Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Do Your Own Maintenance. Learn Something New. Save Some Cash.

See these parts? They're the result of a trip to NAPA last week. You know why? Because I trust hardly anyone else to work on my cars. Paranoid? Maybe. Frugal? Yep. Plus, I enjoy working on my cars and learning something new. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Plus, I know the job was done by me. If it's wrong, I screwed up and probably learned something extra in the process. If I did it right? Job well done, and it's likely I saved a bunch of money. 

It's no secret that if you have your car repaired or serviced at a dealership, you're going to pay a premium. And by a premium, I mean a metric shit-ton of cash. 

For example, last week we brought our 2007 Toyota Yaris into the dealership to have a few recalls taken care of—an important thing to have done. While it's in the shop, I figured I'd inquire about having the e-brake adjusted since it's loose. They said it'd be $50. You know what? Fine. It'll save me the time of having to take the wheels off, take the drums off, then mess with the annoying little adjuster. Lazy? Sure. But sometimes, you just want it done. Let's just hope they don't screw anything else up while it's there.

I get a call from the service department the next day saying they're working working on the recalls, but that my drive belt (alternator, A/C, water pump) is cracked and my battery should be replaced. They want $151 to install the belt and a perverse amount of money for a battery (yes, the battery is seven years old and could probably stand to be replaced). 

There was no way I was paying the dealer's price for the battery. No way in hell. But, I'll be honest: I contemplated having the belt done. I mean, it's at the shop, it'd be done by the end of the day, and I could move on with life. But how do I know the belt is really, truly cracked? How do I know I'm just not getting gouged by dealer service pricing? That assumes the belt is actually cracked. I told the service adviser that I'd call back in a few minutes. Off to the Google. 

Within minutes, maybe seconds, I had my answer. It appears the belt on the Yaris isn't difficult to change at all. I mean, there's a 1:29 YouTube video on how to change a Yaris drive belt. How freaking hard could this be? It's two bolts. The belt is $14.49 from NAPA before my 10% AAA discount. Sorry, there's no way in hell I'm going to give $151 to the dealership for this. I call back and tell them I'll do it myself and I'll pass on the battery. Yep, I just saved myself $136.51, not including the inflated price of a battery. Oh, and they didn't adjust the e-brake correctly, so we had to go back to the dealer to have it fixed for real this time. See? This is why I hate going to dealers for service. 

Another example: The Sidekick (aka The Teal Terror) needs brakes. It's needed them for a while. I thought, hey, I make a decent living. Maybe I'll just have the damn brakes done by someone else. So, I go into Midas and talk to the guy behind the counter, who assumes I don't know the difference between a brake drum and a bass drum. I let him know this is something I'd usually do myself, but I didn't have the time. Now, this is sort of a lie because I've never actually done brakes before, but I have always wanted to learn. He tells me I have to schedule an estimate, since they're busy (fair enough). In all actuality, I just want a ballpark figure to see if it's truly worth my time to learn how to do brakes or if I can spend a bit of cash and get this done quickly. 

I ask if this: If the truck needs pads, rotors, shoes, wheel cylinders, and new fluid, can you give me some idea of price? After explaining that without looking at the vehicle, and without getting too far into it, assuming nothing else is broken, it'd start out around $650 to $700. After shitting myself, I got back into my truck and pledged to learn how to do brakes. Ducati Scotty has already offered up to help. Money saved: A shit-ton. 

So yes, I'll need to make time to install the Yaris' belt. I'll need to learn how to do brakes on a Suzuki Sidekick and install a new speedometer cable. But you know what? That's OK. I will have learned something new, had some good "garage therapy" with a buddy, and save a pile of cash. Plus, I know I'll be the only person working on the car. And if I fuck it up? Then I can only blame myself and learn from the mistake. Well, maybe I can blame Scotty, but it was just his birthday so he gets a pass. 


The Squirrel Mafia said...

Welcome to doing it yourself. I will continue to work on my cars until I'm too old to do so. I've already gone through 2 engine swaps on my P10 G20, pulled out the entire drive train out of my NA Miata to do a complete refresh, have done enough clutch jobs, brake jobs, swapped suspensions, & whatnot to pretty much consider myself gear head savvy. It's not hard. Just requires logic, a bit of strength at times, & some patience. Get some buddies, beer, & pizza & you'll be amazed at how much farther you can get. :P

Keith said...

For moi, there is another option. My local small town indy mechanic.

Other than the military buying a hammer, almost anything looks cheap compared to dealer work. My local indy mechanic is about half dealer cost. Sure, more than my doing it myself, but sometimes auto work really is unpleasant. And I really do already have too many things that demand my time.

I'm also fortunate. My local indy is honest and good at what he does.

Carry on...