Solve Your Car Troubles: Repair Guide for Beginners

The first hint of a car problem can bring on a lot of stress and tricky questions, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in auto maintenance. Is your car having trouble starting because of the cold, or is there a problem with your battery? What auto parts do you need to replace to stop that stress-inducing rattling noise? It’s important to be proactive in caring for your car, both for the sake of your safety and your wallet. Here is a beginner’s guide to diagnosing and solving routine car problems before they become larger issues.

Identify the Problem

Before you can address a car problem, it helps to have as much information as possible. Even if you can’t fix a car problem yourself, diagnosing it can save you money in repair bills if the mechanic spends less expert time on diagnostics. There’s also the chance the problem is something you can easily replace yourself.

Use multiple senses when diagnosing car problems. Here are the ways a beginner can use four of their five senses to pinpoint an issue:

  • Look carefully under the hood for obvious signs of damage, such as a swollen battery box or cracked plastic.
  • Listen to your car while it runs to pinpoint where rattles or bumping sounds may be coming from.
  • Feel how your car handles or resists turns to stay on top of steering or undercarriage issues. 
  • Pay attention to any strange smells, such as gasoline or rotten-egg smells, as these can be signs of dangerous chemical leaks.
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The more specific information you can gather, the greater the chance that you will successfully diagnose your vehicle issue.

Get the Right Replacement Parts

Did you know that you don’t have to be an expert to find the right replacement parts for your vehicle? A VIN decoder is a database that uses your car’s Vehicle Identification Number to show you exactly the parts you need. It contains information on any car manufactured after 1981. Use this tool whenever you have to buy replacement parts, as parts usually don’t transfer between vehicles, even if the vehicles have the same manufacturer.

Know Your Limitations

Having a DIY spirit is admirable in a car owner. However, there are some issues that are dangerous to attempt to fix yourself. If your car has steering issues, this is probably a suspension or alignment problem that needs expert attention. 

Be careful with any electrical repairs if you’re not experienced in working with electrical systems. A car wiring diagram can give you a useful overview of how your car’s wiring works or help with simple repairs. Trying to repair complex wiring issues yourself may make the issue worse. If you’re not sure, ask an expert.

Prevent Future Issues

The best way to deal with car problems is to stay on top of routine maintenance. This goes beyond oil changes and tire replacements.

Always pay attention to dashboard alert lights. Periodically inspect your car under the hood and make sure no parts are swelling, leaking or cracked. Investigate car problems at the first sign of trouble, even if you’re a beginner, rather than hoping they go away on their own. Proactive care will keep your car running over many more years and miles.

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