How do you know if a certain repair is right for you?
In our opinion, there are three factors to consider:
- How dangerous is the repair to life and limb if something goes wrong during or after the job?
- The risk that you might cause permanent, unalterable damage to your car.
- The degree of complexity of the repair, or the need for very special and expensive tools.
To help you decide whether to attempt a specific repair, we've ranked many of the most common repairs in each of these three categories.
|Car Talk's Do-It-Yourself Matrix|
|Each of the repairs listed below is assigned a risk ranking of Low (green), Medium (yellow) or High (red). Green signifies the least-risky DIY repair with red being the riskiest. For more on these rankings, click here.|
|Repair||Personal Safety||Car Damage||Complexity|
|Replace windshield wipers|
|Replace spark plug(s)|
|Change air filter|
|Change a belt|
|Change a battery|
|Change a headlight|
|Rotate an alternator|
|Replace a starter motor|
|Replace a radiator|
|Replace a water pump|
|(if timing belt runs pump)|
|Change a timing belt|
|Change fuel pump|
|Replace brake fluid|
|Replace fuel filter|
|Replace fuel hoses|
|Replace radiator coolant|
|Replace automatic transmission fluid|
|Replace brake linings (drum brakes)|
|Replace disc brakes, pads|
|Replace brake rotors|
|Replace brake master cylinder|
|Replace brake line|
|Replace CV boot|
|Replace CV joint|
|Replace wheel bearings|
|Replace exhaust pipe|
|Replace struts or shock absorbers|
|Replace ignition module|
|Replace front-end components (tie rods, ball joint, etc.)|
|Replace steering rack|
|Replace head gasket|