Sign in to follow this  
Scott Mckenzie

Do you do your own work?

Recommended Posts

After reading the post about getting into the scary world of classic/vintage Rivs and people talking about taking their cars to a mechanic, I wondered about people doing their own work on their cars. I`ve puttered on cars forever. But I cant afford to pay many people to do work for me. I farm out transmission work because automatics are not in the scope of my expertise and have friends that understand the metaphysical world of wiring . Other than that , my pension dictates that I learn new skill sets. I have built a few motors and enjoy that. Did all the bodywork , replaced many rusty panels ,learning how to mig weld along the way .Then came painting,prep sand prep sand... and finally paint. All this is hard work for a novice but still doable and it saves some cash . I suppose what my point is that i do what I feel I can and only sub out what I absolutely cant tackle otherwise the cost of ownership can get out of reach . I should add for reference that my working life was consumed by building wooden items of furniture for the CDN  Navy. Cheers ,Scott

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes. We do it out of necessity even when we don't really want to. Finding shops that can do the various things that need to be done to an old car reliably and correctly is nearly impossible. Most techs today are not working on older hardware much, so even the competent ones do not usually know the "old ways". There are also a bunch of incompetent people out there. Money may be an issue, but it is not the primary reason most of us do it all ourselves. Getting the job done right is the problem.

 

A typical old car guy will know of one or two shops who have been verified to be capable and good in some specific discipline (brakes or radiators or paint etc). Everything else requires reading and learning. Many parts of old cars were intended to be adjusted or rebuilt rather than replaced. It really helps to get into that mindset.

 

Beemon's "Me and my beautiful 56 Buick" thread gives a very accurate picture of why things are the way they are. I suggest reading it from start to finish.

 

Using a competent restoration shop is another option, good ones can do or broker everything. The trouble is it is expensive. It is also more likely to result in the sort of car that you would haul and show, rather than daily drive or tour, not that there is anything wrong with that. Plenty of folks around here have a great time doing shows.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I live in a condo and have only a carport, so that limits what I can do myself. If I had a garage, I would certainly do a lot more myself. Sadly, the way real estate $$$ around Seattle, my dreams of having a garage some day are pretty shot. We have a new storage facility in Seattle ("The Shop") that offers indoor parking and access to bays. It's $350 a month. Tempting but not in my budget.

 

I have gotten used to having my mechanic do stuff. But I realize most folks do it differently.

Edited by bodayguy (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've done everything on a complete frame-off in the past.  I'll likely do everything except upholstery and body work on this one.  Time is the big issue...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my younger days I did just about everything you can do to a car except rebuild and automatic transmission. Time and bodily limitations have lowered what I can handle but I still do what I can because it's fun. I will not paint at home because newer paints are too toxic and I farm out heavy undercar work because it takes too long to recover!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/6/2018 at 2:00 PM, Scott Mckenzie said:

After reading the post about getting into the scary world of classic/vintage Rivs and people talking about taking their cars to a mechanic, I wondered about people doing their own work on their cars. I`ve puttered on cars forever. But I cant afford to pay many people to do work for me. I farm out transmission work because automatics are not in the scope of my expertise and have friends that understand the metaphysical world of wiring . Other than that , my pension dictates that I learn new skill sets. I have built a few motors and enjoy that. Did all the bodywork , replaced many rusty panels ,learning how to mig weld along the way .Then came painting,prep sand prep sand... and finally paint. All this is hard work for a novice but still doable and it saves some cash . I suppose what my point is that i do what I feel I can and only sub out what I absolutely cant tackle otherwise the cost of ownership can get out of reach . I should add for reference that my working life was consumed by building wooden items of furniture for the CDN  Navy. Cheers ,Scott

 

Scott, I believe your approach is great. Do what you can, learn what you can, and look and ask around who does vintage GM car work. It sounds like you can change parts as good as anyone can. I found using the forum to diagnose what is wrong and source the parts myself is over half the solution. For instance, I spent a lot of time on the air conditioner system and heating system. Not one of the mechanics I used to get the AC going had the where with all to diagnose and source parts. The forum steered me in the right direction to get the problem solved. I stayed with R12, got the STV rebuilt and bought a new compressor and dryer. I was out measurable $, but the only way I could get AC is if I did it the way I did OR turn the car over to known restorer with a solid reputation to fix the AC. Then, I"m certain the cost would have been more than significant for my pocket. Body and fender repair/painting is out of my scope of learning at this stage of my game. The little rust and touch up paint I had done was done by a good body and fender shop. The body and fender shop charged $65.00 an hour.

The mechanics I've used Ive not been impressed with their capability to do a complete job. Even, as I had a mechanic supposedly known for his Air Conditioning work left my AC half baked. I needed to get vacuum hoses, a vacuum switch, and a vacuum actuator to get cold air in the cabin. The mechanic had terribly poor communication skills and I believe he was just a true PITA. I finally got the AC working with yet another local mechanic. Do as much as you can yourself. Use the forum for answers to problems before you try any outside mechanic. My luck as been knowing the solution to the problem. I just don't have the mechanical know how to perform the work.

My last few projects were to fix a leaky speedometer cable that squirting out fluid on my left shoe while I was driving, put on four new shocks, put in a kill switch, and take out the clock, have it upgraded to a quartz movement, and put it back in so it still works. Some say upgrading the quartz movement is easy.

The next project is to put in a replacement steering box. The burning question is go the budget route at about $100--$120 rebuilt A1 Cardone or go new from another manufacturer for about $350.00. I will take out the old in put in the replacement steering box myself. Oh, on tires I got four 225/70/15's with a one inch white wall for a little over $400.00. The tires are an off brand name, but my tire man said they were good.

Red Riviera Bob

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
30 minutes ago, Red Riviera Bob said:

Use the forum for answers to problems before you try any outside mechanic. My luck as been knowing the solution to the problem. I just don't have the mechanical know how to perform the work.

This is my way, too. I try to figure out what's wrong as best I can before I take it to the mechanic, or if I need to take it to him. I also buy the parts myself and have those ready. That saves a little money, too.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm really bad at diagnostics, but fairly handy.  Once someone (professional or friend) can tell me what's wrong, chances are I can fix it.  Transmissions are another matter entirely along with a/c.  

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Red Riviera Bob said:

The mechanics I've used Ive not been impressed with their capability to do a complete job.

 

It is hard to find a mechanic with real training. I have known a few but their skills were usually comprised by their attitude. The worst ones have been those generous souls whom wanted to "save me money". They are the ones afraid the bill will be too high and make cheap decisions for you. Or I find the ones that take on too much work and rush through the job in the last few hours after having the car sit for days.

When I was in my late 50's I tried farming out more work. That was ten years of experience ago. I am doing most myself and buying more tools- that I know how to use. As I write I remember the water pump pulley nut zinging past my ear after my son had a new pump put on at a shop I used to use.

 

Very few have formal training and the basics seem to get overridden with anecdotal stories. I ran into that when I taught a fourth year HVAC apprenticeship. I couldn't fail anyone because it would only mean they would repeat the fourth year.  The skills they lacked were basics from the first year. I begged the board to let me teach the first year. They said they could get first year instructors a dime a dozen. They needed me in the fourth year. Grrrrrrrrrr.

 

I have formal training in using computers (since 1974). There are a lot of users who just sat down and let osmosis do the job. No kidding, I think many mechanics are like that. And if they did get a collectible car right, I probably paid extra for their learning.

 

Luckily, I have been buying better cars, and maintaining them in a proactive manner is a WHOLE lot easier than repairing them. I just added a very complicated car to the herd. It ain't broken and I look forward to all the easy things I can do to keep it that way.

 

Thank you, I will do it myself. I have had a lot of job titles during my life and may have a couple more before it is over, but my occupation, on the tax form, goes in as mechanic every year. Like a cross between Casey Jones and Gordon Cooper.

Bernie

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hate working on cars, but I love fiddling with them. 

 

Fixing my driver's side window as well as the triangular corner crank window was a project I was more than willing to take on.  But replacing some engine mounts, not so much.  I designed and 3D printed a phone mount for the car, no problems, but tranny work?  No thanks.  I installed some LED lights and messed with the carb return spring, no biggie, but boring maintenance is stuff is not my favorite stuff to do.  Ripping out 1/2 the interior and trunk area to spray some rubber seal is not an issue, but ripping apart a carb is something I wouldn't be thrilled to do, but might at least attempt it.

 

I think the worst part of having such an old and relatively obscure car is that there are no YouTube videos to go over basic stuff.  I've done lots of basic maintenance on my and my girlfriend's new cars and even though they are vastly more complicated, it's fine when you have good reference material.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought the Chassis service manual, Body service manual and even the manual for the ST400 trans. the first two are great and I think someone is offering them on a CD .A great tool for the box.

 

Quote

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you don't do your own work, you're in the wrong hobby. ;)

 

There are three good reasons do it yourself: efficiency, competence, and education.  As pointed out earlier, it's better to make an investment in a tool than write off the expense of someone else's labor.  Most of this stuff you can do yourself.  There are jobs where that doesn't make sense (e.g. boring cylinders), but 95% can be done at home with a decent assortment of tools, a little planning, and attention to detail.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When working on your own car, the level of perfection you are able to achieve is directly proportional to the number of times you are willing to do a job over.

 

When having someone work on your car, the level of perfection you can achieve is directly proportional to the number of times you are willing to pay to get a job done.

 

I will sign a statement to that effect and have it notarized.

Bernie

  • Thanks 1
  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/7/2018 at 5:35 PM, 60FlatTop said:

 

It is hard to find a mechanic with real training. I have known a few but their skills were usually comprised by their attitude. The worst ones have been those generous souls whom wanted to "save me money". They are the ones afraid the bill will be too high and make cheap decisions for you. Or I find the ones that take on too much work and rush through the job in the last few hours after having the car sit for days.

When I was in my late 50's I tried farming out more work. That was ten years of experience ago. I am doing most myself and buying more tools- that I know how to use. As I write I remember the water pump pulley nut zinging past my ear after my son had a new pump put on at a shop I used to use.

 

Very few have formal training and the basics seem to get overridden with anecdotal stories. I ran into that when I taught a fourth year HVAC apprenticeship. I couldn't fail anyone because it would only mean they would repeat the fourth year.  The skills they lacked were basics from the first year. I begged the board to let me teach the first year. They said they could get first year instructors a dime a dozen. They needed me in the fourth year. Grrrrrrrrrr.

 

I have formal training in using computers (since 1974). There are a lot of users who just sat down and let osmosis do the job. No kidding, I think many mechanics are like that. And if they did get a collectible car right, I probably paid extra for their learning.

 

Luckily, I have been buying better cars, and maintaining them in a proactive manner is a WHOLE lot easier than repairing them. I just added a very complicated car to the herd. It ain't broken and I look forward to all the easy things I can do to keep it that way.

 

Thank you, I will do it myself. I have had a lot of job titles during my life and may have a couple more before it is over, but my occupation, on the tax form, goes in as mechanic every year. Like a cross between Casey Jones and Gordon Cooper.

Bernie

Bernie, well written. Mechanical aptitude skill helps in figuring how to “set up” the job. I just replaced shocks on my 63 Riviera. Pretty straight forward job most anyone could do. It took longer for me than it should for an experienced mechanic. The next time I change shocks should be easier.

Red Riviera Bob

PS. I cleaned and prepared the metal on the underside of the car and treated the metal with POR 15 and POR 15 Top Coat. The cleaning and metal prep was easy enough. The hard part was using the brush to apply the coating. I would have been better off with with an under coating spray gun and hose extensions to reach the boxes and channels.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/8/2018 at 12:16 PM, KongaMan said:

If you don't do your own work, you're in the wrong hobby. ;)

 

There are three good reasons do it yourself: efficiency, competence, and education.  As pointed out earlier, it's better to make an investment in a tool than write off the expense of someone else's labor.  Most of this stuff you can do yourself.  There are jobs where that doesn't make sense (e.g. boring cylinders), but 95% can be done at home with a decent assortment of tools, a little planning, and attention to detail.

Mr. Konga Man, I would add mechanical aptitude as a necessary skill to do your own work on your collector car. I’ve found the mechanics I’ve used in my area are D+, if such a grade exists. I don’t have the know how on transmissions and air conditioning. I maybe in the wrong hobby, but by luck my 63 Riviera is coming along with my personal efforts and the weak mechanics I’ve had to live with in my area. I suppose if money were not an object a collector car owner could be take the vehicle to a named restoration shop for repair.The restoration shop would have to offer Proof of previous projects and referrals before I think anyone would spend money. Everyone has their own resources to achieve what they need and want. I was lucky the 63 Riviera I purchased was a solid car. The good part about my 63 Riv is none of the P.O. did anything to the car. The bad thing about my 63 Riv is no one did anything for the car. All in all I’m really happy I do not own a boat!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/7/2018 at 5:35 PM, 60FlatTop said:

 

It is hard to find a mechanic with real training. I have known a few but their skills were usually comprised by their attitude. The worst ones have been those generous souls whom wanted to "save me money". They are the ones afraid the bill will be too high and make cheap decisions for you. Or I find the ones that take on too much work and rush through the job in the last few hours after having the car sit for days.

When I was in my late 50's I tried farming out more work. That was ten years of experience ago. I am doing most myself and buying more tools- that I know how to use. As I write I remember the water pump pulley nut zinging past my ear after my son had a new pump put on at a shop I used to use.

 

Very few have formal training and the basics seem to get overridden with anecdotal stories. I ran into that when I taught a fourth year HVAC apprenticeship. I couldn't fail anyone because it would only mean they would repeat the fourth year.  The skills they lacked were basics from the first year. I begged the board to let me teach the first year. They said they could get first year instructors a dime a dozen. They needed me in the fourth year. Grrrrrrrrrr.

 

I have formal training in using computers (since 1974). There are a lot of users who just sat down and let osmosis do the job. No kidding, I think many mechanics are like that. And if they did get a collectible car right, I probably paid extra for their learning.

 

Luckily, I have been buying better cars, and maintaining them in a proactive manner is a WHOLE lot easier than repairing them. I just added a very complicated car to the herd. It ain't broken and I look forward to all the easy things I can do to keep it that way.

 

Thank you, I will do it myself. I have had a lot of job titles during my life and may have a couple more before it is over, but my occupation, on the tax form, goes in as mechanic every year. Like a cross between Casey Jones and Gordon Cooper.

Bernie

Major Tom? Ground control.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Red Riviera Bob said:

Mechanical aptitude skill helps in figuring how to “set up” the job.

 

Works the same for draining swamps.

image.png.0cd9541233565a7ae055853960d7a9f8.png

 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Red Riviera Bob said:

 All in all I’m really happy I do not own a boat!

 

Right on, Bob!   😁

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The neat thing about doing your own work is buying new stuff. In March I test drove a 2017 Cadillac XTS with 20,000. The price was $30,000 and, after reading all the reviews, it fell short of my expectations. However, since January, I had made something like 17 after hour trips to look at a 2003 BMW V12, a notorious maintenance burden from the reviews. High service costs, as electronic as Lucy, and a car I REALLY liked driving the one time I took it out for a test. After negotiation I got it for $7800. My mind said "you have $22,000 for tools and parts and maintenance. A car to drive through my 70's. My Wife and I have been enjoying it for a couple months now. Getting sunny and warm so it is time to get serious.

 

Yesterday I dropped the first $1000 to access all those undercar parts. BUT, my Riviera got the first ride!

004.JPG.e393a670f9c39ee39ce538dabfd30254.JPG

 

It's a Kwik Lift. A friend got one two years ago and loves his. I built my garage in 1988, what, two years before home lifts became common, only 8' ceilings.

Bernie

Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By the way, if you want to know what's it's like working on one of these old classics:

 

I needed to get the horns working again after I had checked the turn signal connectors behind my (aftermarket) steering wheel. In laziness, I had been working on the wheel without disconnecting the battery (I just unplugged the horns instead).

 

When I reattached everything, no horns. Figured I had blown out the relay in my laziness. So I ordered a new one. Put it on. Checked the steering wheel/horn actuator to be right. NO HORN. wtf. Checked everything again. Checked power from the relay. Frustrated, I reattached the old relay. HORNS WORK. wtf.

 

I can't figure out half the things I fix/break. And the process is usually a combination of both.

  • Haha 1
  • Confused 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, bodayguy said:

 

.....I can't figure out half the things I fix/break. And the process is usually a combination of both.

...sometimes you can't splain it....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this