JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With gas prices on the rise, owning a car has become more and more expensive. However, students at Peterson Academies of Technology in Duval County came up with a list of the five things you could learn to do to save yourself time and money.
#1. Cleaning Your Battery
Over time, your car battery will build up corrosion as the battery acid gets exposed to the air. Peterson Academy Junior Alex Khristenko said this can cause a bad connection, making it difficult for your engine to start.
To remove the corrosion:
- Put on gloves and eye protection.
- Write down your radio stations so that you may reprogram them later.
- Disconnect the battery.
- Use a battery terminal cleaning tool ($5.99 Autozone.com) to scrape excess corrosion from the metal connectors.
- Pour a mixture of half water/half baking soda over the terminals. You can also use Coca-cola.
- Reconnect the battery.
Without proper cleaning, you could have to replace your battery, which would cost from $70-100.00, plus labor.
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Peterson Academy Junior Landon Leeon said you should check your battery for corrosion every three months or when you change your oil.
If you do need to replace your battery, car part stores like Autozone will help you install it for free if you buy it from them.
#2. Changing Your Oil
Mechanics recommend changing the oil in your engine every 3,000 miles.
"The oil and the fluids inside your vehicle are the blood of the vehicle. That's what keeps it going," explained Senior Dalton Shaffer.
To change your oil:
- Put on gloves and eye protection.
- Pop your hood.
- Check the levels of all the fluids inside your car-power steering fluid, coolant, wiper fluid.
- Check the air filter to determine if it should be replaced.
- If your car sits low to the ground, raise up the front. At home you can drive the car up on ramps to give yourself clearance.
- Put a container in place to capture the old oil; remove the drain nut. Drain oil.
- Screw the nut back into place, wipe off any excess oil. -Remove and drain the oil filter.
- Pour some new oil into a new oil filter. Rub a little oil around the filter's rubber seal with your finger.
- Screw the oil filter into place.
- Wipe off any excess oil.
- Lower the car.
- Add the amount of oil recommended in your owner's manual.
- Check the level with your dipstick. Close the cap.
- If your air filter needs to be replaced, wipe any dust from the housing with a wet rag. Put in a new filter and secure the casing around it.
- Start the car and let it run for a few minutes before checking underneath the engine for any oil leaks.
If you decide to change your own oil, there are several things to keep in mind. Most cars need 5 quarts of oil or more, which costs about $20.00 depending on which kind you buy. An oil filter is about $5.00.
If you can find a shop offering a special for less than $25.00, it may be worth getting a professional to do it. However, remember that some mechanics will try to sell you extra services that can cost you more money.
If you can find a shop offering a "Ladies' Day" special, you will save some money. But remember, those days can be some of the busiest and could end up costing you 30 minutes or sometimes an hour or more of your time.
#3. Replacing a Tail Light
A burned out tail light can cost you more than just a trip to the mechanic. It can cost you a traffic ticket.
To save yourself from paying a car repair and a fine, Peterson Academy Senior Kenneth Crosby thinks you should replace the bulb yourself.
"Anybody can do it," explained Crosby. "And it would definitely save you money and time out of work or whatever you may be up to, to go take it to somebody to get it done."
To replace your tail light:
- Check your owner's manual for instructions
- If you can access the bulb through your trunk, fold down the interior carpet.
- Using your hands, unscrew the retainers holding the tail light's assembly in place.
- Remove the entire assembly.
- Locate the bulb that needs to be replaced. Twist it and pull it out of the socket.
- Replace the bulb with a new one and put it back into the assembly.
- Push the assembly back into the back of the car.
- Screw the retainers back into place.
- Replace the carpet.
- Turn on the car and check to make sure the bulb is working.
Tail light bulbs come in packs of two for anywhere from $5-10.00 depending on what your car requires. The repair took less than 10 minutes.
Quotes from local auto shops show doing this repair yourself can save you significantly.
For a Honda CR-V:
- $30.00 parts and labor/30 minutes-Auto One Service Center, 10300 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville
- $35.00 parts and labor/30-45 minutes-Coggin Honda, 11003 Atlantic Boulevard, Jacksonville
- $35.00 parts and labor/30 minutes-All Pro Auto Repair, 4122 Southside Boulevard, Jacksonville
#4. Replacing Your Serpentine Belt
Your serpentine belt runs several systems in your car, including your air conditioning and power steering. If you feel a vibration coming from underneath your hood, Junior Mark Jonjock says you should check to see if the belt needs to be replaced.
Similar to your tire treads, if the belt is worn or cracked, you should replace it with a new one.
"As long as you don't run into any problems-any twists or anything-it shouldn't take you but 5-10 minutes," explained Jonjock.
To replace your serpentine belt:
- Find a friend to help you, Jonjock said you can do it on your own, but it will go more quickly with an extra set of hands.
- Loosen the tensioner that holds the belt in place
- Following the diagram under your hood or in your owner's manual, remove the belt
- Wind a new belt around the same pulleys, once again using the diagram provided to you by the manufacturer.
If you are willing to follow the manufacturer's instructions, you can save a lot. A serpentine belt costs $30-40.00. Some local repair shops gave us quotes that would set you back considerably more.
For a 2008 Ford Explorer:
- $115/30 minutes-Touchton Goodyear, 9718 Touchton Road, Jacksonville
- $130/60 minutes-All Pro Auto Repair, 4122 Southside Boulevard, Jacksonville
#5. Rotating Your Tires
"It'll make your tires last longer," said Peterson Academy student Crystal Maddox.
Maddox explained that roads are paved on a slant to help water run off the roadways, but that means your tires wear unevenly.
To prevent them from wearing out too quickly, she suggests you rotate them every 5,000 miles. On average, that means rotating your tires two to three times a year.
According to Walmart.com, their mechanics will rotate your tires for $2.50 a piece or $10.00 for all four. To save time and money, you can do it yourself.
To rotate your tires:
- Remove any decorative hubcaps
- "Break" the lug nuts loose with your tire iron while the car is still on the ground.
- Jack up your car. (At home, you will jack up one tire, use a jack stand to hold up that end of the car, then jack up the other side)
- Remove the lug nuts, leaving the top one for last.
- Switch the tires, twisting the top lug nut on to hold the tire in place.
- Tighten all the lug nuts.
- Lower the car back to the ground and replace the hubcaps
- Repeat the process on the other side of the vehicle.
"They're not too expensive, but they can add up after a while," Maddox said.
Jack stands cost from $20-85.00 depending on the size and weight of your car. If you rotate your own tires, the stands will pay for themselves in 2 or more uses.
DISCLAIMER: The advice and steps shared here are not intended to replace the guidance of your owner's manual. First Coast News is not responsible for any repairs or vehicle damage due to repairs or maintenance performed on your own.