Car Repair: When to DIY and When to Go to a Mechanic

On October 24, 2013, in Guest Posts, Tire Care, by allisonmreilly

DIY car repairA recent study by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) found that the trend of DIY car repair is shifting. Perhaps as people recover from the 2008 recession, they are going back to the old means of car repair: hiring a mechanic to do it for them. While DIY can save money, it isn’t always worth it and may be more expensive in the long run—especially if you don’t fix the right part (or don’t fix the part correctly) and then need to take your car to a professional anyway. Learn when to DIY and when to have someone DIFY when it comes to car repair.

DIY: From Beginner to Expert

As The Humble Mechanic notes, there are five variables to consider when deciding whether or not to make that car repair yourself:

  • Price – How much will the job cost to outsource, and how much will you save by doing it yourself? If you can purchase a part for $25 and save $50 on labor, that seems like a good deal. However, if a job takes you three times as long, you lose out in the end.
  • Passion – If you can take or leave car repair, leave it to the pros and spend that time doing something you love. But if you love tinkering, you might opt to challenge yourself with long repairs just because you love it, and that’s fine.
  • Time – It may make sense to pay for the repair if it will take you a long time to complete the job. For simple tasks with a low time frame, DIY makes sense.
  • Knowledge – There are many ways to get knowledge, so if all that’s holding you back is lack of knowledge, get to work. You can use print and online resources to boost your skills.
  • Tools – If you need special tools to complete the job, it’s generally worth it to pay the mechanic rather than invest in tools you may not use again.

With these tips in mind, evaluate the difficulty of your project and decide whether to DIY or call your go-to guy. AASA recommends that auto repair newbies begin with easy jobs like changing the antifreeze or replacing the car battery, and folks with some experience try mid-level tasks like installing brake pads and brake shoes. High skill-level projects like changing water pumps require expertise and special tools and aren’t usually good candidates for the average DIYer.

Tips for Dealing With Your Mechanic

Even if you decide to leave the job to your Savannah mechanic, you don’t have to trust every word he says. The AutoParts Warehouse app lets you check the price of car parts to ensure you’re not being overcharged for make/model replacements.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence enables you to search for qualified mechanics by zip code, and you can check the value of your old car with Kelley Blue Book. When your car’s maintenance costs outweigh its value, you can find used cars in Savannah by Drivetime dealer or zip code, for example. When you need a mechanic’s aid, these tools help ensure that you’re getting quality service for the price point and that the vehicle you’re driving is safe.

preparing teens to drive

Teen driving should also include how to take care of a vehicle.

When parents prepare their teens for driving and the driver’s test, what sort of things are covered? Well, things like maneuvering the vehicle, reading street signs and lane markings, and preparing for both the written exam and the driver’s exam. Although those things are certainly important, they certainly don’t make up the whole picture when it comes to driving.

Something that’s often missed is car maintenance. This is something that really ought to be covered, especially if parents plan to purchase a separate vehicle for their teens (actually, this might be a good idea even if you plan to share your vehicles with your newly licensed children). After all, what’s the point of the license if you don’t have a well-maintained vehicle to drive? Wouldn’t it be a good idea for your teen to know what to do in case an emergency happens, like if a tire goes flat or the oil starts to leak?

When educating your teen on car maintenance, a good place to start is with the tires. A car can’t go anywhere unless the tires are properly maintained, and it’s better for you and your teens to know when they need to be maintained instead of waiting for a flat or blowout to happen. Make sure to educate your teen about proper tire pressure and on how to fill up a tire if it’s below pressure. If the car your teen will be driving has a spare, make sure to let them know that it’s there, and that it needs to be checked for proper tire pressure as well. Having proper tire pressure will improve fuel efficiency, which will be a good thing to keep in mind. Filling up the tank can burn a hole in the wallet of a teen. If unsure about your teen keeping up with filling the tires, then utilize nitrogen tire inflation to keep the tires properly inflated for a longer period of time.

Next, show them underneath the hood. You don’t need to have the mind of a mechanic, or expect your teen to have one, but your teen should at least know his or her way around. Point out the basics, such as the battery, the engine, the alternator, the transmission, and the radiator. If you know how, show them how to jump start or to change the battery. Also, show them how to replace or to refill the necessary liquids, such as the oil, the coolant, and the washer fluid.

Finally, educate your teen about the emergency kit and the insurance, in case they are pulled over or something happens at night. The emergency kit should include flares, a blanket, and emergency triangles. An emergency kit can easily be purchased at a car parts or auto repair shop. As for the insurance and registration, show them where those are located in the vehicle and what to do to keep those up-to-date. In case your teen gets pulled over, or gets in a minor accident, having the insurance and registration on hand will make things easier for everyone.

Of course, all that good information won’t be able to apply until the teen gets his or her driver’s license. One way to prepare is through some free DMV practice tests. Another way to get out on the road, practicing on both the highway and in busy intersections. Overall, learning to drive a car also needs to come with learning how to maintain it, and learning what to if a breakdown or an emergency arises.

proper tire pressure

Make sure to check your tire pressure on a regular basis.

An easy way to save money with the tough economic times and the rising gas prices is to take proper care of your vehicle. By keeping up with maintenance checks, your car will not only last longer but will also cost less in repairs and upkeep in the long run. One aspect of car care that cannot be forgotten is proper tire maintenance. This means rotating your tires every 6,000 miles, and checking your tire pressure every other time you fill up at the gas station.

About 54 percent of Americans drive on under-inflated tires. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every one psi, or pound per square inch, drop in all four tires. The Department of Energy estimates that 3.56 million gallons of gas are wasted each day because of incorrectly inflated tires and advises motorists that they can improve gas mileage by approximately 3.3% by keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure. The main reason why motorists save money by maintaining proper tire inflation is because tires that wear evenly last longer before needing repair or replacement. Because a typical tire may also lose 1 to 2 psi a month if not checked and adjusted, uninformed motorists may be heading faster toward tire replacement than necessary.

One way to stop this decline toward tire replacement is to keep your tires properly inflated longer with nitrogen tire inflation. Just top off your tires with nitrogen next time you are at the service station, or even the next time you check you tire pressure, and you’ll notice a difference. Nitrogen permeates tire walls up to 4 times slower than air, so with nitrogen, you’ll see the same 1 to 2 psi loss in pressure over a period of six months, instead of the regular one month with regular air.

Therefore, you save money on overall car maintenance, because that’s fewer times you have to replace them or get them filled. It’s still recommended to do your scheduled maintenance checks and tire rotations, but you’ll have safer, more fuel-efficient tires. If needing an excuse to get to the mechanic or service station, now is as good a time as any for a checkup, since the summer travel season is just getting started. Getting your car ready for warm-weather driving should start with having the service department check the vehicle to look for specific problems, including safety issues, that may need to be corrected. It’s also a good time for maintenance, such as an oil change.

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