Friday, December 24, 2010

Becoming a Mechanic

OK, the one thing I really wish I could do is fix things in my car. I went for a routine oil change at the dealer last week because I got a $10 off coupon in the mail. I figured it would be a little cheaper than my normal oil change. Of course as they are looking at the oil, they tell me I need to rotate my tires ($22.50), change my engine filter ($56.00), change my passenger cabin filter ($56.00) and have a routine transmission check with new fluids and filter ($160.00). I was COMPLETELY blindsided by all this. I came in expecting to spend 30 bucks and go on my merry way, and they wanted to leave me $294 bucks lighter. I had an internal freak out, but said no and that I would come back another time.

I left on a mission: to find out what I actually needed to get done and to price shop. My car is at 50,000 miles, so it is time for a tune up and I know there are some things I need to do for upkeep. But $300 worth? Really? I looked in my owners manual for the maintenance schedule and found that it was time for filter changes and transmission checks, but I wanted to save money. I called my best friends boyfriend who is a car wiz, and he said that an engine filter is important to change but that I could buy the filter for $12.00 at a local autozone and do it myself. Done. I also conveniently found out my roomate's boyfriend changes his and hers all the time and he said he would do it. I went to autozone, bought a new air filter, and he changed it in less than 10 minutes. I saved $44. Holler.

Next was the passenger compartment air filter. This seemed more complicated. I googled it and found info on when/how to change it. It seemed important and pretty easy. I also looked in my owners manual which had easy instructions. It involved removing the glove box doors from their hinges and pulling down the filter from underneath the hood. My dad was able to move the glove box off the hinges fairly easily (I wasn't strong enough) and I found that the filter was way dirty. At least they weren't lying to me. I went to autozone and bought a filter for $14.99. I installed it the next morning in less than 1 minute. I saved $40 . Holler.

The transmission fluid and filter (or as Saturn calls it, transaxle, which I learned because my car is front weal drive) change is another story. After calling two autoshops, the price run from $150-$200 to do the service. And they all said it is necessarily every 50,000 miles. I caved in. I am taking my car in next week for that service and to rotate my tires (I got new tires in May, so I am annoyed I need to rotate them already, but I know it's needed about twice a year).

In conclusion, I saved close to $100 doing some work on my car myself. It makes you realize how much car shops make jacking up prices for things that are relatively easy to do. People just have to take the time to learn about what needs to be done, do it if they can (or have someone they know do it), and shop around for prices. I don't mind paying money to have something done well (I will even go to the dealer for big service things because they know the car the best), but I want to make sure it is necessary and that I can't do it.

And after doing all this, my car didn't start last night. Crap. But I checked and air filters have nothing to do with cars not starting. This is just my car being stupid (it's not the battery). So that $100 I saved might have to go towards something else...bummer. BUT at least I learned a lot about my car and maintenance schedule!
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