How to Buy and Install Your Own Car Replacement Parts by Chris Martin

Taking your car to an auto repair shop can be expensive and inconvenient. Wouldn’t it be great if you could fix your car on your own — even if it requires replacing a part or two?

It’s not as difficult as it might seem. With a little planning and some elbow grease, you can purchase replacement auto parts on your own and install them in your garage or driveway. Here are some suggestions on how to repair your car without relying on a mechanic.

  • Maximize cost savings. The best way to save the most money by installing car replacements parts yourself? Look for the parts which are the most expensive to buy, but are the easiest to install. (Alternators and brake calipers are good examples.) You’ll avoid repair shop markup by purchasing them directly from a supplier, and you won’t spend too much time taking the rest of your car apart just to get to the spot where the part needs to go.
  • Determine a timeframe. Before purchasing a part, you should figure out how long it will take to install it yourself. There are numerous websites (like AutoMD.com) that list the estimated man hours for specific repair jobs. If something will take longer than you have time for, you may be better off having a pro take care of it.
  • Consider buying aftermarket parts. There’s no rule that says you have to purchase an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part. Not only will you likely find a wide variety of aftermarket parts available for your specific vehicle, they will be just as good than new OEM parts. Companies that produce parts for a specific model year often continue to manufacture these components for people like you — and they use the same quality standards and production specs as they did when they were making them for "new" cars. Plus, these parts frequently come with warranties as well.
  • Steer clear of uncertified aftermarket parts. However, they may be a few aftermarket parts that are not produced to OEM standards. These are the ones which should be avoided, because there’s no guarantee that their quality will be the same as OEM parts or OEM-certified aftermarket parts.
  • Think about opting for remanufactured parts. In the past, this wasn’t a viable option for do-it-yourselfers; but the remanufacturing processes have come a long way since then. Today, most remanufactured parts have been carefully disassembled, thoroughly cleaned, and properly adjusted so they perform just like new. New components are often used, warranties are common, and they are almost always less expensive than either OEM or aftermarket parts.
  • Don’t get "universal" parts. These are auto parts that can ostensibly fit many types of cars. But in reality, they tend to require some adjustment and/or modification in order to get them properly installed — which can take additional time (and patience). Even then, the quality may not be as high as with parts that are made for your specific vehicle.
  • Research DIY car sites. You may be surprised at how many websites there are on the Internet that tell you how to install car parts and/or perform certain maintenance tasks. Many of them provide detailed parts lists and instructions, project difficulty ratings, and even demonstration videos to help novices and experts alike fix their cars themselves.
  • Test your work in real conditions. While it’s tempting to skip or gloss over this step after you’ve spent time repairing your car, doing so could cost you more time and heartache later. If you’ve put in new struts, it won’t help to drive your car on a flat surface if you want to see if they are working properly. You’ll need to find some rough ground and put them through their paces a little bit. After all, you may not save much time and/or money if you have to repeat a repair job because you failed to test it. 

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