Author Topic: DIY Vehicle Maintenance  (Read 11325 times)

spider1204

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DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« on: December 21, 2012, 01:23:17 PM »
I've currently been driving an old 2002 Volvo wagon that just hit 200k miles on it earlier this month.  It hasn't had many problems since I got it.  The alternator went bad but it was easy enough to take care of after looking up some instructions online.  Other than that I've just been checking the fluids every so often and changing the oil myself.

However, my father has been telling me that I should take it in to a place in order to find out if there is anything wrong with it, or if there is anything that should be taken care of in order to prevent bigger problems down the line.  Ideally, I'd like to do as much of this as possible myself, and do the rest in the most efficient way possible.  Does anyone have experience doing their own vehicle maintenance beyond just oil changes?  Does anybody know if this is something that I should be concerned about?

Flynlow

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2012, 03:41:43 PM »
The car is currently running and driving fine?  But your dad wants to take it in anyway?  That seems a bit odd.

Otherwise though, I think you've got the right idea.  Keep up with the oil changes (and things like air and fuel filters every 15K miles) and you should be fine.  2002 certainly isn't old for a car these days.

Looking your car over and listening for new noises is going to be the best way to prevent big problems.  Most issues will be apparent before they become a problem (brakes start squealing when the pads are near the end of their life, wheel bearings and CV axles will start grinding before they fail, etc.).  And keep doing your internet research and fixing things yourself, you save alot of money and learn valuable skills!!! :)

bogart

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2012, 07:03:53 PM »
Besides engine problems caused by oil (lack thereof) or overheating, the big woulda-shoulda-coulda problem that I'm aware of is timing belts:  need to be changed at the recommended intervals or they can break and cause expensive problems.  So I'd recommend that you figure out if your car has a timing belt (or a chain, if a chain, this becomes a non-issue), and if so, when it was last changed.  If you can't answer the "when last changed" question then you need either to do it or to get it done.  If you can, just make sure you're within the recommended interval and you should be fine.

Other than that, keep an eye on fluids (see above re:  overheating), make sure you use the appropriate blend of antifreeze/water for where you live (i.e. don't freeze the engine block), and you should be fine.  If you drive places or in circumstances where breaking down could be a health hazard for any reason (road conditions, weather, isolation, crime), then it could be worth getting the vehicle looked at, or checking it yourself, to make sure things like belts and hoses appear sound and/or have been replaced at the recommended intervals, but otherwise you're probably fine. 

Blindsquirrel

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2012, 08:24:32 PM »
   I would follow the above advice. If the car runs ok, no need to take it to a shop. Mechanics will recommend expensive BS.

spider1204

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2012, 09:40:03 PM »
Thanks for the all the advice everyone, from doing a bit of research online, it seems to pretty in line with what you guys have to say.  I've definitely got a timing belt rather than a chain, and also have no idea when it was last changed which is unfortunate.  From the sounds of it, changing the timing belt can be a fairly involved project, so I think that I'll try to hold off until summer time and take a shot at replacing it.

Was actually able to find a document describing the maintenance plan that the dealers use and it seems like from research that the timing belt, and the fluids are the only things that will really cause problems if not addressed before they are obviously failing.

Flynlow

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2012, 07:52:44 AM »
Was actually able to find a document describing the maintenance plan that the dealers use and it seems like from research that the timing belt, and the fluids are the only things that will really cause problems if not addressed before they are obviously failing.

That sounds pretty reasonable, the only thing I would check, now that you know you have a timing belt, is whether the engine is interference or non-interference...I'm not familiar with Volvos.  In a NON-interference engine, if the timing belt breaks, it doesn't typically damage anything, as the pistons and valves won't make contact, so putting the belt off til you have time/weather for it isn't a big deal.  In an interference engine, they WILL make contact (or interfere...get it? ;) ) with each other if the belt breaks, causing lots of damage.  Old BMW E30s are interference motors, meaning the timing belt service every 60K miles on those cars can't be neglected. 

I suspect you are probably fine to wait until the weather warms up.  Consider replacing the tensioner and water pump while you're in there.  Timing belt changes are one of those jobs that take a long time, but aren't typically hard if you follow the steps and double check your work.  Good luck!!!

Blackbomber

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2012, 07:44:49 AM »
Don't forget to change the brake fluid. I believe Volvo calls for every other year, just like BMW. It's an often neglected service, and it's the reason I don't do brake jobs for others anymore in my little one man shop. I've had too many caliper seizures within a month of changing pads because customers are too cheap or lazy to do this. I'll let Midas deal with that. The reason is that the brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. That moisture makes it's way to the lowest point in the system - the calipers or wheel cylinders - because water is heavier than the brake fluid. Over the years, it corrodes the bores in the caliper. When you push back the piston to install new (thicker) pads, the piston is now riding in the corroded part, and will sometimes seize. I've seen it with steel and phenolic pistons. I've seen it with US, and your holier-than-thou Japan makes, as well. Ironically I have yet to see a piston seize on a euro brand (although I've replaced plenty of wheel cylinders and a few calipers due to leakage).

Jack

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2012, 02:46:17 PM »
Was actually able to find a document describing the maintenance plan that the dealers use and it seems like from research that the timing belt, and the fluids are the only things that will really cause problems if not addressed before they are obviously failing.

That sounds pretty reasonable, the only thing I would check, now that you know you have a timing belt, is whether the engine is interference or non-interference...I'm not familiar with Volvos.  In a NON-interference engine, if the timing belt breaks, it doesn't typically damage anything, as the pistons and valves won't make contact, so putting the belt off til you have time/weather for it isn't a big deal.  In an interference engine, they WILL make contact (or interfere...get it? ;) ) with each other if the belt breaks, causing lots of damage.  Old BMW E30s are interference motors, meaning the timing belt service every 60K miles on those cars can't be neglected. 

I suspect you are probably fine to wait until the weather warms up.  Consider replacing the tensioner and water pump while you're in there.  Timing belt changes are one of those jobs that take a long time, but aren't typically hard if you follow the steps and double check your work.  Good luck!!!

If you have an interference engine, I recommend not waiting until the weather warms up. I'm a member of a VW forum (TDIClub.com), and we get posts all the time from people asking for advice who tried to wait "just a little bit longer" and had their timing belt break... they're invariably not happy when they hear the $2,000 bad news...

I consider an unknown-age timing belt to be a "do not drive the car unless you're going directly to the mechanic" kind of emergency.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2012, 02:48:38 PM by Jack »

Flynlow

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2012, 03:05:53 PM »
With 105K mile timing belt service interval, and the car at 200k miles, it's either 100K miles overdue, or not due for its 2nd service for another 5-10K miles.  I would expect it has been done at least once in its life. 

fidgiegirl

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2012, 06:08:53 PM »
Does anyone know of good basic books about maintenance?  I don't mean the manuals for each vehicle, just a general kind of guideline?  Or maybe that's useless.  I did use either the Haynes Manual or another brand manual from the library for my DH's Honda this summer, but they didn't want to address the one issue we wanted to take a look at (A/C).

But the checking/changing of fluids, etc. could be useful just to know in a general kind of sense, much like this question.

Paul der Krake

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2012, 03:57:18 AM »
@fidgiegirl I found Auto Repair and Maintenance for Dummies at my local library to be great for general knowledge. I also borrowed a huge (1500+ pages) book from Haynes that covered every import from 1993 to 1997 for domain specific knowledge and found that their combination was perfect. The first explains general concepts to get a good overview of what does what and how the moving parts fit together, and the second has domain specific instructions for your particular car when you need to replace something.

The most important thing is to accept that things will most likely not work out exactly as described. There is going to be rust, bolts that don't fit, random parts you didn't expect to find here, etc. Stay flexible and don't panic, treat it as a puzzle if that helps. For fluids, identify the parts and follow the hoses.

For what it's worth, this is coming from someone who had never peeked under the hood of a car just 6 months ago.

thurston howell iv

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2012, 01:04:20 PM »
fidiegirl: You can usually find decent tutorials on youtube. (general and specific)

You can also find more model specific DIY info by going to a Honda enthusiast website.... Worst case, you can go on ebay and pick up a service manual (the ones the dealership mechanics would use- not the useless haynes or chiltons)  specific to the DH's specific model and year.

Spider:  I would also suggest finding out if your volvo model and year has interference or noninterference engine... If it's non, then you're ok to wait since there will be no damage to the engine (but of course you know it will happen at the least opportune moment as these things tend to happen).  If it's an interference, I would tend to agree with Jack, and be looking to replace the belt sooner than later... (If it breaks, it will cost more than the $40 belt)
« Last Edit: December 26, 2012, 01:11:18 PM by thurston howell iv »

BlueMR2

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2013, 11:04:31 AM »
My advice is that if you depend on the car to get to work that you keep your DIY to a minimal level.  I've found that few repair jobs ever go very well.  :-)  There's always something rusted, stuck, broken, wrong with the instructions.  However, if you can live without the car for a few days (and get to an autoparts store without it), go for it!

Even though I have essentially a "spare car", I still draw the line at jobs that *require* power tools.  I don't mind taking a week or 2 to get a job done, but if expensive tools are required I just take it in.  I don't want to own that much equipment and they don't look kindly on people that want to borrow it for extended periods of time.

Forcus

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2013, 10:25:31 AM »
These are things I recommend at 200k if they haven't been done.
- All filters and fluids (filters including fuel filter, PCV, etc., fluids including brake, coolant, and power steering)
- Shocks if never done
- Timing belt, pulleys, and tensioners (especially if you don't know the last time it was changed)
- All belts and hoses, even if they look good

Someone asked about manuals, I use alldatadiy.com and it is very good - especially for my Volvo S40 which does not have a factory print / CD manual (!). Found this out after I bought the car.

spider1204

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Re: DIY Vehicle Maintenance
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2013, 07:14:01 PM »
It turns out that I actually have an interference engine so I'm definitely gonna start thinking about going to get the timing belt done, but am still tempted to try and wait until I can comfortably attempt it myself.  Now that I'm back into a regular work schedule, the car is only used for weekend trips so the cost of not having a car during repairs is not too high so I'll start looking into all of your suggestions.