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Thread: DIY or Pro ?

  1. #1
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    DIY or Pro ?

    Many of the participants at this forum want to do their own maintenance and repairs on their BMWs, and I, and the other pro-techs here encourage that. The more you know about your car, the more this becomes a great idea, and the pros are happy to help you find the info you'll need.

    There are, some times, however, when you'll need a pro to actually put hands on your car. When this occurs will depend on your level of experience, or the tools and equipment you have at your disposal.

    Quite often, a "weekend warrior" will try to figure out an issue on his own, based on inadequate information. In attempting to save a hundred bucks, the non-pro can confuse the issue, and cost himself a thousand.

    Reading codes with a cheap "code-reader" that comes with a chart is often the first mistake. I've come to the conclusion that these devices generally do more harm than good, as I've seen their code translations be incorrect at least half the time. To further aggravate the problem, many non-pros don't understand the correlations between codes and their causes the way a pro does.

    {For instance, the DIY'er gets O2 sensor or MAF codes, and orders hundreds of dollars of sensors; without understanding that these codes most often just mean that the MIXTURE is wrong, not that the sensor is bad.

    But let's say the weekend warrior knows that: So he looks for an intake leak. To save money, he inspects every hose he can see, sprays everything he can reach with carb cleaner, listening for a leak, and replaces a few of the rubber items known to fail. Maybe he even stresses and rips an adjacent hose while doing that. Finished with this thorough job, he pronounces his intake system healthy, and starts considering whether his dme (engine computer) is malfunctioning, or he throws those sensors, in desperation. More money, more frustration.

    Once you've seen a smoke machine do its job, you'll never reach for another can of carb cleaner. Even if you've replaced every single piece of intake/ccv system sealing, you could STILL have a leak - unless you've done a smoke test after you finished.}


    Pros use tests - because tests prevent expensive misdiagnoses.When a customer spends a thousand bucks on sensors, he wants his misfire to be fixed. The pro wants it fixed, too - because if it's not, he looks bad.

    Sure, pros make mistakes, too, and sometimes, we really have to just guess. Cars are complex, and no one's had personal experience with every manifestation of every issue, so we'll each draw from our own knowledge and experience. Obviously, the more familiar your tech is with your type of car, the less mistakes he's likely to make. More important, the experienced guy knows where to look for common troubles, thereby saving time, and money - yours. AND he'll know one quick test to make sure his "snap-diagnosis" is correct, because he'll remember the time he was wrong.

    So what I'm saying is that you DO need a pro, sometimes: The newer your car, the more often you need one, not vice-versa, because newer cars are far more complex, and require more special tools. And when you need a pro: FIND A GOOD BMW GUY! You don't want to go to a chain fix-it store, or put cheap Chinese parts on your car; either of these is recipe for disaster. You'll think those Napa rotors and pads are a bargain...until you fade or warp them. You'll like the price of the cheapo water pump or rebuilt starter, until you have to return it, because it leaks, or doesn't work. A good BMW guy knows where to buy oem or better parts.

    One last thing, for every DIY project you undertake: Ignoring conventional and collective professional-level wisdom is generally unwise. If you get a couple of good BMW techs telling you something's dangerous, stupid, or difficult, it usually is.

    All the best, and Aloha.

    Chris Powell
    Racer and Instructor since, well. decades, ok?
    Master Auto Tech, owner of German Motors of Aberdeen
    BMWCCA 274412

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    I agree. It is so sad to see someone throwing parts at a problem and hoping for a favorable outcome when an hour's worth of time by a pro would have given them a viable diagnosis.
    The car makes it possible, but the driver makes it happen.
    Jim Levie, Huntsville, AL

  4. #4
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    One of our neighbors pulled into my parents driveway last year, he asked me to help him put in a new O2 sensor. His wife's Caravan kept stalling and he put in a grand changing sensors and everything under the hood on advice from code scanners and one dealer who changed the injector harness (wtf? lol). It was still dying, I told him he should have dropped by my house first before trying to change parts himself, God knows I'm out in the driveway a lot when I come home to visit haha!

    He wound up trading it in shortly after, even though I dont work on Dodges, a few basic checks and some reading on the internet and I probably could have saved him a LOT of aggravation.

    I'm spend a good bit of time online researching before tearing into the car, its highly likely that somebody has had that problem or done that repair and written about it

  5. #5
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    Very good point unless you are a seasoned vet when it comes to auto repair and even if you are sometimes you need a pro. As the original post stated OBD scanners can show multiple codes, but unless you know all the components that can throw a code, save yourself time and money and call a professional. I do all my own work but I have a professional computer diagnostic tool and owned a business that restored and customized cars, in addition I have the complete Chilton Database but occasionally even I call on pros.

  6. #6
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    In the words of the immortal Dirty Harry Callahan, "Man's got to know his limitations." Sadly, this is often not the case.





    Life's tough. It's tougher when you're stupid.
    -John Wayne

  7. #7
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    BTW forgot to mention, you can always take your car to a shop and pay the diagnostic fee. Then once they tell you whats wrong, you can choose if you want to let them fix it, or do it yourself, or a combination of both.

    The more complex a car is, the more their computers can tell them what the issues are, so a $75-100 diagnostic fee is peanuts when it tells you more than likely whats wrong.

  8. #8
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    Great post dirtracer. Proper diagnosis is the best money saver by far. I'd rather pay a sharp specialist a premium to do his thing than let some cut rate fool get an education on my nickle.
    The free "diagnostics" done at some big box parts stores is a major contributor to DIYers wasting cash on un-needed and usually un-returnable parts.
    Good BASIC diagnostic skills are rare these days, among DIYers and pros. Lots of stories on the net of so called "pros", charging a pro's rate, throwing parts at a problem until it's fixed, maybe.

    If you can leave two black stripes from the exit of one corner to the braking zone of the next, you have enough horsepower. - Mark Donohue

  9. #9
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    Thanks to all for these comments! I hope this thread stays active a while, because I think it's one of the most important things for anyone trying to do the majority of his (her) own work.

    I have many times used this site to find pro info I can't find elsewhere very easily, because there are many TRULY GREAT bmw pros and non-pros here. Techs ask for help every day, and search out new info on things with which they're not personally familiar. Like the other techs here, I like to share that knowledge.

    Pro techs aren't threatened at all by owners doing their own work: IF THEY DO IT CORRECTLY! {Nothing worse than cleaning up after a hack, whether he's the owner, or a Jiffy-Lube guy.}

    And nothing worse than hearing an owner proclaim he's thrown two thousand dollars worth of parts already, and knowing that half those parts couldn't possibly be responsible for his failure, which he still has.

    As a pro who takes pride in his work, I will say that 90% of the pros I associate with do the same, and no-one of that percentage is ever intentionally sloppy, or tries to steal from the customer.

    I have some really damned cool tools; because they either save me a bunch of hassle, or they help me correctly diagnose and fix issues.

    There's no substitute for my smoke machine, my vacuum bleeder/pressure tester for any cooling system made, my brand new (yesterday!) SnapOn Torque/angle wrench, my fuel pressure guage, my tap and die set, my leak-down tester; when do I quit? And that's not to mention the shop's two pro scanners, most important tools of the lot.

    Because the DIY guy is young and brave, he can do that clutch swap on his back in a driveway, and I'll tell him how. But I'm not lifting the damned tranny: been there, done that. Got a lift and a trans jack, I lie down at home.

    Thank you to all the great people at this site, I regularly rely on you for your wisdom!
    Last edited by bmwdirtracer; 01-12-2011 at 01:33 AM.

    Chris Powell
    Racer and Instructor since, well. decades, ok?
    Master Auto Tech, owner of German Motors of Aberdeen
    BMWCCA 274412

  10. #10
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    Great thread idea Chirs.
    Congrats' on the torque wrench! I pryed open my wallet with a crow bar 2 years ago and bought one. It stung, but it was worth it. If that's your first "do it all" torque wrench, you're gonnna love it.

    By the way... anybody want to buy one of these?

  11. #11
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    I love it already, put an engine together with it yesterday; no more of those ^^^ silly things, yay! I had been looking forward to getting the switchable 90 degree optic fiber for my borescope, guess that'll have to wait a bit longer. The very best tool I own? The smoke machine, far and away. It's saved more customers more money than I can count.

    And in a way, that's the point: The tech is on the customer's side - not his nemesis. We're car doctors - and the best techs, like the best doctors, have the training and tools to discover the cause of symptoms, not just treat the symptoms by throwing parts (medicines) haphazardly, as the JiffyLube guy might do, {or the guy behind the register at your drug store, to milk the medical comparison a bit more}.

    And you wouldn't likely see a veterinarian's assistant if you were coughing up blood, so I don't recommend going to the average Ford dealership or PepBoys for your BMW repair, either.

    If an E46 4 door comes into my shop with, say, complaints of a funky-acting blower motor, a clunking driver's window, and weird left rear lighting, I'm already going to know I'll need a final stage resistor, a LF regulator, and a wiring repair kit for the inadequate ground on the LR light, plus maybe the light unit, if it's too melted. Yes, I'll confirm before ordering parts, but the PepBoy's guy will still be scratching his head, maybe ordering a blower or computer instead of the FSR, maybe a motor instead of the regulator, maybe just the light unit, which won't work either, because it will still have no ground. And he won't be able to communicate with half your computers, or have a smoke machine, either, to find out why it "runs bad". So who's going to save you money?

    All I ask is you take your ford to someone else.

    Again, I guess what we're all saying is that the correct diagnosis is the most important step towards saving money. Knowledge is king, always will be.

    BY ALL MEANS, a DIYer should do his research: My best friend, a "non-bmw-pro" is the very finest at research when it comes to his E30/36/46 M3's, and I believe him when he tells me something. (Of course I usually check for myself, I'm a pro, I have too). He researches in good places, and ignores "Noise": the unscientific, primitive, and weakly supported anecdotal references found on many forums. Beware of those.

    Chris Powell
    Racer and Instructor since, well. decades, ok?
    Master Auto Tech, owner of German Motors of Aberdeen
    BMWCCA 274412

  12. #12
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    Great Thread Chris! This always should be on first page.

  13. #13
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    The Mechanic & the Customer
    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDnivh5Odfk&feature=player_embedded[/ame]

    This is the perfect addition to this thread, explains the thinking of a lot of people when it comes to repairs.

  14. #14
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    phatyo::
    :

    Uh, uh, hahahahaha, uh

    (snicker)

    God, can't believe they put my customer George in a "movie"! Guess everyone here knows him, though, he gets around.

    Thanks, Elleshootiger, best laugh I've had in a great while.

    Chris Powell
    Racer and Instructor since, well. decades, ok?
    Master Auto Tech, owner of German Motors of Aberdeen
    BMWCCA 274412

  15. #15
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    OK, as long as we're "going there", here's a little short that I made a long time ago. Enjoy, and sorry to get off the subject.
    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZir5uxnLqE[/ame]

  16. #16
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    lmao!

  17. #17
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    Here's a mechanic discussion thread in another forum, a rather looooong discussion on the flat rate system. I'm on there as MISHNAH btw.

    http://slickdeals.net/forums/showthread.php?t=2473260

  18. #18
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    I'm resurrecting this old thread, because I want any DIY guys to have a brief peek at another thread, to give you an idea HOW MUCH you need pros, sometimes.

    Here's a pro (me), looking for help from other pros, on this forum. Please note the DEPTH of information, research, testing and diagnostic capabilities required and used.

    http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1701277

    Chris Powell
    Racer and Instructor since, well. decades, ok?
    Master Auto Tech, owner of German Motors of Aberdeen
    BMWCCA 274412

  19. #19
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    This is a great thread, Chris.

    I'm a pro, but not in the auto repair industry. I'm a DIY guy completely by hobby.

    So, I thoroughly understand the annoyances DIY'ers can cause and respect the miracles a truly good tech can work with a modern car.

    My question is this - how do pros feel about DIY'ers using them for diagnosis only? If you constantly saw a car in the shop and it was always diagnosis only, then the guy (or gal) talked about doing the repairs themselves?

    I've always been curious about that - and never really wanted to ask. I try to do as much of my own diagnosis as possible, and I've tried to move into the realm (as a DIY'er) of understanding how to test, how the systems interrelate, and what the test results mean.....

    Anyway - would be curious to hear thoughts of those that make a living in the field.....
    '95 325iS - auto to manual swap done!

  20. #20
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    I think you'll find the vast majority of good pros are quite happy to act as diagnosticians, and have the DIY guys do their own work.

    The only "annoyance" a pro's going to incur from a DIYer is when the guy does something wrong and ugly, and the pro has to correct it. There's nothing worse than a mass of nasty, electrical-taped, unsoldered wiring, or Scotch-lock connectors when you've got to trace a no-start or other electrical issue.

    Chris Powell
    Racer and Instructor since, well. decades, ok?
    Master Auto Tech, owner of German Motors of Aberdeen
    BMWCCA 274412

  21. #21
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    PLEASE....OH PLEASE MAKE THIS A STICKY!!!!!! I am a tech and we have customers come in all the time that talk/act very similar to the first youtube video. bmwdirtracer...I'm going to print your first post and put it up in my shop. Well written man....nice work.
    sooo much fun


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