3 Car Repair Issues You Can Fix Yourself—and 9 You Shouldn't

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Owning a car can be expensive, and with a global semiconductor chip shortage driving up prices, things are only getting worse. It’s no surprise that when it comes to car repairs and maintenance, many drivers want to fix things themselves—but should they?
Sometimes, the answer is yes. There are some straightforward repair tasks that many car-owners will find easier to just do at home—as well as much less expensive.
There are other times, however, when a do-it-yourself approach is not such a good idea. For example, for drivers with a warranty, DIY is never the right approach. In this case, drivers should always get their repairs done at a dealership, where it will be covered.
Consumer Reports offers advice on when drivers can try their hand at home repairs, and when they should take their car to a professional, taking into account both ease and price. This article will summarize Consumer Report’s conclusions about when to repair the issue yourself, when to take your car to an independent shop, and when to take it into a dealership.
Automobile mechanic repairman hands repairing a car engine automotive workshop with a wrench
Some car repair issues you can probably fix yourself, and some you should let an independent shop or a dealership handle.

Car repair issues you can fix yourself

Consumer Reports understands why some car owners opt to do their own repairs and aims to empower drivers to make the right choice about which repairs they can safely do themselves. John Ibbotson, chief mechanic at Consumer Reports, acknowledges this: “Car owners who want to save money will want to strategize the best option for each job,” Ibbotson said.
First, Consumer Reports recommends changing your car’s engine air filter yourself. The air filter is easily accessible on most cars, and drivers can simply remove the old air filter, clear out any debris from the air cleaner box, and then install the new filter. The parts required for this project will likely cost between $21–$25, making it relatively inexpensive.
Second, Consumer Reports encourages savvy car-owners to try their hand at changing their cabin air filter, which eliminates air contaminants from the car’s interior. Often, your vehicle owner manual will provide instructions on how to perform this fix. The parts for this job will likely cost between $30–$36.
Third, you can take a stab at replacing your car’s windshield wiper blades, a task that takes very little time and is sometimes even offered for free by auto parts retailers. Be sure to affix your windshield wipers carefully, however, as you don’t want the wiper to scratch your windshield. This project will likely cost between $28–50.

Car repair issues you should take to an independent shop

Other car repair issues you shouldn’t fix yourself. Consumer Reports advises that for these more difficult, but still fairly routine, repairs, you should take your car to an independent repair shop.
Ibbotson encourages drivers to work up a rapport with a local technician. “Loyalty to one shop is most often rewarded with technicians who know your particular vehicle, and with an honest appraisal of what’s needed,” he said.
These repairs include replacing suspension shocks and struts, a simple process, but with expensive parts. You’ll also want to take your car in to replace a leaky gasket, a difficult and time-consuming process. By choosing an independent shop rather than a dealership, you’re sure to save money on this repair.
Another repair issue that should be taken to an independent shop is the replacement of brake pads. Since this is a routine fix, an independent shop will be sufficient while keeping prices low. Spark plug replacement is another such repair issue, as is alternator replacement.

Car repair issues you should take to a dealership

For significant or complicated repairs, always take your car to a dealership. Ibbotson advises that drivers not skimp on these important fixes: “The dealership’s expertise in its own cars justifies the higher cost of labor for these repairs,” he said.
Consumer Reports recommends going to a dealership for repairing your advanced safety alignment system, which includes important features such as blind spot warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
You should also take your car to a dealership to fix issues with the infotainment system. Dealerships will have the proper technology to deal with these repairs, whereas independent shops will not. Ibbotson adds that “the dealership will always have the latest information from the manufacturer.”
Consumer Reports also advises taking your car to a dealership if there’s a problem with your seat belt or airbag, or if you need maintenance on one of these items. Your dealer can handle these issues best, and you want high quality repair on these essential safety features.
Finally, take your car to a dealership if you need your timing belt, which ensures smooth engine operation, replaced. This is a complicated procedure, and it is necessary to keep your car running.

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