We all know it is cheaper to fix things yourself. It is the same with a car or truck. The biggest expense with any repair is not the parts, but the labor. It is not uncommon for repair and service shops to be charging $60 to $70 per hour of labor. And they round to the next half hour or hour for any repair. Just go to any new car dealer and ask to have your windshield wiper blades replaced. They will charge you 10 times the price of replacements at your local auto parts store. So anything you can do yourself to save will be a big help. The purpose of this article is to show you some things you can do on your own and how to get the lowest prices on parts so you can save big and put your money towards something better than fattening your local auto dealers pockets.
First off is routine maintenance. Routine maintenance consists of items like oil changes, tire rotations, and similar. Oil changes are a must at every 4000 to 5000 miles for most every car. Do not go by what your dealer says. They want to rev up your maintenance plan and have you doing more than is required. Instead, use your owners manual. If your car did not come with one, than buy one off of Ebay. The owners manual will give you exact recommendations for every service and when and what should be done. For oil changes use Walmart. They charge around $15 for a oil and filter change and will lube your chassis at the same time. They will also check your tires and change your air filter if you desire or need it. They have the best service for the lowest price and at $15 its better to have them do it than do it yourself. Expect to pay twice this at a new car dealer.
It is also a good idea to check your tire pressure at every gas fill up. A tire pressure gauge can be purchased at Walmart or any auto parts store for a few dollars. Proper tire pressure will prolong the usefulness of your tires and help ensure better fuel economy. To most people a under inflated tire is pretty obvious, but a over inflated tire can be just as dangerous as it can lead to blowouts and loss of traction especially in wet conditions (hydroplaning). Also, check your tires for nails, punctures, slashes, anything that could be wrong with it. If you need new tires, be sure to shop around and avoid the new car dealer as they will have a huge markup on them. For instance, 1 ZR Goodyear tire for a 2002 Ford Mustang GT was $289. The same ZR tire with a different make (Kumho) was $100 installed and balanced (the $289 at the dealer did not include installation or balancing. Shop around and look at discount stores. Also look at Costco, Sams club and BJs for tires. If you have an older car and do not care about matching the exact style you can always go to your local junk yard and buy an entire set for dirt cheap. You would be amavzed at what you might find there. A friend of mine picked up 4 tires for a 1999 corvette for $150 and the tires only had maybe 10,000 miles on them if that.
Lights and lighting on your car are an item that is routinely overlooked. If your lights are dim you could have a battery charge, alternator or dim, cloudy lenses. These are all easy to fix. A battery should be checked for its ability to hold charge at least once a year (more in extremely cold climates). An alternator can be replaced very easily, or if you do not feel comfortable a local mechanic can do it. Do not do this at a new car dealer as they will charge at least 300% more. A good tip is to go and buy the part at your local auto parts store and then inquire with the counter clerk as to a mechanic that they recommend to install it. You will save a lot and it will be professionally done. They will probably even come to your house to do it. As to your headlights, turn on your lights. If they are dim, is it the bulb or cloudy lenses? If it is the bulb, the cheapest replacements can be found at Walmart or on Ebay. It is recommended you go with brighter Xeon bulbs as they are only a few dollars more and increase brightness and night visibility by over 20 percent. If it is cloudy headlights there is a new headlight repair and restoration kit that will restore the lenses to new. This will save you big over replacement as the average plastic automotive lens costs $250 to replace.
Checking your fluid levels routinely is a good idea. A lot of cars now will do this for you and will even alert you to when it is time to perform a certain service. It takes 2 minutes to unscrew the oil cap and pull out the dipstick. On older cars you should also look under the cap. Is the oil really dirty, sludge like, or have white in it? These all indicate something needs to be done. The first two mean it is in dire need of an oil change. The latter with the whiteness or light chocolate look means you have a blown head gasket and coolant is leaking into the engine. That is really bad and requires major repairs and can be the result of running a car too hot. Fill all fluids to the fuel full line or indicator. By routinely checking your cars fluid levels you will be ahead of the game and keep your car running better and for much longer.
Another great idea to keep service costs to a minimum and save you big at the same time is to buy 1 to 3 year old used cars with around 30,000 miles on them. Then drive them until you get 100,000 miles on it and replace it. Most major repairs rarely occur before 100,000 miles with proper routine maintenance. Use and follow your owners manual. It was written by the ultimate expert, the people who built, designed and tested your car.