It used to be as common as falling leaves in autumn for people to work on their own cars. And while this red-blooded American pastime has not completely disappeared from our world, the expense and complexity of newer cars make some repairs best left to the professionals.
Here is a quick list of, "Don't try this at home"' auto repairs:
1. Check Engine Diagnostics - With everyone from big box parts stores to smartphone app developers making it possible to talk to the computer in your car, many drivers think they can deal with a check engine light themselves. Here's the problem: many check engine codes are vague and require more sophisticated equipment to really get to the bottom of the story. And please don't just turn the light off thinking you will fix the problem. This is like trying to cure a heart attack by unplugging the EKG. Let the pros read the codes, apply their educated ability to decipher the codes and get the root cause of the problem cured.
2. Tire Rotation - Yes, you can easily jack up your car and swap the wheels around. But a tire rotation service also includes re-balancing the tires, checking for uneven wear and looking for sidewall and tread damage. All of these things require a trained eye and expensive equipment. Rotate your own tires and you take a chance on continuing to drive on unsafe, unbalanced tires. This is an inexpensive maintenance item, leave it to the pros.
3. Air Conditioning Fill-up - So you think getting a can of Freon from your local parts place and pumping it into the AC system is a cure for your problematic climate control system? Think again. Your air conditioning system is a sealed system, which means if you need Freon, something is leaking. Filling the system without fixing the problem is a band-aid. And if you don't have the right amount of compressor lube in the system, adding Freon can restart your compressor and burn it up. If you need to get your cool under control leave the job to the professionals.
4. Internal Engine Repair - You may very well understand the internal combustion engine in all of its glory, but newer engines have incredibly tight tolerances requiring specific fastener torque on many of the nuts and bolts. Add electronics, fuel injection, multiple cams and the stack of other new tech and even if you have experience building that Chevy 350 with your dad when you were a kid when it comes to modern cars leave the engine repairs to the professionals.
5. Suspension Repairs - Your suspension keeps your car between the lines and is a big part of what makes your car safe. When you install new components you invariably mess up the alignment specs, which then makes your car a safety hazard and eats up your tires. For your safety and the longevity of your tires make sure to trust a professional to upgrade or repair your suspension.
Car owners these days have access to almost any automotive part with a click and a credit card. But while wiper blades, headlight bulbs and other minor maintenance and repair items are still great for the do-it-yourself crowd, the complexity of newer vehicles nearly always requires the careful hands of a seasoned professional. Take care of the light work yourself if you're game, but leave the heavy lifting to the folks who make a living keeping cars, trucks and SUVs in ship shape condition.