5 Tips for Nailing Your First Summer Project Car

The weather is warm, the sun is shining, school is out, and that all means one thing. Summer is officially here, and that means it’s the perfect time to start a new car project. If this summer is going to showcase your first project car, here are some tips and tricks to help you nail your first summer project car.

1. Beware of Rust

If you’re looking for a budget project car, remember one golden rule: beware of rust. You may find a spot or two here and there — it happens with older cars, no matter how well they’re taken care of — but don’t take on a tremendous rust restoration job as your first project.

It’ll cost you a ton of money and chances are high that you’ll give up half-way through because it’s too much for a beginner to handle. Plus, if you pick up a project car that’s got rust on the frame, you might as well take it to the junkyard. Beware of rust when choosing your new project.

2. Stick To Your Budget

Project cars aren’t cheap but that doesn’t mean you should mortgage your house to rebuild your project — unless you’re planning on living in it, and we don’t recommend that. Set yourself a budget — either monthly or per paycheck, whatever works best for you. — and stick to it, within reason.

If the part you need is on sale and it’s a little bit over your budget for the period, feel free to buy it, especially if the price will be back to normal by the time your budget resets. For the most part, though, stick to your budget and don’t empty the bank trying to rebuild your summer project car.

3. Choose an Easy Build

Don’t pick the most complicated — or the newest — car to restore for your summer project. A lot of more modern cars rely on computers and advanced electronics that it seems like you need a degree in electrical engineering to figure out. Start with something simple, like:

  • Scion xB – The exterior is kind of goofy looking, but the engine is easy to work on and easy to boost.
  • Lexus SC 300 — You can pick up a used early to mid-90s Lexus for less than $7,000, and they’re fantastic beginner resto cars.
  • Any Honda Civic — There are so many aftermarket parts for the Honda Civic that you won’t even know where to start.

Start with something easy and work your way up to the more complicated projects as you gain experience and confidence.

4. Make a Plan

Now that you’ve got your project car on-hand, it’s time to start planning out your project. What do you want to do first — get it running, modify the engine, or improve the exterior?

Write out the big steps first, then break each of these down into smaller projects. If you want to get it running, for example, the first thing you need to do is figure out why it’s not.

5. Don’t Just Bolt Things On

We mentioned bolt-ons for the Honda Civic and while the parts might fit that doesn’t mean you should just start bolting on every add-on that crosses your path.

There’s no guarantee that your stock engine will survive the extra power of a supercharger or turbo, even if you install it correctly. Work up to major power modifications slowly, and make sure that you aren’t going to blow up your engine the first time you rev it up.

Don’t Rush, and Enjoy Yourself

Don’t rush through your project car this summer, especially if it’s the first one you’ve ever done. Enjoy it, because while you may work on new projects over the years, you will never work on your very first summer project car ever again.

How to Stay Safe Working on Your BMW

Working on your car is a great hobby — and a great way to save money on car repairs — but it can also be dangerous if you’re not careful.  Here are three tips and tricks to help you stay safe while you’re working on your BMW.

  1. Invest in Jack Stands

Your car probably came with a spare tire, a lug wrench and a half-way decent jack to get it off the ground — but that isn’t all you need to stay safe.

If you’re going to be working on your car regularly, invest in a good set of jack stands or blocks, and don’t ever get under your BMW if it is just up on a jack. It doesn’t take much to knock a car off a single jack, and you don’t want 2000+ pounds dropping on your head while you’re trying to change your oil or swap out your starter.

Invest in jack stands — they could save your life.

  1. Make Your Garage Safer

If you’re working on a car, chances are you’re either in your garage or driveway. Working in a garage can present its own hazards, so it’s important to be aware of them.

First, get your garage door inspected and repaired if necessary. Garage doors are involved in more than 30,000 injuries every year, so having it checked by a professional can help to prevent injuries.  It also helps to ensure your door will open and close properly, so you don’t end up with your project car stuck in the garage.

Don’t ever start your car — even for just a few minutes — with the garage door closed. It might be tempting, especially if it’s excessively cold or hot outside, but it puts you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. If you expect to have to run your car with the door closed, invest in a high-end ventilation system to ensure no car exhaust gets a chance to build up in your garage.

Keep your tools organized and your floor clear. Get rid of any potential trip hazards you might not see if you’re focused on your repair job.

  1. Be Aware

Even if your car is off, under the hood can be a dangerous place.  Be aware of other potential dangers, including:

  • Spinning Fans: Your radiator fans can keep spinning for 15 to 20 minutes after the engine is shut off to facilitate cooling, and a swiftly spinning fan can easily cause lacerations. Be cautious when working with these fans or pull their relay to ensure that they won’t be spinning while you’re working.
  • Radiator Caps: Coolant gets hot when your engine is running — sometimes upwards of 230 degrees F — and the system is under high pressure while the engine is running and for some time after you shut it off. Don’t crack the radiator cap when the engine is hot if you can avoid it.
  • Fuel Lines: Fuel lines are pressurized, so if you need to remove them for whatever reason, make sure you release the pressure before you start disconnecting things. Spilled fuel is a fire hazard, especially if you’re working with electricity or anything else that generates sparks.

Take the time to be aware of the hazards that come with working on your car. Even something as simple as a spinning radiator fan could send you to the hospital for stitches if you’re not careful.

We all love working on our cars, but no one likes having to spend time in the hospital because we’ve injured ourselves while trying to repair a project car. Stay safe and enjoy working on your BMW. A busted knuckle is a badge of honor, but a hospital bill because you couldn’t be bothered to invest in jack stands is not.