Should You Learn to Fix Your Own Car?

by Marie on November 11, 2013 · 1 comment

Practically every American has one, shouldn’t we all know how to fix it?

When I was growing up, it was pretty much a bi-weekly occurrence to be out in the garage handing Dad tools while he fixed some part of the car. Of course he did the simple things, such as change the oil and rotate the tires, but he also did much more. He once took off a gas tank, cleaned it and re-installed it (to fix the effect of some oil embargo crap gasoline I bought in the 1970′s). He routinely greased, tuned, adjusted timing, changed belts and installed new gizmos.

Is it too complicated today?

But can we even learn today? Back when Dad was working cars, there was lots of room in the engine compartment. Heck,most of ours didn’t even have air-conditioning and we certainly didn’t have power windows or remote start or auto parking features! Neither were there any computer processors on board. Auto repair today may require high tech equipment and the ability to work with computers.

That being said, neither did we have the internet back then. Today if you want to see how to do something, the learning tools may be just a click away, and there is still plenty of car repair work you could do yourself, if you wanted.

Life Hacker has a super pillar post on many of the things that are still within reach of the home mechanic in it’s article The Car Repairs You Can (Seriously) Do Yourself, Despite Your Abilities  and’s diagnostic tree helps you figure out if what your car is doing might be something you can address yourself and they have a great section of how to videos . Then, of course, there is always You Tube

Car repair isn’t just for the guys!

It isn’t just the guys who can fix cars either. My first one was a 1963 Buick Special. Although I didn’t mechanic on it much (other than changing the oil, oil filter, air filter, rotating the tires, greasing the axle and such) , I did do body work and re-paint it – in my parent’s garage! CBS News  reported on Sarah “Bogi” Lateiner.  Who graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in pre-law and women’s studies. She thought she was headed for law school but instead because an auto mechanic!

We would all do well to learn a bit more about the topic, as we typically get overcharged at the autoshop (more so than the guys). If you want to read about it, just use your search engine with the words “auto repair women”!

Who needs a car anymore – we’ve got social media.

Although we all drive (or most of us anyway), we may be losing some of our fascination with cars. USA Today in Serious shortage of skilled auto mechanics looming notes:

 “A generation who grew up playing Xbox games instead of rebuilding carburetors doesn’t seem to have the fascination with auto repair as earlier generations who grew up as shade-tree mechanics.”

I know I wanted that license as soon as I was eligible. So did my sons in the late 1980′s. It’s a different story though with their kids. There no longer seems to be a social impetus to rush to get driver ready! My youngest son’s step son didn’t get his license until age 18 – when he could have had it at 15 (or at least that learner’s permit).

He isn’t alone, according to that USA Today article:

“Kids who couldn’t wait to get their driver’s licenses now often are blasé. They would rather talk to their friends through Facebook or other social media than drive over to meet them. In 1980, 87% of 19-year-olds had gotten driver’s licenses, according to a study released in July by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. By 2010, that figure had dropped to 70%.”

Looking for a new career?

Auto mechanic may be the one to choose. USA Today  is predicting a shortage.

“The nation’s demand for auto mechanics is expected to have grown about 17% from 2010 to 2020, adding 124,800 jobs for a total of 848,200, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Auto technicians overall earned an average of $35,790, but 10% earned more than $59,590, in 2010, the most recent year for which the BLS has data.”

You may have to go to a trade school to get the requisite knowledge, because high schools are dropping auto mechanic classes due to the expensive equipment needed now. Once you get the knowledge though, and learn how to diagnose beyond reading off those computer codes, chances are good (practically guaranteed according to USA Today) of landing the job.

Even if you don’t want a career fixing vehicles, such a course could strengthen your abilities to repair your own cars and save big bucks.

What kind of car repair is tackled by folks in your home?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 This Life On Purpose November 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm

We are currently looking at replacing my car battery ourselves. The quote we got from the mechanic seemed quite high but it may end up costing us just as much since we don’t have the proper tools so we’ll have to make a few extra purchases. Definitely worth looking into doing it yourself though!


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