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Don’t Let This Happen To You
I recently had to take over payments and possession on a car that I co-signed for a few years ago. Apparently, it was not being given proper car maintenance. The car is currently in the shop in need of a new engine. With that and the fact that my teenage son is about to get his full driver’s license, my recent interest in learning DIY car maintenance is even greater.
It’s easy enough to get in the car and drive to your mechanic for regular car maintenance, but DIY car maintenance can save money and time if you shop right; Plus, do you really know what the purpose of doing things like changing your air filter or changing your engine’s oil is and the effects on your car?
We’re here to break it down for you!
IMPORTANT!! Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Prices and savings you see in this post may vary by vehicle and by location. When you’re performing DIY car maintenance, you’re doing so at your own risk. We do not assume any liability for the information contained in this post.
What Does All of This Mumbo-Jumbo Mean?
Allow me a moment to get seemingly sidetracked…
Remember that song that goes “the knee bone connected to the thigh bone“, etc.? I hadn’t realized it’s actually a spiritual song. I remember it more of a song we used to sing in school days. I’m pretty sure I thought it was a song to teach you about the skeletal system. I wish someone would come up with a song like that for cars so folks would realize just how important the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule is.
Below are some of the most common auto maintenance tasks you’ll be faced with throughout the life of the car. Each has it’s own importance in extending the life of your vehicle and I strongly believe if folks have a TRUE UNDERSTANDING of how stuff works and why they’re doing it, they’ll care more.Why is not a question of dissent. It's a question asked in an effort to gain a better understanding. #ad #DotComDIY Click To Tweet
Common Auto Maintenance Tasks
Brake Pads – We know what brakes do; they slow down and stop your vehicle. The pads apply pressure to the rotors to stop your car from rolling, resulting in a complete stop as more pressure is applied. Changing your brake pads at home is one of the more common DIY Car Maintenance tasks and can save a bit of money.
I checked out some local prices and just to replace the front brake pads on my 2006 Kia Spectra EX, the lowest price I got was $160. I’ve seen specials for around $99, but we were able to replace both the front and rear brake pads for $40. Of course, your price may vary depending on the brake pads you choose.
When you change your own brake pads you should inspect the discs or rotors. Look for smooth edges, no cracks and no chips. There is also a manufacturer’s recommended thickness, which you should be able to find online or by contacting the manufacturer. Discs or rotors may need to be resurfaced if you see these signs of wear or even replaced when they fall under the manufacturer’s recommended thickness.
Climate Control Air Filter, also known as the Cabin Air Filter – The cabin air filter controls the quality of air inside your car. It’s commonly located behind the glove box and in some cases, you can change it yourself. In other cases, it may be located under the dashboard or under the hood. These are a bit more difficult to get to, so depending on your experience level, this might be a job better suited for your mechanic. About 1/2 the cost of changing a cabin air filter is parts, while the other half is labor.
Engine Oil and Oil Filter – Consider oil to be your car’s blood. It protects your engine from wear, by lubricating the internal parts of the engine. It also keeps the engine clean by suspending by-products of combustion, which is why your oil gets dirty. Finally, it helps your car turn over easier in cold climates. Oil gets dirty and you lose oil in between oil changes. Both dirty oil and low oil can cause permanent engine failure if you don’t follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance and I’m here to tell you, it’s NOT CHEAP!
The biggest mistake I see people make is choosing the “normal maintenance schedule” versus the “severe maintenance schedule”. Around here, everything is close so that the short distances we drive daily, as well as the constant stop-and-go actually calls for our vehicles to follow the severe maintenance schedule. Check out your Owner’s Manual to see if you’re following the right one for your car. – Mr. Vines
At my last oil change, my mechanic recommended switching to a full synthetic, high-mileage oil since my car was fast approaching the 75,000 mile marker. Full synthetic alone nearly doubles the cost of the oil change for my car. I can’t imagine what a full synthetic, high-mileage oil change would cost!
Changing the oil was one of the last things I thought I would have done at home, but we’re trying to save money, so I buckled and decided it was time to go DIY with the oil changes; after all, Travis has always changed his own oil.
With Walmart being so close it’s easy for me to swing by on the way home. After a long day at work, I’m tired and I just want to get in and out of the store without having to wait in line; So, I checked to see if Walmart.com carried what I needed since I’ve grown to love their free store pickup.
We narrowed our search down to Pennzoil Platinum® High Mileage, Full Synthetic Motor Oil because of the availability to pick it up the same day at my local Walmart; and best of all it was on Rollback, along with many other Pennzoil products, for a limited time. My 2006 Kia Spectra EX calls for 5W-30, but be sure to choose the recommended weight and grade based on your owner’s manual.
All Pennzoil products help clean out sludge other oils leave behind and offer complete protection from friction, like no other motor oil, allowing you to drive an additional 550 miles per year on average versus a dirty engine.
Why high mileage? High mileage motor oil helps keep your older vehicle or vehicle with over 75,000 miles running smooth. When combined with full synthetic, you get the best cleanliness and protection for the moving parts in your engine, leak reduction and reduction in oil consumption. Pennzoil Platinum® uses PurePlus™ Technology to keep the pistons up to 40% cleaner than the toughest industry standard and protects and cleans the best of the Pennzoil line of motor oil.
The piston is constantly moving up and down in the cylinders, controlling multiple aspects of your vehicle’s performance and is essentially the heart of your car. PurePlus™ Technology is an innovative process that converts natural gas into a 99.5% pure base oil. At the end of the day, a high mileage, full synthetic oil is designed to prolong the life of your engine.If oil is the car's blood and the pistons are the heart, be picky about what you're putting in it! #ad #DotComDIY Click To Tweet
After I picked up the oil, I worried about something going wrong and getting under the car myself, so Travis actually ended up doing it, but after watching him and seeing how easy it was, I just might have the confidence to get under the car next time.
- Motor Oil
- Oil filter
- Drain plug socket wrench or open-end wrench (exact size) and oil filter wrench
- Large drain pan
- Shop towels
- Hand cleaning solution and/or disposable latex gloves
- Safety glasses
- Ramps or Jack Stands
- Choose your oil by referring to your owner's manual, as well as the recommended oil capacity.
- Prepare your vehicle, consulting your owner's manual for safety precautions before getting under your vehicle. A jack, alone, will not do the trick. You need wheel ramps or jack stands.
- Drain the old oil by locating the oil drain plug, ensuring not to loosen the transmission fluid instead.
- Place the large drain pan (large enough to accommodate your engine's oil capacity, located in your owner's manual) under the drain plug.
- Use the drain plug socket wrench or open-end wrench to turn the plug counterclockwise. As it loosens, finish removing it by hand. CAUTION: The oil may be hot and come out very quickly. Be ready to reposition the pan, if needed.
- Replace the oil drain plug once the old oil has finished draining into the oil pan
- Remove the old oil filter. Loosen the oil filter with a filter wrench by turning it counterclockwise until it's loose enough to finish removing it by hand. CAUTION! It may be warm, so be careful not to touch the exhaust manifold.
- Since the oil filter may be filled with oil, be very slow and cautious in easing it down. Once you've created a safe distance from the engine, pour the oil from the oil filter into the large drain pain.
- Prepare the new oil filterLubricate the new oil filter with a dash of oil using your fingertips around the circular edge of the filter.
- Replace the oil filter. Screw the new oil filter in clockwise.
- Add clean oil. Use a funnel to pour the new oil into the engine filler hole marked OIL, using the recommended number of quarts from your owner's manual. Next, use the dipstick to check the fill line.
- Replace oil cap and wipe off any oil.
- Dispose of old, used oil. You can't just dump the old, used oil. Take it back to your nearest mechanic for disposal. You may be charged an environmental fee or oil disposal fee.
Be sure to check out the special Rollback pricing on Pennzoil Motor Oil at Walmart.com for a limited time and pair it with items you’re looking to pick up today, pick up at a later date or have it shipped to you. I’m talking anywhere from toothpaste to toilet paper, home decor to trash bags, furniture, electronics and more. You name it; Walmart.com has it, including unique items you may not be able to find in stores.
Would you believe some locations even have curbside pickup? With the proximity of my local Walmart and convenience of ordering online to pick up in the store, it’s become my new go-to place.
Antifreeze / Engine Coolant – I was quite surprised to learn that antifreeze and coolant go into the same place. There are mixtures of antifreeze / coolant in the market, but be sure to use the recommendation from your owner’s manual when refilling it. Both do the work of maintaining heat and cool of other fluids as well engine parts, so the temperature doesn’t get too hot or too cold. With that, it’s CRITICAL to check your coolant levels and observe the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. Your mechanic may also recommend a cooling system flush from time to time.
Fuel Filter – Like the cars other filters, the fuel filter screens out dirt and other debris, preventing clogging of your fuel system. Following your manufacturer’s recommended car maintenance schedule will help maintain good fuel economy and overall fuel performance. A clogged filter can prevent your car from starting, so you don’t want to skip this (or any manufacturer’s recommended maintenance, for that matter). In newer cars the fuel filter is located near the fuel tank, so it’s best to leave this job for your mechanic.
Engine Air Filter – The engine’s air filter has a direct impact on acceleration, horsepower and how your engine runs overall. A clean filter keeps out dust and dirt. It’s your engine’s first line of defense from dust, dirt and other debris. The cost for a mechanic to change my engine’s air filter nearly doubles versus doing it myself and it’s SO EASY. It literally took less than five minutes!
This is another service where about 1/2 the cost is parts and the other 1/2 is labor, if you take it to a mechanic. With the number of times my manual recommends changing my air filter, I’m definitely doing this one myself in all 3 cars from now on.
Spark Plugs and Spark Plug Wires – Each cylinder in your car (i.e. 4 cylinder, 6 cylinder, 8 cylinder (V8), etc.) has a spark plug. The spark plugs ignite a high-voltage electric current into the air/fuel mixture of the combustion chamber of the cylinder. It is a small, but critical part of your ignition system. No spark means no running car. Weak or bad spark plugs can cause misfires during acceleration, which will cause your check engine light to come on. Spark plugs are built to burn off deposits from fuel additives or other contaminants.
You can generally save around 30% by doing this yourself, depending on the spark plugs your owner’s manual calls for. It may take you a bit longer than a mechanic, but it’s a fairly quick and easy job.
Engine Timing Belt – The timing belt keeps moving components of the engine in sync. This is definitely a job for your mechanic, but if it does go out, you’ll know. Your car will stop, even if you’re moving. Timing belt replacement generally runs several hundred dollars.
Free Printable / Online Auto Maintenance Tracker
Snag this FREE printable and/or online auto maintenance tracker to keep track of your car’s maintenance!
Will You #DotComDIY?
Now that you’ve read about how I’m saving money with DIY car maintenance, will you attempt to try anything yourself? I know some folks would prefer to leave it in the hands of a mechanic. I used to be one of those folks, but now I feel confident and empowered knowing which tasks I can complete at home and save money versus which tasks are TRULY better left for a mechanic.
If you’re just not into the DIY and would rather pass your car maintenance along to your mechanic, there are benefits of sticking with a single mechanic or shop and in the long run, it will save you time and money.
- Building a relationship
- Coupon/Discount codes
- Email newsletters with specials
- Loyalty cards
- Monthly specials
- Special requests (you can request Pennzoil oil)