Disclaimer: I love cars. I love learning how they work. I love driving them. I love reading about them. If you have zero interest in cars, you may want to find another area of your life to DIY. But if you’re not afraid to turn a few wrenches on a Saturday morning (while saving about $1,000 per year), this DIY challenge may be right for you.
I’m always shocked when I find out what my friends spend on car maintenance. I rarely think about the subject – it has that little impact on my wallet. If you want to be like me rather than like my friends, keep reading.
Now, doing your own car maintenance doesn’t mean you have to turn your garage into a mechanic’s shop. That would be expensive. Taking care of your car doesn’t require that many tools.
Many of the tools you can find used as well. A few years ago, I ripped apart the engine of my car. I’m sure I did it with less than $100 worth of tools (plus a tool I borrowed for free for Autozone).
Things You’ll Need for Sure:
A floor jack
Four jack stands
A pan for oil
A few flathead and philips head screwdrivers
A decent set of open-end and socket metric wrenches
A few wrench extensions for your sockets
Jobs to Tackle:
Brake jobs don’t have to break your wallet (talk about a dad pun). You can find endless sources online explaining how to do this. You can even sometimes find tutorials for your specific vehicle. Changing discs, pads/shoes is a simple process. I know brake jobs sound intimidating but they really aren’t.
Your car will have a few filters which are usually pretty accessible: engine air filter, cabin air filter, fuel filter. Change these at the intervals recommended in your owner’s manual. New filters can be bought online.
Changing fluid can get messy but it’s a fairly straightforward process. Check your owner’s manual and see when to change the fluid. Changing coolant can be a little tricky so make sure to Google that before attempting. Fluids like transmission fluid and power steering fluid rarely need to be changed.
There’s little need to pay someone to change your oil. It’s as easy as pulling a drain plug, waiting for it to drain and putting the plug back in. Well, it’s nearly as easy as that. After you change your own oil a few times, you’ll find it more convenient than having someone else do it and having to wait on them.
Tire rotations are super simple. You lift the car off of the ground. Then you take all the tires off, rotating them back on in an ‘x’ pattern to how they came off the car. It’s essential that you do this. It’ll save you tons of money. That’s because when you rotate your tires, it assures they wear evenly. If they wear evenly, you can go longer without having to buy a new set of tires. It’ll also keep you from having to buy just two front tires now and buying two back tires later. Mixing up tire brands, tread patterns and tread depth is dangerous and will make your car handle a bit poorly. It’s best to rotate often.
Don’t forget that keeping your car clean is part of maintenance. Letting grime build up on the paint can cause rust. Leaving a dirty interior means those rocks, Nature Valley nut bar crumbs, etc. get ground into the carpet and seats. This makes them wear much faster than otherwise. When you go to sell your car on, you may get less because of the worn interior. Detailing isn’t hard when it’s done fairly regularly. If you don’t care to have a perfect looking car, simply clean your car once per season.
Tips for Handling Vehicle Maintenance
I’ve been doing the maintenance on my vehicles since I turned 16. So I suppose I have a few tips. I’d say the first tip is to use the internet. Whatever question you have, it has been answered. I’ve had no formal mechanical training but I was still able to take apart my engine a few years ago (and put it back together – ha).
My second tip would be not to cut corners. I know it’s tempting. But it’ll bite you in the butt. Using cheap fluids, filters, etc. will cost you more in the long run. Ask anyone with a really high mileage car and they will tell you – don’t cheap out on its maintenance.
A final tip would be to give yourself adequate time. Only change your oil, etc. when you have ample time. If you’re rushed, that bad memory will stick in your mind. It’ll make you less likely to do the next oil change yourself. Give everything fair time. Enjoy it. Maybe teach someone like your child what you’re doing.
Usually, paying for car maintenance is expensive because of labor. It can be $75+ per hour! So if you want to knock out a few of these jobs on your own, I think it’s wise. Enjoy it!
Do you do your own car maintenance? Have any tips of your own?
This post was written by Will Lipovsky, one of our excellent staff writers here at Life And My Finances.
AUTHOR Derek Sall
Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.