The saga of a mechanical newbie: Lessons, what worked, & what didn't. (CORRECTION/REPOST)

The GM manuals usually have the required tools detailed in the front of the repair section along with their pictures. In some cases, no generic tool will work but if you can see what the tool looks like, you can fabricate your own. One example that comes to mind is the steering column tilt knuckle repair. I didn’t have the correct tool to extract the knuckle bolts but based on the picture of the tool and the actual hardware, I was able to make my own. Haynes would just say, “remove steering knuckle bolts” as if they would magically fall out or something. So it can go both ways…

“- Know your limitations. Just because the Haynes manual tells you HOW to do something, it doesn’t mean you can HANDLE it. And just because you know where something is, doesn’t mean you can REACH it. And just because you can reach a bolt, doesn’t mean you can physically TURN it.”

For the “reach” and “turn” issues, invest in a breaker bar (with universal joint attatchment) rather than trash the innards of a socket wrench on a bolt that hasn’t been turned in a decade.

“- During an oil change, the oil SHOOTS out from the drain plug.”

And it’s HOT. Place a screen over your drain pan to save fishing for the plug with a crescent wrench.

“- After flushing and refilling the antifreeze (or any major repair), let the car run for a while and test it thoroughly, like it says in the manual… I would have detected this problem when I had time to deal with it last night, instead of on my way to work, with my two-year-old in the back seat. Oh-so-luckily I had a cell phone in my bag, and antifreeze and a funnel in my trunk.”

Take a tip from the airlines: the plane isn’t officially “repaired” until the repaired/replaced part is tested in operation and signed off. If you haven’t taken the car on a test drive…the repair’s not complete.

Oh, an one more: recoil in horror should you come across the VILEST word in the English language…the dreaded “F” word…FABRICATE! (You were expecting something else?) :wink:

To remove those drums look for two threaded holes on the drum near the hub area. If you thread in the appropriate sized METRIC bolts, they will push off the drum from the hub as you thread them in. Don’t quote me but they might be 8mm x 1.25.

It can be hard to spot because the exhaust manifold is in the way but you should have another block drain plug on the “front” side of the engine (the oil filter side on the Civic being the back). The hex should be 17mm but the plug itself is larger in diameter. It’s not particularly easy but you can probably reach it from the topside with a short (5" or 6") extension with a 1/2" drive beaker bar. A wobble extension might give you more leeway reaching the plug.

Based on what I’ve read here, it seems that getting both the factory service manual and Haynes is the way to go. the factory manual goes more in depth when you want it, and the Haynes dumbs it down when you need it…which is funny to say, because as of two weeks ago, I thought the Haynes manual was the most in depth thing I ever saw in my life :’ )

Thanks for all the great feedback.

An excellent post and a true contribution. I’ll suggest only a few addendums.

First, never ever ever ever get under a car unless it’s safely and stably secured on either heavy duty jackstands or ramps. Not ever.

For gloves I buy 100 piece boxes of the disposable latex gloves. They give me good dexterity, great grip, and cleaner hands. And they’re perfect for wrist-tightening oil filters.

If I’m doing heavy duty work or working around voltages or hot or moving parts I wear leather work gloves. Extra care should always be used around moving parts, and no loose-hanging shirtsleeves or jewelry.

I always wear eye protection. If I’m grinding or cutting I wear a full face sheild, about $12 from the hardware store.

Everything comes second to safety. If you break a bolt you’ll have a bad day. Get a bad burn or a bad cut and you can suffer for days or even weeks. Lose an eye or a few fingers and you’ll suffer a lot longer.

I have the Haynes manuals too, but I’m finding that on a few things (like the water pump on my 2.2l 97 cavalier) they assume the valve to bleed air is on the cooling line AND the inlet to the engine block. Mine only has the one on the cooling lines. I’m thinking of purchasing factory manuals next time. I’ve had some issues with using the Haynes manuals (electrical schematics, etc.)

My dad was a mechanic, used Mac/Snap-On and Craftsman. I have mostly craftsman and Allen builds a fairly decent ratchet (like it better than the craftsman). I don’t rent tools, I figure for the price of the rental, I can buy it.

A good start, for me anyway, if you’re going to do any kind of work on your car have at least 2 jackstands, impact wrench, assortment of metric/standard wrenches & sockets (1/4, 3/8 & 1/2) at least the 3/8 drive anyway, a good hydraulic jack, lots of drain pans and rags. Get a nice drop cord for lighting or a really good battery op light with a long battery life. I’ve found a nice pair of mechanic’s gloves are nice (when doing metal work) and having disposable latex gloves when cleaning brake rotors/drums are nice too. Keeps the gunk off my hands AND the rotors. A good pair of safety shoes are good too. Couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped stuff.

You’re on the right track newbie. I’ve saved THOUSANDS doing simple things like oil changes and brakes. ($500/dealer for front rotors/pads = $250 for ME to do same with BETTER parts.)

Good luck!

Factory Service Manuals Can Be Shockingly Expensive

During the past several decades I have always purchased factory manuals for any car I have purchased. I plan on that and just factor it in to the total new car purchase cost. It’s not bad while you still have “new” car fever.

They’re now up to about $135 for a set of manuals for GM or Chrysler. (I think my Fiero manuals were only $35 or so when they were almost new.) Helm Inc. sells GM and I believe it’s still Dyment that sells Chrysler. Information can be found in a car’s owner’s manual. You can save the repair manual cost on just one repair.

By the way, I usually have them throw in an extra owner’s manual (often about $25) to keep in the house to complement the service manual. I make sure the other one stays in the car.

I purchase the occasional special tool from Miller SPX online.

[i] [u]I always wear eye protection [/i] [/u]

A most important point!

Thanks to everyone for such supportive and informative replies. Glad to be part of the discussion!

:’ )