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So, for the most part, I know how an engine works. I understand how a car converts liquid fuel to physical power, and most of the concepts behind the operation of a vehicle. Recently, i've begun to love messing with cars, and have noticed that with my technical mind, I could hopefully learn to be a competent mechanic. My dad was one of the best mechanics I've known, and I enjoyed learning from him.

At first, I had no direction, but from a quick Google, I read about quite a few people who either completely disassembled and reassembled cars because of self interest or because their parents tasked them with the job. Many say it's where they started and I'd like to buy a cheap, older car, truck or motorcycle to disassemble and reassemble. Can anyone think of a better way to learn? Is it okay if I come here to ask questions on the reassembly?

Also, I can't seem to find any tags appropriate, and can't create any, as I don't have a high enough reputation, but if anyone knows any, feel free to edit my question.

  • Do you intend to make this your career or are you interested in having the added skill set for other than professional reasons? – DucatiKiller Dec 8 '15 at 4:48
  • @DucatiKiller I just figured it would be a valuable skill. – Hellreaver Dec 8 '15 at 7:09
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    I agree, It is a valuable skill. So I assume paying thousands of dollars to for profit institutions isn't the what your looking for. This guys youtube channel is amazing. He's been doing it since he was a teenager and he nails it over and over with a whiteboard. Check him out. Great place to at least get a foundation on how particular components within a vehicle work. youtube.com/channel/UClqhvGmHcvWL9w3R48t9QXQ – DucatiKiller Dec 8 '15 at 8:07
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It really depends on where you want to end up. If your intent is to become a fully qualified and employable mechanic, then what @cloudnyn3 has listed is spot on and a good way to go. If, however, you want to learn for yourself as a hobby, the best way to learn is to just do it.

If you have an innate mechanical ability (it just comes naturally to you), you shouldn't have any issue learning how to fix things. Buying a "fixer-upper" vehicle and going to town on it is by far the best way to learn in this situation. This would be a vehicle you wouldn't mind putting money into for no other reason than to learn. Remember, you'll never get the money out of the vehicle you put into it ... your payment in return is the knowledge of how to do something.

As far as doing the work yourself, there are a few notes for you:

  • Tools: You don't have to have a master mechanic's tool set to do the job. You can purchase a simple set of sockets/ratchets/wrenches (a basic set) and have 85% of the tools you'll ever need. As your need and experience grows, you purchase more tools to fill in that 15%.
  • Anal-ness: If you want to do a job right, you cannot be anal enough. What I mean by this is, you need to remember where things came off of and where to put them back to. If you don't do this, you'll be the mechanic who always has left over nuts/bolts. If your memory isn't so great: take pictures of where things belong; use masking tape to mark connections; etc. A lot of parts when you pull them out of the engine need to go back in the same order you found them due to something called sympathetic wear. What this means is, parts become used to each other. If you mix and match during reassembly, you'll find parts will wear out much quicker than if you put them back in the proper order. (The valve train is one thing which comes to mind here.)
  • Cleanliness: In most work you'll ever do, cleanliness is next to Godliness. Making/keeping your project and work area clean will help you in untold ways. This is especially so when rebuilding an engine or transmission. You just cannot be clean enough when doing so. Fine grit, dirt, or unwanted grease can cause your newly rebuilt whatever to self-destruct in short order. No sense becoming frustrated on a project because you aren't taking the time to do it right.

To get started, you cannot read enough. Get your hands on some DIY books on engine building and car repair. This is a cheap and easy way to get started. Getting started with some knowledge on the subject will save you a lot of time and money down the road. It also gives you a starting point. Also, we are never so happy here on SE when we can answer a question, so PUH-LEASE come back and ask many! We do ask, however, you search first as many questions have already been answered.

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    I couldn't agree more with those three bullet points. I'm the most anal retentive, clean and organized person when it comes to that. I've seen guys with toolboxes that just have wrenches and sockets strewn about. It makes me want to scream when they say "Can you grab me a 15 wrench", and I just stare at the 100 wrenches they have in a pile. "sigh". – cloudnyn3 Dec 1 '15 at 12:23
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    @cloudnyn3 - Don't you know it. My son used to come use my tools ... either I'd never find them again or they'd be strewn about willy-nilly. Drive me nuts. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 1 '15 at 16:02
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    Loved, "If you don't do this, you'll be the mechanic who always has left over nuts/bolts." When I was 17 and had a carburetor problem I decided I'd replace it myself. When I realized I had at least a dozen leftover parts, I had it towed to a proper mechanic. ;) (Incidentally, he wasn't amused with the state of affairs I deposited into his lap) – Kirk Woll Dec 1 '15 at 19:41
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    @KirkWoll - Absolutely hilarious! Yes ... I've seen it happen, lol! There is nothing worse for a mechanic to get something to "fix" which you haven't taken apart yourself ... especially if it's the first time you've even looked at the type of vehicle. Happens all the time and sucks every last time it happens to you. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 2 '15 at 1:10
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Many people will tell you that a Tech School is the way to go, and in a way they're right. Schools like Rosedale, UTI, Lincoln Technical all teach courses that can take you from shadetree mechanic to fully certified and job ready. Working on one car is a great project, but it will not prepare you at all for working as a technician in a real shop. I've found that you need the following to be proficient in the automotive field:

  • LOTS of experience with many makes and models
  • Formal training from a mastertech or school
  • A mechanically sound mindset
  • The drive to learn EVERYTHING (Not just how to monkey wrench bolts)

As far as somewhere to start, I would start with a tech school. You could try to find a job at a local shop, but most times you'll end up cleaning the shop up and nothing else. Tech School also provides you with guaranteed job opportunity as well.

I personally started working at a performance and tuning shop 10 years ago and later decided to get a job at Honda. They actually sent me to Honda's UTI program and I was able to gain a much wider knowledge base through that. In addition to that all of my certifications were free. In the end though, the choice is yours. I've met guys that make $30 an hour that have never been to school, they just spent 20 years learning and working.

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Your question is in reality two different questions: how to learn mechanic and how to get a job as mechanic. To learn, you are probably in the right direction. The most important thing is to be really curious and try to learn stuff on your own. Try to understand every little part of different cars and why they are there.

But to get a job, it's easier if you go to a tech school first. I found my school at Mechanic Career Now and I'm happy with it. Got a job 1 month after graduating last year. It's also good that in school you can talk to people about the things you are learning and learn from more experienced mechanics. I know it's much more fun to just learn by doing, but there are so many variations in different cars, that at least for me it was good to go through stuff in a more structured way at school.

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    Do you have any affiliation to the site you link? If so, please disclose it... – Nick C Aug 6 '16 at 20:31

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