Ever fixed something and saved yourself a ton of money?

Today I came home to a cold house - my furnace wasnt working. I worked on it and found the problem - the sequence of events was happening alright but the gas valve wasnt turning on. The valve is controlled by air pressure coming via a tube from the mixing chamber. When I checked the tube it was full fo water from condensation. I blew it out, reattached, fired it up and walla - I had heat!

Easy fix once you understand furnaces.

But I was thinking about others who would have been forced to call a repair service. Even the honest ones would have to charge about $150 for just the visit and who knows for the dishonest ones. Actually its surprising how often some items are easily fixed and thus avoiding a costly repair bill.

So I would like to know your stories.

What times in your life have you easily or cheaply fixed something and saved an expensive repair bill?

The power supply on my TV went out. Out of warranty, so I cracked it open and found a busted electrolytic capacitor (apparently cheap Chinese capacitors were an issue with this particular model). About $2 and some soldering later, everything is good. I believe I spent more money on fuel running errands that day than on the parts.

A replacement board at a repair shop (they’re not likely going to replace the caps alone) and/or a new TV would have easily been a couple hundred dollars if not more.

Mostly things like cars, yards, water lines and a furnace or two. Basically I know I can repair almost anything but I ask myself two questions:

  1. Do I really want to?
  2. If I screw up will the results be catastrophic?
    so if its beyond my knowledge or comfort level I call in a pro.

I am not competent to fix things, and I don’t mind paying repair bills. The problem where I live is to find someone who can do it. I do mind paying for someone to come and *not *repair my broken appliance.

Anyway, for some reason my daughter and I decided to install an new garbage disposal. It was an effort, but we did it and now–two years down the road–it’s still working properly.

Had a similar problem with my gas furnace. Everything else worked in proper sequence but the gas valve would fail to open…intermittently. I noticed that if the attic ( where the furnace/air handler is located ) was less than about 40F or 45F. A day colder than that but with sunlight raised the attic temp to allow light-off, but at night, no heat. One cold night, I went up into the attic, plugged a hair dryer in and blasted the circuit board area with hot air. The furnace lit off light a champ.

Next day I removed the circuit board and found a “cold solder” that broke contact. Re-soldered and worked fine after that. The next year a resistor pot burned out on the board, so I needed a new one. Found for $150.00 and installed it, furnace works great. A friend had one replaced by an HVAC guy, total slam for him was over 500 clams.

The main thing I learned was knowledge is your friend. I read up on how they operate: what does what, when and why. With a wiring diagram and a multimeter I was able to rule out a lot of other factors as to my trouble, and thus saved me the time and money of throwing parts at it till it worked.

The first year we moved into our current house one morning the pipes froze. It turns out the kitchen, which had been expanded from the original by the previous owner, has about 3 feet of its pipes running outside, underneath the crawlspace, then back into the house. Curious design choice to say the least, but at this point that’s neither here nor there.

Anyways, having moved in recently and lacking a lot of supplies, I went to Lowe’s and got a space heater, some heat tape, some pipe insulation, a utility light, and some extension cords, climbed down into the crawlspace, and got to work. After a couple hours of heating I had the water flowing again, and a couple more hours of work and a lot of cursing later, I had the pipes wrapped in heat tape and a couple layers of insulation. Haven’t had a problem with it since (this was 4 years ago).

YouTube has saved me thousands of dollars on everything from car repairs, washer/dryer repairs, installations and setups, computer diagnosing & fixing, more.

My most impressive was fixing the power window in my wife’s SUV. Was quoted $700 to fix, lol. So I watched a video about a repair which somebody made with a bread bag twisty tie, decided WTH and did as instructed. Worked like a charm and it was fixed for as long as we owned the car.

Most recent was a blown fuse in the dryer. Watched the video, then spent $27 on a new fuse & element, been fine since. An honest repair price probably would have been $150, could’ve been charged $300.

The drain valve on my water heater corroded away and was leaking water. I looked it up on the 'Net and YouTube and determined it was the cheapest one available. Found a good one at Home Depot and replaced it.

Note: Never put plumber’s putty on threaded fittings! GAH! (not me, the person who installed it originally)

My furnace has failed to come on a few times. The thermostat makes it kick in, the blower starts, then nothing. I googled the symptoms and found a video for how to clean the thermocouple. I cleaned the thermocouple. It worked just great! Until the next year when the same thing happened, but all I had to do was clean it again.

I didn’t really need to “understand furnaces” - I just had to search the Internet for the problem and try the easy fix to see if it helped. No shame in calling someone who does understand furnaces if you don’t want to take the risk going beyond the simple maintenance.

Oh also I had these two floor lamps at my house forever. They had been dimming and blinking for years and not working well. Many years ago a boyfriend with lots of electrical knowledge told me there was probably a short in the wire and they needed re-wired, but it’d be hard because of the swinging arm. I lived with the blinking for a long time. Then I looked for replacements but it’s incredibly hard, almost impossible, to find replacements for these dumb lamps. Whatever I did find was not quite the same, and expensive.

I finally got around to looking for lamp re-wiring videos and came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to re-wire the lamps, I could just try putting in new bulb sockets. I tried that first, and $8 worth of sockets later now I have perfectly-working lamps.

Like the OP, the gas heater in my apartment was refusing to come on one Friday afternoon. I called the landlord who said, “I’ll call but I doubt he’ll be there before Monday, if then.”

I did some troubleshooting and found there was no voltage from the pilot making the safety stay open. The pilot flame was just fine and the pile looked okay but resistance was infinite. I checked the bobbin with the magnet wire which was supposed to be magnetic enough to hold the safety open and the outside turn had broken off the ear it was supposed to soldered to. I gingerly unwound one turn of the wire, scraped off the varnish, and soldered it back in place. Voila, luxurious heat.

I called the landlord back who thanked me profusely and knocked $100 off the rent, quite a bit at the time. I replied, “I’ve got new girlfriend and we’re at the stage where I’m trying to get her clothes off; I was motivated.”

I have an acquaintance who is low-priced ($20-$25?/hour) who I have do my car repairs out of his house. And usually I buy the parts myself so there is no auto-shop markup. While part of these repairs I could do myself, I just find car repair so aggravating.

Otherwise with few exceptions (like re-roofing house, replacing furnace, removing trees) I virtually never hire someone to fix something. I either fix it myself (and it may end up looking unattractive), replace it or leave it unfixed.

A few years back I bought a 2005 Toyota Highlander, lovely car but a while after the sale went down, the climate control started blasting hot air. If I fiddled with the temperature knob I could occasionally get it back down to cold air, but it would eventually go back to full hot.

A quick google later and I found out it was a broken connection with a wire that was just a hair too short and tension/vibration works it loose over time. Took apart the dash, pulled out the console knobs, re-soldered with some new wire, and put it back in. Years later, it still works perfect! Replacement of the console was easily $500+.

I have done so many home and car repairs myself it’s tough to say which one saved the most money. Just doing a brake job on my own cars saves around $400 these days. That’s a pretty decent chunk

That’s great! A garbage disposal is a great repair for a home owner to try on their own. And the more you do those minor repairs yourself, the more competent you become at doing more complex repairs.

I’ve always like repairing things myself, so I guess I’m lucky in that sense. Even as a kid, I’d often try to fix radios or whatever. But one thing I did recently that saved me a lot of money is to swap out some body panels after an accident. I was able to find matches for them at a nearby junkyard and replaced both for a couple of hundred dollars. Body shops were quoting more like $2000. I didn’t realize how easy it was to replace those things. Things like the hood, fenders, doors, and bumpers are relatively easy to replace yourself.

In Sweden, The Man wants everyone to repair stuff instead of throwing it out and therefore offers tax incentives for doing so, plus you can deduct half the labour costs from your income tax.

Absolutely, I’ve fixed my heat pump, garage door, vehicles, and washer to name a few. YouTube videos can be a great resource, sometimes you have to go through a few videos go get to one that shows what you need and doesn’t take 10 minutes to get to the point.

YouTube in a browser tips:

J - back 10 seconds
L - Forward 10 seconds
K or Spacebar - Pause/Play toggle
, or . while paused - Back or forward one frame

I just paid to have my gas line replaced, about a 40 ft run 2 ft deep. I rarely pay but I don’t like digging. $3,400. They brought out a ram for tunneling and made short work of the ditch. No regrets.

I was going to pop in here and say the opposite. Had a water line break between the street and my house, making it my responsibility. I called the plumber and, before they came, dug out and shored up the hole so they could just start working on the pipe. When he came to my house, he was flabbergasted - and thrilled - as it was his hope that he could be done in time for his kids football game (it was about 4pm on a Friday when he pulled up). Since it was his firm, he charged me $25 for materials and asked for a Yelp review, which I gladly gave him.

Didn’t need a YouTube video to learn how to dig a hole, however. :wink:

This is practically a specialty of mine.
I use to work of cars, but they did mostly get more complicated and in general rarely break down anymore.
I use to build computers, but largely just repair them now when needed. Laptops though are tough, desktops and towers are still pretty easy. Built or repairs dozens over the years. So each of these add up to a good savings of money.

I even repaired a 17" Princeton monitor, back in the days when this was still a big ticket item. The video cord wasn’t well secured in the manufacturing and it started acting up with any movement. I opened up the back, secured the cable with cable ties and soldered the poor connections back up.

Boiler unit, I do my own yearly oil filter change, nozzle change and cleaning the heat exchanger. I also have replaced 3 parts on it at this point, each of these repairs would have cost hundreds if not a $1000 and instead it cost me the part.

My water heater is electric and a bit shitty. I have replaced both thermostats and a few years ago the lower heating element after determining it had failed. By old Navy galley heating coiling troubleshooting as an electrician really came in handy on that one. Total cost was under $60 for these repairs, not sure what it would have cost me.

I replaced parts on my old dishwasher nursing another 8 years out of it. Built a part for the microwave to re-secure the handle. Rebuilt the bottom frame of my otherwise great Weber Genesis grill. I built all the replacement pieces out of scrap metal I had in the basement. In the last house I rewired the wall oven, getting it working again. I’ve dismantled the washer to replace 2 key parts on it. It is an excellent heavy duty super capacity washer and I didn’t want to replace it.

I still do minor car repairs, light side view mirrors, replacing power window motors and little things like that. The day before my daughter was heading back to college, the Corolla started making horrible noises, we got it up on my ramps and I crawled under and found it was just the protecting shield for the exhaust had 2 fasteners fail. I built a new method to secure it, stronger than the original.

I’ve also spent the last 9 weeks overhauling my house. I’m out of work and may be moving soon, so it was a great time to get a lot done. For the first 7 weeks I was putting in 60 hour weeks and got a huge amount down. I’ve blogged it, but on another site. Highlights was wire brushing off the front rails and rust-oleuming them back to gleaming perfection. Reshaping the front door to eliminate the damage done by an evil groundhog and painting it. Then cleaning off almost the entire house. Cleaning up the front walk thoroughly. Bleach scrubbing the cement patio in the back. Weeding and making a nice little 9’x9’ area next to the front door.

Completely overhauling the walk-out basement doors, the outer metal doors needed touch-up, but the stairwell needed scraping and painting and the inner wooded doors were in bad shape and I did a paint cleanup and added plastic kick plates for only $30 that completely changed these doors.

There is actually a lot more that I did. Today I was painted the ceiling in the Dining Room. I am nearly done now though and hopefully will pass a final interview in a few weeks and be at a new job and putting my house on the market shortly after that.

I’ve done a bunch of auto repairs and some minor plumbing jobs around the house.

That’s about it. My time is very limited, so I don’t mind paying somebody if the job will be time consuming.