3 MIN READ

Put the Brakes on High Auto-Repair Bills With This Do-It-Yourself Manual

Girl checks the oil in the car's engine
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If a great feeling of despair sinks in whenever your car’s check engine light comes on, you’re not alone.

Taking your car to a mechanic can be a pricy ordeal. It’s no wonder car owners dread trips to the auto repair shop.

With the cost of labor often significantly higher than the price of parts, tools and equipment, do you ever wish you could just take care of the problem yourself?

Well, it may not be as difficult as you may think. And you can potentially save hundreds of dollars.

A Haynes Manual Can Help

Haynes Publishing Group produces hundreds of model-specific manuals that offer step-by-step guidelines for various maintenance and repair jobs.

Even complete car-repair novices can use Haynes Manuals to figure out how to do certain repairs, said Mike Forsythe, vice president and general manager of worldwide editorial at Haynes Publishing Group.

The manuals are sold at auto-parts stores and online.

“One of the biggest obstacles to DIY auto service or repair is the lack of knowledge and confidence,” Forsythe said. “With our manuals and some tools you may already have lying about, people can learn the skills, procedures and confidence to work on their own vehicles.”

Haynes publishes both print and digital manuals, including guidebooks under the brands Chilton and Clymer. The average print copy contains more than 800 photographs, so visual learners can easily follow the steps, Forsythe said.

Online manuals can be viewed on mobile devices and include enhancements such as high-quality color photos, color wiring diagrams, easy navigation and keyword search.

Haynes also produces on-demand videos that guide home mechanics through projects one step at a time.

Manuals and Videos by the Numbers

344 Haynes Automotive Print Manuals
226 Haynes Motorcycle Print Manuals
230 Haynes Automotive Digital Manuals
79 Haynes Motorcycle Digital Manuals
1000 Haynes OnDemand Videos
219 Chilton Automotive Print Manuals
440 Clymer Print Powersport and Tractor Manuals
155 Clymer Digital Manuals


Even if you have basic car-repair knowledge, Forsythe said, it's good to get a repair manual that's specific to the year, make and model of your particular vehicle. “While some automotive knowledge is universal, even something as routine as changing a spark plug can vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle,” he said.

“For example, on the Mazda RX-8, you have to remove the front wheel just to access the spark plugs. A rare situation, but it illustrates the importance of identifying model-specific differences.”

The Savings Add Up

Haynes editors took two popular vehicle models — a 2009 Toyota Camry and a 2011 Ford F-150 — and compared the prices dealerships would charge for 10 common maintenance and service jobs with the cost of parts if the car owner were doing the job on his or her own.

They found Camry owners could save $1,293.32 by doing the 10 jobs themselves over getting their car serviced by a dealer — and that’s factoring in spending $25 for a Haynes Manual and $77 for basic tools and equipment, like a socket and wrench set, a large C-clamp, an oil-filter wrench, an oil-drain pan and jack stands.

2009 Toyota Camry

Maintenance Job Dealer Labor and Parts DIY Parts Savings
Wiper Blade Replacement $79.73 $31.98 $47.75
Headlight Bulb Replacement $53.99 $11.99 $42.00
Alternator Replacement $580 $259.99 $320.01
Upper Radiator Hose Replacement $66.02 $10.39 $55.63
Thermostat Replacement $173.43 $10.99 $162.44
Spark Plug Replacement $317.60 $41.94 $275.66
Brake Pad Replacement (Front) $148.23 $29.99 $118.24
7,500-Mile Service $247.00 $46.83 $200.17
Oxygen Sensor Replacement (2) $379.94 $236.98 $142.96
Air Filter Replacement $42.45 $11.99 $30.46
Haynes Manual and Tools $102.00 -$102.00
Total $2088.39 $795.07 $1,293.32

The Haynes editors said Ford F-150 owners could save $975.18.

2011 Ford F-150

Maintenance Job Dealer Labor and Parts DIY Parts Savings
Wiper Blade Replacement $59.00 $15.98 $43.02
Headlight Bulb Replacement $63.62 $15.99 $47.63
Alternator Replacement $738.50 $467.99 $270.51
Upper Radiator Hose Replacement $126.97 $55.49 $71.48
Thermostat Replacement $102.66 $15.99 $86.67
Spark Plug Replacement $181.10 $39.92 $141.18
Brake Pad Replacement (Front) $159.98 $54.00 $105.98
7,500-Mile Service $122.26 $22.69 $99.57
Oxygen Sensor Replacement (2) $417.66 $236.98 $180.68
Air Filter Replacement $42.45 $11.99 $30.46
Haynes Manual and Tools $102.00 -$102.00
Total $2,014.20 $1,039.02 $975.18

Many times, the cost of labor at a dealership exceeds the cost of parts. But parts at a dealer also can be more expensive than getting the parts yourself at an auto-parts retailer.

Forsythe said several service jobs, like replacing a headlight bulb, wiper blade, air filter or spark plugs, take less than 30 minutes to complete and require only a simple screwdriver, if that.

Gain Knowledge That Lasts

It’s one thing to save money on a one-time expense. It’s another to possess the knowledge necessary to continue saving money over a lifetime.

Knowing about automotive repair doesn’t just save you money on the work you can do yourself, but it can also help you from getting taken advantage of financially when choosing to take your car to a professional.

“One of Haynes’ vice presidents recently replaced the brakes on his Camaro,” Forsythe said. “Less than two weeks later, a dealer told him he needed all new brakes and it would cost $400. The dealer, in this case, was trying to take advantage of him, but he knew better.”

Possessing automotive-repair knowledge is empowering, he said.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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