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Save Money - Be Your Own Grease Monkey
Old 07-14-2008, 11:07 PM   #1
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Save Money - Be Your Own Grease Monkey

Two weeks ago, when I introduced myself as a LBYM'er, and bragged about travelling (I thought one should describe his passion), and then shot my mouth off about cognac drinking, I might have made the wrong impression. Some people would wonder what this spendthrift was BS'ing about.

Many forum members wear their frugality as a badge of honor. I like that; that's why I joined. So, I will prove that, in order to pay for what many consider extravagant expenses, I have saved plenty elsewhere. For example, we do not eat out when we are at home, i.e. when we are not travelling. It's not the cost; I do not want to go even if I am not paying.

I rarely go to bar to drink, preferring to sip my cognac when reading a book. A bottle provides many shots, and may be even cheaper than beer if priced per oz. of ethanol.

We are frugal, but not cheap. We often entertain friends, families, or neighbors. It is not that expensive, serving food cooked at home. We usually work an entire day to prepare, and proudly serve what I have just learned off the FoodTV channel. They usually eat it up, which makes me proud. I provide plenty of booze, so they usually do not leave early.

And speaking of FoodTV, yes, we do have cable because it's still dirt cheap entertainment compared to the alternatives. No premium channels though. The last time we went to a movie theater, it was because of my daughter nagging that we should do something together, outside of the house! One time, I dozed off in the middle of an action movie. My wife was embarrassed by my snoring, and had to give me the elbow. I'd rather watch old library DVDs at home. They have captions, which help tremendously (something about aging, again?).

But here is another real money saver that I doubt many of you can match: be your own grease monkey. How many of you have done the following maintenance and repair on your car? I will list the tasks in increasing difficulties as I see it. The order may be different with each car model of course. If you can do the last ultimate task below, then the rest are trivial. However, I'd like to see how far you can go down the list of increasing "elbow grease requirements".

1) Washing car - Not in many years (what's the rain for?)
2) Changing oil, oil filter, air filter - Doesn't save much money, but I hate waiting at service shop.
3) Change rear shocks
4) Change accessory V belts
5) Service brake pads, caliper, rotor turning
6) Front suspension struts
7) AC compressor, expansion valve replacement
8) Engine mount replacement
9) Tear out dashboard to replace heater core, fan
10) Replace enclosed timing belt/chain
11) Remove cyl head to replace blown head gasket
12) Complete engine removal/rebuilding

A bit of qualifying my claims:

12) Have done 3 engine overhauls in my life. The 1st was when I was in college. That's how I spent my summer, not backpacking across Europe like other kids. The last was when I was 25. I cannot see myself doing any of that heavy work anymore. My money has to work for me now. (Darn, I better sell my engine stand, but where did I stash it?)

11) Did that when I was 40. Won't do it again.

10) Did that when I was 45. May do it again, depending on car.

9) Not too long ago.

8) Just last week, on my 1994 minivan.

7) Just did that on my daughter 2005 Mitsubishi. Cost $100 for compressor on Ebay, $25 for expansion valve, $20 for Freon, lubricant. My daughter couldn't thank me enough. She told her friends and said they called me "genius".

6-1) Trivial.

By the way, I do not have nice tools like Goonie. I completely agree with his justification for Craftsman tools. But I LOOSE my tools, and I hate myself for doing that. (Darn, what's that clanking noise under the hood?) So, I punish myself with using HarborFreight tools.

Can you beat the above list? Note that I did not include transmission. I know my limitations.
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Old 07-14-2008, 11:28 PM   #2
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I did most of the tasks on your list when I was younger. I have never rebuilt a transmission but I have pulled them and replaced cluches a couple times. Some of my more interesting jobs were working on my boat when I had it. When you buy a used boat and fish offshore with it you had better be prepared to do some serious maintenance and repairs or pay dearly for it. When I got my Corvette I decided to do everything on it myself but so far brake pad replacement is as serious as it has needed. Some of my tools are Craftsman and some are from Harbor Freight.
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Old 07-14-2008, 11:31 PM   #3
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Not me. I used to work on my own car, when I was young and driving simple American cars. I made it up to #5 above. However, after spending nearly 8 hrs replacing my brake pads (I didn't have the right tools) I realized my time was worth much more than that to me. And as time went on cars got more complicated and I got too busy.

It's good to have skills, and it sometimes can save money. Plus it sounds like you have a marketable skill in case the doomsayers are right this time and all us ERs have to go back to work.

I'm pretty handy and can fix a lot of things around the house, but I learned my limitations long ago. If I have to pay to fix something right and fast, I'm all for it. It's all part of the budget determination. I like to get dirty working in the garden, but not in the engine.
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Old 07-14-2008, 11:36 PM   #4
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In the past 45 years I've done a lot of the things on your list but the most exciting thing I've done recently is replace the in-tank fuel pump on my F150.

As far as general auto service I do everything. DW has a 1992 Crown Vic which has NEVER been in for any repair service except new tires and exhaust systems. The only thing I've done on the CV is brake pads and repaired the digital dash last summer. Including tires, oil and all parts I've spent less than $1000 in 17 years. (34000 miles)

My 98 F150 has NEVER been in for any repair service either (except 1 recall). The only thing I've had to do on it is the fuel pump, a new idle air control valve, a battery and brake pads. Total expenses have been less than $800 in 10 years. (55000 miles)

I don't do exhaust systems.
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Old 07-14-2008, 11:44 PM   #5
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I don't know anything about cars beyond the basics (change tires, battery, topping off oil) and I gladly delegate that task to the pros.

I however save lots of money by handling most repair/decoration jobs around the house. I can paint, remove wall paper, refinish wallboards, do electrical work, basic plumbing, I can do carpentry, I can build furniture, I can do landscaping, basic maintenance, I can cut/trim trees, grow vegetables and I can even sew, iron and cook. My wife can't get enough...
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:05 AM   #6
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Ive done most of the things on your list. I don't like doing those things. I don't do those things anymore because I can afford to pay someone else.

Certain house repairs I will do myself. Simply because I enjoy them
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:33 AM   #7
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I did everything on your list (except #7) by the time I was 19.

I grew up in serious redneck land (not too far from where Deliverance was filmed) and my uncle (who was a jack of all trades) started a repair shop after being laid off during the stagflation of the 70's. My after school job was fixing cars. When the shop began specializing in transmission repairs, I got paid the princely sum of $15 for every one I removed and $20 for every one I replaced. I must have done a couple thousand of those.

The moonshine business was dying out by the time I was old enough to drive, but many of the old whiskey runners were still around and were local legends. Many of them still had their old whiskey runnin' cars, which were usually older sedans that looked like beaters on the outside but were pure race cars under the hood. Most every male teen around, including myself, tried to emulate the style.

We used to do crazy stuff. Like put a big block engine in a Vega station wagon. One of my cars I had while I was in high school was an old Comet, that I eventually replaced the original 4-cylinder with a 429 engine out of a scrapped police car.

I enjoyed doing the creative stuff. One of our neighbors built show cars as a hobby and I learned a lot from him. But the day to day business of working on cars to make a living sucked. The same neighbor made his money by "flipping" repossessed cars, and I did that for a while and made decent money, but to make a decent profit you had to cut corners and tell lies. I quit when they started passing laws that made some of the common stuff illegal.

Two observations about LBYM and DIY car repairs.

Having the right tools makes the job much easier, but tools are expensive.

Having knowledge and experience is invaluable. Given enough time (and patience) I can figure out just about anything. But I can't count the number of times I was frustrated trying to do something on the umpteenth try only to have someone walk by and say "if you unbolt that other part and move it first, it will be a heck of a lot easier."

I've been teaching my kids how to do maintenance and minor repairs, but I don't have the tools to do much else. Nor do I have any experience with many of the system changes in the last 25 years (Computer? In my car?).

For anything complicated, I just do my best to find a decent and honest mechanic.
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:38 AM   #8
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I just buy a used car cheap enough that if it needs anything beyond 5 it's cheaper to sell it and buy another one.
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Old 07-15-2008, 03:37 AM   #9
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I've gotten to # 5. Do most of the the maintenence stuff because i can use what i think are better parts and fluids than most mechanics will use. My cars see a mechanic once per year for inspection and (so far) for an occassional repair that would be over my head. I think i know my limitations. I consider working on the car to be an enjoyable hobby but seems that most people would rather get a tooth pulled than change their own oil.
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Old 07-15-2008, 06:05 AM   #10
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I've done them all many times over, but I don't enjoy it like I used to. I still like working on classic cars, (I have a 57 chevy), but must admit to taking mine in to a shop for many things now. I still do all my own brakes and most maintainence, though...
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Old 07-15-2008, 07:12 AM   #11
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Argh!!! I used to do all kinds of work on my cars but once I got a pot to piss in, I stopped. I wouldn't change a flat today - that is what money is for. On the other hand, I recently got interested in bike repair and am doing that on my own. The difference is the bike repair is fun (for now) whereas the car repair is torture.
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Old 07-15-2008, 07:44 AM   #12
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I have done everything on the list and fuel pumps in and out tanks. Done all this on boats and other junk. I still enjoy it but don't have the space. I have taken cars for repairs only a handful of times other than new tires. I even change front end parts, steering linkage and the do my own alignments. I have a 77 Jeep Cherokee bought new that saw a repair shop only twice for warrnaty work in '78. My favorite car and best ride was a 1990 Infiniti Q45. Smoothest running and riding even at 140MPH.
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Old 07-15-2008, 08:01 AM   #13
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I've done everything except AC work, though through most of my professional working career (as opposed to hustling odd jobs to get through college), I drove newer cars that only needed oil changes, which I happily hired out.

Now that I'm retired and have a hybrid, I am doing my own oil changes and light maintenance again, mostly because I can't bear to let the grease monkeys touch my car. Not that a hybrid requires anything that special, but I wonder if they'll really put the correct 5W20 oil in or just pump in whatever is in the barrel.

I may take on some larger repairs now, but any knuckle busting jobs are still out for hire.
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Old 07-15-2008, 09:35 AM   #14
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I did routine oil & filter changes on the old Ford (1970-80). Did a tune-up in a class once; was a nervous wreck driving home afterward, over freeways and bridges; never did that again. I believe my specialty was adding anti-freeze.
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Old 07-15-2008, 10:30 AM   #15
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I grew up in Upper Michigan. We didn't have a garage and we had a car that didn't like to run in the winter. After the umpteenth time working with my dad under the car in a -60F windchill, where your hands would stick to the metal if you didn't have gloves on, I swore that I'd make enough when I grew up that I'd be able to pay someone to fix my car for me.

My first car (bought when I was 19) was an '89 Buick Regal. I replaced the disc brakes, alternator, rotors... minor stuff, but I made enough to pay someone else for the real work. My next car was a brand new 2001 Olds Intrigue. I looked under the hood of that and decided I'd be better off always bringing it to a shop. That's been my mode of operation ever since.

but we live with some gearheads now so I'd probably work on my car if needed. It's a Honda, though, so I'm not sure if I'll ever get the chance.
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Old 07-15-2008, 10:39 AM   #16
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Did 1 through 12 on several different cars, pickups, vans. Never had a need to rebuild engines.
Timing chain on a 74 450se Benz. Chain is about 5' long, not a bunch of fun.
Hydraulic high pressure reservoir for suspension and brakes on 88 Jag, ball joints, window motors on both Jag and Benz.

Took suburban to dealer for brake fluid flush. Can't do full flush without a Tech II, (expensive gizmo for setting, and operating various computer functions) which will open ABS valves.
Then as usual after "professionals" working on vehicle, had to tighten Flare nuts of all brake lines, they were seeping.
The few times I had vehicles at shops or dealers', always had to go over things and fix/finish their crappy hurried jobs.

Installed Vacuum gauges on all my cars, trucks. Gives instant and cheap engine diagnostics and efficiency indications. Wonder how many used vacuum gauges?
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Old 07-15-2008, 11:59 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
Two weeks ago, when I introduced myself as a LBYM'er, and bragged about travelling (I thought one should describe his passion), and then shot my mouth off about cognac drinking, I might have made the wrong impression. Some people would wonder what this spendthrift was BS'ing about.

Many forum members wear their frugality as a badge of honor. I like that; that's why I joined.

I rarely go to bar to drink, preferring to sip my cognac when reading a book. A bottle provides many shots, and may be even cheaper than beer if priced per oz. of ethanol.


1) Washing car - Not in many years (what's the rain for?)
YES
2) Changing oil, oil filter, air filter - Doesn't save much money, but I hate waiting at service shop.
NOT since my youth

NO to 3 through 12 .
We also have been on a traveling 'kick'. I like my wine, scotch, and cognac, although like you, I do most of my drinking at home. We buy and spend on things we like but are very selective and are not wasteful.
Our friends call us frugal, our enemies (and my children) call us cheap.
My kids have always said that we live way below our means when I was w*rking (AHAH ... that's how we got here! ).

You don't have to apologize for living life your way. Enjoy.
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:05 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
But here is another real money saver that I doubt many of you can match: be your own grease monkey. How many of you have done the following maintenance and repair on your car? I will list the tasks in increasing difficulties as I see it. The order may be different with each car model of course. If you can do the last ultimate task below, then the rest are trivial. However, I'd like to see how far you can go down the list of increasing "elbow grease requirements".

1) Washing car - Not in many years (what's the rain for?)
2) Changing oil, oil filter, air filter - Doesn't save much money, but I hate waiting at service shop.
3) Change rear shocks
4) Change accessory V belts
5) Service brake pads, caliper, rotor turning
6) Front suspension struts
7) AC compressor, expansion valve replacement
8) Engine mount replacement
9) Tear out dashboard to replace heater core, fan
10) Replace enclosed timing belt/chain
11) Remove cyl head to replace blown head gasket
12) Complete engine removal/rebuilding

A bit of qualifying my claims:

12) Have done 3 engine overhauls in my life. The 1st was when I was in college. That's how I spent my summer, not backpacking across Europe like other kids. The last was when I was 25. I cannot see myself doing any of that heavy work anymore. My money has to work for me now. (Darn, I better sell my engine stand, but where did I stash it?)

11) Did that when I was 40. Won't do it again.

10) Did that when I was 45. May do it again, depending on car.

9) Not too long ago.

8) Just last week, on my 1994 minivan.

7) Just did that on my daughter 2005 Mitsubishi. Cost $100 for compressor on Ebay, $25 for expansion valve, $20 for Freon, lubricant. My daughter couldn't thank me enough. She told her friends and said they called me "genius".

6-1) Trivial.

By the way, I do not have nice tools like Goonie. I completely agree with his justification for Craftsman tools. But I LOOSE my tools, and I hate myself for doing that. (Darn, what's that clanking noise under the hood?) So, I punish myself with using HarborFreight tools.

Can you beat the above list? Note that I did not include transmission. I know my limitations.
I used to be an auto mechanic, so I've done all that and much more. But I agree that it pays to do your own work if you have the skills. I'm pretty good at teaching myself the basics, so instead of calling a pro, I usually get a book and read up. Just last week I changed the guts on both our toilets that were starting to leak. Plumber wanted $150 just to come and look at the toilets, and likely then would have charged $80-$100/hour ....I did the entire job in 2 hours and for $52 in parts. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these people rip you off...they are providing a valuable service for those who need it...I'm just saying you can save a lot by doing yourself if capable. other things I've done:
1) Aerated my yard (saved $40), took 2 hours including pick up and drop off of the aerator)
2) Fertilize and bug control my yard (save $200/year) and takes me about 4 hours/year
3) framed my basement, then hired the drywallers (saved $2,000), but admittedly this took me about 4 weekends...still worth it
4) Changed an oring on my water softener...took 40 minutes including reading the manual on the problem...saved me $100 service call
5) Changed an outside water spigot that had cracked the brass pipe...this was a toughie since I had to solder it...takes some skill...saved me $125 and took me 2 hours including time to go to Lowes
6) Changed 4 bicycle innertubes and tires (saved me $40, took 1.5 hours)
7) Mulched/landscaped the yard. This took 3 years, we did a small piece each year...but saved us $4,300 based on the estimate we had received. Well worth it.
8) Clip my dogs fingernails and bathe her
could go on and on

I say pay for the things that either you can't do because of special skills, or you don't like doing (I hate doing drywall), then do the rest yourself.

Dave
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:08 PM   #19
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I have only ever reached #2 (and yeah, I'm another one who subscribes to the, er, "natural rain wash" theory of washing cars).

I'd like to learn more, but I never have the time, and being a single-car family I can't putter around and take the car out of commission for an extended period of time.

I have heard that some community colleges or vo-tech (sp?) schools offer courses on this type of stuff, and maybe someday I'll take one, after I FIRE ...
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:25 PM   #20
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All of the above + home repair stuff, which saves buckets since we make our ducats from the rentals. Haven't done:
13. Home dental repair, including but not limited to root canals. (remember the Dan Ackeroyd Splishack home dental kit?)
14. Home doctoring beyond superglueing good sized cuts.
15. Successfull home investing in the stock market.
16. Kid raising - some scary thankless work that - looks like falling downhill tethered to a running chainsaw.
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