Home or garage? The car repairs you can do yourself—and the ones you can't

Posted on: 11 June 2018


Running a car can be an expensive business. Aside from taxes and fuel, there are the unpredictable costs of repairing it when something goes wrong. These costs can be lowered by doing basic vehicle repair jobs yourself—but how do you know you're doing something within your capabilities, and when you're just taking your life in your hands?

The easiest repairs are also the most obvious ones. It is easy to replace windscreen wipers when they are leaving marks and streaks (you may not realise how important this is, but wipers that don't work properly can seriously affect visibility). Broken wing mirrors are also easily fixed at home, and changing bulbs is a simple task once you know where they go and how they fit.

Replacing a flat tyre is another simple job that is worth learning. Make sure your spare tyre is fully inflated and without defects, and always keep a jack and the necessary tools with you. Your handbook should tell you how to proceed, but having a more experienced friend show you is a great way to learn. If you have a repair kit, make sure you know how to use it.

You should know how to check and top up the oil, screen wash and coolant. And consider investing in a course in car maintenance. This will show you how to do more advanced jobs such as changing brake pads and servicing your car, and can pay for itself many times over.

Some parts of the car are too complicated for DIY maintenance, however. For example, the electrics are extremely complicated in modern cars. It is too easy to short circuit the entire system or even start an electrical fire.

The transmission is a highly complex system, including the clutch and gearbox, and contains thousands of parts. They also need to be installed and calibrated with precision. These systems are best left to trained mechanics.

Air bags should also never be tampered with at home. They contain explosive charges and can cause injury if they are set off by accident, so if you have any problems you should take the car to a garage.

Ultimately, it's a matter of knowing your abilities and limitations. Small jobs can be carried out with confidence, but an improperly repaired car can be a danger to life. If you are in any doubt, leave it to a properly trained local mechanic.