Whether you’re a new do-it-yourselfer or a seasoned professional, safety should always be a priority. Over time, we tend to get comfortable and fall away from basic safety practices if we’re not careful. Here’s a refresher to help keep you, your colleagues, and your vehicle safe.

Before You Begin

Determine your need for both safety and efficiency. Plan ahead by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I have the correct tools?
  • Will I have to lift the car and work underneath it?
  • Will I have to handle oil, gas, or solvents?
  • Do I need to use an electric drill, grinder, hammer, or wire wheel?
  • Will I have to loosen large fasteners or remove heavy parts from the car?

For every “Yes” you answered, you’ll need to gather the appropriate safety equipment as well as the tools and materials. At the very least, you’ll likely need safety goggles, disposable dust masks, automotive work gloves, vehicle ramps, and jack stands.

General Safety Basics

  • Do your research and know your limitations of what you can and can’t do. Consult someone more experienced if necessary.
  • Use the right tools for the job. Invest in high-quality tools, but if you’re a DIY guy, look for tools that pay for themselves the first time you use them as compared to taking the car to a service shop.
  • Make sure you have good lighting and clean parts. Many experts recommend using a good automotive break-resistant fluorescent droplight so you can see what you’re doing.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit nearby and easily accessible, preferably in the shop, garage, or vehicle.
  • Do not smoke near your work area.
  • Use the “buddy system.” If you have to work alone, make sure that someone knows what you’re doing and where you’re working; keep a phone on hand for emergencies.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Avoid wearing loose clothing that can catch in drill bits and other tight places. It’s best to remove all jewelry as well.
  • When handling solvents or greasy/oily parts, wear disposable rubber gloves for a better grip and easier cleaning.
  • When handling large fasteners or heavy parts, such as tires, wear auto mechanic work gloves for protection and a stronger grip.
  • Wear safety goggles and a disposable dust mask to protect your eyes and lungs. Regular prescription eyeglasses aren’t good enough; you’ll need safety glasses or goggles.
  • If you’re working with solvents or spray paints, use a respirator that’s rated for organic vapors. They’re inexpensive and offer valuable lung protection.
  • If you must work on the underside of your car, use a car ramp or jack stand; these are designed for repairs. The vehicle’s jack can slip or leak, dropping the car suddenly. Wheel chucks offer added protection.

Proper Cleanup

  • To clean oil or grime off parts, use kerosene or mineral spirits while wearing rubber gloves and safety goggles. Do not use gasoline.
  • Dispose properly of all hazardous liquids. This will preserve the environment and reduce fire hazards in your shop.

Ignoring safety precautions can mean the difference between a quick, well-performed repair and thousands of dollars of damage or medical bills; the worst-case scenarios can even endanger your life. It’s not worth the risk–a few small inconveniences now can prevent major problems and preserve the satisfaction of a job