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Old 08-18-2013, 11:02 AM
 
24 posts, read 108,091 times
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I heard that if you learn to fix cars yourself you can save a lot of money.

A car I am looking at says that it recently developed a miss, and has light rust around the rear wheel wells.

What exactly is this problem about and how much might it cost to fix it and how do you fix it yourself?
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:26 AM
 
1,742 posts, read 5,967,770 times
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First off, rust on a car usually is like terminal cancer. So unless you are sure it is only a tiny spot, I will pass. And believe me, having bought and sold used cars for all my life, when the seller says there is a spot of rust, it usually means there is more.

Second, bodywork is pretty involved and delicate, esp if you want to make it look decent. I have done a few restorations but many more repairs. I have used a body shop for cars that needed to look good either for my driving or resale.

For now, I would say start by reading a basic car repair book, acquiring some basic tools without breaking the bank and then start doing the maintenance on your daily driver. Join a car specific forum. Unfortunately today's cars don't take much "repair", mostly maintenance and "replacement" of wear and tear item. BUT you can still save yourself a lot of money and headache doing these without paying a garage.
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:15 PM
 
4,690 posts, read 9,487,821 times
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One CAN save a lot of money if they do their own vehicle maintenance, but you don't jump into a "needs work" vehicle as your first task. That leads only to being frustrated and wasting money, I've seen it time and time again for closing in on 2 decades and it's just sad to watch happen.

If you really want to start saving yourself money, it's better for you to start with a fully functional vehicle and tackle the Maintenance things. Flush the brake fluid, change the pads and rotors/drums, rotate tires, do your own oil changes, hit the lube points (such as they may be), etc... You'll gain experience and comfort all while saving yourself money, and grow into bigger tasks like changing a timing belt/rollers/waterpump, or replacing an alternator. Somewhere along that learning process you'll fall into basic troubleshooting and repair. When I learned, it was nearly all trial and error with only paper reference manuals and the Rare person I could ask (I learned on motorcycles, but an ICE is an ICE). Today you have the internet (as well as paper reference manuals), a TON of reading available to you. Read and learn.
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:32 PM
 
17,456 posts, read 23,595,759 times
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Well, it's sort of yes and no to both posters above me. OP, yes indeed, you can save quite a few dollars, buying a vehicle with known issue, and fixing it.
Key word is - KNOWN. It is quite easy to fix anything, should you know exactly what to fix, have proper tools, and proper know-how. To obtain a know-how is quite easy also. You either buy a repair manual, or learn about library, or ask folks in specific forums, or sign up as DIY for Alldata. Which is not that expensive actually. But provides you with all step by step repair guides for professionals.
Obtaining proper tools is a bit expensive, as you have to have quite a few and decent quality. One way of doing this is shop on local craigslist.
The biggest unknown is, actually, the KNOWN issue. As seller will tell you what they either BELIEVE is known issue, or, will straight lie to you. To rid of a junker.
Hence, you either MUST be 100% positive that issue is known and how the hey will you know that, or, go for a vehicle that has OBVIOUS issue. Say, car starts and drives, but brake rotors are worn out to death, or caliper is leaking. Or a door is dented and needs to be replaced. Things that are 100% observable and known.
But I'd definitely NOT start with anything that is complex or may lead to total damage to what you bought, which is usually electrical issues.
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:37 PM
 
Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas
389 posts, read 1,167,058 times
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I would pass on any car with visible rust unless it was just "surface" rust.

Don't want to sound old, but there was a time when cars were relatively easy to work on. Today's cars with their computers and other paraphernalia almost always require another computer to diagnose the problem. You don't want to spend a bunch of money that you don't need to when it might be a simple problem costing virtually nothing.

A "miss" might be a failing exhaust valve. Or it could be a bad fuel mixture. Or possibly a failing spark plug or cable. What you could do, if you can get to them, is to pull out the plugs and run a compression test to rule out the bad valve. If you have a burned exhaust valve you would have to pull the head and replace the valve. This could quickly get out of hand and you'll need to take it to a machine shop to have it repaired.

What I see here is a money pit. I'd look elsewhere.

I'll be quite frank. I have several thousand dollars worth of tools and books accumulated over the years. I should probably auction them off because I don't use them any longer. My back hurts when leaning over, I need glasses to see in tight spots, and I don't like grease over everything. Since I no longer buy used cars it is the dealer's problem.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:27 PM
 
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
39,412 posts, read 70,677,323 times
Reputation: 47815
i agree, that's not the way to start out. I did all my own work since I was 16, including engine exchanges, body and paint, but before that I had learned from helping my father who did his own work. Without the modern electronics cars were far easier to work on then. Now I do little more than oil changes and brakes, maybe a new water pump or alternator. The rest requires more sophisticated, expensive equipment to diagnose. Even the code scan doesn't tell you what to replace, just what code is set, and it could still be one of 12 things causing it.

Body work is not as easy as it looks, but for rust you have to weld in and replace the metal, I would not attempt it without at least a welding class.
Most people that try what you are thinking about end up selling a "project car" for less than they paid for it or paying a real mechanic more than they could have bought a decent car for.
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Old 08-18-2013, 05:23 PM
 
Location: Ft. Myers
19,717 posts, read 15,217,165 times
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My Sons and I build hot rods, we are pretty serious hobbyists, but when my daily driver needs something I generally take it to the dealer. Why? Because new cars are so sophisticated that you need specialized equipment and training to work on them. Computers and fuel injection are not like the carburetors and simple mechanical systems cars used to have. Also, I am more of a fabricator than a mechanic. A miss, like the one you are mentioning, is one of the hardest things to diagnose. It can be anything from a plug wire to a serious internal mechanical issue.

If you have to ask you probably are not the right person to be buying a car with issues already.

Don
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Old 08-18-2013, 08:29 PM
 
Location: Mount Laurel
4,187 posts, read 11,163,346 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usedcar View Post
I heard that if you learn to fix cars yourself you can save a lot of money.

A car I am looking at says that it recently developed a miss, and has light rust around the rear wheel wells.

What exactly is this problem about and how much might it cost to fix it and how do you fix it yourself?

Fixing cars yourself doesn't usually save you money in the begin. It's a long term investment. What do I mean? Most people don't have the proper tools for fixing cars. You acquire those tools over the years as you work more and more on the car(s). Take for example a simple brake change job. If you don't have any tools, it will cost you more to do it yourself.
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Old 08-18-2013, 08:34 PM
 
5,075 posts, read 10,301,979 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usedcar View Post
I heard that if you learn to fix cars yourself you can save a lot of money.

A car I am looking at says that it recently developed a miss, and has light rust around the rear wheel wells.

What exactly is this problem about and how much might it cost to fix it and how do you fix it yourself?
It really depends on the differential between what your time is worth, how long it takes you to diagnose and solve problems versus what a mechanic would charge.

Someone earning minimum wage fixing his own car might be able to save money even if the job takes 10 times as long as a professional mechanic. A doctor fixing his own car might need to work 3 times as fast as a professional mechanic just to break even.

In the end, it's really a matter of how much your time is worth, and what kinds of tools and facilities you have available to you.
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Old 08-19-2013, 12:25 AM
 
Location: New Haven, CT
1,030 posts, read 4,006,225 times
Reputation: 913
Newer cars are a bit trickier to work on, and more expensive.

Most cars built before 2000 are pretty simple and usually cheaper.

The best advice I can give is to get the manual for the car... NOT the manual you find at the bookstore, which are Chilton and Haynes...

Those manuals are pretty good, but a lot of info is sometimes left out that is very important.

You really need to look for the "official" manual for the car. which usually runs atleast $50. Probably around $100. But its WELL worth it.
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