Do you fix other people’s cars? I do, but only in certain situations for the right people and the right car.
Case in point, last weekend I found myself working on a 2004 Civic belonging to our friends (who we’ll call Don and Sally). Sally texted me on Thursday:
Can you do something for me?
What is it?
Can you get a drivers side rear door for our Civic?
What’s wrong? I though you just needed an outside handle?
Now the window won’t go up.
Oh. You don’t need a door. Do you want to switch cars for a couple of days?
Is that necessary?
Yes, that’ll help.
So my wife had a coffee with Sally on Friday, and the Focus got traded for the Civic. This is how it arrived, with a nice but temporary duct tape and cardboard solution and no exterior handle.
Bright and early at 7am on Saturday I dived into the back door. Honda did a much better job than Ford at hiding the fasteners, but 5 minutes of YouTube later I knew exactly how to get at them.
Next I had to dig my way back to the exterior door handle, which is apparently the first component to go into the door and requires removal of just about everything else. I checked that I had power to the window switch, so the problem was either the switch or the motor.
By mid morning I was off to the local U-Pick yard. It was scorching sunny and hot, but I did find another black Civic. Two hours later I was home with a latch, handle, switch, window lifter, and a sunburned neck.
I put the parts in, and before reinstalling the door panel I tested it out: Door opens and closes, Yes! Window down, Yes! Window up, No!
Oh boy. Did I mention I’m a mechanical engineer and not an electrical engineer? After a bit of testing wire continuity and fooling about with a battery and the door lifter I’d removed I concluded the actual problem was with the switches and/or grounding within the front door. I didn’t want to tear into the other door and make another trip to the junkyard, so I washed the Civic while I thought about what to do.
I had power at the rear door, and the ground was supposed to be through the front door but if I could isolate the right wires and run them straight to ground, then the switch in the back seat would work although the driver control would still not function.
So the next step was to map out the window switch, which had 5 terminals. After figuring out what was connected to what in all three positions I concluded if I cut wire 3 and 5, tied them together and grounded it the window would work.
My wife looked over my shoulder during this exercise and asked “How can you possibly know that from your drawing?”. Logic, my dear, either this will work or it’ll set the car on fire and both ways the problem will be solved.
Cut, twist, solder and tape. Window down, Yes. Window up, YESSSS! After taping up the vapor barrier and installing the door panel it was 4pm, too late to start working on my VW. Since I was on a roll and didn’t like the looks of the Civic’s clouded headlights I grabbed my lens restoration kit and spent an hour doing that.
By this point I was too tired to bother taking pictures, but I had a car with four functional doors and four windows that go up and down, cleaned on the outside with clear headlights. Sally got it back Sunday morning, no charge.
I’ve worked on this car before, last year Don and I put a front bumper and headlight on it after Sally clouted something in a parking lot.
Somehow I feel called to do this because I can, although my criteria is strict:
- The car must be worth fixing relative to the cost and complexity of the repair
- The car owner must be of limited means and limited mechanical ability
- The repair has to be interesting to me, and can’t take more than a weekend
This was the case here, and there went another day I didn’t work on the VW.
This is how I can serve others, I may be storing up treasures in heaven, but at this rate I’m not driving there in the Beetle. 🙂
My kids have informed me that they’ll have me work on their cars, so that’s something to look forward to in five years or so. Whose cars do you work on, and why?
Nothing major mechanical.
Wipers, check & top fluids, air & cabin filters.
I can also change plugs & cables if it needs.
My biggest obsession is tire pressures. I keep
them just a little above the PSI listed on the
b-pillar sticker on most cars. I never go by
the cold max PSI on the tire, unless the car
mfg specifies it as recommended(rare except
on light trucks).
So, in others words “Nothing mechanical” period?
jon wrote: “So, in others words “Nothing mechanical” period?”
Read again – there’s a MAJOR in there. As in replacing tie
rods, lifting blocks out, thermostats, brakes, etc.
I have friends and family members that cannot pump
their own GAS, let alone do even the things that I can
You have talents and skills, I have talents and skills,
everyone on this board has them – and they are given
to us by, and subject only to the judgement of God – and
no one elses’.
I am somewhat of a mechanic on the side.. I suppose you could call it a part time job on top of my actual full time job. Most of the time its working on my own three jeeps haha. But in all honesty I have a name around town so I end up working on lots of people’s jeeps and other Cars. I used to wrench as a side business quite a bit more, its slowed down lately. A nice way to make a little bit of money and help folks save money vs what shops charge nowadays
Yes, late model stuff if it is a quickie, only cool older stuff for the longer projects. I have a ’50 Studebaker Champion in the driveway now for a laundry list of stuff including having the instruments rebuilt.
If it is an older Honda I love to help. I can change brakes and rotors, spark plugs, cabin filters, fix power door lock actuators. etc. The newer stuff is too involved and confusing.
Like YourSoundMan, nothing major. But boy, am I ready for the minor fixes!
I keep the following items in my truck: a JNC660 battery booster, 24 foot jumper cables (I know, redundant), a Black & Decker tire inflater that runs on 120 or 12 volt (actually I have 3 of these – I keep one at my girl friend’s home), a tow strap, a long outdoor extension cord, a good tire gauge, and two flashlights. In my garage I have two Century 87121 battery chargers & engine starters for both 12 and 6 volt batteries (one very old, the other just old), a few tire repair kits, and a few cheap tire gauges with deviations marked on them based on my good tire gauge. And that third B&D inflater.
I have rescued numerous friends, neighbors, and at least one ex-wife and one ex-wife’s second husband (his Audi RS6 had the battery in the trunk, really annoying) from dead batteries. Some people multiple times.
I plugged a leaking tire on an ex-wife’s TSX, refilled it, and told her to have a professional mechanic redo it. She drove on that tire for another 2 years before trading in in on a new Honda Fit. Then I fixed a leaking tire on the Fit; same story.
People sometimes call me an automotive anal retentive nut case. They also call me when their car will not start.
My wife’s. Cautiously selected jobs only. It is too easy to become the target of a pointed finger.
My son’s truck. Unfortunately he is not able to work on it himself.
My other son’s car. I do that with him because he is curious and likes to know stuff. I show him the task at hand and he does most of the work. It’s a father – son delight. We go to the parts stores together. My wallet is his friend.
No one else’s car. Because it is too easy to become the target of a pointed finger.
I work on relative’s & friend’s cars. I do maintenance, tune ups, brakes, suspension, & minor engine work. Biggest thing I’ve done is timing belts. I did re-ring & bearings in my vette 350 (with the engine in the car), engine was extremely clean inside & it was a success. I don’t look to make a lot of $$ doing it & I don’t search for new customers, I do like my weekends.
Of all my close friends, I’m the only one who’s crazy enough to think that working on cars is actually fun. So, every time a friend’s car’s AC needs a recharge or starts leaking coolant, I get a call.
Anything that requires more than a day or two to fix or for me to buy additional tools gets a pass. Ususally, I only charge a 12 pack of semi-quality brew for the whole job.
However, after my buddy’s ’03-ish Jeep Liberty left rusty coolant stains on my driveway, I am way more selective about where these repairs must take place.
As a professional mechanic of boats, if you do a good job, there will be no pointing finger.
I have learned about the finger pointing the hard way. I did something good, a few months later the engine died for causes unrelated to what I did. Guess who was blamed for the engine’s departure.
Yep- Happens all the time: “Ever since you fixed my car’s radio, my dishwasher is making a weird noise.”
Depends on what she looks like 😉 …
I try to avoid it, too many potential problems. I’m more inclined to help someone to work on their own car themselves if they have at least some mechanical aptitude but lack experience.
I avoid touching other people’s cars…..I am proficient enough to work on my own car….I have changed water pump, coolant elbows, wheel bearings, front axle shafts, engine oil, tranny fluid and filter, brakes, fuel filter, egr valve, coolant temp sensor, plugs, wires, coils,…….However, the most I have done for someone else was for a now ex-girlfriend..I did a couple of oil changes and wiper blade replacements for her and that was it….When she needed brakes and struts, I told her to take it in……First of all, I have only owned Chevies and she had a Dodge Dynasty…..so I was not familiar with Chrysler brakes and second, I did not want to mess up the job and have her car out of commission as a result….I was not about to tear apart her car and then have some complication where I would not be able to get it back together…. If it is my car and I screw something up, the only person I feel responsible to is myself…..The waggling finger as someone described it in an earlier reply…..Fortunately, I have never put my car out of commission as a result of working on it.
I’ll tackle anything regarding fluid changes, maybe with the exception of transmission, troubleshooting electronic issues(or adding a stereo or something), brakes I’ll do, engine stuff I limit to plugs, belts and sensors, maybe easy to access gaskets or something. Basically stuff that shops can take advantage with pricing but not stuff where my generosity is taken advantage of. Nothing suspension related though, just to avoid this:
Friend/relative “ever since you fixed that tie rod thingie in my car it’s pulled to the right”
Me “Did you take it to an alignment shop afterwards like I told you”
Friend/relative “no that’s why I had you do it”
Only close family members. The problem is there is an awful lot of family close by!
Recently a couple of family members have needed replacement or first cars. Found a really clean ’95 Prizm close by to replace a recently totaled Mazda 6. for $750. Had a sometimes no start problem, in fact didn’t start when we went to look at it. I could see cracks on the aftermarket distributor mounted coil so figured that was the problem. A genuine Toyota distributor from U pull, along with pads, rotors and front tires and good to go. Another one just got her first car. An ’07 Cobalt for 2k with 125k miles. After a week she rear ended a BMW. I got the front end pulled out enough so it was running and driving again. It needed upper tie bar welded in and I don’t weld, so off to a body shop it went. Had estimates of over 5k, was fixed for $1800 which included new tie bar, hood and latch assembly, grill, headlamps,bumper cover and painting. Her 2k Cobalt quickly turned into a $3800 Cobalt. Just happy the airbags didn’t go off.
Still have to deal with check engine light that’s now on, runs good and back on the road though. According to the scanner the MAS and MAP sensor are bad, they were both hit by the impact of the collision, so I still need to deal with that. Between family and my own cars I keep them going for just the cost of parts.
Picked up a really clean and original ’87 Jetta GL last year for $700. It wouldn’t start and the guy who recently purchased it from the original owner gave up on it. All it needed was a $25.00 fuel pump relay. This car will go to another family member soon. It has come in handy as a loaner for use while in between cars from the 2 recent accidents.
For friends – Only in emergencies.
The cars some of them own I won’t work on under any circumstances.
For family – I do all the fixing with the help of a brother-in-law.
I’m not a mechanic, so the most I do is Good Samaritan stuff like helping people who are pulled over with flat tires or are overheating (since I invariably have all fluids on tap in my trunk owning 2 70s sedans). I have changed my parents wiper blades. More often, because almost everything has broken on one of my cars in the past 16 years, I serve in the role of diagnostician. All “problem” noises are familiar to me at this point and I can usually take the first few steps of isolating the issue (for example, fuse vs short vs actual broken component or some combo thereof). Then I have my parents go to their mechanic, say what we’ve already tested and checked, and it prevents unnecessary “labor” charges being added to the bill and keeps them focused.
I don’t do as much work on my own cars as I used to. I have done work on my kids’ cars, including quite a lot when my eldest had that 89 Grand Marq. I have also stepped up to help with some minor issues on cars belonging to kids’ friends, if only to diagnose a noise or a problem. I have also stepped in on a car that I have sold to a friend, mainly because I know it well.
On my own car (or one of my kids’) I am OK with accepting responsibility if I break something or if my diagnosis is off and the part we replace doesn’t fix the problem as expected. I am less OK with taking on the warranty obligations for cars of others.
Used to do it for extra money on the side, but decided life’s too short to work 7 days a week. So I kept raising my prices in an effort to discourage people in a polite sort of way. Didn’t work, so I ended up just shutting the whole enterprise down.
These days I employ much the same criteria as DougD, at no charge. I do like beer though…
I don’t mind helping people who need and appreciate it, and it helps me keep my hand in a bit since I haven’t pulled wrenches full time for over 15 years. I love youtube videos for this sort of thing, and the mechanics who work for me use that reference all the time.
I recently replaced the interior door handle on my brother’s 2010 Sierra and a youtube video showed me where all the hidden holding factors were to remove the door panel, and a kit purchased on line avoided having to buy an entire new interior panel. Saved 500 bucks Canadian!
I do pretty much all maintenance work on our own cars, and most repairs, although more of that is getting farmed out these days due to my work schedule.
We’re in the early empty nester season of life now, and I’ll gladly help my boys with work on their cars as needed.
As for working on other’s cars, it really boils down to “looking for the good works prepared in advance” for me to do. We had a missionary family stop by a couple summers ago, and I noticed one of the tires on their (very tired) full-size van was nearly flat. Closer inspection revealed it was worn down to the steel belts and wouldn’t hold air. I put their spare on and went online and ordered them a new set of tires at our local Wal*mart and sent them on their way. Had another missionary family (there’s apparently a trend here) stop through and their Windstar had some sort of problem with the fuel sender, so they never knew how much gas they had (and had to estimate by miles driven). We drove into town and got the part and put it on, which fixed the problem.
One of the most interesting occurrences was when I saw an elderly lady in a late ’90s Buick hit a piece of metal in the road ahead of me, which punctured her tire. She pulled over after a mile, and I tucked in behind her, quickly offering to change to her spare after we pulled off the road a little farther. I was wearing my flight jacket which has a B-17 patch on it, and she commented on it, saying that her husband had passed recently and that he had been a B-17 pilot in WWII. I was subsequently able to look up the airplane and find pictures of the crew, including her husband.
As for working on other folks’ cars, I did more of this back when I were a younger man, including sorting out a ’66 Beetle that my flying buddy had bought for his son (pic).
And then there was this cute girl at church who had a early ’70s Buick Century that needed a tuneup and some minor rust repair around the rear window. Did the work over a weekend and ended up marrying her, too!
No more. Usually, when working in a time constraint, things go wrong! I don’t know if it’s because you’re rushed, or what?
I used to do a lot, but mostly when time was not a factor.
Funny story… a friend’s Saab 9000 needed a new in-tank fuel pump. I read up on the job & the exhaust needed to be removed to drop the fuel tank! Instead, I removed the rear seat to find a removable access cover for the in-tank fuel pump! However, when I removed the cover plate, the pump was actually located on the opposite side where there was no access cover. So, I cut a nice round hole in the body directly above the removable pump assembly and replaced the Bosch pump for $87 (part). I tidied up the job by fabricating a new cover plate over the new hole. The Saab Stealership wanted $3k+ to replace entire fuel pump/float sender assembly, by dropping the exhaust method. So, I charged my buddy $187 for the job. He gave me $300. That was a “good” side job!
I used to work on other people’s cars for money on the side, but no more. One time I was in the middle removing the brakes for replacement on a Super Beetle when the owner called and said she had an emergency and needed the car immediately. I protested, but finally acquiesced, and gave her car back. Fortunately, no problems after doing that but I decided from then on I was only working on my cars. Divorce was forcing me to move out of the house anyway (too much time spent working on cars!), and so my wrenching for others days were over. 30+ years later, arthritis limits what I can do even on my own cars. I hate to pay others for what I know how to do, but it beats being in pain for weeks or months after.
For several years I serviced Mary’s ’68 Beetle, which had a lot of miles but was always in top condition. One time I went to adjust the clutch, which meant crawling under the car and turning a large wing nut at the end of the clutch cable. This time, the cable turned along with the wing nut, so I clamped my locking jaw pliers on the cable to stop the twisting. Finally getting the proper free play at the clutch pedal, I forgot I still had the pliers clamped to the clutch cable, and away the car went. A couple of months later I needed the pliers but couldn’t find them. I came to realization that they could be still clamped to Mary’s clutch cable, but I knew telling her would upset her, so I let it go. What’s the worst that could happen; the pliers falling off? About another month goes by and Mary calls and wants to schedule a service for her car. I chose the closest time available, and when she left the car I couldn’t wait to look up underneath. My locking pliers were still on the cable, 3000 miles later. That was almost 40 years ago, and I still use those same Sears Craftsman pliers today.
Good story! Love those needle nose Vise-Grips! 😎
You should learn to put on sunscreen if you will be out long enough to sunburn. I have not done much work on my cars, but the 71 Riviera (long ago) had a problem with the automatic climate control. I figured out that it was a vacuum leak somewhere. I looked at the maze of tubing under the hood a number of times. Finally I saw a junction box on the firewall that was held on by at least 2 screws and it looked like it might have a crack. After taking it off and sealing it back up, I remounted it with one screw so there was no stress. What the climate control did was to randomly go from heat to no heat and air out the A/C vents. In the winter this was not good. After the fix, no problems. The 86 Electra T-type had electronic controls for the A/C and no vacuum controls (I think so did the 83 Skyhawk). No one has asked me to work on theirs, and I doubt I would be of much help anymore.
However, I do replace sections that break on a sickel bar when I am cutting hay (if this counts). The middle and ends are the tricker parts to do. One does not want to count on the hydraulics to hold things up so I always engage the mechanical stop.
Re: replacing sections – bolted, or riveted? (c:
They are bolted. Were on the old one as well. The trick is not to tighten the nuts too much or then you must pound the bolt out, which quite often has to be done to replace the section anyway. The machine is a 16 ft New Holland.
I will probably replace the wiper blades myself. The CTS does not allow the blades to be moved up from the parked position (drivers side will). If the engine is shut down while the wipers are in a continuous mode (low speed), they will park where they happen to be when the off button is pushed. Turn the wipers off, and they return to the parked position.
As little as possible! 🙂
Seriously, I have done a bit, but mostly just diagnosing. But not full-on repair work, which I avoid generally now. I spend way too much time fixing houses.
I don’t work on cars as I know just enough to lose my temper but am grateful for the friends over the years that have given of their time and the skin off their knuckles to keep me on the road.
kudos too all of you!
I have evolved with the times. Instead of doing any physical work (and suffering the liability and the “ownership” of future issues with the car), I will run an OBD2 download and reset, and arm the owner with the interpretations of the codes. Alternatively, I will Google problems and tell the owner if it is a common thing with the car or an “outlier” of a problem, along with suggestions on a fix. Finally, I will share common weaknesses on cars they are considering buying, again by Googling. I feel like I am offering value, but I am not “adopting” their car and taking implied responsibility for its future maintenance and upkeep.
Learned my lesson on this back in college. Did a tuneup on a fellow student’s wife’s Camaro (don’t remember the year, prolly late 60’s, SBC of course.)
About a week later, the timing chain slipped when she was driving. He accused me of wrecking the car, I tested all my tune up settings which were still good. He calmed down after the dealer identified the problem. This was the end of my working on non-family members cars.
I have done rust repairs on family vehicles, but that is it. I try to help and troubleshoot friend’s cars when they have problems.
I’ll work on older/pre-computer cars, but anything from the 80s on I’m selective.
I also don’t work on really obscure or rarely seen anymore cars. It has to have easily available parts, either at a local Pick-and-Pull, or NAPA/Advance/Autozone parts store.
Right now I need to work on my own car, an ex-police Crown Victoria with rear doors that can’t be opened from inside the car. The internet says it’s missing a few crucial rods and levers.
I do all the maintenance on my own vehicles and have done work on other’s cars as well. For years one of my brother’s has always had at least one older car and he isn’t overly mechanically inclined. So I have done major repairs and modifications to his cars, especially ones that have been in the family for years. I still work on his old Malibu and plan to install a quick ratio steering box sometime this summer. I have done work on other relatives cars, especially my parents vehicles (I used to do all the maintenance on my mother’s vehicle before she passed). I have also helped out friends, but I tend to do this much less now as I don’t have the time. I much prefer older vehicles to work on, and even once volunteered to fix a friend’s old Vette when I saw him warming it up in the summer so it wouldn’t stall. But often times when people come to me now I just give them advice and tell them I don’t have the time.
I do all my own mechanical work. Ive helped neighbors and strangers with the odd minor thing. I’ve helped mechanically inclined friends and relatives with their own projects. But i would not touch someone elses car to do any mechanical work on my own. I have no legal protection if something goes wrong, especially liability in an accident
Even if the problem has nothing to do with my work, I have no interest in defending myself. In my province, it’s illegal to do mechanical work to someone else’s car, unless you’re qualified with a mechanics license.
What law says it’s illegal to work on someone’s car if you’re unlicensed? I could see this for a business but between to private citizens? Not challenging you just curious? I agree that you’d always be civilly liable.
In general: Eff no. Last project like that I let myself in for was taking care of deferred periodic maintenance on a friend’s girlfriend’s early-’90s Chev Cadavalier. That was pretty much the never-againmobile as regards fixing other people’s cars.
Hell, I scarcely even work on my own cars any more. But at least when I do that, any screwups I might make accrue only to myself and I don’t have to explain them to anyone else (beyond “Sorry, sweetie, I can’t take you shopping”). If it’s somebody else’s car, that greatly magnifies the ignominy and consequences of a screwup or bad-luck episode or parts/tools-availability situation.
It also introduces a serious element of liability; much though I hate to admit it, if the car owner gets hurt or dead or faces an expense because something goes wrong that can be at all tied to my having touched their car, I can be held very, very liable. Who the hell wants that hanging overhead, to say nothing of the potential destruction of a friendship even if no formal legal proceedings go forward?
That said: I am very good at finding difficult parts, and I’m happy to keep my neighbours’ cars’ lights in working condition—I am almost literally swimming in car bulbs. If a non-car-person friend is struggling with some easy task (wiper blades, that kind of thing) I’ll pitch in. I’ll help change a tire. I’ll give a jump start. And I’ll help diagnose, if I can; a few years ago I returned to my car in a parkade to find a befuddled owner trying fruitlessly to start a ’95 Neon. She asked me for a jump start, and I explained that wouldn’t help—the car was cranking fine, it just wouldn’t fire. I had her turn the ignition key on–off–on–off–on, leaving it in the on position, and directed her attention to the Check Engine light, which went »Flash« »Flash« (long pause) »Flash« »Flash« »Flash« »Flash« »Flash« (pause) »Flash« »Flash« »Flash« »Flash« »Flash« . That was a single flash and a single flash (one and one, eleven) followed by five flashes and five flashes (five and five, fifty-five). Fifty-five is end-of-codes. Eleven, on a car with distributorless ignition, means the ECM isn’t seeing a signal from the cam or crank position sensor during cranking, or the timing belt has jumped from its initial learned position. Probably the cam or crank position sensor, since the cranking cadence and rhythm sounded normal. I wasn’t able to get her car started, but I was able to give her some information to at least guard against whoever might try to scare her into a bigger-than-necessary repair bill.
I used to be more willing to dive in. Going back to my University of Michigan days, I was able to get the Solar Car Team leader’s Dodge Spirit back on the road with a paperclip late one night—I’d got a “Halp!” phone call from either him or one of the other teammates who knew I knew stuff about Mopars. I drove out to the Engineering campus with my toolbox. His car was totally dead, wouldn’t crank. A jump start would crank and start it, but the Check Engine light remained lit and the engine would die as soon as the cables were unhooked. Triple keyflick to pull the codes: 12, 41, 55, that is start of codes, alternator field circuit open or shorted, end of codes. A close look at the alternator showed the nut had come off one of the two field studs. The other nut on the other stud was holding the twin-tab terminal firmly in place, dead-centred such that the nutless terminal tab was making no contact with its stud. No chance of the correct nut at whatever-thirty at night, so I fashioned a retainer clip from a paperclip, whereupon his car started and stayed running.
Setting the time machine for a few years before that: that time in high school when the Activities and Extracurriculars Office secretary’s Jeep Wagoneer refused to start. A dead battery, as it seemed. A few of the other yearbook editors and I happened upon the scene. James, who had a noxious superiority complex, set about using jumper cables (“Stand back, Dan, I’ve got it under control”). Except not, ’cause it didn’t work; the Jeep remained dead. Tad, who had excessive money, didn’t want to sully his precious BMW 7er to the dread diseases transmissible by contact with electrical systems of, y’know, American cars, so he mumbled some lame excuse. Okeh, now it was my turn; I’d been watching what was (and wasn’t) going on in the engine compartment. I commandeered two Philips head screwdrivers from James (“Stand back, James, I’ve got it under control, James”). Jammed one screwdriver between each battery terminal post and its cable clamp. The underhood light suddenly got bright. “OK, try it now, Mrs. D.” James and Tad backed up in a hurry, certain I was about to get broiled or electrocuted or something. Mrs. D keyed the engine, which started immediately. Ching!
From there the wayback machine takes us curbside (ahem) in front of my folks’ house when I was eight or nine. Babysitter’s much-neglected ’63 Volvo Amazon/122 wagon refused to start for her. Plenty cranking (in the slow manner of a worn Bosch 12v direct-drive starter) but no fire. I just barely didn’t need tiptoes to see the pancake air filters on the twin SU carbs were super crusty, the same way the old one on dad’s lawnmower had been until I’d recently changed it. No way I could reach to do anything about it myself; I told my decidedly un-car-mechanical father to remove them. He was “reluctant to fool around with parts of the engine”, but I was persistent and the babysitter really did have to get home, so he compromised by removing one of the air cleaners. Whereupon the longsuffering B18 chugged to life at the turn of the key.
(And if I run across somebody in a Slant-Sixmobile, I’m likely to violate all of my principled objections and dive in)
Only jump the battery or change a tire. All other items are off the table.
See “pointed finger” syndrome reference above!!
I’m not a mechanic, and didn’t have the benefit of a dad or uncle who fixed his own vehicles or equipment, but I do have fair aptitude with minor repairs, and good problem solving skills, so I only tackle rather minor fixes for myself or others. My rules are similar to those in the original post when it comes to volunteering. I only do work I know I can do right the first time, the car has to be one that I’m confident I can repair for its benefit as well as the owner’s, and I only offer to pitch in when I know the vehicle’s owner will either be without transport or suffering with an annoying or dangerous situation due to lack of funds and ability.
I work on my own cars and cars belonging to certain family members only. In rare circumstances other peoples cars too. Usually people come to me with absolute clunkers that have no business being on the road after suffering years of deferred or no maintenence. I don’t touch those ever! Some people expect a permanent lifetime warranty on what you do for them. Then there’s the stupid people. Snippet from an actual conversation “Remember last fall when my brake lights weren’t working and you fixed them for me?”… “Well last week when it snowed I hit the brakes and slid into a ditch. It’s all your fault because it never did that before you fixed it.”.
I agreed to fix a head gasket issue with one of the neighbour’s cars many years ago. He was real stupid, had a limited income and I felt sorry for him. We agreed on a price with half the money up front for parts that needed to be purchased. Once into it when both heads were off I found the water passages nearly completely blocked with rusty sludge. It was soft like peanut butter so I was able to get nearly all of it cleaned out. A good chemical flush afterward would get the rest I figured and it did. One of the heads had a burnt exhaust valve but I had a spare head kicking around that was in good condition. We negotiated a price, cheap, on the used head as this was not in our original agreement. His father in law whom I knew very well was present both times when money was discussed and agreed it was an amazing deal on both the original price and the extra for the used head. I know for sure that he was the one paying for it. With the job done, rad and block chemically flushed and refilled with fresh antifreeze it was running better than it ever had before. He was extremely happy with the result yet went around behind my back complaining of the extra charge for replacing the head and how badly I had ripped him off by replacing the severely worn belts that have nothing to do with the engine. In his mind he should have got the head for free since I wasn’t using it anyway. Nice.
Two weeks after completing the job I was passing by his house and he was out working on the car so I decided to check it out. He was draining the antifreeze out for the summer and replacing it with water because “it’s summer and antifreeze is for winter”. I explained to him about what antifreeze/coolant does, reminded him of the sample of the sludge that I saved for him to see, gave him the prestone jug and told him to go inside the house and read the entire label. While he was inside I undid his “work” and put the coolant back in. The very next day he drained it anyway.
Two months later he took the car in for new shocks and they told him the rear springs were sagging and gave him an estimate for replacing the springs. He came to me with the estimate of $425 and asked how much I would do it for. I told him $900 as long as he promised to sell it right away and never own another vehicle ever again. His father in law was there too, to make sure I didn’t rip him off again, and we had a good laugh afterward.
I am very carefull of what I do and mostly for whom.
I have fixed more friend’s and neighbor’s cars than I can remember. I enjoyed doing most of the work. Over the past several years I have come to the realization that people don’t really appreciate it for long, and I seldom felt that I got the value of my work back in friendship. It got to the point to where certain people would only call me if/when they had a question about their car or needed something fixed. I got really tired of that.
On the flip side, I just had started dating this wonderful young lady, when her 1982 Honda Accord dropped a valve and ruined the engine. I installed a used JDM Engine one weekend, and got her back on the road. Her parents thought I was wonderful after that, we got married, and I have very appreciative in-laws. All in all, that was a weekend well-spent.
Nowadays, whenever somebody needs their car fixed, I’m “very busy”.
I try to avoid it but sometimes it’s easy money. Once people know you wrench they will hound you though.
I used to. I’m a mechanic by trade, although I left that 1983. I help mates out with
engine swaps, stripping parts & minor jobs. On our DD cars, I’ll do the lubes, brake pads, bulbs & wiper rubbers, nothin more. On the ’69 Buick, just about anything. Last job was replacement front springs & sway bar.
Same here but no more and even back then there was usually a quid pro quo involved unless it was a VERY close and dear friend.
I can’t fix much but I have done air filters, wipers and fluid checks on other cars. I can help a person pinpoint an issue, just because I’ve had so many old cars and usually know where the squeaks and rattles come from.
I’m always working on my Brother’s old cars , often when we’re thousands of miles from home on a road trip and something I told him to fix long ago (years before sometimes) fails….
Last year in July we were heading to busy Mom’s ashes when I lost TWO tires in one day , all of them were mis matched and worn out , I got so pissed off I bought a set of four in the very next town .
Oddly , they few people I offer to repair their klunkers for , never show up , the folks I don’t want to touch their crapcans , ask often .
As mentioned , there’s rarely a win or even a simple ” thank you ” .
One sweet Lady where I just retired from , I look after her Jalopy , a Buick Reatta (?) she bought after her beloved Toyota SUV caught on fire driving to work one day .
No, not under any circumstances. Between 9 cars and 1 ship I do not have the time to waste on other people’s cars. The free time left over is spent relaxing for a few hours. To even do so is just opening a hornet’s nest of issues which I wouldn’t get near with a then foot pole.
I do most my own work on my vehicles. Only for family members or very close friends will I work on someone else’s. I have two friends with slight physical disabilities and not a lot of money, so I will help them do basic stuff. No major repairs or body work, however.
I do as much work as I can on our 4 cars and just hate to pay someone else to do something I can do. I am not afraid to tackle most things and can usually figure out how to perform needed repairs. Of course, the internet is a big help with tutorials and I have a good friend who is a former GM mechanic who is good at helping out or giving needed advice. It also helps that this is a small town and if you have a problem you usually know someone who can help out or tell you what you are doing wrong.
I sometimes work on neighbor’s vehicles but am usually just asked to diagnose a problem. I also work on cars for friends once in awhile or my wife’s friends’ cars, but that is rare. Most of my friends are gear heads, too, so I don’t usually get asked to do more than help.
I also have worked on relatives’ cars, especially our youngest daughter’s late S10 Blazer. She finally replaced that turkey which then saved me a lot of time and cursing. The other two girls live out of town. I worked on their cars when they lived at home.
I work on all of my own cars, my MIL’s car, and cars of a couple of neighbors and other family friends. My church used to have a mechanic’s ministry one Saturday a month where we would provide free labor and parts at wholesale cost for those in need (memorable example: 1988 Cavalier with 287K miles on it, and it looked like the owner lived in it as well). I like to keep my skills honed and stay somewhat proficient, as I have a desk job pushing paper during the week.
Last night I was outside until midnight removing engine accessories on my 1990 F350 with a 460, due to a coolant leak between the timing cover and the engine block. Will replace or rebuild everything that I take off while I am in there (probably replace timing chain as well). Debating on new water pump or using existing one, due to crap-shoot nature of buying new parts these days (even OEM). Do I think the existing used part can go another few years, or do I take a gamble on a “new” Chinese-made part with ball-bearings potentially made out of hardened peanut butter?
Well…at least its hardened…..
Yes, I’ll do a few things, if I know the car or can see it’s not too big of a project. I’ve noticed some people get freaked out if you just remove a door panel to, say, replace a door lock actuator.
Just did that to my father-in-law’s ’99 F-150 in about 20 minutes. He used to work on cars, so he was not afraid to let me have at it. After nursing a ’69 Mark III’s various systems back to health, such repairs are a piece of cake.
Never having had any training, and only very little experience helping anyone who themselves knew what the hell they were doing, no. I’ll work on my own stuff to the best of my ability (and sometimes beyond) but I’m not going to use anyone else’s car as a learning experience. If I get asked to lend a hand on a project that someone else is doing, OK.
I made an exception for my last girlfriend’s oft-maladied Alero. The first thing (of many) that I fixed on that car was very simple (a split lower radiator hose) but she was grateful and I think it impressed her father. Considering I ended up marrying her, it was a good exception, and making a good impression on the future father-in-law is always helpful!