Car Repairs You Can Still Do for Yourself to Save Money.

Owning an operating a car is expensive. One cost that can be minimized is doing some of the basic repairs and maintenance yourself, such as oil changes, changing wiper blades, air as well fuel filters and more. Below you will find details on how to do some basic maintenance and repairs on your own car in order to save money.

Consider this. The average American spends about $425 per year, per car they own on repairs. Of course the exact amount varies based on the type of car as well as age, but that amount is just repairs. That amount does not consider basic maintenance such as oil changes and the like. The DIY mindset can help you save money on your auto.

As we all know, technology has brought many changes to the way things are done, throughout the world. Some of the most obvious changes have involved motor vehicles, which makes the DIY concept on car repairs to save money a little more challenging.

The fact that in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine, all makes and models of cars have become lighter and over the years computers now control more and more of the functions that were once purely mechanical. This move toward improved precision and fuel efficiency has made certain types of repairs harder to do. Here are 10 car repairs you can still do for yourself. Or find financial help for automobile repairs.

1. Oil Change can be done yourself to save money

If you've ever worked on your own car, the first thing you probably learned how to do was change its oil. This one simple thing can save you $30 to $50 every 5,000 to 10,000 miles you drive. As much as vehicles have changed over the years, gas and diesel engines still need motor oil to cool and lubricate their internal parts. Your engine's internal parts rotate constantly at high speeds, and without oil, the friction would quickly cause them to heat up, seize and break down.

 

 

 

 

Motor oil has to be changed approximately every three months or 5,000 miles (varies by model), so the sludge inside can be cleared out. The frequency of changing provides an opportunity to save money by DIY. That sludge is made up of tiny metal particles that rub off because of friction during operation. The oil filter picks up some of these particles, but ultimately, it must eventually be drained out and replaced with clean oil. The process is simple to do, and the annual savings on this maintenance activity will add up. It only requires only a wrench or socket for the drain plug, an oil filter wrench, a drain pan, a new filter and enough oil to refill the engine. You'll also need a jack with stands, to safely raise and secure the vehicle.

2. Battery Replacement

Another simple repair you can tackle is to replace your vehicle's battery. Some garages may charge $50 to $100 for the labor to do this. However, it's important to be sure the battery needs replacement before doing so. Car batteries can be expensive and the last thing you need is to misdiagnose the problem and still have to purchase other parts. Auto parts stores sell testing devices that you can easily hook up to verify your battery's condition. Some parts stores will test them for you if you request it.

Replacing a battery is usually pretty easy to do yourself to save money on car repairs. Most car batteries are in the engine compartment, although there are some exceptions, depending on the vehicle's manufacturer. It'll be held down by a clamp or strap of some sort that usually has a bolt through it. You'll need a socket wrench of the appropriate size to get the bolt off. Then you'll have to disconnect the battery cables, beginning with the negative (black) cable, followed by the positive (red) cable. Install the new battery by performing the same steps in reverse order. Take the old battery back to the parts store for proper disposal.

 

 

 

 

3. Brake Pads and Rotors - A little more complicated but possible

Doing your own brakes isn't always the easiest repair job, but it's also not terribly hard in you want to save on auto repair/maintenance bills. Most of the time, you'll be working on your front brakes, since they do most of the work and require the most attention. In modern vehicles, front brakes utilize a disk brake system that consists of inner and outer brake pads that press against a moving rotor. You'll need a jack, jack stands, wrenches, a brake caliper piston compression tool and a socket set with a ratchet.

If you're working on rear brakes, you may encounter drum-type rear brake systems that require special tools for removing springs and retainers. It would be a good idea to purchase a manual with pics and illustrations of the set up if you intend to work on drum brakes. It's also a good idea to lay the spring and retainers out in the same positions they normally sit in, so you'll remember how they go when it's time to reinstall them.

The work consists of removing the tires to access the brake system, then replacing the brake pads (disc brakes) or shoes (drum brakes), and either resurfacing or replacing the rotors or drums. Avoid getting oil or grease on the surface areas of your rotors, drums, pads or shoes, as they must be completely clean to function properly. Once reassembled, pump your brakes a few times while the vehicle is stationary and test them at low speeds before getting on any roads.

4. Spark Plugs

Changing spark plugs to save money on auto maintenance/repairs is one of the easiest do-it-yourself repairs or maintenance jobs you can do to your vehicle, in most cases. There may be exceptions, such as if the plugs in your vehicle are harder to access than most others. Even so, there are ways to work around this by using special tools, extensions and swivels. If you're unfamiliar with the way your engine is laid out or don't know how to find your spark plugs, it would be a good idea to get a repair manual from a local parts store.

It's important to note that most of today's vehicles come with platinum spark plugs that are supposed to last for 100,000 miles, so they are more efficient ways to save money. However, it's still a good idea to remove them every 30,000 miles and inspect them to ensure they're not cracked or fouled by carbon, oil or fuel. You should also check them with a gap gauge to ensure that the gap between the center electrode and the ground is within specifications. When reinstalling them, make sure the threads are clean and take precautions to prevent anything from falling into the combustion chambers, while the plugs are out.

5. Belts

Changing belts isn't always easy, but it's usually possible to do it yourself to save money on auto repairs if you are handy. Some belts are harder than others to change, but by giving it a shot, you'll learn more about how your engine works and how it's put together. Before changing it, look for obvious problems like cracks and tears. Belts should last about 60,000 miles, but it's up to you to keep an eye on their condition. Note that if the belt has already come off, you may need a diagram from a repair manual to show how it's supposed to go on.

 

 

 

Some cars use only one belt (serpentine belt) to drive all the components. These usually come off with ease, sometimes by prying on a tensioner pulley that releases enough tension to remove the belt. Check a repair manual to see how yours comes off. The worst case scenario is that you'll have to remove an engine mount to slip the belt off, which would require supporting the engine from below, so you can realign the amount with ease. You'll need a socket set with ratchet for both these types of belts. You might also need a pry bar, as well as a breaker bar to help loosen tight bolts.

6. Hoses

Hoses are fairly easy to replace as another DIY repair to save a few dollars. If the hoses you're replacing are simple air or vacuum hoses, replacing them can be as simple as releasing any retaining clips they might have and making sure your replacement hose is the right part. Coolant hoses (such as radiator and heater core hoses) can be somewhat messy, though not usually difficult to replace.

Unless your manufacturer says differently, you should replace coolant hoses every 60,000 miles, but check your manual. If you're not sure how old they are, check for leaks, cracks, tears or sponginess. You'll need either a flat-blade screwdriver or pliers to remove the old hose clamps, which should also be replaced with new ones. Place a drain pan under the area where you'll be working to minimize the mess and don't forget to replace any lost coolant and check the level before driving.

7. Headlamps or Taillamps

In most cases, when one of your lights doesn't work, it's usually due to a burned-out bulb. This is an easy DIY item to save money on repairs to your car. There may be other problems, but its easiest to start with a bulb. You can get them at various types of stores and at least if you still have a bad socket or wiring problem, your misdiagnosis won't be an expensive one.

Most lamp assemblies come off fairly easily, and if you DIY it can save you anywhere from $35 to $60 in labor costs. You'll have to remove a couple screws and possibly move some paneling aside for complete access, depending on how your vehicle is designed. Bulbs may be twisted in separately or attached to a connector plate that contains the lamp's other bulbs. This assembly may be clipped in or attached with small screws to the lamp housing. If you're lucky, you might be able to replace the bulbs without removing anything else.

8. Air Filter - Simple to DIY to save on auto maintenance

Sometimes the best opportunity to check and/or replace your air filter to save money is when you're doing an oil change. If you're already working in the engine compartment, especially if you're waiting for the oil to drain, you might as well open the air filter housing and see how dirty the filter is. Air filters can get pretty dirty because their job is to keep your engine from sucking in dirt and other particles. A garage may charge an extra $10 to $20 in labor to do this; if the work is done at the same time as an oil change.

 

 

 

 

Note that air filter housings in today's cars can look very different. The reason for this is that they have to fit into increasingly cramped engine compartments and the round filters that used to sit directly on top of older engines take up far too much space. Even so, opening them usually only requires snapping open a couple of clamps. Don't forget to clean the housing out before installing the new filter, so none of the debris from the old filter falls into the intake system.

9. Fuel Filter

Fuel filters aren't terribly difficult to change yourself, but you could be looking at a messy job. You'll need a drain pan to catch the fuel in the lines when you disconnect them and you'll have to make sure there's nothing nearby that could ignite the fumes. Most modern fuel filters are located beneath the vehicle, so you might have to raise it for better access.

Some vehicles require special wrenches (somewhat costly) to disconnect the fuel lines, while others require only releasing special tabs. In any case, always be sure the vehicle is turned off to relieve fuel pressure and wear protective eyewear to keep fuel from getting into your eyes. Installing the new filter to save money on bills is essentially the same process in reverse. Note that you may have to crank the engine a couple of times before there's enough fuel pressure in the lines for the engine to start.

10. Windshield Wiper Blades - Quick and simple way to save

Replacing wiper blades is one of the easiest repairs you can do to save money on so called basic automobile maintenance costs. It is so simple, some garages may not charge you anything at all for this DIY car maintenance activity. In most cases, it takes only a couple of minutes. If your wipers aren't cleaning properly or are torn to the point where they miss sections of the windshield, they should be replaced. Your vehicle's state inspection procedure may also require your wiper blades to meet certain specifications.

You can usually change wiper blades without any tool, which is a positive as more costs are not needed. At best, you might need a pocket screwdriver or a pair of pliers. Blades are typically secured to their wiper arms by means of plastic clips that can easily be snapped on and off. Note that you might also be able to save money by purchasing inserts for your wiper blades, rather than the complete blades. In either case, you won't need many tools to get the job done and it beats paying a shop to do it for you.

 

 

 

 

As you can see, there are still several car repairs you can do for yourself to save money on often very costly labor costs. Modern engine compartments may look different, but they still utilize a battery, oil, filters and hoses. These items will always have to be replaced and there's no sense in overpaying to get it done if you're reasonably handy with some basic tools.

 

By Jon McNamara

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