Stop it already old man, actually, a lot of things are way better than they used to be, in cars especially. Go drive a 50 year old car of any sort, then drive a comparable modern car. The “experience” might not be as good subjectively, but the modern car is objectively better in every measurable way. But what about in terms of doing your own work? Surely it gets worse every year for the DIY guy, right? Nah, not exactly. More complex? Yeah. But harder? I’m not so sure about that.

We’re buying a 2012 Volvo XC70 in the next week or two, so naturally I’ve been scouring the internet for information on the new car so I know what I’m getting into. I like to DIY anytime I can, and since this will be a third car for us, my ability to DIY won’t be as hampered by availability of free time or having to wait for parts to arrive.

One job that’s massively different from my current car, a 2003 bmw 325xi wagon with a manual transmission, is the serpentine belt. My current car even has two of them, and I can replace them in about 30 minutes including selecting a beer to have, finding a place for the beer where it won’t get knocked over while I’m working on the belts, and having a long swig of the beer after finishing because there isn’t even really beer drinking time built in to this job, it’s too simple.

The Volvo, on the other hand... I understand the serpentine belt to be something like a 3-beer 3-hour job, involving things like removing power steering hoses from the PS pump, removing the battery and entire battery box, and lots of other shenanigans. Is Swedish beer even any good? Nothing terribly advanced, mind you - and I’ll be happy to tackle it when the time comes - but the E46 really is DIY friendly in this way, and I wouldn’t call it old, just yet.

On the other...other hand, I want to put an upgraded rear sway bar in the Volvo and found that to be about the world’s easiest DIY - there’s absolutely nothing in the way of the sway bar once it’s unbolted, and the bolts are easy to reach. Yay. Installing a roof rack might actually take longer.

These days, too, you can look up how-to videos of just about any reasonable thing you might want to do on your car, so long as it’s not too obscure of a model. Even then, if you find the right forum you can extrapolate and get help with literally anything. I’ve also noticed more and more that parts suppliers like IPD and Pelican Parts have their own YouTube series videos linked right in the description of the parts listing. Brilliant! Do I even want to buy this part? Let’s see how hard it is to replace.


And we all know you can get an app for your phone that gives you not only OBDII diagnostics, but far more advanced, even real-time information about all kinds of systems and their performance. This, coupled with access to things like VIDA for Volvos with full-on factory diagnostics and how-to’s, and exploded parts diagrams just widely available to anyone, makes this a pretty good time to be a backyard mechanic. How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go? How much time do you have?

I’ll be sure to post some pics of the new car when we get it. Meanwhile, here’s what I wish it was:

photocredit: swedespeed