German Car Repair: 10 Tips You Should Know About Service and Repairs

German Auto Center of Austin specializes on German manufactured vehicles including Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen and Mini Cooper. Since the 1970s that is all we have done. Over this time we have learned a lot about German made vehicles and have taken the time to share this information with you.

1. Specialized Service – Not all vehicles are the same. German manufactured vehicles are specialized to provide the performance that you have come to expect. To ensure performance, specialty tools and expensive diagnostic equipment is required specific to your make, model and brand. It is strongly recommend that you stay away from generic automotive shops that work on all makes and models and do not have the equipment, or expertise to properly maintain and repair your German performance vehicle.

In the long run, you will save yourself a significant amount of stress and cost by visiting a professional or even your dealer first. Generic shops that cannot accurately and completely diagnose your German manufactured vehicle will often throw parts at your vehicle and replace every possible item related to your problem instead of completely diagnosing and pinpointing the problem and proper repair.

2. Your vehicle has upwards of 90 computers on board. Today’s complex German vehicles are first and foremost rolling electronics and computers. Today’s Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Mini or Volkswagen often have thirty (30) or more on-board computers and control modules with some models having upwards of ninety (90) electronic control units. These modules require specialize diagnostic equipment to conduct repairs, replace and program appropriately for your vehicle.

Everything from braking systems, steering, throttle, transmission and engine management are all interconnected on a common communication bus within your vehicle. Periodically, these modules should be checked for any faults or anomalies and update their programming as per the manufacturer service bulletins.

3. Original manufacturer parts – and more. Be sure your professional technician has access to all of the same parts that your dealer has access to. Although for most applications, the original manufacturer parts are best for your vehicle, but in cases such as clutches, brakes and suspension higher quality performance parts may be available at significant savings to you. Not all parts are created equal, be sure to consult a professional who knows what works best on your vehicle.

4. When is service due? Whether you drive a late model Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen or Mini Cooper, your car is programmed to notify you when it believes that conditional service is due. Depending on your specific make and model this includes, engine oil service, cabin micro air filter, engine air filter, brake fluid, brake pads and even your annual state emissions test.

Specialized factory diagnostic equipment is required to read conditional service intervals and to reset them after the service is performed. Please see German Auto Center for a complete service analysis. Keep in mind that dealers want to sell you a new car at 50,000 mile, the “free” prepaid maintenance is not a free as it may appear. You should schedule a basic oil service every 5,000 miles for turbo and supercharged engines like the 1.8T, 2.0T in VW and Audi and every 7,500 for all other late models. TDI diesel engines require specific engine oil that should not be mixed.  Older models using mineral based oil should not use full synthetic oil. Always follow the manufacturer recommendation for oil viscosity or consult an expert. Other than vehicles with mechanical lifter designs, such as the BMW M-series which requires 60-weight oil, and TDI diesel engines, Mobil 1 0W/40 engine oil is best for most German manufactured makes and later models when driven here in Texas.

5. My transmission is not shifting right – is it my tires.  Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen and Mini all use limited slip differentials. Whether you are driving an Audi A6 Quattro or a Porsche 4S, your tires must be matched in circumference. A 2 cm (or 2/32 inch tread depth) difference between tires on the same axle can cause rotational speed variances that will cause havoc with today’s drive train management systems.  You should never use mismatched tires on the same axle and on the 4-wheel drive systems such as the Audi Quattro; all 4 must be circumference matched within 2cm. Remember tire wear will affect the circumference of a tire, so they should be of the same age. It is recommended tires on the same axle be replaced at the same time and in the case of the Quattro systems, all four tires.

6. Spongy brake pedal. Brake fluid attracts moisture. You should change your vehicle’s brake fluid every two-years. Most late model vehicles will have a conditional service reminder set.

7. Breathing clean air. Most German manufactures recommend replacing the cabin micro air filter every 40,000 miles. Do not forget these filters as they filter the air that you breathe. Additionally, a clogged or dirty filter will cause the blower motor to work harder and can cause damage to the motor and to the blow motor resistor.

8. Prevent interior flood damage. If your Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen or Mini has a sunroof, take the time to ensure the drains are cleaned. All sunroofs have a series of drains running forward and rearward from the sunroof through the vehicle body and out underneath the vehicle. If this gets clogged with dirt or debris, water will back up flooding the interior of the vehicle. Your vehicle has sensitive electronics under your seats that do not survive under water leading to costly repairs.

9. Have a spare key. You should always have a spare key for your German vehicle. Electronic keys die leaving the vehicle immobilized and you stranded. All later model Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Porsche, Mini and Volkswagens have security chips that marry the key to the car, these can not be tampered with and once a key dies your vehicle will be immobilized and unmovable.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Visit www.germanautocenter.com or visit us in person for more helpful tips about your German car. We will be happy to discuss any questions that you might have with your German manufactured vehicle.

Have a question about your luxury automobile or does your model need special work? Please ask using the comment box below on our German Auto Center Facebook page and one of our experts will reply! German Auto Center is owned and operated by Len Gilmore.