Car safety has many aspects. One of them is staying safe when making car repairs.
Working around the car, as many mechanics know, can be a pretty hostile environment.
Grease, dirt, loud noises, excessive heat and other are all part of the car repair world.
So, if you decide to visit the car DIY realm more often, you’ll eventually conclude that car safety while making repairs demands some attention and proper equipment.
Attention is mostly needed to finish a car repair without any injuries or accidents; equipment is needed in order to protect you from the working environment.
Hopefully, this article will give you a good insight of the car safety necessities and perhaps spare you some trouble.
WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT-PROTECTING YOUR BODY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF CAR SAFETY
Most of us DIY people have seen that, over time, having a set of working clothes, shoes and accessories is a must-have.
I’ll tell you right from the start: if you plan to do maintenance and minor car repairs on a regular basis, buy yourself a work outfit.
This will save you from lots of trouble, from dirty hands (which can be embarrassing if you’re not in that line of work) to injuries (cuts, burns, bruises or else).
Of course, there is always the option of old and used clothes and shoes. But soon you’ll find these inappropriate and see that having proper working clothes is the real deal.
You don’t have to go overboard with equipment, the basics will do. What kind of working and protective equipment there is, you can click here for a great explanation on Wikipedia.
Basic working clothes and equipment consist of:
Basically two types that I would recommend:
- Two piece overall: jacket and trousers come separately. My favorite to tell you the truth. It can be used in all seasons. In summer, just wear the trousers with suspenders, in winter just pull on the jacket. Perhaps more cumbersome, but more practical.
- One piece overall: top and bottom part are connected. Also great as it gives you a good protection of the backside and is tight to the body. Perhaps the most problematic part of a one piece overall is, in my own experience, going to the bathroom. God help you if you get in a “tight spot”. If you don’t have Superman abilities to undress, next stop is the bath tub.
Wide variety of overalls can be found, I would recommend buying ones made out of denim material (like jeans) as these are very resistant to constant washing. Also they are pretty comfortable.
Both variants can be bought with winter inserts for better protection and car safety when making repairs in the winter season.
Just make sure that the overall has a good fit and that there will be no loose parts of it hanging around. More on that topic lower in the article.
Times when car repairs were done bare handed are far behind us.
Gloves have become a must-have when doing car repairs as they protect your main “tools”-your hands.
As mentioned, you’re bound to get in contact with dirt, grease and other kinds of filth making your hands a nasty sight to see.
Also, gloves protect from heat, cold, moist or other troubles.
Avoid using classical working gloves (the ones for construction work) as these are cumbersome and will cause difficulties when using tools or handling parts, especially small ones.
I would recommend ones with thinner textile and with rubber protective palms.
These are great both for car safety and handling.
Protective cap (head-wear)
Protective caps are mostly used when going under the car.
Not wearing one means all kind of dirt, dust and crumbs in your hair.
Not to mention that you can get a spill on your head (like from an oil or coolant change) if you’re not careful enough.
Wherever you buy overalls and gloves, a protective cap can be found.
Different variants out there: best if it’s cotton and with a short bill so it doesn’t interfere with the head movement and so the skin and hair can “breathe”.
On this part I would strongly advise using professional work footwear.
Especially if you’re going to get involved in more lengthy and complicated repairs.
These demand a lot of standing in place (which can cause fatigue) and extra protection of feet (like from accidental falling wrenches or car parts).
This goes double if you do most of the repairs outside or under a shed. In cold or wet weather,freezing or wet feet can cause serious damage to your health.
Work shoes are specially made to protect your feet from these situations (reinforcements for toes, thick soles, insulation materials and others).
If you only do simple repairs and car maintenance, like changing a headlight bulb or windshield wiper blades, maybe you don’t have to spend the extra money. These can be done in your house slippers if needed.
Otherwise, money spent on this kind of footwear will be well worth the while, trust me.
Protective glasses are mostly used when working under the car.
You’ll be constantly looking up towards your hands making your eyes a good target for problems.
Nothing nastier than a small crumb of dirt or dust falling in to the eye. Painful and sometimes very hard to get rid of.
You don’t have to buy nothing fancy, usual plastic working glasses like for grinding or milling will do.
Although they might get on your nerves sometimes, they will save you from serious trouble.
DO NOT WEAR LOOSE CLOTHING WHEN MAKING A REPAIR, THESE ARE A MAJOR CAR SAFETY HAZARD
After mentioning protective clothing and equipment, just a few words about regular clothes and using them while doing car repair.
If you decide to use old clothing (old and used jackets, shirts, pants, and other) avoid wearing loose blouses, shirts, pants, anything that has hanging parts around.
Loose clothing is just trouble waiting to happen.
These will seriously interfere with your work as they can get stuck and jammed on things.
ESPECIALLY HAVE THIS TIP IN MIND WHEN WORKING AROUND THE CAR WHILE THE ENGINE IS RUNNING!!!
Lots of people tend to lean over the engine and take a look if everything is OK once the repair is done.
Loose clothing can hang above, lets say a serpentine belt which can grab it and simply pull you over in a second.
I’m speaking from experience as I’ve seen people getting horrible injuries from these kinds of mishaps.
Once again: if you have to wear clothes other than working ones, make sure that everything is tight on the body and there’s nothing hanging.
SECURE THE CAR WHEN IT’S JACKED UP-CAR SAFETY FIRST, WORKING UNDER THE CAR SECOND
A lot of car repairs are made under the car.
Starting from oil changes, in some cases coolant changes, when you have to take a wheel off, you’ll have to raise the car from the ground.
Since most of us don’t own a car lift or don’t have a car canal, jacking up the car and raising clearance is the only solution.
When it comes to car safety when the car is jacked up, you can never be too careful. Caution here means the difference between making a safe working place or a death trap.
Always use jack stands and secure them properly in to place.
There are reinforced places on the undercarriage where you can put the jack stands without causing damage to the floor panels or undercarriage parts.
If you don’t have jack stands, use what you have around the household (wooden pallets, beams, even a wooden log or stump will do).
Anything that will keep the car in firmly in place.
Also, before raising the car, pull the hand brake (unless you’re working on the rear wheels). This will additionally keep the car from sliding off the jack stands or other support you may have.
Whatever part of the car you raise (front or rear), secure the opposite side wheels. If you don’t have wheel blocks, use pieces of wood, brick, anything that will hold the car in place.
After the car is raised and secured, give it a slight budge in all directions just to be sure that it’s not going anywhere.
MAIN POINT HERE AND BURN THIS IN TO YOUR BRAIN: DON’T GO UNDER THE CAR IF IT’S NOT 100% SECURE!!!!
WATCH WHERE YOU PUT YOUR HANDS AND FINGERS
A part of a good car repair is one where you finish it with your hands in one piece.
Bruises, cuts, burns and other injuries are pretty common when making a car repair, especially if you’re not accustomed to this line of work.
Hurrying, lack of attention and bumbling around with your hands are the main causes of these mishaps and lack of car safety.
Yes, gloves are the first line of defense here but the main car safety measure on this part is: attention and second thought.
For instance: if you have a very tightened screw where excessive force is needed, putting the wrench firmly in to place, using perhaps a lever and securing proper space for loosening means a lot.
Mainly the difference between a well finished job and perhaps crushed fingers.
Also, measures like waiting for the engine to cool down, means no burnt hands. Keeping your hands at a safe distance from the engine bay when the engine is running guarantees that you’ll keep all of your fingers.
Hope you get what I mean.
It’s your body at stake, certainly deserves some extra attention.
ALWAYS RETURN ALL CAR TOOLS IN TO PLACE
Many people disregard the importance of returning car tools in to place and its impact on car safety.
Two good reasons for doing this : you won’t loose tools and you’ll know that something isn’t left behind.
Loosing tools is not the worse part. At the end of the day, you go and buy a new one.
Worse part is leaving or forgetting something, especially in the engine bay.
A leftover socket, ratchet, wrench, screwdriver or else can cause damage beyond belief.
You only have to imagine left over tools falling in to the serpentine belt while the engine is running.
Have that picture in mind if you’re missing a tool and you don’t care much.
That picture alone should be enough for you to look around better and pay attention to car safety.
So, once you’ve finished the repair, always check that everything is returned in to place.
More on that in a separate article, if you have the time and will click here to read it.
PLAN YOUR TIME-MORE TIME MEANS MORE CAR SAFETY
Time and again I’ve seen people getting serious injuries and causing major damage while working around the car.
One main reason…..hurry.
Hurry and haste are born from lack of time. Lack of time is born from improper planning.
Avoid making car repairs when you lack the time. Worst time for making car repairs are times like right before a trip, late at night or just before leaving to work.
You’re simply more concentrated on the time schedule than on the repair itself.
This will only lead to making a hasty decision or mistake which can further lead to causing damage to the car, or even worse, hurting yourself.
Quality repair simply takes time.
LET THE ENGINE COOL DOWN
I wish that I could say that there is a safe way of working around a hot car engine.
There simply isn’t. Working while the engine is hot is very dangerous.
If possible, always let the engine cool down. This goes double for jobs involving fluids (like oil changes, coolant changes) or working around the exhaust system.
For instance, hot coolant or oil can cause severe burns that can take several months to heal.
Even if it’s a hurry or emergency, have in mind that a few hours of waiting means saving yourself from the doctor and many months of pain and healing.
TAKE OFF THE MINUS BATTERY CABLE WHEN WORKING AROUND THE ELECTRIC OR ELECTRONIC INSTALLATION
Rule number one when working around electrics or electronics.
Making a repair while the installation is powered up can cause blown fuses (in best cases) up to short-circuits and even fire in worst case scenarios.
Some interventions can be done without removing a battery cable (like installing a car stereo), but for the most cases, taking it off is best.
Take of the minus (“-“) cable. This way you’ll avoid causing a possible short circuit with a wrench (connecting the plus terminal with metal parts of the chassis causes a short circuit).
KEEP THE DRIVERS SIDE WINDOW OPEN
Always have access to the passenger cabin when making a repair.
Before you start the car repair lower the driver side window to the maximum.
This way you’ll avoid trouble like the car accidentally locking down when you take off the battery cable (which is rare but is known to happen).
Also, when the car is jacked up, you have access to the steering wheel, ignition, hand brake or gear shifter.
This is very important as you’ll avoid swaying the car trying to open the door and reaching any of these thus reducing car safety.
TAKE THE KEYS OUT OF THE IGNITION
It’s common practice before starting a car repair, even if you’re taking off the battery cable.
This way you’ll avoid any chance of you or, more often, someone else accidentally starting the car.
This tip goes double for DIY car repairs that are mostly done around the household.
As we all know, seldom are car repairs done around the household without company.
Either it’s your kids, spouse, curios neighbor or else, someone will either have to assist or want to be there to keep you company.
Seems impossible and careless to make this kind of mistake but it does happen. All you need is a raised hood, someone behind the wheel who doesn’t see you working around the engine bay, mishearing what you’ve said and boom: the ignition is turned on while you’re under the hood.
Curios kids are also a common cause of these mishaps. Keys in the ignition draws them like butterflies to a light bulb.
No one means to do it on purpose, of course, but who cares if you get injured.
I would recommend to take the keys out of the car completely and put them in a safe place.
Use them when you need them.
Perhaps more walking around the car, but this way you’ll get 100% percent car safety.
HAVE A FIRST AID KIT AT HAND
If an injury does happen a first aid kit is the first stop.
You don’t have to have fancy expensive ones, the basic one similar to one from your car will do the job.
Make sure you put it in a visible and easy-to-reach place.
Always liked those first aid cabinets. Professional, useful, easy to find and look nice in a workshop.
If you don’t have a first aid kit at hand, make sure that at least you have some band-aid, bandages, medicine alcohol and other that will assure that the wound is properly tended to.
No car safety if you can’t react once away.
HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER AT HAND
Most of today’s households are equipped with this, regardless of DIY car repairs.
We all know how important stopping a fire on time is.
So, if you don’t have one, you can buy one of those fire extinguishers for cars. They’re small but can help in a God forbid case of minor flame or fire.
Have this tip in mind when working around flammable car systems (like the fuel system) or electric systems (short-circuits can cause fire).