Before performing any car maintenance work, please be aware that it can be potentially dangerous when working on any car. This page has a list of some hazards you need to be careful of and what precautions you can take to avoid them.
This can happen from a range of liquids that come from your car. The best way to avoid scalding is to wait till your car cools down before carrying out any work on the coolant system or any oil draining procedure.
- Never remove the radiator expansion tank cap while the engine is hot. If there is some water left in there it will try to come out when you open the cap.
- Power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid and motor oil may be dangerously hot if the engine has been running for a while, always allow time for these fluids to cool down.
You will be quite surprised at how many parts of vehicle can become hot after use.
Beware of burns from any part of the engine, the exhaust system, brake disks and drums. These are normally the key parts to look out for. This is why it is always best to have a “cooling off” period before beginning work on your car.
Now, this is vital and must be adhered to at all times. When working under or near a raised vehicle, always use axle stands or a ramp. Never go under a car that is only kept up with a jack. I’ve had old jacks that “Slip” over time. The last thing you want is to be under a car and for that to happen.
You should always be careful when loosing off and tightening up tough bolts as the extra weight might not be suitable for the axle stands you’re using. If this is the case lower your vehicle and tighten up the last few bolts with the vehicle on the ground.
I’m sure you’re all aware that fuel is extremely flammable and it would be unwise to have an open flame near a fuel line. But just to be on the safe side here are a few precautions you should take. We always recommend to have a Fire Extinguisher aboard your car. Not just for your sake but for others too.
- Fuel is highly flammable but fuel vapor is explosive, so be very if you’re working around fuel, or on any fuel lines.
- Don’t let fuel spill onto a hot engine, this could cause a fire to start.
- Do not smoke or allow any naked lights anywhere near a vehicle being worked on. You should also be aware of any sparks that may happen as a result of using certain tools or from electricity.
- Fuel vapor is heavier than air. Because of this do not work on the fuel system with the vehicle over an inspection pit.
- Electrical overload or short circuits can cause fires. So take care when it comes to repairing or modifying any electrical wiring.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Make sure its suitable for bother fuel and electrical fires.
There are two types of electric shocks your going to want to look out for when working on your car.
This comes from the car when the car is being started or is in the process of running. You should be caerful when working around the ignition system especially if it’s turned on.
This can be quite nasty, you should always make sure all connections are earthed correctly and if any major work is being done than disconnect the battery first. Never leave it to chance.
Fume or Gas Intoxication
Ventilation is very important when working on a car so make sure you’re not in a confined space. If you’re working in a small garage (like I do). It’s best to have the door open to provide ventilation. This is a much more safe approach.
Bear in mind that fuel vapor and exhaust fumes are toxic, also cleaners like carb cleaners and engine degreasers. So if you want to remain healthy make sure your work area is well ventilated.
Poisonous or irritant substances
Avoid contact with any fuel, fluid or lubricant, battery acid and especially antifreeze. Do not syphon any oils or liquids by mouth. If any liquid gets into your eyes or is swallowed by accident seek medical attention.
Be aware that there is evidence that prolonged contact with used engine oil can cause skin cancer. So it’s best to wear gloves or a type of barrier cream if necessary. Always change out of oil soaked clothes and don’t keep your oily rags in your pocket, dispose of them correctly.
Stay clear of any air conditioning liquid as it can cause skin burns. When this liquid is exposed to a naked flame it forms a poisonous gas. So only deal with air conditioning units if your trained to do so. It’s cheap to get them refilled.
Asbestos dust can cause cancer if inhaled or swallowed. It’s not as commonly used as it once was but it may still be found in gaskets or brake and clutch linings. When dealing with these components it’s best and safe to assume they may contain asbestos. Don’t leave it to chance, especially if you’re working on a vintage car.
You may never come across this nasty substance but it’s best to be aware of it just in case you ever work on fire damaged vehicles.
Hydrofluoric acid is formed when certain types of synthetic rubber are exposed to temperatures above 400*c. The rubber changes into a sticky or charred substance containing the acid. Once it is formed the acid will remain dangerous for years. If it gets onto the skin it could lead to amputation of the limb concerned.
O-rings, oil seals and fuel hoses are normally the sort of items that can form this acid. So whenever working on components taken from a fire damaged vehicle or working on a fire damaged vehicle it’s safe and common practice to wear protective gloves and discard them after use.
Batteries contain sulfuric acid, this will attack clothing, eyes and of course the skin. So take extra care when topping-up or carrying the battery.
Batteries are highly explosive, due to the hydrogen gas they give off. Never cause a spark or allow a naked flame anywhere near the battery. Also be very careful when connecting and disconnecting the battery chargers or jump leads. Always remember to stay safe and think twice before taking on a task.
Be extra careful when removing any parts that are located near an air bag, they can go off accidentally which in most cases will cause an injury. If possible disconnect the battery before removing the air bag. Special storage instructions may apply.
Diesel Injection Equipment
It’s worth noting that diesel fuel injection pumps supply a large amount of pressure. So take extra car when working on the fuel injectors and fuel pipes. If fuel was to be sprayed out of the car do not put any part of your body including your face in its path. This will penetrate the skin and could end up with quite severe consequences.
- Use eye protection when working under the vehicle (debris in the eye hurts a lot!) and using power tools. (not as much as steel filings though…).
- Wear gloves or barrier cream to protect your hands.
- Periodically, check the vehicle over to make sure it’s not slipping off the jack or axle stands or anything unusual for that matter. It has to be ensured it’s safe to work under.
- Keep loose clothing and long hair away from mechanical parts.
- Remove wrings and any jewelry before working on your car especially when working on the electrical system.
- Make sure that any jacking equipment (axles, ramps and jack) is safe and adequate for the job with the correct load for your vehicle.
- Don’t lift something that clearly is too heavy for you. Either use special tools for the job or ask help from a friend. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself and not be able to do the job.
- Don’t rush to finish the job or take shortcuts. You want the car to be safe don’t you?
- Don’t use ill fitting, old, worn out tools that are not suitable for the job. Buy some new more suitable tools.
- Don’t allow pets or children to play around a car that’s being worked on (Common sense!).
I hope you read and memorize the information on this page so you don’t end up in A&E because of some silly accident. Stay safe and save money.
Regards, Beat The Mechanic Team