Don’t Be Scared of Fixing Your Car Yourself -- We Did It!

Fix-it ticket fixed! My sister and I used to share a car, and I was always amazed at the panache with which she would do car maintenance and repairs, like top off the oil and windshield-wiper fluid.

"Oh my God, you’re like a mechanic," I’d say, watching from our stoop as she strode purposefully from trunk to engine with mysterious bottles.

"It’s not hard," she’d inform me.

Maybe not. But despite the fact that I can negotiate a car purchase with terrifying efficiency, cook amazing meals that'd make Emeril Lagasse say "BAM!", and share the stage with male improvisers without fear, I was convinced that if I'd attempt such tasks, I’d somehow end up with oil spurting across my windshield on the New Jersey Turnpike.

But when I got a fix-it ticket last week and looked at our dwindling bank account, I knew I had to try a few simple car fixes, including fixing my broken tail light. And you know what? It wasn't hard. My sister’s right.

I hate when that happens.


Here’s what I did to fix it:

Step 1: Went to my local auto supply store (I think it’s a Kragen’s), and asked the guy at the counter for a light bulb for a 2004 Honda CRV brake-light. He walked over and handed me a $7 item.

Step 2: Looked at my car’s manual, which gave a step-by-stop guide to dismantling the thingies that the brake-lights are in.

Step 3: Conned my stepson into coming downstairs to watch my daughter and step on the brakes when I asked him to, so I could know for sure which light to replace.

Step 4: Realized that it was really hard to get at the right-side brake-light thingy, and ended up maneuvering my Phillips-head screwdriver through the hinge side of the rear door (I am awesome!).

Step 5: Continued following the instructions to pop out the bulb and pop in the new one.

Step 6: Realizing my stepson had vanished upstairs, I asked a passersby to look at the tail-light and verify I’d done the right one.

Step 7: Jumped around with my daughter whooping, "I’m a mechanic! I’m a mechanic!"

Step 8: Went upstairs, where my husband said, "That took a long time, did something go wrong?"

Step 9: Decided not to mind, because I saved us a hundred bucks. I wonder what else I can fix?!

Step 10: Drove us to the local precinct, where the very nice officer above signed off on the ticket and greeted my girls, who now excitedly talk about "That nice policeman guy like Officer Buckle!"

Now, that I look at YouTube, I see a ton of videos showing how to do just this. So if  you’re intimidated by basic maintenance, but your family budget could use a little assistance, sack up and give it a try. Honestly, people, if I can do it, you can.

Are you already good at stuff like this, or could you use encouragement when it comes to matters of the car? What’s your favorite I-did-it fix?

Image via Amy Keyishian

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