At least Aim Carefully!

Everyone’s an expert?

Between YouTube on line instructions, forums, and Facebook groups, nowadays EVERYONE is a mechanic/engineer/metallurgist/welder extraordinaire. But still… it surprises me, although perhaps it shouldn’t, how poorly some folks continue to diagnose their vehicular issues. Just reading through comments after someone poses a question give rise to some ridiculous theories and suggestions.

Here are some examples, mostly based on actual online conversations I have witnessed:

“Can someone help me out? I recorded this video on my phone. What is that horrible sound? I think its coming from under the hood.”

Expert 1: “Yeah man: it’s your exhaust. Replace the cat.”
Expert 2: “No buddy. Mine did the exact same thing. Ended up being a rear suspension bushing. Guaranteed!”
Expert 3: “Hey, what size tires are you running? Can you send me a personal message with your lift details?”
Expert 4: “Have you done a google search? Sounds like your timing belt is messed up.”
Expert 5: “Don’t drive it dude. Engine and transmission need complete rebuilds. If you run it you’re gonna damage something…My sister’s made that noise and she…”

Not all tools are necessarily in the toolbox.

Possibly, the poster shouldn’t be trying to fix his own stuff in the first place, or needs a higher quality “audio recording instrument”? We all have to start somewhere, though. So why not make the experts’ jobs easier, by doing some ground work first? Two things stand out as important, for starters…

  1. Year/make/model? Shocking how many people omit this little tidbit. On message boards and groups that usually serve many different variations of vehicles, this could be the difference in entire platforms, or thirty years worth of auto evolution.
  2. Previous work done? Your vehicle’s running condition is only as good (or bad) as its history, or lack thereof. Even more importantly your most recent repair is statistically the most suspect.

Then there’s the manual.

Yes. I know. None of us like to read the instructions, but if you can’t be bothered to check the owner’s manual in your glovebox to see how much oil goes in your sump, do you really deserve the answer spoon fed to you, an ounce at a time? This question is of course as rhetorical as the original question is.

Did you check the FSM?

Almost every marque has an online Factory Service Manual available these days. Often times for free! This is where the pro’s go for answers. Us armchair mechanics could do well to emulate this particular practice. Diagnostics as recommended by the actual engineers might even eclipse the YouTube experts in their precision!

Recently my wife’s 100 Series began running slightly rough. It threw no codes, even when I checked using Toyota’s proprietary Techstream (a must have for JDM’s since older ones didn’t use OBDII). I suspected a misfire, but I couldn’t be sure of it’s source. Given I needed to do some maintenance anyways, I began to set a baseline, since I had no previous records. Plugs, fuel filter, cooling system service, and PCV valve replacement were things I planned to do anyways, but they did not solve the stumble.
Some more digging into probable causes revealed a common failure in the 2UZ at accumulated mileage: ignition plug coils. I checked them the old fashioned way (unplug one at a time) until the faulty one (actually two) revealed themselves. By this time we had mostly destroyed the RHS catalytic converter, so that also got replaced. For $500 (CAD), and some careful diagnosis, I was able to fix the problem and knock off some maintenance items at the same time. All without offending the veterans on Toyota forums everywhere. I’d call that a win-win?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t look to our peers for guidance. I know some non-pro’s whose diganostic skills could put most garages to shame. No, I’m just suggesting that before you query the masses, it is incumbent upon you to do a little research first. Solving vehicular problems is difficult enough sometimes when you are onsite, never mind if you’re half a continent away with little more to go on then a noise or a symptom which may or may not be indicative of the problem.

So next time, before you start throwing parts at it, stop take a breath, and hone in on your target first.

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