CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

What age do people stop DIY wrenching? (How old are you?)

I am getting into doing basic maint. on cars at around age 40.
Sometimes, I wonder if this is pointless b/c I’m middle aged.
I hope to enjoy this hobby for some years, and maybe even do a light restoration of a car…

My father is 70, and I did an O2 sensor project with him, and it was fine, but he wasn’t THAT into it.
When he was younger, he’d have been more into it. Maybe even only 5 years ago.

I also ran into an old neighbor at AutoZone.
He is about 60, I think, and he was doing a motor swap on an old Vega.
He’s still way into it, maybe more than ever. (You learn as you age, and acquire more tools…)

So, is there an age where you’ve seen people toss in the towel?
Either b/c of physical limits, or just b/c of a “F it… I don’t care anymore, just pay someone to do it” attitude.
Is is somewhere in the 60s?

What have you observed in your neck of the woods?

I am in my late 50s and still do some work. I don’t do as much as I used to because I don’t have as much time as I used to. 20 or 30 years ago I had a lot more time and would undertake many more projects.

After years of busting my knuckles to earn a living I am now a DIYer at 63 and because there is no pressure to rush or to keep the cost down and no one to answer to I enjoy keeping my own vehicles maintained and occasionally working on a friend or neighbors car, I helped a young man repair his rear brakes yesterday. He was amazed just how easy it was with all the tools and equipment neatly at hand and someone watching with answers to all the questions that cropped up. The $400 estimate at a touch of gold shop cost him $55 and a couple of hours of getting dirty. It is, however, getting difficult for me to get up from a creeper these days. I wish I had a lift in the shop but there isn’t enough clearance. Maybe I’ll treat myself and build a larger shop with a lift.

At 64 I don’t tackle major jobs that require lots of jacks and lifts, such as pulling a motor or transmission. I don’t mind paying for quality work, but I do my own plugs, oil changes, tire rotations, filter changes, etc. Since I drive about 12K miles total spread over 3 vehicles there isn’t that much to do now. I actually do more mechanical work on my boat which is an inboard with a 351 Ford Windsor PCM marine motor.

I think a lot of folks DIY because they have the handi-man philosophy, have sort of that “Yankee ingenuity” value in them, and just enjoy doing it themselves is all. I don’t think the reason for the most part is because they save money. I think many of them would make more money doing something else than fixing their car. But they fix their car anyway. These DIY folks are usually the curious type, are curious about everything around them, not just cars, but they may choose cars as an outlet for their curiosity because cars break down and need to be fixed anyway. They’re pragmatic too, thinking that since they’d have to take the car to the shop and wait there while it gets it’s scheduled maintenance; it doesn’t take much more effort to simply do it themselves in their own driveway on their own schedule, and if they want to take a break and have a beer, so be it.

When I was a teenager I did the scheduled maintence like oil and filter changes, replacing the points and setting the timing on my car. Later, in my 20’s, I had less time and had a shop do it all. That was until I bought a VW Rabbit, and it became clear the only way I could afford to keep it on the road was to do the work myself. That car, it was fun to drive, had good get up and go and a good suspension system, but it also had a multi-tude of ways to stop working, and the repairs became beyond my budget.

So I found a nighttimeadult education auto-shop class for homeDIY mechanics at a local high school. I was worried it was going to be where you sit and look at overhead projector slides all evening. But the first night, right off the bat, the instructor , in front of all the students, he reached into his pocket and put a wheel bearing in my right hand, then he told me to hold out my left hand, at which point he plopped a big dab of grease into my palm and told me to show everybody how to grease the bearing! I thought “this class is gonna be ok!”.

Anyway, that class went one night a week for 13 weeks, it was all in the auto-shop where you could do anything you wanted (within reason) on your own car, and the instructors would help when you got stuck. Ever since, I’ve fixed my own cars. I have a early 1990’s Toyota in fact that has never even once been in a shop. Everything that’s been needed to do, I’ve done it.

How long do I intend to do it? Well, I’ve noticed it gets a little more painful each year that I crawl under the car and turn the wrenches, bend over the tire-well to remove the heater hose clamp. My back hurts. My legs hurt. My arms hurt. And I’m not even mentioning the eye-site thing. Eventually it will hurt too much or I won’t be able to see well enough to fix my own car! But until then …

I’m 62 chronologically (19 between the ears so I do suffer Arrested Development) and I hope to continue to turn nuts and bolts until the day I die simply because I love mechanical stuff; cars, motorcycles, or whatever else. The jobs I try to avoid if at all possible are transmission R & R, tire work, and some exhaust system work. I always hated that, for the most part, even when younger.

A long time friend of mine who passed away last year was still getting after it at 74 years of age and one would never know up to the time of his death if you did not know him that he was going through cancer chemo and a lot of nitro for a heart condition.

I did a lot of my own work out of necessity. I did my own oil changes and chassis lubrication, changed out fuel pumps, water pump, generators or alternators, and shock absorbers. However, about twenty years ago when I turned 50, I began doing less and less of my own automobile maintenance. My work load as a faculty member increased as my institution demanded more and more research and as a senior faculty I was expected to set an example for younger faculty, so I didn’t have time to do my own work. I didn’t keep up in purchasing new tools. I got to the point where if it took less time to do a job on the car myself than take it to a garage, I did it. However, I didn’t get into time consuming projects. I retired a year ago and am 70 years old. I am happy to let my independent shop do all my maintenance which frees me up to do the things I really enjoy doing.
I never really had the dexterity with my hands to do a job efficiently. I really admire good mechanics who do a job well and without the effort that I would have to use. I do well to keep my push lawnmower engine and my rototiller running.

It imhop boils down to the age of the car.

Just did an engine swap with 2 guys in their 60’s. You’ve got at least 20 years, based on that. I wouldn’t worry too much. :wink:

I’m 34 and started 6 years ago. Oil changes are easy, strut replacements are a pain, and this engine rebuild I’m doing is taking more time and money than expected. It’s a race to see if I can get the car back together in two months before I move… or before the shed falls down on top of it.

I’m moving from a house to a condo in two months, which will seriously limit what I can do in the future. They frown on oil on the parkade deck…

I am only 26 years old, so aging has not really started to affect me yet (although helping my younger brother install a six inch suspension lift on his Jeep a couple weeks ago made me feel old and sore for a couple days thereafter due to all the rusted, frozen hardware). I did repair cars professionally for a few years, but moved on to something else because I couldn’t live with the low pay and constant requirement to purchase more and more specialty tools to keep doing the job. I do still love all things mechanical, especially cars, and do have a nice garage now in which I do side jobs for friends, family, and coworkers to keep myself from getting rusty. A lift does sound good to me, as Rod Knox mentioned, but the ceiling in my garage is too low and my landlord probably would not approve (although there is an unused barn on the property with a concrete floor and 220 service that looks mighty tempting…).

On the other hand, my father is 57 and has slowed down a lot. He used to do pretty much anything and everything for vehicle maintenance and repairs, but now doesn’t go much farther than routine oil and coolant changes. Two years ago, he began a ball joint replacement job on his car, but I ended up finishing it for him. He ran out of patience and willingness to continue about a third of the way into the project. He has always been lacking in patience, but now has too little patience to deal with much in the way of repairs, and says he feels his age getting to him physically. He has also finally realized that I know what I’m doing and prefers to let me deal with the hard, complicated stuff that needs to be done.

GeorgeSanJose, how old are you now?

Triedaq, so most of your DIY work was done in the 70s and 80s.
What brings you to this forum at 70?

mark9207, what kind of work did you get into instead?

People age mentally and physically at different rates so what works for me may or may not work for you. Even if you have the bucks to pay others to do your work and are mentally tired of fixing broken stuff, that is a factor to consider and possibly overcome once you are reminded of what others will want to do your repair. Whether or not you have a spare car also makes a difference regarding the repair or maintenance time required. As you age you can or must move a little more slowly. If you will stay active to get a decent amount of exercise, that will affect your physical capabilities and therefore your car repair and maintenance capabilities.

I imagine the age at which a DIY’er would stop DIYing is quite lower than a technician who does it professionally for a living. A driveway brake job for example is hard on the knees, back, elbows, lots of bending and torquing. In a shop, the car will be hoisted on a lift instead of a floor jack and stands, lug nuts and other fasteners will be loosened and tightened with air tools, there will be proper lighting and safety equipment, etc.

On the other hand, the pro won’t have a beer fridge 10 feet away to help soothe those bloody knuckles.

While it wasn’t a beer fridge, we discovered once that a mechanic who had gone to work for us had a fully stocked bar in the large bottom drawer of his tool box. It was chock full of tequila, rum, vodka, gin, and so on; generally things with not much of a smell.

That kind of explained why he kept to himself and was sipping on pop and coffee all of the time with a perpetually laid back demeanor. :wink:

You can get tool boxes with beer fridges built in now.

I’m a DIYer and have been for about 43 years or so. During that time I’ve worked on my own cars and those of friends and relatives. I don’t charge for labor, only parts so I’m quite busy with my “hobby.” I’m 62 now and retired two years ago from my regular job, an administrative desk job. I have slowed down. On jobs that I used to work on for a full day, I now split into two or even three days. I take my sweet time replacing head gaskets. I try to make full use of my air tools these days although not all jobs are suited to them.

The nice thing about being old is that the kids are grown and out of college, so I can afford to pay someone to do what I don’t want to do. At 60, my arms are not as strong as they used to be, so I don’t wrestle with transmissions doing clutches on RWD cars any more. Also, I have been warned to stay away from running engines because the ignition might create a strong enough electrical field to make defibrillator in my chest zap me (though that has not happened yet).

I’ve been doing a lot of my own work ever since I was 16 and am now 52 and disabled because of a bad back, but still do 98% of my own work, I’m just not as fast as I used to be and I have enough cars that when one tears up I don’t have to be in a hurry to fix it, just work on it as my back feels like it. With the price of labor I don’t plan to stop until I’m unable to do it or until my health gets so bad I can no longer do it. I’d say it’s just how interested you are in doing it, health issues and how much money you want to save in most cases that determines when you stop. I’ve just upgraded some of my tools in the past few years to make the jobs easier. In the last 2 years I’ve changed 2 timing belts/water pumps, replaced a transmission shift cable, replaced struts, ball joints, tie rod ends, changed an a/c compressor and recharged the a/c system and removed an oil pan and cleaned the oil pump pickup screen. These are the major repairs I can remember right now and of course done my own oil changes, tire rotations, replaced a couple batteries and done some troubleshooting and repair on a cylinder misfire on one of my cars (change the coil). A few years ago I installed aftermarket c/c on two of my cars. I’ve never had any mechanical training, I just use repair manuals such as Haynes or Chilton’s when tackling something I’m not familiar with. About the only things I don’t do myself are internal engine/transmission and exhaust repairs. Luckily I haven’t needed to have any done.

My dad did part of his own work until his health got to the point he could no longer do it and I tried to do some of it for him after that, but he did some of his own minor work between the ages of 75-80.

I had a friend that worked in a junk yard for several years removing parts to sell, he worked on his own vehicles until he was in his early 70’s and his health stopped him.

@ok4450
Long time ago, I was a young kid at his first job at a busy garage. On busy days the boss would ask the mechanics to work through lunch but he would buy lunch. So I got sent to the deli across the street for half a dozen sandwiches and a 6-pack of Budweiser. And there you’d have a guy finishing a tune-up with mayo on his shirt, a timing light in one hand and a beer in the other.