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DIY Car Repairs: Safety Tips And More

Having spent a fair part of the weekend tinkering around with a screwdriver trying to see what was wrong with the electric windows in my Ford Fairlane, I thought I’d better talk a bit about DIY car repairs and maintenance. To my fellow female motorists, this is something that I really encourage you to have a go at. For one thing, it can save you a couple of bucks, same as it does for any DIY person; secondly, it makes it less likely that the few male chauvinist pig* mechanics out there are going to try to rip you off if you do end up having to take your car to an expert – they’re unlikely to charge you for “fixing” something that wasn’t wrong if you tell them precisely what’s wrong. And if Her Majesty Elizabeth II of England (and, for the time being, Australia) can do it, so can you!

There are some things, however, that are best left to the experts. Things to do with electric and electronics, for example. You really need to know what you’re doing with this sort of thing, same as you would for a computer (probably because it is practically a computer). The only exceptions are fuses, spark plugs and light bulbs – they’re easy enough for a DIY person to do. Turn the ignition off first.

The internet has made it easier for DIY motor repairs people, as you no longer need to buy a book of diagrams or grab one from the local library. You can usually find a collection of videos or diagrams online easily enough. It’s smart to familiarise yourself with what things are supposed to look like before you begin.

When you get around to tinkering with your car, you should always bear a couple of safety tips in mind:

  1. Don’t smoke and keep the garage well ventilated.
  2. Unless you actually need to run the engine, make sure that it’s cold before you start poking around.
  3. If you have to get underneath your car and you have to raise it (not always necessary if you’re thin or if your car has high ground clearance), then put it on proper supports rather than just a jack or on a wooden box. Make sure that you put it in gear and put the handbrake on to stop it rolling backwards. Even a small little hatchback could crush you if it comes down on you.
  4. Let someone know that you’re working on the car just in case, especially if you have to go underneath it.
  5. If near moving parts, tie back long hair, wear tight fitting clothing and remove jewellery.
  6. Keep alcohol out of the picture.

A few basic tools will do the job for DIY work on the car, although real enthusiasts will probably invest in some fancier ones.  Personally, my rule of thumb is if it can’t be done with the basics, it’s a job for an expert (or else for my husband’s friend Trev, who is one of those enthusiasts with lots of tools).  Occasionally, you need a few other simple tools that you are likely to have around the place. Sometimes, when my husband has been working on a car, that tool is me – an extra pair of hands to hold this, put pressure on that or pull that. Especially as small female hands can get into gaps that big bloke hands can’t.

My suggested toolkit for basic DIY car repairs comprises the following:

  • Screwdrivers – star head and flat head, and possibly one of those fancy square head ones as well;
  • Socket set;
  • Adjustable wrench;
  • Can of WD-40 or CRC 5.56
  • Pliers, especially long-nosed ones
  • Light hammer – not for banging anything on the car but for tapping the wrench to get that stubborn nut started without risking your knuckles
  • Spare nuts, bolts, screws and washers.

Lastly, you need a dollop of common sense. That’s the essential tool. Also the ability to give up and take the thing to the mechanic if you need to.


*Small rant on the topic of male chauvinist pigs and car repairs. While hunting online for a good image for this post, trying to show a woman fixing a car, most of what I came across was either a woman staring at the open bonnet and generally looking helpless, or else some cheesecake picture involving skimpy clothing (often tight-fitting torn denim a la Daisy Duke) and artfully applied smears of motor oil. Grrrrr!


  1. Tech Procartools says:

    Your post is really providing good information about Automotive Socket Set. Keep sharing such important posts.

    February 26th, 2014 at 4:28 pm