When it comes to car maintenance, many people hate the high cost but are fearful of doing it themselves. The reality is that with just a little practice and a few well chosen tips, most people can save some big money on having their car serviced. The real key is to pick what parts of the servicing that you can perform yourself, and what is best left to the hands of experts. If you do not mind getting a little dirty, servicing your own car can not only save money, it can provide you with a real sense of accomplishment.
Learn to change your own oil.
An oil change can cost you from $25 to $50 depending on what is being done and where you live. By buying your oil in quantity at a discount store, you can get it for less than $2.25 per quart. Most cars need about 5 quarts. Check your owner’s manual for your specific vehicle. Oil filters will cost you about $3 to $5. This means that the cost of a home oil change is about $15. The first oil change will cost you more because you have to purchase the tools, but after that, you will save $10 or more per oil change. The typical oil change takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
Always change your own air filters.
Some air filters are not cheap on late model vehicles. You can pay $15 or more for the part at a discount auto parts store. However, the mark up by auto shops can be over 100%. They may offer a discount or even free installation, but the filter alone yields them a nice profit for a job that frequently lasts less than five minutes. Changing an air filter often does not even require tools. You spin a wing nut or loosen a clip, remove a cover, and there is the filter waiting to be lifted out. Pull it out, put in the new one, replace the clip or nut, and you are on your way. It can save you many dollars quickly.
Do your own flat tire repairs.
This is one that most people do not consider. However, you can easily purchase the equipment and supplies to repair a flat at most auto parts stores. Again, it may cost you a couple of dollars more for the first flat, but after that you will save. Most flat repairs range from $10 to $20. The plug to stop up the hole and the glue to hold it in place costs about $1 or less. If you have a floor jack, raise the car and spray some soapy water on the tire to locate the puncture. Use pliers to remove the nail or whatever has caused the flat. Load up the equipment with a plug. Apply the glue and repair the flat. Let the car down and you are finished. With practice, the whole operation should require less than 30 minutes.
Keep your own fluid levels topped off.
Brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid are all relatively easy to check and fill. Most auto service shops will triple the price of the fluid and overestimate the amount needed to fill your reservoirs. This results in you paying for a whole can of fluid when only a couple ounces were needed. By purchasing these fluids yourself, you can keep your fluid levels check more often and fill them yourself. The cost savings over a year or two could be substantial. This is especially true on older vehicles. Checking fluid levels is also a good way to detect leaking or worn parts before they fail completely.
Change your own lights on your car.
Headlights, parking lights, and tail lights are not usually too hard to change. Some car manufacturers have made them difficult to support their service departments. Once you learn how to access the fixture, changing the bulb is generally a five minute task. On most cars, getting to the bulb may require you to remove a cover or a fixture. By doing these jobs yourself, you can get the bulb for a significant savings and avoid a $50 per hour mechanic’s fee for the work. If replacing the light takes 30 minutes, the savings might be one of the biggest service savings you can have.
There are other potential light mechanic tasks you might want to try.
Many of the pieces of equipment on you vehicle are not hard to change. Replacing an alternator on some cars takes less than an hour and can save you $100. The same is true for power steering units, starters, belts, and hoses. Even thermostats can be changed on many cars with minimum experience or skill. Do not automatically assume that any repair work on your car is beyond your expertise. Look at the car and research how the work is done before heading to the mechanic. You might find huge savings every year in your car repair bills.