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Short Title: DIY Information & Tools : Popular Mechanics SA: Saturday mechanic.

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Brought to you by Popular Mechanics SA

This page is brought to with compliments of the Popular Mechanics magazine and reflects a selecton of previously published artciles.

6 ways to be safe in the workshop

A busted knuckle is a badge of honour, but real injuries are easily prevented. Here's the right way to wrench - without getting hurt. Letís say itís time to replace the shocks. The job really isnít that tough or inherently dangerous. But it does involve getting your car up in the air so you can work underneath it.
And thatís where things can get troublesome - . . . Read More

Bleeding your brakes

Your elderly car has required little in the way of episodic repair, for which youíre glad. Still, at your last scheduled maintenance, the service manager advised you that you would need to replace the brake pads, front and rear, before too long. But deferring that expense for a while wouldnít be a problem, he said.

Cable woes

Bowden cables, like the one shown above, comprise an inner cable and an outer jacket. They are used for throttles, brakes and clutches on cars, motorcycles, outdoor power equipment, boats and aircraft.

Changing a tyre

Some day, when you least expect it, youíll have to change a flat tyre. Hereís how to do it quickly and safely.

Disconnecting a battery

A friend told me that I should always disconnect the positive terminal of the battery first to keep the electricity from spilling out of the battery. I canít see how this would matter. I just unhook whichever terminal is closest first. Iíve never noticed any ďspilled electricityĒ, and I think heís just pulling my leg.

Drive shaft with excessive play

Your transmissionís output shaft (tailshaft) is splined to mate with similar splines on the front of the driveshaft. This allows the driveshaft to move in and out a couple of centimetres as the suspension travels vertically, while still carrying engine torque to the rear axle. As you slow down to a stop, the rear suspension rises slightly, while the front droops. This has the effect of pulling the driveshaft slightly away from the transmission nose piece.

Gas Struts - How to replace

Pneumatic struts are used to hold open the tailgate, boot or bonnet of almost every car on the road. Eventually, they lose their 15- bar-plus charge of nitrogen and wonít hold anything. Happily, they are easy to replace.

Get your car ready for the mid-year school holidays

Although fuel injection and ignition systems have been rendered nearly maintenance-free, itís still necessary to change fluids and filters, check belts and hoses and generally poke around with a suspicious eye... Read More.

Headlight bulb keep blowing

Start with a voltage check, specifically the charging system. Test the charging voltage at the battery, with the battery fully charged and the engine warm and running with all loads turned off (donít forget the heater fan). Your voltmeter should read no more than 14 or 14,5 volts, max.

Installing vinyl graphics

Itís probably unlikely that the average driverís dearest wish is to have a graphic of bad-tempered wildfowl or gouts of flame splashed across the bonnet of his car. But, given the Constitutionís stance on freedom of expression, weíll have to resign ourselves to the fact that some expressive car-owners will settle for nothing less.

Plastic Bumper repair

Fortunately, there are a number of companies making repair and refinishing materials for plastic bumpers, as well as plastic fenders and door skins made from sheet moulding compound.

Putting an alternator together

This is an easy one, and you would have figured it out yourself if you had picked up a new voltage regulator/ brush assembly to replace your old one. And, judging by the pictures you sent me, you really need a new one. Worn brushes wonít conduct enough current to the slip rings because the springs behind them can no longer press against the brushes hard enough for good electrical contact.

Reattaching a rearview mirror

All you can see in your rearview mirror is grille. There are lots of shiny chrome teeth, all the better to chew up your tiny little economy car, and spit out a stream of nuts, bolts, glass and a hank of hair. It has the makings of a bad B movie Ė but actually youíre being tailgated by a giant sport utility vehicle.

Repairing defroster grids

These electrically conductive, heated grids on the rear window are literally painted on to the glass. Theyíre reasonably tough, but itís possible to damage them by letting cargo rub against the glass, or by scraping off a window sticker or the tinting film. Even a credit card can damage the grid, so limit anything that touches the glass to a clean rag and some window cleaner.

Replacing a bad power steering pump

Red or oily stains in the driveway or garage Ė under an area where the transmission isnít Ė may also be a clue to a leak thatís slowly robbing your hydraulic assist. (For more on diagnosing stains, see

Replacing a timing belt

Your six-year-old econobox is starting to show a bit of wear and tear, but everything mechanical still works fine. Until it doesnít. Specifically, the engine suddenly goes dead silent one fine day.

Scratch Repair

Your vintage sportscar deserves the best treatment, which is why you always head for the farthest, emptiest reaches of the mall parking lot, as far as you can get from the possibility of a casual door ding perpetrated by a careless shopper. You even park it straddling two spaces, to protect its tender flanks.

Serpentine belt is a crucial part of the engine

The serpentine belt is a crucial part of the engine assembly. Hereís the right way to replace it. Degree of difficulty - Easy
Thereís a squeal emanating from underneath your carís bonnet Ė and it doesnít sound good. The noise started a few months ago but it went away even before you pulled out of the driveway. Problem solved, right?.. Read More....

Servicing sealed wheel bearings

The squeal coming from the front end of your high-end German sports sedan is embarrassing. Passersby do double takes, and when you recently gave your boss a ride across town, he couldnít hear his cellphone ring. So you drop a handful of big notes for a complete brake job.

Servicing tapered wheel bearings

The front wheel bearings found on a typical rear-wheel-drive car or pickup employ two-piece caged bearing assemblies. Good maintenance dictates that the bearings should be cleaned and repacked any time the brake disc is removed from the spindle.

Turning signal problems

The indicators on my old Jeep flash really slowly when Iím signalling left turns, but work fine when I signal right. Even weirder is that, if I have my motorcycle trailer hooked up, the left indicator is fine, and the right side blinks really fast.

Tyre maintenance - how to keep them rolling longer

Tyre maintenance - how to keep them rolling longer Degree of difficulty - Easy
Any kind of tyre failure - even a simple flat - is a huge hassle. Most problems are caused by under-inflation, overloading your vehicle, or damage from things such as debris, kerbs or potholes. Here are some things you can do to avoid such problems... read more..

Upgrade your electrical system

At the risk of being negative, winter isnít far off. Now consider this scenario: youíre driving home from work with the headlights blazing, the wipers and defroster singing and the heated seats and mirrors trying to burn away the chill. Led Zeppelin is thundering on your aftermarket high-wattage stereo (you know, the door-rattling kind).

When you pop a spark plug

Yesterday I was driving home and a spark plug blew right out of the cylinder head. The car was towed to the garage where Iíd had a tune-up the day before Ė which included changing the spark plugs. The mechanic said he could repair the threads, but my uncle says the cylinder head is ruined and the mechanic should replace it at his expense. The car has done about 160 000 km. Thoughts?

Wiring glitches on your trailer

Trailer lights and brakes add up to a maintenance nightmare, especially on a boat trailer, where the lights are periodically immersed in water. My favourite glitch is the bulbs exploding when their hot glass hits ice-cold water. (Trailer-specific lamp housings that keep the water out are a worthwhile investment.)


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Last update : 15-10-2017