Auto Mechanics doesn't just have to be for boys. For economic reasons, if for no other, it is a good idea for drivers to understand how their vehicle works. Its also a safety issue, you'll be able to recognize when something is not working properly and in need of repair or maintenance.
The following list of suggested activities is adapted from the Boy Scouts of America Auto Mechanics Merit Badge -- Here is a link to the web page for the Auto Mechanics Merit Badge: http://www.scouting.org/boyscouts/advancementandawards/meritbadges/mb-AUTO.aspx
NOTE: You will need access to an automobile or truck, with the owner's manual, to complete some of these activities.
1. Discuss the safety equipment, tools, and clothing used while checking or repairing a motor vehicle.
2. Explain how an internal combustion engine operates and the difference between gasoline and diesel engines.
3. Demonstrate your knowledge of general auto maintenance by making a maintenance schedule for your vehicle. The owner's manual should help with this.
4. Demonstrate how to check the fluid level of the following: brake fluid, engine oil, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid.
5. Check battery fluid, if possible, and the condition of battery terminals.
6. Show the location of fuse boxes and the size of fuses, and demonstrate the proper replacement of burned-out fuses.
7. Review the maintenance chart in the owner's manual. Explain the requirements and time limits.
8. Choose a car cleaner and wax product for the vehicle. Explain clear-coat paint and the precautions necessary for care. Clean and wax the vehicle, both inside and out.
9. Use a vinyl and rubber protectant (on vinyl tops, rubber door seals, sidewalls, etc.) and explain the importance of this protectant.
10. Demonstrate how to check the condition and tension of belts and hoses.
11. Check the lighting in the vehicle, including instrument, warning, and exterior bulbs.
12. Check headlight alignment.
13. Demonstrate how to check the vehicle exhaust system.
14. Explain the difference between tire and vehicle manufacturer's information specifications and demonstrate where to find these specifications.
15. Demonstrate how to check pressure and properly inflate a tire.
16. Demonstrate how to use the manufacturer's jack supplied with the vehicle.
17. Demonstrate how to change a tire correctly.
18. Explain the difference between bias-belted tires and radial-belted tires.
19. Diagram and explain in writing how to rotate bias-belted and radial-belted tires.
20. Using the manufacturer's guidelines, rotate the tires on the vehicle. (or watch this being done by a mechanic).
21. Explain the caster, camber, and toe-in adjustments on wheel alignment.
22. Explain why wheel alignment is important to the life of a tire.
23. Explain how to dispose of old tires properly.
24. Demonstrate your knowledge of engine lubrication.
25. Explain where to find the recommended type and amount of oil to be used in the vehicle engine.
26. Explain the difference in viscosity (10W/30 versus SAE 30).
27. Perform an oil change and oil filter change on the vehicle.
28. Explain how to dispose of the used oil and filter properly.
29. Explain the need for coolant in the cooling system of a vehicle.
30. Flush and change the engine coolant in the vehicle according to the manufacturer's instructions.
31. Explain how to dispose of used coolant properly.
32. Explain how the air and fuel system work together.
33. Explain how a carburetor works and how a fuel-injection system works.
34. Explain how an on-board computer works with the fuel injection system. Show where the computer is located.
35. Explain why it is necessary to have an air filter and a fuel filter. Locate them and change them according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
36. Explain what fuel additives are, for both the carburetor and the fuel injection systems.
37. Diagram and explain the parts of the electrical system.
38. Explain the cylinder engine sequence.
39. Explain the spark plug gap and, if practical, change the spark plug. (Use an engine with spark plugs that can be reached without tilting the engine.)
40. Demonstrate how to connect jumper cables on your battery properly. Explain how to jump-start a vehicle.
41. Explain the difference between electronic and points ignition systems.
42. Explain the difference between automatic and standard transmissions.
43. Explain the types of automatic transmission fluid.
44. Explain the types of lubricants used in a standard transmission and in the differential.
45. Explain the difference between front-wheel, rear-wheel, and four-wheel drive.
46. Explain the brake system (including anti-lock systems) and how it operates.
47. Explain the differences between disc and drum systems.
48. Demonstrate checking conditions of a vehicle brake system. After checking, make recommendations for repairs (if necessary).
49. Explain the purpose, importance, and limitations of passive restraints.