Saving Real Money by Doing-It-Yourself. Really?
By Courtney Evans
Saving money. What do those two words mean to you? For some, it means clipping coupons for the weekly grocery shopping trip. For others, it means spending less at big box retailers and spending more at the local thrift shops. It means both for most people. Saving money or simply not wasting it are essentially the same thing. Each year we all can cut our household costs in various ways with great effect.
Next to our annual living expenses, the cost of owning and maintaining our vehicles surely comes in second place. One of the easiest ways to cut that expense is for you to perform the repairs and maintenance on your vehicles that you are capable of performing. You literally can save hundreds, even thousands in most cases. Simply put, the more you do, the more you save.
The complete novice may ask, “How can I accomplish this? I don’t know the first thing about cars or motorcycles.” Well, the answer is you start slow and gradual. You can start with the simplest of things, such as changing your air filter. Then, move onto something more difficult like changing your oil. Your savings will be small at first, but savings nonetheless. Your savings will grow as your skills do.
The first thing you should do is become very familiar with your Owners Manual. Here you’ll find answers to common problems associated with your vehicle. Also, you’ll find the maintenance schedule. The maintenance schedule outlines the “what” and “when” for proper maintenance. The owners manual is very important, however, it will contain a limited amount of detail for repairs. So, the next thing you should do is acquire the Service Manual for your particular make/model of vehicle.
The service manual gives you the “nuts and bolts” for repairs and maintenance procedures. No pun intended. There are some great service manuals available. Some of the best publishers are Haynes, Chilton, and my personal favorite, Bentley. The investment in a good service manual will pay you dividends well into the future.
Next, gradually build your tool collection. Your ability to make repairs and perform maintenance is only limited by your tools. The right tools make all the difference. With the right tools, you can fix anything. Tools can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. Shop around. My new favorite tool retailer is Harbor Freight. They have a great selection with even better prices. Your tools should get plenty of use. Remember, you get what you pay for so, buy the best you can afford.
How much can you save by doing-it-yourself? Well, I’ve outlined some of the most common maintenance issues with their real world labor savings below. Your costs may vary but you can use these guidelines. You’ll also find links for more information on each procedure at Grease Monkey Junkie. Let’s take a look?
Changing Air Filter ($25)- As mentioned above, this is probably the easiest maintenance item on the list. You shouldn’t need any tools for this one. If anything, maybe a screwdriver. You can find the replacement air filter at your local auto parts retailer. See, What You Need to Know About Your Vehicle’s Filters.
Oil Change ($20-$50)- This one is fairly easy as well. It does require a few more tools. It also requires that you get underneath the vehicle so, you need to use a jack, ramps, or jack stands. You can get oil and an oil filter at your local auto parts retailer. See, The Oil Change Basics and What You Need to Know About Your Vehicle’s Filters.
Coolant Flush ($125-$150)- A coolant flush means changing your cooling/radiator fluid. This procedure is relatively easy. It does require that you get underneath the vehicle. It is a wet job so you need a drain pan, a few tools, coolant, water for flushing (water hose), and maybe a flushing agent. You can find what you need at your local auto parts store. See, Flushing Your Cooling System.
Cabin Air Filter ($50-$100)- This one is easy. You need a just a few tools. The key here is to find and gain access to the filter’s location. You can get the new filter at your local auto parts store or auto dealer. See, Changing Your Cabin Air Filter and What You Need to Know About Your Vehicle’s Filters.
Changing Your Serpentine Belt ($90-450)- This procedure does require some tools. Mainly a wrench and a ratchet with socket. Depending on your vehicle, you may need to get underneath the vehicle. You can get a new belt at your local auto parts store. See Belt Knowledge: A Gripping Tale!
Changing Automatic Transmission Fluid ($60-$150)- Performing this procedure is a not difficult. It involves removing the old fluid and filter and replacing them with new ones. You need to get underneath the vehicle for this one. You can get the new filter and fluid at your local auto parts store. See, Changing Your Automatic Transmission Fluid and What You Need to Know About Your Vehicle’s Filters
Check and Reset Check Engine Light ($75)- Alright, this one is easy. You can purchase an OBD II scan tool to use on all your vehicles or you can simply take your vehicle to your local auto parts retailer. Most of them will scan your system for free. Remember, scanning only identifies the source of the problem, it doesn’t fix it. However, you can have the code reset after you’ve fixed the issue. See, The OBD II Scanning Tool: Worth its Weight in Gold .
Complete Brake Job ($400-600)- Ok, this one means big savings. It does require more tools that most of the repairs on the list but it is not difficult to complete. We’re talking about replacing rotors(discs) and pads for all four wheels. You have to get the vehicle completely off the ground. See Identifying Your Disc Brake Components and Brake Job: How to Change Your Brake Pads and Rotors.
Electric Window Repair ($180-$250 per window)- You can really save big with this one. It requires a few tools and an voltmeter. The dealers really take you to the cleaners to fix this problem but they don’t have to. See, Fixing Your Electric Windows.
By performing your own vehicle maintenance and repairs in a given year can save your household at least $1000, but most likely over $2000. That’s per vehicle! Most households have more than one. That translates into putting several hundred dollars back into your budget each month.
All that is required is an investment in a good service manual and some good tools. You can get more help than you realize at your local auto parts retailer and don’t forget the “mind hive” of the internet.
Oh, you also need a little confidence that you can get the job done. If you don’t have it yet, you will. Again, start small and watch your confidence grow. Your skill level and the list of repairs that you can perform will grow too!