5 Basic Car Repairs You Can Do Yourself to Save Money

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  • Simple replacements, like windshield wiper blades, don't require any tools whatsoever, but for others, such as air filters, you may need basic tools, like a screwdriver.
  • Some parts are easy to replace, but hard to access. 
  • Lightbulbs, batteries, and spark plugs are all quick to replace once you can get to them.

Why does self-sufficiency feel so darn good?!

Cars are expensive. And we're not just talking about the cost to purchase one. Gas, auto insurance, and maintenance are all big parts of our budgets. That's why one of my favorite personal finance tips is to set up a dedicated vehicle emergency fund. Just $25 a paycheck for a year gives you enough of a cushion to cover many modest repairs.

Of course, it's even better if you can skip the trip to the mechanic altogether. For most of us, this isn't an option for anything major. But there are a host of simple auto repairs that are easy enough for even an auto repair novice to tackle on their own (and/or with the help of YouTube). Here are a few easy repairs you can DIY and save yourself a trip to the shop.

1. Install new windshield wiper blades

The blades on your windshield wipers are usually made of rubber, which can deteriorate with time and use. And if you live somewhere with nasty weather, this can happen even faster. 

Happily, windshield wiper blades are sold pretty much everywhere -- most big-box stores with automotive departments have a selection of wiper blades -- and they're easy to replace. Many snap off and on in minutes. While you're at it, give your windshield and new blades a wipedown with a clean cloth and some glass cleaner.

2. Swap out a dead battery

Alright, I have a caveat with this one: batteries are a bit heavy. So if you aren't able to lift and move a 40-plus pound battery, this one may be best left to a professional. 

That being said, the actual procedure itself is simple and easy to DIY; you likely won't even need specialized tools, as most battery installations require only basic wrenches and maybe a screwdriver. Bonus points if you pick up a bottle of anti-corrosion spray.

3. Install a new air filter

Airflow is a necessary ingredient in combustion engines -- it's part holy trinity of fuel, air, and spark that makes your engine run. But you don't want dust, dirt, and other debris to be brought in with that air. Hence, the air filter.

Replacing an old, dirty air filter is another simple repair that shouldn't require any special tools (other than a screwdriver). It's as easy as opening the filter housing, pulling out the old filter, and slipping in a new one. (If you're not sure how to find your filter housing, check your car's manual or do a quick online search.)

4. Change a dead lightbulb

There are a few important lightbulbs in your vehicle, including your headlights, taillights, and interior overhead lights. All of these bulbs can die on occasion, which can be a safety hazard (and get you a ticket in some cases).

This is a simple job, but access may be a challenge depending on where your lights are mounted (and what's in front of them). You shouldn't need specialized tools, though gloves should be worn (grease or oil from your hands can damage the lightbulbs when they get hot). Once you've gotten into the housing, the bulbs will screw in and out.

A special note: If you're changing out your headlight bulbs, make sure to adjust them! Headlights should be pointed toward the ground, not into the eyeballs of oncoming drivers!

5. Replace the spark plugs 

These little parts have a big role in your engine. They're what ignite the fuel-air mixture that makes your engine run. Replacing worn-out spark plugs is part of a regular auto tune-up, and most manufacturers' manuals will suggest it be done every 30,000 miles or so. 

This may be the most complex repair on this list, but it's still manageable (if I can do it, so can you!). The most difficult part of changing out spark plugs will be getting to them, as there may be a few things in your way. Read your manual carefully (and/or watch the appropriate video carefully). 

Once you have access, spark plugs typically screw in and out. You may need a couple specialty tools for best results: a gap gauge and a spark plug socket.

A little self-sufficiency goes a long way

Taking care of simple car repairs can be a good way to save a little money. But there's also an extra perk: self-satisfaction. There are few things more satisfying than fixing something yourself. Each time you start your car or turn on your lights, you get that little zing of, Oh yeah, I'm the bomb! (or whatever it is young people say these days).

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