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Car Maintenance and Repair: DIY and Save!

Chereen.Langrill

The words “DIY” and “car maintenance” are intimidating, but they shouldn’t be a deal breaker for anyone who cares about saving money. Most repairs we pay top dollar to have done at a mechanic’s shop really don’t require much skill! The greatest requirement? Know how to hold a wrench! Here are more things you can do to save:

Find the Car Manual

I grew up in a family that performed their own car maintenance. When I bought my dream car I soon realized that in order to save money I would need to do even more advanced repairs myself. Luckily, my dream car happened to be an older model with a complete manual that was so thorough I could practically tear the car apart and put it back all by myself!

If you can’t locate the car manual, then find a copy at eBay (I got mine for $5). A good one is to search for is by Haynes because it has great diagrams to go along with the instructions.

Do Online Research

All Data DIY basically offers a peak inside a mechanic’s brain. For a small subscription fee, it’s possible to get diagrams, charts, and step-by-step instructions with pictures on how to repair or maintain your car.

Search for Deals on Parts and Tools

Once the problem is identified, the next step is to purchase the part. Check out the local salvage yard or go online for great savings at places like Car Part or Auto Parts Warehouse.

Refer to the manual to see what kind of tools are needed. Most require the basics that are available in any toolbox, but some repairs may require more specialized tools. Many auto parts shops loan out tools for very reasonable fees. After gathering any necessary materials, it’s really just a matter of following instructions.

Still unsure? Take a break and visit any local auto parts shop to talk with a customer service representative, or seek advice from a friend who has more car wisdom.

Don’t Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today

Sure, it’s more appealing to watch a movie on a Saturday night or sleep in on a Sunday, but putting off car maintenance is like putting off brushing your teeth; the small amount of time you may save will lead to big problems down the road! Although you’ll need to consult your car’s manual for the exact guidelines, these are general maintenance recommendations:

  • Rotate the tires every 6,000 miles
  • Change the oil every 3,000 to 7,000 miles
  • Check the car’s coolant and break fluid level every three months
  • Check the spark plugs and battery every six months
  • Replace the fuel filter, check the engine oil and clean the radiator annually

Ask for Help!

This one seems small, but it’s great time-saving advice. If you get stuck, ask a relative, a friend or neighbor, or an employee at the local auto supply shop and save yourself a lot of potential frustration. A repair manual is a valuable resource, but visual learning is often the best when it comes to car repair. In addition, it’s a confidence booster for future DIY repair projects!

Compare Costs

Car maintenance is something we all know we should do but can rarely justify spending the money. If you cut costs by doing it yourself, car maintenance really is the best way to prevent bigger problems down the line. Doing your own work completely eliminates labor costs and only leaves the cost of parts, which will cost less to purchase independently than they would through a mechanic. Here’s a breakdown of some average savings:

Change the battery

  • Mechanic: $110
  • DIY: $70

Replace brake pads

  • Mechanic: $300
  • DIY: $60 to $100

Change the air filter

  • Mechanic: $90 ($40 parts and $50 labor)
  • DIY: $20

Engine oil and filter change

  • Mechanic: $30
  • DIY: $10

Recharge the Air Conditioning

  • Mechanic: $100
  • DIY: $25

Flush the cooling system

  • Mechanic: $100
  • DIY: $20

Savings: $485 

Most of the work above will take between 20 minutes and an hour.

Keep in mind: not every job has DIY potential. Always research how much it would be to do your own repair or maintenance, then compare with quotes from local mechanics. You can also use some tried-and-true cost comparison websites such as AutoMD and RepairPal.

Being hands-on with my car has served me well. I’ve saved so much on my car that I’ve even been able to invest a little money in sprucing it up. Plus, I can rest easy knowing that with all the preventative maintenance I’ve done, I will have less chance of encountering a huge problem with my car. Savings and peace of mind: Who could ask for more?

 This is a guest post by Brittany from Sacramento, CA
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