ok, this isn't geared so much towards young mammas! However, it is geared towards stretching your hard-earned dollars and since most of us probably have to deal with a car repair or two at some point, I hope it will be helpful! This was compiled by my hubby, Andrew, who has saved us thousands of dollars using these tips! So share them with your hubbies!
Step 1: Buy a Car Repair Manual
My personal favorite is the Haynes manual. http://www.haynes.com/.
However there are others out there as well such as the Chilton Manual: http://www.chiltondiy.com/. Either way, pick one up, and start reading it. Even if you never move beyond this point, you will at least learn how you car works, will begin to understand a few things the mechanics are talking about, and will know the difference between ball bearings and a ball joints.
Step 2: Buy/find your own parts
Buying your own parts invovles finding a local auto parts store and becoming familiar with it. There are many different places, such as CarQuest, PepBoys, AutoZone, etc. The one I have happened to land on is Advance Auto Parts but they are all pretty much the same. Whatever you pick, just stick with one main place and learn what they carry and don't carry, how their website works, and how the store is laid out. This will save you time.
I personally like Advance Auto Parts because their prices are normally the best or so closely comparable to others that its not worth going to another place. Also, most of their tools are lifetime guaranteed. They also offer some cool services like replacing your wipers for free and free battery installation. Better yet, they will check your battery/alternator/starter for free as well as check why the code is being thrown when your "check engine" light is displayed. These are all minor things but will add up if you are going to a mechanic to have them done.
Take the Part to a Mechanic or Friend
Even if you don't actually put the parts on the car yourself, you could find a friend to put the part on or a shop that will put them on. Although there are mechanic's shops that won't put on parts your bring in, there are many that actually will (even when they have a sign up that says they won't).
There may be times that you need a special part that a local store does not carry. In those cases, go online and find it. There are tons of websites that offer great deals. But KEEP IN MIND, that you may not always be able to return the part for a refund should you not need it. In those cases, make sure you really need the part and that you have someone that will put it on for you before you spend the money.
These are great places to find non-mechanical parts for your car, such as side mirrors, doors, control arms, spare tires, etc.
Step 3: Buy good tools
Start off geting a good mechanic's wrench and racket set. I am personally a Craftsman fan because they are lifetime guaranteed. But like I said above, even local auto stores often sell guaranteed tools. You'll also want to get a good floor jacks, wheel ramps, and a jack stands. You should NEVER work under your car when just using that tiny little jack that comes with your car and can fit in your back pocket. You're just asking to get hurt (and probably die) if you do. As you go along, continue to buy tools with the money you save on doing your own reparis.
Step 4: Do the repairs yourself
There is nothing that will save you more money than doing the repairs yourself. I have saved thousands of dollars doing my own repairs. The car manuals are very detailed and give you step by step instructions for most jobs. If it is too complicated, it will normally tell you. But you'll also have to learn your own limitations with what you have in terms of Time, Money, Tools, and general patience level.
Step 4 Alternatives: Find a local technical institute/Find a friend
There are many local technical institutes and community colleges that will do your repairs for free since students have to work on cars as part of their schooling. You'll just have to buy the part yourself and possibliy wait a few weeks for an opening. But this is a great cheap alternative.
You can also buddy up with a friend that works on cars. If you do, don't just ask them to do the work by themselves, ask if you can watch and learn. They'll probably do your work for free if they feel like they are teaching you something in the process.
Miscellaneous: Coupons, Oil Changes, and Tires
Make sure to look for coupons out there as well if you do happen to go to shops and not do your own repairs. You should never be paying more than $20 for an oil change. If you are, go somewhere else or find a coupon first.
When it comes to tires, shop around and make sure you are considering the warranties included in the costs. My personal favorite places to get tires are TreadQuarters (also known as Mr Tire and Monroe Muffler) and Wal Mart.
Thanks, Andrew, for sharing your tips!