DIY v.s. Shop (What do you do and where do you draw the line)

steppinthrax

Diamond Member
Jul 17, 2006
3,990
6
81
I'm just curious from users here who go to the shop for their vehicle and who DIYs. Also where do you draw the line and just take it to a dealer. Do you do it to save money or just like getting your hands dirty.
 

Colt45

Lifer
Apr 18, 2001
19,721
1
0
Save cash mostly... I'll send a head in to get machined, but i can do damn near anything else.

I kinda suck at bodywork too.
 

exdeath

Lifer
Jan 29, 2004
13,679
10
81
I can either do most of my work myself or work with my father who is a professional mechanic and who has restored and built his own cars from ground up. Having access to a full shop 24/7 with all tools, electronics, lift, etc, really really helps DIY. Most average people could probably work on much of their car but can't due to lack of expensive specialized tools to perform even the simplest of tasks.

I usually draw the line at anything requiring artistic talent or precision component rebuilding and machine work, automatic transmissions, engine balancing, things requiring super big and expensive equipment devoted to a single task that even a full service auto shop will not have, etc. Especially body work and paint, thats more of an artists skill than a technical skill; kinda like the brightest programmer in the world couldn't model in Maya to save his life even though he understands how Maya works and knows graphics inside out. It's rare that a logically minded person also has abstract arbitrary artistic talent and I am not one of them. Head work I have done at a machine shop that specializes in just that; porting, polishing, valve jobs, etc are like sculpting art and you better know what you are doing. Fluid dynamics knowledge is pointless if you don't know how to work the metal like an art.

Other than stuff like that I like doing everything else myself.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
27,034
546
126
I've done just about everything from timing belts to clutches to engine swaps. I can't do bodywork, alignments or mount/balance tires.

I'm sure as I get older my time will be more valuable than the money saved and I'll start taking my car to the mechanic more....but that won't happen for the foreseeable future.

EDIT: As far as your poll, all are factors. Top two being I like doing it and I don't trust mechanics.
 

nweaver

Diamond Member
Jan 21, 2001
6,813
1
0
exdeath has it about right.

I do more now that I have access to a nicer shop/tools. The guy who helps me can actually machine almost anything you want, and we have fabbed mounts and stuff in the past.

I do it mostly for time/money. I can time my injection pump in an hour, without many problems and no parts. the local Diesel shop would charge me $400 for that. I also like to know it's done right.
 

exdeath

Lifer
Jan 29, 2004
13,679
10
81
Yeah, spending $300 for a tool that you will only use once in your life to swap a $75 part in 5 minutes is often a big turn off to the DIY :(

Two tools I had to buy myself for my car and my car alone were a pulley puller and a DOHC cam alignment and timing tool. Better to be safe and have the proper tools though than risk breaking, bending, or scoring something.
 

Zenmervolt

Elite member
Oct 22, 2000
24,512
21
81
It's all based on the tools I have on hand, the space I have available, and the amount of time I'd need to do the job myself.

For example, a timing belt replacement on my 951 requires a dedicated tool that costs around $600 to set the tension. I'll leave that to the shop. Timing belt on the Volvo has a built-in hydraulic tensioner and needs no special tools. I'll do that one myself when the time comes.

ZV
 

steppinthrax

Diamond Member
Jul 17, 2006
3,990
6
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Originally posted by: NutBucket
I've done just about everything from timing belts to clutches to engine swaps. I can't do bodywork, alignments or mount/balance tires.

I'm sure as I get older my time will be more valuable than the money saved and I'll start taking my car to the mechanic more....but that won't happen for the foreseeable future.

EDIT: As far as your poll, all are factors. Top two being I like doing it and I don't trust mechanics.

I feel the same to. I don't know why my poll was removed exactly. I think mechanics try to scam people most of the time.
 

steppinthrax

Diamond Member
Jul 17, 2006
3,990
6
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Originally posted by: exdeath
Yeah, spending $300 for a tool that you will only use once in your life to swap a $75 part in 5 minutes is often a big turn off to the DIY :(

Two tools I had to buy myself for my car and my car alone were a pulley puller and a DOHC cam alignment and timing tool. Better to be safe and have the proper tools though than risk breaking, bending, or scoring something.

Most parts places (i.e. autozone, advance auto) have a tool rental program which will loan most tools for free (i.e. ball joint puller, block tester, slide hammer, code reader etc...). They also will do a free battery charging and alternator testing. But I also think it's not really necessary as almost 90% of what can be done on most autos can be done with a nice socket set.....
 

steppinthrax

Diamond Member
Jul 17, 2006
3,990
6
81
I changed an automatic transmission once on my old saturn with no cherry picker. I removed the subframe bolts and used 4 bottle jacks to lower the frame from the car. I then pulled the transsmission out from the side. I figure if you can do that with limited tools you can do just about anything. Including removing the rear main seal etc...
 

exdeath

Lifer
Jan 29, 2004
13,679
10
81
Wire clothes hanger bent with a pair of vice grips and cut to a sharp point works good for yanking seals ;)

It's more a matter of time and convenience. How much time/hassle could you have saved with a drive on lift and a transmission jack? Having access to specialized tools turns a two hour job on your back in the dirt into a 15 minute job. Maybe I'm just spoiled by having access to a shop :p

I've done and seen some pretty ghetto improvisations though, even with professionals with real tools. Especially on newer cars where most bolts are impossible to get to or you finally get to it only to realize it's about 1/4" inch too long and wont clear a fender or a bracket... wood blocks, pry bars, hammers, turning a ratchet with the closed end of a wrench, all standard... I don't think the average Joe wants to know the kinds of things their car goes through when being worked on :)
 

Zenmervolt

Elite member
Oct 22, 2000
24,512
21
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Originally posted by: exdeath
I've done and seen some pretty ghetto improvisations though, even with professionals with real tools. Especially on newer cars where most bolts are impossible to get to or you finally get to it only to realize it's about 1/4" inch too long and wont clear a fender or a bracket... wood blocks, pry bars, hammers, turning a ratchet with the closed end of a wrench, all standard... I don't think the average Joe wants to know the kinds of things their car goes through when being worked on :)

18" pipe on the end of a 1/4" drive ratchet because neither the 3/8" nor the 1/2" drive ratchets that I wanted to use wouldn't fit.

Snapped the little ratchet drive nub right off. :eek: I don't remember how I eventually got the bolt loose though.

ZV
 

desy

Diamond Member
Jan 13, 2000
5,433
204
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I'll do some things but I won't go into the engine or tranny
Alternators,Water pumps, Starters OK but nothing like valves or timing belts.

Most crafty tool modification to remove a bolt on the tensioner for the fan belt was to put a bend in an offset box end wrench and lasoed a cord around the end to pull up
 

nweaver

Diamond Member
Jan 21, 2001
6,813
1
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Originally posted by: desy
I'll do some things but I won't go into the engine or tranny
Alternators,Water pumps, Starters OK but nothing like valves or timing belts.

Most crafty tool modification to remove a bolt on the tensioner for the fan belt was to put a bend in an offset box end wrench and lasoed a cord around the end to pull up

I had to heat/bend a ton on a 1/2 wrench to time the injection pump on my truck
 

nweaver

Diamond Member
Jan 21, 2001
6,813
1
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Originally posted by: steppinthrax
I changed an automatic transmission once on my old saturn with no cherry picker. I removed the subframe bolts and used 4 bottle jacks to lower the frame from the car. I then pulled the transsmission out from the side. I figure if you can do that with limited tools you can do just about anything. Including removing the rear main seal etc...

Ahh..the glory of RWD. My old volvo was pretty easy to swap the tranny out on.