Can I Really do My Own Car Maintenance?

Dear Driving for Dollars,

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I've read several articles on that talk about saving money by doing your own car maintenance -- things like changing your own oil and filters or basic repairs. I'm a pretty handy guy and have a decent set of tools, but I've never worked on a car. Can I really do my own simple car maintenance correctly, without a lot of headaches?


Dear Spencer,

There's no easy answer to this question because there are so many factors, including your ability, your set of tools, the age and type of the car you drive, and exactly what car maintenance task you need to complete. For most cars, it's pretty easy to replace things like headlights, battery and hoses with simple tools, regardless of model or age.

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Do-it-yourself car maintenance that requires going under the hood, such as an oil change or swapping out certain filters, can be easy on some cars and more challenging on others. You may have trouble getting to the engine compartment and may need to remove a special cover that protects the engine and its components. You also may need brand-specific tools to perform tasks such as removing the oil drain plug.

To determine if you can do your own maintenance, assess what you want to accomplish and the tools you need for your specific car. The good news is that many of these procedures can be found online at do-it-yourself sites such as and, or by searching for a description of the repair plus the year, make and model of your car.

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