Self-help workshop: this is how you can repair your car cheaply yourself

L autes rattling echoes through the kfz tiger self-help workshop on the outskirts of berlin, peter lassiwe has quickly loosened the wheel nuts with the pneumatic wrench. four rusty brake discs are revealed behind the wheels of his ford transit.

Brakes are one of the most important components of a car, and should not be tampered with during repairs. Peter lassiwe is not a professional, but he still seems very relaxed. He loosens the wheels with a flick of his wrist and says, "It’s really quite simple."

Lassiwe wants to change the brakes on his ford transit, under the guidance of a master mechanic, but the customer is supposed to do it himself. The motto at kfz tiger is. "i help myself."lassiwe has brought his wife martina along for support. Both wear work gloves and are highly concentrated at work. Neither of them has any "special background knowledge" in the automotive sector.

Huge hall with 29 lifting platforms

They’re not afraid to get stuck in, just like more and more German car owners. According to the central association of the german motor vehicle trade (ZDK), the do-it-yourself share of wear-and-tear repairs rose to 14 percent in 2013 – a record figure. The older the car, the more likely it is that the owner will go to an independent repair shop or, like lassiwe, do the work himself.

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Manufacturers and the automotive industry, on the other hand, view hobby mechanics with suspicion. They point out that many repairs can only be carried out by specialists, leaving customers to believe that not much can be repaired themselves on the complicated technology anyway.

Self-help workshops are becoming increasingly popular, especially as the costs of specialist workshops continue to rise. in 2013, service sales in the german automotive industry totaled just under 31 billion euros, including workshop sales as well as wages, spare parts and accessories. This is also a huge increase: ten years ago, total sales were just under 23 billion euros.

From friday afternoon onwards, high demand

Many people no longer have the money to pay for expensive repairs at a specialist workshop, says tadeusz chojnacki, owner of "kfz tiger" in berlin-hoppegarten. The master workshop is one of the largest self-help workshops in germany. There are 29 lifting platforms in the 3,000-square-meter hall, 23 of which are rented out to recreational mechanics. The places are in demand. the annual turnover of "kfz tiger" is about 1.2 million euro.

Chojnacki’s store gets busy on Friday afternoons, when the weekend begins for most working people. Changing the exhaust, renewing the brakes, applying underbody protection, or finally giving the automotive treasure a thorough cleaning – customers actually do everything themselves on their cars, says master mechanic chojnacki. The other day, a customer replaced the entire engine himself.

The lift costs 14 euros per hour, and all tools and underfloor heating are included. If you are stuck on your car, you can ask chojnacki and his staff for advice. Automotive mechanics, electronics experts, bodyworkers and painters are employed in the self-help workshop. Your working hours cost extra. the hall is open every day.

Peter lassiwe is here regularly for tinkering. He has worked in construction for 27 years, says the man in his mid-fifties in the blue overalls. This means that he has enough manual dexterity to repair a car as well. His transit stands high above him on the lifting platform. The eternal stop-and-go in berlin’s city traffic has taken its toll on the brake discs of the minibus.

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Peter lassiwe did the math: he pays a good 60 euros for the rental of the lifting platform, plus 450 euros in material costs for the new brake discs. "in the specialized workshop we would have paid easily 1200 euro."then it’s better to do it yourself. And since the vehicle is already on the stage, an oil change is also carried out at the same time.

The lassiwes run a handicapped driving service in the capital, but they don’t want to give their real names. Your customer is the public sector. There could be problems if it comes out that the company repairs its own cars to save costs instead of leaving them to a certified repair shop.

So the ZDK also takes a critical view of self-tinkering. "In the interests of road safety, vehicle repairs should be carried out by trained specialists in master vehicle workshops," says ZDK spokesman ulrich Koster. The ADAC automobile club warns of possible problems in the event of an accident.

Although there is still no binding legislation, the liability insurance also covers do-it-yourself repairs. But if it can be proven that an accident was caused by a lack of braking power, for example, and was preceded by an improper repair, "that could be gross negligence," warns maxi hartung of the ADAC.

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What’s more, modern cars are so complicated that amateurs can hardly repair anything themselves anyway. "with many cars, even replacing the bulb itself is no longer possible, as half the front end has to be removed for this purpose."

At "kfz tiger" they wave off such objections. Every service station has the right tools to take a car completely apart, says owner chojnacki. In its operation, they themselves read out control units of the vehicles. It regulates the electrohydraulic brake, for example, and usually gives up the ghost after a few hundred thousand braking cycles.

Taking the laptop to the lift

A replacement costs far more than 1000 euro at a professional workshop. A self-help workshop can reprogram the pump. Savings can be as much as 75 percent of the cost of a new ECU. the principle also works for ABS, engine management, particulate filters and steering wheel locks. Progressive digitalization is also encouraging amateurs: more and more customers are bringing their laptops to the repair shop, and countless repair manuals can be found on the Internet.

the lassiwes have meanwhile changed the brake discs of their ford transit. Now you have to apply silver rust protection paint. Because you run a driving service, you have to take your minibuses to the main inspection every year. If a serious problem occurs with the vehicle, a specialist workshop is immediately visited, they assure.

For example, when it comes to the tie rods or wishbones. But you can do a lot yourself, and the TuV actually accepts vehicles that you repair yourself without any problems, says martina lassiwe, praising her husband’s carpentry skills. " he is a craftsman through and through."

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