February, 2012

  1. 4 money saving tips for your car

    February 15, 2012 by Karl

    Car berry berry berry berry

    Here are four money-saving tips that the average home owner can use to save some big dollars on their car maintenance.

    1) What do you do when the check engine light comes on in your car? Most people take the car to their mechanic to get it checked out. That’s the logical thing to do. But, did you know that most mechanics in the United States charge between $75 and $200 or  more to “run a computer diagnostic”?  What this means is that they plug a hand-held computer into your car through a data cable under your steering wheel. The computer gives them an error code, and they check through their book to see what the error code is. It takes between two and five minutes to complete. That is better pay than most lawyers!

    Many times these codes are false alarms. The technician will simply reset the error code buffer, and send you on your way. If the problem comes back then it may point to something that is starting to go bad.

    Relax. There are a few places you can go to take care of this for free. AAMCO Transmission has a free computer diagnostic check. Some auto parts stores like Advanced Auto Parts, Auto Zone, O’Reilly & Champion will also check it for you for free. Pep Boys does too, if you are part of their rewards program.  It’s best to call ahead to any of these places to verify that they offer this service in your area.

    I always wonder what someone is going to sell me when they offer a service like this for free.  I personally didn’t want to rely on a business that I may not trust to interpret my computer codes for me.   I decided that I wanted to see how much my own diagnostic computer would cost. I was floored to find that I could buy one from Amazon for under $20!  Sure, it required a little forward planning on my part, but I ordered it, and have been extremely pleased with the purchase ever since.

    Two years ago my mechanic charged me $100 to do this five-minute check on my car’s computer.  Now I can check it out and reset the codes (turn the light off) for free.  Over the past two years, I have saved $300 in mechanics fees on check engine lights that told me that the engine had misfired once or I needed to tighten my gas cap.  Seriously!  I should start a business doing nothing but auto computer diagnostics!

    2) Check your tire pressure every time you fuel up.  According to FuelEconomy.gov, you can save .3% on fuel for every 1 psi that your tire pressure is low up to about 3.3%.  What does this mean in dollars?  This is about 12 cents per gallon.  Keeping your tires properly inflated can save you between $75 and $150 every year on gas.  This says nothing about the wear on the tires that will be saved.

    How do you know if your tire pressure is low?  It’s not as easy as quickly glancing at them.  By the time the tires are looking deflated, they may be low by as much as 20 psi.  I once checked my air pressure and it was reading 10 psi, and the tire didn’t look that bad!

    Most people are not aware of what the proper air pressure is for their car.  The best way to find out is to look at the sticker on the jamb of the driver’s side door.  This will tell you the proper tire pressure.  The “maximum pressure” stamped on the sidewall of the tire is not what you should be following.  Usually the proper pressure is between 25 & 35 psi.  The maximum pressure is usually about  10 psi above the proper pressure.  This gives the tire a safety margin because the pressure changes with the temperature of the road.

    Failure to maintain proper tire pressure will not only cost you in gas, but it is also a serious safety hazard.  Over pressurized tires can blow out.  Under pressurized tires can cause problems with steering.

    It is easy to push-off checking your tires for weeks or months, even when they are noticeably low.  This is why it is best to get into the habit of checking them every time you get gas.  Instead of standing there watching the numbers count up on the pump, buy a tire pressure gauge and check the air in your tires while you wait.  Let’s face it, it’s inconvenient at any time of year.

    3) Replace your air filters.  I am always amazed when I replace an air filter, and suddenly my fuel mileage improves by a few miles per gallon.  Many owner’s manuals tell you to replace your air filter every 6 months or 10,000 miles.  The reality is that most people let it go a year or more.

    Those air filters are expensive little buggers!  They usually cost between $15 and $20!  There is another way to handle it.  K&N makes an air filter that is re-usable after cleaning, and it allows more air to flow through, which often means better fuel savings.  The extended benefit of these filters is that you don’t need to change them as often (about once a year).  I have been using these filters in my cars for about three years now, and love them.  They cost about three times as much as their paper counterparts, but they pay for themselves in a year or so.

    4) Some people have been changing their own oil for years.  I used to change the oil in my vehicles to save money.  10 years ago you could buy the oil and filter for about $15 US at any auto parts store.  If I did it myself I could save about $20 US per car, compared to taking it to my mechanic or one of the oil changing franchises.  The time commitment was about the same either way, so I decided to do it myself.  The job was a little messy, but it was satisfying knowing that I was saving money.  I would usually do both cars at the same time, and save $40 in the hour that it took to do it.

    Slowly, the price of lube oil has been going up.  It now costs almost $30 US to buy the oil and filter for one car.  For some reason the prices at the repair shops have remained steady.  It has always been about $35 US to get an oil change.  I recently decided that it is no longer worth the hassle to change my own oil for the $5 savings.  You decide if this is worth your time or not.  If you can find the oil at a decent price, it may be worth your time.  What has changed?  I would truly like to know.  I have my suspicions, and am fairly certain it is NOT tied to the price of gasoline at the pump.

  2. How to tune your own piano

    February 8, 2012 by Karl

    Piano berry berry berry berry berry

    In today’s economy, cutting spending is a must. One place to do this is by tuning your own piano. This post will show you, step by step, exactly how to tune your piano in a very easy way. You will need to buy a few tools, but the total cost of the tools should be less than what a piano tuner would charge (assuming you have your own laptop).  Once you have the tools and the knowledge, you will be saving every time the piano needs to be tuned.

    Most pianos have a full 88 keys,  which is 7 ⅓ octaves.  It is very rare that the lower 5 and upper 5 keys are used.  They still need to be tuned, though if they’re not perfect no one is going to notice.

    Here is the basic keyboard layout:

    Keyboard Layout

    Each octave has 7 white keys and 5 black keys.  The different octaves are labeled 0-7.

    You will need 3 basic tools in order to tune your piano.  A tuning ‘hammer‘ (which is really a wrench), some little rubber wedges called ‘mutes‘, and a windows based laptop with a built-in microphone.  If you don’t have a microphone in your laptop, you can plug-in an external microphone.  On the laptop you need to download and install AP Tuner.  This is the software that you will use to tune each of the notes.  It is free to use, but if you are happy with the software, I encourage you to pay the $35 US to help support the person who wrote this awesome application.

    The video at the bottom of this page will show you each step in how to tune the piano.

    If you have an old piano, like mine, you may find that the tuning pins are very loose, and won’t hold the strings in tune.  If this is the case, you can go to my post on replacing tuning pins to see how that is done.

    In general, you want to start tuning in one spot and work your way up or down the keyboard, one note at a time.  Some tuners start in the middle and work up, then return to the middle and work their way down.  There doesn’t seem to be a perfect way to do it, but you want to make sure that all the strings are properly adjusted when you are done.

    If your piano is significantly out of tune when you start, you may want to take it up in half pitch steps (half a note at a time) a day or a week apart so you don’t break any strings.  Old strings can be brittle, and break if they are overstressed.

    On the lower end of the keyboard each note has only one string that is struck by the hammer.  As you move up the keyboard, it shifts to two strings per note, and then three strings per note.  Where there are two or three strings per note, you need to get all the strings in unison with each other (the exact same pitch), and you need to make sure that it is playing the proper pitch.

    The video below will explain it in detail, but the basic method to achieve this is to mute out all but one string on an individual note, and then use a device that will listen to that string to determine if it is the proper pitch.  In our case we will be using some software in your laptop.  Adjustments are made to this string as needed, and then any remaining one or two strings  are adjusted to match the first.  Then the process is repeated for each note on the piano.

    As each string is raised to pitch, more and more tension is placed on the sounding board of the piano.  The combined tension of these strings is somewhere between 15 and 20 tons.  That’s 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of combined tension on the sounding board.  When you raise the pitch of each string, you are increasing this tension on the sounding board.  What you may find when you finish tuning the piano, is that if you go back to the original strings that you tuned, they will be slightly flat from where they were when you tuned them at the beginning.  This is somewhat normal because of the tensions involved, and how that tension plays out across the entire sounding board as the strings are tightened in succession.  If it is noticeable, you may want to bring them back in tune.  If you’re happy with the sound, don’t worry about it.  It is next to impossible to get them all perfect.

    Here is my video on how to tune the piano:

    How to tune your own piano from karlboer on Vimeo.

    A piano should stay in tune for about a year.  If not, then your piano may need some maintenance.  Keep in mind that pianos need a constant humidity.  If the humidity in your home changes a lot between summer and winter, that is going to be a long term problem for your piano.  Even if it is staying in tune now, it could start to develop problems down the road if the humidity is constantly changing in your house.

    If you have found the above information helpful, please comment below. Don’t forget to tell your friends about frugalberry.com. Facebook links can be found at the top of this post.


    I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Money Saving Blogs.

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