This past weekend we loaded up Frugal Boy in the car and visited family in Kentucky.
It’s nice having some cousins his age because it lets us parents share supplies and advice. Thanks Aunt Sarah for looking after Frugal Boy for awhile!
Here is a slightly younger cousin.
I keep trying to turn Frugal Boy into a water baby, but he still hasn’t gotten excited about pools.
Visiting family means a whole new set of toys to play with. The Little Mermaid was a short distraction.
The audience grew
and grew some more!
Frugal Boy lost the somber competition.
but he did score some Grandma time.
The drive there and back was pretty good (even better than the trip to Missouri). Frugal Boy had some new toys to keep him entertained. The string on this clip was almost as good as the pacifier itself.
Who needs a cuddly teddy bear when you can hold a stainless steel water bottle?
Thanks to all of our family members that made food and entertained Frugal Boy. It was a nice break from the daily grind!
I was driving down the alley last week to pick up Frugal Boy from the babysitter when out of no where a loud boom emitted from the front end of the car. Shocked, I hit the brake and put it into park, then quickly turned the ignition off. A couple of framing carpenters working nearby had also been startled and one of my neighbors who happened to be out came running over. Together we looked underneath the car to see what had fallen off or what was dragging.
Our cursory glance did not reveal any smoking gun, only a piece of curved metal that had sheared/snapped off, and since I still needed to pick up Frugal Boy, I decided to try and get the car back into its parking space. The car shaked and shuttered while in slow reverse but it covered the short distance.
Later that evening after letting the question simmer in the back of my mind I had an idea of what it might be. A quick check later and I had found the culprit.
The front driver’s side spring coil had blown out. The giant metal spring works along with the strut to form a critical component of a cars suspension system. That suspension system turns pot holes and speed bumps from jarring impacts to soft bumps. A common misconception is that shocks and struts are the same thing. While they perform the same function, smoothing out your ride, they work slightly differently.
Some cars have struts on the front and shocks on the back while others have struts or shocks on the front and back. Either way, you have to replace A with A and B with B.
Shocks and struts should always be replaced in pairs. Since the front drivers side broke, I also needed to replace the intact (I wouldn’t go so far as to say “functioning”) passenger strut.
Removal was surprisingly easy. Not including the wheel lug nuts, there were a total of 5 bolts to remove for each strut.
sorry for the blurry photo, it was starting to get dark outside.
One of my neighbors was impressed that I knew how to do the replacement. I let him in on my little secret. I watched the first 4 minutes of this youtube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEaevAxA8Gc
While the video goes on and on about coil compression and the possibility of maiming yourself, I opted for the safer and easier route and just purchased a preassembled strut+coil.
To my astonishment, the cheapest retailer that I found for the two preassembled struts wasn’t my local NAPA store, or Autozone, or Advanced Auto Parts. It was Amazon! By waiting 5-8 days for free shipping, I was able to save $120 over NAPA, the only brick and mortar in town that had the part in stock.
The grand total was $200 in parts ($100 per side) and after using an Amazon gift card and some credit card points I had knocked the out of pocket cost down to $166. Labor took me a total of 4 hours, two to disassemble and two to reassemble.
For a little comparison, back in January of 2013 I took our other car into a nationally operated chain garage to replace the struts (on the front) and shocks (on the rear). The front ended up costing us $467. $112 of that was labor and the other $355 was parts. Amazon has those same parts for $258. If I had done that job myself, I would have saved the labor and price part difference for a total of $209. For those of you saying your time is worth a lot, in my case it worked out to $28/hour and that’s because I am an amateur and have to waste time finding the tool I just put down.
By diagnosing and fixing the problem myself, I saved about 45% vs giving up and calling a mechanic. The difficulty level is low and the amount of tools needed is also fairly simple. I used a
two jack stands
two ratchet wrenches
3 sockets sized 15mm, 17mm, and 19mm?
a cheater bar (basically a really long wrench to give you leverage)
a pair of needle nose pliers (to help with a brake line clip)
The biggest and most important tool in your toolbox is confidence. A great way to gain confidence is to start with smaller, simpler jobs such as filling the windshield wiper fluid, replacing wiper blades, and changing the oil.
You’re driving down the road and all of a sudden the check engine light comes on. Oh no! What do you do? Well, unless it is flashing or you heard a loud clunk, you might as well keep on driving.
Such a scenario happened about 2 months ago while I was driving our 14 year old car around town. The check engine, or in some cars, the service engine soon light simply means that at your next earliest convenience you should have your car checked out.
The great thing is that you can do this for free. Just head on over to the nearest Autozone, Advanced Auto Parts, or any of the DIY centric car parts stores. Most of them will offer a free service where they connect a small handheld device to your cars OBD 2 port. OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics. This nifty port, located by the drivers left knee, allows handheld diagnostic devices to talk to the cars computers. The cars computer will have stored a code and that code helps explain why the check engine light is on.
In my case, I had a code P0440. You can either look that up on the internet when you get home, or the store employee can usually print out a list right there at the store explaining the code and possible fixes. P0440 is an Evaporative Emission Control System Malfunction and while scary sounding, all it really means is that gasoline vapors were leaking out of the fuel system somewhere.
Unless you live in an area that mandates emissions tests on vehicles, you can safely drive for another 50k+ miles and suffer no consequences except a slightly worse fuel economy. There are a number of potential causes and fixes for a Evap Emission and the printout should list them. The only simple fix that doesn’t require a lot of speciality equipment was to replace the gas cap. So that’s what I did.
About a month later the light turned off all on its own. Yay!