We’re not ashamed to say that cars are confusing. Unless you’re one of those people who somehow knows an engine like the back of their hand, doing any kind of car repair is a daunting prospect. Easier to just take it into the shop and save yourself the headache, right?
For the big things, sure. And even with minor fixes, leaving it to the professionals has a few advantages: you get a guarantee of quality, a qualified look at your car’s inner-workings to check for potential problems, minor complimentary maintenance, and avoid having to track down any tools or parts.
But if you want to save cash and don’t mind putting in the time, there are some easy fixes you can do in your own garage for a fraction of what the shop would charge you, even if you’re far from an expert.
Remove a dent
If it’s a simple, shallow dent that’s not too big, you can fix it easily with a plunger and a hairdryer. Seriously.
First, blow dry the area to warm it up. That’ll make sure that the paint doesn’t get damaged during the next step: plunging. Compress a plunger onto the area, then pull back. Voila — no more dent.
The dent has to be small and without any creases or edges, though, otherwise you probably won’t see great results. If your damage is a little more serious, there are heavier-duty tools with the same suction concept out there for about ten bucks.
Fix broken glass
If you’ve got a long crack, you’re out of luck and will have to make a trip to the glass shop. But other types of small-ish window shield damage can be fixed in your garage with a windshield crack repair kit that’ll run you about fifteen bucks at an auto or department store. Popular Mechanics has the best guide out there on how to use them. Just follow their simple directions and a crack should be filled and barely noticeable when you’re finished.
Replace brake pads
We know, buying auto parts and taking apart your car seems a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before. When the time comes to replace your brake pads, though, it’s worth doing in your driveway.
It’s surprisingly easy, doesn’t require much mechanical expertise, and all you need are new pads plus a few tools that you may already have lying around. Since front brake pads start at around $20, and auto shops charge up to a couple hundred bucks for the process, it makes sense to learn how to do this one at home. Here’s a guide.
One word of warning: never, ever, ever use a cheap jack to support your car while you work on it. They’re for an emergency roadside tire swap only. Buy an inexpensive and capable set of jack stands to support your car once it’s lifted.
Repair scratched paint
No need to spend thousands on a full respraying, or risking a color mismatch by having just one door or area re-painted, after an errant grocery cart or some jerk with a key scratches your paint.
Car paint has three layers: the primer, the paint, and the clear coat. If only the top layer got nicked, it’s an especially easy fix. Scratches that go down through the paint and the primer, revealing the metal body underneath, are much tougher to fix, but it is possible. You’ll need some some simple paint kits from an auto shop or hardware store, but the application is far from rocket science. Follow these instructions and you should have a scratch-free surface without much difficulty.