How to Save Money on Car Repairs

One of the first things I wanted to do at 16 was learn as much as I could about car maintenance and how to do the basic things: check the oil, change the oil, flush the radiator, change a tire…etc. When I started to have common issues with my first car (fuel pump quitting, starter dying, timing belt going) the cost of those repairs really ate at me.

After dealing with mechanics who took advantage of me and gouged me with costly repairs I made a vow to myself I would find a vehicle I could do most of the maintenance and repairs myself. Five years ago I bought a 1992 Jeep Cherokee Sport off Ebay. My best friend aka the Jeep Guru has helped guide me through a lot of the repairs I have done.

Last Fall I ended up with the project of a lifetime: rebuild my mom’s 1993 Jeep Cherokee Country that had a fire in the engine compartment. While the engine was not injured in the fire, most of the damage was on the drivers side that included the air box, computer, brake booster & cylinder, radiator, intake manifold, valve cover, power steering pump and the steering box.  My mom wanted the Jeep to be salvaged and I wanted that and her to save money in the process.

We used donor Jeep parts from an XJ we have from a friend, parts from an XJ that was at my brother’s work in TX, An XJ off roading friend from KY, Ebay, new parts from O’Reilly Auto, Advance Auto and Crown Automotive, which we are a dealer of. I spent a great deal of time writing an entire list of the parts needed to complete the project as well as doing price research.

If you would like to save money on repairs:

1) Find out if your automobile has a forum- there are plenty of forums out there for Jeep Cherokee’s (XJ’s). I found forums for my recently acquired 2000 VW Passat GLS, before I purchased the car off Ebay. I was able to learn about many of the common issues, how to take care of them myself as well as save a lot of money.

2) If you can buy used parts and save money go that route. Some parts are not meant to be purchased used and often times you will learn this through the forums. Most parts though you should be able to find at a junk yard, Ebay or through the forums through trades or purchases with transactions through PayPal.

3)Buy a service manual. Most auto parts stores sell service manuals whether they are Haynes or Chilton. Some book stores that sell new or used may have them as well. If all else fails, then definitely google and some forums may have a PDF version of a service manual for your vehicle. Many times Ebay may have sellers who have CD’s or downloads (just review feedback before making a transaction). Learn as much as you can about your vehicle and repairs.

4) If you feel comfortable working on your own vehicle or you know someone who would be willing to assist you or help do the work then go for it. If not then ask your mechanic if they are will to put on a part that you purchased.

5) Ask your mechanic if you can get a discount if you pay cash for repairs. I recently had to have a snub motor mount put on my car. Because I paid in cash, the mechanic knocked off $23! Before you go to pick up your vehicle make sure you ask.

6) Do NOT let family or friends deter you about your vehicle and repairs. Just because certain vehicles have a reputation does not mean they are lemons or jalopies. Go get involved in a forum about your vehicle, learn from the owners! They are the ones who will reassure you on things that most people would panic over. They are the ones who will direct you to places to purchase parts at reasonable costs, how to make repairs yourself and much more.

7) Find out if your forum has people in your area who work on vehicles like yours. Some forums will have a list of people with similar vehicles who work on the vehicles themselves for reasonable costs.

8) Check engine light is on? Don’t panic, take your vehicle to AutoZone where they will check the codes and print them out for you. Google check engine light codes for your vehicle OR if you are involved in a forum check and see if they have all the info for you. Often times they will.


I can recall so many times I have had family and friends question me on having my Jeep and now on my VW Passat, including my brother who is an ASE certified mechanic. What they fail to understand is how much dedication I have put in to learning all I can about my vehicles. I spend countless hours doing research, asking questions on forums and learning about similar issues that others have experienced. This has helped me from feeling unnecessary panic when something goes awry.

Before I purchased my Passat, I was aware that the ABS light was on. Now many people would go into absolute panic if that light was on in their vehicle. Because I had previously assisted a friend in repairing their vehicle that had a similar issue, I knew it was not a big deal. The forum had plenty of discussion on this issue and most would tell you it is NOT a big deal. In fact, many of them recommended a specific person who had rebuilt their ABS modules for a huge fraction of what a professional mechanic shop would charge to replace it with a new one that would in time fail just as the original one has!!! Why pay $600, $700, $800 or even $1,000 to have a new ABS module installed with the same issue as the original? What would it be like to pay someone who was fed up with the company who builds most of the ABS modules for  millions of automobiles to just rebuild and make your ABS module stronger for a mere $100??? Check out if you are serious about saving money.

Recently my CEL (Check Engine Light) came on in my VW.  Thanks to spending time on the forum, I learned that as long as the CEL was not flashing it was not anything serious. And when I had the codes pulled at AutoZone, I learned they were very minor codes. In fact, they were extremely common, very minor ones.


Do your research and do not leave it up to others to do it for you. Know your vehicle so you are not the one taken advantage of. Be aware of what the parts cost and learn how long it truly takes to do a repair so you are not taken by others. Learning as much as you can will save you money, time and your sanity in the long run.




Anxieties With Searching for a Car and Buying one…On Ebay

Recently I came to realize that it was costing me a lot of money to keep filling my Jeep Cherokee with gas, like every three to four days. In fact, the last 10 days I know I have spent around $100 in gas just to take my kids to and from school, band practices, doctors appointments, therapy appointments and having to go get medicine.

It was a heart wrenching decision to start looking for a car to drive daily and even more difficult to share the news with my three kids who absolutely adore “Princess.” I got the silent treatment from all three of them ages 14, 10 and 7. Their biggest concern was whether or not I was keeping her.

Of course I am!

I just explained to them that Princess does need to have some maintenance work done on her so we can take her off roading like they have been wanting to do. I even told them that there may be days I may drive Princess especially when there is snow in the forecast.

It has not been an easy time looking for the “right” car. Some I have found with the perfect body yet there is something seriously wrong with the engine or transmission and in one case, the brakes not working. I have been most astounded though at the prices of the cars.

I spent over a week and a half looking at cars locally, in our local trading post paper, newspaper, craigslist (from the local to places 250 miles away) and Ebay.  My original budget had been about $1,000 which when I look back at it was a joke. Rarely can you find a vehicle for that price and when you do there are bungee cords holding the doors closed, duct tape on the body, glass missing, key holes with no place to put the key just to name a few things.

Even when I bumped up the price limit to $1,500 I had a friend who visits car auctions often to be looking for certain cars. He warned me that chances are cars in that price range will look like they’ve had a rough life. I will agree!

Then it came to a point after talking with my boyfriend that if I wanted a decent car the way I wanted I would have to ask for some help. I had to break down and ask my grandfather for a little help with my car budget. As hesitant as he was, I believe he was very understanding about my situation with spending money on gas.

After a few days of looking and “watching” cars on Ebay and digging through ads on Craigslist, I finally came across one I “fell in love with.” Yes, I’ll admit I crumble when I see certain cars. I did it with my Jeep Cherokee which I immediately named Princess before the auction had ended…

The best thing about the car I found was that it was where I could get a friend to test drive it for me before making the decision to dive in and bid on it. I had missed the Buy It Now option by probably 12 hours by the time my friend test drove it. But, the most interesting thing about the car is that the guy who was selling it knows my friend from a place he worked at previously! Funny how things can be a small world.

For nearly a week I have been tormented by the whole auction ordeal. I missed the BIN by less than a day, then a potential fraudulent bidder got involved and bumped up the price right to my absolute limit, when, where and how to get the car, then trying to figure out how to get all the money together to pay for the car, just about all took me over the edge.

Actually, it was the final day that made me the craziest. I did my absolute best to keep my mind off the auction by cleaning, doing school work, washing my hair, going to do a few errands. For the most part of two days I figured the auction would end around 3 PM. That was a perfect time since that would be just before I had to go get my boys from school. Ummm, nope not so much. Try 3:50 PM. *Sigh*

Well, I had downloaded the Ebay app recently so that made it a little easier to keep up with the auction. At the same time I had a small auction going that I was selling some sandals I no longer needed. So every once in a while I would get an alert that either the bid price had gone up on the sandals or the car (I’d much rather know the bid price went up on the sandals). I remember sitting in line at my oldest son’s school and would check the final 50 minutes of the auction about every 10-15 minutes. I had estimated that it would end about the time I picked my youngest one up from school.

As it got down to 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes and then 5 minutes my heart was racing faster and faster. I thought I was going to pass out before the auction was finished. For a day and a half the highest bid was at $2,400. I just knew at the last minute someone would outbid me (my maximum bid was $2,401.99). Lucky for me I got stuck at the traffic light through two cycles. It was one time I just didn’t care.

I remember looking at my iPhone as it got down to 2 minutes and some odd seconds, 1 minute and then into the seconds. I could feel my heart beating intensely, my hands were shaking profusely. And just as the light changed to green the auction ended.

I won!


Now to go get the car, tomorrow….*Sigh* I have no patience to be waiting