January: A Month of Automotive DIY

Last month turned out to be a month of doing minor repairs on my work truck.  A few long-time readers will remember that I sold a truck back in spring of 2013.  At the time I thought I was making a smart move, however the timing was less than fortunate.I had just about given up on finding a house back then due to having horrible experiences with Realtors and taking too long to make offers on houses.  I’ve learned that whether I’m dealing with real estate or stocks I often take too long to initiate an investment.  Unlike stocks where you can simply wait for the price you’re willing to pay and there are plenty of shares exchanging hands, there is only one property and once you find the right one you better be ready to make a move.  Obviously there is more than one investment property to choose from, but there is only one “right” one for you.  Price, location, and work needed to be completed are all examples of important factors that need to be considered when determining the ideal property.

…Back to the story.  I believe it was around April that I’d given up finding a house and it was late May that found the one I’m currently in.  Even though I sold the truck I used my motorcycle for transportation.  If you’ve browsed the real estate category on this blog you’ve seen the level of work that I’ve done to this place.  Can you imagine transporting those materials via a bike?  Me neither.  Fortunately I had a friend who was selling a Saturn Vue.  This is a small SUV with a back seat that folds down and offers plenty of room to haul things.  I did all of the rehab work using this vehicle.  I’ve transported doors, tile, insulation, drywall, cement board etc.  It worked out great.

Last year is when I started to work for myself and needed a truck to work out of.  I found a 1999 F-150 that I purchased.  Come on, you didn’t think I was going to buy something new did you? 🙂  It wasn’t particularly well cared for, but the body and interior were in really good shape. I’ve spent time and money getting it back in the condition it needs to be in for the work I’m doing.

Fixing Stuff Since 2013 :-)

Fixing Stuff Since 2013 🙂

I’ve already outlined the replacement of the alternator earlier last month and today I’m going to share with you the transmission repair/maintenance that I completed last weekend.  I can’t take credit for this myself.  My dad is the one who help me identify the problem and correct it.  Even though he doesn’t know about this blog, I just want to say: Thanks Dad!

The problem started a couple of weeks ago when I noticed that on cold mornings the transmission was slipping, not going into gear, when I gave it gas.  I would simply let off the gas and it would go into gear.  This was not an enjoyable experience because the thought in my mind was that I would soon need another transmission if this one went out, at a cost north of $800.00 and that is having the one in it pulled out and rebuilt.  My first thought was to change the fluids.  It was an error on my part not having it done as soon as I purchased it like I did with the oil.  But the problem still persisted even when the fluid was changed.

While visiting with my dad last weekend I asked him what he thought having the transmission replaced would cost me.  He gave me the $800 number above and then asked what it was doing.  His response saved me a great deal of money, fixed the problem, and caused me to realize I have a long way to go to becoming a DIY Master.

My dad is the kind of guy that knows stuff, important stuff that at one time was considered necessary to live.  The kind of stuff fathers would pass to their sons so they could fix problems they would encounter during their lives with their own know-how vs. hiring someone’s know-how.  Regardless of whether you have a high income that makes it easier for you to hire someone else to fix your problems, it really comes down to a fundamental difference in philosophy.  I can afford to have things fixed for me, but I’ve chosen to go down a different path and the impact that has on my financial  life is significant.

Turns out there is a filter in the transmission fluid pan and if the fluid and filter haven’t been changed, can actually prevent enough fluid from moving into the transmission, especially on cold mornings because the fluid is thicker and can’t move easily through a dirty filter.  This is why once the transmission warmed up along with warmer, and thinner fluid, the gears would change fine.  Brilliant.  So, for $46.00 and 30 min of time, I saved myself an expensive repair.  And this is why I have a long way to go.  I had no idea that there even was a filter and that it could be the source of my problem.  I was preparing to shell out over $800, when a simple bit of knowledge, shared by my father, saved me well over $750.00.  Amazing.  Let’s take a look at DIY costs for these repairs vs. what taking it to a shop would have cost:

  • Alternator replacement:                            DIY cost:$121.88 vs. Consumer cost: $390.00
  • Transmission fluid/filter replacement: DIY cost: $46.67  vs. Consumer cost: $129.00
  • Totals:                                                           DIY cost: $168.55 vs. Consumer cost: $519.00

DIY savings: $350.45!  Not to shabby eh?

Being able to fix problems on your own terms is a highly valuable skill set and one that deserves more attention.  At the end of the day what serves your financial life better, paying $168.55 to solve your problem or paying $519.00?  I can’t speak for everyone, but I prefer the smaller amount.  It is why money seems to be less relevant now than at any other time in my life.  Not irrelevant mind you, just less so.  The best way to feel in control of your money is to be less dependent on it.  Taken from this approach, financial independence begins to take on a slightly different meaning, a difference in degree, but a difference that adds a very different element to our relationship with money and hence our dependency on it.  It’s a path I will continue to travel…



6 thoughts on “January: A Month of Automotive DIY

  1. I’m continually amazed at the money we save by doing stuff ourselves. And the more we learn to do, the more confidence we have to try doing more stuff ourselves. Rick’s first attempt at doing a flush and fill on his truck was a bit of a mess, but my brother came over, showed him a couple of things, and now he’s a pro at it. We just found a leak in the tranny cooler line on my truck, and Rick will be fixing that himself too. Oh, the money we save. 🙂

    • Kudos for you guys for your DIY efforts! Sometimes it is trial and error, but that is where the lessons are learned and the value unlocked.
      I’m continually amazed as well. With just a little over a year and half of DIY efforts the savings have been substantial. This is why I’ve started calling around and checking prices for various services. At least in my financial life this is how I track the value my efforts are providing; something net worth, savings rate and other metrics we see on pf blogs just don’t capture.

  2. Stoic,

    Couldn’t agree more. Freedom comes in a lot of different packages. And being less dependent on money is just another form of freedom.

    I’m actually thinking of doing you one better and being less dependent on money by getting rid of our one car. I lived car-free for years and it was a lot of fun. I’ll skip right past the DIY repairs and go for “no repairs”. You’re obviously in a different situation there with the work you’re doing, but being liberated from a car is great.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best regards.

    • Going without the car would certainly be the best option, putting DIY in second place. You know, from going without one before, whether having a vehicle brings any real value to your life or is just a convenience. Saving on taxes/registration, fuel, insurance and maintenance costs would certainly be the most economical route.

  3. It’s awesome that you were able to do DIY on your vehicle, it has certainly saved you a lot of money. Fixing up my own car is something I wish to get into more in the future.

    • Thanks for stopping by! It certainly has saved me money. I hope to keep track of all my DIY activities this year and show the savings that can be captured from doing things myself. All the best in your own DIY repairs and maintenance.

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