When it comes to saving money on car repairs, it's important to know what jobs you can tackle yourself, and what car repairs you cannot fix yourself, no matter how experienced you are at do-it-yourself auto maintenance.
Many do-it-yourself technicians have learned the hard (and very, very costly) way which auto repairs are best left to the professionals. Nothing's worse than trying to save $50 by tackling a tough repair project yourself, only to wind up causing $500 in damage to your vehicle - and still having to pay a professional shop to fix the original problem.
Here's the top three car repairs that you should never try to do yourself:
1.) Timing Belt or Timing Chain Replacement
Your timing belt (or chain) is a critical part of your vehicle's engine - it controls the camshafts, ensuring the valves in your engine open and close at exactly the right time. When your timing belt or chain fails, the results can be catastrophic, so it's important to change it according to the schedule recommended in your owner's manual.
Because changing the timing belt or chain can be relatively costly, you might be tempted to try this job yourself, but the experts advise against this. Why? First off, replacing the timing belt requires specialized tools such as a crank shaft pulley remover that can set you back more than the total cost of having the job done at your local dealership. And because other parts like the water pump, alternator, and air conditioner compressor might need to be removed to complete the job, you run the risk of damaging other parts in the process.
2.) Shock & Strut Repairs
The suspension system of your vehicle might look simple, but repairing and replacing parts like springs, bushings, and shocks can be downright dangerous work. These components bear the full weight of your car or truck, putting them under tremendous tension that can cause serious injury during a repair when that tension is released.
Successful shock and strut repairs also require the use of jack stands and floor jacks. If this equipment fails, the results can be deadly. Many home technicians have perished while working under their vehicles, something that's unavoidable when dealing with the suspension system - that's why shock and strut repairs rank high on the list of car repairs you cannot fix yourself.
3.) Error Codes
When your 'check engine' light is illuminated, it's time to turn your car over to the professionals. Why? Because modern, computer-controlled engines require high-tech tools to diagnose, and repair, any problems.
Even if you own a code reader, chances are good you don't have access to the complete list of diagnostic tests and troubleshooting procedures recommended by the manufacturer, meaning that you could wind up spending piles of cash chasing down the problem.
Other DIY Car Repairs to Avoid
Other car repairs you cannot fix yourself include windshield replacement, overheating, and transmission repair and replacement, along with safety-critical repairs like replacing air bags, seat belt components, and traction control system components. By knowing what repairs you can, and can't, tackle yourself, you'll save time and money on your car maintenance in the long run while ensuring your own safety.