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 http://www.cheapabs.com/ if you are serious about saving money.
Recently my CEL (Check Engine Light) came on in my VW. Thanks to spending time on the PassatWorld.com 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.