Save Hundreds On Auto Maintenance By Shopping Around When budgets get tight, many people are tempted to cut back on their regular car maintenance. Don’t do it! [CR]


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  1. shepd says:

    Don’t cut back, do it yourself. I decided to learn to change my own oil a few months ago. It’s dead easy. I calculated that after about 3 oil changes, I’ve paid for all the tools and equipment I needed (And no, I had absolutely ZERO tools for working on a car, I didn’t even have ramps).

    • legwork says:

      @shepd: Driving one side up on a curb is often easier than ramps, and with less clutch burning and hysterics.

      And YMMV, but what with street crowns & valleys, having one side of the car up on the curb often means your car is more level than it would be on a ramp in your driveway, which may be better for draining or checking fluid levels.

      Anyway, bravo for doing the work yourself. The more you learn the better armed you’ll be when you have to enlist the help of a pro.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @shepd: Yeah, I *want* to do this, but its expressly forbidden in my lease.
      Add to that the fact I’d have to buy ramps (or jack stands) something to chock the wheels, something to store the oil… yeah.

      • sven.kirk says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese: With most, not all, cars and trucks, you can slide underneath it to get to the filter and drain plug. But I am not going to say you will have a ton of space.
        Something to chock the wheels, use a large heavy rock. Give your auto a good shove to make sure it will not move.
        Something to store the oil, buy a container from the auto parts store.
        Disposal? Most stores accept used oil at no charge.

        My old apartment complex had a ‘no auto work’ in their lease also. But I crawled my fat butt underneath my truck because I ‘ran over some glass and wanted to clean it up before I moved’. I just made sure that I was extra clean when working on it.
        Now some other work that I did, like alternator, I went elsewhere. I really couldn’t fake that one off.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @shepd: Costs us so damn much to dispose of the oil locally there’s no savings doing it ourselves. Sometimes my husband does it anyway, just to be manly, I guess.

      • christoj879 says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: Where do you live? Wal-Mart, AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts, Pep Boys are the ones I can think of that take the oil for free (in PA at least). Sometimes if I get done working late or I’m lazy and don’t want to wait in line to sign the disposal log I just leave it out front and leave.

        You could always build a waste oil heater. Save money on heating and dispose of your waste oil at the same time :-)

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @christoj879: @shepd: We actually have a county disposal fee. We have to pay the county fee even if we take it to a store that takes it “free” elsewhere. (I don’t begrudge them — our dump and toxic dump are both out of space and we’re facing a $10 million upgrade to our sewer system or the equivalent in EPA fines PLUS the upgrade if we don’t upgrade fast enough.)

          The commercial places dispose out-of-county so don’t pay the county fee, though we pay some smaller fee in case they have an accidental disposal. And it’s not worth driving out of the county for free disposal, though if you have an errand that direction it’d be okay.

          Sometimes they have free disposal days for oil and other sorts of pay-lots-to-dispose waste (electronics, some chemicals, etc.) to try to keep people from cheating, and we actually have a bunch of old oil in the garage waiting for that.

          (We pay extra for ALL forms of disposal, yard waste, garbage, recycling, and buttloads for anything special. And they actually do fine you if you discard special stuff in the regular trash. All it takes is running out of dump space and they suddenly get serious!)

      • shepd says:

        @Eyebrows McGee:

        A lot of places should take the oil for free, since they sell the used oil to be burned for electricity (I’m guessing in countries that don’t have such stringent environmental protection). Check around. I thought it would cost money, too, but I’ve not needed to pay yet.

        @Oranges w/ Cheese:

        Ramps were pretty cheap. I picked up a set for my car for $20 from Canadian Tire :) The only tools I needed were a 9/16″ wrench for the drain plug. I did buy a tool to help with the filter, but I only used it once, easier to do it by hand. The other item I bought was an oil pan, which cost $6. I’ve also bought the Haynes manual for my car, which was nice to explain which was the transmission fluid plug and which was the oil plug (on my car, to someone who hasn’t worked with cars much, they are much the same). You might be able to use your library for that, or sneak-a-peek at your local auto shop (if they aren’t sealed), or just ask the dude who does oil changes somewhere. :D

        You can store the old oil in milk jugs (well, for me, I used water jugs, since we have bags for milk) the first time (one 4L one will almost be enough, or will be enough for most cars). After that, re-use the container the oil from the last change came in. Don’t forget to rip off the labels on both items and re-label with “USED OIL” just so nobody gets any bad ideas.

        As far as no auto work policies go, my place has one too. So I do it at my parents. Once that resource is gone, I’ll just use an abandoned parking lot. And if that goes away, I’ll just drive out to the countryside and do it at the side of a dirt-track road.

        And, honestly, the work is fun! :) But dirty, use your nastiest, ripped up, trashiest clothing! You *will* get oil all over yourself. If you are in someone’s garage (like me), cover the floor with some newspapers…

        • TechnoDestructo says:


          That’s what those big plastic oil pans are for. I’ve never gotten any fluid “all over myself” when changing fluids.

          You will get your hands dirty, at least.

      • perruptor says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: As others have said, you can return the old oil to where you bought the new oil. In some states, the vendor is required by law to take it. They may ask to see your sales slip. My experience living in one of those states is that the big retailers don’t even ask – they just tell you where to put it. If you bought your oil at a 7-11 or some small place like that, you might have to remind them of the law (if it is the law where you live – find out!)

        If you use a rock to chock the wheel, make it a wedge-shaped one; round rocks don’t work very well. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll eventually see one of those big wooden ones used to chock construction equipment onto trailers, lying next to the road. They’re the best.

  2. cynical_bastard says:

    I wish my apartment had a auto maint area, were not allowed to work on our cars in the parking lot, and its hard to find somewhere to go with tools…

  3. sven.kirk says:

    Grab a repair guide up at your auto parts store. That should cost about $15. Some maintenance manuals can be found online, some even free.

    READ IT (oil changes and maintenance section, save the other stuff for later)!!!

    Now there are a few auto models out there, that is a small pain to maintain, but those are pretty rare.

  4. I_am_Awesome says:

    In addition to what others have said about doing the work yourself, Advance Auto Parts (and I think Autozone?) will let you borrow tools for FREE. You probably have to buy the parts there in order to borrow the tools, but you can’t argue with that deal.

    Just don’t get in over your head, follow the instructions carefully, and don’t jeopardize your own safety. The only thing I’ve ever paid a mechanic to do to my car is the brakes; I wouldn’t want to screw that up. But then I drive a Honda, so I haven’t had to do too much.

    • christoj879 says:

      @I_am_Awesome: You don’t have to buy the parts to rent the tools at AutoZone. I’ll usually buy my O2 sensors on Amazon or at RockAuto, and borrow their wrench. Unless RockAuto ships out the wrong O2 sensor, then I have to get the expensive “universal” wire-it-yourself one from AutoZone to get the job done in time. Good times. You pay for it when you borrow it to secure it then get a refund when you’re done and return it. AutoZone is pretty expensive compared to online stores (tip: find item numbers using RockAuto’s awesome catalog, then comparison shop with it. Amazon surprisingly has a lot of parts available cheaply with Prime shipping) – but they have a good rewards program and are great for parts in a pinch. On some heavier stuff they’re cheaper after shipping is factored.

      Don’t forget to use the eternally-available 5% discount code from RockAuto, you can find a current one at

  5. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    When I was a kid the neighbor across the street died because the car he was working on slipped off the (I don’t know I was very young at the time, either jack jackstands or ramp) and came down on him.

    I’m kinda deathly scared to get under one of these things.

    • dohtem says:

      @WiglyWorm: Congrats, you have scared the DIY part of me from ever crawling underneath my car :(

      • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

        @dohtem: Sorry… if it helps, I can say that if he had it up on just a jack with no jackstands, it’s not a shock. You never use just a jack when you’re getting under a car. That being scared, yeah, I’m super paranoid about it… didn’t mean to ruin it for you though.

        • christoj879 says:

          @WiglyWorm: I feel better reading that, I was scared for a moment. Very dumb thing to do, I can’t think of a time I’ve ever gotten under a car that didn’t have jackstands or ramps supporting it. Even the plastic ramps scare me, but they’re convenient.

          Sometimes for safety/convenience, once I get the second side jacked up and the jackstand under it, I lower the jack so the car is solely on the stand, then leave the jack there. You now have 3 points holding up the car plus it’ll be easier to remove the jackstand once you’re done.

  6. dave23 says:

    Since I am not comfortable working on my own car, I save a big pile of money by buying the parts and only paying for the labor. A few months ago, I needed some brake work. I called around and the best quote that I got was $750 from Midas. Buying the parts myself (Autozone) saved $400 as my final bill was $350.

    • christoj879 says:

      @dave23: Next time you do brakes, check out Amazon for parts. I’m routinely able to get Monroe pads for ~$7-10 after rebate, and rotors for $8-30 each.

      I’ve used AutoZone, they’re usually expensive, however they have the brick and mortar advantage and are extremely hassle-free about their warranties. Don’t use DuraLast unless you love brake dust though :-)

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I got a plan through my dealership. For $140 or so, free oil changes, car washes and emissions tests for the entire life of my car. Whoo. I know $140 seems like a lot, and some of you might say I got ripped off…but I’m not about to go crawling under my vehicle to change my own oil (and it’s an no no in our condo complex) and an oil change is about $15. So if I need an oil change every 3,500 or so miles, that’s a heck of a lot of money just in one year. Plus, free car washes, and emissions tests. I hate those emissions tests, but it really helps that I can call the dealership and set up an appointment, instead of waiting in front of my local gas station for an hour.

    • christoj879 says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: That’s a decent deal. Say you get 3 oil changes a year, that’s $45/year right there, not counting the emissions test or car washes. Total cost of 3 oil changes, emissions test and 3 car washes in PA would be about $85 doing the oil changes and washes yourself, or $145 having them done at a shop. So after the first year, depending on how you look at it, you’re already ahead of the game.

      How often can you get car washes, or is it with the oil changes?

    • perruptor says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: That’s a very good deal. Are the $15 oil changes at a jiffyquickylube? Most everywhere reputable here charges around $25, which makes your dealer’s plan an even better deal.

  8. Phillip Alvelda says:

    Check out for an online service to shop around for car repairs. Very handy.