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Car repair without a garage/driveway

I live in an apartment complex and they don’t allow you to do work on cars in the parking lot. I’ve looked into renting garage space, but thats expensive and I’m operating on a graduate student’s income (i.e. virtually non-existent). Does anybody have any suggestions on what I can do?

I will ask what ideas you have first.

What is wrong with the car?

Do you have any friends who own or rent a house and would let you work on it in one of their driveways?

Frankly, you would have to be a pretty good mechanic, have the right tools, and, most importantly, know what is wrong with the car to borrow a friend’s driveway. Otherwise, the car might sit there too long and you might wear out your welcome.

Some tasks are small enough so that you can do them after dark. Work an hour and leave until the following evening or alternate evenings to continue but this might be difficult if you need the car every day. Leave the car in visually operable condition, not with the wheels off, for example.

Find someone in the area with a yard full of cars; ask if you can work on yours there too. Give them a nice bottle of whatever they like when you are finished.

Do you have classmates who live in houses or on farms who could help you out?

Find some car crazy kids who would appreciate a lesson in car fixing and do the work at their parent’s house with their parent’s permission, of course.

Would one of your professors own a house where you could do the work?

Post your needs on appropriate bulletin boards at your college, online or otherwise.

Some auto parts stores will let you do simple stuff in their parking lots (assuming you buy your parts from them obviously).

Are you changing your oil or rebuilding your engine? Unless you know exactly what you are doing and have the right tools to do it, pay someone else. If you live near an auto mechanic technical school they may do it for the cost of parts.

Twotone

Go to your local AutoZone or similar auto parts store and see if they allow you to do minor work in their parking lot. If not, perhaps they have some ideas on getting local “garage” space so you can do your own repairs.

This is a purely hypothetical question at the minute. I’m just trying to get into car repair and so I was gonna buy some old car that needs work and learn by doing, but before I decided what to get I had to assess the logistics first.

I was leaning towards something that wasn’t running because the current owner was hust too lazy to do anything about it (and not something huge like it needs a whole new engine or anything like that). So it would be a project and not just minor repairs and thus it would probably have to be sitting in one spot for a while.

If you guys have any suggestions as to what would be a good beginner project car, I’d love to hear them. I’ve heard a Jeep CJ5 or CJ7 is good for beginners, but I want something I’d actually want to drive when I get it working, and I’m not a big fan of jeeps.

Don’t want to be a wet blanket, but…Start your hobby after you get your grad degree and have a good job.

At this point in time, you are probably doing well to take care of your required classes, perhaps be a grad assistant with its workload, and eat/sleep/work. Old junkers tend to be money pits (and Jeep ranks right up there). You clearly state you have little to no extra money. The best car is one that runs and requires little major maintenance…choose your brand and your car carefully.

In the long run, paying a mechanic at this stage of your life, unless you can find a friend who has a place to work on cars, is probably a cheaper alternative. I did basic maintenace on my own car in college, had a location to do it, saved a bit of money, but didn’t hesitate to engage a mechanic when I thought I was getting in over my head.

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I am glad I did not put any effort in answering your “purely hypothetical” question. I want to see what your grad student mind could come up with. No use in me making suggestions that you have already decided where not going to work out.

It is very good to think about where you will be doing your car work. In my experience not having a suitable work area was just as great of a hinderance as not having the money for the parts.

I faced the same issue in both rounds of graduate school that I went through. I had older cars, but there was no place to do any work. I didn’t have the time to work on the car anyway and keep up my assistantship duties and study for classes. When I was working on my master’s degree, there was a D-X service station about a block from where I lived that provided good service at a reasonable cost. When I want back to graduate school at another institution 4 years later, there was a Standard station just off campus that was good to me.

My suggestion is to find a good shop to take care of your needs and use the time for your studies. I know that income is a real problem for a graduate student–I’ve been there–but your time is valuable–too valuable to spend under the hood of a car.

I was leaning towards something that wasn’t running because the current owner was hust too lazy to do anything about it (and not something huge like it needs a whole new engine or anything like that). So it would be a project and not just minor repairs and thus it would probably have to be sitting in one spot for a while.

In that case, I change my answer.

You have no business buying a “project car” until you have your own space where you can keep it and work on it. Living in an apartment should preclude this type of activity. Wait until you have a house with a driveway, and make sure you won’t violate any ordinances before you buy the project car.