Thrifty Thursday: DIY Car Maintenance

Back in January, Tracy posted a tip about Changing Your Own Oil.  I was a bit bummed because she stole my thunder!  See – I am a ridiculous planner.  When I first joined in on the Thrifty Thursday tips, I wrote out a list of all the things I wanted to write about.  Then I organized the list into categories, and then put the categories in a particular order (like garden stuff and spring cleaning tips in the spring time).  So my DIY category got pushed back to May/June, and Tracy beat me to the punch on the oil changes.  She did a great post, so I won’t reiterate how to change your own oil here.  But I will add that if you are using conventional oil instead of synthetic, your costs are quite a bit less than what she had posted.  Also, depending on the area of the country you live in. 

BUT  I do have a couple other car maintenance tips up my sleeves (after all, my dad was a master technician for Nissan, and I grew up helping him in the garage).  The tips below are very basic and easy, and don’t require a jack to lift your car. 

First – Change your own Air Filter.  It’s amazing how dirty these things get, and how simple they are to change… especially considering what most shops want to charge you for doing it. 

Air filters run anywhere from $12-20 depending on your car.  Go to the auto parts store and look up which kind of filter to buy for your make, model and year of your car.  If you’ve never looked in one of those auto parts books they have there, you can ask the person at the counter for help, and they’ll show you how to use it (it’s worth it to ask, since this is also how you figure out what kind of oil filter and all kinds of other parts you may need one day if you do your own car maintenance).  Anyway, back to the air filter:

-Clean air filter in hand, open up the hood of your car. 
-Locate the air filter (it usually is near the top of your engine and is either rectangular or circular with a wing nut or latches hold the cover closed).
-Open the cover and remove the old air filter.
-Insert the new filter and close the cover. 
-Congrats!  You’re done!

Next – Check your Fluids.  This includes brake fluid, washer fluid, oil, coolant, transmission fluid (if you have an automatic). 

Most of these should be checked on a hot engine.  So drive to the auto parts store, shut off your car, and check it in their lot (or next time you fill up that other  fluid, gasoline, check it then so you know if you even need to make the trip). 

Once you look at the levels of fluid in each reservoir and determine what you need, go to the store, get it, and fill it up!   If you are low on oil, be sure that you are watchful for a leak.  Your car should not be burning up or leaking oil.  Sometimes a leak is easy to fix (maybe the filter was on too tight or not tight enough from your last oil change), but other things can cause it too. 

I might post a few more car tips next week, depending.  I wanted to include pictures with all of this, but Rick keeps taking the 4Runner to work, so I can’t get the pictures!  BUT if I get a chance, I’ll update this post with some ASAP.  :)

Other things I’ve done myself include changing a serpentine belt, changing front brake pads (this was hard only because I lacked enough upper body strength to pull the pads apart by myself), changing the jets in a carburetor, and helping a friend with her alternator.  They all require more explanation, and more confidence than I have in my abilities to share a how-to.  :)  But there are lots of good books and tutorials out there!  Rick even found a tutorial online to swap out our broken antenna on the 4Runner.  If I can do it, so can you!

Check out Genny, Tracy & Katie Jean‘s blogs for more tips this week.

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Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: | Leave a comment

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