Automotive Finances & Money

Auto Forums and Youtube can make you a “Weekend Mechanic”

Some time ago, I told you how to change your vehicle’s oil. It’s not a job for everyone because it can be messy and takes time. It also takes a number of oil changes before the money spent on parts and supplies brings the average cost down to make sense to do it yourself.

However, not all of us do our own auto work to save money. In my case, I just like getting into the engine bits, but just enough to not really risk breaking the car (much). In other words, I’ll change fluids, because it’s not hard, but I’m avoiding replacing brakes and other things that help stop your car.

My Honda Ridgeline has reached 60,000 miles, which means it’s about time to replace the transmission fluid and the rear differential fluid (it’s an All-Wheel Drive truck, so it has a gearbox in the back that needs lubrication from oil).  Knowing the dealer, and even non-dealer mechanics, charge hundreds of $$$ to do these fluids, I chose to turn to the internet to learn how to do it myself.

I searched and quickly found the following article that covers both the transmission fluid AND the rear diff fluid:

It’s an excellent write-up with photos and a list of required supplies. With forums, you get to read through everyone else’s questions and experiences to make sure you don’t make someone else’s mistakes. For instance, someone decided to use the drain hole in the truck’s trunk to run a hose and fill the rear diff fluid up. Personally, I used a $10 gallon pump kit from the local auto store. Took longer and more energy, but I can reuse the (washed) pump for other chemicals down the road.

Changing the Oil in Our MINI Cooper

Since our MINI is out of warranty, and I was VERY unhappy with the $252 oil change a while back, I decided it was time to learn how to change the oil myself. Luckily, I found the following forum entry:

And while I didn’t use the oil vacuum method in the following video, the out-of-car engine example really helped to supplement the article. I would, however, recommend asking your friends if they have the 36mm and 1/2″ ratchet so you don’t need to go spend $30 on a new duo. The 1/2″ ratchet isn’t a normal size unless you work on cars often, so find the car nut of your neighborhood and beg them to borrow one. Or, you could be a jerk and buy them and then return them when you’re done, but I didn’t tell you that 🙂

So, use the internet to your advantage, but also beware of going into a job unprepared. For example, if you drained the oil in your vehicle then realized you forgot to buy new oil, then you better hope you have another car or a nice friend to help you. In my case, it wasn’t until I drained the MINI oil that I realized my ratchet sets won’t fit the 36mm socket, so I drove my truck to the auto store to get the right size. Ugh!

But in the end, I was a happy camper and got to know more about the setup of our MINI, including inspecting the seals, bolts, etc. for myself. You can do the same and become a “Weekend Mechanic” yourself.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • You can YouTube how do to almost anything. I remember in college, I got a wine cork stuck in the bottle and my roommates and I proceeded to spend the entire night trying out all the different ways YouTube had posted how to get a cork out!

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