Auto Repairs That You Can Do Yourself

January 25, 2013

Owning a car for the first time can be an exhilirating experience. For some, it means official adulthood, the respect of peers, and an instant 20% added coolness factor. For others, it means mobility, convenience, responsibility, and freedom. However, the blissful honeymoon stage can easily head into the awkward stage of the relationship. All it takes is that odd noise from under the hood, or a strange ichor-like fluid pooling beneath your car, or even the car all together refusing to start. Many of us have experienced the stress of getting that first bill from the mechanic. Taking your car to a mechanic is extremely expensive, but what else can you do?

First of all, don't panic. If you are lucky enough to have a decent set of hardware tools, some essential automobile fluids, a pair of gloves, lots of elbow grease and intrepid spirit (or at least, a willingness to learn and execute), you've pretty much got all that you need to start learning how to do some basic repairs for your car.

Bear in mind, though, that learning these repairs will not make you a bonafide car mechanic overnight. There are some problems that one must simply seek a certified mechanic's expertise. However, learning and understanding these simple repairs do have their benefits. These are good ways of giving you an understanding of your car's inner workings, making you more sensitive to your car's signals and needs, and improving yourself through adding to your skill repertoire. So, get those gloves on, tie on your insulated closed-toe boots, wear a pair of safety goggles, and let's get started.

If you find your car refuses to start, and you just need to get home safely, you can actually jump start your car yourself. This is one of the easiest and quickest fixes you can do. You will need a jumper cable, a willing friend with a car with a decent battery, and some patience. Connect the positive charge of the dead battery to the positive charge of the working battery via the red cable. Next, connect the negative charge of the working battery to any unpainted metal surface of your car. Be mindful to choose a spot that is not close to any moving parts. Ask your friend to start your car to charge the dead battery. After five minutes, carefully remove the cable from the dead battery, and try starting the car. This should give it enough juice to get you home, or to a mechanic. If the car still doesn't start up, try the process again in ten minutes, and this time, let the car with the working battery idle for a bit longer.

Your car battery is filled with sulfuric acid, and sometimes, you may see some crusty or foamy white substance around the connectors. This crusty residue can prevent your car from using the full capacity of the battery, and can easily be removed with a baking soda-and-water mixture. Make sure the car is turned off, and take the key out of the ignition before attempting to clean the battery. Wipe the mixture around the white crusts, and wipe off with a clean rag. Sometimes, a little elbow grease is required, and you may wish to use a toothbrush to get a thorough clean.

Last but not the least, replacing an alternator can be tricky, but very doable on your own. For this, you will need a clean insulating rag, wrenches, insulated pliers, and a new alternator. The alternator can test your old alternator if it's still in good condition; if not, you already have just what you need to replace the broken one. You will need to disconnect the alternator from the battery by unplugging a cable that connects the two. You don't want to ground any object in the car, least of all yourself, so wrap the exposed portion with an insulating rag and push it to a safe place. Start unscrewing and unbolting the alternator, keeping in mind with fastener belongs in which hole. Carefully take the alternator out, and put the new one in. Repeat the whole process in reverse: screw the new alternator in, connect the battery to it carefully, and try turning on your car. It should purr with life, and you should feel good about yourself for learning a few new car repair skills.

Author Bio: Sarah Paulsen has been doing most of her minor car repairs herself for the past ten years, and never leaves home without her wrenches and jump cables in her trunk. She always heads to Factory Fast for the best car parts and supplies around.