I’ve spent the last 4 weeks away from home learning the ins and outs of the new job, and let me tell you, I’m glad to be back home for good now. Well, at least for the next 3 hours, then I leave again to go to my friends’ wedding.

(As an aside, I got them a used copy of The Wealthy Barber as well as a gift card as a gift. Hopefully they read it!)

While away, my car started to make some interesting noises. While turning the steering wheel, the front of the car would make some interesting grinding noises. As well, the pitch of the engine was noticeably higher than usual. Knowing that the guy I was training with was proficient in mechanics, I asked him what was wrong. He took a look, didn’t figure I had a leak, and simply topped up my power steering fluid.

The next morning, I go give the car a look. Most of the power steering fluid is now in a puddle on the ground. Now I don’t know much about cars, but even I can tell this isn’t good. So I phone the local Ford dealership and they agree to take a look at it.

An hour or so later they call back. They recommended that I replace the power steering pump and column, along with one of the gaskets. (sorry gearheads, I can’t remember which one) The quote for parts? $1300! They were going to charge an additional $1000 to put the parts in and do a wheel alignment after, for a total repair bill of $2300.

I drive an 02 Ford Focus. I figure the car is worth about $4000-5000. All sorts of thoughts began to circle in my mind. Should I call around to get a better deal? Should I drive it back home? Will I even get a better deal if I do that?

Here’s what I did that was important: I did nothing for a couple hours. I got back to work and thought about it while working. I talked it over with my trainer. After that time, I came back with a new line of attack.

First I called down to my local Ford dealership. They quoted me a price of $1900 to do the same job. So worst case scenario, I just saved myself $400.

After doing some research and phoning other mechanics both me and my trainer knew, we determined it was safe to drive home. I would essentially be without power steering. It was an interesting experience rounding corners on the highway without it, but I got home no problem.

Before I left, I went to a parts supply store and got quotes for used parts. I was quoted under $600! My car is 8 years old and I only intend to keep it for another year or so, mostly because of repairs like this. Why would I put brand spankin’ new parts in?

So I called back my mechanic friend. If I bought the parts, how much would he charge me to put them in? He gave me a quote of $30 an hour for 5 hours. Even if it takes him 6 (which is what most mechanics told me it would take) that’s only $180 for labor.

By taking a couple hours and thinking about my problem, I saved over $1400. Auto shops prey on panicked drivers who are scared their death will come by some sort of catastrophic car failure. Take a while and phone a trusted friend or two. That way we can stop paying top dollar for car repairs.

Tell everyone, yo!