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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saving $160 on a Simple Car Repair

How I Saved $160:  DIY Replacement Car Door Stop Strap


The Broken Car Door Check Strap...
The Broken Car Door Check Strap...

The other day, we were saying goodbye to my teenage son in the driveway.  His suitcases were in the back, and he was heading out on his first real road trip, a 100 mile drive to a summer camp.  As he was closing his car door, something snapped on the driver's side of the 13 year old Toyota Matrix.

A small hinge in the middle of his car door had broken in half.  The door would now swing wide open, more than 90 degrees, but the door still seemed to close securely.  We didn't investigate this much at the time since he had to go to make it to his summer camp opening events on time.

After he returned, I took the Toyota with the broken door check strap to the shop and asked if they could repair it.  They could, but the cost would be $225.

I asked if they meant $2.25, but no-- the estimate was actually for over $200 to replace the little hinge in the middle of the door.  They said the part is specific to this model of car and is quite expensive.  This seemed like way too much, so I declined.

I checked out some videos on YouTube on how to replace this part.  It was held in place by 3 bolts, one in the frame of the door, and 2 more to hold the other side of the hinge in the door itself.  The only tricky part is that you have to remove a couple of screws and pop the door panel off of the metal part of the door.  I always worry that I won't be able to put something like this back together, but I decided that it would be worth the trouble if I could save more than about $50 by doing the repair myself.

My next move was to look for this part myself.  I could get a brand new part for this model of car for $90 from a car parts store.  This is still expensive, but better than $225.

Next, I decided to look at junk yards for a salvaged part.  I didn't think the door check strap needed to be brand new since no other part on the 13 year old car was new.  Plus, I had never seen this part break on a car before, so I thought a used one would be fine if the price was better.

I started calling junk yards and salvage yards.  The first two I called did not have this part.  It was often included with the door, and I didn't want to buy an entire door assembly to get the part.  I tried a third junk yard-- they didn't have the part, but could get it the next day.  The price:  $55.  I placed the order.

I assembled the tools I needed for the job: a 10mm socket wrench, a Phillips screwdriver, a small flat blade screwdriver to remove a screw cover, and a pry bar.  The instructions called for a plastic pry bar to carefully remove the door panel, but I used a small metal pry bar that I already had and wrapped a rag around it to protect the plastic door panel.

As with most projects, the disassembly part was quick and easy.  Installing the new door stop hinge was easy too.  But getting the door panel attached straight and tight when putting everything back together was a little tricky.  Luckily Mrs. Penny Pincher walked by at the right time and helped get the door panel lined up and snapped in nice and tight, just like new!  Tip: line up the door panel at the top, along the window first, and then work down from there.

Here's how much I saved by installing the door check strap myself:

Car shop estimate: $225
Salvaged part cost: $60 (including tax, etc)
Gas to drive to get the salvaged part: $5

Savings: $225 - $60 - $5 = $160

It took about an hour to track down and drive to pick up the salvaged part, and about 30 minutes to install it.  So my hourly rate of pay for doing this project was over $100 per hour!

Even if you don't have any of the tools for this repair and had to buy them, it would still be worth doing this project yourself.  I'm glad I gave this a try considering how much money I saved.


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