Do-it-yourselfers take pride in the fact that they can fix practically anything around the house, from garden equipment to the family car and everything in between. As a DIYer, you might know how to check and replace your brakes, but the question is: At what point should you take your car to the mechanic?
For most small and medium car issues, a well-equipped DIY garage, some YouTube videos, and maybe a manual or two are all that is necessary. Hopping on the NAPA KnowHow blog is another easy way to review the best way to complete any number of repairs, such as basic electrical diagnosis and repair, changing engine oil, replacing brake pads and rotors or even dealing with minor body damage.
On the other hand, there are some car repairs that you should really consider taking your car to your local NAPA AutoCare Center for, and it’s not a matter of DIY pride. Here’s a few things to think about when trying to decide whether you should tackle a repair at home or head to your local trusted garage.
Taking Your Car to the Mechanic Is NOT Failure
Sometimes you just have to realize that a certain project is just over your head, not in your experience or not in your toolbox. So it’s a good idea to leave it to the professionals. This isn’t failure, but simple recognition of your limitations. Here are a few considerations:
- Limited experience: If you’ve never replaced a timing belt or a cylinder head gasket, the time to start practicing probably isn’t on the daily driver. If it’s the second car or the winter beater, maybe you can afford to take your time. The last thing you want is to miss work Monday morning because your car is still in pieces. There’s nothing wrong with attempting a repair for the first time, just realize that with some repairs there is the very real potential to make things much worse if there are problems.
- Limited tools: Even if you have the time, a transmission rebuild is not for the faint of heart. Additionally, you’ll need a number of specialty tools, which could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, which wouldn’t make sense to purchase for one-time use. Some automakers are notorious for needing special tools to perform a repair. Some modern vehicle repairs require computerized scanners to diagnose or even program replacement components. Even if you are able to replace a component or module, it may require programming or calibration via a special diagnostic tool to function correctly. There are also environmental concerns like proper handling of AC refrigerant or waste fluid disposal.
- Limited time: If you’re a weekend warrior, you’ve got a lot on your plate when you get home from work, such as mowing the lawn, tiling the garage and hanging out with the family. Even if you have a well-equipped garage, do you really have time to rebuild the engine in your commuter? A technician who does a job day in and day out will have learned all the ins and out of a repair. They will already know the right tools and the little nagging problems that can frustrate a DIYer. The DIYer isn’t any less competent, it is just that the technician has practiced to the point of a repair being a smooth fluid motion.
- Limited information: On some highly technical modern vehicles repair information can sometimes change on a week-to-week basis. A technician can access up-to-date repair bulletins through professional services that can take a long time to filter through to a consumer level repair manual. It is the job of the technician to stay up to date on proper repair procedures and potential issues. A vehicle problem may be already covered in a service bulletin complete with the correct repair procedure, saving valuable shop time.
How to Talk to Your Mechanic
If you do come to the realization that you need to take your car to the mechanic, don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them. It’s important to have a good relationship with your chosen repair shop. Tell them your concerns and why you feel your car needs a certain repair. Report any diagnostic steps that you’ve taken, so they’ll have a good idea what to start with once they get their hands on your car. Don’t leave out any details. If you have already tried a repair or replaced parts, let them know.
Still, don’t be surprised if the mechanic insists on diagnosing the problem on their own before making recommendations. They may also have access to advanced diagnostic tools and vehicle repair information that the public normally wouldn’t. They may find your diagnosis was spot-on, and the overhaul will be well under way. On the other hand, because your mechanic fixes cars for a living, they might find something that you overlooked, so expect a phone call with a good explanation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the better you understand your vehicle and the repair the better educated you will be down the road.
Remember, it’s totally OK if you need to take your car to the mechanic. It doesn’t make you any less of a bona fide DIYer. There are all kinds of reasons to outsource a repair, so if the time comes be confident knowing you made the right decision. That choice may even be different one month to the next as life situations change. Maybe, while your car is in the shop, you can do the next best thing, like teach your kid how to adjust the brakes on their bike, ushering in the next-generation DIYer!
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on DIY car repair, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
Photo courtesy of Foter.
Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.