Here’s how you can get down but not necessarily dirty, with your car.
In trying to live a more frugal life, I’m getting better at handling projects that I used to pay professionals to do. In addition to home improvement projects, I’ve learned that I can save plenty by taking on some auto repairs and maintenance jobs myself.
Trust me, I’m not an auto expert. I’m not even very mechanically inclined. But I’ve found the kinds of repairs that just about anyone can handle quickly and easily, with minimal expenses.
I’ve decided to hold on to my car rather than sell it, so by taking care of these repairs, I’ve saved quite a bit of dough over the past several years.
1. Air Filter
You need a new air filter for your car every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. You can pay a mechanic and give up your car for a day, or you can replace your air filter at home in about ten minutes.
2. Windshield Wipers
I laugh when I visit my local auto parts store and see that they’re having a sale on wiper blades, offering free installation. The free installation only applies if I buy the most expensive blades in the store, so I started changing them on my own. You’ll need new wiper blades after about six months or a year of use. You probably tend to go a little longer before asking your mechanic to change them, but you shouldn’t deal with the danger of streaking while you put off an inconvenient trip to the auto shop.
3. Spark Plugs
Most spark plugs need replacing after about 30,000 miles, but check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle is any different. While changing spark plugs might sound like intense work, it’s a pretty simple process. You just need to set aside some time and exercise patience. Don’t rush, because you need to install the replacements in a specific order.
4. Oil and Oil Filter
Experts say you should change your oil every 3,000 miles, but with better products and cars operating more efficiently, I think you can get away with changing it every 5,000 miles. Whichever benchmark you decide to use, you can save time and money by handling the change yourself.
5. Battery Maintenance
The key to keeping your car running smoothly and efficiently is a good battery connection. Just a few specks of crunchy white residue on the posts can keep your car from starting. A simple visual check of the condition of your battery will tell you when you need to perform this process.
6. Radiator Flush
Your car’s radiator and cooling system need to be clean to work efficiently and effectively. With normal wear and tear, your car’s radiator builds up deposits that can disrupt the cooling system. A radiator flush is a quick and inexpensive way to keep your system in shape. Consult your owner’s manual to find out if you need to flush the radiator yearly or every two years.
7. Brake Pads
You’ll need to replace most brake pads around every 20,000 miles, but as always, check your owner’s manual for specifics about your model. If you consistently do a lot of “stop-and-go” driving, you’ll need to replace them more frequently. Brake pads are DIY-eligible, but safety is your top priority. Be careful, get everything ready before you start, and if you’re uncomfortable at all, pay a professional to do it for you.
8. Fuel Filter Replacement
A new fuel filter can protect your engine from very costly damages, so follow the rule of thumb and replace it annually. But keep in mind that like changing brake pads, this is an advanced DIY project. Make sure you’re not in over your head before starting this one. I did it once, and did it correctly, but I definitely paid attention to every detail during the process. Dealing with fuel and fuel filters can be dangerous work if you’re not prepared. If you’re not a DIY mechanic, let a pro do this annual job for you.