[I am not responsible for any injuries resulting from following any of these steps or ideas]. I will keep adding to this list as I think of things, so come back soon!
It’s easier than ever to get the right tool for the job. You can order them off the internet, or head over to your local Harbor Freight and get a lot of specialty tools that you couldn’t get your hands on 10 or 15 years ago. It’s worth it to invest in the right tool if you need it.
A welder is a great thing to have—you can make tools, make brackets and parts, fix rust holes, and fix exhausts. A couple of repairs or fabricated tools will pay for an inexpensive 110-volt welder. This summer, I used my welder to make a slide hammer that I used to change some axle bearings. Later, I used the same slide hammer to remove an input bearing from a manual transmission. I welded a nut to the bearing and pulled it out from the top, instead of spitting the transmission open. With only those two jobs, the welder saved me hundreds of dollars and/or hours of my time.
Use anti-seize on everything you can use it on. Put it between your brake rotors and hub flange, and between the rotor and wheel. Put it on exhaust parts too. I once put anti seize on a tailpipe and later, I could slide the pipe out of the muffler (after the tailpipe rusted away again).
If your wheels are stuck on the car, loosen the lug nuts a slight amount (just broken loose, maybe a ¼ turn more). Let the car down off the jack a couple times—you may need to release the jack quickly to let the weight of the car do the work for you. This should pop the wheels loose for you.
To avoid injury and/or breakage, always use the longest ratchet you can fit in the area. I have an extendable harbor freight ratchet that works well for this. Use the longest handle and you don’t have to put as much force into breaking something loose.
Always try to pull the ratchet toward your body, you’ll have much more control over everything. You’ll also avoid punching the nearest sharp metal object if your ratchet slips or breaks.
When you change a suspension part like a bushing, make sure you tighten the bolts with the component in the position it will be in with the weight on the wheels. This will keep the bushing from twisting or binding up when the car is lowered off the jacks. You may have to put the wheels on and lower the vehicle onto a set of ramps, or put a jack under the lower control arm to raise it into the proper position.
When using a ratchet, keep one hand on the top of the ratchet head (pushing down with it and centering it on the bolt head), and use the other hand to loosen or tighten the fastener. This will keep the ratchet from slipping off the bolt, preventing rounding off the head and/or injuring yourself.
Windshield wipers can be cleaned with alcohol, then restored with any plastic protectant like armor-all.
When you’re removing an old rusty bolt, loosen it slowly and spray it with some penetrant. If it starts to tighten up again, flip the ratchet and snug it back down. This will help clear some of the rust out of the threads and help you remove the bolt without stripping the threads out. You may have to repeat this cycle a few times, loosening the bolt a bit, then tightening it, then loosening it some more, all while spraying it with oil. Nothing wastes hours (or days!) of your time like snapping a bolt off inside a part.
If you live in a winter climate like the northeast, it’s well worth it to pay attention to the underside of your car or truck. Don some old rain gear and hit it with a pressure washer or take it to the self-service car wash. Then, coat the bare steel or rusty areas with some flat black like Rust-oleum, then spray the whole underside with a product like “Fluid Film.” It’ll make a mess, but you’ll see a slowdown in the deterioration of your car. If it’s a new vehicle, I would pay for some type of undercoating, but if it’s older, you have to be careful with coatings like paint–they may trap moisture in rusty areas, making problems worse.
If you’re replacing your brake lines, use a roll of nickel copper brake line. It’s soft so it’s easy to bend and flare. It also will never rust away on you.
When you take the old brake lines off, cut the old line near the union (nut) part of the brake line with some diagonal cutters. This will allow you to remove the old line relatively intact so you can make your new line match all the necessary bends. You’ll also be able to use a socket to remove the fittings preventing rounding off the wrench flats. Then, drill out the old brake line with a bit that’s slightly smaller than the O.D. of the brake line. You can then reuse the fitting.