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Interested in doing my own car maintenance.. Advice?

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As some of you may remember, I purchased my first car, the Codymobile, last year (with some help from you folks).  See the thread on it, with some photos: here.

I love the car.. It's a very low mileage car -- not driven often by the first and previous owner, and driven even less by me (2008 Suzuki SX4 AWD, with only 22k miles).

It's in good shape, but I have no idea if the previous owner did any fluid changes, etc.

I'm not a car person, but because I want to spend more time bonding with the car and because I like tinkering with things and learning how to do things, I'm thinking I may invest in some tools and do everything I can do (change oil, transmission fluid, spark plugs, coolant, transfer case oil, break fluid, etc.).

There are some great videos on youtube that show how to do most things for my car, so I can follow those for most things.

Currently I'm thinking about buying some (rhino) ramps for getting it up to work on.

Any other thoughts? Am I crazy for trying to do this stuff myself?

Cost wise, I suspect I won't save much money doing this stuff myself -- mainly because I'll be spending all of this money on tools that I will only ever use once or twice (given how infrequently I drive the car, this may be my one and only change of these fluids before i die of old age).  On the other hand I am (rightly or wrongly?) completely paranoid about mechanics not doing a proper job in changing these fluids and not using quality materials -- especially when the customer is bringing in a car that probably doesn't need these fluids replaced  :-\

I also want to take a moment here and post some links to some great DIY car maintenance books that I've read recently -- most of which are available very cheap used on

* Auto Repair For Dummies Paperback – November 17, 2008 by Deanna Sclar - $14 -- fantastic book
* Popular Mechanics Complete Car Care Manual: Updated & Expanded Hardcover – October 1, 2005 - $6 used including shipping -- incredible book with tons of illustrations
* Car Smarts: An Easy-to-Use Guide to Understanding Your Car and Communicating with Your Mechanic Paperback – November 4, 1998 by Mary Jackson - $4 used including shipping -- good book(side note -- two of my top 3 books are written by women)

And some great youtube video sources:

* <-- ChrisFix, really awesome large collection of car maintenance howto videos (changing fluids, brakes, etc.)

Jack and jack stands are useful too, an get a floor jack for pretty cheap.

But basic things like plugs wires, oil, air filter, radiator fluid, transmission filter are all good things to know.

I'm not a car person either however I do know how to do all the things listed. Thanks to youtube and actually doing it

Costwise a plugs and wires dealship wants $300 to do, can easily do it for <= $100

Only thing is have to take the oil and such for proper disposal your self.

My suggestion would be to find things interesting to tinker with on the vehicle that don't require you to get under it.  Especially if you are by yourself, if you get pinned you may not be able to call for help.

Not to do a "scared straight" on you but, a relative was an experienced mechanic.  He was found pinned underneath a car in the shop as he was working alone.  From the story I heard he became complacent and used a screwdriver instead of a hardened steal pin, in those jack stands that have the holes to set the height.

Doing it outside I would not get under a car unless you have hard flat level ground, and high quality jack stands.  Not ramps.  As you say, buying the tools will likely cost you more than you save.  But things like brakes can be done without getting under the car.  You can buy a small hydraulic jack to lift one wheel and lower it on a jack stand before removing the tire.  Some parts stores will rent you the "one time use" tool rather than making you buy it.

Fluids are easier to learn to change than brakes.  So if you decide to go that route I would check around for a garage that rents a lift to do it yourself customers.  They may even let you rent use of a tool set by the hour.  It's a lot more fun anyway having the car at the proper height on a lift with the safety lever extended.  The danger would be getting some oil or grease on your clothes rather than pinning yourself under a couple of tons of ain't going nowhere.

Another mechanic I worked with was working under a car with one of the gray bumper hydraulic jacks holding up one end of the car.  He put 2 safety stands under the frame, but didn't lower the car onto them.  While he was distracted doing the work, some twit decided he wanted to use one of the jack stands and just took it away.  The gray jack tipped over and my friend was feeding through a straw for months while the surgeons reworked much of his skull.

Please stay out from under.  It's a lot safer.   :Thmbsup:

All of what Miles said.
Do it indoors, somehow.
Buy a decent suit of overalls.
If you mess with the brakes and lose some fluid, make sure you top up and bleed the system.
Write down all that you do at every step so that you have a good chance to reverse the process/reassemble stuff.
Make a will.

Make a will.
--- End quote ---


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