I replaced the rear brakes on my car at the end of last week. It's been a long-standing issue that I've been waiting to fix for a little while now, and once you can hear the brakes working, it's generally a good indication that things need to be replaced. There's been a bunch of things that have gone wrong with my car since I've owned it, ranging from the more serious (transmission failure) to the incredibly minor, (windshield wipers needing replacement). When I've had the opportunity, I've opted to fix things myself. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that it's much, much cheaper. The estimated cost of brake replacement for the Mini was somewhere in the $300-$350 range. That's doable, but it takes a huge chunk of cash away from me. Fixing the brakes myself does more than save me money, however; it gives me some time learning just how my car works. Pulling the tire away gives me a good view of the suspension, and while I'm unscrewing or removing something, it gives me some time to actually examine how this works. It also gives me a bit more ownership of the car, making it a bit more my pride and joy, in a way.
Still, waiting to do the brakes, while possibly not the smartest thing to do, has imparted me with some lessons that have affected my driving habits. Coupled with the mindset of trying to save gas, I've come to change my driving habits in a way that makes me a better driver overall, I think. At the very least, it's gotten me thinking about how I'm driving, which few people seem to be able to do.
With the brakes going, I've learned better how to avoid using them. This doesn't mean that I didn't use them, but used them more sparingly, and drove in a way that meant that I didn't have to use them to the extent that I did. This means driving at a bit of a slower pace in traffic, giving myself more space between myself and the car ahead of me. Instead, I'd coast, downshift the car and take my foot off the gas, which helps bring down the car's fuel consumption a bit.
And it's worked - driving carefully, I've noticed a slight uptick in my car's fuel mileage, which is good, but I've also been a better driver around people. In doing so, I've noticed other bad habits that I've seen people doing - braking constantly, riding their brakes, tailgating other cars, braking while going uphill and not paying attention to the road through a variety of means.
While I've taken ownership of my car and responsibility for its maintenance, I've found that I've become more interested in the road and my own driving habits. Hopefully, with fuel at high prices and people watching where they put their money, they will do the same things.