RAC Cars News


Be Your Own Mechanic

By raccars Published

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The more sophisticated modern cars become, the more complex they are and the more you spend at the garage. While in the past basic car maintenance may have involved nothing more technical than a wrench and a lump hammer, these days even diagnosing a problem requires special equipment. Advanced electronics control every aspect of your car's engine, and the technology used to find and repair even basic problems is confined to garages and usually franchised dealers.

While in no way is it recommended to go fiddling around under your car's bonnet if you don't know what you are doing, there are a number of helpful little tools that can diagnose problems, so you can at least visit your garage armed with a little knowledge beforehand, to avoid getting ripped off.

Use your smartphone

Among the millions of smartphone apps you can download are some that work as car diagnostic tools. The average modern car features a diagnostic port to connect it to a laptop computer and allow a mechanic to decipher technical reports. However, you can also connect Bluetooth tools that will communicate the same information to your smartphone and its clever diagnostic app.

Check for recalls

You think you would know if your car was demonstrating a known fault for which the manufacturer had issued a recall, no? In theory, yes, but a number of minor issues can slip through the net unknown. If you have a problem that is leaving you stumped, you can ask your local dealer about any recalls or you can visit the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) website, which has taken over what was previously known as VOSA.


The manufacturer's TIS (technical information system), is the garage industry's bible for any car. Manufacturers issue them to industry professionals as standard but they can also be obtained by private individuals. The TIS for your car will have instructions on diagnosis and repair for your car, including detailed technical diagrams and a list of tools required. The TIS is usually available as a CD, DVD or through online subscription.

Haynes manual

Don't underestimate the good old Haynes manual - used by garages and car owners for years to diagnose and repair a number of common faults. Available as a hardback book with illustrations and photos accompanying the detailed instructions, they can also be found online, including some very useful videos.

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