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DIY Auto Maintenance: So Easy a College Kid Can Do It

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DIY Auto Maintenance: So Easy a College Kid Can Do It

By Samuel Spencer

September 14th, 2010

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Source: CollegeCarGuide.com

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[Really any car can go here. I just used the Mazda (again) because it is the car I did the work on]

It is baffling how much some college kids' cars are neglected. Yes, it is a stressful world studying and writing and cramming constantly. No matter what, there should be enough time to at least check your dipstick at the end of each week to make sure you don't cause any catastrophic engine damage.

Even then, I've met people with some huge issues neglected on their cars. Mushy brakes, wheel wobble, etc. Why will people risk their own safety by neglecting issues with their car? Simple. It's the reason anyone does (or doesn't do) anything in this country: money. Having a professional mechanic do routine maintenance can be massively expensive, especially on a college student's budget.

I'm here to tell you that with the right tools, patience and enough dexterity to build a Lego model you can perform routine maintenance on a car and save yourself hundreds of dollars in labor costs.

The first thing you have to get, and I mean immediately, is a repair manual for your car. Haynes makes very inexpensive and complete manuals for virtually every car sold in large numbers in America for the past few decades. Get one before anything ever goes wrong. It will save the day.

It did for me. I was on my way home in my Miata a couple spring breaks ago when I noticed the clutch pedal started feeling a little mushy. Then the car wouldn't change gears. For some reason my clutch stopped functioning properly, so I was stuck in 4th gear for the rest of the way home. When I got home I asked my father what the problem could be. He replied how he always does:

"Did you read the book?"

So I read the book. That steered me towards the slave cylinder, which was leaking fluid badly. With no real experience with car repair and a bit of my father's help, I jacked up the car and followed the book step by step. An afternoon later my car was on the road again with a fresh slave cylinder that I installed and bled all by myself. If you're a mechanic, you're probably rolling your eyes and saying "big whoop." For a college kid that never repaired something as important as a car before, it was monumental.

Lots of things like air filters, brake pads, spark plugs, etc. are easy to replace on modern cars. Anyone can do it with the right tools and the right instructions. Of course, the really big jobs require hardware that only mechanics will have. Don't expect to go buy a Haynes manual and be turbocharging your car in a weekend. However, if you've been putting off that brake job, the book and an afternoon in your parent's or grandparent's garage can save you a huge amount of money.

link:

http://www.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog/1049345_diy-auto-maintenance-so-easy-a-college-kid-can-do-it

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NOS2006    11

lol I did a full motor swap while taking 20 credit hours last semester. Rookies. :P

Seriously though, I can't believe the number of people who don't even know these books exist and come to people who know cars to ask them the simplest of questions.

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ShadowDog    15

lol I did a full motor swap while taking 20 credit hours last semester. Rookies. :P

Seriously though, I can't believe the number of people who don't even know these books exist and come to people who know cars to ask them the simplest of questions.

Yeah, but we're talking about people whom practically wet themselves when they turn the key and nothing happens.

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NOS2006    11

That's the best thing about the internet in today's world. The internet has tutorials from the absolute most basic things on a car down to the more advanced ones.

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Croc    268

That's the best thing about the internet in today's world. The internet has tutorials from the absolute most basic things on a car down to the more advanced ones.

I'd love to change my own oil...but I have neither the equipment nor the space to do so. People living in apartments or dorms simply don't have the luxury of space where one can change their oil.

  • Upvote 1

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Intrepidation    846

What you want is a Factory Service Manual. Puts Haynes to shame (since Haynes is basically a stripped down version of an FSM).

I have no professional automotive experience or training. Everything I know and have done was learned via repair guides, the internet, and trying for myself. I've done vale spring/stem seal replacement, valve cover gasket replacement, inner tie rod bushings, intake manifold replacement, 2 waterpumps, and many other smaller repairs and maintenance. The only thing I won't do is under the car work which require jacking it up. I don't feel comfortable under a car unless its on a lift.

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Nick    31

I'm pretty much a certified BMW tech. Between my Bentley manuals and forums I can pretty much diagnose and repair anything on my car.

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NOS2006    11

I'd love to change my own oil...but I have neither the equipment nor the space to do so. People living in apartments or dorms simply don't have the luxury of space where one can change their oil.

Meh.. equipment = one wrench, paper towel, jack, jack stand, oil bucket. Space = don't need extra space for that. I replaced a rear axle in a dorm parking lot once...

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Croc    268

Meh.. equipment = one wrench, paper towel, jack, jack stand, oil bucket. Space = don't need extra space for that. I replaced a rear axle in a dorm parking lot once...

Seriously, think about how many college kids have all that in their dorms. Now, I can see a frat house having a set or two, but the average college student? No way.

You're lucky your dorms have parking lots. Out in LA, and I'd assume every major city, you don't get many parking lots. There may be a space here or there near a building, but no real "lot." Maybe a couple parking garages with permits for sale, but again, you can't do car repair there. Campus security wouldn't stand for it.

My apartment right now doesn't have any parking other than street parking, and there's no way I'm crawling around on that under my car.

I think it's a great idea in principle, and if someone can do it, they definitely should, but my exception is from the subtext that "anyone who isn't doing their own basic repairs is lazy/a moron" because it just isn't feasible for people in truly urban areas.

Don't even need a jack for most cars.

Look up a 2nd-gen Aurora. The location of everything means that the car either has to be perfectly level or dipping down in front for oil to drain. Yeaaaaa gonna need a lift for that one, absent a custom-built driveway.

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ocnblu    733

How's that Aurora running these days? Did you get your stomping and your t-bone fixed? Or are you driving around in a beat-up REO?

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Meh.. equipment = one wrench, paper towel, jack, jack stand, oil bucket. Space = don't need extra space for that. I replaced a rear axle in a dorm parking lot once...

IIRC, both my college and grad school banned auto maintenance in dorm parking lots. Besides, I wouldn't have wanted to be out doing serious auto work in a damp, cold gray Ohio or Michigan winter day...

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Croc    268

How's that Aurora running these days? Did you get your stomping and your t-bone fixed? Or are you driving around in a beat-up REO?

She's doing as well as can be expected. Replacing the hood, roof and rear decklid just aren't priority enough, and it's barely noticeable. Never caught the guy either.

The T-bone got fixed as good as new...just wish that money could have gone toward other things. Like the rear shocks, which are being deferred, and now the front struts, and a blend door actuator for the driver's side AC. Ugh.

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Croc    268

You should get some photos up of it.

Just picture a 2001 3.5 in White Diamond. I gave up a long time ago trying to keep her in photographic shape...you just can't keep a car in excellent condition in LA. She has so many minor cosmetic blemishes, but they're cosmetic--just not worth the money to fix. And White Diamond is the most expensive paint job out there, so screw that for anything non-essential.

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