Do Your Own Vehicle Maintenance – Buy a Used Car And Drive It ‘Til It Dies

I’m very frugal by nature, and can’t help but see all the new expensive cars on the road. Used Cars are the best bargain in the world! For $3000 to $5000 a very solid unit can be had that will be at your service for years if not decades to come. Many repairs and almost all maintenance can be performed in your driveway and you don’t have to be an ASE Master mechanic.
Choosing a Vehicle:
Popular models are good for many reasons. Most manufacturers produce a basic model with no major changes for years. Think of the 1973 Chevy pickup truck for example. The basic design didn’t change much until well into the late 80’s. That’s a LOT of interchangability, and a huge volume of parts that can be bought aftermarket very cheaply. It also means the wrecking yards will be chock full of these popular prolific vehicles. Other examples are the Ford Escort, Ford Taurus, Chevy S-10 pickup, Toyota Camry, I’m sure you can think of more.
Getting Equipped:
Now that you’ve acquired a popular reliable used rig, and assuming you at least have a flat driveway to work on ‘er, you’ll need to equip yourself.
You’ll need a good floor jack and at least a pair of jackstands. Do not skimp on the jack. Get a 2 1/2 ton shop jack. It’ll make everything much easier than a smaller cheapie. Another overlooked tool is a shop light. Get the $25 one. Of course you’ll need hand tools. The good news is that tools are relatively cheap to buy these days, and good quality pro tools can be had on very reasonably. $500 will go a long way. Besides, it’s fun to go tool shoppin’!
Getting Your Hands Dirty:
Oil Change – 3000 miles
The most basic maintenance procedure is the Oil Change. It’s often overlooked, but oil is cheaper than parts. Organic oil begins to break down within 3000 miles. This means the sphere shaped oil molecules literally shear in half. They literally disintegrate.
Get a hand pump grease gun to grease the steering/suspension. Don’t forget the U-joints if your vehicle has a driveshaft! Most parts stores have a recycling bin for disposing old oil. Don’t forget the air filter! This job takes 20 minutes, and saves about $25 plus tax/fees.
Transmission Service – 25000 miles:
Transmissions don’t usually have drain plugs, so this one can be messy. A tip is to leave a couple of bolts on one side of the pan so it’s easy to control when you crack the gasket seal to drain. You have to remove the entire pan to drain the fluid.
You’ll see a filter on the underside of the transmission, be sure to replace it. Be sure to ask the parts store counterman what type of fluid to use to replace the old stuff. This job takes 45 minutes, and saves approx $50.
Brakes – Inspect @ 8000 miles.
It’s a no-brainer to have the rotors and drums turned on every brake pad change. It’s usually $10 per item, and will make the hardware last much longer. A new rotor averages about $50 – $90. Do the math.
These are the most basic and frequent maintenance jobs. Once you get comfortable with these, you can expand your skills and knowledge as far as you want. You may want to buy a Repair Manual to refer to on advanced stuff.
Doing your own maintenance is 25% skill and knowledge, and 75% willing to get dirty. That’s good news for anyone wanting to handle their own auto repair. And once these skills are acquired you’ll have them forever!

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