When fixing a vehicle, you have to be able to diagnose the problem and have the right tool on hand to fix it. Of course, even when you’re prepared, mistakes in the garage are bound to happen. That’s why we decided to sit down with the pros from Matco Tools to find out more about the most common mistakes people make when fixing cars—from improperly using a tool to forgetting a key step in the repair process. Below are the top five missteps to avoid, along with tips on how to prevent them from happening again.

Mistake #1: Using a screwdriver as a pry bar or scraper.

Matco SCS4GA prybarsThis is an extremely common mistake that will more than likely end up ruining your tool. When you use it as a pry bar, your screwdriver may actually snap in half—not only breaking it, but creating a serious safety hazard as well. It may not happen right away, but if done consistently enough, your screwdriver will eventually end up in two pieces. The bottom line is simple: a screwdriver was not designed to pry things open. A pry bar, not only provides you with much more leverage, it’s safer and will save you a lot of working time, too.

Another common mistake is misusing a screwdriver as a scraper, which will end up damaging its head. This is another case where simply purchasing a scraper will save you a great deal of effort, time and money.

Mistake #2: Forgetting to disconnect the battery to protect electrical components.

MMS12AThis one is particularly for the “do-it-yourselfers” out there. When making a small repair, the last thing you want to do is create a big problem. That’s why, when performing electrical repairs, disconnecting the battery is a crucial step. Not only is it a fairly simple procedure, doing so protects the electrical components of your vehicle, including the alternator, spark plugs and various wires.

Although you do lose computer memory items when you disconnect the battery, tools like a memory saver can help keep things like radio stations and more alive during service.

Mistake #3: Tracing troublesome electrical shorts and bad grounds.

PPKIT03Electrical issues in a car may be extremely tricky to diagnose, and if you don’t have the proper tool, they can also be extremely time consuming. We’ve seen people try to guess based on past experience, but that ends up being a hit-or-miss method. When trying to fix an electrical issue on your car without knowing the source of the problem, you could end up doing more harm than good. It is never a good idea to guess with electrical work. Instead, try using something like the PowerProbe PPKIT03available from Matco—it helps diagnose all electrical issues, saving you time and making you more productive.

Mistake #4: Misusing lifting equipment.

We can’t stress this one enough: safety first when it comes to lifting equipment! There are many kinds of lifting jacks out there, so be sure to read the instructions on yours before using it. Another important factor is making sure you are using the right tool for the job—because there’s a big difference between a lift and a jack stand. Lifts are much stronger and safer if you are planning to get underneath the car, while jack stands are more for lift support. Never get underneath a car with only a jack stand holding up the vehicle. We recommend using the Matco MFJ354P for lifting the car, and jack stands like the JS6QL, which support the vehicle once it is in the air.

Mistake #5: Misdiagnosing misfire.

MDCOPThis is another tricky one. When your car is misfiring, it could be for a number of different reasons—some easy fixes, others more complex. Our biggest suggestion would be to avoid randomly buying and replacing parts to try to fix the problem. A proper diagnostic tool will not only save you time, but it could also end up saving you money as well. Tools like the new Matco MDCOP coil-on-plug ignition tester diagnose faulty coils without the guesswork, making your job easier and helping you avoid common–and often costly–mistakes.

Our biggest recommendation to anyone who is consistently working on vehicles would be to invest in the proper equipment—and to take your time while working. It may be a little expensive at first, but over time, those tools will pay for themselves. If you spend the little bit of money now and take the time to do things right today, you can avoid a headache (and having to fix a bigger problem) tomorrow.

If you are interested in any of tools in this post, please visit www.matcotools.com to learn more.


About The Author

Pam Oakes is a shop owner, ASE-certified technician, automotive author, automotive speaker, and syndicated radio host of “Car Care for the Clueless” on CBS Radio, CoachMeRadio, and AOL Radio -- LIVE@5 p.m. every Friday. And, yes, she still “turns wrenches.”

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