Most Americans own some form of automobile, however only a small percentage know how to maintain them. If you are looking to keep your ride on the road and save some money along the way I highly suggest buying a Chilton auto repair manual for the year, make, and model of the vehicle you own. There are two schools of thought when it comes to not doing your car repairs, it’s too complicated or let the professionals handle it.
I bought a 2006 Toyota Corolla back in 2008 and I have only taken it to the dealership one time after it was purchased. This was for the “free” oil change that came with the vehicle. There are several reasons why I will never take it back there, for anything. The Corolla came with a 250 point inspection that insured it was in like new condition when I drove it off the lots but when I took it there for the oil change three months later the mechanics continued to pile on a list of things it needed besides the oil change. At one point a woman carried the air filter into the waiting room and said it needed to be replaced. The filter was still white except for a maple tree seed, one of those annoying helicopter like blades that fall to the ground every spring, and told me it was clogged. I took the tree seed out of the filter and told her to put it back in. once they started to add things to the oil change, I was done with that place. Either they never did the inspection before selling the vehicle or they were trying to rip me off. I’m not saying that every place is like that but I have heard other horror stories about $90-120 oil changes at those quick lube places from unsuspecting customers who didn’t know better. It has never cost me more than $30 to do my own oil change at home and it takes less than 15 minutes. Sure, it’s dirty and you have to crawl under the car but at least you know the job is done, what it cost, and that it was done right.
Granted there are things you can not do on your own. Changing tires needs to be done by a professional. The exhaust system, unless you know how to weld, should be done by a professional. Things like, replacing a headlight, changing the air filter, replacing the battery, checking tire pressure, topping off coolant, even replacing your own brake pads can be done at home if you know how to do it. That is where the Chilton’s manual comes in, showing you step by step how to work on your own car so that you aren’t paying somebody $50 an hour to do it for you and charging you extra for the parts that you can get from your local Auto Zone.
Don’t have tools? Instead of buying what you will need brand new for a premium look for these things at garage sales and estate sales in your area. There was a time when people worked on there own cars and it was a common practice. Many of those tools have a life span that will outlive us and can be handed down for several generations. Craftsman, Mac, and Milwaukee tools are top of the line and come at a high cost brand new. To find these at a discount is a steal when they come along.
Junk yards are a gamble and you have to be careful of what you are buying if your try to buy used parts for your vehicle. There will be times when you don’t have an option, especially if you have an older car, but often there are new parts still sitting in a warehouse somewhere waiting to have the dust brushed off them.
Spend a little extra to increase the life of your vehicle. When I change my oil I put full synthetic in instead of the cheaper generic brand options on the shelf. I find that the engine runs smoother and studies have shown that it increases the life span of the motor. You can decide to do this if you want but I don’t plan to have another car payment for a long time to come.
Protecting your investment is important. There are a few, simple ways to make sure your vehicle is never broken into. The common sense approach is to make sure there is nothing valuable left in the car that can be seen from people walking past. Keep your car clean and boring and nobody will think to smash a window to steal that phone, GPS map, or change in the cup holder. What they can’t see they won’t know about. Add an NRA sticker to the back of the car regardless if you are a member or not. Thieves will think you are a gun owner and will be less likely to brake into it. Of course, the next step to freak people out is to leave old copies of magazines like Guns and Ammo in the back seat to make thieves think you are a gun nut. At the end of the day always make sure your car is locked. At the first apartment complex I lived in it was common to walk outside at 6am and find most of the cars with their doors open and everything removed from the glove box and cupholders. Some thieves will simply check the door handle to see if it is unlocked and then go to work removing everything and throwing it into a bag.
So, you don’t own a car. If you are one of those people who use public transportation you can save money by ride a bike or walking to work. I know this is frowned upon by a good portion of our society but think of the benefits that come from these practices. You don’t have to fit in working out because you are doing it twice everyday going to work. The cost of good shoes or a bike is a fraction of what you will pay in a year for bus or train fare. Don’t talk to me about Uber, it is the Keurig of public transportation. It will cost you more per trip than just transporting yourself from point A to point B.
If you own a bike take the time to learn how to do your own maintenance. Purchase a flat tire kit for a few dollars. Wear a helmet. Unlike the rest of the body the brain does not heal when it is damaged. For the sake of your own sanity buy a kryptonite lock. I have seen too many bikes stolen in my home town because people either ran inside a place for a split second only to find their bike gone when they walked out. Even chains and padlocks don’t work. spend the money on the one time purchase of a lock that bolt cutters can not remove.
Overall, not having a car will save you more money in the long run, that is true. Freedom of mobility comes at a cost and if you want the option of getting out of a bad situation quickly it will pay to own a car. Owning a car also helps if you were to lose your job and future employment is only available at a farther distance than you are accustomed to. When you increase your availability, you become more employable. A common question asked at job interviews is “do you have reliable transportation?”