Cartoon courtesy P.C. Vey
We have welcomed many folks into our shop who could not only tell us what the specific problem is with their vehicle but also how to diagnose it, tell us how long it should take for the repair, and inform us of the part price they found on Rock Auto. Therefore we should be able to fix it in 45 minutes for under $75.00 out the door. How did they come by this detailed knowledge? Why they saw it on YouTube of course!
So, to YouTube or not to YouTube? Notwithstanding the ever increasing complexity of design and operation of today's vehicles, a few brave souls venture forward in hopes of saving some money or having a success story for a degree of bragging rights by having diagnosed and effectively repaired their pride and joy for pennies on the dollar. As our friends from down under might say: “Good on ya mate!”
While we would not discourage anyone from trying to save some hard earned funds, we would recommend some detailed research before attempting DIY repairs on a late model vehicle. Be sure you are comfortable before leaping into the technical morass today's vehicles are built around. Here we are not talking about experienced folks who grew up in an automotive family and wouldn't hesitate to change out a power steering pump on their 1996 F-150; rather we are talking about novices who saw a YouTube video lasting five minutes on a job that would take an experienced certified master tech two hours to complete with a lift, latest scanning computer (not to be confused with a code reader), and specialized tools for the job. This could be a disaster waiting to happen should a novice decide to jump into a complex repair not fully understanding that the repair is indeed complex!
To be sure, not every project ends up poorly. We have however received more than our fair share of vehicles towed into our shop with the technicians asking the question (to themselves): “What on earth were you thinking?”. Some so bad that divorce court is on the horizon as the family car sits in the shop while a technician tries to unwind a clock and figure out what the customer did and to diagnose the actual original problem. Costly diagnostic time can escalate and the final bill can grow like Topsy, while chasing down potential phantom issues. And the maker of the YouTube video is not available to help! To be sure we are more than happy to give advice to bona fide questions but we are not equipped to be a hot line for emergencies created out of ignorance!
The moral of this blog is not to discourage folks from saving money but rather encouraging some research to determine if there is a real saving; or if the problem can be more complex than what the basic symptoms may suggest. As an example a MIL (Malfunction Indicator Light) code may show up as P0303 on a code reader. English translation of this is cylinder #3 misfire. So you go to YouTube and they may explain how to replace a spark plug, or a spark plug wire, or a coil pack, or a coil over plug coil, or the boot for the coil over plug, or a bad fuel injector, or perhaps an issue with the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) itself. Does one start throwing parts at the problem? How to drill down and find out where the problem lies? Maybe it is worth handing the problem over to an ASE Certified Auto Technician with years of experience and having the peace of mind that the problem will be diagnosed and solved . . . and the labor and parts carrying a 24 month 24,000 mile nationwide warranty? Sometimes spending a little bit more can save a whole lot of money!