How to Fix Anything (10 DIY Skills That Solve Most Problems)

Life is a series of twists and turns. Some days everything hums along just like it’s supposed to. Other days it seems like nothing goes right. Finding balance means being able to shift through the tides when they rise, and that comes from developing skills so you can fix most problems as they occur.

We’re not really talking about any specific repair here. Rather, we’re focused on what steps can help you be successful in most situations, whether you’re repairing a leaking pipe, a relationship, a car, or a computer.

Why Is It Important to Be Able to Fix Things?

There are many reasons to learn some fix-it skills. For example, in nearly every case, fixing something yourself will save you money over hiring someone else to do it.

When it comes to physical items, repairing them rather than tossing them is another way to save money. It also keeps products out of the landfill longer, which is a thoughtful move for the sake of the environment.

In addition to saving money and the planet, fixing things yourself gives you a much-deserved feeling of pride. And it should! You’re making the effort. Fortunately, that effort is repaid with intrinsic rewards. It just feels good.

Also, history repeats itself, so every time you learn new skills, that lays the foundation for an even higher success rate next time around.

For example, learning to use a cordless drill allows you to quickly install and remove light switches, use a drill bit to predrill holes when woodworking or hanging pictures, and take apart metal furniture.

1. Bring the Right Attitude

Much of DIY repair success depends on your mindset. If you’re frustrated and impatient, you likely won’t get the results you want.

There’s a lot of value in having a ‘can do’ attitude, even if you’re still figuring out how you ‘can do’ it. Throwing your hands in the air won’t help you get it done, so define your goal and dedicate yourself to giving it your best effort.

Remember, we aren’t born with knowledge about everything. Fortunately, we are born with the ability to learn, so give yourself a break and begin developing the skills you need.

smiling woman screwing furniture piece

2. Start Small

From the time we’re born, we’re taking small steps as we learn. We learn to crawl, balance, scoot, and roll before we walk. We learn to gurgle, giggle, and babble before we talk. We learn to find our hands, move them on demand, grasp, and release before we feed ourselves with a spoon.

The same goes for fixing issues around the home, in your car, at work, and in your life. If you begin with a major repair you’ll likely end up disheartened with your efforts. Instead, begin small.

Tighten screws on patio furniture or a metal desk, replace a single section of pipe leaking beneath the sink, or glue the spine of a book back together.

You might not even think of these things as problems, but the skills you’re practicing will serve you well when bigger projects arise, like screwing down deck boards, repairing backyard irrigation pipes, or fixing appliances moves to the top of the list.

Prepare yourself by constantly challenging yourself. Whenever something isn’t working the way it should, follow some basic steps of gathering information, troubleshooting and diagnosing in order to identify the problem. Then you can evaluate whether it’s a repair you can make.

3. Gather Knowledge

smiling people in art class

The best way to learn how to fix anything is to inform yourself. Take a class if you want to really dig into a topic. You can even attend courses online for everything from fixing your finances to fixing electrical issues in the home.

For many day to day repairs, however, you can find the information you need in books, on the internet, and through networking with people you know.

For car and computer repairs, dig into the manual that’s specific for your make and model. While it might seem overwhelming at first, when you break it down, you’ll begin to understand the basic components and how they work together. That helps when identifying where the process is failing.

The same is true for air conditioning units, refrigerators, water heaters, car brakes, sliding glass doors, faucets, and communication problems.

The approach is the same, whether your goal is to fix a product, a process, or a relationship. Gather as much information as you can so you can deepen your understanding of all aspects.

Of course the internet is a wealth of information. While you do need to be cautious of dangerous or misleading data, for the majority of DIY tasks, you’ll find reliable videos, write-ups, and tutorials to deepen your knowledge.

4. Troubleshoot and Diagnose

If you’re going to tackle a problem, you have to know what the issue is. It can be easy or difficult to figure out. Either way, it’s best to start with the simplest solution and work toward the most complex in an orderly fashion.

Think about how the device, product, or system works. If it’s moving and it shouldn’t, what’s supposed to stop it and why isn’t it functioning? If it’s not moving and it should, what’s the hold-up?

At this point, you’ve probably had to contact tech support from a computer issue at some point. The process always starts out the same way while they guide you through the steps of restarting the computer and router, then checking the configuration of the machine.

Your tech support person is troubleshooting the issue with your device. You can use that same skill for every problem you encounter.

Follow the process from beginning to end. In the case of an electrical current, for example, learn how to test for the current. Then start at the circuit breaker to see if it’s getting power. Work back to the first outlet in the series. Then test the next fixture in the series.

Then continue on to the light switch. Along the way, you’ll be able to identify where the current stopped flowing.

The same holds true for plumbing. If water isn’t flowing, test the system from start to finish to figure out where the block (or leak) is.

To prove the technique is applicable in all situations, think about a communication breakdown with a boss, child, or spouse. Use the same troubleshooting techniques to arrive at a diagnosis.

When did the problem start? Was there a certain conversation that sparked the issue? If so, what was it about that conversation that fueled the confusion or disagreement?

Even if your goal is to fix something within yourself, ask the same questions. When did it start, when did it change, why did it change?

5. Create a Plan

Now it’s time to use the information you’ve gathered to prepare a plan. Realistic time estimates are crucial to the success of most DIY repairs. If you’re repairing a relationship, the timeline may be fluid. However, if you’re making a car repair, you may not be able to have it out of commission for days on end.

If you can’t complete the repair over the weekend, Monday won’t get off to a great start. Be realistic about timelines, and factor in 30% additional time for runs to the automotive or home improvement store, shipping delays, and supply chain issues.

Once you have an accurate timeline, it’s time to collect materials, supplies, and tools.

6. Get the Right Tools

man plumbing sink

Make sure you have everything you need before you begin. This is an important skill that’s in alignment with creating an accurate timeline. If you tear apart an engine before you have the parts, you might find yourself without a mower, motorcycle, RV, or vehicle while you wait for the parts to arrive.

The same is true for materials and other supplies. There’s no need to take down a torn curtain if you still need to get thread. Pick up the toilet repair kit before disconnecting the internal plumbing to fix a chain or flap issue, especially if it’s your only functional (albeit running) toilet.

Many projects also require special tools. Make sure you have them and know how to use them before digging in. Countless tools are more general and can be used for a variety of tasks. Take advantage of multi-purpose tools for fixing tasks that frequently pop up.

You’ll find if you get comfortable with a tool, you’ll reach for it in a variety of circumstances, making the job easier and empowering you to fix more things. Find a few tools you’re comfortable with, such as a cordless drill, a miter saw, and a palm sander. You’ll be amazed how far a few basics can take you.

This discussion doesn’t stop with physical tools either. In computer repair, you’ll need diagnostic tools. In relationships, you’ll need communication tools. To solve a problem with a bank or business, you may rely on negotiation and decision-making tools. Whatever those tools are, use them to increase familiarity.

7. Study Up on Materials and Hardware

When it comes to product repair, understanding the physical makeup of the item is very helpful in figuring out how to repair it. For example, you can tape paper because you understand that’s a common solution. However, you may not know what kinds of metal you can solder or weld.

Take ceramics as another example. If you know how to glue a broken handle onto a mug, you can repair flower pots, plates, or a toilet.

8. Lubricants, Tapes, and Glues

plumber's tape

Once you’re familiar with the materials that need repaired, learn about the products that can fix them. If it doesn’t move and it should, you may need a lubricant, such as WD-40. However, WD-40 can cause problems if used on the wrong surface.

The same goes for tapes and glues. Plumber’s tape won’t hold two items together like other tapes because it’s meant to act as a gasket to stop leaks.

Painter’s tape won’t hold significant weight or stick to some surfaces because it’s made for short-term use and removal. Other tapes may damage the surface you’re hoping to repair.

There are also myriad types of glues and epoxies, all developed for different reasons. Some work on metals, while others are intended for plastic. Some adhere to multiple types of surfaces.

9. Know When to Call in the Pros (Then Watch Them)

Nobody can do everything. While you can take pride in tackling a few, or many, of the problems in your environment, there will be things you just don’t have the time or expertise to handle without some help. Gratefully there are professionals in every arena to help you out.

When the job is too big, for whatever reason, call in the pros. Then watch them work and ask questions. Don’t worry about looking over their shoulder (respectfully). You’re not a threat to their job. But it might help you better understand the issues so you can investigate how to repair the issue next time around.

The same holds true for learning more about yourself or problems with your garden soil or hot tub repair or painting your house. Taking a class to learn more is another way of relying on someone with more experience than you.

See a therapist, attend a workshop, or read a book. Then use that experience to add more tools to your DIY fix it toolbox.

10. Pull It All Together

In the end, developing skills to fix whatever is broken in your life is about being willing to try new things. Don’t listen to the voice of apprehension. Override it with a confident assurance that you can acquire the skills and knowledge you need.

In addition, you’ll need to set concrete goals. Write down what you need to do in order to make the repair. Break it into steps so you can check them off as you work.

Once you get started with the basics, be willing to keep growing. Add to the small tasks you started with and continue to deepen your understanding and abilities.

Also remember not to be too hard on yourself. It’s more than okay to ask for help. In fact, it’s a great way to meet new people and deepen current relationships. In fact, take pride in your efforts to learn and grow. You’re setting an example for others. Congratulations.

If you’re interested, start with 7 Carpentry Skills to Master, also check out Basic Skills for the Modern Homesteader.