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Do-it-Yourselfers find repair procedures online

An illuminated service engine light is shown. (Aug.

An illuminated service engine light is shown. (Aug. 15, 2007) (Credit: AP Photo.)

Dear Doctor: I own a 2008 BMW 5 Series and try to do most of the maintenance myself. The service light illuminated on the dash panel, so I called the local shop to find out how to reset the light and he said to check with the dealer. I called the dealer and they said it would be $75 to reset the light. Where can I get the procedure and tune-up specifications for my 2008 BMW? Gary

Dear Gary: The best and easiest way to locate any and all information for any vehicle is by subscribing to Alldata. The cost of a one-year subscription is $25 for your vehicle. With this subscription you get any information you want online (www.alldata.com) with downloadable and printable troubleshooting procedures. I use Alldata on a regular basis to assist my readers with repair questions for this advice column.

Dear Doctor: My car, along with my wife's car, declare in the owner's manuals to use 93-octane gasoline. As you know the price of gas is out of sight -- and premium gas is 20 to 40 cents higher than regular. Is there any long term damaging effect using the 87-octane gasoline in our BMW and Lexus? Gerald

Dear Gerald: All of my own personal vehicles also require 93-octane gasoline. My wife wanted to start using 87 octane, too. I will tell you the same thing I told her: no. The higher-octane gasoline burns hotter, slower and cleaner than the lower octane gas. The higher octane leaves less carbon and deposits on the internal combustion area. In my opinion, you should only use the lower octane when the premium is not available.

Dear Doctor: I read your column every week. Is full-synthetic oil really worth the extra price over the regular petroleum-based oil? I have gotten many different opinions on the subject. What are your views on this subject -- and will the full synthetic improve gas mileage? Ronda

Dear Ronda: There is no question in my mind that full-synthetic oil is worth the extra expense, and yes, it will also improve gas mileage. The mileage increase will vary from car to car. Driving habits, tire inflation, clean air filter, and fresh spark plugs also contribute to fuel mileage. The full-synthetic oil does not thicken in cold weather and makes cold-weather start ups easier on the electrical system and internal engine parts. Many car manufacturers are now using full synthetic oils, even entry-level vehicles, not just the high line vehicles. Some manufacturers are even using full-synthetic transmission and differential oils.

Dear Doctor: Is there a difference between the brand parts at big auto parts stores and the OEM parts purchased at the car dealer? The dealer price to the auto parts store price can sometimes be double the price. Mitch

Dear Mitch: This is a great question. I try to use original factory equipment whenever possible. In some cases the factory parts are the same price as the aftermarket or even less. And indeed, in other cases the part price can be more than double the auto parts supply. Be aware that some aftermarket parts are high quality while others are very poor. With experience the technician knows what's good and what's bad. Some of the original equipment from manufacturers do offer a 12-month parts and labor warranty. If your repair shop uses Alldata, then they will be able to get the part numbers, pricing, repair time and step-by-step procedure, print it out and give it to you after the repair is completed.

Dear Doctor: What can you tell me about the new Jeep Compass 4x4 with the four-cylinder engine? Sherry

Dear Sherry: There is no question that with the price of gas rising daily people who want a 4x4 are now showing interest in four-cylinder power. In years past, four-cylinder engines had trouble moving front-drive vehicles, let alone 4x4 vehicles. I had the Jeep Compass Latitude 2.4-liter four-cylinder CVT automatic and 4x4 option for a week and was surprised in all areas, including the power and performance.

A low entry point into the cabin seating and rear tailgate area make it user-friendly for many types of buyers and passengers. The suspension is unlike the hard bouncy Jeeps of yesteryear. Pricing on our test Jeep was $23,445, plus $780.00 destination. The Compass city mileage was 23 mpg and 27 mpg highway. Our average combined driving was 25 mpg. -- Junior Damato, Motor Matters

Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician.

E-mail questions to info@motormatters.biz

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