General Knowledge
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4



I don't know how to or feel comfortable performing any maintenance.


I know how to and can perform basic maintenance, such as changing my oil or air filter, changing tires, but still a go to a mechanic for most repairs.


I understand how to do most maintenance and upkeep for my vehicle, including replacing brakes and transmission fluid, however I trust a mechanic for major work.


I can perform all the maintenance for my vehicle and read diagnostic codes when something goes wrong. As well, I know when the recommended major and minor scheduled services are, and keep detailed records of when I perform, what I buy, and receipts.


Car Knowledge


I don't know one part name from another, and often refer to parts as 'that thingy that makes that noise.'


I know the names of some parts and what they do, but can't really understand or discuss anything about them.


I know the names of most parts and what some signs and symptoms of failure are.


I can carry on a conversation regarding specific parts and their function, how they operate, and what symptoms of their failure are.


Body Work


My body work is performed by a professional, or I patch things up with duct tape, super glue, zip ties, and gum.


I've got some basic knowledge of body work such as some waxing and sanding, and can replace broken parts such as headlights, tail lights and corner lights.


I can do some general fabrication work such with fiberglass and bondo, and have some minor tools to help remove dints and dings, or replace broken parts.


I understand the procedures to remove rusted areas, weld in new metal, perform cover-up and patch work, sand and repaint, and can do panel alignment.


Electrical Work


I've no knowledge of schematics or tools required to read electrical signals. Positive and negative are just blood types to me.


I understand polarity, but am unfamiliar with most of the electrical components or how they work.


I have a multimeter and can apply it when working with and reviewing circuits for the vehicle to diagnose where something might be broken.


I know and fully understand Kirchoffs and Ohms laws, can properly read electrical schematics, understand how they work, make proper use of a multimeter to diagnose electrical signals and make repairs or replacements to wiring, relays, components, etc.




I just go through an automatic carwash and let it do everything for me.


Waterhose, dishwashing soap, wash rag: Check.


I have some brushes and different products to help get a nice, glossy shine, wax it up, clean the tires, and dry it off with a microfiber cloth.


I understand how to care for the clearcoat, detail the interior and exterior, what the various different product types are and how they are best utilized.

Detailed Knowledge
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4



I may no real idea how it works. It's just a big piece of metal under the hood with lots of plastic parts that makes noise, and gets me to work and back... usually.


I have a general idea how it works. I know when it needs oil, I know when and if it runs hot, I know what it normally sounds like, when something sounds different, and when something is wrong


I know the basics of how an engine works, including the general design. This includes some knowledge about intake into the how the engine starts, receives fuel, burns fuel, and converts that to power. I also understand how it keeps itself cool through the coolant and radiator, and how the oil keeps everything properly lubricated.


I have initmate knowledge of how an engine works, what the connected sensors and components are, and their function. I can tear an engine down into it's separate components, clean it and have it machined within acceptable specifications, replace all the bearings, seals, and gaskets, and reassemble it using proper torque.




Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive. Yes.


I can check the fluid, and I can tell if its working properly or not by how the car drives, and how it sounds or feels when it shifts.


I can bleed the clutch, I can change the clutch, I can replace the torque converter, and if need be I can replace the transmission itself. I can change out the outer seals... but I don't dare open it up.


I understand the differences between and automatic and manual transmission. I know how the clutch or clutches work as well as how to disassemble each. I can replace bearings, clutch or clutches, pumps, syncro's, forks and reassemble it all.




I have no clue how it works, I just know it works because I do not feel anything when driving.


I can tell the difference between a sports car and a family car. I can generally tell that if its making noise that something is wrong. If it squeaks, I'll spray it with WD40, if it bangs... time for a mechanic.


I know the differences between independent and non-independent suspension setups. I know what a ladder bar and a 4 link are but not nessicarily how to adjust it. I can change out ball joints and tie rod ends and know the basics of camber, caster and toe.


I can adjust camber, toe, and caster with a tape measure or alignment machine. I can adjust dampners, I can setup and adjust most suspension systems and I know exactly how every component works.


Intake / Exhaust


Air goes in, global warming comes out.


I can point out the air intake, I can point out the exhaust. I can tell you if it is working properly or not.


I have general knowledge of the intake manifold and exhaust manifold. I know what a lean condition will do to an exhaust manifold and what a glowing catalytic converter means. I can tell you what the MAF / MAP sensor is. I could make general repairs to either including replacing sensors, clamps, hangers.


I can install an aftermarket or new OEM intake system / exhaust system. I know what tools are needed, what extra supplies are needed and what steps I need to take to do either. I know what cars need back pressure and what cars do not. I understand how to read a vacuum gauge and what the readings mean.




I can remove the floor mats... maybe the cup holders.


When needed, I can remove parts of the interior and put them back in, normally with a guide or somebody to help.


I'm comfortable removing both interior and exterior panels, so long as they use conventional tools and everything just lines up with screw or bolt holes. Anything that requires more than that is outside of my scope of knowledge.


I know how to properly disassemble the interior, using special tools as needed to not break anything, remove carpeting and soundproofing. I can remove exterior body panels and the metal panels, stripping the chassis down to just the shell.


Matrix created by Eric Musgrove and Chris Crespo. "How A Car Engine Works" animated graphic by Jacob O'Neal. *Primary animated engine is an Inline 4-Cylinder, not listed with the engine configurations.