Well, my name is Sam and I'm 13. I've been in love with cars for the better half of a year and a half. My obsession began with Corvairs of all cars, and it's now graduated to early imports. However, I don't own a garage, and I've never worked on a car. What should I do?
Hello Sam, welcome to the car hobby! I know you will love it. I recommend a few things for someone in your shoes to learn more about cars, do these things and you'll be far better off than most teenagers when getting their license.
Tell me what you think.
@Sajeev has a great suggestion on the YouTube front that I'd like to expand on. If you don't know a direction you want to go in, but just want to gain general knowledge, on how to do simple maintenance or cheap upgrades, then I highly recommend you check out the channel Mighty Car Mods and look at some of their early stuff. It is all simple how to videos and at that time, they did everything in a driveway. Most importantly, they are not afraid to get help when the task is more specialized. A lot of channels do not show this, but they do which I believe sets a great example and earns a lot of respect from me.
I second the Mighty Car Mods suggestion. You can learn stuff there --and their feature length videos done in Japan will make you want to visit Japan.
-if you have a back yard with a shed you can build a mini bike, dirt bike, etc. Mini bikes are not big dollars. Even bicycles. If you are lucky/wise you can flip projects to fund the next one. If you lose $ on a flip it's a couple of movie tickets as you are doing small $ projects.
-No shed... build a shed first!
-No back yard... convince the family to let you rebuild the engine in the house? (careful with fumes & chemical & fire ...lol). ---maybe find a friend that has a place you can safely build a small project.
Mighty Car Mods just released this video today and it is perfect for anyone looking to get into cars. It covers things such as basic maintenance and affordable, effective upgrades you can do to your car.
Having absolutely no mechanical experience as a kid, I found that learning to work on a single cylinder lawnmower engine was the perfect way to learn the basics of a 4 cycle internal combustion engine.
Next what good is an engine if it doesn't make anything go?
Install it into a mini-bike (my first was a modified bicycle frame) and now you can ride. Basic, yes, fun, YES!
A Go-Kart is just as fun and you learn some driving skills.
All of this can be done without a garage and a small amount of cash. Most of the components can be obtained from garage sales, swap meets and the junk pile at your local lawnmower shop.
Many a race car driver/builder started this way.
The more you learn and understand the basics now, you will continue to grow and expand your skills.
Good luck and have some fun.
A friend of mine had a Corvair high school. Not sure of the year, but she drove the crap out of it. It wasn't a bad car at all. Different? Yes. Bad? No.
Don't let the lack of a garage stop you from wrenching. I got my first car when I was 10 as an inheritance, and did many a repair with it on ramps, on my back.
My advice would be to find a car that you like, and is a good runner. This way you aren't trying to do too much in the elements without a dedicated space to store/work on.
There are a lot of great guys with a lot if experience that you could learn from, as well as to help you from making some if the mistakes a lot of us older guys have.
My advice, have a goal, have a plan, have patience. I see too many people in a hurry to quickly get a car on the road. Take the time to do it right and your project car will be there for you to use for a long time. Its more fun cleaning and driving it than constantly repairing what you should have dealt with early on.
When my son was 13 he asked me "Dad, what's my Mustang going to be?" We agreed to purchase one to restore together. We reached out to the local car community (car clubs and car guy friends) asking for someone to take the time to teach. We found that true Car Guys love to share their knowledge with the younger generations. He spent 4 1/2 years working in local garages on his car. He learned to rebuild the engine with a man who became a grandpa figure to him! It was a benefit to both. Someone young was interested in spending time with him learning something he was passionate about. Same with the body work and paint. It was truly amazing to see how the "more experienced" generations were willing to share their passion to someone who was excited to learn. It was a great experience for all.
I would encourage finding those "Car Guys" who are willing to teach. It isn't as difficult as it may sound.
Thank you to all of you who are willing to share your knowledge and help the younger generations!
My son ended up with a nice car and a LOVE of cars and specifically Mustang.
His car is a 1965 Mustang Fastback GT.
He founded the Millennial Mustang Registry to encourage the love of Mustang in his generation.
Check them out! all Millennials who are passionate about Mustang!
Lots of good suggestions here Sam. Ask around to uncles, cousins, friends (and friends' parents) to see if any of them share your passion. Go to car shows and talk to the people there. Don't be shy. Show an interest and car folks will most often go out of their way to help you out.
And I'd like to add something from my own experience working with my grandson when he was about your age. It might seem strange, but working with your hands is just as much a mental exercise as a physical one. Patience and a cool head will help lead you to success while rushing into things and losing your temper when they go bad will only leave you frustrated. In any of the activities that have been suggested take your time. Plan what you need to do. Assess your abilities and resources before you begin and fill in the holes (information, skill, tools). Proceed slowly and methodically. When you hit a roadblock (and we ALL hit roadblocks) stop, step back, take a couple of deep breaths and ask yourself exactly what happened and why. Then you can plan a path to fixing it. Broken bolts and parts that don't fit aren't a reason for anger. Use what you've learned along the way to help you out of your current situation and then add this new knowledge to your data bank. The more you know, the more you can do. And the confidence you'll build will help you in all aspects of your life. There's a wonderful satisfaction that comes from being able to say "I did that".
All the best of luck to you and always remember Wells' law of engine size: If it matters what gear you're in, the engine is too small.
Learn to get organized and document everything no matter what you do. Just basic documentation like tagging and bagging will go a long way to help make any project successful. Tag all parts, nuts, bolts and screws. Draw a diagram showing where each nut was so you can put it back together the same way.
I agree with all of the suggestions and recommendations that everyone has made up to this point. If you don't have a person that you can mentor to put a wrench to an actual car I have a couple of suggestions. 1) Ask around at a garage to see you can job shadow them for a a few days until they get to know you. 2) If you have a car that you can work on, while you are putting a wrench to the car... use your cell phone to video what you are doing so that you can figure out how to put it back together. 3) I think it is very important to learn how to detail a car. There are a number of videos on You Tube that can help you. Just remember that you are starting out. Ask a bunch of questions and then go out to find the answer. I was blessed to have a Dad and Grandfather that helped me learn to work on vehicles. Don't let it intimidate you.
Start small. Start with broken lawn mowers and weed eaters. Try fixing those things and see if you like messing with the mechanics of engines. If you hate getting dirty, then you've got your answer. If you don't mind a constant grime in the cracks and crevices of your fingers, you may have a future playing in the car world.
One other suggestion... When it comes time to get your first car, get the best condition car you can possibly afford, even if it's not the car you want to drive. It's far better to drive around in a beat up Toyota than to have a broken MGB that you can't afford to fix sitting in your driveway.
I would suggest getting a high production number, common but fun vehicle- Camaro or Monte Carlo SS from the 1980's. GM/ Ford v-8 pickup from the late 80's onward (short bed), as new as budget allows Ford Mustang (or go for a 1987-1993 Fox 5.0). Reason being there is tons of info on these types of cars and parts are readily available. 98-2002 Camaro/ Firebird LS/v-8 would be sweet. Older sporty toyota/ lexus, honda/ acura.
Airbags would be a bonus of some of the newer models.
I got a beater 1988 Chevy S-10 4 cylinder 5 speed king cab. No power and not a hot rod, but it was MINE!
I'm actually 14 myself, and some of the best advice I can offer is to just dive into mechanical projects. Depending on what you're willing to spend, fixing an old go kart can teach you a LOT about cars, while also giving you something fun to drive. I started with almost no mechanical experience and now I'm swapping out and custom modifying cams, shaving heads, putting on aftermarket carburetors, and even swapping out connecting rods!
Another great piece of advice other people have offered is to find someone who will teach you. Car clubs and online forums are fantastic resources for this.
And one more thing: READ! Read all the manuals you can about what you want to do! Youtube videos are also good to get you "fired up" and going, plus there are a TON of Youtube tutorials.
Good luck, and welcome to the hobby!
Agree with the YouTube videos, blog posts on your favorite sites, etc.
Buy yourself a decent set of basic tools to start with, something with a warranty. You don't need Mac or Snap-on yet. You'll get as many opinions on tools as you ask for. Kobalt (Lowe's) is a decent set with a warranty on most items; but there are others, too. You can look on the Nextdoor app, FB marketplace, and local Craig's list for a used set, too. Good Luck!
Take what ever cars you like and seek out owners of them at car shows, blogs and car clubs. Hooking up with enthusiasts is one of the best ways to enter a hobby on the ground floor and rise quickly through osmosis via their shared knowledge. People like these in the hobby will go out of their way to share the highs (and lows) from the years of cutting their teeth just like you are about to embark upon. Remember, they started out once upon a time like you are now and learning from their mistakes saves you from committing them yourself. Add to that if you are lucky enough, you could maybe apprentice with them and even work on your car in their shop with their expertise along side you. This is how I got into my first bike - 1975 Harley FLH basket case. I got hooked up with a Harley mechanic. I told him I wanted to do as much work as possible so I ''knew'' my bike inside and out instead of just owning and riding it. Between him and all his buddies, there was no question too dumb to ask. Their love of the hobby was shared willingly with me. And the bonus was when we dropped the bike off the lift the first time. He said it was the prettiest bike even to come out of his shop! The 2nd bit of advise I ever got was to buy the most amount of car you can afford. What that means is put more into the highest level of that car you can buy so you have less needed funds to come up with to fix what can be avoided in a car of better shape. This is proven best once you get into buying a hot rod someone else built but then sells. More often than not, they never recoup the money (and more importantly the labor!) they put into it.
Star by finding out where car shows are being held. Go to them and ask ask and ask questions, car people love to talk about their cars and experiences. You mentioned Corvairs so start with Classic Car Shows and also Chevy Shows. I started washing cars at a gas station when I was 15 and helping the mechanic. Search who does Classic Car Paint. Stop by and ask questions, ask if they can use a part time helper. At Car shows you can find out who does repairs, paints, builds, etc. once again stop by ask if they can use a part time helper. Then after middle school see what schools have technical programs with automotive shop. heck out this site, www.spartangarage.org its a high school shop program. You've made the best first step by asking a question here, don't stop asking, and offer to help. You my friend are off to a bright future. Good Luck and keep striving. these are my two cars do all my own work, Joe
Start collecting tools. One at a time if that's how it happens. Garage sales, yard sales, auctions, many of these will sell for pennies on the dollar. Is there someone who can mentor you? They might even help you with a tool or 2. You will want the best you can get and they do not need to be new. Some of the best tools I have are over 50 years old. Starting with an old lawnmower that someone has given up on is a good start. You do not have to get it running. Take it apart, see how the pieces fit and work together. Get a repair manual if you can on your projects and be patient.
Don't go cheap on tools. Buy a good torque wrench and try to adhere to suggested torque guidelines as much as possible. Work carefully and thoughtfully. Choose your projects logically when it comes to modifying engines and drivelines. Every action has a reaction. Love your car and treat it with respect, even when you are pushing it!
I would assume you are in 8th grade. Have a talk with your guidance counselor about your school district's vocational program and, maybe, you will be allowed to attend a class or two to see if it may be of interest in for your high school years. Study the science and math involved in automotive manufacturing and go on to college and be an engineer in the trade.
As you progress from 13 up to 18 (college age) try and find a mentor that is in the automotive field at the same time any part time jobs that involve anything automotive or pre-automotive such as rental companies that rent lawn mowers, chain saws anything that is mechanical or electrical to learn how they work and at the same time take any automotive or technical classes offered by your high school. Over the next 5 years you should have a good idea of the direction you want to go. As to higher education and if your interest has peaked by 18 years old on college I highly recommend is McPherson College they have a wonderful 4 year degree program in auto restoration that may peak your interest https://www.mcpherson.edu/programs/auto-restoration/ I personally like older imports (foreign) cars that if your under the bonnet (hood) and drop a wrench you can hear it hit the floor rather than fall into a plastic maze of covers never to be found again - give up and by a new one from the Snap-On truck:) My only life's problem is as I get older some of the old pieces of iron have stayed with me for years 🙂 What ever your future holds for you get a college degree.
Best of luck to you, Sam
1, Start saving your money
2. Attend local car shows and look at cars you like
3. Pick up some Shop Manuals on cars that you like and read them
4. Take a mechanics class at a local school, if they offer any
That should get you started.
You have already have been given some great advice! I would have to say that starting with an old lawnmower that doesn’t run is great because you learn the basics of internal combustion (air, fuel, ignition). Once you get into High School an auto mechanics class will be very helpful. Finding a car club that specializes on the types of cars you are interested, joining, and asking to help and learn is great. The comment about True Car Guys being excited to help and teach the hobby to a younger person is very true! I am a member of three different car antique car clubs and at 56 years old, I am one of the youngest! There is so much concern within the antique car side of the hobby that all of the knowledge and skills are literally dying off that I personally know people who would jump at the chance to pass their skills down. Finally, the comment about cheap tools is correct. You do not need to buy Mac or Snap On right out of the box, but you also probably do not want to try to make a permanent set of tools out of Harbour Freight either. However, for just starting off on lawnmowers and such (BTW, you can turn around and sell the lawnmowers you get working again) you do not need expensive tools. Home Depot’s Husky and Lowe’s Kobalt tools are certainly good started tools. The last piece of advice is do not be afraid... A dead lawnmower you are not going to make any worse, so where is the worry! Just jump in with booth feet and above all, have fun!
I’m sorry, I’ve got more questions than answers... Do you live in the city or country? Any relatives or neighbors you could help? Washing, cleaning, detailing, oil changes, anything to help will give you an opportunity to ask questions and learn.
Does your school offer any kind of automotive shop class? Any local dealerships you could hang out at? Is there a local car club or cars and coffee? Any of those would offer more possibilities in meeting someone who might be interested in helping. If you were in my town I know I would... it’s rather discouraging to see how few people pre drivers license age are interested in cars for anything other than transportation.
Get your foot in the door somewhere, anywhere. I can almost guarantee that you will get a job as a porter for a franchised car dealership's service department which will take you all over the service area and you can learn a lot. It's not exactly the advice you've been given to learn how to work on cars, but you will get to work on them and learn eventually.
I also agree with the youtube/online views (netflix inclusive) angle, but be careful what you're watching. A lot of "car culture" stuff is a spitshined version of "what wheels should I put on this car" and calling that educational. Try to avoid anything owned or clearly sponsored by any of the Marques, and gravitate towards channels that actually fix vehicles and the intricacies of car culture itself. Especially how its different around the world. Car culture (to me) is a good mix of well rehearsed SOPs (The sheer mechanics of F1 https://www.netflix.com/title/80204890) balanced with innovation and quirkiness (Bush Mechanics).
I say go for it. The worst that can happen is they aren't needing help right now. If you hang out for the cars and coffee thing, the connections you make might be able to help you out. And if they like your attitude and willingness to learn, they might just hook you up with a job anyhow. It's worth it to hang out and ask questions. That's how I learned, and found help when I got in over my head as a youngster.
congrats!it's an interesting hobby. i was about 7 when my dad brought home a 1/4 scale '55 t'bird that ran on a 6 volt battery. that was it i've been at it 65 years.
Advice: don't do any thing radical just starting out. If you're going to mess with the carb. start talking about it, pretty soon you'll hear the same name as the 'expert' go talk to them and go for it. enjoy!
Offer to sweep up, do the trash, etc for a local garage. Have it as a 2nd or 3rd priority after school - #1, and #2, play (socially w/art, band, theater, camping - whatever you have interest in. It's too young to narrow dwn & settle on 1 or 2 things). As U hang w/an owner and the crew try'n C if any 1 hasa interest in a mentorship relation w/U. This is how I was raised and now work at a job but restoration, problem solving and improving cars is a passion I only now have money to contribute (semi-retired). I do the same - offer brake'n muffler jobs to a friend (he gets the income) and he helps me restore an ol bronco (1966).
Ask them to show U the right way to do a tire, change oil, etc. Prove that you know safety as number one (it is a dangerous world in there). Many have insurance and leases that do not allow this type of arrangement. Most need to wait a few yrs to allow a 13 y/o in the shop - all depends on U, where U live, etc. Worth a try. Otherwise U can try a class in school (if it is so equipped). I would not enroll in a full program w/o tryin it out on 1 of these levels 1st (just a single class, volunteer at a parent's friend's place, etc)... Good Luck, let us know how U do!