Money Saving Monday Tip #12 – Repair Your Own Car
Seldom will your car require maintenance that you can’t do. Most car repairs and maintenance items are fairly simple. Armed with a little knowledge and some basic tool skills, you can save yourself a considerable amount of money doing repairs yourself. Here’s a few tips for making your own repairs and doing your own maintenance:
- Buy a service manual – Manuals range in quality and you will get what you pay for, but for real basic routine maintenance type items Chilton or Haynes repair manuals work well. For more detailed and comprehensive manuals, nothing compares to a manufacturers service manual. These can frequently be found on eBay or Craigslist.
- Use the internet – There are literally thousands of web-sites and on-line forums dedicated to most all makes and models of cars. Doing a quick Google search using the make, model, and adding “forum” will result in a whole list of options. For example, “Nissan Sentra Forum” results in 59,800 matches using Google. Search the forums for the particular thing you are trying to do. If you can’t find an answer post your question and generally lots of people will reply. I did this when I replaced the factory stereo system and received lots of help from other Nissan Sentra owners.
- Ask your local auto parts store – If you aren’t sure how do something, stop by your local auto parts store and ask. These stores make their money off of people that repair their own cars, so they are very willing to offer assistance. I’ve found most of these folks to be pretty knowledgeable and can often look up the information on their computer systems.
- Buy your parts on-line – Generally the best option for purchasing parts is on-line. Using price comparison sites can assist you with finding who has the best deals and what the various options are. Often, you can further increase your savings by purchasing the items in bulk. For example: buy a case of oil instead of just 5 or 6 quarts.
- Replace windshield wiper blades – I think this has to be done far to frequently in my opinion, but fortunately it’s easy to do, if not a bit expensive. Wipers come with instructions and the hardest part is determining what type of mount your car has. Just pay attention and read the instructions and it won’t take you more than 5-10 minutes to replace them. Many of the auto parts stores will do this for you for free when you purchase wiper blades from them.
Simple repairs that you should consider doing yourself:
- Fixing burnt out or broken bulbs. Bulbs are easy to repair and don’t take a considerable amount of time to replace. I usually spend more time reading about how to get the bulb out than I do replacing the bulb. This is something anyone with basic tool knowledge can do.
- Change your air filter – Quick lube and oil change places will charge you a considerable amount of money to change your air filter. Just tell them no thanks. Instead order yours online or stop by your local auto parts store and purchase one. You’ll save in just the parts cost alone. Then, consult your owners manual for steps on how to replace your air filter. This doesn’t generally require tools, and can be accomplished in a just a few minutes. Note, the steps for each car are different.
- Blown Fuses – This doesn’t seem to be a common problem with new cars, but if you have an older car it can be. If your lights, radio, heater, blower, windshield wipers, etc just suddenly go out or stop working, it could be as simple as a blown fuse. Fuse boxes are typically located under the hood and in the interior under the dash. Consult your owners manual for fuse locations, sizes, and functions. Again, this is a very easy repair to make.
- Change Your Oil – Changing your oil is relatively easy to do, if you have the right tools. I won’t go into the details here, but instructions are easy to find on the internet or by consulting your repair manual. I don’t do this, as both of our cars came with lifetime free oil changes, but I have done this in the past.
- Topping off fluids– You should routinely check the levels of the following fluids: oil, brake, power steering, transmission, and coolant. All of these are easy to check and easy to add. Again, consult your owners manual or shop manual for details.
There are of course many other items you can repair that aren’t tool difficult, but do require a little more knowledge and will take more time. For example, replacing belts, replacing the alternator or compressor, installing a new battery, etc.
I enjoy working on cars and find it relaxing, but even if you don’t spending the extra time can result it significant savings in labor alone.
Anything I’ve missed? Do you do any easy repairs that I haven’t listed above? If so, please add your thoughts or suggestions in the comments section!