Where do you begin with your car

Are you capable of maintaining your own car? Should you leave this to a professional? Do you pay a friend?

This depends on several things. For most people the time off from their job is best spent taking care of the household and children. Or simply relaxing. Some car owners simply don’t have the time to take on an additional chore. The car sits quietly in the garage resting from countless trips to the soccer field or supermarket. Spending time on the car simply does not fit into an already full calendar.

But lets assume for the time being you have the time. You have a couple extra hours a month to spend on your second largest investment. Are you up to it?

When most car owners purchase their hot new ride there is so much excitement that many important things get ignored. Most importantly the owner’s manual. It often sits in the glove compartment going largely ignored until something specific is needed. Like how to set the clock on the stereo. Or how to adjust that driver seat that has four switches on the side. Apart from that the manual goes back to its home in the dark glove box under the multitude of napkins lifted from the nearby fast food restaurant.

If you are considering maintaining your own car, now is the time to pay attention to that owner’s manual. Where is the fuse box located? How often should you rotate the tires? Where is the jack for changing a flat tire? The information is in the owner’s manual waiting for you to discover it.

The next consideration is the  tools necessary to take care of certain tasks. I’m not talking about that crowded all purpose drawer in the kitchen with a hammer and screwdriver sharing space with the small junk that has no other place in the home. A good assortment of hand tools can be purchased from a number of places. I will get into the details of what should be in your tool collection further down.

Before taking on any task involving your car I also recommend purchasing a repair manual. Most parts store carry a variety of paperback repair manuals specific to most vehicles. This is a very good investment that will set you back about $25. This information can also be found on different websites on a pay as you go basis. However I always recommend an actual paper manual to read just about anywhere. Holding a tablet or laptop at the side of a car is not always practical. Not to mention the book can be kept in the trunk should you find yourself on the side of the road in need of information. The books are easy to read and chocked full of pictures and diagrams. Even if you choose not to do your own repairs, you can easily read on what the mechanic suggests.

I also want to address PPE (personal protective equipment) most mechanics have suffered an eye injury or a nice hand wound that could be easily avoided. A pair of safety glasses is a must. Yes they look goofy, but so does an eye patch. Gloves are also recommended if you don’t care to be burned or have a knuckle gash. Bump helmets are also nice to have when working underneath the car. Some of the best swear words Ive learned have come after busting my head on a bolt. Bottom line, get this PPE together and keep it ready to use.

Earlier I mentioned tools. I could spend hours recommending what tools you should on. Most of it depends on how extensive your willing to tear into your own car. But for the sake of this blog I am going to recommend the basic tools you would need for simple maintenance tasks. Most tools can be purchased in a set. Several retailers offer tool sets that come with the most basic hand tools. This is the best investment. The most basic tool set should include: Combination hand wrenches in sizes 8mm to 19mm. Some may also include fractional wrenches from 5/16″ to 3/4″ however most car manufacturers have gone to strictly metric fasteners. A good tool set should also include a ratchet and socket set with the same sizes as the hand wrenches. A set of screw drivers should also be an essential part of your tool set. Both standard and Phillips tips. Some may also include specialty tips such as allen an torx tips.

A good tool set with all these components will probable hit your credit card for about $150. But are well worth the investment.

Finally a good floor jack and jack stands are needed should you choose to work underneath the car. Never and I mean Never ever work underneath a car without it being supported by sturdy jack stands. I can not stress this enough. If you have a jack but no jack stands, don’t even use it.

While you are getting all this together, I will be preparing additional tips to get you started. I look forward to being your pocket mechanic.


Author: yourpocketmechanic

I have been an automobile mechanic for 34 years focusing on the maintenance and repair of cars and trucks. 20 years of my experience comes from working in the retail automotive business. The other 14 years have been spent working with fleet repair for a major utility company.

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