Home » It’s Wrenching Wednesday! Tell Us The Next Automotive Repair Skill You Want To Learn

It’s Wrenching Wednesday! Tell Us The Next Automotive Repair Skill You Want To Learn

Wrenching Wednesday Welding
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Fixing cars can be likened to an art form. Every day, skilled technicians and backyard wrenchers perform what can sound like sorcery to keep cars on the road for longer. Those people learned those skills over time, just like you and I do when we want to expand our abilities. Tell us the next automotive repair skill that you want to learn.

Recently, I joined forces with reader Shop-Teacher and other denizens from Opposite-Lock to do some wrenching on a sweet Buick Apollo with some history. Now, you know me. I’m a living encyclopedia of Smart Fortwos and am stacking up knowledge about Volkswagens and BMWs. Working on an old American car is not in my repertoire.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Still, Shop-Teacher, as well as a friend going by Birddog, taught me some new tricks that day. A lot of cars come with parts that aren’t expected to be replaced individually. Smart doesn’t expect you to replace a front wheel bearing but to replace the whole steering knuckle, which costs much more.

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AngyMeck

Likewise, the bushings and ball joints of the X-body Apollo’s upper control arms (right side of the above image) are not meant to be removed on their own. It’s dramatically cheaper to buy these parts than it is to replace whole control arms. Besides, it seems like a waste when the control arms themselves may be perfectly fine.

The guys taught me how to deal with this. We broke out a drill and an angle grinder. The drill carved the hard rubber out of the old bushings. This freed up a central shaft going between the bushings Then, we used the death wheel to slice up the metal surrounds of the bushings. Eventually, with enough sparks and laughs, the old bushings simply fell out. Then, we used a press to put the new ones in. Now I have an idea of how to conquer stuff like this on other cars!

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Shop-Teacher

I also learned that it’s ok to make some modifications along the way. The refreshed control arms would not go back in where they came from without us having to disassemble more parts in the engine bay. The fix? Shorten the bolts holding the control arms on. The bolts were already way longer than the needed to be, so they got a date with the death wheel.

I have a few skills I want to learn. I refuse to tackle any job requiring dropping an engine or a transmission because that seems to be outside of my skill set. At the very least, I don’t have anywhere to store a powertrain while I’m teaching myself how to do it. I also have this fear of taking something apart and not being able to put it back together.

Bill Caswell

I also want to learn how to weld better. I buy a lot of cars with rust spots and it would be awesome to be able to fix that kind of stuff myself. Bill Caswell got me started, so I must continue down this journey of learning a new superpower.

How about you? What’s the next repair skill you want to learn?

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Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
18 days ago

I’m very much on wrenching 101 – next on my schedule are an oil change and tire rotation and my first brake bleeding!

Also have to replace the flooring, finish setting up the aux lights I restored, adapting/installing a used bull bar I got for a song, install my winch (after I swap the steel cable setup for a synth line)…

Now if only my back would do me the favor of recovering once and for all so I can get on to it!

James Carson
James Carson
19 days ago

Ecu tuning amd upholstery. Never done them, want to learn. I’ve already learned almost all of the other car maintenence skills from wiring through welding and bodyworking, trans, engine and differential rebuilding. Messed around with an early megasquirt, but that was generations ago in ecu injection systems tech.

MacGyver1138
MacGyver1138
19 days ago

Tuning ECUs. The hard part is that I know you really need a dyno to do it well, and I obviously don’t have one of those sitting in my garage. Still, I think it would be a fun and useful skill to be able to put safe base maps and to understand exactly what changes can and should (and should NOT) be made. I’ve got a couple of books on the subject, so we’ll see if I can absorb it.

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
19 days ago

I’m planning to take a welding course at the local tech school in the upcoming Fall semester. I’m a farm kid, I can stick two pieces of metal together. It’ll hold, but it ain’t pretty! I’m hoping to break some old habits and learn the “proper” way to do it.

Geo Metro Mike
Geo Metro Mike
19 days ago

Brake lines. How to bend, flare, properly mount, the fittings. Years ago working at the auto parts store I felt humbled in the presence of the occasional customer that purchased bulk brake line. Now I want to know what they do to tackle this brake project coming up soon. Also, how to fix a lawnmower.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago
Reply to  Geo Metro Mike

Brake lines are fun, I used to do them in buggies. The flaring is a little stressful because even though you KNOW you did it right you keep feeling compelled to check again and again JUST in case, but the bending is really fun and satisfying.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
19 days ago

Bodywork. Also paint, but bodywork first. My ’66 T-bird was wrecked last August, so this is a skill I need to learn out of necessity if I want to drive that car again. Fortunately I know someone who can teach me and lend a hand, as this will be a big job, requiring one of the rear fenders to be cut off at minimum.

Also I just see all kinds of neat cars pop up for sale with rusty spots or one big dent somewhere, and it’s a fun fantasy to imagine buying them for cheap knowing I can fix the damage and make the car pretty and solid again.

I’d also like to learn more about upholstery in the future, since that’s something a lot of used cars are in desperate need of. Basically it seems there are plenty of cars with solid drivetrains and mostly decent bodies out there, which could have a lot of life left in them if they didn’t look so worn out in the body and interior departments. People are probably more willing to maintain a pretty car than an ugly one, so it’d be worthwhile from a reduce and reuse standpoint. I just don’t like seeing good vehicles go to waste due to rough aesthetics.

Space
Space
19 days ago

I don’t want to learn but I need to learn why a Dodge pentastar is shaking rapidly but not violently all the time.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
19 days ago

Fancy welding on non-mild steel materials. I can hack some stuff together decently with a stick welder or a MIG, but I’d love to learn to weld aluminum instead of just melting it.

I’d also like to learn how to do fiberglass properly. I’ve made dozens of subwoofer boxes and whatnot with it, but none were show quality and all made me realize I’m not ready to do any repair work on fiberglass body parts.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
19 days ago

Sadly, as someone with 20 years experience in the heavy diesel trade, I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve welded.

So getting competent in the metal hot glue gun is my next skill to hone.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
19 days ago

“Want to” is a strong, strong phrase. I need to figure out wiring so I can replace the aging rat’s nest in my 944.

Socram78
Socram78
19 days ago

Metal working is the next skill I want to acquire. Currently trying to find space for a shrinker, stretcher, English wheel, planishing hammer, bead roller, etc.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago
Reply to  Socram78

Have you perchance been enjoying the exploits of Crucible Coachworks?

MrLM002
MrLM002
19 days ago

It’s not specifically an automotive repair skill, but there are many automobiles that make use of it.

Riveting. I like rivets.

The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
19 days ago
Reply to  MrLM002

I hear Boeing might have a few openings for that

MrLM002
MrLM002
19 days ago

If I worked for Boeing, I too might have a few openings, in the back of my head, self inflicted, just before I was set to testify.

I’ll stick to my at home riveting.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
20 days ago

So I’m currently relearning an old skill. I’ve previously rebuilt many carburetors, but I haven’t in years. I’ve volunteered to help get an old fire truck running again, and we’re close to that happening, but now the team is waiting on me to rebuild the carb. So, it’s a Stewart Carb (made by Detroit Lubricator Co) off a 1924 Graham Bros fire truck. It shall run in the 4th of July parade for it’s 100th anniversary. It’s just that it’s a carb I’ve never seen before, much less rebuilt, and the kit had no instructions or diagrams. Needless to say, I’m loving every minute of this!

Idiotking
Idiotking
20 days ago

Painting properly. I’m doing decent work with the welder on sheet metal; now I want to learn the ins and outs of prepping and painting panels with something better than a rattle-can.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
20 days ago

Next on my educational list is paintless dent repair. The learning curve is said to be very, very steep. Exciting.

But I think I’m more excited for a chance to apply some skills I already have to my own car. Carbon fiber layup is something I’ve got some experience with, but never used on my own vehicle. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to manufacture some intake parts at home soon, I’d love to use Carbon-Kevlar for that Group B look.

I’ve had many chances to repair/patch components using duroplast (same concept as carbon fiber but with epoxy-dipped cotton cloth). Once was a pair of headphones that I fixed by wrapping the broken section with same-color JB-Weld-soaked T-shirt pieces, and another was a power steering high-pressure line that was weeping. I fixed it by brushing on some JB Weld, then tightly wrapping some cloth around, followed by another layer of JB weld, a TIGHT lashing of paracord, and a final coat of JB weld. The fibers provided the tension and strength to keep a seal long-term. Last I heard from the guy I sold it to, it was nearing 300k miles, had lost a subframe bolt from rust, and had to be scrapped. The power steering was working like a charm, though.

I’ll certainly mock up my intake designs out of T-shirts before ordering a roll of kevlar. I recommend that anyone curious about carbon fiber try it out with scrap fabric, there’s a lot of freedom in being able to hand-form and merge panels without an English Wheel or welder. You can even use Elmer’s glue if you just want to practice. You can also use regular fabric to make single-use molds. Say you want to make a hood, you can lay duroplast over it, then take it off and lay carbon inside that, and you’ll get a smooth, shiny result with the exact dimensions of the original skin.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
20 days ago

Welding. And how to operate machine tools like a lathe. If I ever get my basement better organized, a benchtop lathe would fit nicely. I have space and electrical capacity for a small inverter welder. Weld the parts together, grind it smooth, finish it on the lathe. I’ll never be a pro but being able to make stuff from metal comes in handy.

More realistic is becoming somewhat passable at CAD to make 3D printed bits. I’m at the TinkerCAD level right now but definitely want to level up. This awesome tool is sitting on a bench. If only I was better at using it.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
20 days ago

Painting, the whole thing: preparing the surfaces, sanding, painting, et. al. Also, definitely, welding, specially because it is something beyond car domain.

But, living in an apartament, is not that I would be able to put any of them in practice. In fact, thanks Lord I don’t need these skills right now.

So, I need to keep up with “softer” skills, now learning the wonderful world of BMW coding.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

If you’d like to learn painting in an apartment-friendly way, try scale models. They’re not exactly cheap, especially factoring the cost of the mini air compressor and spray gun, but you can get rolling with the full spray painting setup, paints and a few kits for like $300. It really does go just like painting a full size car, from the patience you need to lay down multiple coats to the skill necessary to judge the proper wetness of a pass.

Last edited 19 days ago by Ricardo Mercio
Jmfecon
Jmfecon
19 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

Definetely a good tip! Thanks man!

Although it will sound to my wife as my new “expensive hobby”. Which middle class man are only allowed two at the same time at maximum.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

I get that, I usually just have to rotate between my hobbies like a seasonal jukebox, not enough days in a week to keep them all running concurrently.

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
20 days ago

Definitely welding. I just do not have the space for it currently.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
20 days ago
Reply to  Turbotictac

Welding, always and forever wanting to learn welding. It’s like a superpower.

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
19 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Coincidentally, I ended up welding for the first time last night with a neighbor. Buying a welder from Harbor Freight tomorrow.

Richard D
Richard D
20 days ago

There’s a ton, now that I’ve started my track day journey. It’s challenging since I live in an apartment, but I *really* should know how to change brake pads. I just don’t want to mess that up!

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago
Reply to  Richard D

Brake pads are a great apartment lot project, just make sure you have all the torque specs down and that you check your manual/forums for any torque-to-yield bolts so you can replace those. I once stripped out an upright because I had the wrong torque specs and turned an hour project into a month.

Richard D
Richard D
18 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

That’s a great point to consider. Thank you!

Skurdnin
Skurdnin
20 days ago

Hacking together some patches on my rusty rocker panels with steel-reinforced epoxy last week really had me wishing I knew how to weld.

William Sheldon
William Sheldon
20 days ago

just bought a ragged roach of an s60r thatll likely turn into a project car. ive had many P2 cars, incl 3 T5’s and now 3 R’s. ive restored the other two R’s b/c they were in good/great condition but needed mechanical work and full refresh. But this car is whooped.
Having grown up helping my uncle build custom hand formed hot rods, id like to get into the thoughtful and meaningful world of custom but purposeful body and suspension (havent decided yet, hill climb/track car or lifted ute/rally thing) mods. Ive done tons of drivetrain swaps, both reverent and irreverent. Time for something new, and b/c the car is in such poor shape, i wont be ruining any “provenance” or collectability or whatever. This one’s for fun!

William Sheldon
William Sheldon
20 days ago

Plus, i forgot to mention, my kids are getting to be an age where i may be able to show them that mods (if done with safety in mind) can be fun! Maybe they’ll be interested, maybe they wont, both are ok. But like my upbringing, id like them to see what is possible if you have a vision, demonstrate perseverance in the face of challenges and maybe have fun driving/racing/meeting new people, etc.

Sklooner
Sklooner
20 days ago

I think learning to read wiring diagrams will be a skill you will need

William Sheldon
William Sheldon
18 days ago
Reply to  Sklooner

true! these CANBUS cars can offer a wealth of frustrations, capped by anger and failure! ive modified wiring harnesses to make my frankencars work (with no lights on the dash), took an Elec Eng. course once and regularly wire and repair electrical stuff to help friends and family. VIDA is also very helpful when it comes to these types of tasks. That being said, the car is now 20 years old with crispy wiring harnesses that i am sure i will need to make repairs to.
Kiddo’s can help by following the green wire with the brown stripe. Or was it the brown wire with the green stripe? What could go wrong?!

Sklooner
Sklooner
18 days ago

The wiring inside the mirror on my xc60 got all crispy-this affected the temperature sensor which meant the A/C and heat would be all or none – they did not want you in there and there were so many wire splicing was a nightmare- this was a 2010

Matthew Peters
Matthew Peters
20 days ago

So this is very much a new owner question. My wife’s father could no longer drive and sold his house and his classic corvette is now staying with us. I know enough to change the battery, oil and some other minor basics. But how do I take care of a care much older then I am. What do I start with and what do I need to know?

William Sheldon
William Sheldon
20 days ago
Reply to  Matthew Peters

Perhaps a knowledgeable mechanic friend or youtube university can help with the basics. I recommend buying a quality repair manual for the car, you’ll learn alot!

Large Marge
Large Marge
20 days ago
Reply to  Matthew Peters

First get some jorts, a pair of white New Balance, and a Hawaiian shirt, the rest will come naturally.

Parsko
Parsko
20 days ago
Reply to  Large Marge

COTD, LOL

Matthew Peters
Matthew Peters
20 days ago
Reply to  Large Marge

That would be the plan if it was a 70s vette, but a 50s vette seems like a different vibe.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
20 days ago
Reply to  Matthew Peters

Same vibe.

Also, sweet ride!

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago
Reply to  Matthew Peters

2 steps that can really help a classic car stay in good shape are cleaning, driving and inspecting it frequently. Cleaning keeps the paint, interior and undercarriage free of corrosive agents and moisture that can cause rust, mildew and could even harden leather/vinyl. This goes double for any drainage or vent channels the car has. Every car I’ve owned has needed its drainage gutters cleaned when I bought it.

Driving a car often isn’t just good for the battery, getting everything up to temperature and all the fluids flowing is good for the whole system and prevents dry rot, corrosion and other problems. In an old sports car, make sure you give it the beans every once in a while too, it’s healthy for the carb and lubrication system to rev high at wide-open throttle (disclaimer: If the car’s been driven slowly and seldom for years, I wouldn’t follow this advice. I’ve heard of cars that got babied for a long time blowing piston rings when they’re driven hard)

Make sure you check it, especially the fluid levels, frequently. These cars don’t have warning lights, if the oil is low you’ll be glad you checked. Early detection of problems will save you a lot of headaches. First order of business, I’d change the transmission and diff oil if they haven’t been done in a while, and would change the brake fluid no matter what.

Another good safety measure is, before leaving, to STAND on the brake pedal with the car parked. At least a bit harder than you would for an emergency stop. If you have a weakened brake line/cable, it’ll fail in your garage where you can replace it and not on the road. This habit has saved me twice in 20 year old cars, so I’d consider it imperative for a 70 year old machine.

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