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7 Safety Tips for Working on Your Car

Whether you’re under the hood or under the chassis, make safety a priority during automotive DIY.

A warm spring day may tempt you to tackle some car maintenance or a basic repair. Doing projects yourself can be fun and save you money—but don’t shortchange safety when you’re the driveway mechanic.

Keep these seven tips in mind before you get out your tools:

1. Do your homework. Be sure you understand what’s involved in the project you’re planning. Read the owners’ manual or technical service guide and have the right tools on hand before you start the job.

2. Equip yourself. Have an ABC-rated fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit nearby when you’re working on cars.

3. Dress for success. Wear safety goggles to help prevent eye injuries from bits of metal, chemical splashes or errant sparks. Clothing should be close fitting so it can’t snag or get caught in moving parts. Remove rings, watches and chains and tie up long hair for the same reason. Wear gloves if you’re handling fluids that contain strong chemicals. And always wear sturdy shoes—never sandals or lightweight tennis shoes.

4. Air things out. Ventilation is a must if you’re working on your car’s exhaust system. If your “shop” is your garage, park your vehicle so the tailpipes are venting outside, and keep the garage door wide open.

5. Turn on the lights. Make sure to have adequate lighting for your project, even during the daytime. Seeing clearly can help you avoid potential problems.

6. Lift it up. If you plan to do work under the car, park it on a level concrete surface. Use floor jacks that can more than support the weight of your vehicle; you’ll need at least two sturdy jack stands and blocks for the wheels. Never use makeshift materials as stands for undercarriage work—it’s too risky. Always read the instructions for using the equipment properly.

7. Invite a friend over. Don’t work on a car by yourself. A buddy could lend a hand, keep you company—or maybe save your life. If a jack stand fails or a fire starts, you’ll want someone around to offer immediate assistance. (And save your socializing until the project is complete: Drinking and smoking are dangerous activities when you’re working on a car.)

Remember: Not every car job can or should be undertaken by a do-it-yourselfer. Always contact a professional service technician for complicated and unfamiliar jobs.

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