What Are "Safe" Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Car Repairs?

Learn about simple DIY car repairs and the ones you should probably leave to the experts.

Here are some simple things you can do yourself without too much trouble.

  • Replacing wiper blades
  • Checking fluids and tire pressures
  • Replacing head light and tail light builbs

The next step up would be jobs like these.

  • Changing a flat tire
  • Replacing air filters
  • Changing your oil (though disposing of it properly should be taken into consideration)

The more repairs you do, the more knowledge and experience you will gain, and with this confidence, you can start doing more complex jobs like these.

  • Replacing belts, hoses, spark plugs
  • Replacing starters and alternators

If You Are Going to Do DIY Car Repairs

I spoke with Bret Bodas, RepairPal’s resident expert and ASE Master Technician, to get some advice on things you should do prior to attempting a repair. Bret's major point was, whether you’re a professional technician or a beginner, to ensure success, you should be prepared. Here’s how:

Diagnose the problem correctly
Misdiagnosis can be a problem. If it can happen to the best mechanics, it can happen to you. If you replace the wrong part, you may end up wasting time, money, and possibly adding to the original problem. What might have cost $100 at the shop could now run much higher. Our advice with diagnosing car problems is simple—never guess what is wrong. Instead, we recommend that you go to a shop and have them do the diagnosis, so you'll know for sure what the next steps are. Or, we recommend following proper diagnostic procedures set out in your owners manual.

Research the repair
Thoroughly research the job you are going to perform. Vehicle repair manuals have never been less expensive and more accessible than right now, so we strongly suggest getting one. You can also consult your owners manual, online information, and instructional videos before starting the repair. After researching the repair, you should have a good understanding of the tools and equipment needed to perform the repair, as well as the difficulty and time needed to complete it. 

If you want to check out online repair manuals that will provide you with the exact information used by the pros, check out Mitchell and AllData.

Make sure you have the right tools
Make sure you have the right tools for the job, but be careful here. Without the proper tools, some jobs are near impossible or can add hours to a repair. Reading the repair manual will provide you with a list of what is needed.

Make sure you have time to perform the repair
Make sure you have the time it takes to perform the repair. You don’t want your car disabled when you need it, so leave yourself enough time to complete the job and also address any issues that will inevitably occur. For a good gauge of the time it takes, the above mentioned repair manuals list the time it takes to perform each job—we suggest doubling that time just to be on the safe side. Having an open, nearby parts store during the repair is highly recommended, too.

The bottom line
If you don’t have the knowledge, skills, preparation, and time to do the repair, it's safer and probably more cost-effective to go to a shop.

Continue to Part 4 - When Is DIY Car Repair Off the Table?


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