Saving with screws?
What else can you do to the car yourself
Today’s cars are full of electronics. The toolbox is rarely used in the workshop, instead there is often a system update. What does this mean for hobby screwdrivers – is it still possible to help yourself?
“Now I’m going to help myself”, “That’s how it is” or simply “Repair instructions” was the name of some of the standard jobs on the shelf when it came to saving money and to do your own work on the car. With modern cars, it’s not so easy anymore. Electronics have replaced mechanical components in many places. But screw recording can still work.
Even modern cars still offer the option of carrying out some maintenance work yourself, says Malte Dringenberg of the Automobile Club of Germany (AvD). “But the prerequisite is a minimum of manual skills and the right equipment.” The spectrum ranges from changing the oil and checking the wipers to replacing the brake pads – “provided you have solid specialist knowledge”, says Dringenberg.
The most common work that drivers do themselves is changing windshield wipers and replacing lamps, says Holger Ippen of “Auto Zeitung”. The trade journal has observed a general increase in hobby work on cars over the past two years. “During the Corona period, people were again more concerned about their cars, which shows a significantly increased demand from spare parts sellers,” says Ippen.
You help me, I will help you
There are also more garage meetings where like-minded people come together to work on their vehicles. “Most of the time there is at least one person with specialist knowledge, because without that you shouldn’t mess with the brake system or the exhaust,” explains Holger Ippen.
However, sometimes even a supposedly simple job, such as changing the lamps of certain vehicles, is hardly possible. “It works well with European vehicle types, but not so much with English and Japanese vehicles, and with high-end vehicles sometimes you even need special tools.”
Classics for do-it-yourself drivers include changing the oil, changing the wheel and repairing minor paint damage. But even simply refilling wiper fluid saves money, as garages often charge a multiple of the product price for windshield cleaner.
Finally reached the end of the mast
Sometimes, however, a well-thought-out repair turns into the opposite. For example, when the amateur reaches his limits. “Then you first invest time and money to screw it yourself, and in the end the car has to be repaired by a specialist workshop,” says Ippen. A cabin filter for a Mercedes costs around 40 euros. If you know how to change the filter, you can save a lot of money. Because the specialist workshop sometimes calculates 160 euros for this.
Without manual skills, however, hobbyists quickly reached their limits. Self-service workshops can be a good inexpensive address for all kinds of work. They rent fully equipped work platforms by the hour or by the day. “Particularly in urban areas, this particular type of workshop has seen a renaissance in recent years,” says Dringenberg. These self-help workshops are usually found in commercial areas on the outskirts of town.
What about the warranty if I do the screwing myself?
Especially with younger vehicles, however, personal work should be kept manageable so as not to jeopardize warranty claims. “Manufacturers are often even required to have maintenance and repairs carried out by a company specializing in the brand in order to enforce claims,” explains Daniela Mielchen, a lawyer specializing in traffic law.
If, according to the check book, the checks have always been carried out in an authorized workshop, the owner can also change a lamp or a filter without losing any right to the guarantee.
“In principle, each owner is free to maintain and repair his vehicle as he sees fit.” A job like this would have no effect on warranty claims anyway. “Within the scope of the warranty, the seller is liable for defects that were already present at the time of delivery,” explains Mielchen. It is therefore damage that already existed when buying a car.
Nevertheless, the expert advises to refrain from “self-repair” of any kind, especially for leased vehicles. “Here, the tenant generally undertakes to have the vehicle maintained and repaired by a specialized company”, she specifies. Anyone who still lends a hand may be in breach of contract. This could cause problems when returning the rented vehicle.
Modern electronics: curse or blessing?
Modern vehicles have more electronics and therefore generally offer less potential for DIY. But that doesn’t stop resourceful inventors from delving into the depths of the vehicle in other ways, as Holger Ippen knows: “Electronics has long since ceased to be taboo. There are now diagnostic devices for prices starting at 25 euros, with which everyone can access the OBD II interface which is located under the steering wheel,” he says.
This way, for example, all existing error codes could be read before a visit to the workshop. “If, for example, the brake warning light appears in the cockpit, this OBD II tester can be used to find out more, for example if it is a fault or if the wear limit has been reached,” says Ippen. . With such a device, drivers could come to the workshop with some information advantage. This way, they could give more specific information about what needs to be repaired. It also saves money.
Stay away from special electric car technology
Under no circumstances should drivers work in electric cars or hybrid vehicles on components marked in orange. “A high-voltage current flows through these parts or wires and it’s deadly to lend a hand here,” says Dringenberg. Even in specialist workshops, work on these components should only be carried out by suitably trained personnel.