How to save big by doing your own car maintenance

Keeping your car in good condition doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor. In fact, if you can tell the difference between a screwdriver and a socket, plenty of the routine maintenance on cars can be done without much hassle.

I used RepairPal.com, a repair cost estimation website, to check the cost of having the following repairs done on a 2000 cavalier, and found that I could easily save $100 by doing some general maintenance on my own.

Savings in labor and parts:
  • Battery replacement - $30
  • Air filter replacement - $35
  • Headlight replacement- $25-$35
  • Windshield Wipers - $5-$10
In fact most of these repairs your local AutoZone will do for free so long as you purchase the parts from them. On top of saving money on the installation, when I bought my battery at AutoZone it came with an eight-year warranty, so when I get it replaced tomorrow after four years I will get credit toward my new one.

For those of you willing to tackle more complex repairs, do-it-yourself auto repair is easier than ever. Between the repair diagrams offered by AutoZone, the instructional videos from Advance Auto Parts and Google, you can tackle plenty of common car issues. If lack of tools is the only thing holding you back, AutoZone and others offer free or cheap tool loan programs to get you going.

For those things you can't handle, I highly recommend you find one good mechanic and give that shop all of your business. By going to the same shop time after time, even if you do the little stuff yourself, you'll get better service and a mechanic who knows your car's history. Just because you go to the same shop doesn't mean you have to give up comparison shopping either, if you find a better price ask your regular mechanic what he can do to match it. He may be able to use a refurbished part or explain the reason for price differences. From personal experience, you get what you pay for, so if you're in the ballpark, I'd stick with your regular mechanic.

No matter how you handle it, don't go skimping on oil changes and recommended maintenance. As my father the mechanic puts it, "You can pay a little now or a lot later!"

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