Last week we talked about preventative maintenance and how doing services at home strategically is what can make enthusiast ownership more affordable. This “while you’re in there” mentality is the focus this week as we discuss more tips and tricks for maintaining your car and preserving your wallet. By being extremely strategic and organizing your priorities, you can keep your daily driven Euro cars in good condition and save yourself from the future headaches of unplanned emergency repairs and costly trips to the dealer or local mechanic.
When we say “while you’re in there” jobs, this is the true “preventative maintenance” that will help keep your car in peak shape. If you have to be in there for something else, it’s smart to tackle anything that could fail later while you’re close to it or possibly removing things that make the service easier.
For example, let’s say you’ve noticed some coolant seeping from your lower radiator hose. Just enough to let you know that it’s time for a cooling system refresh. The “lazy” owner would likely do the bare minimum; just replace the hose and refill the system with coolant. The practical owner would be more thorough. He’d likely replace the thermostat, water pump, all the coolant hoses, and, in cars where they can be issues, replace the surge tank and possibly the coolant temperature sensor. Pretty good work for the practical enthusiast, something that would likely cost a few grand at a shop can be done at home in an afternoon for under $500. But what if I told you that there was a way to improve on the practical owner’s approach?
Allow me to introduce you to the diligent enthusiast. He’s like the fictional “reasonable person” that the law compares conduct to in an objective sense. He doesn’t technically exist, but he would be someone that society recognizes is always prudent, diligent, and aware of his actions. He’s never reckless, negligent, or unreasonable. For our purposes, this diligent enthusiast is one who does not exist, but can be imagined and imitated. The diligent enthusiast would take repairs as opportunities to perform thorough work all at once.
With Assembled by ECS service kits, we’ve compiled many of the “bigger” jobs into a single kit that has what you need to complete that service. Our comprehensive catalog of these kits include nearly every popular European car’s regular (or irregular) needs. The Diligent Enthusiast is someone who, when faced with a necessary repair, would compose a list of everything that has to come out of the car, note everything that is accessible with those parts removed, and compare what is accessible with the list we mentioned in the last article that the Diligent Enthusiast should have: common problems and concerns typical for his vehicle.
In our hypothetical example, the Diligent Enthusiast might know from his research that the timing belt is usually quick to follow a cooling system failure, like in single-cam BMW engines found in E30s. With the cooling system removed anyway, and access to the front timing covers, the Diligent Enthusiast would decide it is probably a good idea to tackle all of these services at once while he’s in there. Maybe this is common sense to some of you, but I’ve often been surprised at how easy it is for me to not want to do any more work than is necessary.
That “laziness” I’ll call it is simply what ends up putting cool cars in positions that they become unaffordable to own. Little things pile up that could have easily been prevented. One oil leak from an inconvenient gasket becomes a giant problem as more things start to fail. By not taking care of something that might be slightly inconvenient now, you’re effectively guaranteeing that whatever issue arises in the future will be more pressing and potentially more catastrophic as a result of not behaving as the Diligent Enthusiast would behave when you had the chance.
Again, another example, this time more serious. Imagine you are facing a simple brake service. The Diligent Enthusiast would likely plan an inspection of the threads in the wheel hubs, checking the wheel hubs themselves for play and signs of failing wheel bearings, would likely take the calipers apart and grease them thoroughly, maybe even replacing the brake caliper piston seals and brake fluid if it has been a few years since those services were performed. A practical owner may do some of that, but certainly not all of it or every time they are approached with a routine brake service. But what happens if both the diligent enthusiast and the practical owner both find something concerning, like a front caliper is showing signs that it is seizing based on the wear noticed on the brake pad.
I myself have been both the practical owner and the diligent enthusiast at different times faced with exactly the same issue. In one case, I knew that it would be proper to either rebuild the caliper or replace it, and it was probably a good idea to do the same with the other caliper. In one occasion, I chose to just clean up the caliper rather than buying more parts, put it back on the car, and never had an issue with it again. But I could have. Which was why, when faced with the same issue again later on, I actually did the due diligence and rebuilt the calipers, replacing one that was more trouble than it was worth. While I didn’t want to take that time or spend the extra money, it was all stuff that was accessible and could prevent me from having issues or potentially liability were something to happen, like a caliper seizing or failing in an emergency.
Now I’m not trying to scare you into thinking that not being the “diligent enthusiast” could be dangerous to yourself or others. What I am saying, though, is that these are concerns the diligent enthusiast maintains as motivation for his diligence. By thinking not just about the parts that are in need of replacement, the diligent owner thinks in systems and organizes his priorities to be efficient and strategic in his maintenance. That is why the diligent enthusiast, who may spend a bit more time in the garage than a sane person would tolerate, is also the person who has the “cool” enthusiast car in peak condition to enjoy forever.
The Diligent Enthusiast keeps his car pristine, which in turn maintains its reliability, and awards him an enjoyable driving experience coupled with the affordability promised to those who are willing to perform a bit more work on their own. Now, tackling those jobs can require specialty tools and equipment, costs that do rack up, but we’ll talk about that next week. For now, I encourage you to be the fictional “diligent enthusiast” and take your maintenance to new levels of “while you’re in there.”
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