Friday, February 09, 2007

Fixing Things Myself (and Saving Money)

There must have been gremlins in our house and cars the past week. After 3.5 years of relative infrequent repair needs, we had several issues occur at once. For the past few years, I have been paying someone to fix issues like these. This past month, I've been wondering how much less I would spend in retirement since I would have time to fix things myself.

First, I noticed my turn signal was clicking faster than normal, meaning that one of external lights was burned out. A quick look at my tail light showed it wasn't going to be simple change. Access to the bulb would require taking off the tail light cover. Not having work on cars for over 10 years and not on this truck, I wasn't looking forward to all the preparation work - buying the part, finding an manual, and removing the light fixture.

However, I decided to dive into fixing it right away. On the way back to the office, I stopped at a local auto parts store. Using their computer, they identified the correct light bulb for my truck. Since I didn't have a manual for my truck, I looked on the Internet and found the complete manual in a PDF file. After reading the instructions, I took off the tail light and installed the bulb. It took about 15 minutes after I gathered my tools. I called the auto repair shop the next day and learned I had saved $22.50 for the service charge plus parts.

A few mornings later I noticed there was only lukewarm water in our shower. Since our water heater is about 20 years old, my first thought was that it had burned out. When I checked the water heater, I noticed the pilot light wasn't lit. Since the instructions to light the pilot were written on the water heater, I decided to first try lighting it myself. (I had lit the pilot in my previous 90 year old house many times.) As it turned out, the pilot light was lit on the first try. This saved a $69 service call plus an estimated $20 repair charge.

Then our sliding glass door wouldn't close when the temperature dropped to one degree overnight. We had called a repair service that was going to charge $30 to fix it that afternoon. However, when the sun rose, it warmed up the door and we were able to get it to close. (OK, it's a bit of a stretch to claim I fixed this, but we did save $30:-)

Total saved was $141.50, not including tax. Not bad for one week of handling my own repair work, which I sometimes enjoy doing since I am an engineer. I can see easily doing more of my own repairs in my early years of retirement, which would somewhat reduce my living expenses.

For more on Reaping the Rewards , check back every Friday for a new segment.

Photo Credit:, Kenn Kiser

This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2007 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


Dimes said...

Your water heater is TWENTY YEARS OLD??? Did you know the life expectancy on those things is only seven years?
Next up, make sure you know how to change out a hot water heater. ;-)

And WD-40 works wonders on sliding glass doors. Ours is a bear and it probably weighs about twice what I do.

Super Saver said...


Thanks for your comment. I knew I was living on borrowed time, but I didn't know how much:-) If we need a new water heater, I won't do it myself. I haven't learned how to properly solder copper pipe:-(

Thanks for the WD-40 tip for the sliding glass doors. I will try some on the doors once the weather gets warmer.

Tight Fisted Miser said...

You can definitely save a lot of money if you're handy. I'm not very handy but I did change my brake pads a couple years ago since I couldn't afford to pay a shop to do it. That was kind of scary but they worked.

W2E said...

Hello and glad to find your blog. Here’s a relevant article related to car repairs that I wrote a while ago – I thought it might be a good read on your blog as well:

If you are experiencing problems with your car, it is highly recommended to take it to a specialist. This article speaks about some basic information about car parts. If somehow you think you are good at fixing cars, just take a look and write down the parts you need to replace or simply repair. For those who don't know too many things about what's inside the car's engine, here is some basic information.

The spark plug wires have very important tasks inside the whole car system as these wires are carrying about 50.000 volts a second under a high temperature. This car part plays a crucial role because it harnesses thousands of volts and brings this juice to the spark plugs. Choosing for a high quality spark plug wire is very important because this way you are not wasting energy. The spark plug wire has to be replaced from time to time, otherwise it gets poor and can cause engine misfiring.

It is also recommended that you check the brakes regularly. Many specialists agree that heat treated brakes are very efficient as they resist better to fade and warping. Industry analysts are advising car owners to equip their vehicles with anti lock brakes. These breaks are considered to be lifesavers because they keep the car under control even under rough driving conditions. In order to maintain the brakes' highest performance you have to pay great attention to a proper periodic maintenance.

Belt and hose replacement are also needed to perform every once in a while. Those are rubber parts and contact with oil and high degrees temperature is imminent. In order to prevent premature damages it is recommended to treat the hose with spray silicone or any other rubber protector. You will also need to do a slippery treatment of the belt, which will prevent the gripping of the pulleys. Even with a periodic maintenance these car parts will fail because of the high temperature exposure. Specialists indicate a periodically inspection of these car parts in order to avoid the damage of the engine itself.

Proper fuel systems and air intake are also very important car parts that help the car gaining horsepower and torque. High quality fuel injectors and pumps are best for your car and if replaced from time to time will improve the ignition control performance and the horsepower as well. Your car will get an excellent throttle response making it easier to drive and to control.

A periodically battery inspection is also welcomed because if the battery is corroded you will encounter difficulties in starting the car or while driving in cold weather. It is recommended to keep the battery's surface clean in order to prevent a quickly discharging of the battery. For a best maintenance it is recommended that you cover the metal parts with grease to prevent corrosion. In order to recharge the battery, connect and disconnect the leads to the battery. It is forbidden to smoke or cause sparks during battery charging.

For more resources on car parts and car repair, here are some random manufacturers and models: Mazda parts and accessories, used Honda parts, Bentley performance parts, Audi parts and accessories, Acura parts and accessories, Buy Chevrolet spare parts, Porsche parts and accessories and Lamborghini accessories.


Michael S.