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Real Men Enjoy Gettin' All Greased Up... [Mechanics: Where to start]

FallingmanFallingman Registered User regular
edited August 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
So I just bought a car.
Nothing fancy. Used. I went for an older model with good mileage.

Periodically, I've thought how I'd get a kick out of knowing more about engines. I'm one of those guys that has few occasions to work with their hands, but really enjoy it when I do. I'd also love to be able to maintain this machine so that it lasts - and potentially even keep it tuned up and performing well.

So, my question to you H/A, is "where do I start?".
What do I need to do to maintain a car vs a tune up? My ignorance is vast. Help me!

Currently, I can probably impress my wife by "rotating the tyres"... But that only goes so far.

Oh, I'm also aware that cars are increasingly reliant on electrical components - so lets just get out of the way that I understand this and currently - it's not my area of concern.

I'm looking for resources such as:
  • Beginners guides
  • How-to's
  • Technical resources - though the above would be preferable

Books/websites/videos... lay it on me!

Fallingman on
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

Posts

  • WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    See if there is a Haynes manual for your car - http://www.haynes.com/

    They usually teach quite a bit of the do-it-yourself repair stuff.

    Other than that I have no clue.

  • AurinAurin Registered User
    edited August 2010
    A Haynes manual really is your best bet. They'll list out all the intervals that things need to be checked and changed, and base the entire book on a complete teardown and rebuild of the car.

    You can do pretty much anything to the car, with a Haynes manual, as long as you have the tools.

  • CooterTKECooterTKE Registered User
    edited August 2010
    What type of car is it? Depending on the make and model there may be forums about them and issues you should look for. I am members of Jeep, Subaru, and Mustang forums for when I need information on something I am not sure about. The Haynes manuals are also important to have around.

  • FallingmanFallingman Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    It's a 2001 Nissan X-Trail (smaller 2L Engine).

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • illigillig Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    if you don't have the user manual for your car, find one (usually a pdf can be found online) - next, buy a Haynes or Chilton's manual for your car - if you want/need additional information afterwards, you can invest in a factory shop manual as well

    start with maintenance that's recommended by the manufacturer according to the mileage of your vehicle... usually there are major service intervals every ~30K miles or so, and they usually include changing the air filter, oil/oil filter, etc.

    anything beyond that (i.e. anything requiring actually getting under a car) - you'll want to pick up a good jack and jack stands... this is vital, as i've seen people risk their lives by crawling under a car suspended on a tire jack :eek:

    a good set of sockets, 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" will be crucial at this point as well

    next, learn how to do a tune up such as spark plugs/wires, ignition rotor/cap (if applicable), pcv valve, fuel filter, etc. etc. etc. (again, all depends on car)

    the 1st major thing i tackled was a brake job, along with a brake fluid flush - it's fairly straightforward, and very rewarding to do yourself...

  • KrisKris Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    illig wrote: »
    i've seen people risk their lives by crawling under a car suspended on a tire jack :eek:

    I've done this quite a few times. I didn't think it was that dangerous. :?

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  • AurinAurin Registered User
    edited August 2010
    Kris wrote: »
    illig wrote: »
    i've seen people risk their lives by crawling under a car suspended on a tire jack :eek:

    I've done this quite a few times. I didn't think it was that dangerous. :?

    A good rule of thumb - if it's not on jackstands or on ramps with chocks behind the back tires, it's not safe. Hell, it's not even totally safe on jackstands. Those little tire jacks that you get out of your trunk for a spare are flimsy little things. The car should always be on jackstands unless you're putting it right back down and not crawling under it. @_@

    Car dropping on top of you isn't something you wanna do. x_x

    Also, changing the oil should be around every 3k miles, not every 30k. >.>

  • SporkedSporked Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I've done this quite a few times. I didn't think it was that dangerous.

    It's not that dangerous. Until it is. Then it's really, immediately, oh my god there's a car on my leg and I'm fucked because no one's home and I'm bleeding and my phone is in the center console fucking dangerous. (this happens. i know)

    You really don't ever want to be under a car without jackstands (or equivalent, but seriously, jackstands) supporting the weight of the vehicle. Tire jacks, and hydraulic jacks for that matter, can and do fail and when they do, being between the ground and the car can be painful at best and deadly at worst, with all kinds of hastily removed and crushed appendages in between. Tire jacks especially tend to be unstable and the torque required to say, remove a control arm or brake caliper bracket bolt can easily be enough to upset it enough to flop over.

    Basically, if your head or torso will be under the car, make damn sure there's something solid supporting it.

    Also, OP, you want to grab a pair of gloves. Some people like gritty, greasy cut up hands and think it's girlie to wear gloves. Fuck that noise, I say. Worth every penny, they will save you pain and cuts, and the time you'll save washing your hands/fingernails alone is worth 10 pairs of $15 mechanics gloves from autozone, or wherever. Plus, your lady will appreciate it.

    For your car, you'll want a decent 1/4" and 3/8" drive metric socket set (deep sockets too if you can afford them, you'll want 10, 12, and 14mm deep sockets if you don't want to buy a whole set). Get a universal joint and extensions for the 3/8", and some extensions for the 1/4". You'll want 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 21mm combination wrenches. A good #1 and #2 philips screwdriver. You should be able to take apart 99% of your vehicle with these tools. (unless nissan started using torx screws for their vehicles in the last few years, in which case a set shouldn't be too expensive) My 240sx comes apart with 10/12/14/17mm sockets/wrenches and a #2 philips screwdriver. Pretty much the whole thing.

    I'm going to recommend craftsman tools, for their quality (good) and for their return policy (excellent). Which is that if you come in with a broken craftsman hand tool, they give a new one, no questions, no forms, no receipts, no bullshit. (anecdote warning) You won't break tools often but when you do it's nice to go in, put 2 halves of a socket down on the counter and ask for a new one, and then get it. (realistically it'll be ratchets most of the time) I've done this with other "Lifetime guarantee" tool brands and they always want a receipt for a wrench I bought in 1999 or some other silly bullshit, and it's totally not worth the trouble. If you find another place with a similar policy, go there. But I think I've broken 6 or 7 craftsman hand tools in 10 years or so, and that's including two more or less complete vehicle teardowns and rebuilds, 2 engine replacements, many clutch/brake jobs and many other random jobs. Each one was replaced the next day with no drama. Good tools are worth the money. Take care of them and they'll take care of you.

    I'm done preaching. go get dirty.

  • TefTef Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    on top of the above advice about buying a Hayne's or Chilton's manual, I'd suggest that you go and find one of your mates/family members who's mechanically minded and ask them how to do things like change your oil, replace all your filters, replace brake discs, flush your radiator etc.

    Honestly, I'd probably avoid going out and buying a lot of tradesman-quality tools until you have a basic understanding of what it is you should be doing to your car and what kind of things you will be prepared to do.

    I would agree with Sporked though, quality tools are worth it (when the time comes to buy them)

  • illigillig Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Kris wrote: »
    illig wrote: »
    i've seen people risk their lives by crawling under a car suspended on a tire jack :eek:

    I've done this quite a few times. I didn't think it was that dangerous. :?

    my mom's coworker's husband was killed when the car he was working on fell on him... he was too lazy to pull out some jackstands (which he had) so he decided to just "quickly fix something" using the tire jack :(

  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I've seen a car that was on a jack tip back when I was younger and dumber, a good 13-14 years ago. Fortunately, I noticed it wobble and was able to tell my friend who was underneath changing the oil to get the hell out, so no one was injured. I haven't been under a car with only a jack since and even jackstands make me nervous.

    They don't come down when on a jack often, but they do often enough that there's no reason to not use ramps or jackstands given how easy they are to use to protect yourself.

  • KidDynamiteKidDynamite Registered User
    edited August 2010
    Sporked wrote: »

    I'm done preaching. go get dirty.

    I'm not gonna lime the whole post cause that would be eye searing. But seriously, Sporked's post is A+ spot on.

    You can tear down most hondas/toyotas/nissans etc.. with the tools listed. Heck yo can get most of the way with a 10 and 12 combo wrench.

    And huge agree on the gloves. I like the Mechanix brand, but get some you like. Also, buy some Gojo hand cleaner. Your wife will thank you (after you clean up the black grease in the sink:lol:)

  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Jimmy King wrote: »
    I haven't been under a car with only a jack since and even jackstands make me nervous.

    A lot of times I drive mine up onto rows of cinder blocks cause jack stands plus jacks give me the willies when I have to do something like break a nut.


    If you plan to always change your oil you may want to invest in a fumoto valve.

  • IronKnuckle's GhostIronKnuckle's Ghost Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    If you're going to be changing your own oil, get a good storage container and recycle your oil! A lot of garages (car mechanics, don't know what y'all call them in the Commonwealth) will offer oil recycling services, simple as taking your container and pouring it into their much larger container.

    Cleanup is important, too! Get some Shop Towels, essentially heavy-duty paper towels that absorb oil and gunk to keep your hands, tools, and work surface a bit cleaner as you do your work. Also get an orange-based hand scrub that includes pumice to clean up your grubby hands after you're done. Fast Orange, Gojo, et al. Rags are also super handy. Old tshirts and towels make for good shop rags.

    May have been mentioned already, but a good rule of thumb when buying a used vehicle is to immediately change out all of the fluids and filters. This is less the case when buying from a used car dealer, but it's both a good learning experience and a good way to set your mind at ease knowing everything from engine oil to brake fluid is in top shape.

  • TefTef Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    If you're going to be changing your own oil, get a good storage container and recycle your oil! A lot of garages (car mechanics, don't know what y'all call them in the Commonwealth) will offer oil recycling services, simple as taking your container and pouring it into their much larger container.

    Cleanup is important, too! Get some Shop Towels, essentially heavy-duty paper towels that absorb oil and gunk to keep your hands, tools, and work surface a bit cleaner as you do your work. Also get an orange-based hand scrub that includes pumice to clean up your grubby hands after you're done. Fast Orange, Gojo, et al. Rags are also super handy. Old tshirts and towels make for good shop rags.

    May have been mentioned already, but a good rule of thumb when buying a used vehicle is to immediately change out all of the fluids and filters. This is less the case when buying from a used car dealer, but it's both a good learning experience and a good way to set your mind at ease knowing everything from engine oil to brake fluid is in top shape.

    I'm with IronKnuckle, a clean and tidy workshop is a good one. It's safer, it won't be frustrating for you to work in (no room, dirty, can't find your tools etc) and you won't have the missus on your back for making the place filthy.

    Also, I recommend you jump on youtube and have a look to see if anyone's made a video relating to what it is you want to do. *PROTIP* make sure you know how to put something back together perfectly before you take it apart

  • FallingmanFallingman Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for all the info/advice guys.
    Unfortunately, I don't really have access to anyone with any real know-how. So I'll be self taught. I'll try and hunt down a service manual.

    The dealership I bought it from provides a warranty, and so they service it prior to us picking it up. Still, I'd like to learn to replace some of the fluids etc.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA
    edited August 2010
    Not only do you need to use proper jackstands and not tire jacks, you need to not do this on gravel, dirt or sand. You need to be on a paved, even surface.

    It's one of the stupidest ways to get yourself killed or permanently maimed and it happens all the fucking time. Please don't ever crawl under a car that isn't properly supported.

    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
  • King KongKing Kong Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I'll offer my 2 cents on something that serves me well almost daily and was told to me by one of my instructors. Best advice ever...

    "A car is just metal and plastic, you are smarter than metal and plastic"

  • chrishallett83chrishallett83 Hi! Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Get the workshop manual for your car.

    They are excellent, not only in having every piece of information you could ever need about your car in them, but also showing you how to do all repairs and replacements on the car. Step by step, with pictures, diagrams and sometimes part number lists.

    Also, is there not a technical college or high school auto shop that teaches starter basic maintenance courses on weekends?

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  • strebaliciousstrebalicious Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Haynes/Chilton manuals are awesome. They helped me change the carb (and tweak it), as well as the headers and starter on my El Camino, and redo the entire interior.

    Of course, I cheated. I used the Auto Hobby shop on base. $3 a hour to rent a lift and the guys that work there are super helpful, with just about any tool I could ever want. Don't know if they have any places like that in the civilian world, but it wouldn't hurt to look. Having a proper lift to do car work on is over 9000(!!!) times better than trying to hobble together a system using jack stands or old cable spools and cinder blocks.

    Changing the oil is a good start. It's fairly self explanatory once you are down there, but it still doesn't hurt to look up directions/youtubes about it. And just being in there will help you later when you want to do more complex stuff, because you will be at least somewhat familiar with what everything looks like.

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  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Take some time and sign up for classes at community college. They run from starter 'here's how to change your oil' all the way up to 'here's how you rebuild a transmission' and most of them will let you work on your own car.

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  • King KongKing Kong Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    The school I went to used to have a night once a month people could sign up for and would teach basic car maintenance.

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