Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Doing Your Own Maintenance Will Save You Cash—A Lot of Cash

2007 Toyota Yaris


Stand up. Get out of your chair. Raise your right hand and read this aloud: I solemnly swear that I will perform more of my own vehicle maintenance. I pledge to learn more about how my vehicle works and save money in the process.

By the powers vested in me (which are banned in most countries), I now certify you to go out and work on your own damn car. You'll save a bunch of cash.

So what brings about this oath? I changed the drive belt and my manual transmission fluid on my 2007 Toyota Yaris last weekend. Normally, this wouldn't be a thing. However, as you may remember I had been quoted $151 for the belt and the installation at a Toyota dealer, and the dealer wants $180 to change the transmission fluid. I bought the drive belt for $14.49 at the NAPA dealer and spent $32 for top-of-the-line synthetic transmission fluid at my local auto parts store. Yes, I saved $284.51 by doing it myself. Do you smell something? I think it might be savings ...

Big scary engine!
To be honest, I'd never actually changed out a drive belt before. Despite the fact I've installed countless suspension components, replaced numerous exhaust systems, and I've changed more oil than the kid working the fryer at McDonalds, I'd never changed a belt. But at $151, I was going to learn.

I took a quick trip to Google to see how to do it. And of course there was a video on how to change a Yaris drive belt—it looked easy. And guess what? It was. It took me 30 minutes to do and that included driving the car up on the newly purchased Rhino Ramps I bought and getting my tools out. I also had to look for a pry bar to adjust the alternator. And not only was it easy, I learned something. Oh yeah, I think there's savings in the air ...

Red Line MT-90 Manual Transmission Fluid
But wait, there's more! I was way overdue for a transmission fluid change on the trusty Yaris. (I'm going to work backwards on this one.) The car takes about two quarts of GL-4 fluid. Red Line MT-90 Synthetic GL-4 is about $16 per quart ($32) and is damn good stuff. I was able to find the oil at my local auto parts store. It took me about 30 minutes to drain and refill the transmission using my ultra-slow hand pump. It's also a bit messy and I had to borrow a huge 24mm socket from Scott to undo the drain/fill plugs.

In the end, I saved $148 by doing it myself. Oh yeah, that's definitely savings I smell.

So for a drive belt and a transmission fluid change, it would've cost me $331 at my local Toyota dealer. Yes, someone would've done it for me and I could've just dropped the car off. And yes, it's likely that an independent mechanic would've been a lot cheaper than the dealership. But for $46.49, I did it myself and it took me about an hour—faster than a dealer could've gotten around to it. Plus, I know that I did the work the right way. And if it was done improperly, I don't have to go down a rabbit hole trying to find someone to go after. It's my own damn fault.

Don't get me wrong, if my transmission needed to be rebuilt, I'd bring it to a mechanic. If I had to pull the pistons out, I'd likely bring it in. But I do as much maintenance and work on my vehicles as I can and as time allows. But I'm living proof: Doing your own work is not only a money saver, but it's also fun and educational. I can feel myself getting smarter by the second. I did just eat, however, so maybe it's just digestion.

So get out there and just get it done. You and your wallet will be glad you did. Plus, you just took that oath so, you know, you kinda have to.


Unknown said...


My 09 Yaris needed struts/shocks. The dealer wanted $375 per corner. Figure $1000 for all 4. I spent $220 for the parts (oem quality KYB) and borrowed the Spring Compressor from tge parts store.

And bonded with my car.

Ducati Scotty said...

The only problem with doing your own maintenance is that you get used to the low cost. Then when you really do have to take it to a shop you get serious sticker shock. Still, I do almost everything routine myself.

Time007 said...

well, this article only applies to a car not under warranty. if you do your own work i think you could potentially void your own warranty. though some dealers might let you take it to another shop, instead of the dealership but that depends on the company/warranty/dealer.

i'm stuck taking mine to the dealer for the next 5 years/50,000 miles. though in 2020 i will DEFINITELY try to do the work myself. just make a note in this article otherwise some guy could potentially void his warranty! make a disclaimer or something!!