Do-it-yourself auto repairs are always tempting, as people are increasingly looking for more ways to save money and cut costs. While there are a number of car services that are easy to do yourself, like changing the windscreen wipers or a headlight bulb, more complex work is best left to the professionals. In fact, there are some repairs that could void the warranty or cause greater harm to the vehicle if done incorrectly. Here are three car services in South Africa you should not attempt to do at home.
Changing the Brakes
The brakes are one of the most important components of the car, as they need the ability to stop the heavy, fast-moving vehicle at a moment's notice. Since they carry a life-or-death weight, it is crucial that the brakes are installed and repaired correctly. This is a job that should be done by an experienced technician. Not only do the brakes need to be properly installed, but extensive testing must be done afterwards to ensure that they are safe. Getting the brakes repaired at a service station is well worth the cost.
Fixing Faulty Air Conditioning
It can be tempting to try and service the air conditioning yourself, especially in sweltering temperatures, but this is another job that is better done by a mechanic. The air conditioning unit in the car consists of three components: the evaporator, the condenser and the compressor. Within these components is an intricate maze of hoses, valves and tubes, making it very difficult to find where the leak or problem originates. Additionally, the evaporator usually sits behind the dash and there is a lot of dismantling work that needs to occur to reach this part. Furthermore, air conditioners operate using Freon or an R-134a refrigerant, both of which can be poisonous to breathe and dangerous to handle. The complexity of the car air conditioning system means it is always better to get it serviced at the shop.
Changing the Timing Belt
The timing belt controls the camshafts in the engine, and gives the car its smooth operation. Changing the timing belt is a major repair, and attempting it yourself is often very risky. This is because the belt works in close connection with the engine, and in some cars as much as half of the engine needs to be disassembled when changing the belt. This leaves room for a very high margin of error. In addition, when working within the engine compartment there are a lot of very tight spaces that can be difficult for a novice to navigate. If your timing belt falters, your best bet is to forgo this at-home repair and bring the car to be serviced by a qualified professional.
Technological Advances Make Home Repairs Harder
One of the main reasons that all of these and other repairs are dangerous to do at home is the fact that vehicles rely increasingly more on state of the art technology and software systems, and tinkering with the internal workings of these systems can do great harm to the vehicle. For instance, many newer vehicles have brakes that rely on coding software to run correctly. Attempting to service the brakes at home could result in a coding mistake that causes the brakes to fail. This is a mistake that isn't worth saving a few dollars by performing your own maintenance.
Finding the Right Mechanic
When looking for a mechanic to service your car, remember that not all are the same. Be sure to choose one that will guarantee their work and will service a problem until it is fixed, since this is the reason you are opting for the professional assistance in the first place. Ask friends or family for recommendations or look for places with lots of positive customer feedback if you are unsure where to go.
Regular Maintenance is Key
The best way to keep the car from needing expensive repairs is to get your car serviced regularly, according to the manufacturer's suggested schedule. Following a regular maintenance schedule will keep everything in top working order and reduces the chance that a part will malfunction or break due to neglect. For instance, many manufacturers give a recommendation for changing the timing belt, which could save any surprises from an untimely belt malfunction. Additionally, some parts may be covered under the manufacturer's warranty for a period of time, so regular maintenance or repairs may fall to the responsibility of the dealer.
While there are many car services that can be done at home, it is important to be smart about the bigger repairs that are best left to the professionals. Anything that requires massive reconstruction, the use of specialised tools, or the handling of hazardous materials is a job that should be done by a mechanic. While the thought of doing your own repairs and saving money can be enticing, it is nothing compared to the bigger cost that may result from a faulty repair or worse, an accident.