Learn New Skills For Loads More Cash

DIY car

LEARN new skills for loads more cash. It’s a simple saying, but something happened this week which really opened my eyes to just how much money you can save with a little effort.

It all started when I took my car (a 2007 Ford Focus) to the mechanic to get new front brake discs. The bill came to £180 ($270) which I was more than happy to pay because I have zero knowledge when it comes to fixing cars. I can’t stress that enough. I can just about change a tyre, but apart from that I’m hopeless.

With shiny new brakes in place, the mechanic gave me some bad news. He explained that while working on my car he couldn’t open the bonnet (that’s the hood, to all my American friends). I figured the lock just needed some WD40 or my Fonzie-style touch to open it, so I wasn’t too concerned. Fast forward a few more days. The bonnet still wouldn’t open despite much effort and swearing from me. Now I was concerned.

Ford Focus

The saga begins…

Now I won’t bore you with many details, but this was a major problem because the Ford Focus bonnet can only be opened by a key behind the badge on the front of the car. Since I couldn’t get it open, driving became a constant worry. My fears ranged from breaking down, to running out of windscreen washer fluid.

So I phoned my local mechanic and asked how much it would cost to fix the problem. When he told me, I suddenly started worrying about my wallet.

You see, the replacement lock could be supplied and fitted for about £100 ($150) but the major cost would be the labour charges for getting the bonnet open. It could take one hour or several, and since the mechanic charges £65 ($100) per hour, I was looking at a bill unknown in size. It was either going to be big, or huge!

Not wanting to write a blank cheque, I then phoned my local Ford dealer to see if they could open the bonnet any more cheaply. They told me the fix would leave me at least £250 lighter ($380) as long as everything went smoothly. But there was no guarantee.

I couldn’t believe such a seemingly simple problem could end up costing me so much.

It was time to roll out the big guns… it was time to ask the internet.

Going in for the skill

I figured I’d do a little research online, just to see if anyone else had encountered the same problem, and on the off-chance that the solution was something not too complicated. Something that a mere mortal such as myself could attempt.

Lo and behold I discovered that this was a common Ford fault. I found pages of advice and even a couple of Youtube videos with how-to guides.

Armed with this information, I decided to roll my sleeves up and do a bit of DIY. I knew if I could just get the bonnet open, it would save me hundreds before I took the car in for repair.

It’s amazing how the thought of needlessly spending a large amount of money will spur me into action.

I read online that pushing a long screwdriver through the grille and pressing against part of the mechanism while turning the key might allow the latch to open. So I bought a screwdriver (£2) and a flashlight (£3) and got to work.

Now I won’t pretend it was easy or quick (it took a couple of hours) but finally the bonnet popped open. Hallelujah! What a relief.

After examining the faulty lock I decided not to bother paying to get a replacement fitted. My car will be getting scrapped after I’m done with it anyway.

Instead, I just removed the lock and discovered that I could open the bonnet latch through the empty keyhole if I had a long enough screwdriver.

Unfortuately, I couldn’t find any suitable screwdrivers in my local shops, so I bought a long metal paint stirrer (£1) cut it to the right length with a hacksaw, and filed the end to the correct shape to fit the latch.

Problem solved! Now I can open the bonnet every time with my homemade “key” which I keep beside my spare tyre.

opening ford focus bonnet

The savings from new skills

So instead of spending a minimum of £250 ($380), my bonnet was fixed for a grand total of £6 ($9).

That’s a whopping saving of £244 ($371).

And, remember, that £6 bought tools that I’ll use again.

The only other cost was about three hours of my time, to research and actually carry out the repair.

This experience has certainly given me the confidence to attempt more DIY and learn new skills.

Okay, I know most car repairs will always be beyond me because they require specialist equipment and years of training. But there’s no reason why I can’t tackle some routine maintenance.

There are plenty of other jobs around the home which I could also do myself that would save me money.

For instance, the exterior of my house needs painting. I was planning on spending £1000 ($1500) and hiring someone to do it for me. Now I’m gonna pick up a paintbrush and do it myself on a nice summer’s day. The materials will only cost £100 ($150).

I’ll be £900 ($1350) better off. Plus, I’ll have the satisfaction of a job well done.

My DIY checklist

So in the future, I’m going to list all the tasks that I would usually pay someone else to do.

Then if I think I have the skills – or can learn new skills – to do the job, I’ll add a tick and give it a go.

The worst that can happen is I fail in my novice attempts and have to pay a specialist after all.

But I reckon more often than not I will succeed. And that will give me more and more confidence to try increasingly difficult work.

Learn new skills for loads more cash. That’s my motto now.

The rewards are definitely there… the extra money in my bank account this month is proof of that!


Will you learn new skills for loads more cash? Or does DIY seem like too much hassle? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you found this article helpful, please share it using the Twitter icon. Thanks for reading.

Simon Saves

I'm a national newspaper journalist for hire who has a passion for personal finance. Currently saving and investing towards my first million. All comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter: @MyRichFuturecom

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1 Response

  1. Awesome story and thanks for sharing it. A lot of those common problems end up costing a lot of money and I’m glad you were able to DIY. You’re right, you can save a ton of money doing everyday things for yourself. I just need to get motivated to do it. It’s always a time trade-off though. But still, a big money saver.

    Thanks for sharing!

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