Online help available for do-it-yourself car mechanics
Today's cars are basically rolling computers, which means many of the things that can go wrong are simply beyond the capacity of most of us to diagnose or repair.
I've never been a gearhead, but I loved getting under the hood of my 1974 Triumph TR6. I bought portable ramps so that I could comfortably work under it. I performed its regular tune-ups and oil changes.
Even with that experience, as well as more than a quarter of a century of writing about automobiles, staring into the engine compartment of a new car makes my eyes glaze over and my head swim.
Still, some repairs -- even on newer cars -- aren't impossible for do-it-yourselfers.
With the right tools, an accurate repair manual and maybe a few words of competent advice, those of us who enjoy getting our hands a little dirty, or with an eye on saving a few bucks, can tackle certain jobs.
Since late 2009, Colorado-based Expert Car Advice has provided auto-repair advice by phone and through its ExpertCarAdvice.com website.
This isn't the only website providing online help to stumped do-it-yourselfers. There are others such as AutoMD.com and eAutoRepair.net
There are a couple of features that I really like about Expert Car Advice. First, it has a four-level pricing structure that allows you to pay for exactly the amount of service you need. Second, if all else fails, you can actually get a certified technician on the phone for one-on-one help.
Pricing ranges from $15 for a basic diagram to $40 for a one-on-one session with a technician.
Also available are step-by-step instructions for any repair and live online discussions with a technician.
So while the engine compartment is certainly more difficult to navigate today, Expert Car Advice and other online consulting sites offer something I never had back in the 1970s: a safety net.