Cars that are surprisingly hard or easy to work on?

I am just curious about what peoples’ opinions are of cars that seem surprisingly hard or easy to work on. For example, I have a 1994 Geo Metro as my gas saver car and have been very surprised with how easy it is to work on. Replacing a timing belt takes on hour. Replacing the entire engine takes only two hours. Everything is right there and easy to get at. Nothing is covered up and there is plenty of space to work which is surprising in a car this small. I swear this must be like the modern VW bug with how simple they are. Yes, they are water cooled and have electronics but all this is quite simple.

Some of the harder ones seem to be the carbureted models of the late-1980’s when they were transitioning to FI. These are overly complicated so they meet emissions and I would MUCH rather have fuel injection than one of these.

Also, I am not a big fan of Chrysler products. I was once working an a 300 or LHS that had a stuck thermostat. I swear the thermostat was installed on the engine before the engine was put in the car. It took me like 9 hours of jacking the engine up and fooling around with it to do this swap. A thermostat should be simple and easy like changing the oil, not an all day job. I try to avoid MOPAR vehicles for this reason and it seems like they have more problems than most other makes. I understand Mitsubishi is about the worst but I have never worked on one of those.

Anyone have another other contenders for the easiest or hardest to work on?

I wanted a Geo metro but ended up buying a 2000 Corolla. Any old car should be easy to work on.

I had a 1998 Oldsmobile intrigue that was surprisingly hard to work on, it took an inordinate amount of time to just change the battery, as I recall I had to remove a brace from fender to rad, windshield washer tank and power center. Also maybe rad overflow tank.

While not true of every repair, I would say that my daughter’s 2005 Mustang 4.0 is very simple to service. It’s uncluttered and almost everything on it is very accessible.

With a few exceptions, my Lincoln Mark VIII is a pain in the neck as to serviceability. The 3-way thermostat for example is buried down low behind the power steering and has to be done from underneath. Even drained, an anti-freeze bath is about a given…
Without going into all of the details, I just changed a lowly Idle Air Control valve on that car and my rough estimate of total time involved is about 13 hours.

In general:
Cars with the biggest engine option; FWD transverse V6; cars from the '70’s & '80’s with clunky emission controls.
And because a 1980 Cadillac had the same emission limits (grams per mile) as a 1980 Civic the big cars had more gadgets.

Toyota Camry’s aren’t all that difficult to work on, except when you have to replace the spark plugs: they are butt up against the firewall and it takes a fair bit of McGuyvering with socket extensions,knuckles and cursing to get them out and back in.

My Toyota Supra 7M-GE is hard to work on. Everything seems to need at least a few hours to do. 4 of the six spark plugs require the throttle body to be removed. The starter is tucked up high underneath the intake manifold, and I can only get to the top bolt by feel with a box end wrench and many swear words. The heater core requires the disassembly of the entire dashboard, including dropping the steering wheel (my next project). For a 3.0L engine, it takes up a lot of room.

However, the 1.6L engine in the wife’s Celica is a whiz to work on. Plenty of room to work around, and everything is easy to get to.

My wife owned a Pontiac Fiero back in 1988. It was a fairly new car then but the water pump still managed to die in the middle of summer. She loved that car and wanted me to fix it quickly so she could drive it back and forth to work. It turned out to be the worst job imagineable because there is no room for hands, wrenches or sockets in the engine bay. I finally convinced her to get rid of it a couple of years later since I was too tall to ever drive it and it was hard to work on.

I was disappointed I had to remove the alternator to replace a thermostat in my 03 blazer.

BustedKnuckles, I have a 1987 Supra with the 7M-GE engine. That starter! Those stupid mounting bolts don’t thread into any casting. Those bolts have nuts so you need to get two wrenches, one on each end, to remove each bolt. When I replaced the head gasket I replaced the starter again because it was so easy to get to even though nothing was wrong with it. Sort of like replacing the water pump at the same time as the timing belt because of the convenience factor.

Ever replace the rear gas struts for the liftback? The manual calls for removing all inner panels from the rear to the door and removing the whole back seat. I’m about ready to do this job again but I think I’ll be trying to shortcut this job.


What engine do you have in that 03 Blazer?

We have several Jimmys and Blazers in our fleet, and I’ve replaced some thermostats, but I don’t recall removing the alternator

Our vehicles have the 4.3 V6, by the way

4.2 6 cyl, any doubts about replacing thermostat try this link.
there was no way otherwise for me. @db4960 4.3 engine in a Trailblazer is news to me.

4 cyl Mercedes are generally easy to work on. When you get up to 8 cyl Mercedes, you can tell that they were trying to make common things accessable, but there is a lot of stuff in a very small space.

There were a whole series of V-8 Ford engines a decade or so ago that had chronically frozen spark plugs, and a couple of the plugs, in addition to being frozen in place, were tough to get at.

I’m dating myself here, but old V-12 Jaguars before solid state electronics. There must have been 1,000 relays on that car, many of which were mounted upside down so they caught rainwater. If you ever worked on one of those, you understand why the British drink warm beer. It is because they have Lucas refrigerators.

The Quad 4 engine humiliated me several times and finally it beat me and I refused to work on that engine. The update for the oil pump was the coup de grace.

A lot of the old SAABs are a pain in the neck; at least the ones with the engine facing the firewall nose first and sitting on top of the transmission instead of being adjacent to it…


In your first response, you said you had an 03 Blazer

A Blazer and a Trailblazer are completely different animals

Most, maybe all, Blazers had the 4.3 liter V6

I am aware that Trailblazers have the 4.2 liter straight six

I think the answer will depend on whether you’re talking to a DIY or professional. As a professional who has to fix cars for a living, I can say that the older the car is the harder it is to work on. The difference between 1985 and 2005 is leaps and bounds. Sure, if we compare a 55 Chevy to a 92 Saab the Chevy will be easier, but generally speaking late model cars are better engineered and serviceable than cars 25 years ago. Try to replace spark plugs on a 1985 Chevy van with smog pump system and a carburetor, and try the same job on a 2005 Chevy van. Newer cars won’t have 25 years of oil and grease covering everything and rust fighting you. Newer cars are simpler and generally have fewer/smaller components that are in your way.

There’s also a difference between difficult and labor intensive. Sure, replacing a heater core on a 2003 Taurus requires removing the entire dash, but it’s not at all difficult. There’s lots to do, but nothing is hard to reach or requires special tools.

Transverse engines tend to be easier for things like timing belt service than conventional mounted engines.

If you’re asking about specific makes of cars, then I think the answer will vary widely depending on what you’re familiar with. Every time I shake my head at the way a Mercedes is put together, I think that somewhere in Germany there’s a guy struggling with a simple Chevy. But for general ease of maintenance and repair, of the Asian cars I vote Honda and Toyota. Domestic GM first, Ford, then Chrysler last. European, BMW and Mercedes before any VW/Audi or Swedish cars.

I think Kias are quite service unfriendly, given their place as an entry-level car. I’d expect service and repair to be easier, but the engineering, design, and execution are nowhere near other Asian makes. For instance, recently had a Sorento towed in with a failed crankshaft sensor. The sensor is located inside the timing cover, and required as much work as a timing belt replacement (save for actually replacing the belt) to replace. I think that’s a poor design.

@AlanY, I just did that job. had the struts for under $12 apiece. I shortcutted the hold down nuts for the rear gas struts by drilling a 1/2" hole through the inner panel to access the nuts. I hit the location dead on for the passenger side, but missed on driver’s side due to assuming the panels were exactly mirrored. So those holes are oblong. I don’t even notice the holes, but am looking for button plugs I can use to cover them.

@db4960 I had no idea a blazer and trailblazer had a 4.3 for a blazer and 4.2 for trailblazer, who would have thunk it, Mine is the trailblazer 4.2, I had no idea they used 2 different engines. Aplologies for my bad, as typing is something I try to do as little as possible of I ASSUMED blazer and Trailblazer had the same engine. Peace bro, don’t tase me bro!

My 98 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 6-cylinder engine is pretty roomy to work on. Then again, they carved out that engine compartment for a V8, which probably helps me quite a bit.