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Car Maintenance and Repair: DIY and Save!

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
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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7 thoughts on “Car Maintenance and Repair: DIY and Save!”

  1. Mary Jane says:

    This post and the related comments are so good…. I have a LOT to learn!

  2. cvrdes says:

    I grew up in a home with a father for a mechanic So I even do Advanced repairs all the way to rebuilding. a few tips:
    1.Haynes are good, chilton or dealer manuals are better. Ebay usually has all 3.
    2.If your car is 10 years or newer you will most likely need whats called an OBD scanner to even find out whats wrong with your car. unless you are car repair savvy, just stick to doing basic oil changes and filter changes on these cars.
    (almost all townships and auto parts store take used oil for free now)
    3. Don’t bother using a dealer for car repairs- your local shop will often give you a better rate. don’t be afraid to shop around. Local mechanics can also be negotiable with rates, dealerships will not.
    4. Never buy used electrical parts.
    5. make basic maintainence AND how to change a tire and a battery an ABSOLUTE must for new drivers. If your kids can’t change their tire even, they could be looking at serious risks to their safety down the road. All 4 of my kids had to change their tires and learn how to check their fluids before they got their license.
    one last thing- If you pay someone to do an oil change- check that they put the cap back on BEFORE you leave the premises. This is the MOST overlooked step at a repair center.

  3. Annette says:

    Oil changes are not always best done yourself. We have an SUV, and in our case, the oil and filter themselves costs about $40.00. An oil change at the dealership is $45.00 and for every 2 we do, we get a free one, so we end up saving going to the dealership!

  4. ana says:

    glad i married a mechanic :) best investment i ever made lol

    • Anonymous says:

      Right! Well not married. but my bf is a mechanic and my uncle owns a body shop, so i am set pretty good. LOL

  5. Lynsey says:

    Okay, some good stuff here, but i use to work at advance auto parts for 3 years and have just a few more tips… First, changing your oil every 3000 to 7000 miles good for conventional for high millage oil but you can save more money by buying synthetic oil while its on sale. Example mobile one extended performance $34 at advance auto parts. Every few months it goes on sale, and you don’t have to change it for up to 15,000 miles. Second you can save money on air filters by buying cotton reusable filters, instead of paper disposable filters if you plan on keeping the car for more then 3 years. And third you can safely recharge your own ac system for $40 bucks if you buy the kit with the reusable gauge, leak sealer, compressor oil, and freon with easy to follow instructions, save the gauge to use on a cheaper bottle of freon in the future.

  6. Tina says:

    i would seriously advise against charging your own ac system. if its low on refrigerant thats because its leaking which is TERRIBLE for the environment. You also have no way of knowing if its low unless you own a gauge set and know how to read it. thats one to leave to the professionals.