Mechanic Versus DIY: The Vehicle Fixes You Can Do Yourself… And Those Best Left To The Professionals
With an abundance of information available on the internet and auto maintenance costs rising, an increasing number of people are looking to DIY as a solution for their car issues. A plethora of YouTube videos, Pinterest tips, and self-declared ‘life-hacks’ have taken over social media, promising to save car owners time and money when repairing their vehicles.
For many people who are trying to save money during the cost-of-living crisis, this may seem an appealing alternative. But many of these tips are, in fact, unreliable, and may have been written by someone with little or even no formal mechanical training.
Following some of these tutorials may leave car owners in a worse position than they started in, making simple but expensive errors which may cost them hundreds or even thousands of pounds to have repaired.
Car owners also run the risk of misdiagnosing problems, leading to further mistakes when treating their car, and potentially running up a larger bill than necessary, which could have easily been avoided by bringing in professional help. Some car owners may even begin a repair job, only to find that they do not have the required tools or workspace to complete it.
As such, it is essential to correctly diagnose the problems your vehicle is experiencing before beginning repairs, and to only take measures that can be performed effectively from home.
In this article, we will address the issues with DIY repairs, the repairs you can do from home, and the jobs that should always be left to a professional mechanic.
DIY Repairs: Are They Ever Worth It?
DIY repair tutorials promise a lot, but can they keep these promises? Here, we go through the pros and cons of DIY car repairs.
The Pros Of DIY Repairs
• Save Money – Many car DIY tutorials promise large savings on car parts and labour. If you carry out your own repairs you will not need to pay for labour or markups on car parts, which could offer significant savings on repairs.
• Save Time – If you are experienced in performing repairs on your vehicle, and your local garage handles a large workload, you may find that simple repairs can be carried out more quickly from home.
• Learn From Experience – Working on your vehicle allows you to learn how your car functions, and how the parts work together to keep it running at optimal function. This will help you to quickly identify when there is a problem with your car, and more effectively diagnose any potential issues.
The Cons Of DIY Repairs
• A False Economy? – While it is true that if you do your own repairs you will not need to pay for labour or markups on car parts, you may end up paying significantly more if the issue is misdiagnosed or the repair is carried out incorrectly and requires fixing by a qualified mechanic.
• Wasted Time – If you are inexperienced at carrying out repairs or you have a new car that you are unfamiliar with, you could end up spending longer on your vehicle than you might expect.
To complicate matters, each make and model of car is different, meaning that you may have to spend a lot of time extensively researching how to repair your car, and will need to start from scratch when you buy another model.
• Hassle – If you work a regular 9-5 job, you may find that you simply don’t have the time to research the design of your car and then carry out repairs. Taking your vehicle to a professional mechanic allows you to take the pressure off, and you can relax in the knowledge that your car is in safe and experienced hands.
• Safety Risks – Most drivers do not have the required equipment (such as floor jacks or engine hoists) needed to repair their cars in a safe manner. And on top of the physical risk, if you carry out your own repairs your vehicle warranty may become void under the manufacturer’s safety policies.
The Common Issues With DIY Repairs
There are several issues with DIY jobs that we commonly see when customers bring their cars in for repairs. And once one mistake is made, it can cause many additional problems for the vehicle, resulting in expensive bills and unnecessary stress for the customer.
The most frequent mistakes made by vehicle DIYers include:
• Misdiagnosis – When car issues are misdiagnosed, DIYers may carry out unnecessary repairs; these can run to hundreds of pounds that they did not need to spend.
While many people think that they can follow the advice of a trusted friend or an online resource, car models vary a lot, and the advice you are given may not necessarily apply to your vehicle. So if you are unsure of any issues with your car, you should always ask the opinion of a professional before carrying out any repairs to your vehicle.
• Vehicle Damage – If a repair goes wrong, it may be even more costly to fix than if you had taken your vehicle to the garage in the first place.
Many repairs, such as replacing bulbs, are more complicated than you might think, and professional mechanics are equipped with all the tools and equipment required to safely carry out repairs to a high standard.
Doing these jobs yourself may lead to further complications, and it will often be safer to seek the advice of an experienced professional.
• Complex Designs – Many car owners grew up with their parents showing them how to fix a car. While this is a useful skill to have, and a nostalgic memory for many people, modern cars are becoming increasingly complex, and what may have been achievable at the time may not work on modern vehicles.
• Safety Issues – It can be hard to tell what problems can be resolved at home, and which may be dangerous. Car owners should avoid fixing certain car elements – like for example, the braking and exhaust systems.
A poorly repaired braking system can cause serious driving hazards, while a botched exhaust may leak poisonous carbon monoxide gas into the cabin, with potentially fatal consequences.
The Simple DIY Repairs You Can Do From Home
There are a few, routine car repairs that can be carried out safely from home with little equipment necessary. Here are some simple repair jobs that most car owners can master from the comfort of their own garage:
• Changing The Air Filter – Air filters can quickly become clogged and will need changing when the air begins to come out warm, dusty, or starts to smell.
• Changing Windscreen Wipers – Windscreen wipers can be easily changed from home. For visibility reasons you should consider changing your wipers when they begin to leave streaks across your screen while driving.
• Engine Oil – You should check your oil at least every two weeks and before going on any long commutes. You should also carry out a full oil change every 5,000 miles and change the filter when the oil begins to leak.
• Coolant – Check your coolant once a week when the engine is off and has been cold for several hours. Replace the coolant immediately when the level is low.
• Spark Plugs – Spark plugs wear out over time, leading to a jittery-sounding engine, which has trouble starting and may misfire or surge. You will also find that your car will use more fuel and may have a lacklustre acceleration speed. Spark plugs can be changed from home, but always check the specific requirements of your vehicle.
• Flat Tyres – Everybody should learn how to change a tire on their vehicle. If your tire goes flat when you are in an isolated area, it may take hours to call a mechanic out, which can be risky in cold or hazardous weather.
• Tyre Pressure – Every two weeks you should check that your tyre pressure, tread, and condition are correct according to your vehicle specifications. Incorrect tyre pressure can risk unsafe driving and increased fuel consumption.
The Jobs To Leave To The Professionals
Many car repairs can be complex or hazardous tasks that should always be left to a professional mechanic. These include the work done on the following parts of the vehicle:
• Brakes – Brake repairs are difficult to carry out effectively, particularly on modern car models. And you will likely never know if a brake repair has been botched until you attempt to brake, thereby making it a highly risky repair to carry out from home.
• Exhaust – If an exhaust is repaired incorrectly, it can leak poisonous carbon monoxide gas into the cabin, creating a serious risk of death to driver and passengers alike.
• Engine – Engine problems can be difficult to diagnose, putting drivers at risk of misdiagnosing their vehicle and carrying out expensive and potentially unnecessary repairs. Calling in a professional will save you time, money, and hassle.
• Replacing Windscreens – Professional mechanics use specialist tools and adhesives to fit windscreens in a safe and reliable manner. Doing your windscreen from home could mean that it lasts as little as a year before you need to have it replaced, and if it is not safely attached to your vehicle, it could even collapse into the cabin, making it a serious risk in the event of an accident.
• Gearbox – The transmission system of a car is highly complex, and as such, only a qualified mechanic should diagnose and fix gearbox issues. These problems typically require specialist equipment to fix, so always take your car to a professional if your vehicle experiences gearbox problems.
• Replacing Airbags – To replace an airbag, it is necessary to remove the whole dashboard using specialist equipment; you also will not know if the procedure has been carried out correctly until you get into a crash.
To avoid potentially losing your own life, or the life of somebody close to you, you should always put safety first and rely on a qualified professional.
Now you know which vehicle fixes you can do yourself and which ones should be left to the professionals, you can save money, stay safe, and know your limits!