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I have a car but I know little about the mechanics of it. That makes me vulnerable to being taken advantage of from mechanics who know more than I. I don’t like that so I’m doing something about it.
I’m not going to become a mechanic but I am convicted to learn more about how my car works. I’ve written before on keeping up with the maintenance of an older car, but now I”m getting my hands dirty. This post is to share with you, my readers, what I’ve learned so you too can become empowered.
Tips on How Not to be Taken Advantage of by Car Mechanics
So let me first say that others who know more than I are helping me become educated on how my car works. Leaning on community and friends is a true life hack. Just be sure to give back in any way you can as often as possible. 🙂
If you are wondering, I have a 2008 Saturn Astra with 200k+ miles. It’s a great car and I’m gonna drive it til it dies! I even had a mechanic once tell me that my car was built on a Mercedes Benz chassis. Saweet!!
This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to owning a luxury car. And that is not because I cannot afford it but rather, it’s not what I choose to spend my money on. I’m not really a car person so if it can safely get me from point A to B, I’m happy. However, if you value spending money on luxury cars, that’s cool. You be you!!
Whoever you are, I think it pays to know a thing or two about car mechanics.
Tip #1 – Lean on Your Community
I love people. Chances are if you don’t know squat about car mechanics, you are gonna need some people to teach you. Sure you can watch YouTube videos (and I do recommend this in tip #2) but nothing compares to having a live person teach you.
I have a very kind friend who was willing to take a Saturday to teach me a thing or two about my car.
If you don’t have someone in your circle of friends who knows car mechanics, how about joining a new community? I’m a member of a local ChooseFI group and we have a whole slew of different professionals in our group. Additionally, there a ton of different meet up groups to join.
Tip #2 – Watch Videos on Fixing Your Specific Car
We live in a pretty amazing time in that there are videos for everything on YouTube. We live in a DIY era!
Check out 1A Auto Parts’ YouTube Channel and search for videos on how to fix specific things on your particular car.
One caution is that there may be variations in the video and your car. At least that’s what we found with my Saturn Astra. Regardless, the videos can provide valuable preparation tips.
Tip #3 – Join the AutoZone Rewards Program
There may be good options for purchasing auto parts online; however, AutoZone is convenient and pretty much everywhere.
Additionally, AutoZone has a decent rewards program. If you spend $20 five times within 12 months you’ll receive $20 in rewards. Do you need multiple parts for one fix? Make several trips to AutoZone to spend, at least, $20 each time.
Additionally, if you need tools when making the repair on your car, you can actually borrow them from AutoZone. This is huge for us non-mechanics! You’ll put a deposit down and they’ll actually refund the entire thing when you return the tool within 90 days. Huzzah! Or you can work with a friend who has all kinds of tools. 😉
Tip #4 – Question Everything Mechanics Tell You
This may be the most important tip of all. If you get your oil changed or tires rotated at a local mechanic shop, chances are they’ll tell you of other things your car needs. Every. Darn. Time.
Sidebar: more times than not, you can get free tire rotations where you purchase your tires. If not, find a place that does this.
I learned this valuable lesson most recently when the shop where I go for oil changes and free tire rotations, told me I needed new rear brake pads. Well when my friend & I took my car’s rear tires off, we discovered there is still plenty of life in my brake pads.
This leads to the 5th valuable tip…
Tip #5 – Know what worn parts look like and ask to see the part they are telling you needs to be repaired/replaced
So if you find yourself at a shop and they tell you need to have something repaired or replaced, Google what this looks like. Google what a new part looks like and a worn part look like.
Then kindly ask the mechanic to show you the part they recommend you fix or replace on your car.
If you are uncomfortable doing all of this in one sitting, ask them to show you and take pictures. Let them know you’ll think about it. Then when you get home you can take your time researching what this looks like.
Tip #6 Don’t be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty
This is the most fun tip of all!
Take your tires off and make sure you know how to change a flat. That is number one if you don’t yet know how to do this.
Then check out your brake pads. Compare them with the images you Googled in step 5.
Get under your car and get to know it intimately.
Seriously, check it out. Is there a lot of rust? Check your oil. Check your air filter, which BTW is an easy one to replace.
Tip #7 Have Fun
Most of all have fun in all things that you do! If you find car mechanics miserable and/or if you believe your time is more valuable doing other things, I understand.
However, I still challenge you to know some of the basics. At the very least know what your car looks like under the hood.
Hedge yourself from being taken advantage of in the future.
I still have a long way to go in learning more about my car; although, I now feel a bit more empowered. Additionally, I’m not going to get something fixed because a mechanic tells me it’s needed. I’m always going to research it first.
My next goal is to learn how to change my car’s oil. This is necessary maintenance and from what I understand a fairly easy thing to do. In regards to saving money, it’s the little things that add up to big things. If you are changing your oil multiple times a year, this can add up. Plus when I do it myself, I’ll know it’s done right.
Let me leave you with some numbers. We changed the serpentine belt during this little adventure. I was quoted $193 to have the local shop change this. Although, I bought the replacement belt at AutoZone for $23.21 and with a little time and effort we changed it. That is an 88% savings! Whoa!!
Alright, let me hear from you. Are you interested in getting to know your car better? Do you feel a bit more empowered?
P.S. In totally unrelated news, I got to be on the Chain of Wealth podcast which was super fun. If you are interested, you can listen to it here: