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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok, here is the deal. I'm 20 years old and a full time college student/part time worker. I have been working on an assortment of cars since i was 17. But, mostly just dabbling in different areas, some suspension, fabrication, mechanics, welding, etc. I'm interested in all aspects and would like to learn about it all.

But, I'm realizing now that it is just too much for me especially at this stage in my life to try and learn so much. I would like advice on something I can get into mainly as a weekend warrior/free time hobby in the automotive craft. I have limited space (part of a garage) and the funds of a college student. I was thinking engine building because I figure you can find a lot of salvage parts or used parts and mainly need a few tables and an organized clean space to assemble engines right? The rest, being able to be sent out to machince shops. If anyone has any advice or able to point me in a good direction I'd appreciate it. Thanks.:beers:
 

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My suggestion would be to start with electronic control diagnosis and repair. That is the newest area, and has the least old guys doing it successfully on the side.

Engine building is iffy, imho. You will be at the mercy of a machine shop, plus your work will be subject to someone elses install and break in work.

I have seen several guys do well with the mobile service truck concept. You come to them, and do oil changes, jump starts, brake jobs, etc.
 

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EVERYONE and their brother thinks they can build an engine. You're competing with the whole world.

Tooling costs, and work space are clearly the main issues ASIDE from your skill level.

Electronics/engine management/emissions control is the moneymaking wave--if such a thing exists. Worst part is tooling costs--getting a REAL scan tool, and a suitable 'scope; and finding wiring diagrams and trouble charts for every car that comes in the door. There's a stiff learning curve, and mistakes are very costly.

Bodywork might be next in line--but you'd need more space, and lots of tools. But (I think) the ratio of parts/materials/supplies to labor cost is the most advantageous for a DIY. (Paint and sandpaper and masking tape is cheap--pistons and crankshafts cost money.)

I'd be thinking along the chassis/suspension/steering/brakes line. Not too much there that is tough to figure out; although you'll probably have to get friendly with a local alignment shop.

Or just get a part-time job with Sears or Midas or Spiffy Lube; and let them carry the liability insurance, advertising costs, and such.
 

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Shurkey is exactly right. Are you just looking to learn a few things for your own good or are you looking into an automotive area as a career choice? Your best bet is to get an entry level job and start from there if you want to get involved in the field. As a matter of fact, unless you do currently have expierence, that will be your only choice anyways. Your limited on space so anything you do wouldnt be practical. But then again, you wont likely be getting into any of that on your own until you get some good expierence anyways.
 

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If you're looking for a career in auto repair my advice is to learn, and be good at, everything...except for body work. If you can do it all very well you can walk in any shops door and tell them what hours you want to work and what you want to make.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Sorry, if I wasn't clear. I'm not looking to do this as a career. Working on cars is my hobby, old cars though (up to the 80's). But, I feel like I am trying to do too much considering I am in school full time and working part time.

For instance, I have my Chevelle, it needs a lot of work. So, my ambitious mind is like "Oh, I can do the patch panels myself, the interior...the electrical...etc." But, in reality it's too much to try and do. I want to focus all my time and patience to learn one thing. I just want to know where a good place to start focusing on is. What aspect of working on cars to specialize in would be good, considering my space, time and money? I like it all and am interested in it all and I don't mind taking my time.
 

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My advice, since you're in Southern California is to try and find a medium to large speed/hot rod shop to intern/work part time at. They have the tools, know-how, cool parts, high-end customers, and vendor contacts. Big money down there, and lots of opportunities....just make sure you keep your mouth shut if you've not got anything good to say, and keep your eyes open. You're young, get the best experience you can get while still not tied down to a job and family.
 

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Side work helping cars pass emissions would be very lucrative IMO, but there's quite a few things that affect it. Maybe become a specialist in tuning - electronics would be great, but also tuning carbs using your own A/F sensors and meters would be great if you were good at it.
 

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Here is my two cents.... Tunning tunning tunning, more and more peps are going with the LS Gen III IV and V engine transplants. Learn every in and out of doing a great tune, maping, i think you could find a good nitch. Most everything ells is nuts and bolts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
ya, im looking more for something that i can do in my spare time. I don't have the time to commit to a shop as an apprentice. That is why I am looking towards engine building. I know I can take my time, I don't need a garage to hold a car, I can get salvage parts, etc.
 
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