How We Save Hundreds Of Dollars On Car Repairs

We don’t have an emergency fund because all of our income is going towards the credit cards.  So the recent sound of grinding brakes while driving my car could have been a sign of troublesome consequences for our family.  We have been working hard to be as frugal as possible and make extra money to pay off our debt.  Fortunately for us, we have handy Mr. Smith and he has YouTube.


It turns out that my car needed a new caliper (according to Wikipedia, it is “the assembly which houses the brake pads and pistons”).  This repair could have cost us at least $500.  Although Mr. Smith can be a reluctant frugalist, he was anxious to tackle this DIY project.  He did his research, got a little dirty, and successfully installed a new caliper.  Thanks to him, the total cost was only $130.

I am not going to provide you with a tutorial on how to install a caliper.  I did ask the hubby to provide his tips on DIY car repairs and this is what he said:

  1. Use YouTube to watch as many videos as possible about the specific repair job.  Watch videos from different sources, because everyone has different tricks and techniques.  Also, some of the videos have better camera angles so you’ll have access to different and/or more detailed perspectives.  One source that he liked in particular was Eric The Car Guy.  He provides straightforward instructions with quality video.  He will let you know if he makes a mistake or if he’s taking a shortcut.  Also, he seems to be quite responsive to viewer/reader questions.
  2. Have access to a variety of tools.  Cars can require both standard and metric tools and it’s hard to know what you’re going to need until you start working on the repair (although the videos should provide you with a basic list).
  3. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the project.  You might need to find a friend with a different tool.  You might need to run out for a different and/or forgotten part.  Don’t expect that the repair will take a specific amount of time.  You don’t want to rush things trying to get your car back together before you have to be somewhere.
  4. When you’re disassembling your vehicle, take your time looking at everything.  Mr. Smith even suggested taking some pictures so you know how it all goes back together.
  5. When purchasing parts pay attention to any “core charges.”  This means that you can return the old part and recoup some of your expenses.  Just make sure that you return all of the pieces in order to receive the refund.

While Mr. Smith cautions that caliper replacement wasn’t the easiest vehicle repair, he did want to mention that anyone can do their own oil change.  The average driver should change their oil three to four times per year.  If you have more than one vehicle, those costs add up quickly.  The only thing standing in your way to doing it yourself, is finding access to the tools that you need: jack stands and a jack, a wrench for the oil plug, and an oil filter wrench.  A funnel and oil pan are helpful and will cut down on the mess.

One of the biggest advantages to DIY car repairs is that you can use better-quality parts and still save money.  These parts will last longer and improve your vehicle’s performance.  For example, Mr. Smith uses synthetic oil on our vehicles instead of conventional oil and purchases a better-quality oil filter.  Although these products cost more, they are good for the vehicles and we can go longer between oil changes.  Mr. Smith says that a change with conventional oil and a cheap filter runs about $40, but he could do it for $19.  A change with a premium filter and synthetic oil would cost roughly $60 to $70 in a shop, but he spends only $32 on the materials that he needs to do the job.

Mr. Smith’s Oil Change Tips

  1. Make sure you get right oil, because there are several different types.  You can look in your owner’s manual or sometimes it’s on the oil cap for the engine.
  2. Figure out how many quarts your engine takes (my car takes 6 quarts, lots of others take 5 quarts).
  3. Save some cardboard boxes to lay down on your driveway.
  4. Bonus Savings: If you have access to four jack stands, rotate your tires.  It’s an easy way to save $15 to $20, several times per year.

Finally, with all car repairs and/or maintenance – Please Be Safe!  Make sure that jack stands are used properly, chalk the wheels, take your time, and wear safety glasses.

What was your last DIY project?


  1. This is so awesome! Honestly my car is one thing that I’m willing to pay someone else to do. For me I save on DIY on other home projects. I plan on rebuilding (and redesigning) a retaining wall that’s on it’s last leg this Summer. The planning process has actually been somewhat “fun” and very educational. While I will still have to pay the material costs, I will save at least a couple grand on labor (if not more). I plan on taking some PTO from work so I’ll still be making money those days PLUS I’ll be saving money on the project. I plan on doing something similar with our bathroom, flooring, and who knows what else.
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    1. Thanks – I agree, he did an awesome job 🙂 Not everyone can do every type of DIY project; you have to know your own skills and abilities. Good luck with your summer project, it sounds like you’ve got it all planned out. I hope that you do a post about it, with before and after pictures!

  2. Pingback: How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Car Repairs - The Global Dispatch

  3. Albo Davis

    This post was awesome! I know everyone looks for best and most cheapest tips for repairing their four wheelers, i am also looking for my brand new Audi. I have did so many thing for my Audi but i am not satisfied with the work. You have posted a very well ideas about repairing. Nicely explained. I am really satisfied with your post.
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  4. I love to watch YouTube videos on car repairs. You can always find something new to learn there. After watching a few hundred videos over the years I can now see I`m ….almost a mechanic! :))

    1. Mr. Smith is getting ready to tackle another car repair, this time for his father. Another tip is that many car parts store will scan your car for you if there is some type of “check engine light.” They will give you the code which can be checked online to identify the specific problem.

  5. Wow, I never would have thought about using YouTube to help with car repairs. My transmission has been acting weird lately, and I know that that is a ton of money to get fixed. I’ll definitely have to follow this tip and see if YouTube would be able to help me understand how I can fix it. Thanks a ton for giving me this great idea.

  6. Youtube is always a online good resource for pretty much any field, even car repair and tips on how to change auto parts. I know because I constantly use it and it really helps. You can`t always find what you are looking for, you sometimes need to be lucky enough to have someone else being in the same situation in the first place, but you`ll often find many car repair tips and additional information.

  7. Hallo there Harmony, that was one great post. I landed here while I was looking for some DIY car repair tips and its really informative. After receiving a shocking $800 about a year ago from my mechanic I swore to do basic repairs on my own and Youtube has played a major role in helping me master these basic tasks. So far I can fix some things and proud to say I have saved some money. Thanks for sharing!


  8. I think that the first tip is the best one! I have used YouTube videos for a lot of car repair needs. Like you say, you have the opportunity to watch videos from different sources. This can help get an overall idea of how to repair something.

  9. Wow, it sounds like your husband is really good with cars, or at least with understanding YouTube tutorials! Does he typically buy his parts new or used? I almost always go with used parts when I’m getting my car fixed by my usual mechanic because of how much cheaper it is.

  10. My car needs to go into the shop and get some parts updated. The problem is that I don’t have a ton of money to do this. I’m grateful that I was able to find this and get some insights on how I can save some money whenever it is I do take it in to get it fixed up.

  11. Harmony, great explanation that you gave about the caliper and how it houses both the brakes pads and pistons. That to me was quite helpful to know because of a tip that my brother gave to me about taking a look at my brakes. Somehow he saw that the brakes of my vehicle was not installed properly and that he could hear screeching sounds every time I break.

  12. My husband often tries to do our auto repairs himself, too. One thing that I have learned is that, like your husband says, you need lots of time to do it yourself. One thing I like about taking my car to the auto repair shop, if I am able, is that I know it will get done in a timely manner. So for more complex or important repairs, I always go to the professionals.

  13. I take a few months to learn to be able to fix the basic error on my car. With the engine fault, I still spend a lot of costs for mechanics. I decided to buy a scanner, self-check for errors and then brought to the repair facility. It saves me a lot of money.

  14. I agree that you should inspect your vehicle while disassembling it. That way, you’re more likely not to miss anything. If you don’t do that, you may end up finding out later that you missed a really big issue.

  15. I like your idea to perform some of the easier maintenance on your car. However, beyond surface-level repairs, like transmission issues, it is probably a good idea to hire a professional. For me, it is not worth the risk to mess up my car to save a hundred or two hundred dollars!

  16. I would definitely rather repair my car myself, and save some money. You have some great advice here to do that, I have never heard of “core charges” before. I will have to remember that when I go to buy parts!

  17. I like your tip to watch Youtube videos! I have friends who do that and save a lot of money on repairs. I am going to do it for small things that I think I can do. For the big car repairs, I’m still going to go to a shop so I don’t mess things up.

  18. It’s great that you were able to fix the problem with your car’s brakes on your own. I would never have tried to do that repair on my own! I have so little car knowledge that I probably would have made the problem worse. However, I will try to be better about changing my own oil, because that’s something more on my level. Thanks for the tips!

  19. You have some great tips here for saving money on car repairs. I don’t know much about cars at all, so I’m not sure how helpful these would be for me personally, but I think I can watch some YouTube videos and see. I might just have to stick with going to a mechanic instead.

  20. I think the advice is well thought out. But I have two issues with it. One: I am modern-car phobic. I have a two big, rolling tool chests with everything I need for motorcycle repair, general repair, simple fabrication, and even simple automobile repairs. But all of those panels in the interior and all of the parts buried under layers of other parts under the hood just makes me shudder and walk away and call for help. Two: the bigger problem is when the problem happens and towing is required. It’s not feasible to get multiple estimates. If you don’t have a dealership or independent mechanic to have the car towed to, you’re really in trouble. My starter motor went out away from home. AAA got the car started, I drove to my mechanic (excellent work, I think fair prices, and only 3 blocks from my apartment), and he had a new (well, rebuilt) starter motor installed in less than 2 hours. I don’t know if $275 was a good price, but what else could I have done? The dealership would have definitely been more expensive (although they would have given me a far-newer loaner car).

    1. There are definitely some problems that we won’t even try to fix at home. For those, good mechanic is probably going to be a better choice than the dealership. Also, we’ve been lucky in not running into towing issues. If Mr. Smith thought he would be able to fix it, he’d probably get it towed to our house. Anything else (including unidentifiable issues) would go to the mechanic.

      Don’t be too scared of your car – start with an oil change 🙂

      1. Having your car go in for its normal check up is just like what we do when we have our yearly physicals. It makes sure that nothing is wrong, and if there are issues, you can then proceed to get them fixed. It will make your car reliable over the long haul because the maintenance will help diagnose any problems your car may have.

  21. Even if you are not knowledgeable about taking your car to the mechanic, there are several ways that you can save money on car repairs. If you educate yourself a little bit about the process and different ways to save money on car repairs, then you will feel better about taking your car to the mechanic and confident that you are receiving the best value on your repairs.
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  22. The oil change should be a right of passage for any teenager and their first car. I think it “breaks the seal”, and shows youngsters that their car isn’t some magical being that only a certified repairman can fix. Sure, some things should be left to the pros, but too many people leave EVERYTHING to the pros, no matter how easy it is.

  23. Did the same thing on my car, well slight different. I had to replace all the discs and brake pads on the car. The price for parts was just as expensive as the labour so I watched youtube videos and did it all myself. Only money I spent was on the parts so I saved half of what I would of spent. Only problem was on one wheel one of the bolts was rounded so I had a very hard time getting that out.

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