DIY car maintenance is a broad topic, but one which can boost your sustainable lifestyle, save you money, save your car years of life, and teach you competitive life skills.
Why learn about DIY car maintenance?
In full transparency, what got us set on the path of learning to DIY our own car maintenance, was that we were recently married and tweaking all parts of our lifestyle in the pursuit of paying off student loan debt. Dave Ramsey has calculators that tell you how much faster you can be out of debt if you skip your daily drive through coffee or skip going out to eat as much, but what do you do when you never had any frivolous or expensive daily habits to ditch in the first place?
You learn to do all the things you would normally pay someone else to do, like ongoing repairs and preventative maintenance on your cars.
When my husband and I met, the extent of my car maintenance skills were that I could top up my fluid and I’d changed a tire a couple times. He had changed the oil in his truck once or twice and topped up fluids. We were both pretty happy with ourselves.
What are the easiest car repairs to do yourself?
Once we ditched my auto lease and bought a used vehicle just a few months after getting married, we decided we were going to take a lot more of our auto maintenance into our own hands, and we started with learning how to change the brake pads on a Subaru Outback.
This misadventure taught us a lot, (and nearly killed my sister when our scissor jack gave way with her sitting under the wheel well with the tire off) but we’ve learned even more since then – and invested in a much better jack!
The easiest car repairs to do yourself are the basics in DIY car maintenance:
- Learn to replenish your fluids, like wiper fluid, coolant, oil, transmission fluid, etc.
- Learn to change a tire in case of a flat, and to patch small holes with a patch kit.
- Learn to replace wiper blades and cabin air filters.
- Learn to replace your brake pads (with a good jack, preferably!)
- Learn to change your oil and oil filter.
These are the absolute basics of car maintenance. Many of these skills are ones which your dad or grandpa may have taught you, or tried to teach you, when you got your first car.
These are some of the car maintenance things that people go to auto shops or dealerships to have done, and which take a mechanic literally just minutes to do, but which you can be charged an arm and a leg for, simply because they know you can’t do it yourself.
Learning these skills can save you a boatload of money in the course of your car’s life. If topping up fluids costs $50, an oil change (every 3-5k miles) costs $50-80, wiper blade replacement costs $40-50, replaced brake pads cost about $200, then even one tune up that includes all those things can cost anywhere from $350-500.
But you could do all these things yourself simply for the cost of materials and a little time spent researching (read: watching youtube videos). The whole kit and kaboodle could cost you just $160 depending on your local prices and what product range you’re going for. (Obviously these costs will vary by vehicle, as will the difficulty of doing the actual labor.)
Is it worth doing your own car maintenance?
Well, if you consider the breakdown between paying even the low end of $350 two times a year (assuming nothing else ever goes wrong with your vehicle and you aren’t interested in getting more in depth maintenance done), and paying just $160 to do DIY car maintenance, that’s saving you $380 per year alone.
Is $380 worth taking the time to learn your car maintenance? We think so. That $380 is also extending the lifespan of your car, helping fuel efficiency, and saving you money in other departments with your car.
If you get into more depth with preventative maintenance, then doing DIY car repairs can end up saving you much, more more in the long run!
What regular maintenance should I do on my car?
This begs the question of what other regular maintenance really should be done on your vehicle. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are other important things your car needs at regular intervals in order to maintain good operating conditions, and most people do not do them at home.
- Changing timing belts
- Flushing the transmission
- Tire rotation
- New Tires
- Struts and Control Arms
- Replacing Spark Plugs
- Battery replacement
Each of these car maintenance items need to be checked, replaced, or fixed at different intervals, some ranging from every few months or several thousand miles, to every 5-10 years depending on the level of wear and tear.
It is a good practice to chekc your car’s owner’s manual for a lot of the details for your specific make and model. These booklets give you all the most necessary info from what type of engine oil your car takes to more details specs and illustrations of the inner workings of your engine.
Of course there’s always Google and YouTube that have incredible amounts of information about how to maintenance your own vehicle at home. YouTube has taught us almost all we know about the upkeep and preventative maintenance of our vehicles. Don’t be afraid to learn from some “Joe Schmoe” YouTube channel – just watch a few to see if the advice given for how to do a certain thing seems to hold true across several people’s videos for that year, make, and model. You can also just look up videos on how things work so you have a better idea of what is what in your car.
And also prepare yourself to make some mistakes! It does happen!
We accidentally flushed our transmission on our Subaru Outback because for that year the nut to drain and the filter are the exact same and in the usual position for the oil pan and filter. Did it take a few extra hours to fix? Yes it did. Did it ruin our vehicle? No, it didn’t. And we sure learned a lot in the process!
“How can I work on my car myself?” | DIY Car Maintenance Takeaway
The main thing we want to demonstrate here is that doing DIY auto work is less intimidating than you may think, and it can save you an incredible amount of money compared to taking your car to a mechanic or dealership.
Just start small with regular, necessary, and accessible maintenance like cabin air filters, wiper blades, and oil changes, and watch your confidence grow as you get accustomed to doing these things yourself. Eventually you’ll start wondering what else you could manage on your own, and you’ll be well on your way to learning incredible things you never expected to know about car maintenance.