In years gone by, if you needed to have something fixed on your car, you had to take it to a garage, crossing your fingers that you weren’t going to be ripped off or you had to consult the traditional Haynes “Owners Workshop Manual”.
Today, though, this may no longer be the case. The internet has made it possible to learn just about any skill thanks to people sharing their knowledge online with others. For example, if you’d like to cook a new delicious recipe, you’ll find online cooking tutorials. Similarly, if you and some friends are planning to have a night of playing cards, then you could consult resources that explain how to play poker so you have some strategies to use.
Just a few years ago, this concept would have seemed laughable. So it’s a real testament to the power of the internet that it’s possible to learn just about anything. And that includes all the maintenance and repair work that you would normally ask your mechanic to take care of.
YouTube and other sites are awash with content that promise to show you how to do everything from changing a lightbulb to replacing components in your cooling system. To some degree, it’s not overly different from the content you would expect to find in an owner’s manual of old, though the production quality can vary.
However, is it really practical to think that you can use the internet to do all of your car maintenance?
Does the Internet Contain the Right Information?
If the last decade has taught you anything, it is probably that you shouldn’t trust everything you read online. Viral stories often turn out to not be quite as they seem, such as the story of this famous “rice wave” photo that turned out to have been faked.
However, for the most part, car maintenance videos are pretty accurate. You can usually verify YouTube videos easily by watching a few different ones and checking they all give the same (or similar) instructions or by reading the comments to check if people are complimentary or have left complaints.
Can You Follow the Information on the Internet?
Provided the information is correct, it’s relatively easy to follow the steps you find on the internet. This is especially true today because you can take a laptop, tablet, or smartphone with you so you can follow along with videos.
It’s also easy to scroll back or skip forwards if you need to.
You can also find vehicle-specific guides for almost every manufacturer, model, and variation, so you can be sure the steps you take are tailored to your car.
Is Following the Instructions Practical?
While it may be possible to follow the instructions found online, it doesn’t always mean that it’s practical. It’s relatively easy to replace a battery, change spark plugs, and install new light bulbs, but even basic maintenance like changing oil may not be practical if you don’t have the jack and jack stands required to raise the car off the ground. In theory, it may be possible to do this without lifting the car up, but you will struggle with the limited space underneath and will need to find a shallow but wide container to collect the oil in.
Additionally, more complicated work can often require specialist equipment to remove certain bolts and covers, which can cost money.
The other thing to factor in is that someone making videos about vehicle maintenance likely has an interest in the subject and has a decent amount of experience. This means they’ll be able to make it look easy, while you will still likely struggle if it’s your first time.
Can You Save Money This Way?
Most maintenance work that your garage will do for you will cost more in labour than it does parts. So by cutting out this element and doing the work yourself, you can (in theory) save a lot of money.
However, it isn’t quite that simple. Your time has a value. The hours you spend performing maintenance on your car could be spent earning more money than you’d pay your mechanic.
Even if you do the work on your day off, unless you really enjoy tinkering on your motor, you likely have more fun things you could be doing. So you also have to factor this into your decision.
So ultimately, yes, provided you have the correct tools and skills, it is possible to do most or all of the work on your car by following instructions on the internet. However, there are more things you should consider than just whether it’s possible.