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Inner Child
Inner Child New Reader
5/30/09 9:53 p.m.

Alright, so there's a thread going now about cars that are difficult to work on. We've all been there, and I enjoy complaining about it as much as anybody, but it's easy for a bunch of gearheads to get together and share war stories about how they had to remove the sunroof to replace the alternator in some newfangled car.

I want to hear about modern cars that are easy to work on. I want to hear about repair experiences that left you praising the engineers that designed the car. I want to hear about a time when you crawled underneath a car and angels sang, someone served you a chilled glass of chardonnay, and you dropped the front subframe using a single wrench without even getting any grease under your nails.

In the other thread, some posters suggested BMWs and Subarus. Any support for these or other suggestions? Let's keep the list limited to cars the average person would daily drive, say, no more than 10 years old. Go.

fornetti14 GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/30/09 10:02 p.m.

Bimmers and Subaru first came to mind when I read the thread title LOL.

Goldmember Reader
5/30/09 10:05 p.m.

My only vehicle that is less than 10 yrs old is my '02 Tahoe(tow vehicle/get me to work in a snow storm). The only thing I've done to that is use the spare tire, swap wheels/tires, and bleed the brakes. It needs a complete brake job(including calipers[damn rust belt!]) currently, but I'll let you know how GM's LT engineers did after that bit of maintenance.

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/30/09 10:34 p.m.

the E36 BMW is a fairly easy car to work on. even the electronics is not all that bad. And those areas that are bad.. are easy to get to.

HappyAndy Reader
5/30/09 10:42 p.m.

my work truck is a freightliner sprinter (A rebadged M-B truck), I do nearly all the maitanance my self and it is a breeze compared to the ford econline that I used to have.

72SuperBrian Reader
5/30/09 10:47 p.m.

Any VW built before 1993 (Vanagons excepted).

I LOVED working on my 1986 Jetta GLi.

All I ever needed to work on it was:

10, 13 and 17mm wrenches 10, 13 and 17mm sockets metric allen wrench set screwdrivers hammer

I changed, at various times and in no particular order:

  • Mechanical: clutch, axles, springs, struts/shocks (upgraded to Konis), exhaust downpipe (went to digifant dual downpipe for "more power" but never really felt a difference), valve cover gasket (repeatedly), timing belt, A/C compressor, front engine mount

Interior: front seats (swapped in Recaros), complete dash

Body: fenders, doors (all four), bumpers, hood, taillights

As you may have gathered, even 13 years ago when I built it, the car was pretty hammered. But it was fun to work on and even more fun to drive!

jmthunderbirdturbo New Reader
5/30/09 10:57 p.m.

1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbocoupe. Awesome car to work on. everything is easy to get to, and changes fast. timing belts can be done on the side of the road with 5 tools. the oil pan can come off and replace all 4 pistons without removing the engine. the head job takes all of 3 hours once youve done it once, and even for first timers its 6 at most. any idiot with a feeler gauge and some nickels can set up the valve train geometry. alternator, water pump, power steering pump and rack, a/c compressor, all easy to do with cheap hand tools.

the down side: this stuff is all easy to do cause its fails repeatedly...stupid Ford.

My TC is an un-proven 12 second car, and God knows i love it, will never sell it, and may very well be buried in it, but DAMN is it a POS!


neckromacr New Reader
5/30/09 11:29 p.m.
72SuperBrian wrote: Any VW built before 1993 (Vanagons excepted).

I would be inclined to agree but say "Any 4 cylinder A-chassis built before 1999"

My '97 2.0 Jetta was a breeze to work, fuel injection streamlined with the advent of Monotronic, while the mechanicals were all quite simple.

This was never so clear as when I traded it for a 16v Scirocco(is there a CIS wizard in the house?), to the nonesense they started dabbling in with the advent of MKIV's and beyond that I often see in my shop.

mw Reader
5/30/09 11:32 p.m.

I'd say a 3cyl geo metro is about as easy as it gets to work on. There is tons of room in the engine bay and you can lift the engine or tranny out without a hoist without too much effort. They are also very simple. There aren't many mystery electronic boxes. My southern miata is great to work on too since it's the first completely rust free car I've had. It's such a joy to remove all the suspension components with just hand wrenches and no cheater pipes, torches, easy outs, etc.

ss New Reader
5/30/09 11:58 p.m.

First one that comes to mind is ANY volvo built from 85-00 Great cars ,well thought out. Second would be Honda's. Then you have subies,mitsu,ect..

thatsnowinnebago GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
5/31/09 12:00 a.m.

Working on my 87 toyota 4x4 is pretty easy because there is so much room around it/under it. I haven't had a car I don't need to jack up to do anything to and I love it. Its has zero rust so almost all the bolts just come right out. I hardly even need to use PB Blaster. I'm pretty sure mine's in the minority though, we've all heard how rusty these trucks are supposed to be. I guess that's one of the advantages of living in southern California.

kevinSC1 New Reader
5/31/09 12:19 a.m.

The old S-Series Saturns are quite easy to work on. And you need very few tools to the whole car apart.

Travis_K HalfDork
5/31/09 12:52 a.m.

Isnt replacing the clutch in a saturn kinda difficult though? I had heard either pull the brake master cylinder/booster and take the tranny out the top, or pull the whole engine. Its alot more than 10 years old, but my milano isnt too hard to work on.

SupraWes Dork
5/31/09 2:47 a.m.

Honda Accord V6 surprisingly easy. On the other hand Lexus and Infinity V6's are a world of pain.

ddavidv SuperDork
5/31/09 6:46 a.m.

Yep, Subarus. Some stupid designs (why oh why are the brake lines attached to the struts so you have to bleed the brakes when they are changed?) but nothing I've found is at all hard to get at.

My E30 BMW is too old for this, but is one of the easiest cars I've ever worked on next to my 1965 F100.

4cylndrfury HalfDork
5/31/09 7:20 a.m.

not less than 10 years old, but close...my 95 corolla was stupid easy to work on...a haynes manual and a set of standard hand tools will fix a majority of whats wrong that can be fixed in a home garage without a lift. parts accessibility is not too bad despite being a small chassis, and if you must work underneath, they dont weigh a thing, so no fear of jack stand collapse. Once underneath, after you remove the plastic air dams, you can get to everything very easily, and your hands dont have to be that of a 4'9 asian man to get in there. Id say A-(top 92%) when graded against all cars Ive worked on (lol...only about 9 total)

924guy HalfDork
5/31/09 7:25 a.m.
neckromacr wrote: This was never so clear as when I traded it for a 16v Scirocco(is there a CIS wizard in the house?), to the nonesense they started dabbling in with the advent of MKIV's and beyond that I often see in my shop.

not a wizard, but I can tell if you can find a copy of snap on's "electronic fuel injection, Imported" manual, itll make things allot easier..its published by mitchell international (pn might be MITIEFIA) that book has been the difference between running cars and the junkyard for mine...

And back on topic..

also not even close to 10 years old, but way ahead of their time! any 2.0 liter Porsche 924 , with book above, piece of cake.... turbo models add a degree of difficulty, and all of them require some forethought and more time to get the job done, but they are not difficult to work on at all. much easier than ford / mazda 2.5's, and id even say easier than older ford and chevy v8's. trannys, brakes, ect. all pretty straight forward and paint by numbers if have the right reference material..

Rumnhammer New Reader
5/31/09 7:31 a.m.

Any Honda, most Mazdas with 4 cylinders, (anything on the back of the Mazda/ford v6 is a pain). +1 on the Subaru with the exception of spark plugs and fuel injectors everything else is pretty easy. Even the sparkplugs are easy if you use a piece of rubber hose to put them in and take them out. The injectors are hard until you have done a few times, the secret to those is to ditch about 2/3's of the many brackets that Subaru thinks you need around them. Most 4 cylinder cars are pretty easy, once you take off all the plastic shrouding, Except the SRT 4 engines which I refuse to touch anymore, anything head related is a pain on those.

Chris Rummel

72SuperBrian Reader
5/31/09 8:08 a.m.

924guy, I didn't say that.. That was neckromacr..

No big deal, but I can diagnose and fix my CIS without trouble...or a crystal ball or even a wizard.

924guy HalfDork
5/31/09 8:24 a.m.

lol, sorry for the mis quote, fixed it..

MadScientistMatt HalfDork
5/31/09 8:27 a.m.

'92-'00 Civics aren't that hard to work on for the most part. The starter, for example, is right there where you can grab it from the top, so you just disconnect the battery cables, unbolt two bolts, and swap it out. For tasks that require turning the crank, Honda put a cutout in the inner fender that's perfect for fitting a socket on an extension through. Good thing as mine's needed more than its share of fixes...

Taiden Reader
5/31/09 9:04 a.m.

91 nissan sentra is a joke to work on 89 civic is fine if there isn't a lot of rust

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/31/09 9:46 a.m.

when I had my 99 tiburon, the hardest job I had to do was the timing belt. That was only difficult due to all the little bolts that held the cover on over the belt. There was not a lot of space between the side of the car and cover to get your hands in there to remove them.

That car also had the NICEST way to tension the belts that ran the accessories. Loosen the p/s pump and turn what was basically a turnbuckle to push the pump out or pull it back in, and then tighten everything back down. No using a bar to tension the alternator while you tightened it down again.

walterj Dork
5/31/09 9:58 a.m.

The E46 and E39 BMWs are as easy as the E36 with the exception of more electronics... but they are pretty well modularized and easy to find once you understand the problem.

72SuperBrian Reader
5/31/09 10:04 a.m.

+1 Volvo 240

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