Some of the most successful people you know share one important trait: they’re always learning. Indeed, to excel at what you do, you must seek continuous improvement. The Japanese coined a term for this, kaizen, which means to make positive changes regularly. For the do-it-yourself mechanic, there are several ways to keep your car knowledge current.
Ongoing Car Education
1. Peruse the publications. Magazines such as Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Popular Mechanics, and Road & Track are a staple in the car enthusiast’s reading portfolio. For hands-on work, such as on project vehicles, publications such as Hot Rod or Car Craft cover everything from engine swaps, retrofitting a steering column, to restoring a rust bucket. Consider Hemmings for inspiration for turning a scratch and dent special into your next masterpiece.
2. Check out the online videos. The internet has changed the way we acquire car knowledge. Today, countless videos are posted to YouTube, which is dominated by some of the most forward-thinking mechanics and instructors. From the basics to the most in-depth projects, the videos cover it all. Access is free and the knowledge gained, priceless.
3. Get an education. You don’t have to pursue a certificate or a degree to take classes, but a continuing education class at your local community or technical college can help you stay informed. This may prove especially helpful if the instructor has deep hands-on experience as well as the reputation to impart helpful knowledge and innovation.
4. Attend conventions, seminars, and auctions. Although the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas isn’t open to the public, there are other events which are. Find the conventions, seminars, and auctions that interest you. Rub shoulders with smart people, fill in your knowledge base and come away equipped with useful information for your project. Tech Week and CES are two shows to consider.
5. Practice for perfecting. One of the most important ways to learn is by doing. This means carefully and methodically tackling a project, recording your steps, and gauging the results. Most of us are self-taught — at least to some extent — and learn best by doing. Diagnose engine misfiring, replace a cylinder head gasket, and practice that heater and air conditioner actuator fix until you get it right. Bonus for a patient work buddy who assists you.
6. Invest in the tools of the trade. Every do-it-yourself mechanic owns tools of the trade. Torque wrenches, socket sets, pliers, wire cutters, a mallet, screwdrivers, and a work light are among the basics. A service manual is ideal for your project car. A digital multimeter is a must for tracking down electronic and tech system problems. Other equipment may also be helpful, although the cost factor should be considered. These include an engine hoist, battery charger and jumper, press, transmission jack, and a vehicle lift. Match your desires with your budget.
You’re in the Know
Car knowledge is power, which can supply you with the confidence to undertake challenging work. Take the kaizen approach and you’ll never lack for new ideas and undertakings.
Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For car knowledge guidance, chat with an expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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