Our Readers Offered Solid Advice for Novice DIY Mechanics

Looking to summon a little courage before jumping into automotive maintenance? Read this first.

byPeter Nelson| PUBLISHED Jun 14, 2022 3:30 PM
Our Readers Offered Solid Advice for Novice DIY Mechanics
Tony Markovich
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Last week, we posed a question to our readership asking for the best advice on what first-time automotive wrenchers should know. From words of inspiration to some mild commiseration, you all shared some excellent insight. If this were 1997 and I was tasked with penning the contents of "Chicken Soup for the DIY Mechanic's Soul," I would have had all the fodder I needed.

Let's highlight some of your responses! Here's a nice amuse-bouche before you head back to the original post and slowly take it all in before your first clutch job or your first time completing the menacing task of replacing a Land Rover Discovery's radiator (which actually turned out to be pretty easy).

Nathan King offered some consumer advice: "I think the best reason to learn as much about repairing cars as possible is because at some point your car is going to end up in the shop and you'll be able to better discern if the shop is trying to scam you. That and if you say, "I tried X and Y but didn't have the tool to try Z... so here I am" they'll at least think twice about trying to pull one over on you."

I like this a lot. It shows any potential shady shop that you know what's up and aren't some pigeon.

Another comes from The Drive's Editorial Director, Patrick George, and is about being real with one's self. "Oh, another thing: at least in my book, there is NO shame in going to a pro if you can't fix it yourself. Consider what your time is worth, especially if you're working on something you depend on for transportation. If you try and fail and need to see a mechanic, don't feel too bad about it. We all have to start somewhere and modern cars can be especially tough to figure out." 

This prompted a great response from SantaBarbarian: "A side benefit here is that you may have, in the process of an ineffectual fix, narrowed down the list of possible causes-- and you'll undoubtedly be better prepared to describe the needed repair when you have a few scuffed knuckles and some grease under your nails."

A lot of maintenance jobs can be done with a very small selection of tools.

Finally, check out this solid piece of advice from BigRed91 about gaining momentum: "Your confidence grows quickly, but you gotta keep doing it to get there. There's a certain kind of anxiety relief that comes with noticing a new problem, but immediately knowing how to fix it when it's something you've done before. 

"I think the biggest fear people have is based around the mystique around how a car works. If you've never wrenched on anything, you'll have no idea what to do and the concept is terrifying. Those walls come down pretty quickly, and you gain a boatload of confidence in fixing suspension or brake issues when you've done it before at least once."

Once again, go check out the comments thread in the original post. If you think of anything, feel free to keep adding on. At The Garage, we're here to have a positive, enlightening, and encouraging open forum that's packed full of valuable information. None of us writing here are professional wrenches (well, actually, Rosales pretty much is), but we've all done some massive tasks by being prepared, learning as much as we can learn, having (er, trying to have) the right tools for the job, and above all: taking our time.