September 9, 2006
First DIY Oil Service
I know I've said that it doesn't make good fiscal sense to do oil changes yourself. By the time you get the parts, prep the work area, get the car up on ramps or jacked up, get the job done and then take the oil to your local HazMat facility or cooperative local garage, you've blown the better part of 2 hours if you're lucky. Normally, a DIY oil change only makes sense if your time is worth nothing and you like getting dirty.
However, as synthetic oil service at my local dealer is now over $100 and I can get the very same oil and parts my technician uses for slightly less than $40 with a CCA discount (less if I buy the filter elements in bulk online), I can save myself around $60 in labor by doing it myself. Will you catch me under the car when it's 20 degrees outside? Unlikely. But today was a beautiful late summer day so I gave it a shot.
There are just under a zillion BMW oil change DIY articles online, but I learned a few things that I felt I would benefit the BMW community, so I'm planning to write up my own words of wisdom. Look for the article soon.
Tools and Equipment
A few weeks ago while looking at tools required to access the differential drain plugs I learned that there is insufficient clearance between the differential and spare tire well to fit a traditional 14mm hex socket and ratchet wrench. Some Googling resulted in the answer -- the FACOM D10714, 14mm stubby hex socket. I called Eppys and ordered two for good measure. At $10 each they were a bit pricey, but I had to look at the big picture. The labor for a differential fluid flush at the dealer costs a hell of a lot more than that, so the first time I do it myself the tool will pay for itself several times over.
I went to Eppy's today to pick up the sockets and take a look at a jack to replace my brother's which was officially declared MIA. As it turned out they were out of stock on the units I had considered. They offered to deliver the jack in a few days if I placed an order today, but that wouldn't help me get the oil change done today. I solved my dilemma by grabbing a set of Rhino Ramps at Wal*Fart for $40. It's not wasted money because I'll need the ramps to elevate the front of the car sufficiently to get the jack under the car when doing the brake job or any other task that requires jack stands.
While at Eppy's, I also picked up an oil drain pan with a spout. Over the years I've used many containers as catch basins, including old cat litter boxes, but those usually become an unweildy mess when filled with 6+ quarts of hot, dirty oil. Having one with a spout would make transferring it to an old 5 gallon hydraulic oil container pretty easy. In fact, this turned out to be one of the better decisions of the day. It made dealing with the old oil completely painless.
With a mere 16500 miles in service, the Pilot Sport A/S tires have become very noisy. So noisy, in fact, that I've realized the noise is coming from the REAR tires, not the front as I originally surmised. Such is life with resonance -- it's hard to determine the source of noise because it reflects throughout the interior. This makes a lot more sense considering the rear tires are within a mm or so of the wear indicators.
In spite of the fact that the car sounds like an 18 wheeler with a couple of bent rims blasting down the highway, I've decided to run these for another month (or as long as I can stand to listen to the "wah wah wah wah" sound pounding into my head). I figure that will put me into October with new tires so I'll have fresh tread for the upcoming snow season. In the interim, I guess I'll have an excuse to turn up the stereo.
Bottom Line Reports Change
One of the things I've done at the end of virtually every maintenance update since I started this website is break down the costs into a "Bottom Line" so readers would be able to judge for themselves what it takes to run one of these machines. Now that I'm doing more things myself and reducing or eliminating labor charges in the process, I've decided to make a few changes to the manner in which I report these costs.
First of all, I've added a "Labor Savings" amount to preserve the accuracy of the reports. While the "Labor" amount will continue to reflect the cost of labor I pay professionals to do work for me, the "Labor Savings" amount will reflect the same cost of labor that I have saved by doing things myself. The Labor Savings will always be based on current labor amounts, so the true cost of ownership will be preserved for readers that choose not to turn wrenches. I've also decided to separate "Tools and Equipment" from the Parts cost to better track my investments in the stuff I have to buy to get the job done. This will allow me to compare the figures to see if I've made a "profit" from doing things myself.
For example, as you can see in the following bottom line, I paid $40 in parts, $40 for the ramps and $30 for tools at Eppy's. Given that the cost of labor for an oil service is presently $60, it's obvious that it actually cost me $10 MORE to do the oil service myself. The next time I do an oil service, however, I can naturally expect a net savings.
Total Mileage: 132500, Parts: $40, Tools & Equipment: $70, Labor Savings: $60