Author Topic: Auto Repair DIY Question: Can I do this myself of do I have to take it in?  (Read 519 times)

TryingtoFIREinNYC

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Hi folks!
Background - this is my first car, previously I owned many motorcycles which I did all brake/tire/electrical/drivetrain repairs to myself, short of engine work, which I only did once with a skilled friend's assistance.
The car is a '99 BMW 328i (yes I know it's not a Prius, but it is my one luxury, I bought it with cash, it was a steal, and I only drive it weekends in the summer to visit my folks outside the city.....it stays parked for free 5 months a year).
Mechanic says I need new shocks and struts, and wants to charge $1000 for parts and labor.  First off, is this outlandish? As this is my first car, I don't have much to compare this quote to.  He's a good guy and the work is excellent, but I know he's not known for being cheap.
Looking online I see enough DIY videos that it seems like something I could do in a weekend, however, I've never even changed the brakes on the car, so I have no idea how difficult it actually is to get up in there etc etc.
Don't want to ask on a car mod forum, because posters will no doubt claim everything is easy etc etc because they are car people.  Would rather get the opinion from some sensible folks who can weigh frugality against safety etc.  ---

So, is changing out the shocks and struts a weekend shade mechanic job? Or should I just bite the bullet and drop it off? I'd like to become more knowledgable about DIY car repair, but I don't want my first foray to end with me having to have the car towed into the mechanic because I pulled stuff out and couldn't get it back in.....or have the wheels fall off on the highway. 

Appreciate your thoughts!

O.

phred

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This is something I would take in.  If you don't have a hoist, the job can take all day.  Plus, you may need axle jacks to keep the axle from dropping.  Ever use an automotive spring compressor?  Coil springs are under tremendous tension.  Just my opinion.

TryingtoFIREinNYC

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Thanks! I do not have a hoist, jacks,etc. Figured w an air compressor and the included jack I would be okay, but I think I'll take your advice (and that of a friend's Motörhead brother) and not have this one be my first project---
O.

sokoloff

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I would DIY this, but I've been wrenching as an amateur for 30 years and there's not much I wouldn't do. As a novice, I tackled this job on a VW Rabbit and it was a right pain in the ass because I didn't know what I didn't know and I lacked some of the critical tools.

Nowadays, you can buy pre-assembled strut assemblies ($191 for the pair on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/1999-2000-Front-Complete-Struts-Assembly/dp/B00STS7IM8 ) and I would probably go that route. That turns the job into a fairly simple R&R job, then if there are any eccentric bolts or other adjustments in the car's alignment disturbed as part of the job, use a tape measure and a smartphone to get the alignment "close enough" to drive it to an alignment shop for a $100 alignment.

If you have to ask, you don't want to the part-by-part replacement where you disassemble the strut assemblies. It's much less work (and very much less risk of injury from the springs) if you replace the assemblies wholesale and I'd consider that a "2 wrenches [out of 4]" job.

Note that the $191 pair is not for OEM quality components. Sachs-Boge or Bilstein are top quality parts; the parts above are perfectly usable, but you may notice a ride quality or longevity difference. I wouldn't expect to get another 18 years out of those parts; you might also not need to... ;) AutohausAZ or other suppliers will sell OE quality parts as well, but at a much higher price point.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2017, 12:10:48 PM by sokoloff »

JLee

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I would DIY this, but I've been wrenching as an amateur for 30 years and there's not much I wouldn't do. As a novice, I tackled this job on a VW Rabbit and it was a right pain in the ass because I didn't know what I didn't know and I lacked some of the critical tools.

Nowadays, you can buy pre-assembled strut assemblies ($191 for the pair on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/1999-2000-Front-Complete-Struts-Assembly/dp/B00STS7IM8 ) and I would probably go that route. That turns the job into a fairly simple R&R job, then if there are any eccentric bolts or other adjustments in the car's alignment disturbed as part of the job, use a tape measure and a smartphone to get the alignment "close enough" to drive it to an alignment shop for a $100 alignment.

If you have to ask, you don't want to the part-by-part replacement where you disassemble the strut assemblies. It's much less work (and very much less risk of injury from the springs) if you replace the assemblies wholesale and I'd consider that a "2 wrenches [out of 4]" job.

Note that the $191 pair is not for OEM quality components. Sachs-Boge or Bilstein are top quality parts; the parts above are perfectly usable, but you may notice a ride quality or longevity difference. I wouldn't expect to get another 18 years out of those parts; you might also not need to... ;) AutohausAZ or other suppliers will sell OE quality parts as well, but at a much higher price point.

I would DIY as well (I've also been wrenching for ~15 years).  Suspension is one of the easiest things to do on most vehicles, IMO.

JLee

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marielle

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How much is it for parts and labor individually? Does the $1000 include the alignment? I can't comment too much on whether you should DIY or not since I've never done it, but others may help you if they know how much labor you are being charged. Another thought is that you can bring your own parts in and save money there potentially.

Tasty Pinecones

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Thanks! I do not have a hoist, jacks,etc. Figured w an air compressor and the included jack I would be okay, but I think I'll take your advice (and that of a friend's Motörhead brother) and not have this one be my first project---
O.

I've used the included scissors jack on cars for various tasks. Never use that jack. Spend the money for a proper trolley jack (or bottle jack if you don't have much budget). Even then use a jack stand or other materials to prevent the car from falling on your head if the jack falls over.

Once upon a time many years ago there was a group of us guys that made every mistake in the safety book. Never lost any fingers or limbs but we broke all the rules. Those jacks are unstable, bend, sway and fall over. They are good for only a few uses (flat tires) in my opinion.

I've done shocks and struts in my garage but honestly - for a newbie - you're probably better off paying the pro unless you have a space to work, budget to buy tools and then store tools and have plenty of time.  Just watch the pro and learn a few things. You'll be better informed about what gets done.

I am making the assumption that you don't own a proper jack and a basic set of tools.

Get a few different estimates on the job to compare prices. Make sure they aren't putting budget basic parts on your car too.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2017, 12:09:36 PM by Tasty Pinecones »

rothwem

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Shocks and struts are not a hard DIY, but I'll echo the guy above--DO NOT use that scissor jack to hold the car up while you work on the car.  That "widowmaker" jack is just enough to get a wheel off the ground so you can change it on the side of the road.  I tried to rotate my tires using one of those and the jack just collapsed, the car landed on the brake rotors and the jack got stuck under the car.  I'm REALLY glad I wasn't working under it when that happened.  I had to call a friend to bring a jack over, and when we pulled out the scissor jack from under the car, I realized that the nut that threads onto the threaded rod to hold the car up was MADE OF PLASTIC and it just stripped.  Fuuuck that. 

Use jackstands and a high quality jack to lift the car.  Rent spring compressors for free from autozone. Get new strut mounts for the front and new upper/lower shock mounts in the rear when you change the struts/shocks.  BMW mounts everything to rubber, which makes them ride well, but the rubber wears out over time and you get unstoppable clunking every time you go over a bump if you don't change them.  Since changing them is as much trouble as changing the shocks and struts, and the lifetime is similar to the shocks/struts, you might as well change them while you're in there. 

JLee

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Shocks and struts are not a hard DIY, but I'll echo the guy above--DO NOT use that scissor jack to hold the car up while you work on the car.  That "widowmaker" jack is just enough to get a wheel off the ground so you can change it on the side of the road.  I tried to rotate my tires using one of those and the jack just collapsed, the car landed on the brake rotors and the jack got stuck under the car.  I'm REALLY glad I wasn't working under it when that happened.  I had to call a friend to bring a jack over, and when we pulled out the scissor jack from under the car, I realized that the nut that threads onto the threaded rod to hold the car up was MADE OF PLASTIC and it just stripped.  Fuuuck that. 

Use jackstands and a high quality jack to lift the car.  Rent spring compressors for free from autozone. Get new strut mounts for the front and new upper/lower shock mounts in the rear when you change the struts/shocks.  BMW mounts everything to rubber, which makes them ride well, but the rubber wears out over time and you get unstoppable clunking every time you go over a bump if you don't change them.  Since changing them is as much trouble as changing the shocks and struts, and the lifetime is similar to the shocks/struts, you might as well change them while you're in there.

I had to rescue a friend once who a scissor jack failure when she was changing a flat tire in a parking lot. Can confirm, those jacks suck.

GreenEggs

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YouTube is your friend when it comes to working on cars.   A video is worth a million words.  Watch a few different ones, covering the same procedure, to see who's videos are best & to make sure they didn't skip something that you need to see.

I've been doing minor mechanical stuff since I was a teenager, about 40 years, and I just can't believe how great Youtube is for showing how to fix things.

Btw, it's great for appliances too.

PDXTabs

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I have done shocks/struts on maybe three cars now? I would definitely do the job myself, but already have all the tools. You will need a proper floor jack and at least two jack stands.