How to learn to maintain/fix your own car? - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-19-2010, 01:59 PM Thread Starter
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How to learn to maintain/fix your own car?


I am looking at buying a used mid or large sized sedan/SUV Mercedes or BMW.
I currently own a cheapo Ford and beside changing the air filter and topping fluids I don't need to do much to it.
I am a little nervous at repair/maintenance costs on a Mercedes and would like to learn as much as I can prior to aquire it.
Are there any clubs where I could join and help guys work on their cars?
Shall I grab some owner manual or repair manual online and start reading?
I know about all the DIY articles here and on other sites but my problem quite often help might still be needed even with the handy articles.

I am just wondering what you all do here to learn how to fix your car yourself without messing them up?

If you are in the Atlanta area and work on German cars, I wanna be friend

Thanks a lot

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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-19-2010, 02:38 PM
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I just do basic maintenance on my cars like oil changes, spark plug changes, belts, batteries etc. Anything more complicated than that goes to a real mechanic. So far my MB has not been any more complicated than any of the other cars I have owned. Although I did have do a search on this forum to see how to reset the maintenance indicator in the in dash computer.

For clubs I would check with your local Mercedes dealer. I know my dealer allows the local club to hold meetings at their store.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-19-2010, 06:42 PM
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there is really no place to go to learn how to repair your own car, its just something you learn over time, by doing various repairs. its just like sex, you suck the first time but the more sex you have the better you get
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-19-2010, 11:24 PM
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Before you go any further, narrow your list and then hit the forum for the car you're considering. Different MB models are different (and more difficult) to work on than others and some are more reliable than others. Most of the forums here have excellent tips and hints, things to avoid, etc.

You can also post specific questions in those respective forums so you can see what others think of their specific models. That's lots more helpful than a generic inquiry.

But really to a great extent you learn by doing. For example, go look at the DIY I did in the W210 forum for changing brakes, or the one G-AMG did in the same forum for changing spark plugs. If you look at that and you're totally blown away by it, then as you note, find a friend.

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. (Winston Churchill)
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-20-2010, 04:07 AM
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Don't worry yourself sick

over it. Reading repair forums can be misleading. Most people don't post on them unless they have an untractable problem that they can't handle. You may also get a false impression of unreliability for the same reason.

For every person posting a plea for help in diagnosis or repair there are many more simply enjoying the ride. I think if you read a lot of Ford forums, you would get the same impressions.

My big advice would be to resist the temptation to buy a "bargain" Benz or any other car for that matter. If someone is willing to let a car go for far less than it's real value, it is usually because there is an expensive repair pending.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-20-2010, 05:12 AM
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You learn as you go. Mercedes are not really that hard to work on. You learn, you buy more tools, you learn more, you buy more tools.... you get the idea. The trick is to know your limitations and to have a good mechanic when you dont have the time or desire to do a specific repair.

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-20-2010, 02:00 PM
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I would firstly advise to buy the most expensive MB or BMW you can afford, relating that to condition, not model year. In other words spend $15,000 on a flawless 8-yr old Benz, not a 3-year old one that has a salvage title. You will be rewarded many times over in cost savings by purchasing a well cared for car.

Also, once you narrow the field down a bit, come back here for general comparisons between the models you're considering. This "general" forum is great for that, and then you can dive deeper into the individual forums once you're ready to start doing some repairs.

Specific to your question, you might consider joining the local branch of the official MB club in your area. Many times the local clubs will have a sponsoring repair shop that will have shop days and you can come in and do your own repairs under the guidance of their techs and other members. Some shops host these even without any official MB link. You can check the recommended repair shops forum on this site for your region and maybe give those places a call to ask if they host and workshop days. Good luck!


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-20-2010, 04:38 PM Thread Starter
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Blown away by answers!!!


I am honestly blown away by some of the answers to my post.
You guys have some fantastic advice for me.

-Yes good advice on handling only the easy maintenance/repairs myself.I definitely don't want to tackle a transmission replacement myself.
_ I work on the road and I have a RBM which I deliver parts to, I will ask the guys in receiving one is almost a buddy of mine.

-I love your answer.Thanks!

-I did check your W210 changing brakes tutorial, I would probably would tackle that with a buddy of mine that has some knowledge of brakes.
Not impossible by any means.You seem to really know your stuff, congrats!
-I am looking at a S430-Class W220 2000-2002 model black with tan leather inside, I dream of it LOL! but I will probably enter the luxury car market with a C-Class to get confortable with them. I like the ML 320 too.

rocky raccoon:
-I tend to look at bargain cars but I tend to check everything also before I buy and cover my bases.That's great advice thanks!

Michael Pillay:
-Definitely don't want to tackle the hard stuff. Oil change, break pads, filters to start are fine then move on to other stuff that I can manage.
I am not trying to become a MB mechanic, just trying to keep some cash to take the wife to dinner in the MB!

-That is one good post my friend, extremelly smart advice on getting a reliable car that has been well taken care off.
Last year we bought my wife a Ford Expedition and we did our homework and it has paid off so far, the wife loves it (It had 1 owner with all maintenance black on white, we drove it to our trusted mechanic and for $70 he said it was immaculate.)

You all rock, I am going to keep looking and researching, the S-class is in the lead, but strangely the C-class is not far as a second as I am a little scared of starting with a S-class monster. Then third is the truck ML 320.
I don't like the W210 mid class as much as I used too for some reason but I would put it fourth.

Thanks to all again

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-28-2010, 03:13 PM
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I mainly started by just using the repair manual like a recipe book, and always trying to understand how it was working while I was at it. Also had a friend who worked on his cars and learnt a bit from him, especially that with motors it's usually either "fuel or spark" - of course it's different with diesels, it's mostly fuel plus glowplugs, and also on the old mercs the tappet/valve adjustment is important to do regularly - say every 2 years.

so anyway with fuel on my old diesel, I've developed simple and very cheap methods of diagnosing, using a long piece of clear plastic tube and just plugging it in to the fuel line at various points and just sucking on it to find location of air leaks and obstructions (eg blocked filters).

With other things like brakes you just use the manual, but obviously have to be very thorough and careful with brake work because of the safety issue.

But I think your idea of finding a club and working with other mercedes owners is a very good idea to fast-track your learning, they would have the know-how and equipment and manuals, and you can supply some free labor.

Overall you just gradually pick it up, and learn about your own car in particular as you go. You need to be somewhat mechanically-minded though. I did make some pretty bad mistakes over the years in the process, destroyed one old mercedes engine (230se 1960's model) by misreading the timing marks - I thought the "2" and "3" were actually 2 and 3 degrees, but they were 20 and 30 degrees. motor started imploding on way from LA to SF and created very embarrassing dense cloud of smoke out the back, just limped home.

So I don't know about other people but I had a tendency in the early days to think I knew more than I did, resulting in being a bit too "reckless" and causing problems like the aformentioned. so I've learnt to curb my impatience a bit and remember to maintain humility about my knowledge - trained mechanics have (I assume) much more thorough training than we DIY'ers do - but on the otehr hand I've definitley seen a lot of very incompetent and careless licensed mechanics (and many extremely unethical ones), so I've got to the stage where for many jobs I would trust my own work more than a mechanic I didn't know much about.

Last edited by gmonkey; 12-28-2010 at 03:24 PM.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-28-2010, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the post it's very informative, it seems I am on the right track.
I will never tackle hard jobs I just want to be able to do the basic stuff.


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