Fixing My Car Taught Me A Valuable Lesson This Week

It’s been a bit of a stressful week in my household. Between work and several issues with my cars, it’s been a little tough to keep up on the blog. Now that my cars are tip top and I have a few hours before work, I’d like to fill you in on the car trouble I had and how I saved hundreds fixing them.


My 01 Grand Am Got a Flat Tire


Yes, I drive a 2001 Grand Am with 125,000 miles on it. It’s been well kept and maintained, but like any vehicle-it tends to break down at the worst times.


On Monday I was cruising along when I heard a noise coming from the front end. Being cautious, I stopped immediately and got out to check the tires and see what was causing the thump in the tires. Sure enough, it was what I thought. A damn flat right in the middle of nowhere.


My first thought is “How in the heck am I gonna get this car back to town?” because of course, I forgot to put the dummy tire back in the trunk the last time I got a flat. My second thought was, “what’s it gonna cost to fix this flat tire?”


Being a thrifty guy, I brainstormed real quick and then dialed my cousins number. He owns an auto repair shop, so I figured there was a good chance he might have a used tire that I could put on it at least long enough to get it home.


It was clearly my lucky day because not only did he have a tire-he had two that were just like brand new. He offered to sell me the pair of tires for thirty dollars including mounting and balancing. It was a huge win for me since just one brand new tire retails for around $80 not including the cost of installation.


So, I took the rim off on the side of the road and had my wife pick me up to have it put on. It took about an hour total to get the car fixed and back home plus I was only out thirty dollars and a little gas money to drive back and forth. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.


My Other Grand Am’s Brakes Finally Went


My wife also drives a Grand Am, hers is a year older with close to 190,000 miles but it’s actually in much better shape than mine both mechanically and cosmetically. I prefer to let her drive the car with the least problems since she still has no idea how to check the oil or windshield washer fluid-or anything else.


Of course, just a couple days after I got the flat, the brakes on her Grand Am started to grind enough where we knew it was time to replace them. Once again I though-how much are these brakes gonna cost me?


I’ve done brakes before, so I knew the pads could be bought pretty reasonably priced on the internet. This time we had to replace the rotors too, so I was a little nervous on how expensive it was gonna be.


car with bad brakes

Doing it yourself can save hundreds on auto repairs.


I first called Advance Auto Parts to get a price and see if it was worth the wait to order them online and have them shipped. I got the price-$36 a piece for rotors and $20 for brake pads. Now it was time to do some research and find out if I couldn’t save a few bucks going a different route.


I searched online and found a familiar parts wholesaler, I was very surprised to find the brake disc for $19 a piece. That’s a savings of $17 for each side or close to a fifty percent discount!


Next, I searched for the brake pad set and found one for $14.88-a discount of over five dollars! I was pretty stoked that it was only going to cost me around fifty dollars for the parts and since I used to be an auto repair technician, I put the parts on myself and paid zero dollars for labor.


The 2000 Grand Am Sprung a Coolant Leak


In true Northern New York fashion, the temperatures took a drastic turn for the worse this week. Almost every year, immediately after Halloween, it’s like mother nature flips the switch and turns the damn heat off.


My wife’s car was clearly as upset about the change as we were because it decided to spring a coolant leak on the coldest day of the season so far. As if I didn’t already have enough car repairs to deal with this week.


I was able to find the antifreeze leak pretty quickly. It turned out to be a radiator hose that decided to split under the pressure of thirty degree temperatures. For this fix, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for parts to ship, so I bought the hose at the auto parts store for $16.


It took me around a half hour to replace the hose, fill the coolant and get the air out of the lines so the heat would work right. In all, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it was gonna be-but it was pretty brisk doing it outside instead of in a garage.


The way I see it, a little work and a couple semi frostbit hands (I’m kidding) was a small price to pay for the cash I saved on parts and labor. If I had brought both cars to the shop, it would have been several hundred dollars to get the repairs done. I got away with spending about $80 total.


Some Takeaways From My Rough Week


1). It was definitely a stressful week but all told, I probably made it out to be worse than it was. Instead of being irritated at the recurring problems with my cars, I should actually feel pretty fortunate that I had the knowledge and resources to save a good chunk on the repairs.


2). I’m starting to wonder whether it’s time to upgrade my vehicles. I have to weigh the pros and cons of buying a new (new to me anyways) car to see if I would be saving on maintenance and repairs in the long run.


3). Saving so much money on parts for the cars got me thinking about how lucky we are to live in a time where we are not limited to one option. At one point in time, we wouldn’t have more than a couple choices to buy parts. Now, we can shop dozens of different places to find the best prices available. It’s pretty sweet for our finances.


Before you take your car to the shop next time it breaks down, do a Google search and see if the repair is something you could do at home. After that, take a look at some of the auto part retailers online and compare their prices to find the best possible deal.


My favorite so far is because the site is easy to use and they offer tons of options for price and quality. If it goes on a car, odds are you can find it there and for a good discount over the retail price. It’s worth the extra few minutes to do your research and find a better deal. It could save you hundreds like it did me.



Images courtesy of


  1. That sounds like a rough week, but it always seems like when one thing goes wrong a bunch of other problems appear out of nowhere as well.

    It’s great that you were able to salvage the situation by getting a great deal each time and solving the problem quickly. is a great site, but if you’ve never been to I highly recommend comparison shopping with it next time. They have basically every part and their prices are competitive too.

  2. Sounds like a rough week! My favorite thing is that you found lessons in all of it. I try to do that, though I don’t always manage to. I love taking situations and learning from them. We’re in a similar situation with our van right now. We are deciding between fixing it and replacing it. It seems like one thing after another.

    • I hear you Kalen and sorry it took so long to get back to you. The holidays this year were CRAZY and I lost some focus.

      I’m also weighing my options at the moment with my car. It’s extremely cold (-20) in NY right now and my teenage Grand Am just doesn’t like it! If I do decide to part with it, I will be looking to buy cash so I can avoid another payment each month.

      I guess at some point it might be time to let go of it. It owes me nothing, that’s for sure. I got every penny I could out of it over the years.

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