Changes in automotive design and tools are making it more complicated for average do-it-yourselfers to perform general maintenance on newer vehicles.
Bob Williamson, store manager at CARQUEST Auto Parts in Hillsboro, has been in the auto business since the early ’90s. The shift became noticeable to him between 2005 and 2010.
“People involved in restoration will always be there because those vehicles haven’t changed enough for it to be a big deal, but it’s a fact, vehicles are changing,” Williamson said. “And DIY is getting more difficult on newer vehicles.”
As an example, he said changing out a fan clutch was a relatively common and easy DIY project people often performed, 20 years ago.
“It was a nuts-and-bolts kind of thing most anyone could do, but now it requires specific tools most people don’t have,” he said. “It’s like that now. Tools in general are becoming more specialized because of the way newer vehicles are designed.”
Mike Regnier of Marion Auto Supply said DIY is becoming harder on newer vehicles, too.
“There are a lot fewer things a person can do on their vehicles anymore unless they are mechanically inclined,” Regnier said. “There are so many computers, and the designs are so complicated it’s almost easier to mess things up than fix them if you don’t have the proper tools and equipment and know what you’re doing.”
Williamson estimated that only about half the tools people used to keep in their toolboxes for regular DIY car maintenance could be used on newer models.
“Specialized tools are way more expensive, and some of them you may only ever use once,” Williamson said. “For a lot of people [who might normally do DIY projects on older vehicles] it is overcoming that cost vs. spending money on a mechanic.”
Regnier said even oil changes have become difficult on many newer vehicles because many models require specialized tools to take off and replace oil filters.
Williamson said different models from different car manufacturers require manufacturer-specific tools.
“Some people are getting into all the computer controlled stuff and it’s not impossible to do,” he said. “But that’s also part of the problem; you can’t buy one tool that will work on everything in your driveway anymore.”