Tinkering on cars used to be a lot of fun. Just about anyone with even rudimentary mechanical skills and a few tools could save a lot of money by doing routine car repairs and maintenance right on their driveway. Most cars had acres of open space in the engine compartment and parts like batteries, spark plugs, headlights, distributors, and carburetors were readily accessible. Air flowed into the carburetor through an air filter perched on top of the engine and into the cylinders. Simple to tweak, and simple to understand.
Car Repairs have Become a lot More Complicated
Over the last 20 or 30 years, however, automobiles have become much more complicated. Engines are more high tech and there’s more equipment attached to them. Cables, rods, and levers have given way to computers and sensors. It’s more difficult to get at things and even minor maintenance often requires the removal of a bunch of other parts just to gain access to something like an air filter of the battery. Replacing brake pads used to be a relatively simple chore and still is in some cases. That is unless you accidentally damage a wheel sensor while you’re doing it, necessitating a trip to the garage.
Just the other day one of the headlights on my car burned out. As I read through the manual to find out how to replace it I was assaulted by warnings not to do it myself if the vehicle was equipped with Zenon bulbs. I was scared to touch anything in case I got electrocuted and it was hard to figure out if my bulbs were Halogen or Zenon. In the end I discovered that they were Halogen, but it still took me over an hour to figure out how to remove the bulb and install the new one (with a little help from YouTube).
Don’t Try This at Home
In spite of the complexity of modern cars there are still some things that most people can do, for example, check the fluids and replace things like wiper blades. However, there are lots of things that backyard mechanics just should not attempt. Here are five of them:
- Timing belt replacement – many cars have a timing belt that has to be replaced every 100,000 to 160000 km. If the timing belt fails, very serious engine damage usually results. A timing belt replacement usually costs between $600 to $1000. While replacing a timing belt isn’t all that difficult, in modern vehicles it’s time consuming and it’s very easy for a home mechanic to get in over their head. Save your money and your sanity and have it done by a professional mechanic. The work will be done right, and could turn out to be a lot cheaper than it would be if you attempted it yourself.
- Transmission maintenance and repair – transmissions are super complicated and have thousands of small parts machined to tight tolerances and tiny channels for lubricant to flow through. Even something as simple as a transmission oil change should be performed by trained mechanics. Avoid having your transmission oil replaced at quick lube shops because gaskets and connectors have to be kept meticulously clean otherwise a tiny bit of errant grit could destroy your transmission.
- Overheating – it’s quite easy to replace cooling system components like hoses and thermostats. However, if your vehicle has overheated it’s time to go into damage control. You need to have a trained mechanic identify the cause, fix it, and assess the damage and make necessary repairs.
- Running problems and error codes – when a car doesn’t start, stalls, hesitates, lurches, or the check engine light comes on it’s time to take it to a mechanic. Repairing these types of problems on modern vehicles can become a huge money pit even if you have access to a code reader. You can end up spending a small fortune replacing part after part until you finally find the cause of the problem.
- Suspension – struts, springs, bushings, and arms look pretty simple to replace. However, there’s a tremendous amount of energy stored in a compressed coil spring and they can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s also very easy to do things in the wrong order. Suspension parts might be supporting part of the front sub-frame and the engine – you don’t want that falling on you. A wheel alignment might be required to finish the job right and very few home mechanics have access to that kind of equipment.
Even though modern cars have become a lot more complicated there are still a few minor maintenance chores that most people can perform. However, most jobs should be left to professionals. For complete car repairs for all makes in Kelowna and area, contact the Service Department at Kelowna Nissan at 250-712-0300.