Cookies for Car Repair: Barter whenever you can to save money

Posted on April 22, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

I currently drive an older car, a 1992 Toyota Celica, that I have had for more than fifteen years.  It only has a little over 105,000 miles on it, but it’s definitely starting to need more maintenance and repair work.  I know I will need a new car.  I’d like a sporty newer used one with 4 doors and some cargo room next time, but I’d like to get as much as I can for as long as I can out of this car, for as little money as possible.

A while back, my car started showing signs that the starter motor might be going. Two qualified mechanics checked the battery and even though the battery is about 5 years old, both said it was fine.  Based on the symptoms, the starter was probably the problem. Repair parts and labor were being quoted at around $350.

I talked to my Dad who is a DIYer and knows a lot about cars but lives across the country. He advised that I buy a remanufactured starter, which I can get for about $70 (after original core rebate) from Kragen, a local auto parts store.  The real expense was going to be the labor.  So I started trying to think of ways I could get that kind of expertise for free or at a much lower cost.  Living in silicon valley, I can usually find a handy guy to help me with a computer problem, but most of my friends here aren’t car fix it types.  I tried to find an auto mechanic school that would take my car as a learning project and have supervised students do the work.  I contacted a few locally, but didn’t have much luck with a response.  So I started to think of ways to barter which meant I had to take an inventory of my tradable skills.

I was chatting with one of my friends, Randy, who said he knew how to replace a car starter.  I was surprised because he is a mortgage loan agent and also has an online e-commerce product business called MarketAmerica.  I had no idea he was so mechanically inclined.  When I asked him how he learned so much about how to fix cars, he said his grandfather taught him when he was growing up.  Randy thought it might take a couple of hours.  I offered to bake him a big batch of peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and write an article on my blog about bartering that would link to his business sites, so we had a deal.

Randy is also a former Marine and true to form, he certainly went above and beyond the call of duty to help someone out, which really shows the kind of person he is.  The whole process took about 6 hours, not 2.  Because of where my starter is located and it hadn’t been touched in 15 years, it was very difficult to take out.  Randy brought tools, but we had to take a trip to the hardware store so I could buy a 14mm socket which was the correct size for my bolts.  We also took the starter motor to Kragen to have it tested which Kragen will do for free. When it tested okay, we then decided to test the car battery again at Kragen which also tested fine.  Randy had them fully charge the battery anyway because my car had been sitting idle for 2 weeks.  Charging the car battery took an additional 45 minutes. The guys at Kragen suggested we clean all the wires and connectors around the battery and starter. I bought a set of cleaning brushes for $4.59 and Randy used a baking soda and water mixture to neutralize the acid and clean the parts.

Then Randy reinstalled my old starter and the old battery and my car started up like a charm. My cookies, based on Martha Stewart’s recipe, are fantastic, but I definitely got the better end of that bargain.

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One Response to “Cookies for Car Repair: Barter whenever you can to save money”

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I’m glad your car is up and running. It’s always great to have an honest mechanic friend.

Earlier today I took in a battery to be tested at Kragen Auto parts store located at 51339 Harrison Hwy 86 Coachella, CA 92236.

I was told by the staff on duty that the battery was dead and needed replacement. I purchased a NEW battery for a little over $100. I left another battery for discount. I brought the NEW battery home and installed it to have the same problem. I took the OLD battery to be tested at another location and was told the OLD battery was fine and did not need replacement.

I called the Kragen store back to only have the manager on duty be sarcastic and rude.

I am a high school teacher in the area and do not appreciate the level of customer service and unfortanately I will have to let my friends and colleagues know not to shop at that store.

How often do you think they are selling products that don’t need replacement? This is horrible.

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