First and foremost, do not attempt repairs that
are beyond your ability. If you feel unsure about a repair, you
should seek out a competent professional to do the work for you.
Better to pay someone who knows what they're doing than to attempt
to fix it yourself and screw it up. Many systems on vehicles
today are very complex. Repairs often require considerable skill
and expertise, not to mention special tools and equipment. A
simple mistake could ruin sensitive (and expensive!) electronic
components. So don't tackle jobs that are beyond your abilities.
Know your physical limits, too. Don't attempt repairs yourself
if you're not physically able to do the work. Replacing certain
components may require heavy lifting (changing or removing tires,
pulling a cylinder head, etc.), crawling under the vehicle, laying
or working in an awkward position, reaching, bending, twisting,
pulling, tugging, straining, jerking and motions you may not be
accustomed to making. Use common sense. If you have a bad back,
joint problems or lack the physical strength to do something,
then don't. Hire someone to do it for you.
Also, do not attempt to undertake any maintenance or repair
work on your vehicle if you're tired, not feeling well, tipsy,
on medication or otherwise impaired. Exhaustion, illness, alcoholic
beverages and even some medications may affect your judgment and
perception creating a potential for injury or error.
Don't smoke when working on any fuel related components
(fuel filter, carburetor, fuel injectors, fuel pump, fuel tank
or fuel lines). Better yet, don't smoke at all. It's bad for
Have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case. The fire
extinguisher should have a "B" (liquids & grease
fires) and "C" (electrical fires) rating.
Don't smoke or get any sparks near the battery. Batteries
contain hydrogen gas which is very explosive.
Never crawl under an improperly supported vehicle. In
other words, don't trust a jack alone to hold the vehicle up.
Always use a pair of support stands positioned underneath the
vehicle to keep it from falling on you. Make sure the support
stands are of sufficient strength to hold up the vehicle's weight,
too. Don't use blocks of wood, boxes, wheels or bricks for supports
because these may slip or collapse and allow the vehicle to fall.
Always disconnect one of the battery cables when doing
electrical repair work (as when replacing a starter, installing
a radio, fixing a broken switch or wiring, etc.). This will prevent
accidental shorts that could damage the wiring or start a fire.
This is also a very important precaution to heed when working
under the dash of any vehicle equipped with an air bag. Crossing
the wrong wires might set off the air bag (which could cause injury
and is very expensive to replace).
Never disconnect or unplug any electrical connector while
the engine is running or the key is in the "on" position
(unless specifically instructed to do so as part of a diagnostic
procedure in a shop manual). Unplugging connectors while current
is flowing through them creates a voltage spike that can damage
sensitive and expensive electronic components.
Do not wear loose clothing, jewelry, rings, neckties, scarves
or bulky gloves when working on your vehicle. If you have long
hair, tie it back or cover it. These items may become entangled
in pulleys or moving parts causing serious injury, dismemberment
Watch out for the drive belts, pulleys, fan and other moving
parts when working under the hood if the engine is running.
Watch out for hot stuff, too. If the engine is running
or the vehicle has been driven within the past half hour or so,
the engine, radiator, exhaust manifolds, catalytic converter,
muffler and pipes will be hot.
Never open the radiator cap on a hot engine. Always allow
the engine to cool for at least an hour before attempting to open
the cap. Even then, use extreme caution. Place a rag over the
cap, then loosen it slowly to the first detent or stop. At this
point any residual pressure and steam should be released. Wait
until all pressure has escaped before removing the cap the rest
of the way.
Avoid electrical shocks when working around the ignition
system. The normal battery voltage in passenger car and light
truck electrical systems is only 12 volts and will not harm you.
But the ignition system bumps the primary voltage up to 25,000
to 40,000 volts which can give you a nasty shock if you touch
a spark plug wire, the ignition coil or distributor cap while
the engine is running.
Wear eye protection when working under the vehicle (to
keep dirt and debris from falling into your eyes), when pounding
or grinding on anything (to keep metal chips out of your eyes),
when jump starting the battery (to keep acid out of your eyes
should the battery explode), when working on air conditioning
components (to keep refrigerant out of your eyes), and/or when
doing anything that might pose a risk to your sight.
Do not open up any brake lines or replace any components
in a vehicle equipped with an "integral" ABS system
(one where the master cylinder is combined with the ABS modulator,
pump and pressure accumulator) without first depressurizing the
system. This can usually be done by depressing the brake pedal
24 to 40 times while the key is off.
Use caution when opening any fuel lines on a fuel injected
vehicle. The pressure in some systems may be as high as 80 to
90 psi when the engine is running. So do not open any fuel line
while the engine is running unless your fire insurance and life
insurance are both paid up. Residual fuel pressure can remain
in the lines for many hours after the engine has been shut off.
To minimize fuel spray, wrap a rag around the hose or line before
loosening it, or relieve pressure in the line using a procedure
approved by the vehicle manufacturer (refer to a shop manual for
Minimize distractions while working on your vehicle. This
includes small children, pets, friends, spouses, in-laws or others
who may distract you from your work. This will go a long ways
towards reducing the risk of injury and making a mistake.
Tell someone if you're going to be working on your vehicle
outdoors or if you're going to be working underneath your vehicle.
Hopefully, they'll know how to dial 911 should the need arise.
If you're working outdoors and using power tools, make
sure the extension cord you're using is rated for outdoor use,
that the extension cord and tools are properly grounded (a "ground
fault interrupt" outlet is recommended), and that the cord
has the proper amp rating for the tools you're using.
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