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Seek to understand,^Value
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I received a PM a few days ago and (after removing identifying info), I post it here as a pointer to others in the future who have similar worries that they don't have either the time, the money, the tools, or the knowledge to DIY their E39 repairs.

  • Time
  • Tools
  • Money
  • Knowledge
REMOVED said:
I have no choice but have a mechanic fix my E39, for I have no metric tools, no lift, not even ramps or jack stands with which to facilitate getting under the car. I also have precious little time, and, most importantly, the car is my daily driver, meaning I must rely on others in my car pool should my car be inoperative for an extended period.
Here was my response, which I will, in the future, point others to who have the same dilemma.

To the team, please add your tribal knowledge so that this thread becomes a useful reference for the people who 'have no time, money, or tools' to fix their E39 themselves.

Here's what my long-winded response below boils down to:

  • Time
    • For emergencies on an only car -> pay a mechanic
    • For non emergencies, DIY on weekends -> round tuit required
    • Planned maintenance DIYs eliminate most roadside emergencies -> a bonus!
  • Tools
    • The tools are free
    • In fact, tools pay for themselves, over time
    • So, buy ALL the tools you need!
  • Money
    • The money is always less to DIY ... even with the tools
    • You have to fix the problem ... no matter what
    • Your perception of your 'time value' might exceed the mechanic's shop rate
      • If that's the case, the real truth is you don't like to DIY
      • If you don't like to DIY, then don't pretend it's the tools or time or money or knowledge!
      • Note: These people (who don't like to DIY) call mechanics "grease monkeys"
  • Knowledge
    • All the tribal knowledge you need is here
    • Simply be someone worth imparting knowledge to
    • And, give knowledge back, as freely as it was given to you
WARNING: Overly long-winded (but heartfelt) PM response follows!

bluebee said:
Time is the most important ingredient for emergencies; but, for the vast majority of DIYs, you 'find' the time (it's right next to the round Tuit on the dusty garage shelf).

As for the tools ... well ... at worst, they're absolutely free (and, at best, they pay YOU to do the job).

For money (which you didn't mention), OEM parts from our sponsors will cost (roughly) half of what you will pay a mechanic to install same, or equivalent (or even worse) part.

For knowledge (also, which you didn't mention), if I can do it, anyone can! And, even if I can't do it, there is someone here who has done it. Just be someone worth them spending their valuable time to help and they will patiently walk you through every single one of your DIY problems, one by one (ask me how I know).

Now for the details!

The tools are free because the labor to have someone else do the job almost always costs MORE than the tools to do that same job!

So, for example, if a four wheel brake job costs, say, $500 bucks in parts, and you need a bunch of tools to DIY install it (let's just say $200 bucks worth), then you're STILL AHEAD from the stealer (at something like $1000 bucks or more).

Plus, you do a better job; you learn about your car; you do extra cleanup work, you feel better, you're better equipped in emergencies, you're more knowledgeable when buying a new used car, you're more fun at parties, etc. :)

But, specifically related to the tools, they're quite free. In fact, they PAID YOU $300 in this scenario. And, when you do the brakes the second time, they pay you $500 in this scenario).

So, really, all the tools you want, are free (you never see me shirk from buying the right tools for the job ... just look at all the DIYs I've done and you see brand-new shiny tools in 'em all!).

Most tools are re-used so often, they are a money-making business!

Take the ramps. You can make your own, but, even if you bought super duper deluxe ramps, say, $75, they pay for themselves on the first job. And, it's a payment that keeps on giving. Even if the first job broke even due to initial tool costs, all other jobs amortize the cost of the ramps. Over and over and over again, the cost of the ramps drops to nothing. In fact, the ramps begin to pay for themselves on the second, and third, and fourth, and fifth job. WARNING: You have a BMW. There WILL BE a 2nd, 3rd, 4th ... nth. job. Trust me on that. The tools will be re-used!

If you read any of my DIYs, you'll see that I always bought the tools I needed. Just for starters, look at this brake thread:
- A user's very first complete 4-wheel brake DIY experience on the BMW E39 (1)

Not only was this my first post on Bimmerfest, but it was my first brake job in my life. You'll see shiny new torque wrenches, micrometers, dial gauges, disc-brake spreaders, and even an entire set of shiny socket allen wrenches (all I needed was the 7mm size but they don't sell just one). They were all free!

And look at this alternator thread:
- One users' example of total electrical failure (AAA towed away) alternator repair (1) (2)

Again, it was my first alternator repair in my life. I wish I had thought ahead and stockpiled the rebuild parts but this was an emergency. Luckily, I was planning ahead on a cooling system overhaul so you'll see a shiny new chrome steel 32mm wrench and a matching clutch counterhold tool, which not only was free for the belt-drive overhaul, but which paid for itself again when I subsequently did a cooling system overhaul two months later (in yet another roadside emergency where I had the parts stockpiled in my garage forewarned by the Bimmerfest team!).

And, most embarrassingly, just take a gander at my example of the world's worst oil changes:
- How not to do a gravity feed oil change (1) and how not to do a vacuum extraction oil change (1)

For the gravity-feed oil change, I busted a bolt. I thought I would die. If there was one time I wished to write a thread titled "HELP!", this was it. However, I resisted that urge and simply asked for advice. The team here instantly walked me through every step of the solution, folks like cn90 even drawing diagrams of Archimedes'like home-made bolt-removal tools! A friend the next day gave me a ride to the stealer. Ten dollars later I had a new bolt (everything is expensive at the stealer and the San Jose stealer is arguably the worst price-wise in the country!). Another fifteen dollars later, I had an entire shiny new set of variously sized bolt extractors. The old broken bolt was out in seconds; the shiny new bolt back in seconds (and a lesson-learned feather in my cap).

Even with the additional $25 incremental costs + $20 for lunch for my friend schlepping me about, I was still way ahead of an oil change at a mechanic (although certainly not if you count 'time').

Likewise, for the vacuum extraction oil change (although I bought the Motive based on favorable reviews on bimmerfest which, in my experience, were dead wrong. The Motive oil extractor is the worst vacuum extraction tool on the planet.
- Why I don't recommend the Motive vacuum oil extractor (1)

But, it still did my oil change for me. And, I used it just yesterday in a subsequent oil change with a case of Costco fully synthetic motor oil and a better filter (people convinced me to stop using the $20 STP filter in favor of the better $5 Mann filter).

The point is I had never done brakes or alternators or vacuum extraction in my entire life. Like you, I didn't have the right tools. But, I simply bought them. I made some mistakes (more than most); but the overall net is hugely positive in costs. The tools ARE free! I am GLAD I bought every one of them (and the toolbox drawers they go inside). Everyone buys their own tools. It's like having your own dog. It's just something you keep by your side every day. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

If you (insist?) on not buying the tools (which are, as I said, free), then you will NEVER DIY.

Time ...

TIME, on the other hand, isn't as easily solved as tools (time is never free), not even for this lengthy missive. But, time is, for non emergency things, generally allocated on weekends. Weekends are (supposed to be) free! :)

So, my only sympathy for you remains only on TIME for EMERGENCY repairs. For that, you are stuck with going to a professional (but even then, you never need to go to the stealer).

But, you can avoid most emergencies with a good timely DIY!

So, we're back to the DIY. :)

BTW, I absolutely HATE to waste effort! Since this is a private PM, I will NOT let out where it came from, but I will cut and paste this into a new thread to point others to.

We really should carry this conversation on in public so that others benefit and add to the tribal knowledge and nobody wastes their time on just one person.
 

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I'm An Example

Bluebee,

4 months ago I purchased my first BMW, 1997 528i with 182k. The previous owner had some good service records and interior is pretty darn good for the age and I bought it at a decent price because she didn't want to pay a shop to do the work it needed.

Who can blame her really...according to her records they charged her $30 for a wiper insert that I purchased at my dealer for $3.

I found these forums and posted a response for a good shop in Atlanta because I never even changed the oil myself on my last car. (of course it was a lease and I never had any maintenance to do but oil change. But I don't have a car payment any more and I'm happy about that.) But I quickly realized that if I want to keep this BMW, the only cost effective maintenance is DIY. I had the Oil Filter Housing gasket replaced at a shop. That was a wake up call.

So thanks to the forum information and the encouragement from you and cn90 (mack answered a pm for me as well)...I have done a few DIY projects already and have parts for a few more.

So I went from not even changing my own oil to doing these projects:
1. CCV
2. Oil line to Vanos
3. Thermostat and housing (rest of cooling system was replaced by PO...don't know why shop didn't do thermo/housing at that time.)
4. Angel eye headlights to replace factory halogens.

And now I have parts for:

1. Power steering hose / reservoir replacement
2. Valve Cover gasket
3. Spark Plugs

And I'm considering tackling the Vanos while Im at it.

I have bought tools to do these jobs and they do indeed pay for themselves with the money you save by DIY.

I hope with my preventative maintenance and up keep, I can drive this machine for another 100k and beyond.

These forums and tenured posters are a tremendous help and non-DIY'ers just need to do a job or two and their confidence will grow like mine.

I probably won't DIY the suspension components, but most everything else I will more than likely attempt myself. Great learning experience :thumbup:

I already posted my Thank You to All DIY'ers that make this possible in another post but wanted to encourage those with little confidence here as well. It is possible if you can follow directions and have a reasonable amount of intelligence. If I can do it, anyone can.

Thanks again,

Jay
 

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+1,000

We were all newbies at one point. Every single e39 "DIY" mechanic has looked under the hood for the first time and thought, "What could be the problem and where do I start?" Life is a learning experience and so is a relationship with your car. Some folks lease a car and then dump it. Most e39 owners have a more longer term, "intimate" relationship with their vehicles. The e39 is a special high performance car with a rare combination of attributes. But if you send it out for everything, you better be rich. For those of more modest means, DIY allows us to experience ownership of a car that requires a fair amount of TLC to continue to run reliably.

WRT to maintenance, more is always better than less. You only need to get stuck once, on a dark road in the middle of the night, far away from civilization to realize that reliable safe transport is critical. Preventative maintenance will help to avoid that fate. DIY makes the maintenance affordable.

When it comes to tools, there are just two words: HARBOR FREIGHT. This place sells every tool you could possibly need (except the fan clutch holder) for one third the price of Sears. For the garage mechanic, they are more than serviceable for the level of work we do. For the more ambitious, go to Sears or Snap-On. But for the price, you can build a significant tool arsenal from HF. Always good to have several arrows in the quiver.

But when it comes to DIY, it's not the wand, it's the wizard. While you may feel a little intellectually challenged regarding your knowledge of your e39 and how to solve it's problems, it is all a few mouseclicks away on this forum. You have access to the collective knowledge of multiple shadetree mechanics who are aware of your apprehensions, as we have been there before ourselves.

Every journey starts with a step. So grab a wrench, log on and ask questions. We will walk you through it. And BB will link you to every known Internet posting on the topic (don't laugh, she has done so already). We are all on this forum for a single reason: The e39 is the best [email protected] car we have ever driven and we all want to drive them forever. :thumbup:
 

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Lol, kudos for your patience with such questions :thumbup:

Pardon me while I step up on a soap box, but it seems to me that in this fast-food culture of instant gratification we live in, if you don't have time, money, or tools, then you simply don't get an e-39 if you're looking for a reliable daily driver. I've driven a lot of cars in my time, and IMO, there's nothing I've driven that compares to sliding in behind the wheel of one of these cars which has been well maintained. No, there will be no cameo in Fast Five for me in a 528iAT, but IMO, the overall driving experience is simply unequaled.

What makes anyone think they're entitled to such a driving experience for the first 6k they shell out at a used car lot? If these cars didn't have so many ancillary components succumbing to the ravages of time and rotting off the car, they wouldn't be so cheap now, would they? There's a reason these cars started around 35k when they were brand new, but can be had for a fraction of the cost now...

While it's true, I happen to believe the best things in life are free, the same does not hold true of your driving experience. Owning, and perhaps more importantly, getting maximum enjoyment from an e39 requires due diligence and awareness of your responsibilities when it comes to continuing maintenance. That's it... No quick fix, no easy way out. :)
 

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Entwicklung 39
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Q.) What to tell people who say they don't have time, money, or tools to DIY E39 repairs?

This assumes that if they cannot pony up the dough for tools, there's probably little chance they could also afford a mechanic to do it. I would then tell them to...

A.) Sell the E39 and buy a brand new Hondog.
Monthly payments are less expensive than monthly maintenance and payments. :thumbup:
 

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The Usual Suspect
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You respect what they tell you because you don't know what they have going on. And then mind your own business.
 

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Its how I roll
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"What to tell people who say they don't have time, money, or tools to DIY E39 repairs! "

What do I tell them?
I say thank god for them! They are the people who sell or trade their E39's when things begin going wrong, which allows
people like us to purchase them at the right price.

Nothing here but gratitude!

.
 

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One either aspires to wrench on his car, or not. Even a few of my very old friends are fed up with DIY, and prefer to farm it out.
 

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Lol, kudos for your patience with such questions :thumbup:

What makes anyone think they're entitled to such a driving experience for the first 6k they shell out at a used car lot? If these cars didn't have so many ancillary components succumbing to the ravages of time and rotting off the car, they wouldn't be so cheap now, would they? There's a reason these cars started around 35k when they were brand new, but can be had for a fraction of the cost now...
I had a ford focus before the purchase of my E39. It was a 2000 year model. Let me be the first to say I never had an issue like issues I am having with my E39 and it was 2 yrs newer and purchased at a fraction of the cost of my 540i NEW. I am not dogging my car by anymeans. I love my 540. Wouldnt trade it for another. You are saying its a given that parts should rott off a car that was 35k brand new and thats why we can get them at a fraction of the cost. Why do they cost that much to begin with if they cant outlast any other car on the road. All for a driving experience that last 100k????? And I think your NEW price is a little low. 42k for 528 and 57k for the 540

People are getting a bit confused as to why people dont want to DIY. Just because YOU can doesnt mean I can. Who is to say I am not handicap and cant physically perform these DIY projects. What would you say then. It seems like everything that gets asked on this forum and I mean ANYTHING, gets answered with a DIY. If I am not asking how to do something but want someones opinion why on earth would you post a DIY. If I can log onto this website I think I would of thought how to ASK someone how to do something. And I havent seen to many post where someone offers a DIY and they say they cant afford it so we might want to take out the "I dont have the money part." I dont have a problem paying a good mech. Especially something I am unsure about or worried I might screw it up more.
 

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You have to consider the mass target markets for the cars. Americans want utility. Americans typically want a car they can drive forever, never wash, barely touch, and it to last for 1,000,000 miles. Drive quality, build quality, and whatnot means nothing except that it will go when they start the car. As such, we see the droves of bland, boring cars that barely excite your trousers, but will be there and ready to drive every single morning. There is nothing wrong with that, but most enthusiasts want more.

Europeans want experience. The car has to "feel" and "behave" a certain way. Thus, BMW sells an experience (and for my fellow US posters, you bought a BMW for experience). To provide an "experience" you typically bend the rules and push the envelope. And, when you push the envelope, reliability starts to degrade and costs go up. Look at tires for instance, BMW does not recommend tire rotations due to the aggressive alignment of the car or the brake pads that stop well, yet dust like it is going out of style. And, I thought the bum cooling system where because of regulatory mandates (XXX % of recycled materials, etc), NOT BMW engineering? Even a crackpot Civic that is pushed to its limits starts to have reliability issues. Thus, BMW is willing to forgo reliability for experience, then mask it with ultra long warranties and CPO cars.

Everything has an opportunity cost. Some are monetary costs and others are time costs or others are a combination of both. If someone buys a highly integrated car that works as a system expecting not to either DIY or use a mechanic, they need to reconsider their position on getting dirty, pay up, or purchase something different. Most of the people on this forum want to save these cars and save the owner's as much money as possible. I too tire of the whines of my car is broken... FIX IT FOR ME, then off mechanic (after people wasted their time diagnosising the car)!
 

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Fudman, YOU ROCK!! :thumbup:

Very well said.

+1,000

We were all newbies at one point. Every single e39 "DIY" mechanic has looked under the hood for the first time and thought, "What could be the problem and where do I start?" Life is a learning experience and so is a relationship with your car. Some folks lease a car and then dump it. Most e39 owners have a more longer term, "intimate" relationship with their vehicles. The e39 is a special high performance car with a rare combination of attributes. But if you send it out for everything, you better be rich. For those of more modest means, DIY allows us to experience ownership of a car that requires a fair amount of TLC to continue to run reliably.

WRT to maintenance, more is always better than less. You only need to get stuck once, on a dark road in the middle of the night, far away from civilization to realize that reliable safe transport is critical. Preventative maintenance will help to avoid that fate. DIY makes the maintenance affordable.

When it comes to tools, there are just two words: HARBOR FREIGHT. This place sells every tool you could possibly need (except the fan clutch holder) for one third the price of Sears. For the garage mechanic, they are more than serviceable for the level of work we do. For the more ambitious, go to Sears or Snap-On. But for the price, you can build a significant tool arsenal from HF. Always good to have several arrows in the quiver.

But when it comes to DIY, it's not the wand, it's the wizard. While you may feel a little intellectually challenged regarding your knowledge of your e39 and how to solve it's problems, it is all a few mouseclicks away on this forum. You have access to the collective knowledge of multiple shadetree mechanics who are aware of your apprehensions, as we have been there before ourselves.

Every journey starts with a step. So grab a wrench, log on and ask questions. We will walk you through it. And BB will link you to every known Internet posting on the topic (don't laugh, she has done so already). We are all on this forum for a single reason: The e39 is the best [email protected] car we have ever driven and we all want to drive them forever. :thumbup:
 

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Older than old school
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You respect what they tell you because you don't know what they have going on. And then mind your own business.
Basically, I agree with you. In a hypothetical one-on-one conversation, I would try to walk them through the pro's and con's, pointing out the arguments that Blueebee made, but if they still told me they'd rather pay to have someone else do the work, I'd respect that and leave it alone.

I have some ambivalence myself about how deep I want to get into DIY vs. paying for the work. I get a certain satisfaction out of doing the work myself, but there are other things that compete for my time and interest. So for me, there's always a question of trade-offs, and I figure it's not for me to judge how people weigh their own personal pro's and con's. Their lives are not mine.
 

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I had a ford focus before the purchase of my E39. It was a 2000 year model. Let me be the first to say I never had an issue like issues I am having with my E39 and it was 2 yrs newer and purchased at a fraction of the cost of my 540i NEW. I am not dogging my car by anymeans. I love my 540. Wouldnt trade it for another. You are saying its a given that parts should rott off a car that was 35k brand new and thats why we can get them at a fraction of the cost. Why do they cost that much to begin with if they cant outlast any other car on the road. All for a driving experience that last 100k????? And I think your NEW price is a little low. 42k for 528 and 57k for the 540

People are getting a bit confused as to why people dont want to DIY. Just because YOU can doesnt mean I can. Who is to say I am not handicap and cant physically perform these DIY projects. What would you say then. It seems like everything that gets asked on this forum and I mean ANYTHING, gets answered with a DIY. If I am not asking how to do something but want someones opinion why on earth would you post a DIY. If I can log onto this website I think I would of thought how to ASK someone how to do something. And I havent seen to many post where someone offers a DIY and they say they cant afford it so we might want to take out the "I dont have the money part." I dont have a problem paying a good mech. Especially something I am unsure about or worried I might screw it up more.
Lol, I think you're misunderstanding me... I'm not trying to pass judgment on anyone, just trying to live in the real world. If you don't have time, money, or tools to DIY, eventually you're going to be screwed no matter what you drive. While it's true, I get a certain amount of personal satisfaction out of DIY, if I had the money and someone I could really trust to do the work, I'd gladly abdicate myself of the responsibility. I WANT to drive the car, and since I'm not a rich man, I HAVE to do the work. I came to that conclusion the first time I was quoted $600 to replace a $10 oil filter housing gasket. Before this car, I hadn't really turned wrenches on a vehicle (except for disc pads and oil changes) for YEARS... As of late, it seems I've returned to it on an at least part time basis. I'm okay with that because as I mentioned previously, I find the driving experience is worth it.

Even if you don't want to DIY, It would seem to me any e39 owner would want to familiarize themselves with their car as much as possible, if for no other reason than to develop their own ability to even identify a competent Indy.

If you've got a fat wallet, then hey... Throw caution to the wind and come what may. Otherwise, if you're looking for something as so aptly described by manticore33, "a car they can drive forever, never wash, barely touch, and it to last for 1,000,000 miles.", then maybe an e39 is not what you're looking for.

Just sayin' :D
 

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I find the driving experience is worth it.

Even if you don't want to DIY, It would seem to me any e39 owner would want to familiarize themselves with their car as much as possible, if for no other reason than to develop their own ability to even identify a competent Indy.

If you've got a fat wallet, then hey... Throw caution to the wind and come what may. Otherwise, if you're looking for something as so aptly described by manticore33, "a car they can drive forever, never wash, barely touch, and it to last for 1,000,000 miles.", then maybe an e39 is not what you're looking for.

Just sayin' :D
I agree. The driving experience is worth it. And yes DIY does get you familure with the car. I am a DIY or have been in the past. Replaced drive axels and wheel bearings to say the least. I guess as edjack says some people just get tired of DIY. I do not have a fat wallet by anymeans and thats not what I ment if thats the way you took it. If I did I would be driving a 550i:bigpimp: but I have to settle for its older brother:D Ill use this an example. My car is due for a coolant overhaul. Big surprise. I started to panic the other day when it started to show signs of overheating and leaking fluid. So I got on here and started to ask questions. Guess what I got in return....A DIY link. Well I didnt think I had the time at the moment to tackle it myself. Being this is my daily driver and with coolant issues going on I didnt want have to wait on parts coming in with something this urgent. The weather around here is starting to get warmer by the day. My mech who is BMW certified quoted me 800 to do the job. I started doing some reaserch on what all was needed for a coolant overhaul and found parts alone are gonna cost me 500-600. 200 dollars for my sanity for the mech to do it seems worth it to me. Come to find out after driving the car for a couple days it has stopped leaking. Kinda gives me time to think about if I want to tackle the whole thing. All I am saying is just because someone doesnt want to attempt a DIY project doesnt mean they should be looked down upon. You never know there situation. Everyone has there reasons.
 

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BMW CCA Member #: 444067
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I have time - it is how I choose to spend it that matters.

I don't have metric tools, but yours is a compelling argument that they actually pay to buy them.

I don't have money, hence my angst with hiring others.

I don't have knowledge specific to the BMW. I've worked on cars (simple stuff) most of my life and am pretty good at diagnosing stuff. I regret not having been given an offer to work for a company selling a device that reads and displays ODB codes and can even change some of the operating parameters in an engine's programming.

All but the time part points to my being a DIYer. So what's wrong?

"The money is always less to DIY", Bluebee, in the original post
NOT TRUE. You fail to account for the recovery costs of DIY errors. These include, on top of the cost of a 'real' mechanic having to fix what you broke, the cost of the tow truck.
 

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I don't have knowledge specific to the BMW. I've worked on cars (simple stuff) most of my life and am pretty good at diagnosing stuff.
Three or four months ago, I knew just about nothing about BMW's. Thanks to this forum, I've completed most of the top recommend DIY's, and feel confident there's nothing I can't tackle as long as I have an internet connection :D These cars aren't very difficult to work on once you get the lay of the land, but then again, I grew up playing with Lego :rofl:

NOT TRUE. You fail to account for the recovery costs of DIY errors. These include, on top of the cost of a 'real' mechanic having to fix what you broke, the cost of the tow truck.
DIY errors are certainly something to be aware of, and few of us are perfect, myself included. Having said that, the worst mistake I've made was actually when I put a WP on my '96 B-Body SS. I plugged a radiator hose with a plastic grocery bag, and I forgot to pull it out when I put everything back together :eek: When the car started heating up beyond what I knew to be normal, I realized in about 5 seconds what was going on, shut everything down, retrieved the bag from inside the radiator hose (it had almost been pulled into the radiator itself :yikes:), and disaster was averted.

Even if I would have needed a tow, I've got AAA :thumbup:
 

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The Usual Suspect
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Basically, I agree with you. In a hypothetical one-on-one conversation, I would try to walk them through the pro's and con's, pointing out the arguments that Blueebee made, but if they still told me they'd rather pay to have someone else do the work, I'd respect that and leave it alone.

I have some ambivalence myself about how deep I want to get into DIY vs. paying for the work. I get a certain satisfaction out of doing the work myself, but there are other things that compete for my time and interest. So for me, there's always a question of trade-offs, and I figure it's not for me to judge how people weigh their own personal pro's and con's. Their lives are not mine.
Im with you I like turning my own wrenches because I can. But Im also not going to give someone a hard time because they are not mechanically inclined. I personally don't recommend the E39 to anyone who is not able and willing to work on it their own vehicle. These cars are all at least 8 years old and can be a real money pit for people who take them to a shop.
 
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