DIY Disasters – Repairs That Youd Better Leave to the Specialists
Do you remember Basil Fawlty trying endlessly to repair his own car in the hit 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers? If you do, you probably remember him also failing miserably, with disastrous results. The fact is that there are some car repairs that we shouldn’t really attempt ourselves, no matter how confident we are about success. It’s one thing to have real know-how when it comes to car maintenance, but going on a nerve alone — or an unwillingness to simply pay a mechanic — never ends well.
In today’s blog, we’re looking at types of repairs and car maintenance that are invariably best left in the hands of professional mechanics and auto technicians. Unless you have the training yourself, these are beyond the skill of the typical enthusiastic automotive amateur.
1. Major Paint Correction
While it may be possible to use touch-up bruises and similar DIY kits to fix tiny specs of damage, fixing deep scratches, large scuffs and big areas of peeling paint is a whole other matter. This one is difficult for many people because professional paint correction is a pricey deal, and it can run into many hundreds, even thousands of pounds depending on how serious the damage is.
It’s worth trying out a DIY job on a single chip or very light scratch but when it comes to the big jobs you have to swallow your pride and let the pros get it done right. Mistakes during paint correction can lead to further paint damage, uneven (and bad-looking) coatings, wrong colour matching, improper application of primer and more. There are just so many things that can go wrong.
The Engine Control Unit (ECU) is the central computer that governs so much of your car’s digitized functionality. What started as a simple unit in cars back in the 1970s and 1980s has now become an increasingly sophisticated and central component. It dictates so much about how your car behaves. Some people like to try and get clever with the ECU, tuning it in order to remove speed limit restrictions and more.
Tampering with the ECU yourself on any car, even one you are tuning reasonably and legally to use on a racetrack, is not a good idea. Some professionals make it look easy online, but you risk doing more damage to the unit and the surrounding systems. What’s more, attempting it on your street car might void the warranty, and could even make your car unroadworthy.
3. Air Conditioning
The a/c system is really important, especially for those who live in the cities and find themselves frequently stuck in traffic. When it breaks down it can be particularly frustrating because your car will quickly become either uncomfortable from too much heat, or unpleasant from nasty smells coming from a mold- or mildew-ridden a/c unit.
The problem is that just about every bit of maintenance that can be done on the a/c unit is either quite dangerous or very technical. Recharging the coolant, for instance, means handling dangerous chemicals that if spilled can damage local environments and harm your own health. Fixing the key components usually means intricate electrical work, so however you look at it, it’s not a job for amateurs.
4. Fuel System
Fuel system means petrol management, and that means dangerous, flammable and explosive substances galore. The fuel system in your car manages the movement and combustion of fuel within the engine. It demands precision, balance and some serious knowledge of how the system works. Botched fuel system repairs can result in fires, or even explosions. Getting it wrong can have life-threatening consequences.
5. Windscreen Replacement
Replacing a windscreen is another job that when professionals do it, others think it looks fairly straightforward. In fact, the job isn’t so complex, but it still requires a great deal of precision and skill. It’s one thing to get an old or damaged windscreen out of the frame, but quite a different proposition to put a fresh one in its place.
Getting the placement of the new one even slightly wrong, or failing to properly seal even one tiny part of the rims when done will be utterly disastrous for your car in many ways. At the very best, it will leak in water all over your dash, infotainment system, carpets, upholstery and more. At worst, it will not be properly secure and could even come loose over time.
Gearboxes and transmissions — both manual and automatic — are complex areas. These are arguably among the most complex components of the entire vehicle. There are so many interconnected moving parts, as well as fluids to deal with, and even one tiny mistake can throw off the entire system in a very bad way. Imagine being on the motorway and your car starts showing signs of gear slippage, or worse. Such things can and do happen, and you won’t want to experience it for yourself.
These are notoriously tricky mechanisms to deal with, and as scandals in recent years have shown, even the most experienced manufacturers can get it totally wrong — much to the detriment of human life! If you’ve had a small accident where the airbag detonated, you might be tempted to try and replace it yourself if you have the confidence, but airbags are just one of those life-saving components that you just don’t want to get wrong, even a little bit.
If the airbags are a lifesaving mechanism — and they are — then your brakes are even more so. Did you know that suddenly discovering the brakes aren’t working while driving at high speed is among most UK drivers’ top fears? It’s a well-placed fear, and should be reason enough not to tinker with the brakes yourself instead of letting a professional mechanic look at them.
The most you should be doing with your brakes is cleaning the brake dust off your alloy wheels. That’s a good move to make, but when it comes to brake pads, brake rotors, brake fluid and other critical components, stand aside and let the real mechanics do the work.
Conclusion: The Pros Know Best
Fixing your car can’t become a matter of pride or penny-pinching. It’s good to try and be economical, but skimping on repairs and trying to do things yourself that you don’t fully understand can easily make your car unsafe and unroadworthy. That puts you, your passengers and other road users in danger. There’s never any point in taking chances.
When the jobs are difficult and can impact the roadworthiness of your car, always leave it to the pros to get the job done right.