Auto Repair for Dummies Book CoverThe Ultimate Car-Speak Guide for Beginning Mechanics

Author: Deanna Sclar

I’ve been on a kick of late to spend my post-work nights educating myself. I decided that since I own three cars, now four with the addition of my fiancé’s wheels, and seem to have an inordinate love of the gas guzzling, touchy beasts, educating myself about car lingo and basic repairs was a good place to start my whole life-improvement skill set. Despite adoring cars and having a finicky vintage project car among my small but eclectic fleet, my knowledge never extended beyond re-filling wiper fluid, changing tires, and gasing up the car. Since college I’ve had a secret yen to do some car maintenance but as with many things in adult life, nil time to do it in. At the very least, however, I wanted to know when my mechanic was joshing me. Being a woman, and a young one at that, with a penchant for cars and minimal knowledge is the equivalent of having sucker emblazoned across your forehead (believe me). Even if I never have time to actualize my dream of puttering around under the hoods of my old flivvers, I’d at least like to have a working knowledge of common causes and cures. So, I started at the beginning, admitted that for a car fanatic I know basically nothing, and purchased Deanna Sclar’s Auto Repair for Dummies.

The book is arranged in a friendly way and really does start from the basics up. Merging descriptions of how central car systems work with different do-it-yourself diagnostic and repair techniques, Sclar gives the bland basics some verve with her own personal car stories and descriptions of her vintage beast and all its foibles. The writing is easy to follow, the text basic without being condescending, the advice priceless, and the coverage extensive. You won’t get into anything exotic or especially difficult – no brake repair or engine overalls – but if you want to start from the ground up and mess around with your oil filter, or just be familiar with all those gidgets and gadgets under the hood, this is the penultimate place to start.

Unlike many of the lay readers, I’ve got to out myself and admit that my dive into this book was more intellectual than practical. In the spirit of disclosure, I haven’t done any of the repairs in this book, although I’ve poked around under the hood and identified all the snaking tubes and grungy boxes that Sclar highlighted in her illustrations. Many other reviewers (200 plus on Amazon) have used this book to get actual car projects started and finished. For me, for right now, I just wanted some basic car info and a working understanding. Auto Repair for Dummies more than satisfied my needs and gave me the preliminary desire (and a bit of confidence) to further enhance my unbounded car obsession. Sclar even provides templates for recording car specs and maintenance records, giving you a leg up on organizing knowledge and pinpointing a particular vehicle’s distinctive needs.

The book is ordered in alternating chapters. One chapter introduces a car system (such as the coolant system) and explains the basics of how it works. The following chapter (or chapters) gets into the nitty gritty of what can go wrong with the system and how you should go about diagnosing and treating it. Later chapters in the book discuss everything from hybrids to safety precautions to how to buy the perfect child safety seat. It’s basically a once over of every car thing you’re likely to encounter or need. Sclar further follows each section with some tips on how to stay green while maintaining a car obsession. Following through all these chapters, the reader gets a comprehensive understanding of how the mechanics in a car work and how the entire beast is put together and symbiotically cooperates.

To give you a sneak peak, here’s an abbreviated version of the Table of Contents for Auto Repair for Dummies:

Part I: Getting to Know Your Vehicle

Part II: Powering Up with Air, Fuel, and Fire

Part III: Staying Cool and In Control

Part IV: Smoothing the Ride: Steering and Suspension, Tires and Transmissions

Part V: Staying Safe and Dealing with Emergencies

Part VI: Helping Your Vehicle Look Its Best

Part VII: The Part of Tens

Appendix A: A Practical Glossary of Automotive Terms

Appendix B: Specifications and Maintenance Records

Overall, this book is a fantastic introduction both to the mechanics of a car and how to be your own mechanic (at least, for basic repairs). At the least, you’ll get caught up on some car speak and be able to protect yourself from ridiculous mechanic fees and repairs you don’t need. At the most, you’ll gain the confidence and the know-how with step-by-step guidance and intensive drawings for doing your own basic car maintenance. Sclar’s tips and tricks will even help you keep your car happy (and therefore running) longer. A great place (if not THE place to start) Auto Repair for Dummies is the best beginning  book for all you would be petrol heads out there – or you Average Joe’s looking to save some bucks and build some life skills.

–        Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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