Earn $50 an hour: Change your own car battery
Doing car repairs yourself pays off -- even for beginners.
Frankly, auto maintenance has always scared me. All
I've ever "fixed" are wiper blades, headlights and taillights. The
extent of my under-the-hood knowledge is how to check and top off oil,
antifreeze and windshield washer fluid. I've never changed my own oil because I didn't want to deal with the waste material.
That's why I recently found myself using an Entertainment Book coupon to get a lube, oil and filter service for $15.88. When I paid, the counter guy said my battery was on its way out. A replacement would retail for about $119.99, but he could get me one for $89.99.
I know less about cars than about doing my own
taxes. Still, that seemed a little high. Maybe I could do better on my
own -- but that would mean installing it myself.
Batteries not instructed
Folks who do all their own auto maintenance are probably snickering. What's the big deal? It's not like replacing the transmission. But some of us didn't grow up watching dads fix cars. My father could build, plumb and wire a house, but he never did auto work. All I knew about batteries is that they have the potential to explode, and that battery acid can ruin your day.
An MSN article noted that they don't make 'em like they used to; in newer cars, batteries might need replacing after four years. My 2001 Chevy Cavalier still had the original battery, so I guess there was a reason it was faltering.
- Bing: How to maintain a car
That $54.99 model wasn't the right kind, but a suitable 7-year battery cost just $10 more. (Incidentally, both costs included disposal of the old battery.) The friendly folks at Schuck's offered to lend the tool I'd need. Before this, I'd never used a socket wrench. (It was cool. I want one!)
Getting the battery out of the vehicle was tricky. It was heavier than I'd imagined, and got hung up somehow. As I struggled and cussed, a young man stopped to help. He lifted it out in one smooth motion. Show-off.
Success, and savings
I lugged the equally heavy replacement out on my own, nestled it into place, and reconnected the battery and terminal clamps. Reluctantly I said goodbye to my new friend the socket wrench, and prepared for the acid test, so to speak: Would the car start?
The car fired right up. And boy, were my hands dirty. Back home, I found that liquid dish detergent really can substitute for that Orange Goop hand cleaner. (Thanks to the Smart Spending message board reader who posted that tip.)
If an auto know-nothing like me can do this, I bet
you can, too. So when your battery starts to fail, consider replacing
it yourself. First, of course, you'll want to read the instructions on
the site I mentioned above, or in a car care book, to make sure you're
doing it safely.
I think it's well worth it. About 30 minutes of work saved me $25. It might take you even less time.
Plus, you'll get to use a socket wrench.
Published Jan. 2, 2008
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