What is the common name for amateurs who maintain and repair automobiles, particularly their own automobile?

My understanding is that in the U.S., it is common for people who are not professional auto mechanics to change the oil and do other minor maintenance and repair for their own automobiles and occasionally give tips and advice to their neighbors.

My understanding is that such people are far more common than people who make "improvements" to their own cars (hot-rodding, art cars, etc).

Perhaps a word or phrase that would fit in one or more of the following:

  • "He does __, but nothing obvious like those hot-rodders."
  • "Her day job is software development, but on the weekends she's a ___."
  • "I'm not a __; I'll just take my car to a professional if it needs work."
  • "Complicated, 'sophisticated' mechanisms that require specialized tools are more difficult even for a professional and nearly impossible for a __ to repair."
  • "Instruction manuals and videos available on the internet make it easy for even a __ to repair things."

(Please indicate if your suggested term would or would not also apply to maintaining one's own motorcycle, as described in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance").

  • DIYer Cambridge Dictionary says it applies to home decoration but it seems to be commonly use to describe people who do things themselves instead of hiring professionals. Dec 17, 2019 at 2:40
  • 1
    home mechanic fits
    – Jim
    Dec 17, 2019 at 8:10
  • Google suggests either "amateur (car) mechanic" or "DIY/do-it-yourself car mechanic", or indeed amateur, do-it-yourselfer, or DIYer where it's obvious what is being worked upon.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 17, 2019 at 16:15

1 Answer 1


The colloquial term for someone who performs maintenance and minor repairs on their own car is "shade tree mechanic".

From the Urban Dictionary:

A person willing to learn and perform scheduled maintenance or simple repairs on their own vehicle rather than being completely reliant on technicians who may be dishonest, careless, or ignorant.

"Many automakers have realized that dealer service is profitable and have designed vehicles to be irreparable by independent or shade tree mechanics."

Yes, the term could apply to motorcycles as in the book by Robert Pirsig.

  • I've never heard that phrase. Is it particular to one country, region, or subculture?
    – Stuart F
    Dec 17, 2019 at 16:13
  • @Stuart F For some reason, when I hear the phrase I picture the three guys from Happy Days in white T-shirts and blue jeans with cuffs all with their heads under the hood of Ron Howard's 57 Chevy. So maybe it is from that era. When I looked up the definition, I discovered there was a long-running cable "car talk" show by that name as well.
    – CWill
    Dec 18, 2019 at 7:29
  • @StuartF: Is there some other phrase that is more common in your area?
    – David Cary
    Dec 28, 2019 at 22:42

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