Modern automobiles do not require significant maintenance. Meanwhile, the days of the ‘shade tree mechanic’ are over, as fewer maintenance or repair tasks can still be performed by individual owners. Nonetheless opportunities still abound to save on auto maintenance.
- First and foremost, become familiar with your car’s maintenance schedule
This is usually found in the back of the owner’s manual. Don’t have an owner’s manual? You should be able to get a maintenance schedule for your make and model online. Even if you have a mechanic do everything on your car, you still need to be familiar with the maintenance schedule.
- Cabin filter – modern cars have a cabin filter for the ventilation system. It is typically behind the glove box. Trust me. It does get dirty! Here’s a photo of one from our Subaru: So…. the Subaru dealer charges $60 to change it. A replacement filter from Walmart or AutoZone costs $15 – $25. It takes 15 minutes to change it: 5 minutes to watch the YouTube video on how to change it and 10 minutes to actually do the swap-out. Savings: $35 -$45! P.S. vacuum out the leaves and debris before inserting the new filter.
- Air filter – generally quick and easy to change but it can be a bit messy in the engine compartment. Be careful not to scrape your knuckles. If you can’t figure out how to do it, watch a YouTube video.
- Oil changes – oil changes are often a loss leader for auto shops (be on guard if the shop recommends a bunch of other repairs while you’re in for an oil change).
The opportunity to save money by doing it yourself is not as significant. But maybe you want to bond with your car. Be warned: it can be messy; it’s often difficult to access the filler plug or oil filter without a lift. And it’s absolutely essential that you recycle the used oil, not pour it down the drain or gutter.
- Other repairs – we once owned a 1994 Infiniti J-30 (list price new: $37,000). We bought it for $8500 when it was 9 years old and kept it for 11 years.) A power window motor went out. I bought a used motor assembly on Ebay for $40 and it took an hour or so to replace. I’m sure a dealer would have charged at least $500 for the repair!
- YouTube is Your Shop Manual – not sure how to do something on your car? There’s probably a YouTube video out there that will show you the way! Even if you decide to take the car to the shop, it’s still worthwhile to have an idea of what gets done.
- Subaru Window – building on the point above, the driver’s window on our Subaru lost its automatic function and wasn’t working properly. A YouTube video pointed out that it simply needed to be reset rather requiring repair. It was a 30 second fix.
A car is a major expenditure for most households. Yet, if a modern car that is well maintained, it should last 150,000 – 200,000 miles – or more. Keep yours in good condition and save a bit of money along the way by doing the simple tasks yourself.
© 2017 Paul J Reimold