I got a new car! OK, I really didn’t, but based on the short test drive of my old one it feels a little like it. I spent the weekend putting 4 new struts, rear springs, rear strut mount plates, spark plugs and plug wires on the old Escort (1993, 159,000 miles and still going!). I had it about together on Sunday evening and noticed that the front brakes were shot too. So before taking her down off the jack stands, I picked up new pads and hardware and put brakes on the front too. Add it all up, plus he new tires back in January, and I’ve put about $500 into her this year. I’ve got to get an alignment and tie rods tomorrow too, so it’ll be about $700 when I’m done. Not bad considering the estimate I got from the local muffler shop for the struts and rear springs alone was over $800. I figure I saved about $700 between the struts, springs and brakes (not inlcuding the $180 I spent on new tools! πŸ™‚ ).
If all goes acording to plan, it’ll buy me time until the van is paid off in about two and a half years. That also means I should be very close to 200,000 miles on this car. My Dad beat his Dad in putting over 100,000 miles on a car, and I think I’m going to beat him to 200K (about 175K will actually be mine).
Speaking of putting brakes on a car, this is something that anyone with any kind of mechanical ability ought to learn to do. I spent $16 on doing my front brakes for the Escort. Yep, you read that right $16, $10 for pads and $6 for the hardware kit. Sure, I bought the cheap parts (it’s a beater after all), but even buying top notch stuff is real cheap. (I bought the parts to do my Odyessy brakes from Honda and it was still less than $60.) Consider you’d easily spend 10 times what I did to have it done by someone else, it’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. You’ll need:

  • Jack stands (about $25 for a pair)
  • A floor jack ($30-$40 for a basic one) You can use the jack that came with your car, but they’re usually not that good.
  • A basic mechanic’s tool set (about $75 and up for Craftsman, cheaper if you buy off brands)
  • A shop manuals made by Haynes or Chiltons for your car. Mine for the Escort was $12 at Autozone. If you want the best, go to the dealer and get the ‘Official’ one which wil set you back about $75 or more. The aftermarket manuals are generally pretty good, though.

Add all that stuff up and you’ll about break even the first time. After that you’ll save a bunch. I figure it this way – I saved at least $140 by putting in 2 hours of dirty labor, so I got paid $75 an hour. That’s more than I make at work!

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