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DIY basic services or bring it to a shop

  • DIY - I trust no one with my car and I am the ultimate badass

    Votes: 6 19.4%
  • DIY because I am cheap and really get off on changing my oil in my driveway

    Votes: 11 35.5%
  • Take it to a shop because I don't have time to work on my own car

    Votes: 9 29.0%
  • Take it to a shop because I want to build a relationship with said shop

    Votes: 5 16.1%
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I posted about this briefly in another thread, but my 4 yr 'free' maintenance period came up in August of this year and my dealer that I have gone to for the past 6 years really hooked it up. They did front brakes (pads, rotors etc.), replaced corroded coolant expansion tank, oil change, cabin air filter, spark plugs (@45k miles) & replaced valve cover gasket. They noted 'customer states burning smell coming from engine bay', but I never stated that and there were no oil leaks from valve cover, they just did me a solid. That being said, I am on my own now for service. No extended maintenance or warranty packages for me. My next service coming up is in the Spring, just an oil change and brake fluid exchange. Out of curiosity and because I'm a research dork, I started comparing DIY cost to indie shops and here is what I got. As far as DIY, I can change the oil in the car, I've got Rhino Ramps and have done oil changes in the past, I have the tools, etc.

  • DIY oil change using ECS tuning oil change kit w/Liqui Moly = $70, give or take.
  • Brake fluid exchange, I could probably do too but I've watched videos, it looks like kind of a pain and I'd have to buy the power bleeder, etc. BF exchange/bleed is like every 2 years, so it doesn't seem worth it. $50 for bleeder + fluid and my time

I reached out on Yelp to multiple shops in my area, including BMW-specific indies and regular shops. The quotes for oil change and brake fluid service range from $100 (yes, for both) to $250. So, doing it myself, I save like $100 best case. Lets look at pros and cons here.

Yes, I realize it is rewarding to DIY on your car and that it can save you money. I have basic DIY skills w/cars and beyond oil changes and other basics, I would be smarter taking the car to a shop, lest making a problem worse. I also want to develop some kind of a relationship with a good independent shop so when something actually goes wrong or I need a big service, it is not my first visit.

The other question is, for an oil change and brake fluid, is it even worth it going to a BMW specific shop? The low-end quotes I got on the service are from indies close by, some that I have driven by that work on all kinds of cars (incl. BMWs). I am not talking about going to Jiffy Lube here, but the cheaper prices are from mom and pop shops. I am in LA and there are a ton of competent shops. For example there is a shop not a half mile from my house that I see BMWs in all the time, along with other cars. They quoted me $180 for the whole service. A very reputable BMW only shop close by quoted me $90 for an oil change and $160 for brake fluid job w/a free inspection included, that is high end price. This shop is one of the most well known in the LA area and make appointments a month out.

So, do you DIY to save the $50-100 and feel a sense of satisfaction by doing it yourself, or do you do these basic services at a shop because (a) maybe you don't feel like doing it yourself (b) the extra $ isn't a big deal (c) a mechanic, especially ones who work on these cars all the time can also look the car over and find things you might have missed (d) you want to build a relationship with a shop?

What say ye?
 

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02/2012 X5 35d M57Y CPO 110K miles NOKIAN WR G3 25K miles
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I use BMW Service Center and carefully write my work authorization.

I read BMW Technical Information Service for entertainment, and I know that shady tree or even independent mechanics believe that a BMW is serviced / repaired just like a ‘57 Chevy or a Lexus.

Over the last few months, since BMW licensed NewTIS, I have watched the requirement for vacuum filling coolant systems spread through out all of the listed BMW platforms, with varying vehemence of requirement, from ‘recommended’, to required, to “watering can prohibited.”

I used electronic/electric coolant pumps in my career, and know that the precautions in their handling are precisely the same as BMW Pierburg ECP in BMW. Those precautions are not yet strong enough in NewTIS.
 

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one consideration is for a full brake bleed (flushing fluid out of the DSC/ABS system), you would want to use ISTA on a laptop to trigger it, or an indy that has a compatible diagnostic computer.
be aware that a full bleed using the bmw procedure will need 2+ liters of fluid.

you can do a basic flush without a bleeder if you have someone to help...
 

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My Indy in Vermont (a Euro car specialist) charges $95 for an oil change ($25 labor plus $70 for oil/filter) and $59.50 for a brake fluid flush ($42.50 labor, $17 brake fluid). I am fine paying this and saving myself the trouble.
 

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To OP, $100 to $250 for oil change + brake fluid is respectable prices, given the shops use the right parts.

There are folks who despise those who go to dealers, but ignore the Honda/Toyota dealer costs these days.

There are folks who despise those who go to indies/DIY, but ignore to seek out Honda/Toyota dealer prices.

There are folks who DIY without enough homework, and spend a lot more money and time than at dealer/indy(and do not want to admit, and/or cannot figure it out),

My take is a educated mix of DIY/indy/dealer should be prudent.
 

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They noted 'customer states burning smell coming from engine bay', but I never stated that and there were no oil leaks from valve cover, they just did me a solid.
My service writer told me that this is a trick service writers use to make a final check of a car that is at the end of the warranty. Apparently there is a limit to what a technician can find and fix if you simply take it in for something like a routine service. By adding "owner reports burning smell" or "owner reports car is leaking" they can give the car a final thorough check before warranty runs out.

As far as repairing my own car goes, I've been fixing them for 45 years, longer for motorcycles, and I have no interest in repairing my BMW car. I will keep wrenching on my antique XJ6 , the bikes or the farm equipment, but the 3 Series is going to the shop. If money was an issue I would have bought a Fit. Just my personal preference.
 

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In LA you can find for sure knowledgeable Indy shop.
Brake fluid service is easy DIY, but it does require taking down wheels unless you want to get it on Rhino on approach from inside.
Advantage of DIY is that you choose fluid like ATE etc. if that is important to you. True BMW indy shop should use something like that.
Oil? In Advance Auto Parts you can get any LL01 oil for $33 for 5qt including filter.


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The only fluid I still DIY is motor oil, mainly because of proper disposal headaches. The rest I take to an independent.
The last time I did my own brake fluid change was nearly twenty years ago and even then no place would take the fluid for recycling. The independent I used to go to before moving agreed to take used coolant when I DIY'd the cooling system refresh on my E46 a few years back. No auto parts store will take that back that I've found, at least in my area.

Oil changes are easy and fast. I basically order the materials then spend 30 minutes doing the job. That is quicker than driving to and from the shop. Air filters, brake pad and rotor changes are a no brainer for DIY if it's something you're inclined to do. This year I also did a front end refresh on the E46 as well as plugs and coils on the Mini. All of that is easy and requires no or little crawling under the car which is where I draw the line; if the majority of the time is spent under the car, I'll gladly pay to have the job done.
 
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The only fluid I still DIY is motor oil, mainly because of proper disposal headaches. The rest I take to an independent.
The last time I did my own brake fluid change was nearly twenty years ago and even then no place would take the fluid for recycling. The independent I used to go to before moving agreed to take used coolant when I DIY'd the cooling system refresh on my E46 a few years back. No auto parts store will take that back that I've found, at least in my area.

Oil changes are easy and fast. I basically order the materials then spend 30 minutes doing the job. That is quicker than driving to and from the shop. Air filters, brake pad and rotor changes are a no brainer for DIY if it's something you're inclined to do. This year I also did a front end refresh on the E46 as well as plugs and coils on the Mini. All of that is easy and requires no or little crawling under the car which is where I draw the line; if the majority of the time is spent under the car, I'll gladly pay to have the job done.
Every place I lived at had a different way to deal with household hazmat. Most are free so that people don't throw it in the trash or down the drain. Current city I live in is with Waste Management and they schedule a pick up so I don't even have to go anywhere. Other common thing would have to go to a hazmat center. Usually a google search for hazmat disposal with your city is a good start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I use BMW Service Center and carefully write my work authorization.

I read BMW Technical Information Service for entertainment, and I know that shady tree or even independent mechanics believe that a BMW is serviced / repaired just like a '57 Chevy or a Lexus.

Over the last few months, since BMW licensed NewTIS, I have watched the requirement for vacuum filling coolant systems spread through out all of the listed BMW platforms, with varying vehemence of requirement, from 'recommended', to required, to "watering can prohibited."

I used electronic/electric coolant pumps in my career, and know that the precautions in their handling are precisely the same as BMW Pierburg ECP in BMW. Those precautions are not yet strong enough in NewTIS.
Interesting response Doug, thanks for this.I assume you mean that you take it to the dealer, yes? The bolded portion of your response is especially interesting, and I agree. My girlfriend drives a 10 year old F150. She takes it to Bruce's Automotive in our area. It's the owner and one jack of all trades mechanic that he employs and they did a fine job replacing her radiator, doing the brakes, oil, etc. but I wouldn't trust them with my car. I agree that protocols and oem specs are changing all the time and TSB's are always being updated and circulated among dealer techs, etc. On the flip side though, dealers mark up parts by a significant margin and generally speaking, rape you. I'm not trying to nickel and dime here but dealer cost for an oil change and brake fluid service is around $400. That is insane.
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Based on the replies I am seeing and what I was already thinking, it seems that the happy medium is DIY for simple tasks like oil change, brake pads if you are so inclined, wiper blade, air filter and cabin air filter replacement, etc. and go to either a reputable indie or dealer for service. I have a slew of things that are covered under the extended SULEV warranty (150k mi/15 years) and if anything like that goes wrong, to the dealer it goes. But I think that this shop, for example, is up to date on all the latest BMW specific protocols and procedures.

I don't think I'll do/pull off a proper brake fluid service/bleed etc. in my driveway, so that will be done at the shop. Oil change, I'm on the fence about. If I am already taking it in for the brake fluid, might as well do the oil change. Its a difference of like $25, haha. The oil change DIY would really be more for my satisfaction.
 
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Based on the replies I am seeing and what I was already thinking, it seems that the happy medium is DIY for simple tasks like oil change, brake pads if you are so inclined, wiper blade, air filter and cabin air filter replacement, etc. and go to either a reputable indie or dealer for service. I have a slew of things that are covered under the extended SULEV warranty (150k mi/15 years) and if anything like that goes wrong, to the dealer it goes. But I think that this shop, for example, is up to date on all the latest BMW specific protocols and procedures.
Sounds like a reasonable plan of action.(y)

LA being the land of BMW's and tons of BMW dealers does mean competitive pricing among dealers.

E.g. my local(NorCal) dealer had a special of $250 brake fluid + coolant change after coupons, that was half price from other dealers, and at least $50 cheaper than trusted indies, so why not?

And your 15 years/150k miles emission warranty is a trump card(no punt intended) that most E90/F30 owners do not pay attention to.

There were festers who complained about indies charging for items covered by emission warranty, most common being ignition coils and valve cover gaskets. If car is brought to dealer for a $50-$95 oil change(dependent on coupon price), and is diagnosed with ignition coil/valve cover gasket issue, those jobs will be done at $0 cost.

And do pay attention to spark plug and brake job prices too, e.g. local dealer charged $115 for a N20 spark plug jobs, while parts alone were $70, with a loaner(that my friend kept for 4 days), for extra $45.

In comparison, my indy charged me $80 labor + $70 BMW logo spark plugs, so dealer was cheaper than indy at times.

And simple things like:
  1. wiper blade($10, DIY 2 minutes)
  2. air filter($4, DIY 5 minutes)
  3. cabin filter($25, DIY 15 minutes)

Those can be purchased at dealer while they are on sale, and are straightforward DIYs that do not need dealer nor indy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Damn, just found this one. $50.. alright so DIY satisfaction + saving $50 is enough for me to go with doing the oil change myself. What I don't have is a digital torque wrench. Autozone lends them out for free.. That is really the only danger of DIY oil change - over-torquing that drain plug.

 

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Damn, just found this one. $50.. alright so DIY satisfaction + saving $50 is enough for me to go with doing the oil change myself. What I don't have is a digital torque wrench. Autozone lends them out for free.. That is really the only danger of DIY oil change - over-torquing that drain plug.

Get Pennzoil Platinum Euro 5W40 in Advance Auto Parts. 5qt +filter (MANN) for $33-35 (depending on location ).
It is much better oil than that Liqui Moly.
Does not have oversized Made in Germany sign though.

Or if you are set on FCP, this oil is better:


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Damn, just found this one. $50..
Fcpeuro with tax + shipping is around $61. If used oil + filter are shipped back for, say, $15, Fcpeuro will credit back new set for $0. :)

How about this one, $72 shipping included, BMW LL01 Twin Power 5w30(5L) + filter, from a dealer?

Now if local dealer has $50 oil change, then it will be no-brainer, unless one is adamant about DIY job satisfaction. :D

 

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- over-torquing that drain plug.
That's another benefit of using a contractor, giving him the liability for screw ups - assuming he's professional enough to acknowledge such.

I DIY fluid services on my VW diesels for twenty years and always sucked the crankcase oil just so that I would not have to mess with the notoriously fragile drain hole.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Get Pennzoil Platinum Euro 5W40 in Advance Auto Parts. 5qt +filter (MANN) for $33-35 (depending on location ).
It is much better oil than that Liqui Moly.
Does not have oversized Made in Germany sign though.

Or if you are set on FCP, this oil is better:


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Ah yes, nice, saw that one too, thanks. All the car forum guys have such a hard on for LiquiMoly. I often wonder where that level of hype comes from.

Sounds like a reasonable plan of action.(y)

LA being the land of BMW's and tons of BMW dealers does mean competitive pricing among dealers.

E.g. my local(NorCal) dealer had a special of $250 brake fluid + coolant change after coupons, that was half price from other dealers, and at least $50 cheaper than trusted indies, so why not?

And your 15 years/150k miles emission warranty is a trump card(no punt intended) that most E90/F30 owners do not pay attention to.

There were festers who complained about indies charging for items covered by emission warranty, most common being ignition coils and valve cover gaskets. If car is brought to dealer for a $50-$95 oil change(dependent on coupon price), and is diagnosed with ignition coil/valve cover gasket issue, those jobs will be done at $0 cost.

And do pay attention to spark plug and brake job prices too, e.g. local dealer charged $115 for a N20 spark plug jobs, while parts alone were $70, with a loaner(that my friend kept for 4 days), for extra $45.

In comparison, my indy charged me $80 labor + $70 BMW logo spark plugs, so dealer was cheaper than indy at times.

And simple things like:
  1. wiper blade($10, DIY 2 minutes)
  2. air filter($4, DIY 5 minutes)
  3. cabin filter($25, DIY 15 minutes)

Those can be purchased at dealer while they are on sale, and are straightforward DIYs that do not need dealer nor indy.
Good points re: not ruling out the dealer. I do sometimes get service specials or coupons from either my regular service dealer or from the dealer I bought the car from in Orange County. Sometimes its a % off a service or sometimes its an oil change special or coupon, in which case, why go to an indie? Especially since they could catch something that ends up being covered under SULEV. I should remember to look into that as well when the times comes.
 

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That's another benefit of using a contractor, giving him the liability for screw ups - assuming he's professional enough to acknowledge such.

I DIY fluid services on my VW diesels for twenty years and always sucked the crankcase oil just so that I would not have to mess with the notoriously fragile drain hole.
Good point. My E39 3.0L with dipstick had several oil changes done with manual fluid extractor(a 7L Mityvac?) at times when no other service was due, or else indy usually gave discounts on multiple jobs. Unfortunately F30 no longer has dipstick access.
 

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Ah yes, nice, saw that one too, thanks. All the car forum guys have such a hard on for LiquiMoly. I often wonder where that level of hype comes from.

Good points re: not ruling out the dealer. I do sometimes get service specials or coupons from either my regular service dealer or from the dealer I bought the car from in Orange County. Sometimes its a % off a service or sometimes its an oil change special or coupon, in which case, why go to an indie? Especially since they could catch something that ends up being covered under SULEV. I should remember to look into that as well when the times comes.
The level of hype is coming from oversized Made in Germany sign. It is ok oil, much better options available.
BMW TPT 5W30 is exceptional oil. It is really, really good stuff. It is almost 10W30 oil, but you are in LA, you don't care about cold starts. So, if you can swing it, do it, as long as it is not too much over other stuff.
As for warranty, any oil approved for your engine is fine, even that Liqiu Moly.

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Ah yes, nice, saw that one too, thanks. All the car forum guys have such a hard on for LiquiMoly. I often wonder where that level of hype comes from.

Good points re: not ruling out the dealer. I do sometimes get service specials or coupons from either my regular service dealer or from the dealer I bought the car from in Orange County. Sometimes its a % off a service or sometimes its an oil change special or coupon, in which case, why go to an indie? Especially since they could catch something that ends up being covered under SULEV. I should remember to look into that as well when the times comes.
I've been using LM 5w-40 in my 328 for two years. Coming from BMW OEM oil (5w-30/0w-30) and noticed the car runs smoother normally and during these cold Chicago mornings. My Indy uses LM for oil changes too. Every European Oil has that big "Made in Germany" tag. I guess at the end of the day it's you're own preference. I get my stuff off FCPEURO. From wiper blades to brake kits. If you use Paypal to buy stuff from them, you get the shipping reimbursed too. So, at the end of the day, you pay $0 for oil, filters, or whatever you buy from FCP. Seems like a no-brainer to me :D. As long as you change the oil every 5k/6 months using BMW approved oil, I don't think brand really matters.
 
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