Less time in the car, more time on the bike. Sound like a familiar goal?

Even when it comes to maintenance, many of us cyclists lean the same way, and the closest we come to a car mechanic is dropping off our car for an oil change, or listening to Click and Clack on public radio. We might do all our own maintenance on our bikes, but when it comes to cars, if we own or lease one, most of us will leave the wrenching on our four-wheel computerized vehicles to the experts with proper diagnostics, the right tools, parts and labor warranties and liability insurance.

That's just as well—many projects other than changing an air filter or wiper blades can be more complex than on a bicycle—and peace of mind and your time can't be discounted. Yet for any home bicycle mechanic, your local auto parts store is still worth a visit, and today for our latest, Mechanical Monday installment, we've got a few favorite reasons why.

An auto parts store is the last thing most of us think of when it comes to our two-wheel needs, but there's many reasons to venture inside. photo: I-5 Design and Manufacture on flickr

An auto parts store is the last thing most of us think of when it comes to our two-wheel needs, but there are many reasons to venture inside. photo: I-5 Design and Manufacture on flickr

Make no mistake about it, an auto parts store can't replace your local bicycle shop in its life-saving ability when you break a part the day before a race, and local bike shops need your support to be there when you need them the most. However, most bike shops aren't stocked with all the items a home mechanic might need for a complicated project or pro setup. And while hardware stores carry some of these items, the selection is actually often more limited.

Sometimes it's even a matter of convenience, as there's more likely to be an auto parts store close by than a Home Depot, and there are more O'Reily, Napa or Advance Auto Parts locations than True Value or Ace Hardware franchises. And these stores tend to be open for extended hours, long after a bike shop has closed.

So roll up those sleeves, your roll-top backpack and your two wheels up to your local neighborhood auto parts store with some off our staff's shopping suggestions below. You'll be sure to get some staff attention in one way or another as the only grease monkey in lycra.

7 Reasons for Cyclists to Visit the Auto Parts Store:

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Small Parts Hunting

Car parts store excel in stocking a million small parts, many of which can be helpful in solving bicycle-related problems.

Care about bike fit and find yourself needing pedal washers to get the same width stance on all your bikes? You might pay as much as $4 per pedal washer when ordering them online, but bring in one to your local auto parts store and with some luck, you’ll leave with a big bag of oil drain plug washers that are the same size, for pennies each. Sure, they might be aluminum and deform a bit when used, but one could argue the softer material could protect your expensive cranks better and save a gram over steel.

Find the right size of oil drain plug washers and you've yourself a cheap set of alloy pedal washers.

Find the right size of oil drain plug washers and you’ve yourself a cheap set of alloy pedal washers.

Lose or strip a bolt? When your local bike shop doesn’t have the right replacement bolt and you can’t get one from the manufacturer in time, finding a suitable substitute at the hardware store can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Car mechanics certainly deal with a lot of different fasteners and bolts, and bringing in your old stripped bolt or component with a missing bolt to the auto parts store to find a replacement is worth a try. Speed up the process by asking for a metric bolt.

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