Friday, October 8, 2010

For the love of Pete, DIY people!

So this is more of a rant than an informational blog. I drive through the parking lot of the local Advance Auto Parts yesterday and what do I see? A man in his early to mid 30's standing in front of his SUV while the woman (yes, woman) from the Advance store puts his windshield wipers on his car for him! It took everything I had not to stop my car, get in my trunk, pull two golf balls from my golf bag and hand them to him and say "here's a pair for ya Nancy!" I mean, are you kidding me? Can you imagine your grandfather or father letting a woman do car work for him?

So I got to thinking and I made a top ten list of things this guy (we'll call him Nancy) says during his day:

10. "Hey, do those panties come in a size 36?"
9. "Can you carry my groceries out for me?"
8. "I'd like a water crest salad with mineral water"
7. "That is a handsome man right there"
6. "I wonder if this shirt comes in pink?"
5. "I can't wait for tonights episode of Real Housewives"
4. "Really, I didn't realize my car had two transmissions, go ahead and replace them both then"
3. "I wish this station would play more Michael Bolton"
2. "Swing dance lessons are great exercise"
1. "I voted for Obama, why?"

Seriously people, do your own maintenance. Remember my mantra (and I stole this from the movie "The Bear" with Anthony Hopkins) "what one man can do, another can do!". If a mechanic can replace brake pads, so can you. If a woman from Advance Auto can replace your wiper blades, so can you! Get your hands dirty for crying out loud, it won't kill you and might save you a buck or two!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Selling your car.....It is easier if you keep records

Today a customer called me (Owns a 2001 540 6 speed) and asked "I have a guy ready to buy my car, but he wants to talk to my mechanic, can you talk to him?" "Of course I will" I replied, "give him my number". Sure enough, about 2 hours later the phone rings and it is Mr. Buyer on the line. He starts with "tell me about the car".

Sure, it has 4 black things on it called tires, it was made in Germany, it is silver, it has a motor, blah blah blah. What he wanted to know was "is this car going to break down on me or cost me an arm and a leg to keep running". I couldn't really answer that with 100% certainty because this customer doesn't keep records on his car so he had to rely on me to remember what he has (or hasn't) done.

The point is this, almost every time someone looks at a used car they almost always ask "do you have the service records?". How many of you can go look in a drawer or in a file on your computer and pull up your maintenance history? The three of you who can are excused from the rest of my article and get an "A", the rest of you fail and should read on.....

Think about it, if you asked for maintenance records and the owner pulled out a 3 year history on a spreadsheet or in a notebook, would you feel better about buying the car? I sure would. What if they had receipts for the corresponding repairs? Now do you feel confident about the buy? I would.

But just like in ANY sales arena, most people don't do the hard work that it takes to make selling easy. You'll dance around and say "well, the cooling system has been replaced....well except for the water pump.......wait, did I do the water pump...??" Wrong answer! I'm walking away and you just blew a sale. This isn't earth shattering stuff, just common sense that we forget about until it is too late. So here are 4 things you need to remember to have a good record book:

1. KISS (Keep it simple stupid). No reason to write a paragraph for each repair, just date, mileage, what was done, and cost. You may also want to jot down warranty info if there is any.
2. Keep track of EVERYTHING you do. Right down to the last day and time you checked your tire pressures (you should probably go ahead and do that today cause I bet you haven't checked lately have you?). Yea, it's overkill, but when time comes to sell your car you will thank me for it. This means oil changes, fluid changes, inspections, everything excpet gas purchases should go on this record. If you add a splash of coolant or wiper blades, the log should be updated. Get it? More is.....well........MORE!

3. Keep the log in a safe place and better yet, back it up on a thumb drive or USB! Ever had a PC crash? I have. What if you take my advice and go through all this work only to lose it all because your kid clicked on an offer for a free playstation. So treat it like any other important file.

4. Keep receipts. Whether you DIY or pay a shop, get the receipts and scan or staple them to the record. KEEP THEM ALL! It adds credibility if the receipt dates match the entry dates too.

If you do the above, when it comes time to sell you will not only be able to honestly tell potential buyers EXACTLY what has been done, you can also give them a heads up on what might need to be done. Can you imagine how great a buyer would feel if you said "well Mr. Customer, it is $800 more than a comparable car, but you won't need this, this, and that for about 30k miles. Does the other car have records like this?" You just got paid an extra $800 to be a little OCD when it comes to your car.

The only question is, will you do it?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Been away for a long time, I'm back

So I won't pretend to make excuses, I just plain let this blog grow cold. Call it a lack of motivation, not really thinking it is helping people, or just plain laziness. Anyway, I am back and here are the incoherent ramblings of a "car guy" for today, read at your own risk, this entry will be all over the place!

First of all, on the car front, I have been a busy man. I have replaced 2 evaporators these past few months. One on an 04 BMW X3 and one on a 1999 Jeep Cherokee. Both required removal of the dash, what a nightmare! Why don't car manufacturers put those darn things somewhere a little easier to access? I only charged the BMW owner $500 and the Jeep owner $250. Dealer quotes on both were an excess of $2500 and indy shops were over $1500. I really need to up my prices! I also did an A/C compressor on a VW Cabrio, again the indy quote was $1500. I did it for $200. It only took me an hour and a half! Why do these shops charge so much freaking money!?

I want to remind all of you car owners out there (BMW or ANY car brand) to do regular maintenance items on your car early and often! If you are waiting till the quicky lube place tells you that you need a new air filter, you waited too long. If you wait until your ABS module fails to change your brake fluid, you have waited too long. If you wait until your transmission starts to slip, you waited too long to change the fluid. Get me? You can never fully eliminate the risks of your car breaking down on you, but with simple jobs you can easily do at home in a few hours you can give yourself the best chance of having a long lasting and trouble free car.

Just last weekend I spent $15 on brake fluid and had my daughter push the pedal for me and exchanged my brake fluid in about 45 minutes. It was already pretty clear, but I was due for it. Granted, I didn't feel a difference in the way my car stops, but since my BMW has a pretty sophisticated (and really expensive) braking/traction control system, I now know neither of those systems aren't likely to fail anytime soon because I didn't take the time to do a little work. Given the average ABS failure costs a minimum of $2000, I think it was well worth it! My wife's Jeep is next, her brake fluid looks like used motor oil! Shame on ME! But I have kept the oil and trans fluids changed, as well as doing a 130k mile "tune up" that included fuel filters, plugs, water pump, thermostat, radiator, hoses, belts, etc. She drives my kids after all, the car has to remain safe. And by doing those kind of things PRO-actively, I save myself the hassle of towing costs, logistical problems, and even safety concerns if she breaks down in a bad part of town or late at night. Piece of mind is nice, and you too can have it. When is the last time you checked YOUR wife's car over for things it needs? Is her serpentine belt new or does it look like an old shoe lace? What do those brake pads look like? When is the last time you visually looked at the radiator hoses? Get my point?

Ok, so here is a checklist I use (and you should too):

1. Tires. Do they hold air? Are they round? Do they have tread? Cracks?
2. Belts and Hoses. Nothing stops a car faster than loosing a serpentine belt or blown radiator hose. These parts are cheap, when in doubt, replace them! And don't forget tensioner and idler pulleys, if they break, they will snap even a brand new belt!
3. Fluids. Everyone changes their oil. But when is the last time you changed your transmission fluid, brake fluid, differential fluid, engine coolant and power steering fluid? Exactly, now go change it!
4. Filters. You car has an air filter for the engine, even YOU know that. But when is the last time you changed the fuel filter? Cabin Filter? Transmission filter? Been awhile?
5. Tune up items. Spark plugs, coil packs, coil boots, plug wires, 02 sensors, cap and rotors, PCV valves, EGR Valves and fuel injectors. They all need to be kept healthy or bigger problems can develop.

I know, it can seem overwhelming. Break it down into small steps an do a few each weekend. Before you know it, you will have a car that is happy and will serve you well. And make sure you check your owners manual for vehicle specific things that I may have forgotten.

Ok, that is today's installment. I plan to go do some more work and then enjoy Bama rolling over Penn State tomorrow! ROLL TIDE!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm coming live to a computer near you

So, through the magic of my new HTC Hero and UStream, I am going to begin a new "show" that will feature things like Q & A, Fireside Chat, and so forth with you all out there. I figure at least some of you might care enough to know how a father of 4 with limited income keeps his Bimmer in top notch shape using "redneck ingenuity" and a dose of common sense. I will also offer repair advice, try and help diagnose problems, and even throw in some live DIY's of upcoming repairs.

But, I need to hear from you all and see what you want to discuss or not discuss. Either PM me on (smolck) or comment on this blog and I will try and do this as best I can. I can't wait. Archive videos will also be placed here.

Can't wait to use some new technology to help the masses!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lot's of work in the past months, here's the update

Like any would be blogger, I started this blog with the best of intentions. However, as work got crazy and life became more hectic, this blog has suffered. I apologize to my readers (all 22 of you) and hope you can begin to count on more regular blogs. In the coming months I plan to add videos and more to help you keep you BMW in top notch shape. Since my last entry, here is a highlight of what I have done to my E46.

Well, it started in late November, the car lost reverse in the old slush box. A group of incredible guys and gals from made some donations and $1000 later, I had the parts I needed for the manual trans swap!

I sourced a used trans/clutch/flywheel/slave cylinder/shifter for $640 shipped from ebay. It came out of a car with only 17k miles on it! I then bought a driveshaft, crossmember, and clutch pedal assembly from my local go to salvage, Vines Automotive, and was ready to begin. It took me a full weekend (Friday thru Sunday night) but was a great success! Best part was, it really awakened my little 2.5L motor and made it fun to drive. That and the fact I still have the 3.46 rear differential. A little revvy on the interstate (3900rpm at 80mph) but a bulldog down low.

Then, after just getting used to my new trans, disaster struck. I began to hear a creak in the rear of my car and an inspection revealed a massive failure of the drivers side subframe. Off to the dealer for the first and only time in her life. Some 45 days later, I got the car back with an entirely new floor section from rear trailing arm mount to the spare tire well. It did however solidify my rear end and added some stability back to the car. My guess is the new 5 speed put undue stress on that mount that was probably already cracked and killed it the rest of the way.

I drove her for a month after that only to find my rear wheel bearings had failed. It HOWLED like crazy everytime I drove her. This was one DIY I am most proud of because of the sheer forces involved to remove the old bearings. Many "experts" told me it couldn't be done without the special tool, they were WRONG. I did it with nothing more than a rented slide hammer and a 3lb sledge (my new favorite tool). Sure, it took some doing, but more than worth it to save the kind of money I saved. My local indy(s) each qouted me $1000 for the whole job including new hubs. I did it for $283 with new hubs. That is the kind of money you can save with some simple tools, a little brain power, and determination. NEVER give up! And as I always say...."what one man can do another can do".

Each of these projects has been covered in detail on, the links to each are below if you'd like to catch up. Otherwise, stay tuned for my next installment coming later today showing how to restore worn window trims. I am happy to be back, stay tuned for tons of money saving, fun projects that will keep your high or low mileage BMW running strong for years to come!