puddle on the driveway because the drain cap popped off.

Today was the first time I did a timing belt job. I recently had the head gaskets done on my Subaru by a coworker who used to run a shop. I was tempted to do the head gaskets myself, but do not have a flat surface to work on (driveway is exceptionally steep). Turns out he did not space the metal belt guide correctly and it was rubbing against the timing belt, which led to killing the tensioner pulley. Since he was busy, I tackled this on my own and it turned out alright. Car runs smooth now and that's another skill I can add to my automotive portfolio.

Over the years, I have done water pumps, alternators, starters, radiators and basic tune up stuff on various makes/models gas and diesel, quite frankly, the only thing I don't touch is suspension aside from replacing struts.

For the car people on here, when did you start and at what point do you throw in the shop rag and let someone else work on your horseless carriage?
 

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Pretty much never, really only a when a special tool cost more than the job. Haven't taken s case on in 30 years for more.

Sent from my QTAQZ3 using Tapatalk
 

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Frog Whisperer
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pretty much always, I hate working on cars
 

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When I was young, adventurous, and more financially challenged, I did a lot of my own work as long as it didn't require any special tools and even sometimes when it did - I just did without! My first car after college was a high mileage '85 BMW. I had a Chilton manual and worked by the grainy black and white photos. I've always maintained that every man should be able to change his own oil but now I have an electric car, so I don't do anything but add air to the tires and add washer fluid.
 

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Banned forever.....or not
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My most serious car repair involved pulling a cylinder head including all the manifolds. (and putting it all back together). I refuse to even think about digging into the bottom half of an engine.
 

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became a gear head at age 16.

a buddy in my hood decided to work on his mom's '55 Chevy 4-door which was running poorly and she had no money to fix it...he had zero experience in auto mechanics. I 'helped' him and learned the basics of ICEs.

from there, I went on to become a dedicated hot-rodder doing complete high-performance engine builds.

got the 'wrenching' bug out of my system a long time ago...I don't even like checking, much less changing, the oil in my car now.
 

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I do everything on my bikes, but almost nothing on cars any more, except plugging a dongle into the OBD port to read the codes if the check engine light comes on. I used to do oil changes. and tuneups in the old days of points and mechanical distributors. Cars are just utilitarian devices to me, and I'll pay someone to fix them when necessary, rather than using my own time on something that I get no particularly enjoyment from. Bikes are fun, so working on them is fun for me. And I do almost everything around the house (paint, wallpaper, floors, repairing doors, even plumbing and electrical). But cars don't excite the way they did in our youth, when they were the cutting-edge technology you could actually get involved with. I think I've been affected by the attitude of my kids, for whom computers are the exciting hands-on technology. They just don't get that turned on by cars. One son picked out a car he really wanted, a Ford C-Max hybrid, but he cares more about the electronics than the mechanical parts.
 

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Crusty AF
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My first car was a '90 Cavalier that was over 10 years old when I got it - dead simple to work on, so was a good training ground, plus my dad was an aircraft maintenance engineer, so provided some good guidance. I built up my confidence on that car and learned to work by feel when I couldn't see what I was working on. Helped when my next one was a '92 Jeep YJ. Did a carburetor mod to it, replaced timing chain and starter, nearly every vacuum line, and bunch of other ongoing maintenance.

My car now is a VW CC, so I'm limiting myself to mostly the easy mechanical stuff - plugs, coil packs, air filter, etc. Almost everything else requires the VW computer system, which I haven't bought, so to the shop it is for that. I'm more financially comfortable now, so it's not the end of the world. I do like turning wrenches, but it can take up time that could be spent with my 3yo daughter as well. I make a gut call for what i do and what I farm out now.

OP, good for you for figuring this stuff out. Much of it isn't rocket science, but it's really satisfying to keep things in good repair, and know you have the mechanical skills, as well as problem-solving abilities to do much of these things. Skills which transfer to other areas of your life quite readily.
 

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Quick background, I have mentioned before that I am a timid person and so doing anything that has a high potential for damage makes me freak out.

Today was the first time I did a timing belt job. ?
The timing belt job has a pretty good chance of fuc*ing up the engine, if not done correctly. I had a Honda dealership mechanic screw the engine once.

What exactly do you consider a repair that isn't going to cause some stress ?.
 

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Cylinder boring & Pistons, it's off to the machine shop! Otherwise it's all mine. Of course I don't work on cars anymore, I just buy new ones.
Now moto's, that is a different story, too many mod's to be trading them in.
 

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a real member's member
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i absolutely love watching edd china on wheeler dealers, but i am not nearly that clever with cars. (but, who is??)

i enjoyed doing some of the interior work on my old porsche when i had it. everything else i left to the pros.

the biggest job i ever did was replacing the water pump on a '76 cutlass.

with my bikes, i do it all, even wheel building.
 

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I got my start trying to improve the performance on the economy car I was driving in college. The project wasn't particularly successful (because I had no idea what I was doing), but it did get my feet wet with car projects. I installed a short shifter, exhaust system, suspension, brakes and motor mounts). I spent many hours in an apartment parking lot cursing at cheap tools and rounded-off fasteners.

For the most part, I have given up wrenching on my daily drivers beyond brake pads and oil change stuff. It's just too stressful when you need to get to work but realize the part doesn't fit and a new one is a week out.

But, that's why I have a project. It's a rolling resto-mod project on an old Alfa Romeo. There will be no system left untouched. I recently replaced the brake hydraulic system with a full racing pedal box/balance bar and dual master cylinder setup. This required cutting the chassis to fit the pedal box assemby- which marks my first time cutting sheet metal on a car. It's really the ideal way to "level-up." Encountering issues (and one always does) just means being without a toy for a bit- hardly the end of the world.

On the project there are still a few things I farm out: I left roll bar fabrication to the pros- it's not a job to learn welding on when your life could depend on it being right. I'm planning on building the motor, but I'm not going to be purchasing (and learning to use) a full machine shop- so that work will need to be farmed out.
 

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Russian Troll Farmer
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I've done most of my own wrenching since my first car (1966 Beetle) which needed a replacement transmission when I bought it. Through the years, I've had various cars in various conditions. I've overhauled a VW air-cooled flat-4, replaced the entire braking system and exhaust in a Volvo 245, replaced the strut assemblies in both the Volvo and a Camry (twice!), and did more wrenching on my old Omni GLH turbo that I used to rally professionally (which was an utter b!tch to work on under the hood). Brakes on just about every car.

With all this experience, there are a few thing I will always leave for a shop to do; exhaust work is always messier than expected, and front-end work requires equipment that I don't have. A/C repairs, as well. Although I have access to machine shop tools, I would rather take such items to a professional.

Next month, I plan to do a front brake job on my car, replacing rotors and pads.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The timing belt job has a pretty good chance of fuc*ing up the engine, if not done correctly. I had a Honda dealership mechanic screw the engine once.

What exactly do you consider a repair that isn't going to cause some stress ?.
Auto detailing, specifically interior detailing. I've done several vehicles and even take the occasional customer.

My main concern on the timing belt was how do I break the crank bolt loose? I have an pneumatic impact wrench but only 120 PSI compressor. Since many cars I know of will turn the motor backwards if you don't successfully break it loose, that is what always concerned me. It also helps that on the Subaru the timing belt is relatively easy to reach. No need to undo a motor mount and support the engine with a jack stand and all that.

I am a methodical person, but also an anxious and timid one. Generally I prefer working under the supervision of someone else and have them verify my work. When I need to venture on my own is when I have issues. The first time I did a valve adjustment on my diesel, I was also rather intimidated, but eventually got the hang of it. I've done it twice on my car and once on a friend's car now.
 

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I took my first car to the dealership to have a starter replaced. After 25 years I can't remember how much it cost, but it was enough that I started working on my cars from that point on. List includes four timing belts, two headgaskets, two clutches, one motor replacement, with a few starters and alternators thrown in for good measure.

I took my wife's car in for transmission fluid/filter change this past weekend. Sealed transmission, or at least one without a dipstick, so I let this one slide.
 

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Quiet, daddy's drinking
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I will tackle anything that I have the tools for or can reasonably do on my own. For cars this general stops at pulling engines and transmissions. For smaller engines like boat outboard motors I have done numerous complete rebuilds including new cranks, pistons etc. I just like working on mechanical things.
 

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Crusty AF
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I took my first car to the dealership to have a starter replaced. After 25 years I can't remember how much it cost, but it was enough that I started working on my cars from that point on.
I recently had my car in for my seasonal tire change, and had them read the codes because my CEL was on. Turns out to be a misfire in one cylinder. Cost from the service centre to replace 4 plugs and coil packs: $800+, including parts and 4 hours of labour. On the VW/Audi 2.0T engine, all 4 are on the top of the block, right under the cosmetic cover. Their quote included labour for changing the plugs, plus labour for changing the coils as if it was a separate job. BUT, you need to remove the coils to access the plugs! For the cost of plugs and coils, I did the whole thing in my driveway in less than 30 minutes. Even more frustrating, the shop just shrugged it off when I pointed out the double-dipping to them or the padded labour, nor even suggesting they take the extra labour off. "Oh, we just get it from VW service estimates." Except they estimated an hour, then quadrupled it for all 4 cylinders.

Moral of the story is that even if you don't do the work yourself, knowing more or less what is involved can save being taken advantage of.
 

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In over 50 years i have yet to buy a new car so i need to be hands-on. Going down to the crank-level is beyond what I have the patience for nowadays but we have an Odyssey I've done the timing belt on twice (has 235k now), sons Volvo V70 which I just replaced the turbo on and most all maintenance items.
Only wish i had a tire machine and balancer, hate giving away my money on that.
Currently have a 93 Mustang Cobra that I've had for over 20 years. it just sits now but back in the day I changed struts, shocks, springs, brake calipers, roller rockers, headers, mid-pipe, cat back, injectors, fuel pump, MAF meter, ECU. And then there's all the detailing on top of that. Oy Vey.
Can't believe I had that much spare time back then.
 

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Darling of The Lounge
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I did a lot fair bit of wrenching of 1st gen Mustangs and Datsun 240Zs, but mostly confined to tune ups, replacing water pumps, radiators, alternators and alike.

My next project is completely purging the regular radiator coolant out my MR2 and replacing it with Evans Waterless Coolant. Although the stuff is pricey, it's suppose to last for the life of the car. Being a mid-engine vehicle, there are a number of drain and bleeding points that need to be addressed in the proper sequence to avoid trapping air in the system.

This should be loads of fun :rolleyes:



 

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I recently had my car in for my seasonal tire change, and had them read the codes because my CEL was on. Turns out to be a misfire in one cylinder. Cost from the service centre to replace 4 plugs and coil packs: $800+, including parts and 4 hours of labour. On the VW/Audi 2.0T engine, all 4 are on the top of the block, right under the cosmetic cover. Their quote included labour for changing the plugs, plus labour for changing the coils as if it was a separate job. BUT, you need to remove the coils to access the plugs! For the cost of plugs and coils, I did the whole thing in my driveway in less than 30 minutes. Even more frustrating, the shop just shrugged it off when I pointed out the double-dipping to them or the padded labour, nor even suggesting they take the extra labour off. "Oh, we just get it from VW service estimates." Except they estimated an hour, then quadrupled it for all 4 cylinders.

Moral of the story is that even if you don't do the work yourself, knowing more or less what is involved can save being taken advantage of.
I bought my wife's car back in 2014, came with three free oil changes. The last freebie at 15k I sent my wife, who called while at the dealership saying they recommended replacing the air filter and cabin filter to the tune of over $200. Told her no of course considering the service interval is 30k and the outrageous price quoted. Looked at both filters that afternoon and they were fine.

At around 20k I replaced them for a scant $20 for both filters and less than 10 minutes of easy work.
 
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