The Scope of this Section
Automotive vehicles are complex, and there have been tens of thousands of different models manufactured and sold since the model-T. The information required to comprehensively repair all of these models would take up a dozen university libraries. If you spend your life studying and practicing auto repair, you will likely only ever learn and focus on a tiny fraction of the knowledge necessary to sustain the complicated and varied auto industry. The average person may choose to pleasantly ignore it to make them feel smarter, but their auto mechanic likely knows hundreds and hundreds of things that they don't.
There is no need to be intimidated by this. Your ability to repair a car will ultimately have much more to do with your dedication to learning how than with how good you do in the tests they give in school. Likewise, all successful auto mechanics are in the same boat as inexperienced you: despite their vast knowledge, there is much more to know about cars than they know. Yet they manage to repair cars anyway. How? Because a lot of the basics are the same, and because they specialize. And because where the basics are not the same, or where the systems go beyond their depth of knowledge, they know how and when to consult a reference, and when to hand the work to someone else.
That is what the "understand" section aims to teach you:
- The widely-shared basics within the specialty of most consumer cars manufactured within the last few decades.
- A sense of how much you don't know, and how to learn further about a subject if you would like
- The aim is to summarize systems, not make them out to be simpler than they are. Any simplification of a system must be accompanied by an awareness of how much information is being simplified, and directions to getting a more realistic picture.
- Knowledge of common go-to-references to use in the case of repairing a particular car.
- A sense for what cases in which you really do need to hand repairs to someone else.
This section does not aim to distract the reader with knowledge of:
- How to engage in purposes besides repair (such as car modding or upgrading)
- Basics common to what are niche markets, such as classic cars or racing cars. Most people learning about automotive repair will not be doing so to learn about those.
- Painstakingly in-depth knowledge of extremely complex systems, no matter how common they may be. Once more, the number of readers who need to know, and want to spend the time necessary to understand each and every intricacies of automatic transmission are a small number. Our goal is to summarize, give a general idea, and then allow the reader to go more in-depth if they'd like. However, again, when summarizing, the goal is to do so in a way that does mislead the reader as to the nature or complexity of these systems.
Please enjoy, add to, and refine this "understand" section. With time and dedication, anyone can develop the mental tools necessary to do productive automotive repair: basic knowledge, specialization, reference resourcefulness, and sense for when to step back.