Old American cars are hard to kill. Park your Chevrolet or Ford for a year or so and you’ll see what I mean. Other than a dead battery, I’m willing to bet nothing bad will have happened, save for maybe some stale fuel. Charge it up, clean out the tank, and you’ll be on the road again.


But even so, American cars still need work done to them, and as car guys, most of us will tend to try to do some — if not all — of that work ourselves. 


I like to think that the only real limiting factor for what I’ll try is my time. For the most part, I’d rather buy a tool and a book on whatever task I’m trying to do rather than spend that same money on paying a pro. The cost is usually the same either way, and once you own the tool and knowledge, you can repeat the job again in the future for free. I grew up in a house where that kind of thing was the norm. 


When I was a kid, my dad decided he was going to learn how to paint cars. He built a paint booth next to our house and worked hard at figuring it out. I have vivid memories of him coming in to dinner with orange, or red, or blue hair — it all depended on the car he was working on at the time. He got really good at it, and he’s since painted my ’66 Caprice and my ’72 Chevy truck. He’s currently finishing up the body of his ’68 Camaro, pictured above.


But there are limits to what I’ll try, and I’ve found that there are some real benefits to paying a professional in a lot of situations. A guy named Dan does the rear end gears on my cars (I consider crush sleeves and gear lash a Voodoo science), and even though I bought a ball joint press to do the front end ball joints on my truck, I ended up paying a pro to do it because I just didn’t have everything I needed. I’ll also never try a transmission rebuild, even if ACC Associate Editor Chad Tyson says that makes me a pansy.


So what are those limits for you? What kind of stuff are you willing to try, and what do you think is best left to a professional? Do you rebuild your own engine, or do you send it out to be done? Do you buy your own paint supplies and give painting your own car a shot, or is that above your comfort level? Let us know in the comments below.

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