By Erik Galicia 

It can be a little embarrassing to be a grown man and admit “I don’t know anything about cars.” They just never interested you much and you tuned out of conversations with friends who talked about them when you were younger. You didn’t pay attention when your dad showed you how to change some brakes. 

But now you’re at a university over 1,500 miles from home. Your car is broken. Your family members are not coming to work on your car. You might need to pay for a tow truck to move it somewhere where it won’t be picked up by another tow truck. Then, you’re going to need to find out what’s wrong with it. Then, you’re going to need to buy parts. Then, possibly, pay some guy to put those parts in your car.  

No matter what, this is going to cost you. But it can cost you less if you cut out “some guy” and do it yourself. To do that, you must become someone who can say “I know a couple things about cars.” You will need to invest in a decent set of tools. 

Now, let’s talk about basic maintenance. According to The Street, oil changes alone can cost up to $500 a year in total. Obviously, this depends on how much you drive, so keep your driving to a minimum. You will have to pay for a new filter and oil, but when you eventually must change your oil, you can do it yourself — it’ll take you 10 minutes. 

Doing your own car work can save you big throughout the year. According to an infographic by The Car Connection, changing your own headlights will save you over $30, changing your own drive belt will save you over $40 and bigger jobs, like replacing your own alternator, will save you over $100! 

I have some experience with the last one. I had to leave my car parked on campus with a dead alternator. My family told me, “You’re going to have to change it out yourself.” 

This is where YouTube comes in. I did not find a video for how to replace an alternator on a 2012 Chevy Malibu. But I found several others that were close enough. 

It can be frustrating to try to remove a part, your hands dug deep into all the mess under the hood, and it just won’t budge. Stay calm and watch videos. Watch different videos. Maybe you’ll have to watch a video about how to remove a different part that is close by just to create a path to remove the alternator.

Stay calm. Take a break and listen to some music. Then figure it out. You will feel accomplished and send photos of the removed alternator to everyone who ever thought you couldn’t do it. Lastly, I, who only knows a couple things about cars, do not recommend doing your own brakes! Save that one for the pros. 


Erik Galicia is a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism