Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My affinity for car work

Two different people have asked me fairly recently how I learned how to perform car maintenance and repairs.  One of those two people who asked was my father, so that tells you it wasn't him I learned from.  My step-dad was handy with tools, but mostly for wood-working (he used to make wooden toys to sell at craft fairs when I was a kid).  I had access to tools, but no one to show me what I was doing, so I was on my own.

First, a bit of background.  From early on, I liked to tinker and take things apart.  I used to take apart GI Joes and swap body parts just for grins.  In fact, I took apart many of my toys.  In Middle School, I decided to take apart the computer I had at the time and built my own in high school, so obviously I was always fascinated with how things work and taking them apart.

I started small.  I picked up a Haynes Manual for my 86 Cutlass Supreme Coupe and started with the simple stuff.  Oil changes, and changing the fuel filter.  That is about all the repair I did on that car.  Then I was off in College and got my truck, but that meant I didn't really have anywhere to do car work, except occasionally over Matt's house. I stepped up to doing brake pads next, differential fluid and spark plugs.  At this point, it was a combination of Haynes manuals and the internet, but still heavier on the former.  It wasn't until we lived in Germany and I had regular access to a lift that I started to get more serious and was seriously bitten by the mod bug on the Jetta and the 325i.  Now I was at the point where I relied mostly on write-ups I found on the internet.  I even dove into adding OEM parts that were only available in Europe which required some wiring to the computer and reprogramming.

Waiting for the start

There are still some things that I take it into the shop for because I lack the tools or confidence to do it, but as of last year I am to the point where I am comfortable swapping out brake calipers, bleeding the brakes, and just this week, I changed one of my axles myself.  No lift at home, but 4 jack stands and a much smaller version of me makes it a lot easier now too.  Still not comfortable enough to do a timing belt job on the TDIs though, so I have a ways to go before I am self-sufficient car repairs wise, but I do save a fair amount of money both doing my own maintenance and doing my own pre-track inspections.

rotors need to be resurfaced because racecar

So, I guess that basically covers it.  If you have any other car related questions, feel free to ask.

Part of what spawned this was on Saturday during Dub Deliverance, after my first session, I immediately jacked up the car and started looking in the front-left wheel area.  I knew SOMETHING was off, just wasn't sure what at first.  Turned out to be a failed CV boot.  My friend who was with me said he didn't think there would ever be anything he would experience in a car that would make him immediately jack up the car and look at the front drive-train.  Of course, much more is at stake on the track then on the street in terms of speeds and forces on the car, so hence my desire to immediately investigate after the session.

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