FAQ’s: Automotive Repair Help and Advice by Auto Mechanics

Q1: How Do I Diagnose Basic Problems?

Many of the most common problems with a car can be diagnosed without skill or training. Opening the hood and looking for loose hoses and wires, signs of smoke or pooling liquid can lead to obvious conclusions. When driving, pay close attention to your car's performance. Note changes in behavior and try to identify the source of noises or odors. In addition, always read a new vehicle's owner's manual thoroughly as repair tips and warnings are outlined there in plain language.

Q2: How Do I Check The Fluids?

Certain fluids, such as transmission fluid and brake fluid, are difficult to work with and best left to professionals. However, items such as engine coolant, engine oil and windshield washer fluid are all easy to check. These fluids are stored in reservoirs with an indicator of their level: either a line on the side of a transparent tank or a dipstick that can be used to measure the fluid's level. Again, consult the manual for fluid specifications and to identify fill points, which may be different from the point at which the fluid level is measured.

Q3: How Do I Fix Electrical Problems?

In modern cars many different problems are a result of an electrical malfunction. A car's constant vibration and the exposure to intense heat and cold wreak havoc on electrical systems over time. If an electrical device isn't operating properly, check the fuse box, which is usually located under the hood or below the glove box. A blown fuse will appear discolored. Most fuse boxes contain one or more spare fuses that can be swapped in for the burnt one, but be sure to use a fuse of the same color.

Q4: How Can I Maintain My Car?

Maintaining a car will mean the need for less repair work in the long term. Regular oil changes and tire rotations are the most basic maintenance procedures and can be done at home without much difficulty. To rotate tires, use a tire change kit in your car, which should include a jack for raising the car and a tire iron for loosening lug nuts. For at-home oil changes, use a plastic container to collect the oil that runs out when you remove the drain plug and then add fresh oil in the appropriate amount. Perform both of these procedures according to the specifications outlined in the owner's manual, generally every 3,000 or 6,000 miles.

Q5: Are There Repairs Only A Shop Can Do?

Yes. Newer cars use complex computerized systems that cannot be serviced at home. Technicians can attach a car to a computer to check its self-diagnostic records and identify problems. Other new systems such as hybrid-electric drivetrains should only be serviced by specially trained mechanics, such as those at a dealership where the car was sold. Attempting to service these parts of a car can be dangerous and may cause even greater damage.