GameFAQs but for aspiring auto mechanics
December 29, 2018 7:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm a novice shade-tree auto mechanic, and I'm wondering if there are any online resources for building mechanical problem-solving experience.

So, I'm very much aware that this is a field that's built on the combination of on-paper knowledge concerning the workings of all the systems involved with real experience in dealing with and solving the issues that occur in day-to-day operation. I'm a bookish sort who has a great handle on the theoretical side and has been working to build my experience with the practical side by working on my project car -- I've gone from replacing tie rods and the turn signal cam to swapping out the intake manifold and carb on a 351W -- but I realize that this all covers a pretty narrow window of "experience," and that that experience still isn't enough for me to be able to diagnose or understand the wide variety of things that can occur in such a complicated system. For example, I can tell you all of the theoretical possibilities that might result in a rough idle, but if I had to figure out what was going on with a specific car put in front of me I'd be lost as to how to proceed.

What I'm curious about is whether there's any sort of online resource that walks you through the typical problem-solving paths that you'd take in diagnosing a mechanical problem. I've done my Googling duty before asking this question and I've found that there are a lot of online classes that cover exactly the theoretical domain about how various automotive systems work that I've already learned myself, and of course on the practical side there are many YouTube videos covering nearly any repair you might make on a particular make and model, but the problem with the latter is that they seem to always go according to plan, in that they depict the case with the least complications involved in performing the repair in question. So what are the resources for someone who wants to see how a mechanic deals with the cases where the issue is unknown at first, and how they deal with further complications that arise in the process of fixing the problem? I recognize that this may seem like an attempt to cheat reality and gain experience without putting in sweat equity on my own, but while I'm perfectly willing to get elbow-deep into my own projects, I don't have the time or money to risk on taking apart and rebuilding every subsystem on those same projects if they're working okay. Does such a thing exist, or do I need to just accept that this experience will necessarily come to me in a slow trickle given my status as a hobbyist?
posted by invitapriore to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Schrodinger's Box is a YouTube channel that came to mind when you mentioned "walks you through the typical problem-solving paths." The guy who runs it is a little prickly/condescending when he talks about other YouTube channels, but he's very focused on giving people fundamentals that they can generalize across all kinds of cars/situations, rather than showing them what to do once they've figured out (or just guessed about) the problem. Here's a video where he diagnoses a no-start on a car he's never seen before, but there's a ton of good stuff in the channel worth digging through.
posted by Polycarp at 9:04 PM on December 29 [5 favorites]

i learned a lot about diagnosis by following the troubleshooting flowcharts in the shop manual for my circa 1995 car. a fair amount of that, especially if you can make the leap from the flowchart back to the theory that lead to its construction, helped advance my own practical
understanding of car diagnosis and repair.
posted by zippy at 2:38 PM on December 30

Thanks! Schrodinger's Box looks really good for this type of learning, as do troubleshooting flowcharts. I wonder if that's a new development in service manuals, since I haven't seen those in the two manuals I have for older vehicles, but I should definitely pick one up for my actual car in any case.
posted by invitapriore at 4:58 PM on December 31

Ok, so the 1966 Comet/Fairline/Falcon/Mustang shop manual I have does indeed have troubleshooting workflows specified at the beginning of each chapter for some general area of concern like ignition, fuel, etc., which is something, even if it implies that you've already narrowed down the problem to some particular subsystem.
posted by invitapriore at 7:19 PM on January 7

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