By on May 1, 2017

Too Many Dodges

Early last week, I brought the Charger into our local dealer to sort out a passel of recalls, not the least of which was a computer reflash to bestow Auto Park capabilities on my ZF-equipped Dodge.

This new programming, it must be noted, not only added the Auto Park feature (which actually works so seamlessly it beggars belief that Dodge engineers didn’t include it from the get-go to save themselves a world of bad PR) but also changed the font in the dashboard EVIC. I now look upon my digital speed readout with a level of disdain formerly reserved for soiled copies of the National Enquirer. Comic Sans would’ve been a better option.

Anyway, the car was also due for an oil change, so I scheduled that service for the same visit. Arriving at the desk, the mental fog cleared long enough to bestow upon me the presence of mind to inquire the cost of a dealer oil change for my Pentastar-equipped Charger.

“Uhhhh … justamomentlemmelook.”

Pokes at computer

“It was around eighty-four dollars last time. Soooo …. about the same again?”

Needless to say, I canceled the oil change, proceeded with the recall work, and broke out my tools when I got home.

When well-out-of-warranty vehicles were the norm, rather than the exception, in my driveway, I did all my own work. Oil changes, brake jobs, the scattered bit of (atrocious) body work – none of it was too difficult. It was only upon graduating to cars which still possessed a shred of manufacturer’s warranty did I start taking them to a garage for routine maintenance. Correct or not, my line of thinking was if I needed engine-related warranty repair at some point and the OEM discovered I did all my own work, they would deny my claim faster than the Chicago Blackhawks exited this year’s NHL playoffs.

At some point, then, I got in a rut. Bad habits developed. Our trusty 2012 Charger has been out of powertrain warranty for 31,000 miles, so there’s no reason I couldn’t have performed the basic maintenance on my own for at least that long. I have garage space, the tools, the know-how, and no excuses. The quote of eighty-four dollars for an oil change simply jarred me back to reality, and it’s not like this dealer washes and vacuums your vehicle during the service as a value-add or anything. Cementing my decision, I was greeted by a surly individual at the service desk (a different person than in the morning) when I went to retrieve my keys that afternoon.

Back at home, I had the Charger’s oil changed in a jiffy. Total cost for name-brand oil and filter bought off the shelf at Canada’s Auto Shop? Less than thirty dollars. Time spent, from first spin of the wrench to final wipe of grease? Less than thirty minutes. Rinse and repeat for our Ram 1500 the next day.

What maintenance do you perform on your own car? If you’re not #blessed with driveway or garage space at the moment, what jobs did you used to tackle? Now, more than ever, I think it’s DIY, FTW.

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93 Comments on “QOTD: Do You Even Wrench, Bro?...”

  • avatar

    I do most of my vehicle maintenance items (oil change, brake work, etc) as well as a fair amount of suspension work (struts, shocks, bushings, links). I do leave timing belts (only on my older cars), tires/balancing and most transmission work to the pros. I have a problem with the pricing that many of the shops charge for parts and the inconvenience of dropping off/waiting/picking up as well. As the author stated, I have the tools, know-how and space—why not use them?

  • avatar

    The dealer wanted to charge me around 100 dollars each to supply and change the cabin air filters and engine air filters on my wife’s 2013 Mazda CX-5 and my 2016 Mazda6. Coincidentally, both cars take the same filters since they ride on the same platforms. I snagged 4 filters (2 cabin, 2 engine) from Amazon for about $30.00 total and had the filters changed in my driveway in about 7 minutes.

    I let the dealer do the oil changes since both cars are still under warranty, and they’re around 50 bucks. Not too bad but not that great, either. But, like you say, I have evidence if anything engine-related happens that I had the appropriate services done at the appropriate times.

    It helps that Mazda sends me coupons in the mail all the time, too, so I never pay the full price.

    • 0 avatar

      $50 for a synthetic oil change is not bad at all. But jeez, why do so many dealers go nuts on everything else? My Mazda dealer charges $21 for the engine air filter and $25 for the cabin filter, installed. I still did the cabin filter myself but it’s nice knowing I don’t have to be forced into it. Of course, with the big mouth I have, now I have to replace cabin filters in about 20 cars owned by friends and family.

      • 0 avatar

        “$50 for a synthetic oil change is not bad at all. ”

        Are we talking Mobil 1 here, or some kind of Blended half-assed synthetic. And how many quarts, 5 or 6?

        What type of filter, WIX, Purolator, or a no-name Chinese-made?

      • 0 avatar

        The naturally-aspirated Mazda engines take regular motor oil. Synthetic is not required. I would assume the $50 is for ~5qts regular oil plus filter.

        • 0 avatar

          It must vary by region because a regular oil/filter change (with Lube if needed) in my area is $45 plus tax, plus other filters if needed, plus a $3 oil disposal fee, plus a charge for shop supplies used.

          Pretty standard across the board.

          Choice of 100% Synthetic is the House oil 55-gal drum, name-brand bottled 100% Synthetic, and the variety of Blended Synthetics, each with their own additional costs.

          It’s a racket. But it is legal.

        • 0 avatar

          The 2.0L engines in both the 2016 Mazda3 and 2016 CX-5 I’ve serviced requested 0W-20; a grade which can only be synthetic.

          5W-20 would be fine in summer or in a warmer climate, but I’ll go with the 0W-20 year-round while under warranty since I have to buy it for the receipts anyway.

          So, CDN$40 for a 5L jug of 0W-20 and a Mazda filter (from the dealer).

    • 0 avatar

      One of the stealerships here not only charges $100 for air filters but mails out coupons promoting that as their discounted rate.

  • avatar

    I’m ashamed to admit that I do almost nothing myself, not even oil changes anymore. I use a quick-change lube small business that I trust for scheduled maintenance, and another mechanic that I trust for other stuff. The one thing I’ll do myself is wheel/tire swaps in my driveway when we switch from summer to winter and vice versa.

    I used to do more maintenance myself, but with a large family and zero time on my hands I just can’t spend the weekend time doing that stuff. I’m at the point where taking the car to shops is worth my money in exchange for my time.

    • 0 avatar

      See my post below, I figure that is the natural progression of things. The key is having a decent go-to place to farm the work out to. I laughed when the Toyota dealer told me my wife’s 2012 Camry needed both rear calipers replaced to the tune of $1200 for a minor pad dragging issue that was resolved with a new set of $60 pads, and cleaning up the pad seating surface with a wire wheel and a bit of high temp grease. My brother did it for an hour’s worth of labor ($60).

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I’ve already got the family and now we’re branching off into raising animals. Chickens this year, something four-legged next year. I’m tapped out for spare time.

        Just today I had the van’s A/C system charged at my quick-lube place. $105, and for me worth every penny. I probably paid twice as much, but I’ll sleep easy tonight (emphasis on sleep.)

  • avatar

    All the basic stuff I do myself (oil, diffs, filters, rust proofing) and depending on my own priorities, larger repairs as well (brakes, suspension work, body work). My time is currently being consumed quite thoroughly by home-related improvements, so I farm out quite a bit to my mechanic brother. I’m more or less neglecting a number of overdue things on the beater Ranger while I’m using it for said home improvement, and when an opportune moment arises I will make the 8 hour drive out to him and just leave it there for a month or so to get a whole laundry list of stuff knocked out (weld in new rad support, shocks, any worn bushings, t-belt, serp belt, coolant and hoses, parking brake, fuel filler and level float). It will cost me a pretty penny in labor, but I’ve come to the conclusion that these days my own time spent improving my house is worth more than wrenching on an old truck. I do enjoy wrenching still when there aren’t other obligations. Once I have a family, that time to wrench will be diminished even further as other priorities take precedent.

  • avatar
    Aaron Whiteman

    When I bought my Miata last spring, I didn’t have records , so I assumed it had not had the 60k service. I did everything: timing belt, water pump, plugs, brakes, brake and clutch fluid, coolant, air conditioning recharge, and while I was at it, I swapped out the radiator and replaced the horn. I didn’t change the oil because it was fresh.

    12 months later, I realized I missed the fuel filter. I paid somebody else to get the face full of gasoline, no thank you. I also paid for the diff and transmission change for basically the same reason.

    • 0 avatar

      To paraphrase Danny Vermin: I changed my fuel filter once. Once.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a project car that I’ve worked on for the past 10 years…..its been done for the past 4, but I still tinker with it, change the fluids, etc. I have a stable of cars for the family and used to do all the maintenance work (brakes, shocks, fluid changes, etc.), but then realized I value my time more.

      Saying that, I always farmed out tranny and differential fluid changes. All it takes is getting coated ONE time with gear oil that helps you make that decision. Gasoline is not that bad as it washes off easily but leaves a lingering smell. Gear oil reeks, has a high viscosity (cold its like honey) so it takes forever to fill, and just coats you.

  • avatar

    I do nearly all maintenance and repair operations (if I know what needs replacing) that don’t require large tools I don’t own and can’t borrow. I also hesitate at removing major portions of under-hood parts (like what’s usually necessary for a t-belt job.)

    I view oil changes as a great chance to understand more about my car, and monitor how it’s doing. And I find performing these minor tasks, few of which take more than a couple hours (and often less) as therapeutic. And it’s not a bad money-saver.

    Really, DIY-ing is easier than ever in this age of YouTube and enthusiast forums. I would not have dreamed of tackling the spark plugs in my wife’s V6 Solara if equipped only with a Haynes manual (rear bank’s a pain.) But a well-written DIY post on a Camry forum, combined with a decent video on YouTube, and the job was simple, and required about 1 1/2 hr and only one tool I didn’t own. (Flex-head ratcheting wrench set; $17 at HF.) Tools, gasket set, and the plugs themselves set me back about $75; garage quoted $400 for the job.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you on using Youtube as either a learning tool or a trouble-shooting resource.

      While I’m hesitant to tackle anything beyond an oil change on my wife’s 2007 MDX, I’m actually willing to give it a try on doing the 80k service on my GTI.

  • avatar

    Back when I had a 2 and half-stall, there was plenty of room for extra tools and parking. I managed to squeeze in a cherry picker and an engine stand, and did two engine swaps in that space.

    Now? I have a smaller garage space that’s taken up by weightlifting equipment. Except for the occasional emergency work – I usually pay someone else to do it. It’s a matter of time, cold – fixing a car in winter is torture – and my own fear of messing something up on these more complicated cars.

    Let me see – I did an oil change on my Clubman this year. And on my departed BMW 325i I did a few small part replacements to track down and eventually fix a check engine code. I also replaced the broken glove box in my wife’s Mini.

  • avatar

    $80 for one oil change is ridiculous. Next time ask for an ‘esential care contract’ at the dealer. It’s $90 for 3 (or 4, I forget) oil changes – for a V-8, so a 6-cylinder is probably cheaper than that.

  • avatar

    I wrenched until a couple years ago. I have a good friend who does most work now but I have a new workshop and a lift planned within the next couple of years.

  • avatar

    I do anything that isn’t covered by warranty on my vehicles except for tires; everything from the basic maintenance stuff like oil, filters, brakes, and shocks all the way up to total rebuilds like new rings and bearings. One of my more recent ‘projects’ was replacing the shift solenoids in the tranny of my Lincoln LS. I also replaced the transmission in my ’04 F150 in my unheated garage in the middle of the winter. Bottom line I hate paying someone to do something I can do myself and that extends to anything on my house.

    In addition to my own vehicles, I do a lot of that same work for friends and relatives in exchange for chocolate chip cookies (my sis-in-law bakes for a living) or beer.

    I’m an IT techie by trade and haven’t had any mechanic training of any kind. However, my dad was a mechanic for years and I learned a lot at his side. Plus, with the internet, you can figure out how to fix pretty much anything if you know where to look.

  • avatar

    I do everything myself except for:

    1. Things covered under warranty.
    2. Tire mounting, balancing, rotations, alignment.
    3. Upholstery replacement.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m willing to try just about anything. But I also know my limits. I attempted a timing belt change on an old Civic a few years ago but I was thwarted when I couldn’t get the crank pulley bolt off. Since then, after seeing how precise a timing service needs to be, I pay for that.
    I’m also about to replace my gas tank on the Land Ark and because the brackets holding them on are 50 years old this year, they are corroded and there no chance I’m getting the bolts off with everything intact at the end so I am going to pay for that too – I don’t weld.

    I spent 7 hours on Saturday changing my Subaru from winter to summer wheels/tires. It usually takes me a lot longer than most would expect something like that to take because I get in there and clean everything. I also throw some paint on my calipers and rotors to prevent/coverup rust. I wipe down the splash shields and all the reachable suspension components.
    But a lot of that time was installing some JDM only spats. I had to prep and paint them, then apply 3M protection so that all the paint doesn’t chip off in the first 100 miles of driving. Then I had to widen some holes so the clips I already had would fit.

    I’ll do routine maintenance, fluid exchanges, I replaced the driveshaft on my GTO, I completely removed the dashboard of the IS300 I gave to my mom. Typically the only time a car of mine sees the inside of a shop is for tires and alignments. As I get older, I’m starting to realize I won’t be able to get down on my back forever and I’m going to need to come to terms with letting someone else work on my cars without anywhere near as much care as me.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Honda crank pulley bolts are notoriously tight for some reason. I’ve heard stories about people bending cheater bars and breaking sockets trying to get the bolt out.

      I did my first timing belt and water pump on my Accent a few years ago, and that would have been an afternoon job if I hadn’t run out of daylight.

      I’ll pay for tire mounting and balancing, AC, and exhaust work: stuff that requires fairly expensive specialized equipment.

      • 0 avatar

        For crank pulleys and other tough nuts and bolts- spend the hundred~ish bucks on an impact wrench. They make electric ones for those of us without shop air! Besides, what red-blooded TTAC wrencher wouldn’t want to spend money on a new tool? :D

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          I have an electric gun that use mostly for popping off lugnuts and such. I also used it on the Hyundai, since there is a straight shot to the crank bolt once you remove the right front wheel and part of the splash shield. Problem is some cars don’t have enough space to get the wrench in there, and flex sockets might not be strong enough for that particular job.

          • 0 avatar

            Good point about flex sockets and getting the tool to bear on the nut.

          • 0 avatar

            I got a Milwaukee battery impact that puts out 1100 ft-lbs. It’s amazing, works a lot better than my air wrench. It’s my default tool for tough bolts now instead of air.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          I actually have a 26 gallon compressor and impact gun. I had it turned up all the way and… nothing.
          I bought a tool and its only purpose was to aid in the removal of the bolt. Using that, I resorted back to my breaker bar and when the tool didn’t work I jammed a screwdriver into the crank. It ended up shooting across my garage into the side of the Land Ark. That was when I admitted defeat.

          • 0 avatar

            Ouch! I’m trying to think of something humorous to add. Tim Taylor and Red Green might have even been stumped by your predicament.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            IIRC one trick was to wedge the breaker bar on the ground, then crank the starter.

          • 0 avatar

            “IIRC one trick was to wedge the breaker bar on the ground, then crank the starter.”

            What could possibly go wrong??

            (I am familiar with that trick but I have never attempted it myself, not even my younger self.)

            The two timing belts I ever did, one I snipped the old belt with scissors after verifying the new one could just fit between the crank pulley and the crank gear guard. The other one I was able to coax the old belt out that way and slip the new one in. So on both jobs I left the crank pulley intact and had the good fortune to be able to get the job done that way.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re all doing it wrong. Turn the steering all the way to the left. Get a 1/2″ extension that goes out just past the fender. Place the joint where the breaker bar attaches to the extension on a jack stand so it can rotate but not move up or down. Use a cheater bar on the breaker bar and it comes right off. Very important to get a pure rotation on the bolt. The car (in gear) serves to keep the crank from rotating.

  • avatar

    Side note, do any of the B&B know where Crappy Tire sources their store brand motor oil nowadays? In the early 1990s, their synthetic oil was relabeled Mobil 1. Their tool line (Mastercraft) was also good bang for the buck (I don’t know if that is still true but I haven’t ever heard otherwise). On the other hand, their bicycles and some other sporting equipment was decidedly down-market.

    But yeah, I’m curious where they get their oil nowadays.

  • avatar

    I had a Haynes manual through college after some work wasn’t done correctly almost 30 years ago I was doing the job correctly and saved allot of beer money. Still saving beer money today and enjoy searching the repective car Forum for tups, tricks and torque specs

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    Huh. I’ve done everything from oil and brake pad changes to AC compressor and FWD axle replacement. Just yesterday I repaired a coolant leak and the day before I replaced my fuel pump that required a tank drop to do. I’m planning to replace my turbo oil feed line with an upgraded part next weekend.

    Some things I won’t do. Anything that requires special tools and/or tolerances beyond torquing fasteners. Timing belt replacements are at the top of that list. I won’t do strut replacement anymore unless the struts come with springs already attached because that is a PITA.

  • avatar

    Ninety bucks for an oil change is robbery. As long as the Charger doesn’t take synthetic oil, you should be looking at around $30.

    I’d do repairs like this myself if I had a garage and tools. Unfortunately, the community I live in kinda frowns on people putting their cars up on jacks and working on them. As it is, though, I’ve been able to do things like replacing window regulators (an essential skill if you own a early-2000s Buick).

    But stuff like brakes, suspension items, etc…those I’d leave for a mechanic.

  • avatar

    not much, anymore. I used to be a mechanic and did most of my own work. even after graduating and getting a “real” job, I stayed on at the garage for weekends mostly so I could have access to a lift during off hours. But after a while, I typically had cars with warranties so I pretty much stopped aside from the odd thing here and there (plugs, cam cover gasket on my SRT-4, brakes on my Ranger, etc.) The one big job I did myself was when the heater core failed prematurely on the SRT, but that didn’t require raising the vehicle. But stuff like oil changes? Nah. I do those on the bikes, but the Quick Lane at the local Ford dealer is cheap enough and fast enough.

    unfortunately now my only (4 wheeled) vehicle is said Ranger with the Cologne 4.0 SOHC, and it seems like anything more than replacing the air filter is an engine-out job. Needless to say of a German engine, the ridiculous timing chain setup is one of those things which is known for short life (at least on early engines) and is an engine-out.

  • avatar


    For an OIL CHANGE?!?!?!?!?

    I thought roughly $50 for my 3.5 V6 Highlander at the Toyota dealer’s quick lube was too dang much.

    • 0 avatar

      I took my (Neon) SRT-4 to one of those Valvoline quick-lube places once.

      … Once.

      They tried to upsell me on full synthetic oil for a total of $90 because “you know, these turbocharged engines need synthetic.” I simply said “it has 160,000 miles on it, all on conventional. No thanks.”

      • 0 avatar

        Not that I expect a ton of sympathy but I’ve been quoted over $200 for a dealer oil change on the Viper and over $100 for a couple other past cars, even my G8 that barely cost $30k new. Synthetic for $9+ per quart and 8+ quart capacities add up quick. Crazy not to do them at home when a jug of Mobil 1 is $25 at Walmart…

      • 0 avatar

        To be fair a turbo motor is one place I truly do think synthetic can make or break things for a more casual owner that doesn’t change oil quite as diligently as a ‘car guy’ might. A lot of the modern chain driven motors all benefit from a high quality synthetic, again especially in lieu of manufacturers specifying longer OCIs.

        • 0 avatar

          Chrysler had pretty religiously used water-cooled turbos, so it would be less of a concern. for all of the Neon’s flaws, when I sold that car with almost 170,000 on it the oil level never dropped more than 1/8″ on the dipstick between changes.

          • 0 avatar

            water cooled or not, a turbo puts out a ton of heat, a synthetic handles that better IMO in a longer OCI scenario.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Have a trusted independent shop. $50 + tax Canadian for an oil/filter change using an OEM spec filter and semi-synthetic oil. Swapped the tires (on rims) for $25 at the same time. Removed and plugged a hole in one. No charge.

    They do a quick check of the other systems/undercarriage, etc while the vehicle is on the lift.

    If any other filters/bulbs etc require changing, either I can supply them or they will buy and install. Minimal mark-up on the part(s) and $5 to $10 additional labour charge.

    Haven’t done any wrenching since I found them. And even prior to that once having children and moving into a ‘nice’ neighbourhood that was limited to the odd brake job/spark plug replacement. I still check fluids and tire pressure every month, lubricate hinges and spray some rustproofing. Minor cosmetic work such as paint touch-up innterior and exterior cleaning. Now with advanced age, diminishing eyesight and cranky fingers (broken too often) would not even be able to do most work myself even if I wanted to.

    They will take care of our out of warranty vehicles. The new one will be serviced at the dealership to ensure warranty coverage, even though this should only require receipts and proof of manufacturer approved parts/fluids.

  • avatar

    I change wiper blades, cabin air filters, batteries, bulbs and other small stuff. I’d change engine air filters, but at last check, those were still a dealer item for some reason on my car. $35.00 installed. Generally, an oil change is about $40 bucks for me. I look for service coupons, too. Ditto for Wifey’s car.

    Ever since my left eye went bad, I cannot look up for any length of time (long explanation), so oil changes have been out of the mix since 2003.

    All other stuff, I take the car to the Chevy store. Wifey’s car is also serviced at the Honda store as well.

    Sometimes the cost is a bit painful, but so far, we still go to the dealership.

    I’d love to do more wrenching, but I’d have to work with someone more knowledgeable than me.

  • avatar

    I do oil, brakes and suspension work that doesn’t involve specialized equipment (i.e. a press etc). I will happily pay a dealership for diagnostic work though… always winds up being cheaper than throwing money at parts in the hope something sticks. A lot of times I will get the dealership to look the car over and then split the work with them.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I try to DIY most everything that I can. A neighbor up the street has a two post lift so that helps quite a bit for a lot of jobs.

    As stated above, youtube is about the best resource ever for diagnosing and or repairing a vehicle. I have had a couple of minor repairs on my Suburban that I received quotes from the dealership north of $400 and was able to do quickly and easily for well less than $100 (parts) and an hour or less after watching a 5 minute video.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, You Tube is great. I managed to do a T-belt replacement, valve lash adjustment, and both output (half?) shafts on my Accord. I bought the Haynes manual which is sometimes marginally useful. Incidentally, I also used You Tube trying to learn to yodel. Didn’t go as well.

  • avatar

    I gave this up a long time ago. It’s not just the 20 minutes of the oil change, it’s getting the oil and filter, changing the oil, transporting the used oil to an approved recycling center without spilling any.

    I can get my car’s oil changed for $80 (7qts) with a high grade filter and good full synthetic. I think my mechanic is only charging me $20 for his time.

    • 0 avatar


      I think my mechanic charges $30 or $40 over the parts cost for an oil change, and even at that mark up I think it’s worth it to not drive around buying oil and then returning the used oil without spilling any in my garage or car.

      Anything that involves the risk of spilling hazardous material and the additional time of disposing of it is a hassle I don’t need.

  • avatar

    I’ve got a great heated, insulated shop at my disposal, with just about any tool I would need, but repairs often come down to time and how long the vehicle would be out of commission should I screw up. So all I do on my own is little stuff: rotating tires, topping off fluids, changing bulbs, re-gluing pieces of pleather upholstery that have fallen off the doors.

    Everything else, I’ll pay for a shop to do. Big stuff like exhaust and brakes, but even oil changes: If oil+filter costs me nearly $40, plus I have to spend an hour getting my car up on ramps and scrambling around on a piece of cardboard trying to take out the (rear-facing) plug without getting warm oil all over my face, but a professional oil change costs even $50 (and there’s a local place that’ll do it for $40), I’m throwing money away by _not_ having them do it.

    • 0 avatar

      [Since I can’t edit my comment:]

      I need to replace my tires sometime in the coming weeks, and we do have a tire machine in the shop (a real slick mother), but it’s mostly for implement tires. Taking them to a professional that can balance them properly is worth the money.

  • avatar

    I do what I can with cars so in the past month I have:

    Changed idler pulleys, belts, and filters; rebuilt a power steering pump; replaced four corners for struts; replaced front rotors; and done an oil change.

  • avatar

    I’ll do most maintenance, such as brakes, shocks/struts, batteries, wiper blades, but I don’t do oil changes, they can be had too cheaply. On my last car I did lots of stuff, a few cooling system repairs, an alternator, the timing belt, valve cover gasket, etc., but there’s some stuff I just can’t do.

    Also, most of us can do maintenance kind of things, but are lousy diagnosticians, and sometimes the timing doesn’t work. My previous car developed a bad misfire one Sunday late afternoon. I’d replaced the plugs and wires about 10,000 miles earlier, so I guessed it was a set of coil packs, but what was I going to do about it on a Sunday afternoon? I limped it over to a shop I trusted and got it fixed, turns out I was right, but there’s no way I was going to be able to fix it myself during the week and driving it with a misfire would destroy the catalytic converter, so it was either get someone else to fix it, or rent a car for the week.

    It seems that as time goes by, cars increasingly have to be worked on from underneath, and I’ve grown increasingly unwilling to lie on my back on the floor with a car four inches above my nose because that’s as far as I can get the car off the ground.

  • avatar

    I have branched out farther as I have gotten older. I certainly change oil in all my cars. Besides being cheaper, I know what is going into the car is a high quality oil/filter of my choice. I do change transmission fluid if the task does not mean pulling the pan….I drain and replace my Honda’s every other oil change. I now have branched out to changing brakes and rotors since they are so easy and not worth paying someone else to do.

    I have not branched to the more complicated areas within the engine, or if there is too much disassembly. I really hated paying someone to replace a strut the other month because I was just too concerned about compressing the spring..but I would do that if I had better tools.

    • 0 avatar

      If you buy the replacement strut from a local auto parts store, they will often loan you the spring compressor. Also, you may be able to buy the entire strut assembly for not too much money, that’s what I did with my Focus.

  • avatar

    I did a lot on my first car. 1975-ish Nova. Aside from being high school and having time and no budget, it was a popular if old (17 years) model, so junk yards had stuff, auto parts stores had everything else. It was also dead simple to work on, and everything was accessible. Increasingly, even though I stuck to older cars, I found that access more difficult and things more complicated to replace. I had found the best balance to be do most of the fluids (excepting transmission) and filters, any bulbs as needed, and when I COULD, batteries, hoses, and belts. Leave transmission or anything involving getting inside the engine to a trained professional.

    My Q7, though……sigh. I can change the oil. But to do some of the other fluids (like brakes), I need a tool I don’t have. One of the air filters is jammed in so tight that I always feel like I’m going to break the plastic housing trying to get it out, so I stopped doing that, I don’t even see access to drain the steering or transmission fluids, and a lot of belts and stuff are either in the rear of the engine, or underneath.

    However, in a refreshing difference from my wife’s previous and current BMWs, just about any exterior light is pretty easy to replace, with the exception of the ones embedded in the rear bumper. Give Audi’s labor rates, paying them to replace lights seems so stupid, and my wallet appreciates this.

    My wife’s car I’m not allowed to do anything on at her behest, because its under warranty (about to end this year), and as said by others above,she wants those maintenance records to makes sure no potential claim gets denied.

    I have never attempted anything suspension or brake related. I consider these safety issues and fear doing them wrong. The online videos show it to be not difficult, but still.

    Plus, I’m slow at this type of work, and can’t really afford vehicle downtime. I don’t have a third vehicle or motorcycle to use while I’m fiddling around with the cars.

  • avatar

    I handle the maintenance and basic repair on my car but generally defer very complex or physically difficult repairs to a mechanic.

  • avatar

    I repair everything myself but will not crack open an auto transmission of any variation. I tend to replace them with scrap yard guaranteed units or warrantied rebuilt units.

    I must say, I do have a craving to tear down a CVT in the worst way!

  • avatar

    I still do most maintenance, including timing belts. They’re time consuming, but not that challenging, for most cars. But that presumes a spare car to drive.

    I go to the pros for mysterious things like the dreaded misfires of German cars, although I’ve had bad experiences even there with mechs throwing parts at the problem. I can buy the coils myself, thank you.

    I will admit that as I’ve gotten older, I’m more willing to pass off the really dirty stuff, like exhaust and suspension repairs/maintenance.

    I think your average enthusiast is more interested, and enjoy learning about their cars. The average driver’s competence probably ends at checking the engine oil.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I wrenched all sorts of stuff on my beater Crown Vic. For the money I spent on parts and tools, I could have made the down payment on something much better. Never again.

  • avatar

    Oil changes and tire rotations are easy…and easy for beginner techs to screw up. So I do them myself. Brakes are super-easy to do, and the prices for brake jobs are ridiculous, so I do those, too. Most anything – troubleshooting down to a bad 02 sensor, wheel bearing going south, etc.

    Tire dismounting, alignment, exhaust work (for the most part) or anything that requires multi-grand specialized tools, I can’t do.

  • avatar

    Since I started tracking my Z I’ve started doing more and more stuff myself or with some assistance from friends. As brakes are pretty much a consumable that one chews thru quickly on a tracked vehicle I’ve become pretty good at working on them. Even did the wife’s car and I plan to tackle my truck next. Recently did some exhaust work (replaced cats) and swapped out my sway bars (super easy). Next up is installing an aftermarket oil cooler and an upgraded rear diff. Oil changes aren’t an issue, taking all the undertray aero bits off is the hardest part.

    However its just easier to pay the quick lube place to perfom the service during a lunch break. As they say time is money – so if someone can do a simple job quicker then me I think its worth paying them to deal with it. I once read an article that said the best way to figure out what tasks are really worth your time is to calculate your own hourly wage based on your salary. After this I determined I will no longer mow my lawn as paying someone to do it frees up valuable weekend hours for better things.

  • avatar

    Yeah, but when you do your own oil change you don’t get the $25 mystery oil that my local Honda dealer added on my last visit!!! 37 years of driving Accords and I never knew that I needed a $25 additive to the oil. That was after a visit when the service writer brought out the mechanic to tell me that my air and cabin filters were filthy and needed replacement. (I had replaced them myself two weeks prior to that visit.)
    I don’t do much beyond wipers/air filters/bulb changes myself these days (70 years old), but most of the visit to the dealers is a chance for them to sell you something.
    Needed service by the book (manufacturers guide) is OK by me, but needless service is just a chance for the dealership to screw up something that is working just fine.

  • avatar

    I have college kids. What’s happened in my garage in the past few months:
    – new front struts/springs
    – new stainless headers and exhaust
    – VVT rebuild
    – timing belt
    – motor mounts
    – lotsa oil changes, brakes, rotors, etc.
    The kids are getting pretty good at doing things without me. I like.

  • avatar

    Yes, I probably do more than I should. I bought a car lift years ago, it’s paid for itself many times over. Just put a new radiator in my Lexus this weekend. The dealer would have wanted something absurd for that job, like $800 plus.

    I actually though can see someone making the case to farm out things like oil changes as it’s just not a huge cost savings to do yourself. I do my own on my car, but saving $40 a year is like a single lunch at Chipotle with the kids, it’s not going make a huge difference with a household budget.

    I like though tackling jobs myself and using the cost savings to fund more tool purchases.

  • avatar

    In high school, my friend and I did a fair amount of this stuff on his Honda del Sols, and he even decided to make a career out of it. Since I’ve been at college, I’ve been pretty limited to some minor things, but I still like to do them when I can. I’ve replaced mirrors, door handles, and cabin air filters, and last year I got lucky in that my roommate had tools and ramps to help me do an oil change.

    For the most part, though, I have no issue with taking my car to the local garage, where an oil change runs roughly $30.

  • avatar

    Modern car infuriate me. My mazda5 headlight bulbs have a metal hinge which you can’t really see which swings out if you squeeze it in the appropriate place. A few other blind steps adds to the misery the first time you do it – which in my case was made even more fun in -20 temperature. My cabin air filter is behind about half a dozen screws and cover panel as well as a few electrical connectors. Why must things be so needlessly complex?

    • 0 avatar

      Similarly, I found the space behind the headlight assembly in my ’03 330i so tight that the easiest way to change the bulb was to take the whole assembly out. Sigh.

  • avatar

    Not anymore, and the reasons are lack of time and space.

    Since I started my current profession, and especially since I had kids, time for afternoon wrenching projects is totally gone. If it takes more than an hour, I’ll just put it off and put it off for lack of any time to do it, and it’ll never get done.

    And then I moved into my current house. Both my small driveway and my street are too steep to lift cars on safely (thanks, Seattle). My garage has less than a foot in every direction except the driver’s side between the LS460 and the shelving or garage door, and to boot it isn’t perfectly level either. So where would I lift a car up? The answer is “in the mechanic’s shop with the mechanic doing it.”

  • avatar

    I do all out-of-warranty maintenance, repair, and modification myself with the exception of:
    -Tire mounting and balancing
    -Body work beyond “wire brush and rattle can” territory

  • avatar

    In my lifetime I have done just about everything, including complete engine rebuilds. As I have gotten older and financially a bit better off, I leave some of the heavy lifting to the repair shops. I tend to do more wrenching on cars of family members who cant afford shop prices. For example, I did front brake pads on my daughter-in-law’s car last week, knowing she was in a money crunch. I still do oil changes for myself and just about everyone else in the family who is unable to do for themselves. The key for me is finding trustworthy shops with skilled mechanics. I have a few that I use regularly. One of which is a GM dealer.

  • avatar

    As long as a lift isn’t required I do:
    -Maintenance (oil, transmission, power steering, brakes, hoses, plugs, filters, belts)
    -Suspension work

    If something requires a lift or requires removing 4+ items out of the way like my friend’s hybrid Civic that merely needs a new oil pan, it goes to the shop.

    On my motorcycle I do everything myself short of non-rattle can painting, truing, and cylinder work.

  • avatar
    George B

    I do most maintenance and minor repairs myself.
    Fluid and filter changes
    Recharge air conditioning
    Spark plugs
    Window regulators
    Engine and transmission mounts
    Bolt on parts accessible without removing layers of other stuff

    For cars I don’t need to drive the next day I’ll do larger repairs like removing and replacing an air conditioning compressor.

    I pay a repair shop to replace
    FWD axles
    Struts and springs
    Rusty worn out exhaust
    Automatic transmissions

  • avatar

    The currency that I measure value by has evolved as I have aged. It used to be money, and now it is time / effort.

    I can take x hours of my time / effort and earn additional dollars that may be greatly in excess of x dollars “saved”. I feel like a living RPG character trying to min-max my profitability.

  • avatar

    Having a series of shi**y, self-financed cars from the beginning, I learned how to wrench much more than my friends who got the parent’s hand-me-downs. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but it was a tremendous automotive education. Though I won’t want my boys to drive similarly awful deathtraps, I intend to have them turning wrenches at the earliest opportunity. Time well spent.

    • 0 avatar

      I always had a toolbox in the trunk. When I got my first new-ish car, I realized I could go without it. It was a real concept…that I didn’t need my toolbox in the trunk. Today, I still carry a code reader, and will do most “not a lift” work. I have a good indy, but things like an expansion tank for $200, er, $600, or a throttle body for $200, er, $550, add up. I’ll do the back shocks and have the shop do the fronts. I’ve saved a lot on brakes over the years. With the BMW, it was $250 in parts and some tool you needed to buy over $1k at the dealer.

      My kids ? no real idea how anything works, of course, it is a lot more complicated than my 69 Firebird, 67 Fury II, or 73 Straight Six powered Nova…and the family goes out in reliable (mostly) metal. I’m teaching my son as things go, but he gets the computer bits more than the metal….

      I’ll do oil changes in nice weather. That winter oil change…to the shop ! I have plenty of driveway but no garage.

  • avatar

    Only thing I’ve not done is rebuilding an automatic transmission – never had a reason to. Did a diff rebuild this winter, which was easier than I thought.
    I’ve done a restoration when I took every nut and bolt out of the car and stripped it to a bare shell. Did the body work, paint, new upholstery, and rebuilt everything mechanical. Did megasquirt fuel injection to replace the carbs just for fun.

  • avatar

    I live in a condo and try to do basic stuff myself (at least on the old car, not the daily), but there’s a place nearby where you can rent a lift and they have all tools available, seems like a great deal. Been thinking of undercoating my classic car.

  • avatar

    I do as much as possible. I have a heated garage – warm water coils I put in the new concrete slab makes even winter work a snap. One repair saves enough money to heat the garage all winter. If access is a PITA or I don’t want to be bothered I’ll take it to a wrench. Air tools, good jacks, proper safety stands, and a good scan tool are essentials. Add factory service manuals and Youtube videos and pretty much any job can be done at home.

  • avatar

    Here is how the pricing of a $69.95 synthetic oil change for a VW 2.0T is broken down from a cost/profit perspective. The technician is paid .4hrs (24 minutes) to change the oil on the car, and that includes the time spent retrieving the vehicle from the lot or the service drive and a car wash. So .4hrs at a reasonable $20hr wage means, if the Technician is flat rate, he is compensated $8 for changing the oil. Many dealerships are required to provide a multi-point inspection sheet to their customers that highlight any major issues with the car. Most dealerships internalize the time spent and pay the Technician .1hr (6 minutes) to complete this form. So the Technician is now compensated an additional $2 and the company internalizes the .1hr at $5. The customer pays $25 labor for the oil change. So the Technicians labor costs, before expenses, $10 and the customer is charged $25. But the company internally charged itself $5 for the MPI, so really the company profits $10 in labor before factoring in all the overhead related to running the business and offering perks etc. The oil is billed at $30 for 4-5qts of Castrol 5W-40, bringing the balance left for the OE filter and drain plug w/gasket to $14.95. All together, the gross margin, before paying for the courtesy fluids, the Service Advisor, the Cashier, building maintenance, and anyone else working at the dealership, is about $30 for an oil change.

    Gross margin doesn’t factor in the inherent inneffiency of just doing an oil change that generally takes .5hr for even the most skilled techs, and the liability of working on someone else’s vehicle.

  • avatar

    ’05 Expedition 5.4L oil change at my local dealer was $59.78 in a KC suburb. That included tire rotation and Ford OEM filter and 7-quarts of Motocraft’s “Synthetic Blend” 5W-20. And every 5th oil change is free with my punch card! Their Multi-Point Inspection revealed 4/32″-6/32″ tread depth on my Michelins with very slight cupping. I think this is great value as I drive ~12 minutes to the dealer, drink their Starbucks coffee, log into their internet and work exactly as I would from home. I’m in/out in less than 60 minutes. As other commenters have stated, there is time to/from parts store and disposing of used oil as well, but that is not the main objection for me. When I go to sell my Expy (with only 110K miles now) it will have every service receipt in a 3-ring binder in reverse chronological order — from the dealer where it was purchased — and that adds serious value when the time comes to sell it.

    • 0 avatar

      That dealership oil change + inspection deal is a loss leader- whether they charge that $59.78, $20 with a coupon, or free. But customers such as you are likely to return for more complicated maintenance or for your next vehicle (and trade in your current whip). And why wouldn’t you keep using them as your one-stop-shop? You and your dealer have cultivated a good relationship in which both parties are happy.

  • avatar

    I’ll do brakes, shocks and easier suspension work, interior parts like window regulators, o2 sensors and the like. Basically low risk stuff where I don’t need many expensive specialty tools.

    I don’t do things that risk spilling hazardous material or require that I dispose of it. I’m also likely to give repairs where I can’t save much on parts to a shop. For example, markup on spark plugs is fairly low, and my back hurts thinking about fetching the plugs in cylinders 5 and 6. I also have no interest in using an autozone-rented spring compressor.

  • avatar

    I always paid the dealer for an oil change. $75? $85? costs about the same to do it myself.

    Manual specced oil + fILTER for the Chevrolet Camaro is about $65. Dealer is $75. $10 not to do it? worth it.

    I do it on my trucks and jeeps because I just crawl under there, but anything with elss than 4″ of ground clearance WAS going to the dealer.

    why “Was”? Because something blew my mind… I found out the dealer WASN’T using the specced oil!! Blew my mind. So the manual says to use Mobil 1, but the dealer wasn’t using Mobil 1, they were using some duraguard thing… which if I buy a different synthetic brand like that I can end up saving $40….

    So now I take it to a local shop that has a “special” where they charge me $55-60 for Mobil 1 full synthetic.

    Its frustrating to “assume” the dealer uses the materials recommended by the OEM, but they don’t! In fact I found my dealer not even using OEM parts… they sometimes use parts from Autozone! at the dealer! krikey!

    So the moral of the story is just do it yourself… unless its an oil change… its not worth $10 to:
    -get under your car
    -get covered in oil
    -Spill oil on your driveway
    -Spill oil on your face
    -Spill oil trying to transfer it from the catch can to a storage container you can recycle
    -Cleaning off all the tools and equipment
    -Heading back to the auto parts store (which is 20 minutes away here) a second time just to dispose of said oil
    -Cleaning out the back of your car where the used oil somehow always seems to have a drip somewhere no matter how much you clean it off

  • avatar

    Had these on every 3 & 4 wheel internal combustion engine since 1986, never so much as a drip: Mobil 1 @ Costco = same price as non-synthetic @ non-Teamster auto parts stores. I save enough to buy OEM filters @ dealers. Even Stahlwille & Beta tools are less than an hour of dealer service. I don’t weld or compress springs. The 2nd thing I buy for a vehicle is the shop manual, even if it’s $150 US from Daimler. The times I’ve stumped myself & paid for a tow to a shop have been counted against the entertainment budget when “Dieter” told me “Here’s where you went wrong dummkopf”.

  • avatar

    This all depends. I own multiple vehicles and while my ’72 Beetle is fun to mess with and I try to do most of the work myself, I try to avoid doing anything that way on the ’12 WRX I own. The latter is very complex, requires synthetic oil, etc.

    Plus if you go to the same dealer all the time you build a relationship which means you get preferential treatment. Oil change is about $75 over there and for Bay Area that’s quite low. But I do get a free car wash and occasionally other stuff with purchase.

    A pretty big job on these were the spark plugs (flat-4 engine). I did some thinking and decided that despite the warranty I’d rather have the dealer do it. Because if I screw something up I may have to do it all over again and there is a chance of ruining the engine – just not worth it. So I called all the dealers in the area and had my dealer price match the lowest price. Sure, it was $600 but it included a bunch of other services. So the car runs like new again.

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