Author Topic: Learning About Cars  (Read 864 times)


  • Bristles
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  • Location: Ottawa
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Learning About Cars
« on: August 25, 2017, 08:40:58 AM »
Hey guys!

I've posted this in other areas of the forum, but I thought it would be useful here. And the job is done, so now I just want to brag.

The car doesn't have to be a black box you don't understand- when mechanics want over $100 per hour just to work on something, isn't it worth it to even *vaguely* know what they're talking about?

Enter the public library and Youtube!

Check your local library for online resources such as AllData or Chilton's that are databases of the service manuals to cars. For AllData, you can enter in the VIN of your car (get it off the metal plate on the dashboard at the base of your windshield) and get the *official* service manual procedures for free! I printed them to .pdf and saved them to Google Drive for future reference.

Rock Auto is a website that ships to both the USA in Canada that has a ton of different parts available for your car, and usually at a way better price than dealerships or part stores- just make sure you get all the details right (The VIN can be looked up to find out the specific engine and trim of your car!)

In June, I got a new (to me) car from my grandmother. Almost 20 years old, but only 88,000 kms on the odo. Sounds great, but cars have a maintenance interval measured in both years and kilometres- You can't just have it sit and expect everything to stay amazing xD

I immediately walked into my public library and checked out a few books on automotive fundamentals from around the year of the car itself (that way, they're less in demand if it's an older car!). The two textbooks in question were 'Automotive Fundamentals' and 'Automotive Chassis Systems.' I then read them on and off for the next few weeks. Just having pictures of the anatomy of the car, broken down simply, was worth a thousand words and then some. I even kept them for 9 weeks, renewing them over and over, because nobody cares (old car, old books!)

Before this, I had changed oil before, and watched somebody change a set of brake pads.

I then embarked upon a journey, learning enough to replace the following myself:

-Timing belt, timing belt tensioner (lifetime of 8-9 years or 150,000 kms. Had never been changed, didn't want to risk breakage later.)
-Water Pump (Precaution)
-PCV Valve (Precaution)
-Upper and Lower Radiator Hoses (Starting to fail)
-Radiator Cap (Precaution)
-Thermostat (Precaution)
-Coolant Flush and Fill (Overdue. Every 2 years for most coolant, people!)
-Oil Change (Precaution)
-Automatic Transmission Fluid + ATF Filter change (Overdue for my car)
-Accessory (Alternator) belt change (Precaution)
-Front Brake Lines (Horribly rusted out- Car would not pass safety)
-Front Brake Hoses (Unable to assess condition, but 20 years old should say something. At $10 each and you're already in there, why not?)
-Replace Bleeder Screws on Front Calipers, service caliper slide pins w/ grease (Precaution/Preventative)
-Replace both rear wheel cylinders (Bleeder nuts totally frozen in place; both broke off even with generous application of penetrating oil.)

I was unable to fix the rear brake lines myself (they went up and around the fuel tank, and I didn't feel comfortable working up there) but I knew enough to bargain down the mechanic from what he originally wanted for the job, especially after I showed him that I already had all the required parts in my car.

The point I'm trying to make is, before going to the library, I literally knew enough to change oil (1 bolt, 1 filter.) Now, I'm doing jobs that are regularly quoted to me for over $1000 a piece. Before people worry about safety of doing your own work, with the service manual in hand (Literally, the technician's manual!) and two torque wrenches (50-150 ft-lbs and 12-250 in-lbs), you can make sure every bolt and fastener is both a) identified and b) torqued to proper factory value.

You can usually find decent tools on Craigslist/Kijiji (Especially estate sales!), and if not, watch the flyers for your local hardware stores for deals. The gross majority of work on a car (especially preventative maintenance) can be done with a relatively basic set of hand tools. A good socket set, pair of torque wrenches, drain pan, jack, and jackstands, for example. Buy more tools for specific jobs as you need them.

Another important point to make is that some of the most important work you do on your car for its longevity is pure maintenance items- more simple than you imagine, especially than replacing parts. It's more important to follow your published maintenance guidelines than most people know!

I'm sure there are duplicate threads here, but just saying- YOU HAVE THE POWER!


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Learning About Cars
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2017, 09:18:35 AM »
Good for you!  It's very satisfying to figure that all out, and will keep your car running better and for longer.  Brake lines (and fuel lines!) are a royal pain in the ass, no shame in outsourcing that.

Seconding the Rock Auto recommendation.  They're great.  You do sometimes have to be careful you're getting the exact right part, but 95% of the time it's obvious.


  • Stubble
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  • Location: United States
Re: Learning About Cars
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2017, 07:08:32 PM »
This is hotly debated in the auto repair community, but I do not torque the vast majority of things. If I'm doing work on the engine, I will torque most of those fasteners (still don't do the oil drain plug, though). But most things I don't bother to torque down.