The first time I tuned my car, I was sure that if I made the smallest mistake, the car would explode when I started it. This seems to be a common delusion, but it just isn't so. If you make a mistake, in most cases all you'll get is silence (which can be just as disconcerting, but not lethal after all). This isn't to say that working on a vehicle is free from danger. Before you do any work, be sure to observe the following safety rules:
So much for the scary stuff. Auto repair safety is all a matter of common sense, really.
Extra Tip: How to dispose of empty gasoline cans safely
Although gasoline simply burns, gasoline plus air forms an explosive vapor that can literally take out your entire neighborhood. For this reason, it's wise not to store or carry gasoline unless you're heading far away from any source of fuel (and in that unlikely event, use only a specialized, vented gas can). If you have an old gasoline can around, get rid of it, and do it in a way that won't pollute the environment: Fill the can with water, and, as soon as you can, take the can to a recycling center that handles toxic waste. If there's no center nearby, ask your local service station if they'll dispose of it for you.
Some people keep gasoline around to clean parts with, but this is extremely dangerous. Mechanic's solvent, available at gas stations and auto supply stores, works better and has been treated with a flame retardant to keep it from burning too freely.
Extra Tip 2: What the big guys taught me about busting things loose
If you try to remove a bolt or a spark plug and you can't budge it, don't feel like a weakling. At first I thought that I had trouble because I was female, so I asked the biggest guys in my auto class for help because it would have been embarrassing if some little guy could do it. To my amazement, I found that often the big guys struggled, too! The difference was that they always prevailed. What I learned from them is that strength depends less on size or sex and more on the way in which we've been taught to focus our strength. People who are handy with tools usually have learned to pour their strength down their arms and into their hands, and focus it on the tool they're using. The guys also showed me that the longer the handle, the more leverage you have. And from watching them struggle, I learned that the patience to persevere comes from having the confidence that eventually you will succeed. So now I approach hard-to-move objects with the proper tools, focus, and patience. It works!
From Auto Repair for Dummies, copyright © 2009 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.