Hi everyone! I've been meaning to make this post for a while now. I'm hoping to help everyone save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by taking care of their own vehicle. Once upon a time, long ago, this was the way things were done. Even in old owner's manuals from the 1920's they'd often have a paragraph in the beginning telling the owner "If something breaks, it's because you neglected basic care and maintenance!!"
Even though Jay Leno is talking about a 1918 Cadillac in that clip, this is still true today. We have lost our ability to take care of cars as they became more complicated, taking longer and longer to have to learn each new piece and computerized part. But it's still very easy! The basics haven't changed much since then.
Us here in povertyfinance
aren't driving brand new 2019 Diesel trucks or Corvettes. I'd venture to say the average age of the typical redditor's vehicle here is at least 10 years old. You can do most work on most passenger car and trucks with nothing more than a $20 wrench set from Walmart, some pliers, screwdrivers, a hammer, and if you're feeling really fancy a $50 socket set from Autozone. I'm going to go over basic maintenance and repair. Your car may vary! The best resource for information about your specific vehicle or problem that's accessible to you is Youtube. I as a mechanic have a bunch of databases available that are very expensive to access so only shops pay out for it. I also suggest buying the Haynes or Chilton manual for your vehicle, available used on amazon for $2-5. You'll also need a jack, which your car SHOULD have (and if it doesn't, get one!). Don't use the jack that comes with your car by itself to work on your vehicle. You'll need something to support it so it doesn't crush you if\when your jack fails. Many people have died being crushed by their cars, just as many have lost limbs. Autozone has a tool rental service that is "free" in the sense that you pay a deposit for the tool and you get said deposit back when you bring the tool back. Even if you're so desperate you can't use a jackstand, put SOMETHING under the car to catch it if it falls.
EDIT6: According to a couple of redditors in the comments, Alldata, Haynes and some automotive repair subscription services are available at public libraries. Public Libraries may also carry repair manuals for some vehciles! Alldata is amazing for finding wiring diagrams, and I'd give it an 8/10 on it's repair procedures. Sometimes it's spot on. Others, especially in cases where there are the same engine but many different options (Looking at you, Chevy...) can leave much to be desired (example: it tells you to take something out, but there's something else in the way that needs to be removed which wasn't listed in the procedure)
EDIT7: How to use Youtube to find your fix. If you need general instructions for basic repairs (Suspension, brakes, oil or other fluid changes, etc) Check out ChrisFix. Easily the best auto repair channel on Youtube that I know of. If you need something specific to your yeamake/model of car then you need some Google-Fu. Say I need instructions for how to do the trailing arms on my 1990 Honda Civic hatchback. Many videos will be labeled with the year range for that model (in this case, 1988-1991 or even more specifically 1988-1989 pre facelift, 1990-1991 post facelift). You can try 1991 Civic trailing arms, 1988-1991 Civic Trailing arms, 88-91 civic trailing arms, etc. etc. and get a bunch of different results each time. There are a ton of hobbyists out there who have repair videos made for all kinds of makes and models. I've seen a Ford Model T water pump repair video for f*** sake!! Watch plenty of videos and compare/contrast what's going on in each to gather as much information as possible. These will be great for finding out what part is which, where everything goes, etc because it will look just like your car, beat up and in need of fixing, instead of a flawless factory picture. It's great to have someone get a full screen video of a part and say definitively, "This is X" (X being what you're trying to find) "And X is right here under Y, 3 inches behind Z and you can see it when you stand RIGHT HERE"
To review: You'll need wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, a hammer, a jack and jackstands, the tire iron that came with your car (get one if you don't have it!!), sockets if you can afford it, and other specialty tools as needed for rental from parts stores.
Parts can be found for cheapest on Rockauto.com (I'm not shilling here, they legitimately have some stupidly low prices- I got the master cylinder, calipers, padsx4 and rotorsx4 for my car for less than $150 1991 Honda Civic). If you can wait and you need a few things, it's hands down the cheapest place for parts. Autozone, Oreilleys, Advance, Napa, etc. All have basically the same prices. Go with one thats close to you that has a good rewards program. Personally I use AZ- 5 $20 purchases gets you $20 credit in store. The junkyard is a decent place for some parts if you have the time to sift through the pick and pull places. If you're desperate, they also sell used tires if that's legal where you live. Inspect them thoroughly, there's plenty of sources out there on how to inspect tires. Not enough space here to give that lesson. Mount and balance services are usually $20-40 for a set of tires from a tire shop.
Now that we've talked about what you'll need, and where to find parts, it's time to talk about diagnosing things. All of your routine maintenance instructions can be found in your manual, on youtube, on forums dedicated to your car, etc. But you need to know how to figure out what to fix. This is the Jedi-like powers that mechanics have where they can get in the car, drive it around the block and instantly know what's wrong. It involves a cause and effect style of thinking where by process of elimination you work from one end of the affected part to the other. For instance, working out where a sound is coming from. When does the sound happen? What are the road conditions, What speed? This also applies to figuring out that pesky Check Engine light/ Service Engine Soon light.
For those of you who can't follow- A car is made up of several systems. Your Drivetrain (Engine, Transmission, and if you have a RWD or 4WD car, a differential), the Suspension (Shocks, control arms, sway bar and sway bar links, tie rods) Accessories (A/C, Power Steering, Alternator), Brakes and Tires, and the body. You need to first determine the affected system (Engine, suspension, brakes, etc) then determine the cause of the symptom (Vibration, noise, overheating, etc). Each part has a distinctive vibration and sound when it's starting to go bad. Once you know what a bad wheel bearing sounds like you'll be able to hear one from a mile away. Same goes for a bad strut mount, or blown shocks. Looking at how your tires wear tells you a ton about your suspension
Again, a ton of this information can be found on Youtube and in your manuals. Diagnosing a No-Start situation is fairly simple. There's a flowchart you can follow. Does the Engine crank at all? Clicking sound? If no crank at all or a loud click, your battery is dead (or your starter is bad). If it cranks and cranks and cranks but doesn't start, you have an issue with the combustion triangle: Fuel, Air, Spark. You're lacking one of the three and you need to figure out which, and why. Lack of fuel is (in order of likelyhood) empty tank, dead pump (or blown pump fuse), clogged fuel filterail/injectors, bad fuel. Air is a completely clogged intake filter. Spark is tricky- It depends on how the spark is sent, if there is a distributor or whether the car is coil-over-plug. It could be bad plugs, bad coil(s), bad distributor cap or rotor, bad crankshaft position or engine coolant temperature signal, the list goes on. Fuel and air delivery is simple. Spark really depends on the car.
I have been learning this stuff for over a decade now, working on my own vehicles as a way to save money before I became a professional mechanic. It can be very scary at first when you take everything apart and have to re-assemble this 2 ton hunk of steel that can go 90mph so that it doesn't fall apart while doing so. Organiziation is key. Having instructions helps a ton. Having pictures of the job before, during and after disassembly can aid greatly in reassembly. If you remove or replace any suspension components because they're worn out like shocks, control arms, etc. take it to an independent shop that does alignments. DO NOT TAKE YOUR CAR TO A NATIONAL CHAIN FOR ALIGNMENTS becuase they always always always half-ass their alignments. I am very knowledgeable about how to do full 4-wheel alignments and 9 times out of 10 the national chains like Midas, Brake Check, etc. will just "Toe and Go" which is to set the Toe of the car and do nothing else because the toe mostly determines how straight the car will drive. This is incorrect, because they also need to set the camber and caster but are too lazy to do so. So if you have to take it to a chain, TELL them you have replaced major suspension components and want a FULL 4-WHEEL alignment TO INCLUDE CASTER AND CAMBER ADJUSTMENTS and if they tell you that it is not adjustable, make them prove it. Sometimes it really isn't adjustable, most of the time it is, however. The machine will know and it will have a way to pull up the procedure to adjust it if it has a method of adjustment. If it doesn't, it will display that it cannot be adjusted. Alignments and tires are one of the only things that you should have to take your car in for if you do everything right taking care of your vehicle.
The easiest jobs to do yourself are fluid changes, brakes, and some suspension work as well as many gaskets in the vehicle. Some jobs in some cars that are typically easy can be a complete nightmare. Read, read read!! These old vehicles have been taken apart and reassembled by so many people with access to the internet telling others how to do it. Don't get in over your head with a job that's too far outside your ability, because it will end up costing you more when you give up and have to take it to a professional.
I'll try to add more to this if I can, and reply to any questions if you guys have any (No I won't diagnose your car over the internet. Sorry, not enough time for that and I don't diagnose cars without being right next to them with a scanner in my hands)
EDIT: Some tips on diagnosing things.
Scenario 1: When you start the car, there's a loud nails-on-chalkboard sound and it persists for some time after starting. Once warmed up it goes away though. Until you start turning the wheel, and putting demand on the power steering pump. So we've determined that A) A sound is coming from the engine bay and B) It happens when the car starts and when we turn the wheel, meaning that we're moving the power steering fluid through the rack and pinion, making the power steering pump have to work. We've already isolated the affected system- Accessories - and identified when it happens, so we've more specifically diagnosed it down to a problem with either the belt driving the pump, or the pump itself. Now that we know what's affected we need to check the condition of the system. Power steering fluid, the belt itself, the pulley, the power steering lines- inspect it all. In this case, the belt looks dry, cracked, and is missing a couple of teeth. A new belt is in order, which can be bought for very cheap and changed in minutes. After installing, the noise went away! And it seemed as though the P/S system was OK- no leaks and the fluid was the proper type and condition (some systems use generic P/S fluid, some use Transmission fluid, some use a proprietary power steering fluid specific to that brand. READ READ READ!!! Using the wrong type of fluid will ruin the entire system, costing thousands of dollars.)
Scenario 2: Gas mileage seems really bad. The engine feels like it runs rougher than it used to. It takes a really long time to start the car on a cold day, and the exhaust smells like gasoline. There's a check engine light on.
This is where things can get fun. You need to pull the codes that are registered- this could be P0420 (catalytic converter code) Or a bad O2 sensor causing a rich fuel situation, or a vacuum leak, or excessive carbon buildup, or a stuck injector, or a wiring harness issue, or... (you get the picture). Engine diagnosis can be difficult, but with the help of an OBD2 reader and knowledge and understanding of the combustion cycle of the engine, anyone can figure out a basic engine problem. Fuel issues can mean engine management sensors have gone bad (O2, MAF/MAP, etc). Figuring out whether is't a mechanical issue, or an issue with electrical wiring can be challenging.
PRO TIP: ALWAYS ROUTE YOUR WIRES BACK THE WAY THEY WERE WITH ZIPTIES SO THEY DON'T RUB AND CAUSE PROBLEMS LATER ON!!
EDIT2: Stuff to keep in your car for emergency repairs. Again, the tools I listed above (Wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, basic stuff). A Tire repair kit, NOT A CAN OF FIX A FLAT! FIX A FLAT IS TERRIBLE!! IT RUINS TIRES DON'T USE IT!!!!! Get the kit that has the rubber strips, rubber cement, a big handle with a poker and an awl. Learn how to use it
I'd include a gas can just in case you run out, if you can afford to. Get a milk crate or a plastic tub to keep a few things in, to include: A gallon bottle of distilled water (99 cents, good for emergencies when you have a coolant leak and need water), wiper fluid, a quart of oil and quart of ATF, a stick of the epoxy putty that you mold together like mighty putty (RIP Billy Mays) that patches radiators or oil pans in emergencies, a can of brake cleaner to clean stuff with before applying said putty, a funnel, jumper cables, a jackstand, your jack (either the OEM garbage scissor jack your car is supplied with or a better small floor jack). Flares if you feel you may need it, or alternatively an orange safety triangle. That's about everything I'd carry, too much more and you're adding weight that affects mileage.
EDIT3: Stuff to do for older vehicles. If you car is 7 years old or older, you could be looking at replacing quite a bit of rubber components over the next few years. Coolant hoses, gaskets, suspension bushings- all of these tend to last 7-10 years or 100-150K miles which is, surprise, about how long most auto warranties are. I suggest inspecting all of your rubber bits if you haven't done so on your own car, or haven't taken it to the shop in a while. Squeeze the hoses; they shouldn't feel very soft and squishy or alternatively, hard as a rock. Be gentle with vacuum lines because they like to harden to such a brittleness that they snap just by looking at them funny
. I'd replace all of them if you own a vehicle older than 7 years old and haven't done so. A roll of appropriately sized line is usually very cheap. By the foot from a local parts store is very cheap too, and you have the bonus of being able to bring in the part to match it up and make sure its the size you need.
EDIT4 TORQUE SPECIFICATIONS. Something kind of important another redditor pointed out- How much to tighten something, and how not to strip your bolts and nuts. havingf a torque wrench is great, and using it to torque everything to specified values is even better. But what about those who don't have one? How much do you tigthen things? Here's how to not strip your bolts- Don't tighten it so much that you're struggling to get it even tighter. Yes, you do NOT want that lugnut coming off when you're entering the highway but conversely you want it to come off again sometime in the future. Basically, for critical suspension components and larger bolts (12mm and up) you don't want to use 2 hands on your torquing device; just one. And don't put everything you've got into it either, make it nice and snug and then a bit more. Check it by turning in the loose direction, and if you can't turn it with one hand and and minimal effort it should be plenty tight. For smaller (<12mm) bolts and nuts it should be even less force, decreasing as size does. Keep your threads safe! Don't abuse them! Fixing them can be very time and labor intensive, espeically in hard to reach spots. You can easily sieze up a nut or bolt, requiring heavy duty, expensive tools to break free or having to take it to the shop where they torch/cut the bolt out.
I have a 96 Subaru Outback Legacy 2.2 181k mileage manual that is leaking oil under the engine.
I replaced the valve cover gaskets and washers on both sides as I saw they were leaking oil. I don't see leaks there anymore (caveat, engine is leaking oil in front quickly once started so I can not take it for a test drive.)
The current leak is fast and drips from the front of the engine.
Based on internet research, a hayes manual, and alldata, I am concluding it is the timing belt cover that is leaking.
I saw a recommendation that once the timing belt cover is open, in addition to changing the various timing belt cover gaskets, I would need to change the cam seal, main seal, oil pump seal, crank seal, cam shaft o rings, and I should change the water pump, idler, tensioner, timing belt and accessory belt, t stat, pcv valve, and check torque on vibration dampener.
Coming to reddit for insight.