Can You Work on Your Car in the Street? (Is This Illegal?)

Can You Work on Your Car in the Street

You may have seen someone working on their car in the street and wondered if you can do the same thing. Besides, what if it’s an emergency like a flat or a broken windshield wiper? Can you work on your car in the street?

Working on your car in the street in an emergency is legal, especially if such repairs are to make your vehicle operational again. However, you cannot perform maintenance on the street. Instead, you should resort to using your garage or driveway or an authorized space of your choice.

There are many vehicle repair regulations, most of which vary per state and city. So, in this article, we’ll explore the law regarding vehicle repair, the rules you must follow, and what things you should keep in mind if you decide to rent a space to work on your car.

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

If you have an emergency and your car is not functional, you can park it on the street or in a nearby parking lot to fix it. For example, this could happen in a situation where you got a flat tire, or maybe your car’s brakes start to give you problems.

It’s likely that if your brakes give you issues, there is a lack of oil in them. However, other issues could arise from a troubling car. Here are useful tools we think you may need to repair your vehicle successfully:

1. Gear and Wet Brake OilIf you believe your brakes are the culprit behind your car’s failure to function properly, you may want to explore getting this oil to refill it. It will work exactly the way you need it.

2. Mechanic Car Tool SetDon’t struggle to find all the items you need. Just get this car tool set, and you will be worry-free.

3. Castrol Advanced Motor OilIf your engine is beginning to struggle, you can consider getting this one.

General Questions

There are many questions arising from car repair, but they are mostly related to the location you are allowed to do them.

Unfortunately, not many cities allow it, and some things can influence the possibility. So, let’s discuss this matter further.

Can I Work on My Car in the Street?

Many cities forbid working on your car while on the street since it would be an obstruction to other drivers. However, if you’re on a highway or the road and have an emergency, you are allowed to do it to move your vehicle.

For example, the code of ordinances of Farmer’s Branch, TX, states that no person is allowed to repair a vehicle on public streets, alleys, or playgrounds. This prohibition also applies to municipal-owned parking lots. 

However, this situation does not apply to situations of emergency. For example, if your car suddenly stops working while driving or you get a flat tire, you are allowed to fix it so you can drive your car again.

Can I Repair My Car on the Street?

You can’t repair your car on the street unless you’re fixing a flat tire or if your vehicle isn’t operational. So if it’s at all possible, you should park on the side of the road instead of in the driving lane.

An example of a law that does not allow you to repair your car on the street includes the Code of Ordinances from Lincoln, Rhode Island.

It forbids repairing cars on the street unless in case of emergencies that make you unable to drive the vehicle.

Can I Fix Cars Out of My Garage?

You can fix your car outside your garage, in the driveway area, as long as you follow city ordinances regarding repairing your cars in a visible space. You’re only allowed to do oil changes and other minor repairs, so long as they aren’t dangerous.

Moreover, this work should not take you more than 72 hours. If it does, move your vehicle inside your garage, away from public sight.

Major repairs must also be inside the garage and not outside, and you should avoid any messes from oils and other car products.

Can You Work on Cars in a Residential Area?

Depending on where you live, you may be unable to work on your car in a residential area because the city may consider it a nuisance. Thus, before working on your car, check your local ordinances to determine if this is your case.

A similar law is specified within the Code of Ordinances of Montgomery, Alabama.

It says it’s unlawful for any person to repair or work on their car (or any other vehicle) in the front yard of any residential building.

This includes residential rental buildings or apartment complexes, except for regular maintenance of your vehicle. 

Can You Work on Your Car in a Parking Lot?

You cannot work your car in a municipal parking lot, but it may be possible to work on your car in a parking lot owned by a private company. For example, some auto part stores can allow you to do minor repairs on your car using their parking lots.

In truth, no store will be willing to risk a lawsuit because someone chose not to be careful when fixing their car. So, unless they’re an auto parts store that allows you to do it, don’t attempt it.

What Are the Laws on Repairing Vehicles on a Public Street?

In many cities, laws on repairing vehicles on a public street prohibit this practice unless an emergency requires you to work on your vehicle and get it running again. For example, if you need to refill your car’s oil.

Often, these situations (flat tires, oil refill, gas refill) are referred to as minor repairs. So, in most codes of ordinances, you’ll notice how they forbid repairing or working on a car on public streets.

However, these laws typically do not apply in cases of emergency.

For example, these laws may not apply to emergency activities such as: 

  • Checking the tire to see if it has sufficient air.
  • Ensuring engine oil level, adding the oil, or dealing with fluids that don’t require you to drain them.
  • Changing flat tires.
  • Performing other necessary repairs for your vehicle.

Is It Illegal to Work on Your Own Car?

Working on your car is not illegal in most states, although some regulations may apply regarding where is the appropriate location you should fix your car and during which times you should work.

Many city laws say you can make minor repairs on your car in your driveway or garage, so long as these repairs don’t last more than three days.

But, if you believe your car needs a major repair, you must keep it within your garage or out of sight.

Is It Illegal to Repair Cars at Home?

It’s not illegal to repair your car at your house, so long as it follows the code of ordinances corresponding to your city of residence. If your car needs a big repair, keep it within the garage or on the rear side of the property, where it’s out of sight.

Also, remember to be very careful and follow all the safety measures you need to avoid accidents. Working with cars means exposing yourself to chemicals, and there’s always a risk of spillage. 

If you’re dealing with oil or any chemical substance that spills on the floor, chances are that if it’s left there, it could affect someone from your household.

Hence, you should pay attention to anything that spills and clean it immediately with water and soap.

You might also enjoy our post on If it is Illegal to Leave Your Car on Jack Stands

Can I Work on My Car Outside My House?

The only place outside your house where you’re allowed to work on your car is your driveway, not on the street or the sidewalk around it, since it is illegal. However, there are limitations you need to be aware of before proceeding.

If you believe your car’s repair will last longer than three days or is significantly major, avoid exposing it to the outside. Legally, you’re only allowed to do minor repairs on your driveway or garage that do not exceed 72 hours.

Is It Illegal to Run a Garage From Home?

The only way running a garage from home can be illegal is if you did not retrieve a license to operate your business, in which case, the city could shut your business down. You could face serious legal trouble if any liability were to arise.

To run a business from your house in the automotive industry, you must register your business with the city. Your residence should be zoned as a business.

However, it will all depend on your code of ordinances. Some cities won’t allow it, regardless of the legality.

Specific Work

Some minor repairs won’t cost you much, but even those types of repairs could have strict regulations. We all must ensure to do everything while following the word of the law.

So, let’s talk about specific things you should avoid doing while trying to fix your vehicle.

Can I Change My Car’s Oil on the Street?

There’s a high chance that you can’t change your car’s oil on the street because of the multiple hazards it could provoke on both drivers and pedestrians. Thus, many city ordinances prohibit this practice due to safety concerns.

You should do this oil change car in your garage, where you can clean your mess if anything happens (unless your neighborhood is under the rule of HOA).

Or, better yet, consult with an expert mechanic with a legal business to help you.

What Type of Location Do You Need to Change a Tire?

The type of location you need to change a tire should be outside of any danger zone, preferably in a nearby parking lot. However, if this is unavailable, you can park on the road’s emergency lanes and see if you can work there.

Nevertheless, remember to be careful when doing this. For example, don’t park your car immediately without alerting other drivers nearby.

Instead, turn on the emergency lights of your car to warn other cars about the situation, then lower the speed of your car.

Can I Change My Tire on the Street?

You cannot change your car in the middle of the street, but you can change your car on the shoulder of a highway or in a parking lot. However, doing so while on the road is very dangerous, so you should proceed cautiously.

It’s best to go somewhere that’s far from traffic and further from danger. Park your car in a safe spot and proceed to change your flat tire there.

If you can call someone to help you, do it, as it can help lower the stress this situation may be causing you.

Specific Locations

There are laws for different states and countries, and some may be more flexible than others. However, it is important to know them regardless of whether you’re around the area. So let’s talk about the laws for car repair in specific locations.

Can I Work on My Car in the Street in NYC?

In New York City, working your car on the street is impossible because a law disallows citizens from doing so. It states that no one can dismantle or detach any part from a vehicle in a marginal, street, or other public space.

Working on a car sometimes requires us to dismantle or detach something, so this law automatically makes that impossible. So, if you live in New York, always consider consulting with a mechanic.

Can I Repair My Car on the Street UK?

Many cities in the UK allow their citizens to work on the street as long as it does not become a nuisance or obstruction for others. However, most cities in the UK forbid repairing cars on the street to gain profit.

Most of the laws of these cities detail the definition of nuisance vehicles. In short, nuisance vehicles are vehicles sold or repaired for profit on the road as a way of business. Since it obstructs other vehicles and blocks pathways, it is a nuisance.

Other parts of the UK describe other actions that can classify an action as a nuisance.

For example, if the car is involved in something that contributes to antisocial behavior, makes unnecessary noise, or takes “valuable parking space,” it’s a nuisance, according to Hull City Council’s website.

Is It Illegal to Work on Your Own Car in California?

It’s not illegal to work in your car in California, but there are strict regulations that make it almost impossible to do so. Even if you were legally repairing your car in your garage, the tool you use could make this practice illegal.

For example, here are some problems found in the Code of Ordinances from Sacramento, California:

  1. Vague language. One of the things California law forbid is to use of tools that otherwise wouldn’t be found normally inside a residence. Unfortunately, the law does not define this nor name which tools it refers to, which can complicate things when determining liability.
  2. Strict limits. If you’re the type to lend your garage to someone else to repair their car, forget about it. California law states that you can repair your car in your garage so long as the car is registered to the name of one of the house’s inhabitants.
  3. No allowance for bigger repairs whatsoever. Unlike many states, California only allows you to do minor repairs in your garage, not major ones, regardless of visibility. And it can’t be repaired outdoors if the project takes more than 24hrs. 

Without enough specification and many loops for liability, it is no wonder why many Californians end up violating the law accidentally when repairing their cars. If caught, they could risk receiving a fine of $430 or more.

Solutions to Fix My Car

Many of us don’t have access to a garage or driveway, so how do we get by? This information will save us a lot of headaches and issues with the law and the HOA. So, let’s discuss this matter below.

Where Can I Work on My Car if I Live in an Apartment?

You can work on your car in special garages offered by the apartment complex’s staff or a borrowed garage. Additionally, you could check if people are renting out their garages around your neighborhood, as this is a very good option.

You may also want to check if your local auto parts allow people to use their parking lots to work on their cars. The only thing you need to do is consult with them before arriving.

If they allow you, they might offer some help or lend you some tools to get going.

How Can I Work on a Car With No Garage?

If you don’t have a garage, check your local auto parts store to see if they allow you to work on their parking lot. You can also ask a friend to let you borrow their garage temporarily or consult with someone currently renting their own.

You can also ask for the help of a local auto mechanic school to let you borrow their garage in the meantime. However, you’ll want to ensure you’ve got all the mechanic tools you need to proceed before arriving. 

Can You Rent Garage Space to Work on Your Car?

You can rent garage spaces to work on your car, and often you’ll see people referring to them as DIY garages. These garages offer different services, and you can either rent a spot to work on your own or hire one of the mechanics there.

The best part about renting DIY garages is that it allows you to learn and understand your car’s function better. Of course, you can ask for the help of mechanics to teach you the basics about vehicles, but expect them to charge a small fee. 

Can I Rent a Space to Work on My Car?

You can choose to rent a space to work on your car, whether it be in a storage unit, a homeowner’s rented garage, or a DIY garage. Of course, this requires you to consult with local shops and make necessary calls, but it will be worth it in the end.

Try to consult local shops, and ask local mechanics or neighbors questions to find out what you’re looking for. You could even search online for garage rental services, which are increasingly popular nowadays. Also, don’t forget about your tools.

Are There Storage Units That Allow Working On Cars?

Some storage units allow you to work on your car, but the possibility of finding one is scarce. In addition, many storage units started forbidding this due to safety and liability concerns, as they are prone to lawsuits if any of those things are breached. 

Therefore, you have to consult with local vehicle storage units and ask them if you’re allowed to work on your car before renting.

Remember that they’ll only allow minor repairs, not big ones, due to safety concerns. If you can’t find one, we suggest renting a garage instead.

You might also enjoy our post on How Many Vehicles Can You Have on Your Property?

Related Questions

What Should You Not Do While Working on a Car?

One of the main things you should not do while working on a car is to take the internet’s information as exclusive. This means you shouldn’t believe a website just because they seem to know about vehicles. Instead, always consult with a professional.

A professional will always give you proper guidance about the best procedure for working on your car. However, there are other things you shouldn’t do:

  • Working without protection – There is a high chance of dealing with strong chemicals when working on your car. Your skin is the biggest organ of your body. It absorbs 70% of what lands on it. Thus, working without protection can damage you.
  • Wearing loose long-sleeve shirts – While long sleeves shirts can offer you better protection, there’s a high probability that they will get stuck somewhere while you work on your vehicle. This can complicate things and delay the time you need to finish.
  • Working with loose hair – If you’ve got long hair, you should tie it in a bun to avoid getting tangled. It is also preferable that you use a cap to protect your head.
  • Not cleaning your space before or after working – Clean the space around you before you begin working on your car. Obstructions can complicate the process. Also, you’d be bumping into stuff along the way. Afterward, clean the space so that nobody gets hurt.
  • Not securing the car’s position – It’s not only important that your car is in a leveled position, but you should also secure it enough, so it doesn’t move. For example, use the parking brake to keep it from moving, preventing a huge hazard.
  • Working on a car that was recently turned off – You should not work on a car that hasn’t cooled off. This could be a hazard, especially if you work with gas, oils, and the like. Thus, wait for the car to cool before proceeding.
  • Keeping your jewelry on – Jewelry is often made of metal, whether it be rings, watches, necklaces, and similar items. They can be hazardous because they conduct electricity. So, ensure to take them off before working.
  • Not calling a mechanic – If you believe the work is too complicated for you, you should consult with a professional. However, you should never attempt to fix something if you’re unsure how to do it, as this could permanently harm your car. 

What Should You Not Say to a Mechanic?

The first thing you should not say to a mechanic is that they do not know what they’re doing, as they are the ones who studied the subject, and not you. While we don’t deny there are some rotten apples in the industry, saying this frustrates most mechanics.

Here are a few other tips for the next time you interact with your mechanic:

  • Don’t harass the mechanic with pressing questions about when they will finish with your car – Most times, mechanics work based on turns. Therefore, you can’t expect your mechanic to prioritize your car over another client’s car. 
  • Don’t try to contradict the mechanic on your car’s problem – If you hire a mechanic, it is because you trust that, under their expertise and knowledge, they can solve the problem surrounding your vehicle.
  • Don’t avoid asking questions – There is no crime in learning about your car. In fact, this could benefit you. The more you know about your car, the more you can know how to deal with it in future circumstances.
  • Don’t be a ghost client – A ghost client is a client that leaves the car at the mechanic without actually meeting the mechanic. However, if you make an effort to meet them, they’ll likely do a better job.
  • Don’t ask for a quote without providing details about the issue with your car – Many factors can influence the pricing, including the time they will require to fix it. 
  • Do be a decent human being – Don’t try to earn an unjustified discount when meeting a mechanic. These people spent hours, days, and years studying and doing their best. They will charge according to the quality of their work, no more and no less than that.

Thus, a mechanic will highly appreciate it if you give them all the details about your car. Plus, with these things in mind, they’ll likely figure out how to work with your car before it arrives.

So, don’t hesitate to tell them everything your car did when it acted out!

What Precautions Do You Need to Take When Working Around Vehicles?

You should protect yourself with safety goggles, gloves, and proper attire when working around vehicles. Likewise, you should have a fire extinguisher near you and avoid having open flames near the car. 

Avoid using jewelry, having your hair down, running a vehicle in a garage, and spillage. The more care you have regarding these issues, the less hazard it provokes to you.

Also, ensure to be ventilated to avoid inhalation of any products. 

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry about it. Your flat tire can get fixed on the street, so long as you’re careful and quick about it.

However, don’t get accustomed to fixing your car in that location, as it is not legal outside of emergencies.

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