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The New Frugal Mom is a site dedicated to sharing practical ideas for frugal living to help you save both time and money.

January 29, 2010

Money Smarts | DIY Car Repairs

Every Friday, I share one way I either save or earn money in my own life in the hopes that it might be useful to you.

Before we begin, let me share a little story with you.

Once upon a time, there was a dog. Not just any dog, but MY beloved dog, our GSPointer Brownie:

He, like all dogs I've ever owned, loved going for rides.  Once he grew out of the annoying puppy stage of chewing on EVERYTHING, I would often take him along with me for school dropoff/pickup in my trusty van Claudine:

Claudine is our beloved van, named by my then two year old daughter after a character in this book. I have hauled my kids all over in her and my two fave things about her are 1) she is paid off and 2) she is still under warranty.

Brownie was happy to ride in Claudine, and we were happy (if a bit deafened by his joyful barking) to have him ride with us.

Until one day, the unthinkable happened...

Brownie, on a longer trip back from my bro-in-law's house, quietly and stealthily chewed through not one but TWO of our third row seatbelts.

The cost for parts and labor for our local Toyota dealership to replace them?

$600 + tax!

My hubs, being just as tight with our money as I am, decided that he would replace them himself.

Once he figured out how to get the body panel off, he ordered what were advertised as "Universal Seatbelts", a set of (2) for $100.

Unfortunately, despite his careful reading of the reviews of other purchasers/users, the seatbelts turned out to be less than Universal. Or Toyota turned out to be awfully cunning in how they design their seatbelts so that you can only use their parts. Thankfully, the first set he ordered were returnable!

The cost for us to simply buy the seatbelts from our local dealership was $135 + tax for each. Even this seemed steep to my hubs who decided to get a-Googlin' and see what else he could find.

And that smart man of mine did find something better.

His searching led him to a site called Junkyard Dog. Rather than going to your local junkyard/salvage yard and looking for parts for your car, you can post what you're looking for on a Used Parts Request Form. Suppliers and businesses that specialize in used auto parts will contact you by email to let you know if they've got what you need. If you decide you want to buy them, you simply contact them, request any additional information you need (ie: pictures of the item/part) and then make your purchase.

Knute found (2) seatbelts for $75 ea with $20 shipping. They arrived earlier this week and are absolutely in perfect condition; he'll install them this weekend.

Knute paid a total of $170 for our new seatbelts, saving $430 + tax on having them installed by the dealership and saving $100 + tax on buying them from the dealership and installing them himself.

My point of this post is this: There are several small service/maintenance jobs on your vehicle you can do yourself, like oil changes and filter changes. And even if you need to have a trusted mechanic do the installation on a bigger/more complicated part, you can still save a significant amount of money buying used parts instead of new.

And my other point is this: Anytime you can make a job, whether it's your vehicle or your home, a DIY project, you save yourself a great deal of money on labor and you get the added benefit of teaching your kids how to DIY, too.

Have you saved BIG $$ with DIY projects? Share your success (and big savings!) with us in a comment below!

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  1. I totally agree w/ you on DIY projects, you can save A TON of money, but I think I would be too nervous to take on a safety related project...seat belts are SO important.

  2. A friend of mine just had a broken seatbelt and huge estimate to go with it. But then she found out that the manufaturer (can't remember who, maybe GM), supplies seat belt extenders for their cars for FREE. So, all she did was order the free extenders and was able to install them herself.

  3. Must be fate...I was calling about a bad seat belt today. Some makes have lifetime warranties on them. Supposedly my 1989 Honda accord is covered, I am calling tommorow, if not I MAY be doing this myself.

    But I have to be confident that it is done correctly, as I don't want cheap to end in dead.


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