How to Be Proactive with Car Maintenance and Repairs

When you're paying down debt and trying to save money for the future, it's important to minimize bills — especially those that can otherwise be avoided. By being proactive about car maintenance and finding options to negotiate or use second opinions, you can prevent emergency bills down the road.

Not only does DIY car maintenance help minimize the chances of a breakdown, it saves you money in the long run. And while it's essential to pay the pros to perform some car repairs and maintenance — it's not that easy to DIY a transmission repair without some expertise — other car maintenance and repair techniques can be simple to master. By following these basic steps, you can be proactive in keeping your car in top shape and prevent big bills from mechanics and car dealerships.

Visit Local Auto Part Stores for Free Service

Many local auto parts stores offer some of these services for free, including testing for your battery, alternator, starter, or voltage regulator: so, if you sense something isn't right with your car, check in at an auto parts store before you ask the mechanic. Battery charging is often another free service provided, and you can find help to perform some of the tasks above or at least get some lessons and best practices to maintain your car on your own.

Easy DIY Auto Part Replacements

You could initially save some money by avoiding routine car maintenance — but this could cost a lot down the road. It's smart to have an understanding of when certain elements of your car need to have maintenance. While there are guidelines for when this type of maintenance should happen, it's also a good idea to check your owner's manual for specifics. All of these car maintenance techniques are ones you can potentially do yourself, by buying the parts that match your make and model and doing your own labor.

Oil change

When to change?

Many automakers suggest intervals of 5,000 miles for an oil change, but oil can also break down with time, even when you have driven fewer than 5,000 miles.

DIY cost

Depending on the type of oil you use, an oil change can cost anywhere from $20 to $100 at a shop, so save on labor by learning how to do a quick oil change in your own driveway.

Spark plug replacement

When to replace?

Spark plugs should be changed every 30,000 miles or so.

DIY cost

Spark plug replacements can cost about $200 at a mechanic but costs only a few dollars for the parts.

Air filter and cabin filter replacement

When to change?

Air filters should be replaced every three years or 30,000 miles and cabin filters can often be replaced at the same time.

DIY cost

Filter replacements will cost about $60 to $80 at a shop, but the filters themselves won't be more than $50 and can take minutes to replace.

Wiper blade replacements

When to change?

Wiper blades should be replaced about twice a year, especially if you live in a snowy or icy climate.

DIY Cost

New wipers can cost about $20 per blade and can be swapped out in less than five minutes.

Battery replacement

When to change?

Your battery should potentially be replaced every 35,000 miles or every few years.

DIY cost

This can cost between $50 and $100 at the shop but a dealership will cost you extra with a mechanic's time on their schedule. So skip the labor costs at the mechanic and DIY.

Brake pad and brake fluid replacement

When to change?

Brake pads and brake fluid should be replaced every 60,000 miles, but any grinding of brakes is a good sign that they are in need of repair.

DIY cost

Brake pad replacement usually costs about $150 per axle at the shop. A break fluid change will cost about $150. The cost of pads and fluid are minimal in comparison.

Windshield repair and brake/signal light replacement

When to change?

If your windshield has a minor chip, you can use a kit to repair on your own. When any of your lights go out, you can easily replace on your own.

DIY cost

Windshield repair kits can be less than $20 -- just remember they only work on very small cracks. The price of lights will depend on which light and the make and model of your car, but buying a light online sets you up for a quick 30-minute fix.

Replace Your Fuses

When to change?

If you notice a set of lights or other electrical equipment isn't working, a quick check of your fuse box can often tell you exactly which part of your car blew a fuse. Check your car's manual to see where the fuse maps to see if anything obvious is creating the blown fuse. If you replace the fuse but it blows again, it's a good sign that your mechanic needs to have a closer look at the cause.

DIY cost

Single fuses are cheap, so an easy check and fix of your fuse box can save you the time and hassle of consulting a mechanic.

Research automotive repairs before you try

If you're ready to DIY your own car maintenance, it can be a good idea to research well before you plan to perform the maintenance action. While online videos can offer rigorous tutorials, it also helps to head to your local auto parts store to stock up on what you might need and ask the employees for any tips.

While these maintenance activities can be easy to perform, some may require a bit of a learning curve, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your car and give yourself plenty of time to get the task done.

If you are depending on your fix to get yourself on the road immediately, don't skip the professionals, but instead find some ways to raise cash to pay for a job done well.

Brush up on auto repair how-to

While maintenance can be done on your time, automotive repairs may require you to take immediate action. Having a plan in place for common repairs like changing a tire can minimize any surprises and help you get on the road as soon as possible.

Watching videos, reading articles, and stocking up on emergency tools you may need — such as a tire jack for replacing a flat tire — gets you ready if the unexpected occurs.

Be proactive with car problems

When it comes to automotive repair, some things are just better to outsource. Ever hear a funny noise coming from your car and hope it'll just go away? While it can be tempting to ignore problems, it's smart from both a safety and financial perspective to take a proactive approach in making sure the issue is checked out by a pro.

...but always get a second opinion and a second quote

If you do take the car to a garage, remember that you should always get a second opinion. What is essential to one mechanic is merely optional to another one down the road.

It's also important to ask at the garage about any discounts they may offer (for example, you may get a discount if you pay in cash, as opposed to on a card) and get a few quotes before you commit to service.

At Advance America, we offer short-term loans to help you through these small-dollar situations. Visit to learn more about these loans.


The Advance America advantage

Since 1997, Advance America has helped millions of hardworking people with a variety of financial solutions including Payday Loans, Online Loans, Installment Loans, Title Loans and Personal Lines of Credit.
157+ million
loans issued
800+ stores
and online loans
25+ years
providing loans