The “Don’t Do” List

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Fixing cars can be fun – or at least, satisfying (and money saving). Breaking your car – or yourself – is not fun.

Here’s how to avoid doing that:mistakes pic lead

* Don’t “fix” a problem until you know what the problem is –

A great mistake made by many is to guess that “x” is the problem when in fact it’s “y” (and maybe “z,” too). Then they begin to pull stuff apart – and throw stuff away – hoping that the new part they just bought and installed will fix the trouble.

Often, it doesn’t.

Now you’ve got the same problem – and less money in your pocket.

Here’s a for-instance: A friend of mine complained about his older pick-up sputtering and missing. He was going to jump the gun and start buying tune-up parts before he’d even checked to see whether any of the spark plugs were fouled, plug wires were bad – and so on. I suggested he slow down and eliminate all the potential problems before he began “fixing” stuff.

Turned out he had some water in his carbureted truck’s fuel lines/gas tank.

A $2 bottle of isopropyl alcohol (gas dryer) did the trick.

Lesson? Do not guess, young Jedi. Know. Diagnose the trouble before you start pulling parts – and buying new parts. Troubleshooting is a step-by-step, logical process of elimination. Once you’ve eliminated the various possibilities, you’ll be left with what must be the source of your trouble.

And now you can start pulling parts.

* Understand procedures before you proceed – shop manual pic

Even an oil change – perhaps the simplest DIY job there is – requires understanding how to properly raise and support a car; knowing how to go about accessing (and removing) the old filter, loosening/removing/re-installing the drain plug … and numerous “little things,” too. Like removing the fill cap on top of the engine to facilitate quick draining; knowing not to change the oil when the engine is too hot… or too cold. To put some oil in the new filter before installing it. To check for pressure (and leaks!) as soon as you start the engine… and so on.

This is where a good factory shop manual for your vehicle can come in really handy. It will have detailed, step-by-step procedures – usually, with high quality pictures and diagrams accompanying the text. The less expensive generic manuals (e.g., Haynes and Chiltons) are ok, but usually lack the specificity and depth of factory manuals.

Tip:  You may be able to find the manual for your vehicle online (and much cheaper) in PDF form, or in CD-ROM form (also a lot less expensive than a hard copy manual).

Second tip: You can often find videos posted on YouTube and elsewhere literally showing you how it’s done. This can be extremely helpful. Just be aware that – like mechanics in the real world – cyberspace mechanics can get it wrong, too. But the visual – being able to observe someone else work on a car (or bike) like yours – will at minimum give you a better idea how it comes apart (and goes back together again) before you actually begin to take it apart.

* An uncluttered, dry and well-lit workspace –dirty garage pic

It’s easy to get frustrated – and rush (and mess up) when you’re lying on your back in the mud, it’s 27 degrees outside and the sun’s fading fast.

It’s also easy to lose track of tools – and get dirt  where it’s not wanted.

The ideal set up is, of course, a nice warm garage with plenty of artificial light and benches and drawers and pegboard for organizing all your tools. Of course, not everyone has that luxury. But even if you don’t, you can still make things much more pleasant – and so, much less likely to end in disaster – by preparing your work area before you actually begin to work on the vehicle.

If the car will need to be raised in order to get underneath it, a level (and firm) patch of ground is imperative. Hard-packed gravel is ok; a paved driveway much better. Try to make sure there is plenty of space around the car itself, so you’ve got room to work. And so there’s less chance of something – or someone – bumping into you while you work. Or – much worse – the car.yoga mat

Avoid working on a car parked on the street, with traffic and other people in the vicinity.

Use a floorjack to raise the car (be sure to know where to put the jack – a frame/structural hard point – before you begin to jack; do not guess) and then support it with jack stands. Never get underneath a car supported only by a floor or bottle jack. They can fail. Be certain the up-in-the-air vehicle is not tipsy. Be sure the parking brake is engaged and the transmission in Park if it’s an automatic and one of the gears (not neutral) if it’s a manual.

Buy yourself a foam Yoga mat to lie on underneath. They are cheap ($15 or so at Target or Wal Mart) and light, can be rolled up, are easy to store and clean – and will let you concentrate on your wrenching rather than the wrenching pain in your back. Organize your tools before you begin. Lay them out on a towel, so you can keep track of them. Use small plastic storage tubs (buy ’em cheap at the supermarket) to toss loose nuts and bolts into as you go. You’ll be much less likely to lose stuff this way.

* The right tool can make all the difference  – angled ratchet pic

If you work on cars long enough, you’ll come to understand. Here’s an example: I recently had to remove a gas tank from a vehicle. On one end, it was held in place by large nuts that could only be accessed from above. The problem was clearance. I could get a socket – or a box wrench – on the nuts, but due to the proximity of the frame, there was very little room up or down (or side to side) to allow me to apply the force necessary to loosen and remove these bolts. Luckily, I have a selection of oddly angled ratchets. The handles are bent in various ways, which comes in very handy when a straight handle doesn’t quite work in a tight space. “Wobble” extender bars are another hugely helpful item to have in your tool box. They give you just that little bit of lateral clearance you’ve gotta have sometimes.wobble extender bar pic

Special-use tools such as this are typically acquired over the years, their acquisition often prompted by exasperation. The thing to know is this: There is almost always a tool for a job; a way to get at whatever you’re working on (and get it back on again). Don’t get mad – and don’t give up. If you get stymied, take a break and a take trip down to Sears or Northern Tools or Harbor Freight or any store that has a big selection of automotive (and other) tools.

You’ll be amazed – and glad you did.

* Be Zen… be patient    –  

Anger truly is of the Dark Side. It will (usually) get you someplace worse than nowhere. As in making a problem worse rather than better. Take a breath. Relax. Believe me – there is a way. The car can be fixed. And will be. Maybe not this afternoon; maybe not even this week. But – given time to ponder and time to piddle with it, eventually, there will be a eureka! moment.   patience Yoda

The critical thing here is not put yourself on the clock. To not begin a job knowing you must have the car put back together by nightfall. This is the killer. Because it often leads to rushing, to doing things half-assed.

It may be inconvenient to bum a ride or borrow (or even rent) a car while yours is out of commission. But it beats breaking something that ends up costing you more in money and hassle than the original issue would have if you’d just taken whatever time it took to fix it right.

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49 COMMENTS

  1. Hmm,Jason,you have a point there have a friend who got severely burned back in the day,because of gas fumes in His Dads garage-Kevin

  2. Dear P.M. Lawrence.

    As you once noted, I come from a simply awful culture, I’ll acknowledge that. Even worse, I’m an unrepentant practitioner of Uhhhhhmerican internet impropriety.

    Here is “The Latest and Greatest from P.M. Lawrence” PML’s Creed: Always a zinger for every mundane. Never a peep of disapproval for the state.

    In reply to eric. I have only ever seen anything so profoundly lacking in mechanical intuition in a couple of things my mother did,

    That’s a common misunderstanding.

    In reply to Jean. Ah, no, it’s not precisely “performance” that matters.

    In reply to Marc Rauch. Oh, dear. That is absolutely crawling with misunderstandings. I will try to clear them up.

    In reply to Dirtybobbastard. No, that trick wouldn’t work for thermodynamic reasons.

    That’s ambiguous.

    In reply to Bevin. That’s actually wrong,

    In reply to BrentP. Wrong. That’s a spurious folk etymology, made up to fill in a meaning by people who didn’t know any better.

    In reply to MS34. Unfortunately, that Mises account is wrong,

    In reply to MikeFromWichita. You really, really ought to read up on some of these things before you come up with stuff like that.

    I suspect you don’t know what dragooning is

    In reply to clover. You pulled that out of your bum.

    Bevin, of course I believe in chartalism, Good luck not believing in death, taxes or chartalism, once the tax bill arrives.

    In reply to Tor Libertarian. Do not make things up. You may be used to a culture in which everybody always says what they are for or against and in which silence means agreement, but you really, really shouldn’t project that onto others. When I tell you how or what things are, I am only telling you how or what they are, not how or what I am.

    If you want to know how or what I am, you can bloody well ask me, don’t just make it up on the back of inferences from silence. You could even take the trouble to google around for times and places when I really did bring such things out, if you cared more about evidence than about unwarranted presumption (in both senses of the word).

  3. “But taking it apart is often part of diagnosing, if you can’t work it out without that – exploratory surgery. That’s why a woman driver lost a court case for costs when she agreed that a mechanic could go in and have a look, but took it away to be handled elsewhere when she saw it was being dismantled; she refused to pay for the labour, but the judge ruled that dismantling was implied.

    Who gives a flying frog’s ass what some thug-in-a-robe judge rules? A man of science and reason gives no weight to any rites and prayers of state religiosity.

    The men who know how to build and maintain vehicles have NOTHING to learn from the cynical simian system of “law and order” provided at gunpoint.

    For someone blessed with such high intelligence in other categories, you sure seem borderline retarded when it comes to existential reasoning.

    Put this at the top of your “Don’t Do” list. Never, ever, blank out the intrusions of armed men in our life as something beneficial in the slightest way. Have some common human dignity and manly pride about your life, liberty, and property.

    The Ninth Intelligence – Existential or Cosmic Smarts

    • Take a deep breath and read that again.

      The mechanic said he would go in and have a look. The customer didn’t realise how literal that was. The judge wasn’t telling mechanics what to do, he was ruling on what ordinary understanding should have told the customer – which was what mechanics do when they do that.

      • I am fine with your theory, that we can learn by dismantling and reassembling things. Even in the case of the cat, anatomical and surgical knowledge may be gained by real world practice.

        Better your surgeon learns through operations on lower animals than by learning on an actual human body. Better he’s done the procedure on lower animals and cadavers, on this we can agree.

        Learning by taking apart and reassembling is especially helpful for the mechanic, this is a great method of learning from his perspective.

        It may be less than ideal for the owner of the vehicle. It may rather be harmful in many cases.

        As to the judge, you might want to better oxygenate your own thinking organ. You’re not getting it.

        You say the:

        “judge wasn’t telling mechanics what to do, he was ruling on what ordinary understanding should have told the customer”

        – Saying judges have any standing or special capacity denied mundanes to “rule on ordinary understanding” is the height of cloverian copsucking.

        Perhaps you enjoy being forced to pay for courts, judges, and the whole “rule of law” dog and pony show.

        Perhaps you are an academic whose institution secures its funding via unwilling taxpayer funds at gunpoint. Because you personally benefit, you are blind to the unethical nature inherent in that kind of coerced product and service.

        Perhaps its human nature to rationalize the way we make our livings. Perhaps if this is the case, your prose might better reflect your commonplace perspective, rather than put on airs of being from an ivory tower sage of the utmost scholastic gravitas.

          • “A mechanic should do that on his own time and vehicles, though”
            Yeah, my boss says the same thing about our IT contractor – learning WordPress and WooCommerce on our dime.

    • Tor: ”
      Who gives a flying frog’s ass what some thug-in-a-robe judge rules?”

      I’m reminded of this husband and wife couple who are both judges, who bought a vehicle from a client of mine, online, and could figure out how to work PayPalEnemy. People in whose hands hangs the lives and fortunes of thousands of human beings, and yet they are totally incapable of figuring out a simple everyday task. ….And there is no lack of those who will gladly take up arms against their neighbors to enforce the decrees of these incompetents….. Truly a scary example of the hopelessness of a mad society.

  4. A $2 bottle of isopropyl alcohol (gas dryer) did the trick.

    That’s a common misunderstanding. It doesn’t actually dry the petrol, it just makes the water more able to dissolve in it rather than separating out as droplets that can block it – the isopropyl alcohol takes up the water while still being able to mix with the petrol (up to a point, so it won’t clear a lot of water). One catch is that salt makes the water mix less well with the isopropyl alcohol after all, so it won’t work if the water is too salty (or soapy, or sugary, or whatever).

    Lesson? Do not guess, young Jedi. Know. Diagnose the trouble before you start pulling parts – and buying new parts. Troubleshooting is a step-by-step, logical process of elimination. Once you’ve eliminated the various possibilities, you’ll be left with what must be the source of your trouble.

    And now you can start pulling parts.

    But taking it apart is often part of diagnosing, if you can’t work it out without that – exploratory surgery. That’s why a woman driver lost a court case for costs when she agreed that a mechanic could go in and have a look, but took it away to be handled elsewhere when she saw it was being dismantled; she refused to pay for the labour, but the judge ruled that dismantling was implied.

    Also, one rule of thumb for repairs is, take it apart, clean it, and put it back together again, knurling loosely fitting parts as necessary (unless that was tried during an earlier repair, in which case replace them); warning, do not try this on the cat (the animal, that is).

    Another rule of thumb is: take machinery apart on newspaper on the ground so parts won’t get dirty, won’t roll off a table and can be seen; also, lay them out in a pattern corresponding to where they came from, with small items in containers as you suggested (hubcaps are good for this). That’s similar to the thinking behind the right way to replace a Bowden cable on a motorcycle: tie the new one nose to tail on the old one with string before unfastening and withdrawing the old one, so the new one follows the right path without too tight bends (Bowden cables should never be repaired – it doesn’t work).

    Having the right tools in the field is so important that many guns have been designed to need little in that line, e.g. the French FAMAS only needs a bullet as a tool to strip it down and re-assemble it.

    • I think when he said ‘(gas dryer)” in parentheses, as shown, he was referring to what it is commonly called, not a scientific description of what it does.

      • Of course – and the fact that people commonly call it that reveals that that is a common belief that that is what it is. The fact that it does not actually do that shows that that is a misunderstanding. Those two together show that that is a common misunderstanding. Since that brief description might spread that, and the reality matters because of the “salting out” problem I mentioned, I thought it was worth clarifying. I.e. I’m not just quibbling about the reasons behind an effect that is the same either way, because it isn’t the same either way. For instance, if a trace of seawater got into an outboard motor’s fuel isopropyl alcohol wouldn’t “dry” it but real drying out would work because the salt would just crystallise out and be caught by an ordinary filter or would settle as sludge (if you could keep the petrol from evaporating too – which recent research suggests a graphene element in the filler cap can do, as it passes water vapour preferentially).

  5. I am in the process of throwing parts at my Subaru. Of course, since I don’t have a spring compressor and what not, I took the car to an “independent” mechanic. Like all good mechanics, he told me to replace the “strut mounts” as they are “always a problem” Now that I replaced the springs (I wanted a firmer ride), the struts and the stupid mounts, the car banged like a tambourine. I took the car back and he re installed the strut on the right side. It got rid of some, but not all of the noise. The car creaks and groans when backing out and steering. The car now sits at the dealer, hopefully being correctly diagnosed and troubleshot. I bet they will replace the strut mounts (again) and find something else wrong (if they are not in F-you Houston mode and not doing a damned thing). The moral of the story. Just take the thing to the dealer. At least you have recourse. Screw the independent shops at this point. At least here, they really don’t give a shit about you any more or less than the dealer. No one gives a shit. If I had a second car, I’d do all the work myself as time is the critical factor here.

    • I apologize about the tone of my comments directed at independent shops. I realize they are probably not all the same, but I feel like a bunch of them suck at least here in Houston. They don’t seem to give a fuck or know what the hell they are doing.

      • Stealerships or independents, it’s all pretty much the luck of the draw, as to whether you get a good competent honest one…or the norm. Very few people today have the character to eat their own mistakes; and very few are conscientious (Which, even if their competent and not out to specifically rip you off, will make all the difference).

        Friend of mine was just telling me of the ordeal his friend just had with a late-model just-out-of-warranty Duramax. It seems the Chevy dealer was just throwing repairs at it- and $2K-$3K ones at that- to the tune of $6K, and truck still isn’t fixed. They were doing downright stupid things…like replacing all of the injectors, ’cause the truck wouldn’t start (What are the chances that 8 injectors would go bad all at once?!)

        It’s always been hit or miss with repair shops…and now with today’s ridiculously complex vehicles, it’s getting a lot worse. If you have a good competent honest dealership at your disposal, it might well be worth the cost to use them.

        • diesel won’t start, no matter how much cranking. Fuel. Where’s the first place you’d look when it affects the entire system? Fuel pump pulling air, then trace from engine to tank or vice versa. Here’s a wild ide. Check the entire external system for wear spots, i.e. a hole. If you replace the whole dam pump and lines system and it won’t start, then you might have injector problems and since it won’t start, the injector problems relate to those sensors in that system. i saw this on an ’04 one morning just out of the blue. It turned out to be an electronics problem, seem like a sensor or small part wasn’t playing with the computer so no startee. But those a-hole dealerships with no mechanics leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth no matter the brand.

          • Yeah, 8Man, my friend warned the guy that the stealership was barking up the wrong tree. I mean, that was pure idiocy- replacing the injectors, of all things.

            Funny, too, ’cause my friend who was telling me of this, is a veritable expert on 7.3’s, and he got stuck last week, 2K miles from home, and couldn’t figure out the problem. Spent $400 at a shop…with no results. Had to rent a U-Haul and tow bar, and tow the truck from MN. home to NY. Truck still ain’t running- it’s something electronic (it just cut out as he was driving and never restarted)…

            My neighbor’s having gremlin trouble with his 7.3 AND his 12V cummins…

            I’m keeping my eyes open for OLD old vehicles in decent shape, ’cause even though I’m not in need of a another vee-hickle at the moment, if i see something good, I’ll snag it, ’cause my 98 and 99 are newer than I want to get…..wanna go back to simple old non-electronic stuff.

            Seems virtually everyone I know is having electronics issues lately- and it’s all BS that doesn’t even need to be there, ’cause it used to be done better and simpler mechanically.

  6. Eric,

    When I was a kid I worked for my dad in his auto parts store. We used to judge the quality of the mechanic by how many times he tried to bring back parts he “didn’t need.” If the box was torn up or had the usual greasy fingerprints on it, sorry no refund, pal. Electrical parts were always non-returnable.

    Regarding anger, in our restoration shop if one of the guys starts getting pissed about how the work’s going I’ll send him to lunch early and let him cool off. It’s a lot better than than having to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place.

    I’ll even let a job sit for a couple of days if things aren’t going well. Remember the old saying: Why is it we never have time to do the job right but we always have time to do the job over?

    Uncle Bill

    • Got the roustabout truck out of the shop yesterday. Speedo worked fine when it was dropped off(no speedo problems or things along that line except for the cruise that didn’t work but didn’t without a speed sensor problem…and the speedo worked just fine but somehow we had a speed sensor that was broken. Hhhmmmm. Maybe they should use a smaller hammer. Only $283 for that particular part. Say it real fast, makes it seem like one of those things.

  7. I recall reading an article about buying used puckup trucks from an old Mother Earth News magazine that warned: “There’s a difference between an engine that has been steadily maintained over a long period of time vs. one that has been ‘slicked.’ Check the installation dates on all non-original parts, or check to see if you see a lot of new parts. If you see a lot of recently installed parts, it could mean that the owner has been trying to fix a problem, can’t do it and is trying to dump the headache on you.”

    I will say that I have replaced entire systems when one part was bad because of the whole “mightaswell” thing. For example, I replaced my ’68 Oldsmobile’s entire ignition system from plugs to distributors as part of a tune-up to replace wires and plugs that were older than I was, because I was planning on putting in high-performance parts and “mightaswell” when the system was apart.

    • Yeah, Bryce, it’s like when you see an ad in the classifieds: “New water pump; radiator; thermostat; fuel pump; catalytic converter…”- Translation: “I just put $2K worth of work into this car, and it’s still a POS, so I’m selling it now. You can be the one to do the head gasket!”.

      Or “Rebuilt motor; new front end…” Translation: “I just put $6K into this old POS, and it’s still a POS and every day something else breaks, so now I’m selling it for $8K to try and get all my money back out of it (what the car would be worth, plus what I put into it), even though you buy one anywhere else in better shape for $2500…”

      Or “Just needs a tune-up”…LOL translation: “Maybe someone’ll be stupid enough to believe that I’d sell a car for half it’s value, rather than spend $75 for a tune-up”….

  8. Funny story about anger. I worked next to a guy that was at wits end over a problem an electrical system was giving him. He was on the fine line of completely loosing it when he decided to take out his frustration on the bench vise with his hammer. Hit the anvil part squarely and firmly, snap went the handle and the hammer head punched the windshield of the car that was causing the angst. I have yet to see another human the lovely shade of purple that this guy turned!

    • Hah! Reminds me of: The guy I knew who thought a clogged cat was always the problem with any car brought to him. I pulled up to his garage one day, and was standing there with his wife, as he was characteristically using a sledge hammer and a chisel to….hollow-out a cat- when all of a sudden, he missed the chisel and hit his hand! His wife and I both braced ourselves for the expected onslaught of extremely blue language/yelling/general ranting…..but were surprised, when the guy just sheepishly looked up at us, in great pain, but still and quiet, and quietly said “The price just went up”.!!!!!!

  9. Agree 100% with the getting angry. One of my neighbors owns an independent garage. He taught me, when I start getting frustrated working on a car or bike, to walk away and take a break. Then come back in a better frame of mind. Saves a lot of cussing and throwing tools.

  10. I learned something new, that is, put some oil in the oil filter before screwing it in place. Why is that a good thing to do?

    • Hi Patrick,

      Simple! The empty filter means the oil pump sucks air until it can fill/pressurize the filter. By installing it at least partially full (ideally, full – but this can be hard if it’s mounted sideways, etc.) you help the engine build pressure more quickly, which is a good thing for obvious reasons!

  11. Here is my process for disappearing coolant in my ’85 Suzuki gv1200- Verify no leaks from hoses…check, change coolant for correct mixture- check, get new radiator cap….check, get new thermostat….check. Water pump was replaced last year so I know its not a bearing seal leak. (Coolant still leaks) Ok….it is a leaking head gasket. Too bad all internal crush gaskets and washers are discontinued and the engine essentially needs to be rebuilt. Its either get a ‘new’ used engine and take a chance with possibly the same or more problems, spend $3-5K on custom made internal parts plus labor, or ‘thin the herd’. I would add to this not to buy specialty cut parts like galfer brake lines before you get an issue like this fixed, or you may have awesome lines with no bike to put them on.

    • Hi Anchar,

      Don’t give up hope…. yet. Have you tried SUDCO? How about ebay? I have rebuilt/restored several old – and oddball – bikes and have always managed to find NOS or repro parts for the mechanicals… trim stuff, on the other hand, can sometimes be all-but-impossible to find!

  12. I could never understand those people who just guess and throw parts at their car’s problems! They ask clueless friends; autoparts counter people; their grandmas… “What do you think it is?” and immediately just rush out and buy what ever it is that the person they’re asking mentions…and then when it doesn’t work, they ask the next person, and buy the part he mentions…throwing 3 or 4 $50-$100 parts at their car, and meanwhile the car never actually gets fixed! even if they had taken the car to a shop, it would likely have cost less, and they may have actually had the problem fixed!

    I just never understood that mentality- and I’ve seen it practiced A LOT! Either learn to do some simple diagnostics…or take it to a shop!

    And I’ve even known mechanics who operated pretty much like that! This one guy I knew, if anyone brought him a car that wasn’t running right, the first thing he’d do is replace the wires/cap/rotor….which of course, were never the problem. Then, if he couldn’t find anything glaringly obviously wrong, he’d tell the customer that his cat was likely clogged…hack apart the exhaust, and hollow-out the cat….and it wasn’t until after that, that he’d actually start attempting some real diagnostics. One can only wonder how this guy must be faring in these days of computerized-everything on cars…..

    • Moleman, those people are called “certified manufacturer mechanics” and they get paid for every part installed, needed or not. Small town mechanic shops don’t get this break but often get the big dealer’s dissatisfied customers.

  13. Amen to YouTube, and not just for cars. The lid switch went out on our 14yo washing machine. Wife goes online and finds replacement for <$10. I know I can change the switch itself, piece of cake. But I don't have a clue how to get the frigging sheet metal apart, let alone back together. So she goes back online, finds a YouTube showing the whole procedure for our make and MODEL of machine. Whole thing, <2hr. A service call would have been $80 just for the guy to come in the driveway, but well worth it in missed frustration if I had just been flying by the seat of my pants, because a lot of this crap was far from obvious.

  14. When I first started working on my own vehicles I definitely did more harm than good. I usually didn’t have the proper tools and was in a rush to get the project back on the road.

    This led to many second-hand problems such a stripped bolts, broken wheel studs and massive oil leaks. These days I won’t even do an oil change without a vehicle lift and a warchest of pro mechanics tools.

      • My 1st car car was a 1960 Ford Fairlane, straight 6, 3 on the tree. I’d had it about a year when I over torqued the crankcase drain plug. Kid watching/helping me said “No problem, I’ll take you down to the parts store and you can get an oversized, self-threading, “repair” plug.
        Got there, and wouldn’t you know it, the plug I had stripped the pan with was already a “repair” plug.
        2 things going in my favor – 1, I was living with my grandfather and working on his farm, so I did not need my car to ‘commute’ across the road from the house to the barn. Therefore, no hurry. And 2, I had the car in his machine shed, with access to all his farm tools, including a tap set. 1/2-13 may not have been an optimal thread for a drain plug, but it worked for several years.

    • I once met an older couple who had a poured concrete pit with stairs in the floor of their roomy garage. It’s hard to recall thee exact dimensions but 3 1/2′ x 10′ x 6′ deep would come pretty close. It was a neat professional job that looked like it had been installed when their home was been built some decades earlier. The husband, a retired science teacher and pretty smart dude, liked doing his own car maintenance. It isn’t the kind of feature that would appeal to 95% of home buyers but it would certainly appeal to me.

      • Since gas fumes are heavier than air I’d be concerned about them pooling in a pit and getting set off by a spark. (I guess a ventilation system would be the ticket to prevent that.) Other than that, given the physical discomfort I feel these days crawling under a car held up by jackstands, it does sound appealing.

  15. Learn how to use a VOM and follow troubleshooting flowcharts. It will save a bundle of cash and time when it comes to finding which sensor or connector is falling.

  16. great points, i have found the best way to make sure you have patience is to have a “beater” that is fairly reliable, mine of choice is the early to mid-nineties camrys with the 2.2L 5sfe 4-cyl. fairly comfortable to drive, can seat 4 adults, easy to work on, there are millions of them and they can run for hundreds of thousands of miles.
    a good beater for $1k is often super cheap to insure with the mafia and will likely pay for itself many times over, particularly if you work on your own vehicles.

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