Buying Used Car and Fixing It up for Fun/Learning

Thinking of buying a used car really cheap, don't care if it's broken $300-$500 and then just tearing it up to see how it works etc and maybe putting back together. Got some basic tools, but i understand may have to spend money on further tools

Was hoping to get some advice:

Approx cost of tools to do this (I don't plan on removing the engine- just brakes, transmission, suspension etc)

Advice on type of car- I think Toyota given so many parts are cheap or Honda

And advice on cheapest way to tow a car: given it mostly like what I'm going to buy would be unregistered or broken.

Any other advice would be good.

(Basically using youtube videos) Then prob just sell it as broken or just sell it for scrap service.


    • +2

      “It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt”

  • +4

    Get a Falcadore. Many many many parts at scrap yard and many cars being sold very very cheap on Gumtree. Running Commonwhores for $500 is frequent

    • thanks, good idea

    • I can vouch for VX Commodore. Parts are extremely cheap, and even just as important when you need to know anything about them there is tonnes of info on the net.
      Any mechanic can advise also.

      • +1

        This is true, however they are quite big, making it harder to move around in a limited space like a garage and components are bigger and heavier. Good thing is there is more room in the engine bay than front wheel srive cars.

        • Yes, moving cars around a small space can be a headache. It's like Rush Hour, the puzzle game at my place :)

  • +1

    If you take it apart you could sell the parts for a lot more than you paid for it.

    If it's just for learning, consider a non starter and see if you can diagnose and get it running. Just make sure its nothing major like a seized engine. If you can't, sell parts as above to recover money spent.

  • +1

    Check out this guy for diagnosis videos.

  • +3

    Go to TAFE and do a pre-apprenticeship automotive course. It will be a similar price to buying a shitbox but you will have teachers, tools and cars to work on that you don't have to try and get rid of when you inevitable strip and can't get it going again.

    Don't just buy a shitbox and work on it. If you don't know what you are doing and try to replace/repair something, it may not be done correctly and actually end up killing you or someone else.

    • +2

      thanks, no i dont want to pay for TAFE….it's just a hobby and just learn it with youtube videos only.

      And definitely won't sell it - i'll just sell it to a scrap yard- and explicitly tell the buyer unsafe vehicle to drive. I definitely won't drive it either even if it looks fine. Purely just to get some experience and as a hobby. nothing more.

      Just to ensure they take me seriously when i say it's unsafe..i'll tell them that i took the flywheel out because the car doesn't fly and the radiator out because its already got a radio and gave my wife the clutch.

      • +3

        If it’s just a hobby, maybe start with something smaller and easier to work on.

        Bicycles are a good start, then move up to go-karts. From there, progress onto motorbikes and then move up to cars.

        Motorcycles are really good to learn on due to their size and being not to complexed. They are much easier to work on and there isn’t a lot of difference between systems on a bike as compared to cars.

        Cars can be a nightmare to move if they don’t run, where as motorcycles can be loaded into the boot of a car and dumped at a metal recyclers.

        • yea the last bit is my worry- but i assume carwreckers etc will come and tow it away (even if it's for free)

          • @funnysht: I rang RAC and they had someone come and towed it for free

            Wreckers and Fire brigade training uses them.

  • Seems like an odd thing to do, but to each their own. Maybe if you are into cars you should be buying a running car that you can drive about when you want and get a reward for your efforts and not end up with a scrapper you get frustrated with. Aim for something older and simple, by with some style or potential for performance enhancements.

    I learnt by doing, fixing what needed to be fixed with the help of my father who learnt from his father etc. I also have some petrol in my veins which helps.

    • wouldnt want to really spend that much—either way i'm just going to scrap it after.

      • +2

        Which was kinda my point. Why try to fix something that is only going to be scrapped - wasting money. Get one to either fix and drive, or to upgrade/modify the drive. Get something that will be worth selling later.

        Check out mightycarmods on YouTube and what they started with for ideas. Their early episodes are good for diy upgrading. Buy a little hatchback and upgrade it

        • +1

          lol because i wouldnt be comfortable driving something that i've fixed, i mean sure i can just use youtube videos etc etc but i would still be worried driving it.

          • +1

            @funnysht: Then you arent fixing it are you?

            If you can’t trust yourself to fix it right, start with something more simple. Bicycle, mower, motorbike etc then graduate to a car once you’ve got it right. Don’t waste your money not fixing a broken down car that will never drive.

            If you must get a car, start with simple things that don’t affect driving. Put in a new stereo, add some driving lights, upgrade the factory air intake etc. don’t start with the suspension or brakes. Learn the basics before you start on the hard stuff. The only way you are going to learn properly is to back yourself.

  • +2

    My advice, buy a mid to late 90s something. They had little in the way of electronic safety gadgets so none of that to worry about which really requires special diagnostic gear and no air bags to explode in your face etc.

    Tool wise just buy as you find the need. A basic 3/8 socket set will cover most things you need to get started. Screwdrivers (you'll probably get away with a medium size flat and #2 philips), pliers and spanners will also be useful. Multimetre would be useful if you did want to looks at basic electronics.

    Tools are an investment, buy the best quality you can afford and they'll last a life time but you don't have to go to the extreme. eg while I'd love to have a full set of Stahlwille sockets and spanners my main socket set is Kincrome which was about 20% of the cost of the same size Stahlwille set but is till a good quality home DIY set.

    • Good advice. Get a old one where modern electronics is too complex. Common in 50's and 60's. With friends I did it and learned a lot.

      Even took it bush and fixed it when it broke down.

      Modern ones beyond me. I think breaking down would cost a fortune for towing.

  • Only do it if you have enough time and money to spare

  • Get a cheap MX5 and follow along with

    Or just let him do all the work and watch. Fascinating series doing a full break-down and rebuild with awesome explanations and visuals.

    • MX5 would be my pick as well.

      Plenty of information out there.
      Lots of parts.
      Easy to work on
      Doesn't take up much space.
      Fun to drive

  • +3

    Probably the only time I would recommend you get a falcon or a commodore.
    They are dirt cheap and spare parts galore from any wrecker and you have plenty of space to work on them unlike more compact Hondas or Toyotas.

    Just make sure that you only buy a car where you can find a service manual. Look the car up online and if you can't find a complete service manual for it pick a different model or make. Having access to a service manual will give you step by step instructions and parts and torque values for pretty much everything.

    Just the only thing is that you are kind of jumping into the deep end here.

    Whilst I wouldn't have a problem doing what you want to do today. There is no way I would have done it a couple of years ago before I started dabbling with cars and before I bought all my tools.

    Tools wise whilst all you need is a socket set and a jack and a pair of Jack stands. Working on cars with only that is rather miserable and I only did it to save money on oil changes.
    Since then I've probably spent more than 2 grand on tools because it just helps to have an air compressor or to have electric tools for stubborn bolts. And then you keep ending up with weird edge cases like stuck bolts or bolts in weird positions so you end up buying new sockets or different tools to be able to fit in tight gaps. Plus as you stray more from standard maintenance and move to repairs you start finding yourself wanting ball joint presses Pulley pullers and other speciality tools. Now a days I won't even touch a car unless I have my battery powered impact wrench with me which if there is one tool you splurge on despite not being a vital necessity is that.

    If you dont have any experience with this maybe do just start of somewhere easier. I started of doing oil changes on my car and built up from there to be able to do the complete maintenance routine. As well as also completely rebuilding a ride on mower (including engine rebuild) as well as working on motorbikes and other small farm equipment.

    It definitely doesn't have to be unsafe and if you do things correctly and to original spec there shouldn't be a reason why it doesn't become drivable again. Just remember that rust is going to make anything you Try to do a hundred times harder.
    And if you are taking apart a broken part on your car for replacement and don't know how. You can always practice first on the donor car at a pick your own parts wrecker.

    • " And if you are taking apart a broken part on your car for replacement and don't know how. You can always practice first on the donor car at a pick your own parts wrecker."

      That is a superb idea. Never thought of that- go to pick and payless and just stuff around lol. Only problem is jacking up the car to play around with the transmission.

      • Generally you don’t ‘play around’ with a transmission as a budding mechanic. Mostly, they either work or you take it to a transmission place. Changing a clutch is pretty common DIY stuff though.

  • My advise is: dont waste your time and money doing this

  • +1

    If you're outside a city you could try putting out a wanted ad for dead cars. Offer $100 and free pickup. Try facebook/gumtree and but also local farm supplies, post office etc.

    Also starting with a motorbike is a great idea.

    Hire a car trailer to tow, it'll probably be about $100 for a day. In Vic you can tow with a rope but I would NOT recommend it.

    • I recently hired a car trailer for 4 hours for around $100, but you’ll need to make sure you have something suitable to tow it with. Ozbargain’s favourite Camry probably won’t.

      And just for Tose who think towing with a rope sounds easy, it isn’t. It requires someone with strong legs to pilot the towed car as the brakes won’t have any power assist and also good communication between tow and towed car is essential.

    • It's a bit unfair to single out poor old Tose. He's probably not the only one who thinks that towing with a rope is easy.

  • IMO, buy a project car, that you can modify how you want. IMO its not fun 'fixing' stuff on a car, but it is fun improving things on a car. Think about what sort of driving you want to do etc.

    I bought an AU XR6 Manual ute for 1700, lowered it, did lots of maintenance on, modified suspension on and dailied for 2 years. This was overall a pretty fun experience - and it was a reasonable 'daily' that could also be fun on a track (I did a bit of drifting). Falcons are reasonably easy to work on, but not always haha. Jap stuff is normally pretty well designed too.

    Think about what you want out of a car, then you can make the right choice.

    • true but is this something you can do with little or no experience and by reading books/ youtube?

      • +1

        Yes. It is, you start with easy stuff and work your way up. If you have a reasonable aptitude for mechanical stuff removing and replacing stuff is relatively easy, especially with the internet to help out. Alternatively you can purchase a workshop manual for the vehicle which often give step by step instructions.

        Buy a scrapper to fix will just waste money on parts if you plan to scrap it - unless you just want to pull it apart then put it together without repairing anything.

      • Yeah mate. You don't have to do anything special, the only way to learn is by doing. I knew how to do basic maintenance, and had done a few other more major things, but nothing too crazy. I learned how to do a lot of more in depth things owning that car haha.

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