Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saving Money on Auto Maintenance

The car I drive is not fancy. It’s a 10 year old Ford Escort with almost 131,000 miles on it. It’s only a commuter car and I only ever use it to drive to work. It’s somewhat economical, fully paid for, and still runs well. The only things I’ve had to do to it (aside from the oil) was to replace the tires about three years ago, replace the exhaust system two years ago, and replace the radiator last year. Each repair cost me about $500 to $600.

Last fall, the car needed new front brake pads. I called an ex-auto mechanic buddy of mine to pick me up some pads. He dropped by and within 30 minutes we had the new pads on and the brakes were good as new. I think the pads cost me $25 or $30. Compare that to $75 for a brake job, I saved $45 or $50 and spent some time with a good friend. Putting the pads on was really simple: Remove the tire, remove the bold for the brakes, take out the old pads, compress the brake cylinder (I used a “C” clamp), popped in the new pads and put the whole thing back together.

Years ago, I rebuilt my brakes and that had a few more steps, but was easy enough. Anyone can do it and if your not fully comfortable with the process you can pick up a repair book for your make and model of car for under $20.

Well this weekend, I’d let my oil change go too far. The car was running rough and I’ve had an engine light on (which had been on since the before the brake job last fall. My mechanic friend plugged in his code reader and told me the fuel filter was probably getting clogged as the warning was related to fuel mix). I picked up some oil, fuel filter, and a fuel filter and set out to do some routine maintenance. The oil change was really easy and I was done in 30 minutes. The fuel filter took me about the same time, and I even remembered to disconnect the battery! Mission complete. I took the car for a drive and it’s running well one again. The parts to do the job cost me $20 and I think I saved about $200 in repairs.

If you drive 15,000 miles a year typically you’ll need a brake job and four to five oil changes. Doing these maintenance things yourself (excluding the cost of tools and help books) will probably save you some money.

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