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Old 07-28-2020, 07:31 PM   #1
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 516851
Join Date: Jul 2020
Default What's a good place to start working on your car?

Hey everyone,

I'm a complete newbie and have a beater of Subaru, but I love it . It probably isn't gonna last the longest as its pushin 300k and was bought by the previous owner/mechanic under a salvage title. They also openly disclosed they want to become a rally driver, and accordingly, drove it as such but also took care of it mechanically (they said they drove it as a daily primarily and would take road trips throughout the state from time to time). So I don't want to invest too heavily in it but I do feel its a good opportunity to start learning about working on my car (as so much needs some lovin).

I'm wondering generally speaking, what would be good areas to jump into and what would be good areas to hold off on or have professionals mess with for the time being.

For example, I definitely need a wheel alignment, a new ebrake and my drivers side power window often doesn't respond to roll up. These are all things I'm thinking would be fairly easy to fix. On the other hand, I'm guessing messing with the engine and tranny for example would take more experience, etc.

Can anyone give some advice to a newbie on maybe what would be a good route to take from easy to difficult as far as learning about and working on cars mechanically?
Where did you start out?
What are your big takeaways from your decisions on what to fix or what not to?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 07-28-2020, 08:21 PM   #2
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 487057
Join Date: Jun 2018
Chapter/Region: BAIC
Location: California
2002 WRX Wagon


Start with oil changes, changing wheels, checking and maintaining fluid levels. Change your spark plugs. Then start looking in to various bushings. Maybe put some new shocks in. Clean things up a bit then you can see where stuff is leaking from and decide on your path from there.
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Old 07-29-2020, 09:22 AM   #3
Add Lightness
Member#: 13699
Join Date: Dec 2001
Chapter/Region: NESIC
Location: Hopkinton, MA
2021 Building
It Better


Start with the maintenance records. You say the previous owner was a mechanic, so I assume he gave you a book with dates/mileage and service performed. The fact that the e brake doesn't work is problematic as it does not point to keeping on top of services. I mean.....it's broken. If he gave you nothing, you really have to assume that nothing has been done, in which case you have about $2k worth of stuff to go through.

In general, fix things that are broken and then go through the car. Fix the ebrake and while you're in there, you can scope out the condition of the rear brakes. While doing those, check the fronts. If there are no records, again, while you're there, change the brake and clutch fluid. Then under the hood and do the timing belt, water pump and tensioner. A thermostat is probably also due. Plugs....sure. The boring stuff like air filter, an oil change with filter, diff fluid, tranny fluid. Check the CV axle boots and wheel bearings. Typically, you wouldn't be breaking into the engine or tranny until something isn't working or is broken. You can check all the wear items. Control arm bushings, motor mounts, sway bar bushings and end links, tie rod ends and boots, ball joints, steering rack, power steering fluid.

Or just turn up the radio and ignore the bad noises since it's past its useful lifetime already.
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Old 07-29-2020, 10:39 AM   #4
Wayne Suhrbier
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 144044
Join Date: Mar 2007
Chapter/Region: South East
Location: Alabama
2006 STI


Search for repair walkthroughs and see if its something you think you can do. You can borrow a lot of specialty tools from a local auto parts store.
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Old 07-29-2020, 10:59 PM   #5
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 517157
Join Date: Jul 2020

I started out in high school auto shop working on their cars. Later on I bought a running 1970 Mustang for $200 which was in terrible condition but still running. As I didn't need the car for transportation, I was able to spend the next two years tearing it down and rebuilding it. This along is my greatest advice to you -- work on a car you don't need so that you're never forced to quickly get the car working again. Then take something apart, inspect it and put it back together.

For instance, remove the spark plugs and if necessary, replace them. To do this you'll need a socket wrench and socket which fits your spark plugs. Now take that same principle and continue to work on your car. Each task will likely require specific tools and you'll need to figure out whether it's worth buying those tools for that job (which you'll do one time on this car likely) or if it's better off hiring a pro.

Have fun with it!

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Old 07-31-2020, 04:54 AM   #6
Scooby Specialist
Member#: 48377
Join Date: Nov 2003
Chapter/Region: MWSOC
Location: "They eat fish soaked in lye"
1996 Gutted, built
XP class Impreza L


Start with an oil change, then tranny gear oil and rear diff fluid change. After that Brake and Clutch fluid changes. Then look at suspension bushings that are worn out. After that there are a hundred little things that need to be replaced at that mileage.
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:21 PM   #7
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 517220
Join Date: Aug 2020

I always say find a friend. That's always the best place to get started is in a friends garage.
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:47 PM   #8
Scooby Specialist
Member#: 492327
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: A car lounge in the midwest
19 WRX 16 STI
17Mk7R 20Supra 20Forester


One would benefit greatly by starting with having a garage and owning tools for basic maintenance.

I've been doing this hobby for many years and each time I get asked where someone should start, I tell them get a garage first and basic tools.
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Old 08-03-2020, 06:22 AM   #9
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 516851
Join Date: Jul 2020

These are all awesome replies.
Thanks to all of you!

I have done quite a few of these things already and if it seems relevant I'll respond later individually. Just wanted to say thanks so much to everyone for their advice for now.
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