Looking @ some of the posts in the R&M section, it appears we have a
variety of experience levels ranging from profession mechanics, weekend
warriors, and those venturing for their first home oil change. I am
posting some practical suggestions which will help, especially the first
timers, make cars a more enjoyable experience.
Many of the standards and organizations listed are based on what is legal or accepted in the United States. Please check local regulations and practices in your own location
These suggestions are not all inclusive and you are ultimately responsible for your own car's performance and its safety. You are responsible for your own personal safety. You assume all responsibility and liability whatsoever
Safety glasses – Safety glasses should be worn anytime you are working on or under the car to protect the eyes against flying objects, dust, splashed chemicals and lubricants, etc. A good pair of ANSI (American National Standards Institute) rated glasses or goggles meeting OSHA (United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements for industrial use can be bought for as little as $5 -$10 at auto parts stores, hardware stores, tool outlet (Northern Tool, Harbor Freight) Make sure you use the right goggles for the particular hazard. If in doubt, ask.
Jacking and Lifting – Lift or support the car only specified lift points and support the car on safety jack stands (no cinder blocks please) before beginning work. The lift points are specified in your owners book, a factory shop manual or in some cases Haynes or Chiltons mauals. Use equipment rated for the job you are doing or heavier (i.e. don’t use a 2 ton floor jack to lift a 4500 lb load). A good rule of thumb – if the jacks and stands aren’t rated for the weight of your car, get heavier ones. The same advices goes for heavy components such as transmissions and rear ends.
brake service - avoid breathing the dust from brake pads when working on the brakes - wet the dust with brake parts cleaner and wipe off with a rag and throw the rag away immediately in a closed container. Brake pads have been known to contain asbestos fibers which is unhealthy to breath.
Fuels – Fuels such as gasoline (petrol for Cliffy), diesel oil, etc. by nature are flammable. Gasoline vapors ignite very easily and can be ignited from seemingly harmless sources such as light switches, water heater pilot lights, burning smoking materials such as cigarettes, cigars, etc. As a rule of thumb, do fuel system work outside since most home garages are not built to the same electrical and fire codes as auto service stations and repair garages. Disconnect the battery @ the negative terminal and be careful to avoid sparks when removing fuel pumps and fuel filters unless it it required to have power for fuel system diagnosis/testing. Keep a dry chemical fire extinguisher handy (if in doubt as to what to buy, ask your local fire department)
Motor Oil and other Lubricants – these chemicals are not as flammable as gasoline but will still burn. Used oil has also been known to contribute to skin cancer thus wear rubber gloves or wash your hands with soap and water after handling. In the US, people and companies who sell this stuff are required by United States Federal law to provide MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) sheets. Dispose of these products in a legal and environmentally acceptable manner. In the United States (and most other countries), it is illegal to pour these chemicals on the ground, into sewers, septic tanks, etc. Many communities have hazardous material collection points where this stuff can be delivered for proper handling. Many auto repair garages, service stations, dealership service departments and auto parts places will allow you to dump your used oil into their collection tanks for proper disposal. Don’t mix other chemicals such as brake or transmission fluid into the used oil.
Chemicals – Some chemicals such as carburator cleaner, paint, solvents, etc are flammable as well as bad for your health. Use these chemicals in ventilated areas and treat with the same respect as fuels. Dispose of these products in a legal and environmentally acceptable manner. In the United States (and most other countries), it is illegal to pour these chemicals on the ground, into sewers, septic tanks, etc. Many communities have hazardous material collection points where this stuff can be delivered for proper handling. If in doubt concerning how to handle a chemical, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) can be obtained from the supplier or auto parts place. In the US, people and companies who sell this stuff are required by United States Federal law to provide MSDS sheets.
Anti-Freeze – most antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which is poisonous to plants and animals. This stuff should be kept away from children and animals. Dispose of these products in a legal and environmentally acceptable manner. In the United States (and most other countries), it is illegal to pour these chemicals on the ground, into sewers, septic tanks, etc. Many communities have hazardous material collection points where this stuff can be delivered for proper handling. In the US, people and companies who sell this stuff are required by United States Federal law to provide MSDS sheets.
Electrical Controls Use high impedance digital when testing engine controls to avoid frying the electronics.
Electrical - Batteries- Although a 12 V battery is relatively safe, crossing the positive and negative terminals of the battery packs enough punch to burn a 1/8 inch gouge in a 1/4 inch dia screwdriver handle. Always lift the negative cable from the terminal of the battery first and install it last when disconnecting or connecting it for any reason. Observe proper polarity (positive and negative) when using test equipment or installing the battery. Charge batteries in ventilated areas and do not smoke around batteries (hydrogen generation). These devices also contain sulphuric acid which is rather corrosive (use safety glasses and rubber gloves when handling batteries). If you have any batteries which need disposal, it is illegal to dunp them in a dump or in the back yard - an auto parts place, battery/auto electrical shop or county waste/environmental authorities can give you guidance and help you ensure batteries are properly disposed of. Also remember the secondary side of auto ignition systems operate at voltage levels ranging from 20,000 to 60,000 volts - use extreme caution and follow the procedures in your shop manual when testing ignition systems.
Tools - use good quality tools and the right tools/equipment for the job you are undertaking.
Waste disposal - oily rags, empty oil containers, etc should be stored in a closed container outside (fire safety) until they can be disposed of in accordance with local regulations. Your local waste and environmental authorities or public works department can advise you or proper procedures for getting rid of automotive waste materials.
General - IF you dont know or understand what you are doing, get a shop manual from the factory, Chiltons, Motor, Haynes, etc. and READ IT before beginning work on the car. You need to know the proper procedures, specifications and precautions for the particular job at hand. If you still don't know or are comfortable doing the procedure, don't be ashamed to ask questions, seek help from more experieiced folks or take the car to the shop and hire a mechanic