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TBT: DIY Auto Repairs

Our philosophy has not changed much since I wrote the post below. After the car we worked on in that post finally rusted to pieces (literally, like in a cartoon or something, because Michigan), we drove a used Nissan Altima (fun but terribly expensive and difficult to repair, even with our DIY ingenuity and locating auto mechanics that we trust) and then made the awesome leap to a fully electric Nissan Leaf. It is such a relief to drive a car without an engine--no gas! no oil! no tune-ups! no Check Engine light surprises! Just the occasional windshield wipers/fluid/air filter replacement. Even the brakes are designed so well that we've never needed them serviced.

Now that the car has reached almost a decade of use, it's getting a little more costly to maintain (though still way less than any other vehicle we've ever driven). We finally had to get the factory tires replaced recently, and the computer that controls the door windows going up and down just died, so we can't roll down the windows without replacing the computer for $750--ouch. We could have lived with that for a little while, but then the air conditioning drain sprung a leak and started soaking the floorboards.

We were about to kick the whole car to the curb with a nominal price scrawled on the windshield in soap when we remembered that it's always worthwhile to Google whether we might be able to fix it ourselves. Lo and behold, even with a high-tech newer car (hey, "newer" is relative), sometimes a DIY job is possible. We were able to figure out how to access the drain line, disconnect it, and clean it out. Success! We can now drive with the A/C on without turning the car into a fish tank.

Our other vehicle, adorably sharing the driveway with our shiny, sky-blue space car, is a 28-year-old work pickup truck without power windows, functioning dashboard electronics, or A/C. It features good old-fashioned hand crank windows, innards no more complex than a lawnmower's, and a clashing-color replacement tailgate. It looks like the child of Tow Mater and gets regular-shitty gas mileage. We suppose that, because of how easy it is to fix and maintain, it will go on living until it structurally rusts into bits and pieces like our previous jalopy. Old men in parking lots are constantly offering my husband the same $800 we paid for the truck to buy it from him. They just don't make 'em like that anymore!

In addition, we have bicycles, and my husband is a professional bicycle mechanic.

Although we are looking forward to purchasing a newer used Leaf in the near future, one with heated seats and a larger battery range, we are well pleased with owning vehicles that we can mostly repair and maintain by ourselves. The post below describes a satisfying adventure in DIY repair of the car I drove in the 2000s, a 1990-ish Mercury Sable.

DIY Auto Repairs

My car has been through a lot over the years.


OK, nothing THAT crazy. But a few years ago, I did clip off one of the side mirrors backing out of the garage. Then a neighborhood deer made a juicy face plant into the other side of the car and knocked off the other side mirror. We put the drivers' side mirror back on with good ol' duct tape, but it looked pretty rough. And the wiring for adjusting the angle stopped working.

Mr. G finally had enough of driving without proper mirrors. He didn't bother calling the dealer. We've had enough negatory experiences with those slimy, greedy jerks to know that we would probably get cruddy service at extortionist prices. (I'm not bitter about it or anything.)

So his first step was to see if he could buy new mirrors designed for our car and install them himself. Turns out they cost about $75 each. Yikes!

Second, he called the local junkyard to see if they had any. They sure did, and they cost only $35 each--a little less if we scavenged them ourselves from the corpses of our vehicle's litter-mates.

That sounded like a much better deal, but Mr. G decided to give eBay a try, just to make sure. Jackpot! We found brand new, non-scavenged replacement mirrors for $25 each, including shipping.

Then he found a tutorial video online explaining how to pop the doors off the car and install the mirrors. Although Mr. G has barely any experience working on cars and has never done anything with car doors, he was able to get the job done, perfectly, in about one hour.


Badda boom! The internet is a great invention, quite handy for saving loads of money and time. We could have paid $200 or more for new mirrors purchased from a local store, plus labor if we left our car at a mechanic's until the work was done... and instead, we spent $50 and one hour of time in the driveway for a perfectly good repair job.

If you have a friend or relative who works on cars professionally, this sort of thing is even easier.

Make that vehicle last! Trying to do simple repair jobs at home is a nice empowering learning experience, too.

Comments

  1. Way to be guys! You sexy, savvy pair!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! Turns out Miss Moppett also needs replacement mirrors on HER car of the same make and model! I hope she can get the same deal. Her Blue Collar Romeo is pretty handy with the auto repairs, too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Outstanding. Now that's good ol' fashioned Yankee ingenuity.

    Several years ago, my 1994 Nissan Maxima (I love Maximas) needed a fuel pump. Rather than shell out a very large wad of cash for it, I went down to the local library and checked out a repair manual. It turns out, the library has a whole series of automotive repair books for all kinds of cars. I easily found the volume for my make, model, and year. I learned how to remove the fuel pump. I brought it to an auto parts store and got the replacement, brought it home and installed it. I was amazed at how much less a mystery it turned out to be.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hooray for libraries! Knowledge is horsepower.

    ReplyDelete

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