Author Topic: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?  (Read 14764 times)

mustachianism_is_aredpill

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Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« on: August 17, 2014, 09:14:11 PM »
I'm a software engineer by profession. I've got most of the other "tenets" of Mustachianism down (bike, public transportation to work, cook at home, index funds, blah blah). For the past half year, I've been considering taking evening classes at community college to learn how to repair cars.

My reasons for:

  • I don't really have any "sale-able" skills apart from software. And even my software specialty is pretty narrow (I'm working on that too, obviously)
  • Repairing cars is generally a useful life skill to have
  • I don't own a house and am not likely to do so for another few years at least, so carpentry is (mostly) out. But I do own a car and mechanics often try to hustle me into repairs and I don't have the expertise to evaluate these opinions
  • I like learning new things but feel that I do better in structured environments, with guidance (like most people). An auto-didact I am not.
  • I've done simple things myself (changing the cabin air filter, a headlight bulb) and I think I might like to learn more. But I don't want to wait till my car develops a problem for me to learn how to fix it. I don't use my car every day, but I do absolutely need it twice a week (to pick up DW from her evening class)

My reasons against:

  • It will take a lot of time; time that will come out of something else. I waste some time right now, but not so much that there's enough spare for me to do this.
  • It costs money. Not that much money (approx $150/class, I think), but not nothing either. Not to mention other stuff I'd be required to buy (tools, clothing and gloves, materials and whatnot)
  • The ROI is almost 0, for now. My engineering job pays much more and it would be sketchy for me to do repairs for money for other folks (for reasons I don't want to get into but are completely valid). The only money I will "earn" from this is the money I save on repairs and maintenance on my own car. Or goodwill from friends, if they ever trust me to work on their own cars. Basically, I can't accept money for side repair work at all.
  • What they teach might only be applicable if you work in a proper auto garage with all the heavy equipment (like hydraulic lift). I want to learn about things I can do in the small parking space in my apartment complex, with just the tools I can carry in a box
  • Once you learn, you have to apply the skills regularly, or they atrophy. Since I can't repair cars for money, and I only have so many friends who might trust my free repairs, I'm worried I'll learn and then forget.

Given all these things, is it worth taking classes at community college? Are there more light-weight options to learning these skills? Other options I haven't considered?
« Last Edit: August 17, 2014, 09:51:43 PM by mustachianism_is_aredpill »

missj

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2014, 09:30:32 PM »
My husband's business is cars.  he restores vintage cars from rust repair, welding, motor rebuilding, tranny rebuilding you name it.

The problem with your plan is that modern car repairs are massively computer based.  There is proprietary software that costs like $100k or more for each model and so only dealerships and specialty garages actually invest in each particular software.

My husband is very very mechanically inclined and has earned all of his money from cars and motorcycles since he was 18, and he is now 39.  We have a 2006 Dodge Sprinter Van, so when he needed to do some troubleshooting he had to drive it to 3 different  dealers before he found one that actually owned that particular software (since it is a rare model).  Even dealerships don't make these investments lightly.  He does all the oil changes, lightbulb changes and minor stuff on our 2 newer cars, but anything else he has to take it to the dealer because we don't have the software.

So unless you want to make that your new career, I don't think it will be as useful of a skill as you hope it to be.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2014, 11:49:17 PM by missj »

mustachianism_is_aredpill

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2014, 09:37:54 PM »
Thanks missj! I hadn't considered all the electronics and software in modern cars as a factor. That's certainly a big "against".

missj

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2014, 09:47:29 PM »
another against:

around here anyways, mechanics make like $14-$20 an hour and engineers make a minimum of $25+ an hour.

so, while I admire your ambition to diversify your skillset, you'd be better off taking on extra work in your field and paying for the car repairs outright.

I totally understand your thought process though...my skillset is highly specialized and I enjoy $43 an hour wage but if I ever lost my license to practice, or I got laid off and couldn't find work, I'd be pretty SOL as very few of my skills transfer to anything else even close to this wage.

A few years ago I decided to take some accounting classes so that I could save us some money and do the books for my husband's business.  I quickly realized that the $15 an hour I was paying for instruction was not really ever going to pay off.  We could just hire a freelance bookkeeper for $20 an hour a couple of times per year and they'd be better at it, and they've already invested in that education and they keep up on current changes.  I'd be better off just working an extra shift once per year and paying the book keeper.

Also, an experienced bookkeeper can do the same work faster than me, so the wage disparity grows.  What might take me 30 hours to do, they could do in 15 so now in valuing my time those bookkeeping services have cost 30x43 = $1,290 plus the cost of the class ($150) and the fair market value of those services is just 15 hours x 20 = $300.  (I know there are tax implications.  I don't feel like doing that math right now.  I'm not an accountant, remember?)  :-)
« Last Edit: August 17, 2014, 10:12:08 PM by missj »

AnonymousCoward

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2014, 09:54:01 PM »
I say go for it! I took two years of high school autoshop and I think it's been really valuable. I don't even own a car right now, but the knowledge of automotive fundamentals and repair is still very useful. For instance I was riding with a friend when his car starting driving funny. From the passenger seat I correctly diagnosed it as a dying fuel pump. Knowing what was wrong, what the repair involved, and roughly how expensive it would be to fix before we had even made it to the shop was very empowering.

Automotive skills also translate to other stuff too, being handy with tools and being able to reason about mechanical systems are great skills to have.

I think people overstate the problems caused by computerization. Sure you can't tune your carburetor by hand anymore, but that's because you don't have to. One reason cars are so much more reliable today is because many of the finicky, delicate mechanical control systems have been replaced by reliable solid state electronics. These electronics can also make things easier for mechanics. If something is misbehaving and you can't see why, hook up a scan tool (which is standard across all cars post 1996) and see if there are any relevant codes or unusual sensor values.

mustachianism_is_aredpill

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2014, 10:02:21 PM »
Thanks for the opposite perspective pmallory. Also nice to see a fellow Yellow Jacket on these forums :)

You mentioned high school auto shop. Are there any options like that for people not in high school? Something more lightweight than community college classes? A community college is likely to teach their students with the assumption that they will work in auto repair shops, unlike me.

Nords

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2014, 10:09:22 PM »
Given all these things, is it worth taking classes at community college? Are there more light-weight options to learning these skills? Other options I haven't considered?
You could just join a forum for the car(s) you own (like PriusChat.com) and keep an eye out for common problems.  When your cars have an issue (broken parts, or time for a brake job) then you could consult the forum gurus, YouTube videos, online manuals, and other references for that specific job.

It's like learning a programming language only when you need it...

AnonymousCoward

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2014, 11:05:28 PM »
You mentioned high school auto shop. Are there any options like that for people not in high school? Something more lightweight than community college classes? A community college is likely to teach their students with the assumption that they will work in auto repair shops, unlike me.

The high school curriculum was designed actually designed to prepare students to work in a shop, although most students weren't going that route. I think the textbook we used is also used by community colleges. Actually, my local library has a copy of the textbook we used, maybe yours does too. It's Modern Automotive Technology by James Duffy. You obviously can't learn everything from a book, but you can definitely learn a lot.

+1 on the Nords' forum idea. Model specific forums are a treasure trove of information.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2014, 05:57:09 AM »
I do almost all my own work on our cars. I'm also an autodidact, though, so I pick up the Haynes manual, watch a couple videos on Youtube and dive in.  I love fixing things, so working on my own cars is fun.  Think of when you replaced the cabin air filter and headlights. Did you enjoy it, or get satisfaction out of doing the job?  If not, then diving deeper might not be for you.  If you're not doing it for the monetary savings, then it falls into the category of "hobby".

I'd like to lay out a couple of counter-arguments to the ones posted above:
1)  Sure, lots of stuff is computerized. But that stuff rarely breaks, and the computerization just means that it's easier to diagnose with a $100 OBD-II reader.  The mechanicals haven't really changed in the last 50+ years.
2)  Mechanics may not have a high hourly wage, but you as a customer get *charged* a high hourly rate.  Like $65-105/hour.  And the hours are typically padded a bit.  For example, about a year ago the tire place told me I needed new brake pads and discs in the front, and new brake cylinders in the back.  Their estimate: $850.  I picked up the parts at Autozone for $155 and did the job myself that night in about 2 hours with regular hand tools.  When you do your own work, it's the $65-105/hour you're saving.
3)  In my opinion, there are only two pieces of equipment that make a "real" auto shop an easier place to work:  A lift and a big air compressor (for impact wrenches).  Yes, I wish I had a lift in my garage, but I've been able to do everything with jack stands and/or ramps, and I borrow my brother's impact wrench and sockets.  The rest is just normal hand tools--a socket set & ratchet, combination wrenches, screwdrivers.

LibrarIan

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2014, 06:43:00 AM »
I'd also like to become more auto-savvy. I'm tired of leaving basic maintenance and repairs in the hands of someone else who is going to charge me way more than part cost. I can do really basic things like replacing lights, the air filter and fuses. But I'd like to learn how to replace pads, tires and other things like that. Also how to change my own oil. This is on my to-do list for sure. I'm not sure that classes are the way to go, but you never know. Maybe give one a try and see how it goes?

basd

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2014, 06:52:41 AM »
Economically, it might not be the soundest investment you could make, but to me, there's more than financial gain to the equation (yes, I know this is MMM). How cool would it be to be able to fix more things with your own hands? Learning basic car maintenance is on my bucket list as well, if only to say I can (I have a leased car right now, so I maintenance doesn't cost any extra no matter how much I need it).

You might like to read Shop class as soulcraft by Matthew Crawford.

amha

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2014, 06:59:12 AM »
Economically, it might not be the soundest investment you could make, but to me, there's more than financial gain to the equation (yes, I know this is MMM). How cool would it be to be able to fix more things with your own hands? Learning basic car maintenance is on my bucket list as well, if only to say I can (I have a leased car right now, so I maintenance doesn't cost any extra no matter how much I need it).

You might like to read Shop class as soulcraft by Matthew Crawford.

Yes to both!!!! Shop Class as Soulcraft is a FANTASTIC book, btw.

I agree with your comments, OP, about wanting the structure* of an actual class---I've always found that very helpful and necessary in my own learning. I think a lot of people overrate the ability of people in general (and themselves in particular) to learn things on their own (and so I'm kind of skeptical of things like MOOCs). On the other hand, there is a HUGE (and GOOD) amount of information on car repair on the internet. I've learned to do a lot of basics (changing tires, fixing brakes) just from watching YouTube videos. But you say you can do a lot of that stuff already, and want to learn stuff more advanced---well, then a class (especially with a great teacher) might be just the ticket. It seems it's certainly worth a shot! And if the class looks like it's not working out, well, so it goes.

bogart

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2014, 09:33:46 AM »
I've been considering taking evening classes at community college to learn how to repair cars.

I did this awhile back and enjoyed it, though I don't use many of those skills in my current life (I also own a much newer car than I did back then).

Why not sign up for a class and see if you like it / find it useful?  Note that if you enroll in one from time to time, that'll probably give you access to the "big" equipment ditto (from time to time) and allow you to more complex/involved repairs than you could/will want to at home (assuming your community college instructor is OK with this, mine was).  And worst-case scenario, you sign up for one and find it's not your thing -- you're out $150 and a few evenings of your time.  Plus the cost of a textbook.  I mean, I'm not one for wasting resources, but that seems like the easiest way to figure out if this is something you want to do.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2014, 09:54:15 AM »
I cannot see "getting into" auto repairs if you do not own a house.  Where would you store tools and work on cars?  Say for example, you wanted to do a brake job...how are you going to do that living in an apartment?  I don't think it is a good use of your time.

Jack

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2014, 10:11:49 AM »
Another Georgia Tech grad / software developer here...

The problem with your plan is that modern car repairs are massively computer based.  There is proprietary software that costs like $100k or more for each model and so only dealerships and specialty garages actually invest in each particular software.

My husband is very very mechanically inclined and has earned all of his money from cars and motorcycles since he was 18, and he is now 39.  We have a 2006 Dodge Sprinter Van, so when he needed to do some troubleshooting he had to drive it to 3 different Dodge dealers before he found one that actually owned that particular software (since it is a rare model). 

He should have tried the Mercedes dealer. The Sprinter is actually a rebadged Mercedes.

One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes these expensive manufacturer-specific computer diagnostic tools have much cheaper 3rd-party equivalents. For example, this third-party tool is available for VWs.

These electronics can also make things easier for mechanics. If something is misbehaving and you can't see why, hook up a scan tool (which is standard across all cars post 1996) and see if there are any relevant codes or unusual sensor values.

They're really only "mostly" standardized. There is a baseline level of functionality that any generic ODB2 scan tool will read, but modern cars have a lot more than just the ECU (google "CAN-BUS" for more info). On a VW, for example, a generic scan tool will be able to read engine trouble codes and sensors, but the VW-specific tool I mentioned above will be able to do things like reprogram the radio, control the door-lock-and-power-window module, etc. I think you can even do things like change transmission shift points and engine mappings (i.e., how much fuel to inject at each combination of RPM, gear, throttle position and airflow) using the right software.

You could just join a forum for the car(s) you own (like PriusChat.com) and keep an eye out for common problems.  When your cars have an issue (broken parts, or time for a brake job) then you could consult the forum gurus, YouTube videos, online manuals, and other references for that specific job.

It's like learning a programming language only when you need it...

This is good advice. In fact, it even goes beyond that: the VW forums I'm a member of have "get-togethers" that are half-social gathering, half-wrenching session. I remember that at the first one I went to, some of the gurus swarmed over my car, replacing my worn vacuum lines, re-tensioning my timing belt, and diagnosing a failing dual-mass flywheel almost before I even had a chance to ask for help.

I've seen people get their transmission swapped from automatic to manual at a car club get-together (without using a lift or any other big fancy tools, either!).

I agree with your comments, OP, about wanting the structure* of an actual class---I've always found that very helpful and necessary in my own learning. I think a lot of people overrate the ability of people in general (and themselves in particular) to learn things on their own (and so I'm kind of skeptical of things like MOOCs).

Having taken and passed several MOOCs, I would argue that they do have all the structure of an actual class. (As long as they've got actual deadlines instead of being 'self-paced,' anyway.) You have to be motivated to watch the lectures and do the work, of course, but that applies just as well to a traditional in-person course.

That said, I think something like auto repair could be better learned hands-on.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2014, 12:42:14 PM »
Go for it.  Auto and small engine repair classes are one of the things on my post ER list.  In addition to the subject matter, I plan on enjoying the socialization as well.  The fact my cars have to stay in service for commutes right now limits my ability to work on them, although I do almost all the maintainance for normal wear items, I can't tackle any major repairs that may take longer than a weekend.  Youtube and forums sure have given me the confidence to tackle things I never would have tried before like installing cruise control on my Carolla.  It took me less than an hour and $50 in parts to do what the shop wanted $400+ for. 

MillenialMustache

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2014, 02:11:52 PM »
My husband fixes both our cars - everything that has gone wrong with them for the last 5+ years (a 2002 and a 2005). A code reader would be helpful, but it is not the picture another reader painted - my husband uses my father's, but he said you can get one for around $100. Then, just Google the code being thrown, and someone else will be talking about it too.

My husband learns to fix things by watching YouTube. He also learned a lot from his dad as a child. I think a community college class is a great idea. What do you have to lose? The classes really are pretty inexpensive for what you get. As someone else said, mechanics don't make a great wage ($16 an hour or whatever) but they will charge you $50 a hour or more.

Go for it!

missj

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2014, 02:36:03 PM »
He should have tried the Mercedes dealer. The Sprinter is actually a rebadged Mercedes.

yes. he first took it to dodge, which sent him to mercedes and mercedes sent him to freightliner, actually of all places was the place that had the particular sotware.

These electronics can also make things easier for mechanics. If something is misbehaving and you can't see why, hook up a scan tool (which is standard across all cars post 1996) and see if there are any relevant codes or unusual sensor values.

yes, we have a cheap-ish scan tool as well.  I won't pretend I know much about it but basically that can only tell you what is wrong with the car.  The expensive proprietary software I am talking about is the stuff that is needed to actually fix some of the problems (it depends of course.  If we're talking brakes or suspension it's probably much different than a fuel injector problem).

it's not insurmountable to be able to do some of the work yourself, but I just don't know about the ROI.  Now, if on the other hand the OP wants to do the work himself because it fufills him and is enjoyable, that is a lot different.  For example taking the time to learn to knit your own clothing, buying supplies etc would probably not be very cost effective if you're only going to do it occasionally, but if you do if for enjoyment and recreation, that's a whole different ballgame.


Mechanics may not have a high hourly wage, but you as a customer get *charged* a high hourly rate.  Like $65-105/hour.  And the hours are typically padded a bit.  For example, about a year ago the tire place told me I needed new brake pads and discs in the front, and new brake cylinders in the back.  Their estimate: $850.  I picked up the parts at Autozone for $155 and did the job myself that night in about 2 hours with regular hand tools.  When you do your own work, it's the $65-105/hour you're saving.

that's a pretty good point! You don't compare to the wage of the person doing the work, you compare to what YOU would have to pay for the work.  Since there is probably not a lot of "freelance" mechanic work that you could pay a cheaper price for.   My logic was flawed there.

nordlead

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2014, 02:54:00 PM »
Go for it.

Assuming you have someplace to store the required tools (one decent sized tool chest, jacks, and stands), then all the negatives listed above are either unlikely to happen (electronics problem requiring specialized software are extremely uncommon), or you'd have to be earning over $60/hr (minimum shop rate here is $60/hr even if the mechanics are paid $20/hr).

But even then, I consider working on my car significantly more convenient than taking it to a shop. I just did the front brake pads and oil for my Subaru before heading on a 700 mile round trip. It only took me a couple hours and only cost me ~$70, plus I get to visually inspect my car for other problems and can decide for myself vs being told by a shop that I need more work done at $60/hr. I also get free brake pads for as long as I own the car now. You can't beat those prices and that convenience.

I will admit though, that not every job comes out in my favor. I once spent 2 days replacing the rotors on a 96 Honda Accord. Honda designed captivated rotors which meant I had take off the axle nut (the real time killer since they were stuck on good), break 3 press fittings, and bang out the wheel bearing on each side. I did learn a couple neat tricks though doing that job.

Let's just say I'll never buy another car with captivated rotors.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2014, 03:33:31 PM »
An alternative is to buy a cheap motorcycle that needs some work.  It'll probably cost you less than the classes, be more fun, and you'll have something to play with while/when you get it running.  A lot of the things I've learned from working on bikes transfer to a car.  Obviously not everything like power steering, but a surprising amount is the same, cars are just bigger and have a cage around it.

missj

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2014, 03:43:07 PM »
An alternative is to buy a cheap motorcycle that needs some work.  It'll probably cost you less than the classes, be more fun, and you'll have something to play with while/when you get it running.  A lot of the things I've learned from working on bikes transfer to a car.  Obviously not everything like power steering, but a surprising amount is the same, cars are just bigger and have a cage around it.

Coo idea! plus saving money on gas if he decides to commute with it once he gets it running.

eil

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2014, 04:16:05 PM »
To the OP:

I would not take these classes. At least, not right away. Do some of your own research first. If you want to learn the basics, hit up YouTube. There are tons and tons of videos. I recommend seeking out a channel called "Eric the Car Guy".

I can fix a lot of things on my car, but usually I don't go out of my way to research a particular repair until something breaks. Think of it as JIT learning.

You say you're not an autodidact but all learning is self-directed to a point and obviously auto repair interests you, so harness that and strike out on your own before deciding you want to lay down cash for a class that will likely take a long time to recoup your investment on.

An alternative is to buy a cheap motorcycle that needs some work.  It'll probably cost you less than the classes, be more fun, and you'll have something to play with while/when you get it running.  A lot of the things I've learned from working on bikes transfer to a car.  Obviously not everything like power steering, but a surprising amount is the same, cars are just bigger and have a cage around it.

Well, I somewhat disagree with this. Other than the fact that both have an internal combustion engine and they both go down the road, my own experience has been that there is very little overlap.

Almost everything on a car is vastly more complicated and is engineered to different requirements. Suspension, steering, powertrain, fuel and air intake, routine maintenance, all very different. By contrast, (most) motorcycles are built for simplicity and reliability because being on two wheels is inherently less forgiving than being on four. Complexity is at a minimum because more parts means more points of failure. Almost everything that can go wrong with a car is no big deal. Slow down, pull off to the side of the road, call someone for help. However, there is a large swath of things that can go wrong with a motorcycle that would be deadly at speed.

Now if the OP had asked if he should learn how to maintain his own motorcycle, I would give a resounding YES. Even if I didn't particularly enjoy working on my motorcycle (which I do), I still wouldn't trust a third-party with the well being of my motorcycle and more importantly my life.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2014, 04:46:32 PM »
Almost everything on a car is vastly more complicated and is engineered to different requirements. Suspension, steering, powertrain, fuel and air intake, routine maintenance, all very different. By contrast, (most) motorcycles are built for simplicity and reliability because being on two wheels is inherently less forgiving than being on four. Complexity is at a minimum because more parts means more points of failure. Almost everything that can go wrong with a car is no big deal. Slow down, pull off to the side of the road, call someone for help. However, there is a large swath of things that can go wrong with a motorcycle that would be deadly at speed.

Agreed on all the above, but I still think knowing one translates well to the other even with all those differences.  For instance, a couple years ago I was trying to troubleshoot decreasing mileage on my car.  I decided to do a valve adjustment, since it had never had one in its 250k miles and it was a scheduled maintenance item.  Before owning a motorcycle that had valve adjustments every 5k miles I would have never even considered trying that on my car, but now I didn't think twice.  The job took I think 2 hours, instead of the 15 minutes it took on my bike, but it was pretty much the same deal, just more stuff to remove first.

Although I will concede that the crossover is probably in large part because of learning a general mechanics mindset.  Cars may not work the same, but figuring things out pretty much is.

mustachianism_is_aredpill

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2014, 12:08:36 PM »
Wow! Thanks for all the opinions. I think I might take a single class, just to see how it goes.

I also missed an easy pun with "auto-didact". :-/ . C'est la vie.

RetireAbroadAt35

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2014, 01:53:23 PM »
I say do it - for the fun of it - for the self-reliance - for the savings.

How often do you need to reprogram the fuel maps on your car?  Or the power window module? 

I can tell you that you'll have to check/change the fluids (even, gasp, the ones under the car), the brakes, CV boots, belts, wearable suspension parts, etc.  These are all things you could do yourself, cheaper than the mechanic, without special software.  Those projects may become a springboard to other repairs, modifications or upgrades if you decide you like this sort of thing.

If you run into a hairy problem requiring software to diagnose, that's the right time to go to a proper mechanic.

thurston howell iv

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #25 on: August 19, 2014, 02:14:24 PM »
In my opinion, you should check it out. How can learning something new be a waste of time?  The cost is negligible and the tools will pay for themselves. Heck even MMM himself has gone on about being able to work on your own car!

Look at it this way, even if you never use your new found skills, you will understand the basics of how a car works. This in and of itself will make you a more informed individual when it comes time for repairs. (If you decline to do them yourself or don't have the facilities)

If the mechanic tells you that your reciprocating dingle arm needs adjustment, you will know whether or not he is telling the truth or trying to make you spend needlessly.

Jack

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #26 on: August 19, 2014, 02:46:37 PM »
How often do you need to reprogram the fuel maps on your car? 

Whenever you upgrade your intake, exhaust, turbocharger or fuel injectors, of course!

: D

(Not that most people here would ever do such things...)

DarinC

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #27 on: August 19, 2014, 11:04:00 PM »
I say go for it. Cars are good examples of complex systems, something you have a very good chance of encountering in IT.

I haven't had a whole lot of trouble with proprietary software on any of the vehicles I've owned. Generic diagnostic tools can usually handle 95+% of the problems you'll encounter, and the other 5% can be addressed through channels besides dealerships although they are available as a back up. Who knows, you may even end up contributing some DIY hardware/software for diagnostics of manufacturer/model specific systems.

I wouldn't count on it as a sale-able skill, since you'll probably make more in IT, but it's real value is being able to do things yourself. Sure, as a mechanic, you may only make ~$20/hour, but as a DIYer, you'll avoid paying a shop/dealership ~$100/hour by fixing your own stuff.

dragoncar

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #28 on: August 19, 2014, 11:29:11 PM »
I've been pretty surprised recently at the amount of anti-DIY I've been seeing around here.  I'll probably make a separate post on this.

But yeah, take the damn class if it interests you!  If they offer access to their tools, it's probably a super deal for work on your own car.

greaper007

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Re: Worth taking auto mechanic classes at community college?
« Reply #29 on: August 20, 2014, 12:12:05 AM »
Considering that you don't have a garage, don't have tools and don't seem to have any friends that you could consult I'd move into this slowly.

That said, I didn't know how to change my oil 10 years ago, and I replaced my timing belt and water pump in a day a couple years ago.    It can be done.    I personally wouldn't get anything out of the classes though.    You might be working on cars with different systems than yours, or be spending more time in a classroom than a garage.

Here's what I did.   I bought the cheapo Haynes manual, joined an online forum for my car and just started fixing things.    It started with oil, then I changed the brakes, front wheel bearings, a muffler...    So far I haven't caused a safety risk or hurt my cars.    You just have to move slowly and do tons of research (usually a few days worth for me) before you turn a single bolt.

As for scanners, I wouldn't bother with a generic scanner.   If you have a laptop buy a usb scanner for about 10-15 dollars from ebay.    You can use that with a generic freeware OBD-II program, or buy the specific software for your car for about $100.     I have VagCom software for my VW.     It gives specific parameters that the generic code reader doesn't, and it comes with an online support forum at vwvortex.com.     You simply cut and paste the entire readout from the software and the tech from the company tells you how to troubleshoot.   

For that reason alone, I think modern cars are about 10 times easier to work on than older pre software cars.