How many times have you taken your car to the shop for an issue only to find out that the repair cost is going to involve signing over your firstborn and/or a limb? Rest assured, fellow victims, in the knowledge that all may not be lost. Many jobs that sound complicated are easy to do yourself, which can save you tons of money and time.
Just over a year ago, after a day or two of running roughly, my car began proudly displaying its check engine light. Many of you have seen that same light and understand how unsettling it is to have a constant illuminated reminder that you need to be concerned about your car’s ability to get you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. I took my car to the shop to find that the camshaft position sensor had failed and needed to be replaced. The camshaft position sensor is under the upper intake on my car and is listed in the Great and Mystical Shop Book as a 2-hour job. The part was $110 and the total cost, including labor was $270. I begrudgingly shelled out the money as I had no idea how to fix it myself. Recently, my check engine light came on again. I took it to my local auto parts store where they diagnose check engine lights for free to find that, unbelievably, a year and 9 days after putting a new one in, my camshaft position sensor had failed again.
I took my car to the shop with my receipt in hand believing that they would replace the part for me as I have spent a good deal of money with them—I was wrong. The part was warranted for 1 year—not 1 year and 9 days. They let me know that the cost to replace my camshaft position sensor would be $270 (again). According to the manager, the entire upper intake must be disconnected and removed in order to get to the part which is why 2 hours of shop time must be scheduled.
There was no way that shop was going to get another dime of my money so I decided to do the job myself…no matter how long it took. After some searches on the web (vehicle-specific forums are a great resource), I began to gain some hope. As I researched my issue, I found that other owners claimed there was a “shop trick” that would reduce the removal and installation time to less than a half hour. Rather than disconnecting and removing the upper intake, the bolts on the top and front of the intake can be loosened enough to allow the front of the intake to be raised a couple of inches, providing ample clearance for the removal and installation of the camshaft position sensor, which is connected to the vehicle with one bolt and one wire.
I was pleased to find the part for $47 (not $110) at my local parts store. Using the tips I found in the forums I researched, I had the job done in less than 20 minutes (including finding and putting away my tools). Because I took the time to learn a little bit about my issue, I saved $220 and a good deal of time at the shop.
There are plenty of opportunities to save money on car repairs if you are willing to give just a little time and effort. Some components on modern vehicles are best left to the professionals when they fail, but many parts are easy to get to and can quickly and easily be removed and replaced by anybody with a willingness to turn a wrench and maybe get a little dirty. Do your research and do it yourself.