How To Complete DIY Projects On Your Vehicle If Your Home Doesn’t Have a Garage
If you’re like me, you’ve got your priorities straight: you’re driving a money pit in the form of a 4Runner while living in a 2-bedroom apartment.
Jokes aside, the cost of living continues to rise in 2022. Rent prices are up 15 percent year over year according to a study by Redfin. It’s not just rent that’s more expensive; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics June Consumer Price Index (CPI) report shows a 9.1 percent increase in prices over the last 12 months.
Having a garage at home is a really great resource for wrenching on your truck. You can organize the space how you like, complete projects at your own pace, and enjoy the peace of mind of your own secure space
While a professional workspace in your home garage fully kitted out with epoxy floors, a full-width workbench, fancy wall slat, and garage cabinets from We’re Organized is really nice to have, it’s not absolutely necessary. For many, renting or buying a place that comes with your own, private garage is simply out of reach. DIY maintenance and mods shouldn’t be a privilege only the wealthy enjoy.
In this post, I’m going to discuss options for working on your vehicle if your home doesn’t have a garage and some considerations that go along with them.
In A Parking Lot
First, let’s talk about working on your 4Runner in an apartment parking lot.
This is a great option that won’t cost you a penny. That being said, you’ll need to include the cost of any tools you would need if you don’t have them already. Also, if you need to get your truck off the ground to complete the job, you will need to consider the cost of a capable jack and proper jack stands.
If you’re going this route, try to find a spot in a corner or way out of the way. You’re going to want to situate yourself to have plenty of space without others parking directly next to you.
Your neighbors and property manager may not be very happy to see you working on your vehicle on premises.
Working on a vehicle beyond very basic emergency maintenance may even be contractually prohibited by your lease agreement, so be sure to check that. It may be more convenient to find a public parking lot to do this, but expect the possibility that you will be asked to leave
On The Street
Working on the street is also free and you won’t run the risk of angering your property manager.
This is going to be your most convenient option for small jobs like oil changes, replacing a flat, or changing a dead battery. Working on the side of the road can also be a great place for completing interior work like upgrading speakers, putting in a new head unit, or installing a reliable dashcam.
There are some drawbacks, though.
Often, residential streets will have a curved profile that gets steeper toward the gutter. This will cause your truck to lean significantly to one side and may not be the safest place if you need to jack up it to get the job done. Additionally, you’ll need to be mindful of traffic and local laws that may prohibit roadside vehicle maintenance beyond emergency repairs.
Example of vehicle leaning due to street grade towards the gutter.
Similar to working in a parking lot, you’ll need to consider the cost of any tools and equipment to complete the job.
Use A Friend’s Garage
Ask a friend to use their garage!
This option can come with some great benefits: you can work safely away from traffic, won’t have neighbors or the police asking you to stop/leave, and if your friend is willing to help, you get an extra pair of eyes and hands to finish your project. Your friend also might have some tools you can borrow.
For this option, you really need to know the overall height of your rig, and gear on the roof included. Not all garages are created equally. Older garages typically have a lower opening height clearance compared to newer ones. If your friend has a ladder, you might not even fit in the garage at all.
Know what your height clearance will be once you’ve pulled into the garage. Consider things hanging from the ceiling that may be lower than the door. If you only barely fit, you may not be able to jack up your truck enough to take the wheels off if needed or install a lift kit that will set your truck at a taller ride height.
Additionally, make sure you’re insured and have adequate coverage for property damage.
It would put you and your friend in a really awkward position if you caused damage to their property that you can’t afford to repair.
You shouldn’t consider this option to be 100% free: bring pizza and beer, always clean up your mess, and say thanks. Otherwise, you might not be welcome back.
Use A Professional Space
Using a professional space is my favorite option.
There will certainly be some variations shop-to-shop but generally, these types of places will have:
- Vehicle lifts to easily and safely get your truck off the ground
- Pretty much any tools you need
- Experts on-site to help if you get stuck
I use DIY or Die Techshop in San Jose, CA, and highly recommend them!
There are many places like this across the country. Here are some examples:
- My Mechanic’s Place – Livonia, Michigan
- American Do It Yourself Garage – Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Self Service Garage – Kent, Washington
The major drawback with this option is the cost. While not nearly as expensive as paying a professional, it’s not as frugal as the previous options either. DIY or Die Techshop costs $45/hr for use of the lift workstation. There are also some additional fees for the use of specialized tools like torque wrenches, brake piston compressors, and power tools.
Overall, this cost is worth the time saved to me, but to each their own.
Paying a Professional
Finally, for some jobs, it may be worth the extra money to hire a professional.
This option will obviously cost the most compared to any DIY space listed above. Service centers at car dealerships are incredibly expensive.
My local Toyota dealership quoted me over $1000 to replace the brake pads on my 2018 4Runner!
Finding a reliable private shop can be challenging, but can save you a little bit of money. If you’re going with this option, make sure the shop that you choose is legit. A legit shop should be insured so your vehicle is covered if anything happens to it while in their care.
For example, in California, all auto shops must hold an automotive repair dealer license issued by BAR to perform vehicle repair and maintenance services. You can check their license here.
There aren’t many moments that are more satisfying than fixing things yourself. You shouldn’t feel limited if you don’t have your own garage, and you’re definitely more capable than you think!
Overall, the best option in my opinion is to find a professional DIY space. This can be useful even if you do have your own garage. Each of these options has its pros and cons. Evaluate the size and scope of your project and choose the option that’s right for you!