YouTube makes fixing your own car look easy. Undo a couple of bolts here, unplug a few electrical connectors there, and the job is done.
But in reality, auto repair isn’t as easy as it seems. If you want to be able to fix a car from bumper to bumper, you’re going to need tools, knowledge, and most of all—a great deal of commitment.
Let’s review what you need to consider before jumping into your first auto repair project.
Define Your Auto Repair Goals and Motives
If you have little-to-no automotive knowledge, learning your way around a car isn’t going to be easy. That’s why, before you begin your journey, you should ask yourself the following questions:
What are My Goals?
Consider your goals and what level of expertise you want to achieve. Are you just looking to save money by doing your own repairs when your car breaks down? Are you interested in building a project car? Or are you hoping to get into auto repair in a more professional capacity?
Learning basic maintenance skills requires far less time, money, and effort than mastering every aspect of automotive repair.
What Are My Motives?
Passion and a desire for knowledge should always be the primary motivation for learning auto repair. If you’re only interested in saving money, you’re probably better off taking your car to an auto repair shop.
The reason being, as was mentioned, is that becoming an auto repair expert takes a lot of time, money, and commitment. Especially if you want to learn how to diagnose and fix modern, computer-controlled cars.
DIY Auto Repair: What are the Pros and Cons?
There are pros and cons to doing your own auto repairs. So, before you get started, it’s a good idea to look at both the advantages and disadvantages of fixing cars yourself.
The Advantages of Doing Your Own Auto Repairs
You’ll learn about cars
Obviously, the biggest perk of doing your own auto repair is that, eventually, you’ll understand cars and be able to fix them.
You can save money in the long run
After you’ve got a substantial tool collection built up, you’ll be able to save money on auto repairs. Initially, however, any money you save will be offset by the cost of tools.
You can purchase fixer-uppers
Once you’ve honed your auto repair skills, you’ll be able to purchase fixer-upper cars and get them back on the road.
The Disadvantages of Doing Your Own Auto Repairs
You have to buy a lot of tools
If you want to be able to fix nearly every aspect of a car, you’re going to need a lot of tools. And purchasing those tools can cost thousands of dollars.
Most professional mechanics have well over $20,000 invested in their tool collection.
You’ll break stuff
While you’re learning the ins and outs of auto repair, there’s a good chance you’ll damage your car (or someone else’s) in the process. Breaking stuff is just part of learning the ropes.
You’ll need a place to do the work
If you want to get deep into auto repair, you’re going to need a garage. So, if you’re currently living in an apartment complex with open parking, you should probably put your auto repair dreams on hold.
You’ll eventually end up getting hurt
No matter how cautious you are, eventually, you’ll end up hurting yourself working on cars. Cuts, bruises, and busted knuckles are just part of the game. Furthermore, if you decide to fix cars professionally, the physical labor will eventually take its toll on your body.
You’ll need patience and commitment
It takes years to learn how to diagnose and repair cars properly. As such, you’ll need a lot of patience and dedication if you want to get good at turning wrenches.
How to Get Started in Learning Auto Repair
Alright, so you’ve decided to take the plunge and get started in auto repair. Now what? Here are some suggestions.
What to Do if You Want to Learn Basic Maintenance Skills
Take an auto repair course
Let’s say you decide you want to just learn the basics, such as oil changes and other routine maintenance. Taking an entry-level auto repair course at the local community college is a great way to go.
Sure, you could try to learn by watching YouTube videos. But there’s a good chance you’ll hurt both your car and yourself in the process. Taking a supervised course is a far better—and far less riskier—approach.
Purchase repair manuals for your vehicle
After you’ve taken an entry-level course and you have the basics down, purchase a repair manual for your vehicle. ALLDATA offers online factory-level repair information for DIYers.
You can also purchase manuals from either Haynes or Chilton. Having the proper repair information is absolutely necessary if you plan to maintain your own vehicle.
How to Make Auto Repair Your Career
What if you want to make auto repair your career? Then you’ll need to work harder—a lot harder—to reach your goal.
Pursue a degree or enroll in a training program
Enrolling in a program (rather than just one course) at a community college or tech school is an excellent choice. There are many outstanding programs covering everything from electronics to engine repair.
Study for your ASE certification test
While taking classes, it also helps to start studying for your Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) tests. You can do so by purchasing the entire series of study guides (A1-A8) and reading them cover to cover.
Consider getting a project car
You may also want to consider buying a project car (in addition to your daily driver) as a learning tool. That way, if you mess something up while tinkering, you’ll still have reliable transportation.
If DIY isn’t for You—Find a Good Auto Repair Shop
Working on cars isn’t for everyone. If you’re only interested in the potential money-saving aspect of fixing vehicles, you’re probably better off going to a reputable repair shop. Doing so will save you time, frustration, and, in many cases, money as well.