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I really want to get a little bit more familiar with whatever is going on under the bonnet, so I thought to buy an old car to conduct my experiments on it. What I had in mind - is trying basic servicing by myself and, as I gain a better understanding, maybe doing some more complicated tasks (like timing belt replacement with all the implications).

I have just heard that some cars could be really pain to fix/service as they have very specific/unusual layout (like some of the old French cars).So what I wanted to ask is - are there cars which considered to be easy for servicing? Kind of "beginner" cars..?

Thanks!

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4 Answers

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I think the canonical answer to this question is probably a Honda Civic, anything up to late 90s. My reasons for this recommendation are:

  • The parts are widely available and cheap.
  • There's an abundance of online information about doing repairs and maintenance.
  • The engine is 4-cylinder inline and everything on the engine that needs regular service is easily accessible from above.
  • Moreover, it's even possible to rebuild the engine without removing it if you really want to.
  • There are plenty of little things that tend to need fixing to get experience on.
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Thank you for your answer! Good points! –  Eugene S May 16 '13 at 0:53
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This is a bit of a localised question, but as you mention French cars I'm going to assume you're in Europe. Generally, the simpler a car is, the easier it is to fix, and older cars tend to be simpler than newer ones (less electronics, which you can't generally fix yourself).

70s cars tend to be pretty much all mechanical, 80s cars start to introduce basic electronic ignition systems, and fuel injection starts to come in towards the end of the 80s (I'm guessing those timescales are slightly different in the Americas). I personally learnt on late 80s/early 90s cars, but would say most things up to the late 90s should be ok to learn on. Avoid the higher-end stuff that'll have more to go wrong, and avoid Citroens with their hydraulic suspension. Fords or Vauxhalls tend to be quite good as they're fairly simple in their design, but they do rust easily... Land Rovers are good too, very agricultural, but you can get at everything and parts supply is very good and cheap.

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Thanks a lot you for your answer! It seems very helpful. I'm not sure to which extent I am right about French cars but that's just what I have heard. For example that in some of them the engine is installed in a non standard way, which makes it harder to access/repair pretty much everything. And then your example with Citroen. And BTW, I'm currently in Australia :) –  Eugene S May 15 '13 at 10:12
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In which case, replace Vauxhall with Holden in my above answer... A nice old 80s or 90s Ute perhaps? –  Nick C May 15 '13 at 10:16
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Try to get something that is rear wheel drive, a forward facing engine and transmission is simpler and easier to work on then a trans-axle plus it gives you more room to work. Look for something you see a lot of so that the parts and knowledge is easy to acquire, but also get something that you actually want to drive. Older two door pickups work rather well.

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+1 my answer didn't address transmission, and if you want to learn transmission-related work, rear wheel drive is probably going to be easier. –  R.. May 15 '13 at 21:26
    
Thank you for your answer. Can you just give an example of actual model? Just for reference. Thanks! –  Eugene S May 16 '13 at 0:55
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I don't know what is your location but if Mercedes cars are popular in your area consider a Mercedes built between 1987-1995 (W124 model). They are very easy to repair and tend not to break that much. I own one since 2009 and apart usual servicing (oil, filters, battery) I had very few things to repair. Also rear wheel drive makes some repairs simplier (not to mention the fun of riding a RWD vehicle).

Since they are cheap (in Poland good ones cost around 1500$) it's rather easy to find a donor car to swap engines, interior and even change from manual to automatic transmission.

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