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10 Car Problems You Shouldn’t Be Fixing Yourself

Skilled DIYers can tackle many car problems—but there are some issues that should be taken to a professional mechanic with experience in your car brand. Here are the top problems that call for a car dealership repair instead of your own garage.

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transmission car dealershipFusionstudio/Shutterstock

Automatic transmission problems

Modern automatic transmission systems are complicated and can vary greatly between vehicles. This is a repair job that’s beyond DIYer car work. It will require the attention of an experienced professional mechanic. Find out the 10 car problems you can easily fix yourself.

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electrical short car7th Son Studio/Shutterstock

An electrical short

You can often tell an electrical short by an acrid ‘hot” smell as the wire insulation burns. This creates a serious fire hazard, but wire failure can be a difficult problem to locate if you don’t have intimate knowledge of the vehicle model. If you can’t find the problem right away, take your car to a professional. That said, here are 30 things your mechanic won’t tell you.

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changing car clutchwellphoto/Shutterstock

Changing a clutch

Depending on the vehicle design, the clutch and other important auto components may be hard to reach without removing the engine. In this case, you should take your car into the shop for professional work for one good reason: You don’t want to disconnect and lift the heavy engine on your own, in your garage, without specialized equipment. To get started, make sure you have these car repair tools on hand.

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Manufacturer-specific engine components

This is true not only of your engine, but also your brakes, transmission, and other important systems. If you need a manufacturer-specific part, don’t try to use a generic part instead (this substitution could be dangerous). Instead, ask a repair shop that specializes in your vehicle manufacturer to locate the right part. They will be able to find it much more dependably that you would. It’s tempting to save a few dollars, but here’s why it’s not a good idea to buy cheap auto parts.

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windshield replacementDmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

Windshield replacement

Windshield replacement can be a DIY project, however, it’s best left to the professionals. Since the windshield is a structural component of the vehicle if it is improperly installed it is a serious safety hazard. The windshield is an integral part of proper deployment of the passenger-side airbag, as well. Focus instead on the fixes you can handle at home.

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car parts catalytic converterEinar Muoni/Shutterstock

Sulfur odors or other bad smells

A sulfur smell indicates a problem with your catalytic converter. Other nasty smells can indicate burning oil, coolant leaks and other serious problems. While you can buy a diagnostic kit to run tests, these odors indicate serious problems that are best left to professionals who can quickly pinpoint the issue and replace the necessary parts. For some additional help, there are lots of resources to learn about car repair online.

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car damage body shop change tireVereshchagin Dmitry/Shutterstock

Frame damage

Just got into a fender bender? Repairing scratches on your car can be a DIY project. Some bodywork is a potential DIY project. However, if there is frame damage to the car, that’s a whole other issue, and you should take it in for professional work. Remember, damage to the frame can compromise the entire car’s safety.

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Air Conditioner Repairs CarFamily Handyman

Air conditioner repairs

It may be tempting to try air conditioner repairs on your own. However, without a lot of experience, car AC units are a pain to work with. There are many different connections that must be properly managed, and a small mistake could make the problem much worse. You can do basic AC maintenance yourself, but if there’s not an obvious solution to an AC issue, take your car in and have a professional do the work. Just make sure you don’t fall for any of these car maintenance scams.

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cleaning car interior with a rag steering wheelPATIWIT HONGSANG/Shutterstock

Working with the airbag

Think twice about working around the airbag, especially if you need to dismantle anything near the steering wheel or dashboard. Remember, every airbag in your car is powered by a little pack of, well, explosives. Airbags can cause harm even when working as intended. Messing around with them is too dangerous for the average DIY, so leave it to a professional. Here’s how you can make sure you’re safe when you work on your car.

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car repairsyuyangc/Shutterstock

Differential repair

The differential is the device that makes sure your car can turn properly by adjusting the speed of the wheels. If something goes wrong here, don’t try to fix it. Differentials are delicate components that need careful adjustment from skilled mechanics. But the best way to take care of your car is upkeep. Check out these 100 ways you can maintain your car on your own.

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creeper_727567363_06 under a car mechanic automotive creeper4 PM production/Shutterstock

Are you a novice DIY mechanic?

If you have little or no experience working on cars, play it safe and let the dealership work on your car until you have the chance to shadow someone who knows what they’re doing. Have them show you and then let you try the fix or replacement for yourself. After you’ve gained some experience and confidence you’ll be ready to tackle some projects on your own. But first, check out the worst car care tips mechanics have ever heard.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman

T. Lacoma
I have owned a freelance writing business for the past three years, writing a variety of articles on finance, technology, environmental issues, home repair and other topics.