DIY, should you make the repair, or pay a mechanic?
People tell me, almost daily, “I can just do that myself”. Normally, I laugh it off and think “good luck with that”. The truth is, lots of jobs can be done by someone with very little skills and just a few tools. I wont be teaching you how to do your our work, but here are some things that you need to consider when tackling a DIY repair on your car.
I think that about 70% of people do not let a mechanic fix their car because of price. We all look to save a buck everywhere we can. Saving $25 by replacing your own air filter seems like a good idea right? If your time is worth $25 per hour, and it takes you 3 hours, NOT worth it. If you can do it in about 1 hour or less, do it!
You will see that most of these completely overlap! If you can pay a mechanic to do a job that take him, or her 45 minutes, but you take you 4 hours, pay for it. You will spend more time screwing around with it than its worth, pay it and go do something fun, or go back to work!
Some jobs, most on VWs, require specialized tools. This can be something as common as pliers to remove clamps or Torx drive bits. It a tool that is only used for 1 certain job on 1 type of car. If the repair in question MIGHT require on of these tools, consider paying of the repair. If you can justify buying to tools(this is something I NEVER have a problem with:)) then it might be something you want to consider fixing yourself.
This one is tricky. There is so many great resources online to get repair information, that anyone can learn anything. A friend of mine Katie used a YouTube video to learn how to replace a filter in her car! The look on her face was a look of pure pride! The information is out there, don’t use that as an excuse.
This one is EASY. If you love working on your car, then DO IT! The cost of the tools, time, know-how will all be worth it. It will be worth it because you will enjoy the time working on your car.
There is a DIY caution that I want to give everyone. If you decide that you are going to work on your own car, I support that 100%! (I mean that is one of the points of this blog!) Just understand that if something gets messed up, it is NOT covered under warranty. It will most likely cost you more now. A mechanic will have to undo what you did, then fix the initial problem
Here are some really great DIY things that I recommend people doing(unless you are my customer)
- Wiper Blades
- Light Bulbs(some are a pain, ask me if you are not sure)
- Cabin Air Filters
- Engine Air Filters(some VW filters suck, ask me 1st)
There are other things that are DIY, but the the maintenance stuff is easier! I left off spark plugs because they need to be properly torqued( you need a torque wrench). I also left off oil changes. In my mind, its too much work, a big mess. My dealer charged ~$14 in labor for that service. WELL WORTH IT!
I agree with you on oil changes. I have friends who do it themselves and they are always on my back “Why don’t you do it yourself? It’s a simple task”. I don’t find it worth my time. Why should I get under my car and get all dirty to save 10$. It takes my local garage 10-15mins to change my oil when it will take me about 30mins or more if all goes as planned (which I have learnt that things don’t always go as planned when I work on cars). Also, recycling the oil is a pain.
I don’t think you left anything out of your post. I enjoy reading DIY posts, keep at it!
Agreed x2 with the * for the exceptions of those of us that just enjoy it. I change my own oil most of the time only partly because of cost. I don’t see the hour block I need (buying the oil and filter and recycling old oil) as “cost” for me since it’s something I like to do. That said, even in the VW/Audi family some are far easier to “enjoy” than others. The 1.8T Passat and Audi engines I’d rather take somewhere given the “fantastic design and forethought” for oil changes – right? I remember the first one I owned and asking you what the secret to changing the oil in those were. I’ve passed on that answer to so many since – “A lot of paper towels.” 🙂
True, the passion and want to work on your car trumps the amount of time it will take. Personally I would rather fix/replace something than do an oil change. The feeling of accomplishment is greater, in my opinion. To each there own.
Jer, I remember a time before I worked as a mechanic. I LOVED changing my own oil. It was fun. Back then I didn’t own a 1.8t Passat back then.
Jeremy, I remember my first car. It was a Jeep. One of the first things I did to it was take off some parts and repaint them. So much fun, and I thought I was the coolest!
This is an old post in your blog, but I had to respond. I’ve worked on cars my whole life, but with the purchase of a VW 2002 GTI seven years ago I’ve brought my wrenching to a whole different level. For example, this weekend I’ll be replacing the motor mounts and next weekend I’ll be replacing the ignition harness all the way back to the ECU. This summer a new clutch and a rebuilt transmission are going in. Pretty soon I want to rebuild the bottom end and get a K04 turbo in there. Thank God for the Bently manual, ECS tuning, YouTube , and VWVortex. Now, if only I could get a lift in my garage!