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Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of DIY Automotive

When you hire someone else to work on your car for you, they take on not only the work itself but also the safety concerns that are inherent in mechanical work. Before tackling repairs and maintenance on your own it’s important to know what to expect and what precautions to take, in order to make it a good experience. We’ve got some simple Do’s and Don’ts for your at-home repair. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s enough to get you started.

We’ll start off with the Don’ts – our recommendations on what to avoid. First and foremost, never smoke while performing any car repair. Many automotive fluids and cleaning products are highly flammable, not to mention the most obvious one – the fuel itself. Take breaks from your work if you need to light up, for your safety and the safety of those around you.

Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry . Scarves, necklaces, neckties, and anything else that can hang down and get caught in moving parts, are an accident waiting to happen. Even long hair should be secured out of the way. This small precaution can prevent serious injury or death.

Don’t open the radiator cap unless the car is cool . A car needs several hours to cool after being driven, before it is safe to work on the cooling system. Doing so while the car is hot can cause severe burns, since the fluid in the cooling system gets hotter than boiling water while the car is being operated.

Don’t rush. Especially if you’re relatively new to car repair, it’s important that you take your time to correctly perform the steps of a repair. Missing a step or being careless because of hurry could lead to a costly or frustrating repair down the road.

Don’t forget your own limitations . This might be one of the more difficult ones, but it comes down to simple self-awareness. It’s important to avoid getting in over your head and tackling repairs that are far beyond your level of experience. If you’ve only ever done a couple of oil changes, let’s say, then a complete engine rebuild would not be the next thing to try. Something like a brake job or cooling system flush would be more appropriate. Take it one step at a time.

And now for the Do’s:

Prepare supplies and tools beforehand. It’s highly annoying to be in the middle of a repair – especially an unfamiliar one, and realize that you’ve run out of RTV sealant, or don’t have the right kind of wrench, or any number of different things. These situations cannot always be avoided, but you’ll be doing yourself a favor by getting together everything you need, before you start the job.

Have a fire extinguisher nearby. To put it simply, you just never know, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Use the proper safety equipment. The main thing here is to secure the car in such a way that it does not pose a threat of injury to you, or damage to objects around you. This means that if you’ll be raising the front of the vehicle, you should chock the rear wheels and set the parking brake keep the car from rolling. In addition, once you’ve used a jack to raise the car, always support it with jack stands before beginning work, especially if you’ll be working underneath. Gloves and safety glasses are something to think about as well.

Allow extra time and money. If there’s one thing you’ll consistently find with automotive work, it’s that it took a little longer and cost a little more than you thought it would. Especially when it comes to time, plan a little extra for a few small mistakes, or for referring to the repair manual, or for slowness and hesitation with an unfamiliar task. The last thing you want is to be under a strict time constraint in this situation.

Enjoy yourself and learn something new . Sure, working on your car can save you a bundle of money. But even more than that, it can actually bring a feeling of accomplishment. Some folks find mechanical work to be enjoyable and therapeutic, and with a little practice you could be one of them.