There are almost no repair jobs a gearhead with the right tools and instructions can’t do in his or her own garage. Here are Jalopnik readers’ picks for those ten repairs best left to the pros.
The big caveat to all of this is if you have a lift in your garage and super skills you can do almost anything.
10.) Changing A Clutch
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Borderline for some, but do it once and see if you want to do it again. It’s not a complex or delicate procedure, but it is one that may require engine removal. In this case it is probably preferable to leave the literal heavy lifting to others.
9.) Repairing Or Recharging An Air Conditioner
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Setting aside the thorny issues involving Freon for now, working with an A/C system still involves very specific high pressures and lots of tubing and odd components (some of which are hopelessly buried in the dash or tied to a computer) and other things tangentially related to the first law of thermodynamics. If you just had to go look up the first law of thermodynamics, you probably have no business being in there.
8.) Working With Or Around Airbags
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Thankfully not the most common situation, but one to keep in mind regardless: If you’re doing something with a steering wheel or dash panels (or, increasingly, lots of other places) please remember that there’s a good-sized explosive charge nestled in there. You may want to let someone with significant training do this. Or at least just someone else in general.
While we’re on the subject, please be very careful when doing anything around gas tanks, too.
7.) Replacing A Windshield
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Swinging around a big heavy piece of glass that must be installed with some precision (and without smearing adhesive all over the place) is not something you want to do without significant practice. Really: Go look at that caulking job you did around the tub two years ago and honestly assess whether you can work with industrial adhesives in anything approaching a fluent manner. You local glass specialist is standing by.
6.) Rebuilding A Differential
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Gears in general can require a delicate touch, but diffs are a special case. Get it even slightly off and your car will sound like a grumpy banshee until the teeth completely (and quickly) disintegrate. The contact patch between the gears must be just so, the alignment must be close to mathematically perfect, it’s a jeweler’s job that favors some pretty serious measuring gear and lots of practice. You likely have neither.
5.) Body Work
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: There is a reason that Bondo is still available despite the revulsion associated with that word, and that’s because bodywork is classically hard stuff: demanding, intolerant of minor mistakes, often physically hard. Manipulating sheet metal is a fine art. If you want it to look right, find someone who can make it look right. If it’s an old beater, go nuts with your sledgehammer.
4.) Mounting And Balancing Tires
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: In theory a straightforward task, in practice the exclusive realm of people who have expensive dedicated equipment and training. You can conceivably wrestle a tire onto a rim if you’re in a masochistic mood, but balancing the whole works correctly is another issue entirely. Unless you want to do it all again way too soon, don’t do it yourself.
3.) Repairing An Automatic Transmission
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Even the most intelligent and well-equipped home-auto-repair mavens blanch when they think about these precision monsters. A three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic was a pretty complex and delicate piece of work back in the day; modern eight-speed wonder-boxes that require more processing power than the moon missions are completely hopeless for all but factory techs.
Alternative solution: Don’t get one in the first place.
2.) Straightening A Frame
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Provided that a tweaked frame hasn’t resulted in a car being a complete write-off, getting it straightened again requires massive amounts of force to be directed in very accurate directions. Beyond the reach of anyone not willing to pony up for a huge, expensive machine you hope you’ll never have to use more than once, if at all. This is the most unrealistic home-repair job on this list.
Why it’s a seriously professional-grade task: Electrical issues go under two headings: Basic old-school wiring and components are fine if you can deal with the persistent risk of shorts and bad connections and the rest.