- Upgrading the suspension on my old Dodge Ram 1500

LEARNING TO WORK ON YOUR OWN CARS

How I started and why I continue

2w ago

12.5K

When I was 16 years old I purchased a Torch Red 2008 Ford Mustang with a 4.0L V6 engine with money that I had saved up from mowing yards in my neighborhood for a few years and from working at Chick-Fil-A. It was a very ugly car with really bad paint. It was peeling on the hood, one of the doors was a slightly lighter red color than the rest of the car, and there were Bondo lines and cracks in the paint from previous impact. I was excited, but the car was ugly. I did not know anything about cars (or I would have bought an older Mustang GT with a manual) at the time, so I took it to a paint shop and got the entire car repainted in Torch Red.

Finished product, after I had done all my modifications to it. I took my senior pictures with the car, this is one.

Finished product, after I had done all my modifications to it. I took my senior pictures with the car, this is one.

On my way home from the paint shop with my newly painted car, I knew that there were other things that I needed to do to it. It already had a double din Kenwood radio when I bought it, so that was something I didn't have to worry about. The main thing that I was concerned with was the sound. The car was quiet, and I wanted to be able to hear it roar when I turned it on. I went to the AutoZone up the street and bought a 12 inch Cherrybomb Glasspack muffler so that I could go home and swap the two. This would be my first time ever trying to work on a car or anything mechanical at all. In our garage, all the tools that my parents had were some assorted sockets (no ratchets or impact wrenches to use them though) and some wrenches. I was unable to do it myself. Both of my parents do not know anything about working on cars and they weren't able to help me. I went to my dad's friend's house and he helped me put it on. He ended up being the one who taught my how to change my own engine oil as well. With the glasspack installed, the car rumbled to life, as did my new enthusiasm for what I could do with it. I went to Walmart and bought a tiny ratchet & socket set for $5 in a clearance bin.

The next thing that I did to the car was purchase a set of projector LED headlight assemblies from Americanmuscle.com because the headlights on the car were old and faded, looked boring, and weren't very bright. I thought that I would be able to just swap them out and the job would be easy. I quickly found out I was wrong when I discovered that the bumper had to come off and I would have to figure out how to wire some of it. Fortunately, my mom knew how to wire things and with her help we got them working.

Removing the bumper to swap the headlights.

Removing the bumper to swap the headlights.

New headlights finally installed.

New headlights finally installed.

Now that I had been exposed to electrical systems by the headlight wiring, I had a taste for wiring and I went to Walmart and bought a cheap powered subwoofer with a wiring kit to install in my trunk for some extra bass. My mom and I got it working, and through a series of events that followed, I got a job at a local custom audio shop and learned how to do much more than that.

Over the next few months the main two things that I did to the mustang were a performance cold air intake, a big bore aluminum throttle body, and the radiator. The intake and throttle body were for fun, and that job was fairly easy for me. The radiator was out of necessity, due to a leak in the original. That was the most intense job I had ever done, and I did it myself because I did not have enough money to afford to pay a shop to do it. My dad always took his cars to National Tire and Battery for maintenance, so I called them for pricing, and they were going to charge my nearly $700 to do the radiator and required flushes. I did it myself for less than $200 and 3-4 hours of work. During this time I also acquired more tools and became more and more interested in cars. During my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college I took automotive classes on the side for fun, and I am actually ASE certified for automotive electrical systems now. I also had a short term job at a high end detail/PPF shop and learned how to detail cars meticulously and how to preserve and restore paint.

My BBK cold air intake and SR Performance throttle body

My BBK cold air intake and SR Performance throttle body

Honestly, I don't know why I started being so interested in cars. I had never seen my parents work on a car and I had never had any friends who cared about cars or working on them. Nobody I associated with ever talked about cars or went to car shows, races, or meets. I think that as I had grown up I had seen nice cars on the streets or in TV shows/movies and imagined that cars could be fun. I was right, as it turns out, and cars are my biggest hobby now. I go to the racetrack, do photoshoots, write, read, and wrench on cars all the time. My tool collection has grown exponentially over the last couple years, but the tools have paid for themselves in what I have saved on shop labor fees. Working on the car myself began as a necessity to save money and turned into something I enjoy, which also helped me become more interested in all things car related and get to me to where I am now.

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Comments (9)

  • I always think that it is very important to work on your own car. You get to know it really well, you can actually identify problems w/o having to take it to a mechanic, and all you pay is parts.

      16 days ago
  • I love that you are working on your own car. Very impressive what you've done.

    .... That said, you're making me feel quite old referring to your "old" 2008 mustang.

      13 days ago
  • Kudos on working on your own car! Everyone should be able to do at least *some* repair/maintenance things to their cars—if for no other reason than to better-understand the how and why of the machine on which they so depend.

      14 days ago
    • Thanks! I think so too, and it's fun as well

        14 days ago
    • It is! I've been very frustrated and tossed a wrench or two in my time whilst trying to keep one or another car roadworthy but the sense of accomplishment from successfully completing a repair or maintenance or upgrade step is worth it. If I...

      Read more
        14 days ago
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