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So anyhow, the check engine light on my 99 sunfire comes on. A buddy who has an OBD reader runs the codes for me, and i'm getting codes on both O2 sensors. sounds like an easy enough fix, so I figure I'll try it.

I was thinking about this post last night as I was dropping off to sleep. Yes, I know - I've got to get a life.

Driveability problems are not good problems for newbies. They're fun problems to solve, but you need experience to do them well. If you don't have the experience, they can drain the enthusiasm out of you and put a bad taste for auto tech in your mouth.

I would much rather see newbies start with inspecting fluids, then replacing fluids. After newbies develop proficiency there, then they could replace brake linings, and move on to replacing shock absorbers in McPherson strut assemblies (with a mentor). Replacing fuel filters (with a mentor) is a good, advanced newbie chore. Driveability would be something more experienced hobbyists would attack after they develop proficiency applying Ohm's Law, reading schematic diagrams, using Digital Multimeters and Digital Storage Oscilloscopes, and using shop manuals and other reference materials, probably with the help of a mentor.

I think that it's VITAL that newbies apply safety rules.

ALWAYS wear safety glasses that pass the ANSI Z78 spec. Friends will laugh at you for wearing safety glasses, but a flake of rust or a drop of fluid in your eye will ruin your day, and you'll end up visiting doctors twice a week for a month as they monitor the healing process. A few years ago, I got a grain of sand in my eye while riding my bicycle. The grain ground around my cornea for a while before it washed out. The experience was not fun, and now I wear safety glasses when I ride my bicycle.

I harp on wearing gloves. Auto fluids have gotten increasingly dangerous. Often they transport stuff through the skin, and the cumulative effects of this junk can be medically significant. I wear nitrile gloves when I wrench. When newbies start wrenching, the gloves tear every few minutes, and newbies will wonder whether wearing the gloves is worth the time and expense. As newbies develop their mechanical skills and graduate to hobbyists, they'll tear their gloves less often. I wear mechanics gloves every time I'm even remotely close to a radiator (condenser or heat exchanger), and every time I'm even remotely close to anything hot. Pulling on the gloves takes a moment, and healing an abrasion or a burn takes weeks.

I also harp on wearing appropriate clothes. Closed toe, leather shoes; reasonbly tightly fitting clothing; and NO JEWELRY are good starts. Shoes will protect your feet from dropped parts and spilled fluids. Appropriate clothing won't get caught in moving parts. A wedding band shorted between B+ and ground can get red hot in about 1/5 second, and other jewelry can get caught in parts or attract sparks.

I think the most important safety rule is to use a mentor. Auto tech is a fun hobby, but cars and motorcycles are increasingly complicated systems of interacting systems. Too often tasks that appear easy are not, and a mentor can help you through the rough spots. I have an AAS in auto tech, and I still talk to more experienced techs when I run into problems. The service manager for the dealership that supports your car or motorcycle can refer you to a local car club, and from there you should be able to find a mentor.

For reading materials, I like

Motor Age:

Motor Magazine:

For reference materials, I like


Motor Mechanical Manuals:

For electronic reference materials, I'm very fond of AllData (for a fee):

When I need schematics, I prefer Mitchell OnDemand (for a fee):

By federal law, all automotive OEMs are required to make emissions and driveability information available to the public, although they are allowed to charge fees for this information. This website has a roster of these OEM websites:

David Jacobs
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