Learning to work on cars

Learning to work on cars



Original Poster:

3 posts

12 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Hi all,

I’ve been reading all these fantastic readers car threads on here and some of the guys here have some serious skills !

I’ve always wanted to learn to work on cars myself, to carry out routine maintenance, modifications and major mods such as engine swaps etc

I’m a civil engineer by trade, so I’ve got an eye for detail and the technical stuff. I’ve always been into cars, and hope to one day even open my own business working on cars and doing modifications etc.

So my question is, how can I learn the basics ? How do you all learn to work on cars ? Except for obviously the professional mechanics who obviously learn in college etc.

Thanks for your help in advance !


4,677 posts

62 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
A knowledgeable friend or relative, or an evening class would probably be the most beneficial method.

Even YouTube can show you how to fix things, but be wary as some of the people on there do stuff really badly!

2 sMoKiN bArReLs

27,033 posts

205 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Many of us oldsters learned through necessity. Back in the day you had to do fairly serious maintenance most weeks!

You can't beat practical experience. Get yourself an old motor & strip it.

I learned enough in the old days to know that as soon as I could afford it I'd never touch an oily bit again.


1,992 posts

161 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all

Chris fix has a wealth of information on doing the basics, examples of which tools, sprays and such to use when doing a job. Very methodical and correct use of a torque wrench (RARE to find!)

Ivan stewart

563 posts

6 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Buy a project and some decent hand tools
Don’t bite off too much maybe start with a lawn mower engine Dismantle and understand what each part does and how it connects together , It’s a simple version of a car engine. Then move on to more complex engines ,
Think it depends how much depth you want to get into , maybe you just want to learn simple tasks to maintain a tidy car or take on a restoration project ,
Set a goal and enjoy the journey thumbup


804 posts

19 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
I'm sure there are more sensible ways, but early in lockdown I bought an older, fairly cheap second car, with excellent online communities and loads of advice, and started fixing the things that are wrong with it, replacing service items and tatty bits, upgrading a few areas... it's quite addictive and hard to stop.

I don't see myself getting as serious as taking engines and gearboxes out, but having built up some confidence on it I've even done a few bits on my proper car including replacing brake calipers and discs - no big deal to most on here but not something I ever imagined myself doing.


4,957 posts

146 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Learn how to deal with seized, rounded off and snapped bolts so that when it happens it won't be the nightmare it first appears. Also, jacking a car up safely is *really* important. Starting off with the basics like removing a wheel and changing discs/pads is a good way to get started.

And pretty much everything you need to know about specific faults for your particular car will already be on youtube, honestjohn or pistonheads - great resources.

2 sMoKiN bArReLs

27,033 posts

205 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Many of us grew up with good ole JH


524 posts

177 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Fundamentally cars are just various bits bolted on to each other in the most basic form.

The first step is being brave enough to get stuck in, and having enough resolve for when it balls' up which it will... Either by user error of bolts snapping, rounding or not having the correct tool

Over the past 10years, by self learning I've done in rough order,

Disks and pads
Shock absorbers
Clutch on a nackered escort
Clutch and upgraded flywheel on good car
Multiple other clutches
Steering system on defender
Full strip down to near bare chassis and rebuild
Timing chain including balance shaft delete
Replacement BMW engine and gearbox on defender.

Start basic, build confidence and tool chest along the way and you will learn very quickly!


2,934 posts

217 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
find a friend with an old land rover and offer to help, the old ones give you the basic knowledge

The spinner of plates

15,552 posts

170 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Get a caterham.

Like a big meccano set
Great online support
Huge fun to drive / track days
Almost depreciation proof and dirt cheap to run

Speed addicted

4,475 posts

197 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
I learned to work on cars with my friends because we didn’t have spare cash to give to competent mechanics, or spare cash to spend on cars that were fully reliable.
Quite a lot of years later I’ll still do things like brakes or other low hassle jobs while leaving more complicated stuff to garages, mainly due to time constraints .

I do like to rebuild and modify old motorbikes in my (increasingly rare) spare time though


22,324 posts

151 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
2 sMoKiN bArReLs said:
Many of us grew up with good ole JH

That's how I learnt - buy a Haynes, buy every tool you need as you go along.

It does help to have someone knowing what they're doing on speed-dial mind, I didn't know anyone to ask and spent a hell of a lot of time working out what does and doesn't work.


1,159 posts

90 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
Its true tinkering with cars/bikes back in 60's onwards was a necessity , well in my case luckily my father was in Fleet Air arm first class so I was brought up on Old G10 matchless etc ...BUT the big difference today apart from the electronics involved is back then ,generally you had "Acres" of room under the Bonnet...nowadays even to find some thing with a mirror oops to old skool , I mean Endescope..doesn't mean you can actually get to it without dropping engine out!!biggrin


1,995 posts

158 months

Thursday 19th August
quotequote all
The internet and youtube etc is great these days. Also lots of websites host very detailed workshop manual copies ie the actual manuals made for company employees.

My advice is have two cars! so it's not crucial to always get things done (as sometimes you just won't)

Start with the basics and your cars jacking points, not many areas like the weight of the car through them and even the actual points sometimes need a certain 'pad' not just the Jack. Jacking up and stand placement, "wheel under the car" for extra help (so you only get maimed not killed!)

Then just reassess things as times especially if you are applying lots of force to something. We have all done stupid and potentially dangerous things through complacency/carelessness/forgetfulness, try and minimise these.

I'd start by doing everything manually (no power tools) just to get a feel for things you will be slower but you are enjoying this right? not on an hourly rate, rushing power tools and inexperience is a recipe for disaster. If something feels too tight, check apply penetrating fluid etc, a few minutes then can save a lot of heartache later.

Saying this I have recently got a Milwaukee impact wrench and thoroughly recommend these tools in the medium term as they are such time savers.

Learn to change simple things, so an air filter and say remove the whole airbox, you'll not spill anything and probably have to undo an electrical connector (these can be fiddly and stuck) and it'll make you see how easy it can be to make space. Then just keeping learning bit by bit from there gaining confidence removing more stuff. Always research the job in hand and with a sensible head and knowing when to perhaps stop and comeback another time to a job you'll be fine.

Edited by Scootersp on Thursday 19th August 23:56


8,459 posts

137 months

Sunday 22nd August
quotequote all
Totally agree have a second car to work on / ruin if you can, as having a deadline to get it fixed makes things stressful and / or too risky to try.

If you have a mate who does things to their car, go and help out, seeing how almost everything is just bits bolted together is reassuring.

YouTube, there are millions of instructional videos, videos teaching how things work etc, watch and learn. I have also found watching some of the more rough and ready American stuff (Roadkill Garage for example) although old American stuff, does show you that realistically these are just big mechanical devices and most problems can be overcome.

Get a decent jack, decent axle stands, and a 100 - 150 piece Halfords socket set. I still have and use these from 10+ years ago now and from having never seen a spark plug the, I'm just now putting the engine I've built from a bare block back into my car, which is almost entirely thanks to YouTube and Google hehe

If you're near Northampton you'd be welcome to come and have a nose around as my car is up on stands with no wheels on, so would be a good opportunity to getbave a look at a simple setup etc. thumbup


1,638 posts

174 months

Monday 23rd August
quotequote all
Many technical Colleges Etc. run part time courses in car maintenance. Some are for the domestoc owner, some for people in trade, or who wnat to be in trade. You'll need to do you own local research!