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Advanced DIY Car Repairs

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Due to the rising cost of car repairs and the ease of access to information, the number of car owners who perform DIY repairs has steadily increased throughout the past few years. While learning the ins and outs of your vehicle is never a bad thing, the difficult truth is that this also exposes car owners to a lot of risk.

You can save quite a bit of money by performing certain car repairs yourself, but it’s important to remember that there are some repairs that are a little more complicated than others. Attempting to perform these repairs without fully understanding the process and methods involved may not only put your car at risk, but you could be creating problems that are potentially dangerous. Remember, you can still call a professional if you lose confidence or are concerned about your safety. Here are some more advanced repairs that you can do on your own, but you should pay close attention while working on these car parts:

Replacing the Audio System

Tools Needed: Wire strippers, crimpers, voltage tester, soldering iron and solder, sound meter, shop tools, camera

ETA: 15 minutes to three hours, depending on whether you have unlocking pins.

Replacing a speaker system or a radio on your car is deceptive; if you aren’t trained to handle the electrical wiring in a car, you run the risk of causing serious damage to the electrical system. The first step should always be to disconnect the negative cable from your car battery when dealing with any electronics. Always make sure that you get your soldering right the first time around. After installing the new system, make sure that everything works by using the voltage tester and the sound meter before covering everything up.

Replacing the Timing Belt

Tools Needed: Socket set, torque wrench, combination wrenches, drain pan, antifreeze, jack and jack stands

ETA: Eight hours

If you’ve done a lot of DIY car repairs, you might want to test your skill by replacing a timing belt. Replacing a timing belt will require you to disassemble half of your engine in order to get to the belt you need to replace, coupled with the fact that you’ll need to reassemble your engine perfectly. The first thing to note is that you have to know where the pump is located in your car. In this procedure, you’ll need to remove the fan belt and the steering belt before you can get to the timing case. Once the fan belt and steering belt are removed, it’s a pretty straightforward procedure. (remove the motor mount brackets to get to the timing belt)

Pro tip: Before loosening the pulley, mark the cogs in line with the gasket with chalk or white paint. This will help ensure that you’re able to realign the cogs perfectly.

Replacing Your Shock Absorbers

Tools Needed: Lug nut wrench, socket wrench, socket ratchet, nut splitter, metal cleaner

ETA: 20 to 30 minutes

There are two main reasons why you should be careful when doing this on your own. First, shock absorbers directly affect your car’s suspension. Second, climbing beneath your car is innately dangerous. Keep these safety issues in mind before proceeding. You could save up to $750 if you’re able to perform this correctly. Make sure to park your car on a level surface before jacking it up. The most difficult part about replacing shocks is removing the old shocks. (which is really a pretty straightforward process.) The key things to note are that it’s important to use metal cleaner and WD-40 to get rid of the gunk and to help loosen the grip. Otherwise, you could risk damaging the rubber around the bushing. Disconnect the shock from the suspension and replace it. Repeat for all shocks.

Windshield Repairs

Tools Needed: Molding removal tool, cut-out tool, suction cups, caulking gun, razor blades, personal protective equipment

ETA: 30 minutes or less

A cracked windshield is a serious issue, as even the smallest chip in glass will greatly reduce its structural integrity. The last thing you want is your windshield breaking and obstructing your view while you’re driving on a highway. Off-the-shelf windshield repair kits cost $10. Ensure you’re following the steps properly, as a small windshield repair task could eventually become a full windshield replacement, which can run you over $500. A windshield crack repair is a simple matter of cleaning the windshield, and using the windshield repair kit.

Replacing a windshield will entail that you have to remove the old windshield with the molding cut-out tool, suction cups, and cut-out tool. Make sure that your new windshield is aligned properly before caulking it in place.

Pro tip: Windshield repair kits work only on small chips. If the glass spiderwebs outward from the impact point, you’re going to have to replace your windshield.

Fuel Pump Installation

Tools Needed: ratchet wrench set + universal joint, open-end wrench, hose clamp pliers, bolt or wooden dowel

ETA: Four to five hours

Fuel pump installations are very expensive, costing about $1,500 to $2,000 to perform, and it’s not difficult to see why people might want to do this on their own. However, if you’re planning to install a fuel pump on your own, you need to understand that replacement varies between models. While some steps are applicable to all cars (such as draining the gas tank, working in a well-lit area away from flammables, relieving fuel pressure prior to disassembly). Always check your car manual for the location of your fuel pump.

Clutch Disc Replacement

Tools Needed: Clutch alignment tool, brake and clutch bleeder, ratchet, trolley jack, replacement clutch

ETA: Five to six hours

The clutch goes through a lot of wear and tear. While beginners might visit their mechanic for a clutch disk replacement, skilled DIY mechanics can perform this procedure with relative ease, as long as you have access to a lift. It’s still doable without a lift, but it’s going to be significantly more difficult, as you’re going to have to drop your transmission before you get to the clutch. The difficulty stems from the weight of the transmission, but once you’ve managed to lower your transmission, the rest of the procedure is really just a matter of knowing how to disassemble the clutch pieces and knowing which parts of your clutch you need to replace (release bearings, throw-out bearing, and of course, your clutch disc).

Pro tip: It’s always a good idea to replace the pilot bearing located at the end of your engine’s crankshaft.

Brake Pads

Tools Needed: Lug wrench, C-Clamp, adjustable wrench, hammer

ETA: 30 to 60 minutes

Brake pads typically need to be replaced every 20,000 miles. However, you may need to replace them sooner if you drive in stop-and-go traffic often. Replacing your brake pads is completely doable and safety should be your priority. A few key things to note are that you should always break the lugs on your tires before proceeding any further. Stay organized as you disassemble the brake caliper, and be gentle when securing your new brake pads with retaining clips.

While some DIY car repairs are simplistic in nature, others require a bit more skill, which is why there’s a paid solution for almost every car problem you might encounter. If you have a bad dent, then take your car to a quality collision center. If you have engine problems or need your tires looked at, take your car to the shop. You have to decide whether the risk you’re taking in a DIY repair is worth the money you’d save by doing repairs yourself.