Being a Frugal Car Owner Means Taking Care of Your Vehicle


The cost of being a car owner is certainly enough to make you want to scream. Unless you have the money upfront to pay for the vehicle, you ultimately end up taking out a loan that costs you hundreds of dollars each month over the next few years to pay off. Not to mention, in between there is also the need for car maintenance and repairs, which, depending on the type of vehicle you have, can be through the roof.

If you’ve been feeling the strain of car ownership, or you simply want to find ways to preserve your investment, then it’s time to make a change. By keeping up with the vehicle maintenance (a lot of which you can do on your own) and paying attention to signs that professional repairs are needed, you can put a lot more mileage on your car without doing the same to your bank account.

Know Your Vehicle’s Maintenance Schedule


The make, model, age, and condition of your vehicle will ultimately determine how often you need to carry out certain maintenance tasks. If you’re pretty good at changing car parts and installing replacements such as changing air filters, car fluids, or even minor repairs such as changing out the brake pads, you’re going to save yourself a great deal of money and keep your car operating accordingly. Below are some of the most common maintenance schedules and replacement parts needed, signs it’s time to get it done, and ways you can likely complete the task yourself.

Air Filter Replacement


Your vehicle’s air filters need to be changed once every 12,000 miles or every year. There are some signs you can pay attention to that will help you determine when it’s time to get the filter changed. Some signs your vehicle might show would include: lowered gas mileage, and ignition issues which is usually the onset of fouled spark plugs.

What You Need


Air filters are actually pretty simplistic to replace and will cost you all of a few bucks to complete. First you will need to know your car make, model, and year so that you can look for affordable car parts. Knowing your car’s manufacture information will help identify the exact part-number needed, which then allows you to search and compare various OEM and aftermarket parts and prices. For example, if you had an Audi 100, you would look for Audi parts through a trusted online store like who allows you to search for air filters based on the exact model of the car.

DIY Maintenance


Once you’ve gotten the correct parts for your car you can then go ahead and change it out yourself. Here are some basic steps to follow:

  • Find the air filter (It is found inside of a black rectangle shaped box with metal clips. Your owner’s manual can help you)
  • Open the box so that you can see exactly how the filter fits into the box.
  • Remove the old one, secure the new one, and remember to close the clips once you’re finished.

Oil and Oil Filter Change


About every 3,000-5,000 miles or so your vehicle is going to require an oil and oil filter change. Signs that your oil needs to be changed may include things like: knocking sounds from the engine, the check engine light comes on, or you’ve noticed exhaust smoke.

What You Need


To change your oil and filter parts you’re going to need a car jack, the appropriate type of oil for your vehicle, a ratchet, an oil filter wrench, an oil drain container, and a funnel. As many cars come with jacks now, you will probably only need to purchase the other supplies which will only run you a few bucks. Now, if you have a foreign car, again like the Audi 100, oil changes and air filter replacements are likely going to be more of a challenge – especially with German engineered cars – but know that it is still possible.

DIY Maintenance


  • Locate the oil pan and unscrew the drain plug so that the old oil drains out into your oil drain container.
  • Replace the drain plug and then go to the front of the car engine to remove the oil filter using the wrench.
  • Using the new oil, lubricate the rubber gasket found on the new oil filter, then fill the filter about two thirds of the way with the oil. Screw the oil filter in and tighten it using your hands.
  • Using the funnel you can now fill the engine with oil.
  • Once done check to see that you have the appropriate oil level by using your dipstick. Throw away the old oil filter and see if you can’t pass off that old oil to a local gas station for proper disposal.

Knowing When It’s Out of Your Expertise


This was just a few maintenance tasks that you could complete yourself by purchasing a few auto parts on your own; there are others that include changing the brake pads, spark plugs, and even the battery. However, if at any point you do not feel comfortable or you think that signs of other malfunctions are apparent, you want to contact a mechanic right away. Waiting around hoping the problem will disappear is not a likely option. The longer you wait, the more parts will need replacing and other repairs will be needed costing you more money.

You went through all the hassle of saving money when you purchased the car, why let it go down the drain from there? The best way to make sure you get the most use out of your vehicle is to treat it with care. Reviewing the owner’s manual, keeping up with the maintenance schedule, and even replacing some of the parts yourself are all ways to be frugally proactive and save money.


Photo courtesy of: Ryan McGuire

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Kayla is a mid-20s single girl living in the Midwest, USA. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. You can join her on her journey at or follow her on Twitter @shoeaholicnomor.

1 Comment

  • Kayla, I feel so lucky to have been taught by my father on car maintenance. So I know how to take care of my cars really well and it saves lots money because I don’t have to always bring them to car repair shops when there’s something wrong.

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