Life: Fix your own car without the expense of a mechanic

Everyone who owns a car knows how much of a hassle it is when it breaks down.     However, the next time you find yourself cursing out your crippled car, don’t panic. You may be able to fix the problem yourself.Your first step is going to be figuring out what exactly the problem is.  Is your car making a strange noise? Not starting?  Do some searching online to get some answers, particularly on automotive forums specific to your vehicle.If your car was born after 1996, it has something called an OBD-II port that lets you plug a small computer into the car to diagnose any problems.  Most auto parts stores will perform this service for free.Once you know what you’re up against, you can decide if the problem is something you can handle.   Look for a manual specific to your car — Haynes and Chilton are two good publishers that give step-by-step instructions on many repairs.  If you want to get more indepth, buy a factory repair manual from your car’s manufacturer.The difficulty of the actual repair depends as much on your working environment as it does on your expertise. In the UVM Gutterson parking garage in January, changing a headlight is brutal.But in the comfort of your own garage, with the sun shining and some Bob Marley playing, car repair isn’t all that different from cooking from a recipe — just follow the repair manual and take it slow.Luckily, if you really can’t fix something yourself, there are many professionals out there who will gladly take your money to make your car troubles disappear.There’s no shame in admitting defeat and sending your car to a mechanic. I’ve done so myself on several occasions.But if you do go to a garage, be sure to shop around.  Just because one mechanic is close by doesn’t mean he’ll be the best or the cheapest.It’s wise to find someone who specializes in your make of car as they will most likely have seen your problem before and be able to fix it quickly.You should, however, generally avoid going to the dealership as they often overcharge,  unless of course your car is under warranty.Hopefully reading this has boosted your confidence about turning your own wrench.   Good luck on your next project.