Doing some basic car repairs yourself will save you money and can sometimes be simple to do. Car manuals, of which there is one or more for just about every vehicle ever built, have step-by-step instructions and pictures that explain all you need to know about keeping your car in perfect running condition.
Besides investing in a good car manual, stock up on the items listed below to help your DIY work run smoothly.There is no need to go out and buy a tonne of tools and equipment; items such as various pliers, circlip removers, special wrenches and sockets can often be found at auctions or even pawn and second-hand shops, often in excellent condition. Buy these items on an as-needed basis and you will soon have everything you need to service your own vehicle or perform more ambitious automotive repairs, which could save you a lot of money.
A socket set or wrenches
Buy the best tools you can afford; many cheap imported items are just not suited to the task. If you're not sure, go for the well-known brands that are used by professional mechanics; your local workshop will be able to advise you on the best tool brands. You can also obtain this information from your hardware store.
While adjustable wrenches have their uses, avoid using them on your car. Instead, invest in a set of high-quality wrenches that have open jaws on one end and a ring on the other, in sizes ranging from 6mm to around 24mm. The same goes for sockets; a range from 6mm to 24mm with a 13 mm drive should be ample.
A screwdriver set
Again, buy the best you can afford. A good screw driver set should include at least 12-14 items, and must contain both flat and Phillips pointed screw drivers in both numbers 1 and 2. A set like this usually contains all the most commonly needed shaft lengths. Car interiors are mainly held together by screws and using the correct screw driver, you will be able to remove and reach behind interior panels, of which there can be surprisingly many.
A can of CRC/WD-40
While there are many brands of penetrating and lubricating sprays on the market, this is one of the most tried-and-tested to loosen rusted or seized bolts and nuts. Simply spray on, leave for a few minutes and loosen as usual. This type of spray is also excellent at removing water and moisture from electrical components.
A quality jack or stands
The jack that came with your car is designed for emergency use only; never rely on it to lift your car higher than just enough to change a wheel. Instead, invest in a trolley or carriage jack rated at a minimum of three tons. There are many relatively cheap makes available that will enable you to safely lift the entire front or rear axles off the ground. However, this type of lifting should only be done on level surfaces and the car should always be supported with at least two high-quality stands rated at two tonnes at the very least. Never rely on a jack of whatever make or type to keep a car off the ground on its own. Serious injuries or even fatalities can result from jacks failing.
Do not rely on bricks, stones, or blocks of wood to chock the wheels that are not being lifted. Buy approved wheel chocks that are designed for this purpose and always chock both sides of all the wheels that are still on the ground to prevent the car rolling off the jack or supporting stands.
Tyre irons are designed to remove tyres from steel rims; however, they should never be used on soft alloy rims, which are very easily damaged. Removing and fitting modern tyres are in most (if not all) cases best left to the professionals, who have the correct equipment to do this without damaging tyres and rims.
A small torch
To help you see into the dark confines of modern engine compartments, it can be a good idea to invest in an LED (Light Emitting Diode) torch or lamp. This type of torch or lamp doesn't get hot, uses very little power and can in most cases be powered by attaching them to the car battery. You may also like to buy a small mirror (preferably on the end of a wand) to enable you to see around corners; by extending the wand and swivelling it around while shining your torch on it, you may be lucky enough to spot that little nut you dropped in the engine compartment.
Overalls or old clothes
Car repairs can be a messy, dirty job. To avoid ruining your best clothes, invest in good-quality overalls that fit you correctly. Or, simply wear old clothes that can be washed or discarded, depending on what your washing machine will be able to handle.
To protect the mud guards and other parts of your car against scratches from overall zippers, or to prevent the deposition of grease and oil that invariably result from automotive repairs onto the paint work, drape as much of the body work as you can with drop cloths. These can be purpose-bought, or they could simply be old blankets cut to size, old bath sheets and towels, or even sheets of newspaper. Placing drop cloths on seats to protect them against oily clothes is also a good idea.
A tray to drain fluids (such as engine oil)
If you plan to drain engine oil, always use a flat container that comfortably fits under the car, and can hold at least three times the amount of oil to be drained into it. This is because an over-full container can easily lead to spills that can very often never be removed from concrete surfaces. Use smaller containers to collect brake fluid or other automotive fluids, such as power steering fluid, because they are easier to place so that they catch what you are draining. Always dispose of automotive fluids responsibly; many car repair shops will accept used oil and other automotive fluids. Never pour car oil into drains or storm water systems.
NOTE: Contact with used motor oil can cause dermatitis and various other skin problems, so always wear disposable rubber gloves when handling used motor oil.