How I Saved $1367 By Repairing My Own Catalytic Converter

I’ve always wondered what sort of magical business occurs inside a catalytic converter. I mean, how does such a device work that has no electrical wiring going in or out? Does Al Gore bless each converter as it rolls off the assembly line, thus imparting super environmental cleaning powers? Or maybe it’s filled with Kryptonite, who knows?

A couple weeks ago, I got my chance to find out. After hitting the freeway on-ramp after work, I got on the gas and felt, well, nothing. I then heard what can only be described as pebbles being blasted down a rain gutter. As I later discovered, that was my catalytic converter’s guts being blasted down the exhaust pipes. I had zero power, and the engine wouldn’t push past 2000 revs. Throttle to the floor maxed me out at 10 MPH.

I pulled over to the shoulder and attempted to limp home. Things only got worse, and eventually I couldn’t even climb the 1% grade to get me home.

Cancelling my AAA membership last week was a bad idea.

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How I Saved $15,500 By Driving This Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma is a wonder to behold, friends. It’s the AK-47. The Kirkland Signature. The best bang for your buck.

Described in a word, it would be value.

Think to yourself as you watch the nightly news and they shows clips of filthy terrorists doing their evil deeds. Why are they always driving Tacomas!? I’ll tell you. Because only a Tacoma can survive the most nonexistent maintenance routine of a third world group of boneheaded barbarians.

A Tacoma can’t be killed.

And that’s why I bought one back in 2008.

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Why I Walked Away From This 1984 Volvo Wagon For $1050

Last week I was the proud winning bidder on this 1984 Volvo 240 Wagon. For some time now, I’ve been browsing eBay for a suitable beater to prove to the world that reliable transportation can be had for a fraction of the cost of a new car, and possibly turn a small profit in the process. I still plan on doing this, but sadly, the search continues.

In the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, two things will live on – cockroaches, and 240 Volvos. These cars are tanks, and borderline indestructible, with many examples pushing past 400,000 miles. With very simple mechanics and engine accessibility akin to a Model A Ford, they are very backyard mechanic friendly. So I thought this wagon would make for a perfect daily driver, while costing next to nothing to operate. Not to mention that every hipster within a 50 mile radius would be drooling as I pilot this granny wagon down the highway. But seriously, this thing was aged to perfection. Just look at that chrome metal trim outlining the massive amounts of window real estate. Volvo indeed had safety in mind, because the visibility is fantastic. And the exterior finish is burnt sun kissed just enough to give this wagon a matte patina that looks dang near intentional, like one of those vinyl wraps that kids put on their cars nowadays. And those vent grilles on the rear quarters are wicked cool too. Heck, if this thing proved to be a driver, I could even sell my Escape and come out ahead.

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How To Change Your Power Steering Fluid For Under $10

Engine Oil gets all the attention. Every 5000 miles he’s getting an hour of somebody’s time. All the while poor ol’ power steering fluid turns another shade of brown darker, left to die a slow but unnoticed death. RIP.

Well, I’ll be the first to tell you that regular engine oil changes are far more critical than regular power steering fluid changes. Most owner’s manuals I’ve seen don’t even specify a power steering fluid change interval, but just say something like “inspect fluid” every 15,000 miles or so.

Even so, it’s still an important fluid, and should be changed when the color begins to change from bright cherry red to a darker, duller red or brownish tint. Honestly, if you do it every 50,000 miles, you should be more than okay. For reference, my Escape has 71,000 miles, and has never had the PS fluid changed. Say no if your mechanic tries to sell you a fluid change for $99. You can do it yourself for around $10. Most vehicles probably go their entire lives without it ever being changed, with no ill effect.

But why try your luck, when it’s so easy to change yourself.

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Driving A Beater Will Make You Smarter, Happier, And Save You Money

I cringe watching people spend way above their means for a car that provides no additional value over a good used car. Let’s face it, the average american family just can’t afford new car prices.

I’m here to offer an alternative, and it’s one of the driving forces behind this site: skip the new car, and buy a used beater car.  My aim is not cheapness, but value, and hopefully a more stable financial situation.

The auto industry is still tailored and priced for the older, retiring generation, and if you plan on achieving any degree of financial freedom in your lifetime, you need to think of a way to get from point A to B without a $500 per month car payment.

So, let’s get to it. Why should you buy a beater?

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The BlueDriver Bluetooth Scan Tool Is The Best OBDII Scanner For The DIY Mechanic

Several years ago you could borrow vehicle code readers from your local autopart store. You just left them your drivers license in the store, and they would let you take their scan tool out to your car to read the codes. Return the scan tool, get your driver’s license back, and you were good to go at no cost to you. The autopart stores figured that if they provided the means to read your check engine light, you might then purchase the necessary repair parts from them. Win, win. But of course, this made stealerships dealerships very angry, because dang it, that scan should cost you $75 (which would pay for the cost of a decent scanner, by the way)! So California, along with other states, have since made it illegal for autopart stores like Napa or Autozone to loan out these tools. Of course they did.

So, unless you own your own scanner, you’re now stuck paying upwards of $75 just to read your check-engine-light codes. It’s a rip, but I’m here to offer an alternative.

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eBay Budget Beater: Buy This $50,000 Mercedes 300 SE For Under $1000

Occasionally, I like to highlight my eBay Budget Beater finds. I’ve purchased two vehicles on eBay. Both sight unseen. Both were excellent vehicles that served me well.

You can find and purchase a reliable ride on eBay, and if you buy from a donation service operating on eBay, you can get a screaming deal. You just need to know what to look for. Some would call this Russian roulette, but by looking at pictures, reading the descriptions closely, knowing what makes/models to avoid, and then personally inspecting the car, you can pretty much sort the good from the bad. Contrary to my “buying sight unseen” example, I would highly recommend you thoroughly inspect the car in person before bidding, and run away very quickly if things don’t seem to be adding up.

Think about it, people with wealth don’t care about getting maximum resale value on their used cars. They either trade them in to the dealer or donate them for the tax write off. I want to find those donated gems. Call it living off the leftover scraps of the rich.

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How To Make An Oil Change Take 5 Hours

There are some tasks that I’ve got down to an almost exact science. I’ve done it so many times that I know exactly what tools and supplies are needed and how much time to set aside…

mowing the lawn (30 minutes)

making an omelet (10 minutes)

shaving my back (4 hours)

washing the car (1 hour)

It’s just autopilot; I could do these things after a lobotomy. So when I planned to change my oil in the daily beater last week, I couldn’t see it taking any longer than the hour or so that I usually set aside for a normal oil change.

All I can say is that I’m glad I planned this for a Saturday morning, and not an evening before work the next day…

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eBay Budget Beater: Buy This Donated 2000 Honda CR-V On eBay, And Save Yourself $20,000

I’ve bought two cars from eBay, sight unseen. One was a 2000 Jeep Cherokee out of Texas. And the other was my 2002 Toyota Tacoma out of Los Angeles, which I recently sold. Both were excellent vehicles, which is not surprising because those particular years and models were bulletproof. 

What I’d like to say is, it can be done. On eBay. You can find and purchase a reliable ride on eBay, and if you buy from a donation service operating on eBay, you can get a screaming deal. You just need to know what to look for. Some would call this Russian roulette, but by looking at pictures, reading the descriptions closely, knowing what makes/models to avoid, and then personally inspecting the car yourself, you can pretty much sort the good from the bad. Contrary to my “buying sight unseen” example, I would highly recommend you thoroughly inspect the car in person before bidding, and run away very quickly if things don’t seem to be adding up.

Think about it, people with wealth don’t care about getting maximum resale value on their used cars. They either trade them in to the dealer or donate them for the tax write off. I want to find those donated gems. Call it living off the leftover scraps of the rich. From time to time, I’m going to post some of these gems, starting today.

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Beater Big Rig: This 89 Freightliner Has More Miles Than You Can Imagine

California is a miserable place to run a business, especially if you manufacture anything. Only businesses of the ultra-cool-hipster-techy type have the profit margins to afford it, and even they up and leave sometimes. Running a business in California means you’re guilty, until proven innocent. It’s no wonder that so many move to Nevada or Texas. Part of my job entails brainstorming new products, ideas, methods of manufacture, or services that will make our company more successful or efficient. Sadly, the next thought that almost always comes to mind is… “I wonder what local, state, or federal agency will need to be informed or asked for permission to do this.” Let me just open my filing cabinet and give you a sampling of what I see in there…

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Save Money: Buy Parts From Your Local Auto Salvage Yard

Auto salvage yards are fantastic places to walk through. Go and feast your eyes upon literally millions of dollars worth of investments now worth nothing. Depreciation is a killer, and why very few people should be buying automobiles as investments. For the vast majority of people, your money is much better off being placed almost anywhere else. Nonetheless, millions of people pour way more than they should into these depreciation machines every year, in order to drive to the job that they hate, in order to pay the car payment on the vehicle that gets them to the job they hate. It’s a vicious cycle. But their insanity is your gain. Thanks, depreciation!

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Harbor Freight Torque Wrench: For $9.99, Is It Any Good?

I have a simple rule when it comes to Harbor Freight tools: the more moving parts it has, the less willing I am to buy it. A couple times I’ve considered buying their chop saw, but then I imagined myself lying dead on my garage floor after the blade explodes and effectively grenades my front-side. That’s when I promptly turn away and go looking for my free headlamp. Headlamps don’t sever appendages. Might electrocute your brain, but you won’t lose an arm! Anyways, I digress. There are, however, a handful of gems worth picking up at this too-cheap-to-be-safe bargain tool shed. One of those tools is their torque wrench, and I’ll explain why.

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Do Your Own Oil Changes To Prevent Yourself From Being Ripped Off

Around my city, it’ll cost you about $30, before tax, to get a typical oil change. Nothing fancy, just regular dino oil. I just purchased a motorcraft filter and 6 quarts of the cheapest oil I could find on Amazon for $24.20, delivered to my door. So after you factor in tax on the non-DIY oil change, I’d approximate that I’m saving about 10 bucks per oil change. Multiply that out, and you’re saving about 200 bucks every 100,000 miles.

200 bucks? Over the span of about 10 years. Um, that’s not much. That’s not even accounting for the value of your time (assuming you could actually be asserting yourself in some profitable way that you’re missing out on because you’re changing you oil. Which isn’t the case for me, sadly.)

So, why do it?

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Your Ford Escape Is Trying To Kill You, And How To Fix It

You’re 2001 -2004 Ford Escape (or Mazda Tribute) is trying to kill you, but I can show you how to fix it, permanently. The recall issued by Ford, in my opinion, does not sufficiently solve the problem.

The Problem: Poor Cruise Control Design

Note: this whole issue only pertains to the 3.0 V6. The 4 cylinder is fine and does not have this issue.

The plastic end linkage that connects your cruise control cable to your throttle body cam does not have enough clearance between itself and the plastic engine vanity cover. If the plastic shroud that encases your braided steel cruise control cabling deteriorates or forms a kink(which is entirely possible if you or your mechanic has ever had to push or move it out of the way), the cruise control cable can then kink under heavy acceleration, causing the end linkage to become caught on the underside of the engine vanity cover. This then causes the throttle to “stick”, usually in a high throttle position.

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I Can’t Bring Myself To Buy Shop Towels

Okay, I can’t be the only one out there. I just can’t seem to bring myself to buy shop towels. I see them advertised all the time in the local auto parts store ads as the “oil change combo deal super duper saver!!!”

But I.

just.

can’t.

do. it.

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