As a result of the spread of internet forums, YouTube tutorials, and websites offering online automotive repair manuals, the DIY mentality gained massive popularity in recent years. Today, more and more people choose to maintain and repair their own car, a feat that was mostly left to trained professionals 30 years back. The lack of resources simply made it much harder to find the information required to perform anything else than the basic stuff.
No need to mention, maintaining and repairing your car on your own will save you a lot of money, but it will also help you better understand how vehicles work in general. Being able to find what’s wrong with your car could come in quite handy if it was to stall in the middle of nowhere. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that anyone can fix anything on a car without practice. Indeed, I can’t stress enough how helpful car service manuals are here. It’s like having an engineer/mechanic friend guiding you through each step as you perform an automotive repair, which will come in especially handy when replacing a specific part for the first time.
Nonetheless, despite the widespread availability of tutorials and community-sourced information nowadays, some jobs are still better left to the pros, either due to the need for special tools and equipment or the lack of expertise. If you are new to auto mechanics or just looking to save a little money by fixing your car, this article will give you an idea of the most challenging parts to replace and the best way to approach them.
Of course, when talking about complicated part replacements, replacing a whole engine is the first thing to come to mind. If you happen to be a seasoned DIYer or a professional automotive mechanic, I don’t need to remind you how arduous this job is.
And it’s not just the engine swap that’s tough — it’s really that to take out the engine, you first need to remove/disconnect pretty much everything else. You’ll have to deal with tons of wires and connectors, remove the transmission or at least separate it from the engine, flush the cooling system, etc. Not to forget that you will also need several specialized tools like an engine hoist and probably a proper car lift too. Sure, you can very well swap an engine on a car sitting on jack stands but let’s say it’s not ideal.
If you decide to replace an engine for the first time, make sure to get your hands on the appropriate service and automotive repair manual. Following the complete procedure and step-by-step instructions is always your best bet to swap your engine safely without forgetting anything.
The transmission naturally comes next. It’s the second-largest component on a car and takes significant time to remove. Replacing a transmission is a multi-step process and requires careful planning.
Most modern cars have an advanced transmission with tons of sensors and wires to remove and several other components related to the suspension and steering system to take out. Consequently, don’t forget to label everything you remove to make the reassembly process much more straightforward.
Once again, when in doubt, you can always consult a service manual software — it’s basically a digital bible for your car. Gone are those days where you needed to carry bulky automotive manuals and flip across hundreds of pages to get to a particular automotive repair. Simply download the service manual software and use the keyword search feature to get to the transmission removal procedure right away. Not sure where to find one? eManualOnline provides the same manuals used by dealership technicians, so you can’t really go wrong here.
Rebuilding a transmission is an entirely different animal, though, and one that you should probably leave to experts, especially automatic ones. Sure, a repair manual will help you understand how everything works and the right order to remove and reinstall each component, but diagnosing transmission problems requires experience, know-how, and expensive equipment. It is better to have it checked by a local repair shop and replace whatever’s broken then.
Your car’s clutch is subjugated to constant wear and tear and will eventually need to be replaced. Of course, it’s easier said than done; a clutch replacement is a relatively lengthy and complex procedure. To access the clutch, you’ll need to first remove the transmission, so it’s basically two jobs into one, both as tricky as the other.
When replacing a clutch, you’ll need to deal with tricky wirings and component removals, such as disconnecting the speedometer cable from the transmission. Apart from that, you’ll also need to disconnect several electrical connections near the engine housing. You should also keep track of all electrical connections being dismantled and then rewire carefully as a single misconnection can cause significant problems.
Once the transmission and clutch have been removed, don’t forget to check for damages on the flywheel. If it’s spotted or uneven, you will need to have it machined. However, if it’s not the first time the flywheel is resurfaced, it might be out of the service threshold and will need to be replaced instead. Look into your car service and repair manual for the manufacturer’s recommended specs, and don’t hesitate to replace the flywheel if needed — you really don’t have to redo the whole job in a year because the flywheel warped.
4. AC Evaporator
Working with the AC system is still a DIYer’s (and most professional mechanic) worst nightmare, and rightfully so. Replacing your car’s evaporator will require you to deal with metal tubing and remove gas from the system, requiring specialized equipment and training. And even if you figure out all of that, you’ll first need to remove the whole dashboard and everything behind it — the evaporator is usually the last thing down there. It is best left to the pros if you ask me, but you are always welcome to try; you’ll still probably have to have a repair shop empty and refill the gas for you, so while there, you might as well have the whole job done right away.
5. Straightening a Frame
Obviously, dealing with a car after a crash is always best left to professionals. The frame on any vehicle is made using precise measurements, and straightening it back into place is a finicky job. Plus, it requires purpose-built equipment that’s powerful enough to deal with the job.
Moreover, if it’s not done right, your car may vibrate at higher speeds, pull to one side, wear out tires unevenly, crack and knock when hitting potholes, etc. — leave this one to the pros.
There is no doubt that fixing your car will save you money in the long run. However, it’s important to keep in mind that undertaking a replacement job above your skill level will usually lead to the opposite. An improperly installed component can do more harm than good and even cause significant damage to your car. Once again, my advice would be to always look in your automotive repair manual first to better understand the task at hand and what it implies. If you aren’t sure you can do it, it’s probably best to call a repair shop instead. Most shops would charge more to fix a half-completed job than to do the whole thing from scratch — no mentioning that you’ll have to pay for a tow truck too.
It’s important to trust yourself and your abilities, but it’s absolutely crucial to keep your limits in mind.
Featured Imabey by Devolk en Pixabay