a Do-It-Yourselfer, youve probably done it wrong a
few times. Everyone has. This is how you learn hopefully,
not to do the same thing again.
Here are a
few classics from the Mashed Finger File; if you havent already
done em try not to do ’em!
the car on grass or dirt
and get underneath it
are surely maimed and even killed each year as a result of dumbo
Dont Do car jacking techniques than are mauled by sharks or
killed by lightning. Even hard-packed dirt can give way once the
weight of a two-ton car is hoisted on it. Gravel shifts and
grass is soft.
the car on a level, hard surface such as a concrete driveway pad
(or similar). And: dont ever crawl underneath the car
before the frame is properly supported by fixed jack stands.
Not just the
jack. Because jacks can leak.
rubber fuel hose in a fuel injected car
like engine fires, of course. The pressure in the fuel lines of
a modern fuel injected car can be as high 40 psi or more vs. 3-6
psi or so in a car (mostly early 1980s and older) equipped with
a carburetor. Fuel injected cars use hose that is rated to withstand
much higher operating pressures; regular fuel hose isnt. While
there may be (and ought to be) markings on the hose indicating its
rating (for fuel injection, etc.) its still important
to be 100 percent sure youre using the right stuff. Same with
the connectors/clamps. Because fuel injection systems usually have
specific clamps that are designed for the higher operating pressures
damaged brake lines
Do is even more potentially dangerous than the use of regular (low
pressure) rubber fuel hose in a high-pressure, fuel-injected car.
Because at least with an engine fire, youll probably be able
to stop the car, get out and flee the scene. But if the brakes
fail due to hydraulic problems caused by a cheesy spliced-in section
you cant just open the door and get out at
If a steel
brake line is damaged or rusty, the proper repair is to replace
the entire section with a new steel line. Never patch a section
like you might a leaky kitchen sink. Unless youre looking
to try an unusual form of assisted suicide.
on less than all your lug nuts
cars have either four or five lug nuts securing each wheel to its
hub. None of the individual lug nuts (or studs) are optional. Its
a serious Dont Do to drive around with one (or more) lug nuts
not secured because you (or the Quick Lube place) sheared off the
stud or something like that. The wheel can come off while youre
toodling down the road and when it does, the car will likely
suffer violent loss of control as the weight shifts suddenly and
unexpectedly. At the very least if youre lucky
all youll be is seriously stuck and looking at a fat tow bill.
More likely, youll have wrecked the car or caused it serious
damage. All because you were too cheap (or lazy) to fix a $5 wheel
stud or replace a 75 cent lug nut.
check engine light
the mid-90s new cars have come with On Board Diagnostics (OBD).
This means the computer that controls the engine continuously self
checks its various systems and, when somethings not right,
lets you know by triggering the amber check engine light
on the dash.
the fault is emissions related, which means its still safe
to drive the car. But even though the car may seem to be running
ok, it doesnt mean you should ignore the warning light indefinitely.
For one, your
gas mileage will probably go down because the engines not
operating at peak efficiency; it may be in what they call open
loop and so, burning more fuel. For two, your cars
tailpipe emissions may be higher than they ought to be which
may not bother you directly, but will definitely cause you problems
when your car fails smog check.
But most important
of all, the check engine light might be warning of a
problem that could lead to expensive repairs (such as replacing
a ruined catalytic converter as a result of bad O2 sensors) if you
dont get whatevers not right checked out and
fixed, if need be.
high speed/for extended periods on a Space Saver tire
Many new cars
no longer come with full-size spare tires. Instead, they have a
space saver temporary tire that is often much smaller than
the normal tire they are stepping in for. These temporary spares
are are designed only to let you gimp to the next available tire
store or get you home. Thats it. They are not intended for
high-speed driving and almost always will negatively affect
the way your car handles and brakes.
If you dont
want to wreck, dont drive on the space saver for more than
about 50 miles or faster than about 50 mph. (Your owners manual
will have specific warnings and cautions applicable to your particular
been tempted? You dont want to have to make two trips
to the store; so instead of doing the right thing you do the wrong
thing and have the forklift guy put a full load of bricks in the
bed that makes it sag so low you can almost hear the shock absorbers
screaming. You may soon hear them doing something else
(in addition to potentially damaging excessive load on those shocks
as well as other suspension components) will result from loading
your vehicle beyond what its rated to carry and could
result in permanent, expensive damage to the vehicle as well as
If you do cause
an accident while driving an overloaded vehicle, keep in mind that
you could be criminally charged as well as end up being sued out
of your house and into a van down by the river by the person you
Keep it in
mind. That extra trip is almost always worth the hassle.
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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