The Value of DIY

Actual picture captured of real-life Do-It-Yourselfer! Yours truly from this weekend.

Hard to believe it’s taken me this long to write about this topic, since I love projects and fixing things myself, but here it is! An excellent way to help your budget and save money.

DIY, or Do-It-Yourself, covers a vast array of topics. There are tons of ways to save money by fixing things, building things, doing things for yourself.

I’ve had my 1993 Miata for about two years now. It’s hummed right along with very few issues so far. For a 25-year-old car, it’s been very reliable. But over the past few weeks, I noticed the clutch pedal start to soften up. It also became tougher to shift the car into gear, even with the clutch pedal fully depressed. I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what.

Here we come to a crossroads as car owners. Do you just do the easy thing, and take it down to the shop? Or do you take a deep breath, take a few minutes and do a little research yourself? I chose the second of the two roads.

Looking online, I found that high resistance at the shift gate was not uncommon. What you’ll usually find when looking through forums is that you are rarely the only person on earth that has had a specific issue. This is reassuring both in that you are not alone, and someone else has probably figured this out before you. In my case, the issue described appeared to be a problem with the clutch hydraulic system. After a few more searches, I found that the two parts I needed, a slave and master cylinder, were $50 – combined.

I found a video shortly after on YouTube about how to swap out the slave and master in a first-generation Miata. I got lucky and had a friend in town to give me a second set of hands (thanks Sean!). I opened the hood, located the parts that were needing to be removed, and started the process.

The biggest issue I ran into was not having the right parts. I had to use an adjustable crescent wrench instead of a specific wrench size, but it did end up working out. After a beer or two, some grunting and groaning and getting our hands completely covered in oil and dirt, the parts were swapped out. My lovely wife assisted me with bleed the clutch hydraulic system, and as she kept depressing the clutch pedal, it continued to firm up, which is exactly what we wanted! We finished bleeding the air out of the system and took the car for a short drive around the block. Success! The Miata shifted even better than it had when I first bought it!

DIY is great on a couple of fronts. It gives you the satisfaction of a job well done. It increases your knowledge about things you didn’t know about before. It is a good workout for your mind. And maybe most importantly for this blog, it saves money! I am not sure what I would have been charged for labor had I taken it to a shop. But I can guess it would have been around $500. Turning a few wrenches myself and about two hours of my time was enough to get the job done.

Next time you find yourself about ready to pull out your debit card or checkbook to shell out for a service or product, think to yourself, “could I maybe do this? How hard can it be?” You’ll be surprised to find that the Internet has a wealth of information and other fellow humans who have encountered the same problems you have, and have overcome those obstacles. I challenge you to find something this week or month that you can do yourself!

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