Do You Know the Basics of Auto Repair?

By: Steven Symes
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Are you like MacGyver when it comes to car repairs? Can you fix just about any problem with simple tools and your raw knowledge?  Your average person takes their car to the mechanic whenever there's a problem, then complains about how long they don't have it and how much the repair costs. If you think using a mechanic for anything less than an engine rebuild is a waste of money, you're well above average.

The fact is, most people can easily fix any number of problems with their car. Maybe they just lack the know-how when it comes to these problems. With the knowledge that abounds on the internet, it's hard to believe that with a little initiative they couldn't learn at least a little. That means the problem could have more to do with laziness. It's a way some people waste money, yet they seem content to do just that.

If you think you have the basics of automotive repair down, this quiz is for you. It doesn't cover anything too extensive, so you don't have to be a complete guru to ace it. Test out your knowledge now and take the quiz!

What's the first step in repairing rust spots on a car?

You can't just paint over rust or use anything else to cover it up, because it will just fester and keep eating away at the metal. Instead, you just remove it, and that's usually best done with a wire brush or rough sandpaper, and sometimes a combination of the two. After that you can repair the paint.

Before changing the oil, should you run the engine at all?

By warming up the engine to the normal operating temperature, you help ensure that the sludge that might have collected in the sump flows out when you drain the oil. If the engine is cold, you might be introducing the fresh oil to that right off the bat.

What tool should you use to check if the tie rods are worn out?

Using a tool to check if the tie rods have any free play, which is a sign they're worn out and need replacement, can result in damage. Instead, just use your hands, since they're sufficient for the task.

If you have a coolant leak, which of the following is a simple component many people forget to check?

Tracking down a coolant leak can be frustratingly difficult, but sometimes you forget to check the simplest of spots. The reservoir's plastic can crack, allowing for leaking. Of course, the hoses, radiator, hose fittings, and even the central heating core are possible sources of a leak.

Which of the following isn't a potential cause for car fuses blowing?

One of the many mysterious conditions in a car is when a fuse keeps blowing out. While there are many potential causes, sometimes tracking down the actual source can take time and patience.

If your sunroof squeals, which of the following should you try first?

Before you just starting squirting WD40 into the sunroof track, you should read in the owner's manual if there's a suggested lubricant. Some automakers prefer you use a lithium grease or something else.

If you need to remove the spark plugs from your car's engine, which of the following tools do you not need for the job?

Removing spark plugs that have been installed in an engine for years can be a difficult job, if you don't use a breaker bar for leverage. When you install new spark plugs, or even put back the same ones, spreading some lithium grease on their threads will make removing them easier later.

Which of the following is a good way to check a car's hoses?

Over time, rubber hoses can start to deteriorate. It's not hard to detect when that's happening, if you simply squeeze the rubber to feel for any signs they're going hard or brittle. Also, look for cracks of any kind.

Which of the following isn't a way to pull the dent out of a car's body?

There are many ways to pull dents from a car, but you need to determine if the dent is in metal or plastic, because that will affect which of the methods are options. Of course, you can always buy kits made for pulling dents, if you don't want to take any chances.

In a pressurized cooling system, what should you consider before opening the coolant overflow reservoir?

Pressurized systems means that opening the cap on the reservoir is kind of like opening a two liter of soda right after someone shook it up, only the liquid is extremely hot. In other words, you should open it with extreme caution, and only after letting the engine cool some.

What have some automakers included on engines to make it possible to adjust valves with minimal effort getting to them?

Removing valve covers is a simple, ones-step process. You might need to replace the gasket, so be aware of that potential and have the right supplies on hand. Still, it's easier than removing the entire cylinder head cover.

Which of the following isn't a way to possibly loosen a stuck bolt?

A stuck bolt can be a frustrating thing to deal with, but you have a lot of options for loosening it. Sometimes the issue is that corrosion has built up on the threads, so movement or vibrations can knock that off. Other times, you just need some lubrication to help everything get moving.

How do you correct swirling in a car's paint?

Swirls in your paint look bad, especially as they increase and build up over time. They're signs of microscopic damage or scratches in your car's paint, but you can remove them easily by simply polishing your car.

When you put the wheels back on your car, what should you do last?

Most people think just tightening the lug nuts by hand will keep the wheels on, but that might not be the case. It's best to use a torque wrench and tighten the lugs to precisely what the automaker specifies in the owner's manual.

What's one sign of a bad thermostat?

A bad thermostat can really toy with how your engine operates. Not only should you watch for overheating, but also note if the engine doesn't reach it's normal operating temperature, fluctuates in temperature, or even just starts having performance issues.

When jump starting a car, which one do you hook up to the cables first?

Really, it doesn't matter which car you hook up to the cables first, since you should be doing it with the car that works shut off. If you don't, you risk electrocution or other dangers, so it's worth just turning off the engine until everything's set up.

Other than the temperature setting, what should you check first when the heater in a car blows cold?

It might seem counter-intuitive to some people, but coolant actually powers the heater in your car. It flows into the central heating core after leaving the engine, dumping off some of the heat it picked up, but if the coolant level is too low it won't flow there.

If the doors on your car creak as you open and close them, what can you do?

Automakers might recommend a particular lubricant for this procedure, but white lithium grease is usually a good one to use, since it works in the extreme temperature range your car will likely be exposed to.

What's an effective way to clear a clogged window washer jet?

If you look in most car owner manuals they recommend using a needle or something similar to remove salt, dirt, or whatever might be clogging the nozzle. You can also use the needle to point the nozzle in the right direction, if you notice it sprays too high or low.

If your brand new wiper blades start streaking, what's likely the cause?

Your windshield and the wiper blades are exposed to all kinds of dirty situations, so you need to keep them clean. Dirt, salt, or whatever else might accumulate on the blades and cause streaking, but you can clear it all off with a soft cloth.

If you replace the ignition wires on an engine, and immediately after the engine runs rough, what's likely the cause?

The ignition wires come at different lengths, making it difficult to get the wires switched with the wrong cylinder, if you pay attention while installing them. The more likely scenario is that the rubber boots that are supposed to seal around the lip of the spark plug wells aren't on snugly and the engine is suffering from a lack of compression.

What element do you need to repair a deformed plastic bumper?

Plastic become malleable or you can shape it when it hits a certain temperature, so that makes reforming it possible. Just be careful to not heat it up too much, or you'll melt the plastic and have a huge mess on your hands.

If a car's muffler is dragging on the street, what might be the problem?

The exhaust system on any car is held up under the car by rubber hangers, which can stretch, crack, and break over time. Replacing them is a quick and easy process really anyone can do.

What is a sign that a fuse has blown in your car?

Fuses are designed to break in the event of a surge in electrical current, like if a bare wire touches the car's body or frame, protecting the electrical components from being fried. If the radio, wipers, horn, etc. just stop working suddenly, check the fuse box first.

When swapping out worn brake pads, how do you back off the calipers so you can remove the old pads?

To make the brake calipers move further from the disc, you must first pinch them using a clamp. Position the clamp over the soft rubber on the caliper, manually backing the calipers off. Once you've reassembled everything, pressing on the brake pedal should move the calipers back to the original position.

What can fix minor pitting in a windshield?

You shouldn't use this method on a windshield with severe pitting or other damage, but instead should just replace the glass. Always wear safety material, because the polish literally removes the glass from around the pits.

If a trunk lid won't stay open, what likely needs to be replaced?

Those struts, which look like shocks on either side of the your trunk lid, keeps it from falling closed. Once those wear out, you just need to unbolt them and bolt in replacements, something that should take little time.

When removing a blown head gasket, what must you be sure to do?

Usually, a head gasket will lift right off the engine block. Still, it often leaves behind some material on the metal, which if you don't scrape off, will negatively impact how well the new gasket seals. Always remove all the material before you even think about installing the new gasket.

How do you remove corrosion from battery terminals?

About the only shortcut to a solution on battery terminal corrosion is to buy a terminal brush, which is round with the metal bristles in the middle. It works faster than a regular metal brush, but you still have to scrub the corrosion off, which can take some time.

When replacing an engine fan, what's the first step?

Before you do anything else, you must locate the fan's electrical connector and unplug it. You might need to pinch a tab or two before pulling the connection apart, but once done you'll be able to proceed with unbolting the fan and taking it out of the car.

Before changing your car's transmission fluid, what should you do?

The transmission fluid will drain more fully and faster if you heat it up first, so drive the car for a short trip until the temperature gauge reaches the normal level. Also, be sure to have fresh fluid, a catch pan, and new filter kit before starting.

How do you fix cloudy old headlights?

You can buy a polishing kit or compound from any auto parts store, or some people will use toothpaste for the job. An actual polisher can make the work easier, since you're essentially wearing off the plastic on the lens that's been damaged by UV rays, exposing undamaged material under it.

Where can punctures on a tire be repaired?

Driving over a screw, nail, or something else that punctures a tire isn't the end of the world, as long as it's in the tread and isn't a quarter of an inch or larger in diameter. Damage to the sidewalls or shoulders can't be repaired.

If you drive on dirt roads regularly, what needs to be changed more often?

Driving on dirt roads kicks dirt up into the air, which makes its way into the air intake and also the oil. Swapping the air filter and oil more regularly is a good idea, so you don't deal with problems later.

What should you apply to fix deep gouges in paint?

If you go to the dealership and provide your car's VIN or the exact paint name from the sticker in the driver's doorjamb, you can buy a small bottle of touch-up paint. It matches the paint exactly, but you'll still need to polish the area for the best outcome.

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