A few months ago I had to take the company van in for new tires. As I waited, I happened to overhear one customer was paying $30 for an air filter change – WHAT? Yes, that $30 included the air filter, but cost is almost certainly overpriced for a service anyone could do. It does depend on what kind of vehicle you drive as air filters vary in price. I am by no means a mechanic or a car guru, but I wanted to pass along two simple fixes I have done myself that are quick, easy, and can save you money – AND time. No need to make an appointment to see an auto mechanic or spend any time waiting in line.
REPLACING AN AIR FILTER
Let’s start with the air filter scenario presented above. Air filters need to be replaced around once a year, but that timeframe varies depending on the car, how many miles are driven and where you live. In Arizona we sometimes need to change our air filters more often, especially if you live in a rural area with dirt roads. Here’s a breakdown of how I replace my air filter:
- Refer to your car’s manual or online to see which type of air filter you need. You can also search online or find a YouTube how-to video specific to your car’s model.
- Purchase an air filter – go affordable since filters are replaced annually. Superstores tend to sell auto parts cheaper than auto parts stores. Purchasing online would be great if you could avoid the shipping charges. Air filters run for $5-$10 for standard cars.
- Locate the air filter. Air filters usually hide under rectangle casings next to the engine in newer cars. In older cars, the air filter is usually under a pizza-sized circular casing.
- Check the air filter. Hold the filter up to light, and if no or little light shows through, it’s time to replace that bad boy!
- Exchange the air filter. Assuming the air filter needs replacing, replace the old air filter for a new filter. You might end up unscrewing the casing or having to slide the casing out – the whole process takes less than 10 minutes. Just remember to screw the casing back on, if needed.
YOU ROCK and you just saved at least $10 by changing the air filter yourself. WARNING: There are some models of cars and trucks where it’s complex enough to justify paying for an exchange, but that’s an exception. When in doubt, youtube or read online about your model.
CHANGING WINDOWSHIELD WIPER BLADES
In Arizona I change my windshield wipers about once a year. The main reason is because it is so very hot most of the year and we don’t get a lot of rain. So by the time our monsoon begins my wipers are rotted and don’t work so I find myself in need of a new set. I learned years ago to not bother buying anything but the cheapest ones because I would only need to use them a few times. In a report from arizonafamily.com we had had only 21 days of rain and 3.74 inches of measurable rain at Sky Harbor Airport by November 2012 which was less than half our usual average. Still that’s not much rain!
I hear you can clean wiper blades with alcohol, which can extend their life, but at some point blades just have to be replaced. On top of the price of blades, it will probably cost around $20 to replace them if you go to a mechanic whose blades are marked up to begin with! Not worth it – here’s a breakdown of how to replace those wipers yourself:
- Refer back to the car’s manual or online and find the correct type of blades you need (sound familiar?).
- Pick up the wipes at a store (again, superstores will be cheaper than auto parts stores). For those in Arizona you might consider buying new blades in July because the monsoon begins around the second week and by then everyone is buying up all the cheap blades. 🙂
- Remove the wiper blade by pushing it against the metal wiper rod that attaches to the car. You might want a helper holding the rod, so that you do not accidently drop the rod onto the windshield. The rod’s hook should slip out of the blade (there might be a clasp you have to hold down to slip off the wiper).
- Replace the old blade with the new one by just slipping the new wiper onto the rod’s hook.
- Repeat the process with the other blade on that window if needed (probably will be). Sometimes the passenger and driver wipers are different sizes, so make sure you replace the wipes with the appropriate size.
- Some vehicles also come with a back window blade, my 1996 Nissan Pathfinder had one.
That sounds more complicated than it is – really, just visit YouTube for a visual tutorial if working on cars isn’t your thing. Changing both wipers takes about 5 minutes total once you know what you are doing. Savings: At least $20.
BONUS TIP: At some automobile parts places, like O’Reilly’s and Autozone, you can ask for help in changing the air filter or the windshield wipers. The guys are usually more than happy to come out and do the change for you, at no cost. It just occurred to me that perhaps I should give these guys a tip but I never have. Hmmmm…
What kind of routine auto maintenance do you do yourself? What are you willing to pay for?