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E34 (1989 - 1995)

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  #1  
Old 11-04-2012, 05:37 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Simple way to check on your trans fluid if you lack a dipstick

Hi everyone,

This applies to those who do not have a dipstick for their automatic transmissions, which I guess is pretty much all E34s.

I recently changed my radiator. There are two pipes bolted onto the radiator, under the upper radiator hose. These pipes carry hot transmission fluid to the radiator and cool fluid back to the transmission.

When the radiator is removed, if you're not careful, you might allow these two pipes to fall forward (they have a flexible rubber hose component below which allows this) and lose some oil. So secure this with something after you unbolt the two pipes from the radiator, and before you remove the radiator.

Now, you can just unbolt one with a wrench, pop out the metal pipe gently (it comes out easily so if it doesn't just jiggle around abit) move it to the side, and stick some cleenex on the end, all without removing the radiator. The cleenex will absorb a little bit of tranny fluid, and spread out.

You can observe the colour of the tranny fluid, but the more important thing is to look at the fluid's colour after it has spread out over the cleenex. My fluid which appeared brown at first, turn medium red after it spread out, which shows that its in good shape. The oil I used for my tranny was pure red in colour (castrol dex3). [ Oil that remains brown after spreading out ought to be changed, and oil that remains black requires you to flush your transmission or at least do a fast change interval on it instead of an immediate flush. ]

This takes a little manoeuvring around to accomplish on a normal setup, and is waay easier with the clutch fan out of the radiator. It takes 3 minutes to unbolt either tranny pipe and another 3 minutes to bolt it back up, and 2 minutes to get your sample. Under 10 minutes total. Thus, especially if its been awhile since you changed your fluid, I recommend that you take the opportunity to check on your tranny fluid via this method whenever you need to remove your clutch fan for something else (eg changing the fan clutch, wp, thermostat, belts, etc.)

[ The basic rule of thumb is, as long as you are doing any work on your car, think of other things that you can do in terms of checks, doublechecks, preventive maintenance, or simple observation, to optimise your labour along the way. ]

The little bit of fluid that you lose will not make a difference to the car and no air pockets worth a damn will be introduced. I lost more tranny fluid from the stuff that was in my old radiator which was discarded, than from this method described here, and the transmission has been working normally.

I suggest you remove the upper pipe instead of the lower one as more oil would run out due to gravity alone if you remove the lower pipe.

Unwrench the bolt deliberately to avoid hitting the radiator's cooling surfaces with your hand or your wrench. Please wear a glove if the radiator is still hot.



rgds,
Roberto

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-05-2012 at 01:11 AM.
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  #2  
Old 11-04-2012, 06:31 PM
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1995i540 1995i540 is offline
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The manual requires you to check the fluid level when car is running and perfectly leveled and proper temperature.

Your method just shows that there is oil in there and that's it, not to mention that you might get debris in there and cause tons of problems.

Here is the manual:

http://www.bmwe34.net/E34main/Mainte...0Autotrans.pdf
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  #3  
Old 11-04-2012, 06:38 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1995i540 View Post
The manual requires you to check the fluid level when car is running and perfectly leveled and proper temperature.

Your method just shows that there is oil in there and that's it, not to mention that you might get debris in there and cause tons of problems.

Here is the manual:

http://www.bmwe34.net/E34main/Mainte...0Autotrans.pdf
This is obviously not about checking fluid levels. This is about checking on the condition of the oil itself, via visual inspection. This is a simple method to do that when you dont have a tranny oil dipstick. It can even be done without removing the clutch, just much more inconvenient.

And if you take care, you're not going to get debris and stuff in there that will cause problems. Basically that only happens when you're trying to sabotage your car or you're too uncontrollably clumsy to be around an engine in the first place, or if you are rushing the job or very stressed up about something.

It is generally never a good idea to rush a job on your car.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-04-2012 at 10:47 PM.
  #4  
Old 11-04-2012, 11:12 PM
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Mr Roberto, i thought you had come right on this forum. you confess yourself your not sure on basic things, so please dont post this garbage. Its well known fact by BMW enthusiasts that it won't show the right level when the car is off. in fact, its probably like that for all car makes. the oil level drops a lot when the car is on and working, just like in the engine. your method, as 1995i540 says only shows there is *some* oil in there.
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Last edited by _Ethrty-Andy_; 11-04-2012 at 11:14 PM.
  #5  
Old 11-04-2012, 11:46 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Mr Andy, please read my original post again.

This method is not about checking fluid levels but about looking at the condition of the fluid itself.

This is the second time i have stated this.

There was nothing even remotely ambiguous about this in my original post. Please read it again. I've now made the appropriate sentence bold. Thank you.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-05-2012 at 01:13 AM.
  #6  
Old 11-05-2012, 01:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertobaggio20 View Post
Mr Andy, please read my original post again.

This method is not about checking fluid levels but about looking at the condition of the fluid itself.

This is the second time i have stated this.

There was nothing even remotely ambiguous about this in my original post. Please read it again. Thank you.
I'm not being a dick but what's wrong with simply opening the drain plug and letting fluid spill out? Not only will you check your fluid you will also check your level.

Also while the color of fluid might tell a story, you can't visually inspect the fluid and you will have to test it for viscosity and I'm not even sure if you should test that in a warmed up state or not.
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  #7  
Old 11-05-2012, 01:38 AM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1995i540 View Post
I'm not being a dick but what's wrong with simply opening the drain plug and letting fluid spill out? Not only will you check your fluid you will also check your level.

Also while the color of fluid might tell a story, you can't visually inspect the fluid and you will have to test it for viscosity and I'm not even sure if you should test that in a warmed up state or not.
The method I suggested is not for someone who has easy access to a jack, wrench, appropriate tools to open the drain plug, etc. This is obvious. You also don't have to go to a workshop and incur costs there just to have your fluid looked at if all you're interested in doing is to see how old it is. You can do this in your driveway, and without any else's assistance, and without purchasing uncommon tools, without it taking too long, and without you causing damage to your vehicle along the way.

Oil colour is a reasonable way to guess at the current quality of the oil . And even if you wish to test it for viscosity (you can dab some onto your fingers from the removed pipe and rub it about, and also sniff at it, if you know how to judge from these) or send a sample off to a laboratory for analysis, you'll just need to use a small syringe with a thin flexible hose attached (similar to what is used in aquariums, sold for $1 per foot) and insert it into the radiator cavity after removing the top tranny pipe and then extract a sample. You'll be able to get anything from 25 to 50 ccs easily, and the loss of this quantity will make zero difference to your transmission.

Removing the bottom tranny pipe will cause tranny oil to run out of the radiator due to gravity so avoid this at all costs. Stick to the top tranny pipe at the radiator.



rgds,
Roberto

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-05-2012 at 02:28 AM.
  #8  
Old 11-05-2012, 05:34 AM
snowsled7 snowsled7 is offline
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So just to re-cap.... you are saying that when you changed your radiator you did not replenish the trans fluid lost that went with the old trans cooler? Did you use the proper procedure to check the fluid level after replacing the radiator? You seem to argue that checking the level is not necessary if it drives fine?

Then your fluid had a brown tint to it (but when it spread out it was reddish) but you think that is just fine. Pink/red is what it should look like. Starting to brown is usually a bad sign. Did it smell burnt at all?I think you should flush it out and get the level correct. Probably just needs some diesel

So once again, seriously bad advice form someone who has no idea what they are doing with their car.

At least this ought to hasten the demise of your car bobby, then hopefully you will choose a different brand for your second car and find a new forum to pollute with nonsense posts.
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Last edited by snowsled7; 11-05-2012 at 05:45 AM.
  #9  
Old 11-05-2012, 05:58 AM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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I've checked both the colour of the oil with professional mechanics who feed their families with the bmws they work on for their clients, in a competitive market where referrals are critical. The colour was good. Turning brown is perfectly fine as long as its still a good shade of red. When it is brown all the way, that's when you need to think about changing it etc. And even in brown oil, there are gradations to it, but only someone with regular experience with that (such as a mechanic or a chemical engineer) will be able to judge that. Of course, all these visuals are juxtaposed with records of when the oil was last changed etc to help you make a decision, provided you have those records.

And I've also checked the consequences of loosing that little bit of oil* in my old radiator and any air that might have entered the system as a result, with the same professional mechanics. They say its too little of either to matter. They have obviously changed dozens of radiators before and I suppose they might know. There was no need to check oil levels either to be on the safe side. And guess what ? No error codes, no hesitations, no different behaviour from before. So their observations may indeed be correct ? Perhaps that's why I've stated it as such above and elsewhere ?

You already knew all of this snowy. Everyone knows that by now. You clearly know a few things about cars and have gotten your own hands dirty with them. You just need to argue with someone for its own sake, for whatever purpose that serves. Hosanna to you. Have a nice day.




rgds,
Roberto

* To be clear, I'm only talking about the tranny oil left in your old radiator itself. If you drop the two tranny oil cooling pipes to the ground and a whole bunch gets out before you can stop it, you better have the oil levels checked and drive the car gently until then. I just lost a couple of drops on mine, as they were tied up in an upright position before the old radiator was removed.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-05-2012 at 06:10 AM.
  #10  
Old 11-05-2012, 06:20 AM
snowsled7 snowsled7 is offline
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Now you want to take the advice of mechanics who make their living fixing cars

Last week you procliamed that those people were just mind numbed robots and that your (days) of extensive research had found a better way.

So it is both ways for you son?

You're right bobby, no point in even taking five minutes to check the fluid level. You do realize that an auto trans is very sensitive to fluid level correct? Letting it run low will damage internal components quickly, especially on a 20 yr old car.

I am sure your are right though bobby, nothing to worry about....
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  #11  
Old 11-05-2012, 06:36 AM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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They are as human as you and I snowy. They are given to prejudices. They think that just because they've worked on cars for so many years that they totally understand them and others especially those who are novices in their eyes, cannot be right. If that was the case, no progress in anything would be possible, right ?

It doesn't matter even if they had formal education in the subject per se. Remember, it was the scientific experts of the day who once thought that the earth was flat.

Of course they are experts at certain things. And some do truly understand the cars as well at an impressive in-depth level. You can be sure that they are not just having conversations with the average mechanic out there.

The trick my friend is to develop YOUR OWN sense of judgement so that you know when you can fall back on them, when to check with them but corroborate with others including sources like these forums, and when to ignore them. I've learned alot from my mechanics and also from the mechanics on these forums. I've also learned the limitations of both. They are not con artists (those who are not con artistes, that is). However, they are human.

Of course transmissions are sensitive to oil levels and this is an old transmission to boot. Why do you think I asked them if I need to top up oil in the first place, even though my tranny was exactly the same under all conditions as it was before the rad swop ? I had a hunch I should check to be on the safe side. In their reply to me, they asked me if I lost oil from the oil pipes themselves and not just the radiator. So they asked the right question first themselves before delivering the verdict. And in the process, I learned something that is obscure to the world but worth knowing for myself, so that I can share my knowledge with others here for their benefit.

So develop your instincts. You'll know when to ask, you'll know what to ask, you'll know whether to accept the answer, and you'll know when you're kidding yourself, and you'll know when you can live with that and when you cannot. If you do not wish to do these things, either purchase a car with a warranty or have your car serviced at a reliable workshop and only do what he tells you to do without question and don't even wonder if it could be right or wrong and just pay him whatever he demands. And most certainly, only read threads which involve engine upgrades, rims, paint jobs, prices of cars and the like.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-05-2012 at 08:07 AM.
  #12  
Old 11-05-2012, 11:33 AM
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1995i540 1995i540 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertobaggio20 View Post
The method I suggested is not for someone who has easy access to a jack, wrench, appropriate tools to open the drain plug, etc. This is obvious. You also don't have to go to a workshop and incur costs there just to have your fluid looked at if all you're interested in doing is to see how old it is. You can do this in your driveway, and without any else's assistance, and without purchasing uncommon tools, without it taking too long, and without you causing damage to your vehicle along the way.

Oil colour is a reasonable way to guess at the current quality of the oil . And even if you wish to test it for viscosity (you can dab some onto your fingers from the removed pipe and rub it about, and also sniff at it, if you know how to judge from these) or send a sample off to a laboratory for analysis, you'll just need to use a small syringe with a thin flexible hose attached (similar to what is used in aquariums, sold for $1 per foot) and insert it into the radiator cavity after removing the top tranny pipe and then extract a sample. You'll be able to get anything from 25 to 50 ccs easily, and the loss of this quantity will make zero difference to your transmission.

Removing the bottom tranny pipe will cause tranny oil to run out of the radiator due to gravity so avoid this at all costs. Stick to the top tranny pipe at the radiator.



rgds,
Roberto
Let's be honest here, somebody who is going to do what you described should already have these tools. A drain plug tool is like $10 last time I checked, everything else is pretty common.. jack and stands.

I don't agree with color of oil telling you anything, this is a simply waste of time at that location because you will not even see the metal debris/contamination particles anywhere close to operating condition of the transmission.

The only reason at all you should check your fluid if you are having problems, otherwise you should leave it alone and never touch it unless you have a professional do a test on it with proper tools and decide if you can replace the fluid (again if you have problems with shifting/etc).

The thought of cross tamination the fluid with dirt near lines is making me shudder.


Quote:
Originally Posted by robertobaggio20 View Post
I've checked both the colour of the oil with professional mechanics who feed their families with the bmws they work on for their clients, in a competitive market where referrals are critical. The colour was good. Turning brown is perfectly fine as long as its still a good shade of red. When it is brown all the way, that's when you need to think about changing it etc. And even in brown oil, there are gradations to it, but only someone with regular experience with that (such as a mechanic or a chemical engineer) will be able to judge that. Of course, all these visuals are juxtaposed with records of when the oil was last changed etc to help you make a decision, provided you have those records.

And I've also checked the consequences of loosing that little bit of oil* in my old radiator and any air that might have entered the system as a result, with the same professional mechanics. They say its too little of either to matter. They have obviously changed dozens of radiators before and I suppose they might know. There was no need to check oil levels either to be on the safe side. And guess what ? No error codes, no hesitations, no different behaviour from before. So their observations may indeed be correct ? Perhaps that's why I've stated it as such above and elsewhere ?

You already knew all of this snowy. Everyone knows that by now. You clearly know a few things about cars and have gotten your own hands dirty with them. You just need to argue with someone for its own sake, for whatever purpose that serves. Hosanna to you. Have a nice day.
I have checked and did $7000 worth of work with professionals who have multiple certificates in transmission rebuilding and 40+ years of experience which not a single BMW mechanic I came across would match ever. I bet your BMW mechanics do not have a single certification when it comes to that.

Color is good.. turning brown is good.. tested at weird location that does not represent oil in running state/operation and viscosity was not tested at all.... nor did you get to see the particles of wear you would have seen if you did it properly... but it's light brown that means it's okay right?

Not to mention.. how is feeding your family by working at a mechanic makes you an expert at anything?

Please post with a huge disclaimer, you come up with weird and quite stupid ideas (I will give you a credit for thinking outside the box) this is not a forum for that.. peoples cars cost $$$$$.
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  #13  
Old 11-05-2012, 05:58 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Originally Posted by 1995i540 View Post
Please post with a huge disclaimer, you come up with weird and quite stupid ideas (I will give you a credit for thinking outside the box) this is not a forum for that.. peoples cars cost $$$$$.
I didn't realise that you're a shareholder of bimmerfest or a moderator. That would be the only situation where you can get off telling me what this forum is for and not for.

And many people are on these forums precisely to save money and not have to run to workshops for everything. Any idea that helps with that is useful. People who own their cars will make the final choices. Healthy debate online helps that process.

However, this forum is certainly for those who are literate in English. So read my thread's title and op in full, slowly, before you comment. if not you'll miss the obvious such as this giving you the information that only a dipstick check would otherwise give you, and this not being a method to use to check fluid levels and look, well shall we say, smart when you complain about that ? Particularly when you clearly know your way around cars.

I don't need to post disclaimers especially if they are either implicitly or explicitly obvious as these forums are not for children. In any case, my op has the relevant comments required to help you avoid damage such as taking care not to lose too much oil. Regardless, I have you. Post all the disclaimers you like for anything anyone suggests, but refrain from personal language or else you might invite the same in response...and everybody loses yeah? Your points are valid contributions to the discussion overall but you couch it in such hostility that I wonder what is wrong with you, really. You actually shudder to think about the dirt you'll introduce into the system ? Really ? Do you similarly shudder when you check your engine oil's dipstick? Why do you bring your personal chaos and theatrics onto these forums? You only encourage others to do the same and sooner or later the loop will close with yourself being the 'beneficiary' from someone. And eventually, people will gloss over your posts and ignore your genuine contributions which ought not to be ignored.

You could say " Well Roberto, that's a weird and interesting method you've suggested there, and it might work for some, but personally, I feel this is of little practical use because you can't check fluid levels, I doubt you can draw out enough fluid to check for things like debris and viscosity or to send it off for oil analysis, and when it comes to the transmission those are the more important markers we want to see. Oil colour alone is frankly limited here...the thinking that applies to engine oil is far less useful for tranny fluid, that has been my experience. And there's always the chance that you'll end up introducing dirt into the system there which though it seems unlikely at first, if you consider yourself to be an amateur, remember that amateurs often make unforced errors when they do other things, thus leading to other problems. This would be too expensive a component for you to take that risk with. "

Not everyone has a jack or likes to crawl under their lowered cars, and as mentioned, this method is useful for those who are also doing other work in the area. Obviously it has its limitations, and those are pretty obvious. Bimmerfest hosts enthusiasts of all skill and tool levels. The E34 sub forums is not marked experts only.


Roberto

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-05-2012 at 06:23 PM.
  #14  
Old 11-05-2012, 06:14 PM
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The reason why I missed that this was not for checking level is because I never expected you to advise people to do this to just check the fluid color. That's how bizarre this is.

Your posts, especially about crank case diesel will not save people money what they will do however is most likely make them buy new cars rather sooner than later. It does not help since you are a member from 2009.

There is absolutely no reason for a person that has no jacks or does not like to crawl under a car or some other idiot to do this at all, if they do not have any issues with transmission what you do is leave it alone and do not care about what color the fluid is through radiator.

If your transmission is giving you issues what you will do is not go and check your fluid color you will most likely have to go to a shop and have them check and test it. Then they will advise you if you can replace the fluid or if it will cause more damage.

Your test does not solve any issues, it's just a way to look at transmission fluid which is ... cool?
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Old 11-05-2012, 07:35 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Looking at the oil does not solve issues but it can tell you how old it is. That is useful for some people in certain situations. Should I put a "fwiw (for what its worth) at the end of each of my posts? Isn't that implied on forums?


Quote:
Originally Posted by 1995i540 View Post
[IMG]

Your posts, especially about crank case diesel will not save people money what they will do however is most likely make them buy new cars rather sooner than later. It does not help since you are a member from 2009.
Well there you go acting like someone who does not know to read. You suggest that diesel in the crankcase will damage the engine and eventually lead to people having to buy a new car. On that thread, there was a mechanic who had used 100% diesel and 0% engine oil on the SAME car for a flush, each time the oil was changed, for TWENTY YEARS, and then subsequently tore down the SAME engine, and found that the bearings were "like new". He also used diesel to flush other engines he was about to tear down, to soften up and reduce sludge and make life easier during the overhaul itself. He has also said (to paraphrase) that regularly serviced cars fed with a diet of premium synthetic oil would not develop enough sludge to benefit much by any form of engine flush product which of course includes diesel and that engine flushing is probably a useful thing for a car that you've purchased without reliable service records, as a helpful measure. And someone else on the thread contributed that a trucking company he knows of uses diesel in their crankcase as a flush as well.

So of course anyone reading that would think that engine flushing and flushing with diesel in particular would destroy the car, right ? And there must be something wrong with me for advocating this, right ?

And you've been a member since april 2009 ! You don't have to be gracious enough to admit that you were mistaken about your past vehement positions but sir please, don't let the terrorists win ! Caution is a good thing, but please don't make fear itself a way of life !

Perhaps this will help us all (en)lighten up :


Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-05-2012 at 11:44 PM.
  #16  
Old 11-05-2012, 10:39 PM
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this subforum needs a more active moderator
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  #17  
Old 11-05-2012, 10:47 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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this subforum needs a more active moderator
I couldn't agree more.
  #18  
Old 11-06-2012, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by robertobaggio20 View Post
He has also said (to paraphrase) that regularly serviced cars fed with a diet of premium synthetic oil would not develop enough sludge to benefit much by any form of engine flush product which of course includes diesel and that engine flushing is probably a useful thing for a car that you've purchased without reliable service records, as a helpful measure.

YOU are the ONLY person I has seen that claims this. This is a patent misrepresentation (a lie). Please show me the exact section you paraphrased this from bobby.

Can't you recognise the list of detractors growing? You are giving bad advice, and telling lies to back it up. Then you want to preach? Son, I suspect I am at least double your age. Take into account that I have done what you suggest for 20 years more than you. Lots of good advice to be had on these forums, not much of it from you though chief.

Please consider the damage you are doing to this forum. You are polluting it with garbage bobby. Can't you see us asking you to please stop?
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  #19  
Old 11-06-2012, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by snowsled7 View Post
YOU are the ONLY person I has seen that claims this. This is a patent misrepresentation (a lie). Please show me the exact section you paraphrased this from bobby.

Can't you recognise the list of detractors growing? You are giving bad advice, and telling lies to back it up. Then you want to preach? Son, I suspect I am at least double your age. Take into account that I have done what you suggest for 20 years more than you. Lots of good advice to be had on these forums, not much of it from you though chief.

Please consider the damage you are doing to this forum. You are polluting it with garbage bobby. Can't you see us asking you to please stop?
Do your homework yourself dude. Read the diesel thread.

If you're so confident that I'm lying and damaging the forums, and that you're not lying, misrepresenting and frightening people for all you're worth, and that your geriatric mien must really be awesome enough to make you the judge, then why don't you report my posts to the moderator ? Don't waste your time putting it out here. I'm not like anyone else you may know who either get tired or are intimidated by you or submit to your baseless fears just because you shout loudly and think nothing of getting personal. And essentially the same few people who argue for its own sake do not constitute these forums, which seems to be your fantasy.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-06-2012 at 06:06 AM.
  #20  
Old 11-06-2012, 06:06 AM
snowsled7 snowsled7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertobaggio20 View Post
Do your homework yourself dude. Read the diesel thread.
Ummm I did, that is the reason I am asking you to clarify your statement. I did not even see an inference to such.

Quote:
If you're so confident that I'm lying and damaging the forums, and that you're not lying, misrepresenting and frightening people for all you're worth, and that your geriatric mien must really be awesome enough to make you the judge, then why don't you report my posts to the moderator ? Don't waste your time putting it out here. I'm not like anyone else you may know who either get tired or are intimidated by you just because you shout at loudly.
Is that what you did to me bobby? Is that why I recieved and infraction responding to you?

You could learn a lot here sonny. It is clear though that you could use some more time learning. Plenty of folks willing to help and teach, if you changed your posture, swallowed some pride and buckled down to really learn, you could be a value. If I was a newbie though, you would scare the weee out of me. I know you have caused some to use mechanics, when they didn't need to be cause of the confusion you added to the thread. I have seen people flat leave and go elsewhere because of your rediculous rants bobby.

I am not intending to shout at you but jeez boy, wake the F up.
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