DIY motor repair: What can I do at home

DIY motor repair: What can I do at home

Motor repair – Do-it-yourself motor repair —simply called DIY auto repair—is when a vehicle owner performs his or her own auto repair and auto mechanical services. There are literally thousands of components on a vehicle that can break and only certain ones should be done by a DIY auto mechanical services shop.

We will break these down into three categories of DIY auto mechanics:

  • beginner (oil change, checking fluid levels, etc.),
  • intermediate (brake pad maintenance, fluid flushes, etc.) and;
  • advanced (replacing parts such as engines, transmissions and suspension repairs).

Beginner DIY Auto

The beginner DIY auto mechanic can handle most of the basic maintenance items on their car. A person with this level of DIY auto experience can handle changing the oil in most cars. He can also check and fill most of his own fluids, such as: washer fluid, engine oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid and coolant. He can also change his own wiper blades with relative ease.

After getting a good grasp of the basic DIY auto services, he can move on to more advanced procedures.

Intermediate DIY Auto

An intermediate DIY auto mechanic has consistently performed all of the beginner items and has developed a nice supply of tools. She can now check and change her own brake pads. While replacing the brake pads, an intermediate DIY auto mechanic can also replace the brake calipers and rotors. She is also able to perform more advanced DIY fluid changes, such as: coolant flushes, brake fluid flushes and transmission services.

As a precaution, always have a more experienced mechanic nearby in case there are small problems.

Advanced DIY Auto

An advanced DIY auto mechanic is able to do nearly anything on his car. He can replace the engine or transmission, if needed. He can also rebuild smaller components, such as: carburetors, brake calipers, master cylinders and wheel cylinders.

He can also perform DIY suspension repairs, such as: shock replacement, strut replacement, wheel bearings and springs. He has the knowledge to handle steering components and linkages, as well.

No matter how advanced a DIY auto mechanic may be, there are just some things that cannot be done at home. Rebuilding of large components, such as the engine and transmission, requires a lot of space and special tools, which a DIY auto mechanic probably would not have. Heavy electrical work should be handled by a trained professional, as one false move and the vehicle’s entire electrical system can be compromised.

So, next time you are looking to do your own mechanic work, make certain to properly gauge your experience lever prior to attempting it and always have a motor repair manual close by.

Online Motor Repair Manuals Review

One of the first places a do-it-yourself auto mechanic looks for online auto repair manuals and service information today is the internet. In the World Wide Web generation, it only makes sense that companies would provide their automotive technical wares via the web.

Printed automotive repair manuals have been around for many years. Seasoned home mechanics continue to rely on such manuals today for repair, service, and even restoration of older model cars and trucks. The information, photographs, schematics, and troubleshooting guides within these hard-copy books are invaluable.

So, this raises some questions. Are online auto repair manuals equal to, or better than, their printed counterparts? And, how do the cost of online manuals compare to the price of a car repair manual purchased at the local parts house?

Online Motor Repair Manual Advantage

Updates are important when it comes to maintenance and service information. A 2002-year model car, for example, may have bulletins and recalls issued against it for several years after its initial production run. Often, an online service will post such information for each specific model and year vehicle, keeping the information current for the subscribing customer.

Online auto repair manuals also have the advantage of categorizing a vehicle by components and types of repair, making specific information easier to retrieve through searches or online navigation. The actual technical information delivered, however, is the same as that provided in printed, over-the-counter, versions.

Online Manual Negatives

The very attributes that make online auto repair manuals easy to navigate, can also make them time consuming to locate particular details related to a specific category of information. For a new user unaccustomed to the layout and user interface of the online manual, seeking information may require several attempts at finding the appropriate category or level of detail necessary to facilitate a repair or service.

A couple of online auto motor repair manual providers make navigation easier than others. In addition, while much of the information is similar between providers, a few offer better illustrations and level of detail than their competitors do.

Online services are dependent on an internet connection. Obviously, a continuous connection is a luxury that may or may not be available when needed.

Free Online Auto Repair Guides

Auto Zone offers a descent source of free online information for repairing and troubleshooting a car or truck. Registration on their site is all that is necessary to access a large selection of model years and makes of vehicles. While the level of detail is somewhat lacking as compared to a paid service, its good considering the fact that it is free.

Subscription Based Online Auto Repair Guides

Three of the prominent subscription based mechanical services offering online repair guides are Alldatadiy, Chiltondiy, and Mitchell1. Each offers the option of a monthly subscription, or an annual fee, to access a single vehicle’s technical information. Each of these mechanical services were reviewed with a monthly subscription for a 2003 Ford Mustang GT.

A summary of each of the three services, the associated cost, and the users opinion follows.


The subscription service cost is $26.95 per year to access to one vehicle. Each additional vehicle is $16.95 each. The information contained in the Alldatadiy database is good, and comparable to the free service offered through Auto Zone. Overall, this service was good.


A monthly fee of $16.95 per month, per vehicle, is comparable for a month’s access. The information presented is similar, if not the same, as Alldatadiy and Auto Zone. Again, overall, the service and information was good.


The online auto repair manual service through Chilton diy is $15.00 per month, or $24.95 per year. The navigation of this site is better than the other online service manuals reviewed. Also, the information and illustrations available are somewhat more comprehensive and detailed than the previous two subscription services. As compared to the other providers listed, Chiltondiy is better.

Paper or Virtual Repair Manuals

The best course of action before purchasing a subscription through an online auto repair manual service is to review their samples and demos. Decide for yourself which service offers more of what you’re looking for, and is easier to navigate. A paper version of an auto repair manual is still good to have on hand. Use one version to supplement the other.