If you're a service adviser, you probably know that some self-pay customers arrive with a lot of knowledge about repair procedures and parts prices. That can stimulate informed disagreements about what work a vehicle needs, as I discovered.
A massive and growing amount of detailed information is available online about parts pricing at such venues as eBay and Amazon, and about specific repairs in online forums and at my favorite site, youtube.com. Even dealers are posting how-to repair videos on YouTube.
"It's amazing what's out there," says Scott Doering, Volvo Car USA's vice president of customer service, refering to repair and maintenance information available to consumers.
I recently bought a 2010 Mini Cooper S online, via a Cars.com ad. With just 17,000 miles on the odometer, the car looked clean. But I got a rude surprise when it was delivered in Detroit.
The Mini was not well cared for. Worse, it had the "death rattle" timing chain problem. I asked about that before the purchase, but the seller said the engine was fine.
Before I bought the Mini, I hit the Internet and read about the car's common faults. There was plenty of technical information. A poorly designed timing chain tensioning system in the 2008-10 models can wreak havoc in the engine if it is not attended to quickly.
I am pretty handy with a wrench and I considered doing the repair myself after watching numerous YouTube videos. But I wanted a few other things checked, so I made a service appointment at a nearby Mini dealership.