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stevebfl 12-23-2000 01:03 PM

I enjoy so much reading and following the trials and tribulations of enthusiastic automobile hobbiests. I try and help where I have easy knowledge, I often look up info I don't memorize. I enjoy it and it improves these capabilities which I use every day with 8 technicians asking similar questions.

I often am at a loss as to the direction my answer should take. My first response is to try to put the technical elements together for the questioner. But, I often wonder if the more appropriate advise would be to tell them how to find a good technician or evaluate their answers.

I often get follow-up, private, email for further consultation and, as in recently, I gather the info necessary to start analysis and transmit it. In this case I even located the MB information #s to purchase the appropriate literature from MB and gave the number to call. The total amount for the complete ASR Diagnostic Manual would have been about thirty dollars. I suggested that this be purchased and I would then help with its use and interpretation. I also pointed out that if they wanted me to dig up the info from my own sources that I would charge $70 and hour. The reply that I got seems to place very little value in my efforts.

I was told that the questioner had little money and would have to continue seeking advise from the forum.

I have thought about this for a few days. I'm not sure whether he thought I meant to charge him for further help. This was not my intent. My intent was to point out if he couldn't afford $30 to have the text necessary to proceed then it would cost me a lot more to assemble it for him.

Most of the posts that ask questions about performance can only be answered with diagnostic technique for me. To say this part or that part could be the answer is pointless except in rehashing "war stories". I would like to give help, instruction, training as necessary to achieve an answer, but if having the proper text is too expensive then my advise wastes my time.

Sorry for the rant. It was iniated this morning by reading a number of posts that raise this question: Do you want to be told whats wrong (impossible) or do you want to be told how to figure it out? Many obviously have no possibility of doing the diagnostics (lack of tools, lack of skills, lack of information).

Merry Christmas

JCE 12-23-2000 01:41 PM


You have discovered the dilemma that most teachers run into. Do we teach the student how to think and how resolve the problem themselves, (while recognizing that this must be done while introducing them to subjects, ideas, and technologies they have never before seen), or do we teach them how to memorize the "correct" answer to each different problem to program into their brain and use forever. This last approach means that we have to gloss over the fact that there sometimes is no single "correct" answer, or that the wrong questions are being asked to resolve the problem, or that the problem is resolved only by doing 2 or more "correct" things.

Most teachers would rather teach the student how to find answers, but a large number of students would rather be told what they "need to know". The difference in philosophy between teacher and student causes conflicts, resentment, and interferes with learning. Attempts to explain the differences in approach cause the student to think he or she is being called stupid, and the teacher to feel that he/she is being called arrogant or unfeeling, and closed-minded about the students ideas (sometimes naive, often quite good, and occasionally brilliant!).

The attitude of wanting to be just told what they "need to do" was often most apparent in students who were not majoring in the subject being taught, but were taking it as a required course or elective. Their attitude seemed to be "I save my thinking for my career field, and don't have enough time in my busy life to learn how to think about a temporary problem in this secondary part of my life. I just want the problem solved so I can get back to my work, so tell me what pill to take, Doc, and make the problem go away".

I never found a perfect balance that worked with every student. They were all different, and for every student that caused frustration, there was one that gave me great pride in the results obtained. I don't think anyone has ever found the answer, or if they have, I haven't seen it shared. I think all we can do (we are all simultaneously teachers and students throughout our life) is recognize that different approaches may or may not work with different people.

Sorry for the rant, have a great holiday.

[Edited by JCE on 12-23-2000 at 12:51 PM]

Deezel 12-23-2000 01:59 PM

I am sure I speak for the vast majority of the members. Your advice, insight, guidance, and opinions are very highly valued. The personal time you spend to educate us is not taken lightly. I know that I also spend more time than I should monitoring this board and providing advice whenever I can, even if it is only dry humor, in an effort to repay my debts to others that have helped me amd to keep them coming back as a resource for my future needs. My time has been very minimal compared to what you have provided and I would hate to loose this resource.

Unfortunately, there is very little that us hacks can offer to you in return other than to express our gratitude, use your resources with respect and only when necessary or offered.

In my opinion, this forum us not to save us money. It is to grow our knowledge, confidence, increase our satisfaction with the car and our own abilities, and get us out of binds (car dead on a weekend). Saving money may be a by product. Buying the tools, manuals etc needed to do these tasks goes without saying. Finding the sources for some of these specialty tools is the great thing about this forum. Having insider info from a tech like you who has access to data that is not within our means, such as the specialty data you spend big bucks on, is wonderful and very generous of you.

Any public forum (how about congress?) has people who are not in step, way to the left or right, or just plain uniformed. Please excuse their ignorance and focus on the people who provide the feedback on how much you have helped.

I don't want a fish sandwich, please teach me to fish!

Season's Greetings!

JCE 12-23-2000 02:23 PM


Very well put, indeed!

450 SLC 5.0 12-23-2000 02:35 PM

Steve, you ar not ranting, just venting... and understandably so.

I feel compelled to write on this subject matter. There are many types of people that are automobile enthusiasts, the vast majority of which do not posses a tremendous amount of technical knowledge. (No offense intended to anyone.) There are also many enthusiasts that have a limited knowledge of how their vehicles operate, although their technical knowledge may be limited to which parts function for certain purposes. These people do not necessarily understand the concepts and theories behind the operation of those parts, nor interactions thereof. (Again, no offense intended – i.e., I personally may know what brain surgery IS, although I in no way profess to understand the nuances of the various procedures.)

There also exists a small population of hard core enthusiasts that strive to understand the technical theories & functions of the various subsystems. I myself am not an engineer or automotive professional, however my curiosity and intuitive understanding of mechanical systems leads me to learn as much as possible, either through the direct receipt of information, or through the process of deductive reasoning. I find it to be great fun to figure out how things work, and WHY they work. There lies the difference. >WHY< That is where you excel, the WHY.

Your postings have consistently been the most fascinating for me to read on this forum. It is clear that your knowledge comes not only from experience, but also from an innate understanding of mechanical (& electrical) system theory. At times, it is frustrating for a master of any subject matter to impart their knowledge to persons that may not comprehend the implications of everything said by the master. It is also frustrating to feel as though one is taken for granted, especially when trying to help others. Your selflessness in spending your valuable time in helping people on this forum is GREATLY appreciated. Your expenditure of even more time looking up information for others is most deeply appreciated by persons that recognize that your time is valuable (time is money…) and that you are not being compensated (financially) for your time. Compensation comes in the form of knowing that you are helping others, a concept that is unfortunately somewhat rare in today’s society. (I spend a great deal of time in helping people on a forum related to a specific medical condition; it feels good :) )

I can only hope that you do not become discouraged by some of your experiences here. I hope that the positives will greatly offset the negatives. Your absence from this forum would leave a gaping hole that few others could hope to fill. I know that others here must feel the same way, whether or not it is communicated directly!

With all sincerity, I hope that you have a GREAT holiday, and a happy & healthy new year!

WmHarlow 12-23-2000 02:37 PM

Can you hear the applause?
I sure hope Steve can! :)

stevebfl 12-23-2000 04:25 PM

Thanks for the kind words. I really blew it on this post. I didn't get my point across too well and I think I sounded discouraged or maybe upset. I wasn't, I think JCE might have understood that I was really trying to come up with some answers to the frustration I feel trying to help when I don't know the capabilities both tooling and experience wise that are available to those with problems.

In other words, do I continue with elaborate diagnostic strategy intended for use or do I explain that this can't be done by those asking?

I still am not sure I know what I am saying here but I am not aggravated at anyone or anything; just at a loss as to how to answer the question technically when I obviously go beyond capabilities.

Ashman 12-23-2000 04:42 PM

My Feeling is this, if you are taking your time to give out information, then you are providing a service that I think most people will appreciate.

I enjoy reading all the posts here just about, in fact I almost live on this board, and I can tell you I see more helpful information being passed on than non helpful.

Sure there are the flame posts that get out of hand sometimes, and thats always going to happen when people get together. Not everyone will get along.

In the case of giving out detailed technical info that might not be understood, well if I see something I don't understand I look it up. Ever been reading and come across a word you didn't know? What did you do, you looked it up in the dictionary. This is how things are done when you don't understand something you look it up.

If I post a subject on a problem I'm having, and you give me the mst technical response, whether I understand it or not, I make a point to understand it by researching what I was told.

If you were to hit me with some detailed description of something that I read and was like whats this thingy he mentioned or whats that thingy he pointed out, then I would do what was needed to learn about it.

In my industry, I'm plagued with so much technical jargon, I can easily overwhelm my clients because they have no idea what I am talking about, of course this does help when it comes time for them to pay the bill because if it sounds too technical it must cost more.

I am sure almost everyone if not everyone will agree with me when I say that people like you steve, are the reason I stay on this board and keep coming back for more. Your willingness to provide assistance to us in need of it has created a community I am proud to say I'ma part of.

I'm not a tech, and I probably wont be one, but I have found that the knowledge I have gained in here has helped me more than anything.

I had no idea what a flex disc was, I had no idea platinum plugs werent recommended, I had no idea on how to do this or that, but because of people like you sharing your knowledge, I feel that I am almost ready to buy a nice classic benz that needs a complete restoration. I want to get a classic benz, strip it down to the frame, and rebuild the whole thing, from the ground up. Without this board and people like you, I would never be able to handle a job like that on my own, but having you guys here, I know that if I were to tackle a big project like that, I'd be able to find out all the information I would need to get the job done, and get it done right.

I still have no idea about how an engine or trans really works, but I learn more each day, and I learn more because of people like you.

Keep up the good work. I know that I don't E-mail people on this forum much, because I feel that if they wanted to be bothered by me, well they'd just read a post I put up and reply to it hehe.


450 SLC 5.0 12-23-2000 04:51 PM

Sorry to be so blunt, but...
Indeed, the toughest part of trying to help someone help themselves is in assessing their capabilities. Most people tend to overestimate their capabilities, but asking if someone is capable of certain procedures may be helpful. Many times, it seems possible to glean some insight or information based upon the nature of the persons’ posting or response…other than that, it’s pretty much a crap shoot.

Please do continue with your helpful ‘elaborate diagnostic strategy’ when it is apparent that it will be time well spent & not wasted upon those that may not be able to follow you.

JCE 12-23-2000 04:52 PM


The compromise I eventually reached was to continue trying to teach students to think through the problem, giving guidance as needed, until either their or my patience limit was reached. I would then show them how to solve the simplest example of the problem at hand, explaining the thought process used in solving the problem.

Usually before that point was reached, they had decided that they weren't going to be handed the answer on a platter, and either started thinking, or looked for someone else to do it for them. Not every student wants to learn, and even some of the ones who want to learn unfortunately do not have the skills necessary for learning, or the ability to acquire those skills.

From reading your many posts and descriptions, I think you would probably have made a pretty damn good teacher, and I enjoy learning from your posts. Spending too much of your time and resources on the ones who can't or won't try to learn from them will just frustrate you, and will divert your attention from the rest of your "eager students". The pinch is, only you can decide how much time is too much!

engatwork 12-23-2000 05:34 PM

Steve you have helped
me out on more than one occasion and I, along with most of the posters on this board, are very appreciative. Based on replys to some of my questions you can get down into the complex detail in a hurry and I would imagine that sometimes you probably get over a persons head real fast. Don't stop!!! I may be a pain in the butt but I am very persistant and will keep asking until I get the answer that I understand. I have learned over the years that you can't go wrong doing it this way. I may even start asking some questions about chloride embrittlement in 316SS piping one day :)
just kidding - keep up the good work
take care and have a Merry Christmas.
'95 E320
'97 Honda CRV

Deezel 12-23-2000 05:37 PM

We love you man, but you're not getting our Bud Light!!!!!!

roas 12-23-2000 06:31 PM


I feel a little saddened that this post is a direct result of my ASR problem I am having and my requests for your assistance via Email. :(

Perhaps I am in over my head in regards to my diagnostic's abilities and of the system in question, I can easily admit that and do. Perhaps I should have started my Email request with a brief rundown on my mechanical knowledge as well as what I am trying to achieve? That way I could have saved us both some time and energy?

I think you may have misread my last Email reply, based upon your interpretation and your points stated. I did not say the manuals where a waste of time, or that your advise was not of valuable, what I meant to say was that the manuals would take more time than I would have wanted to wait, and because of that, I would see if I could obtain more information from the past archive material available here.

This is one reason that MercedesShop is so valuable, a wealth of information is available to all for free, not for $30 dollars or whatever the publisher is charging, call me cheap but if I can find something right now and free vs. waiting a week or two and paying money for something I might only use once or twice, the choice is easy. Your suggestion was to purchase the manuals and go from there. At least for me the choice is easy, I do not do this as a profession and only attempt "the easy stuff". If a code points me to a "pluck and chuck" type of fix and is electrical, I'll do it myself. The mechanic I use still has his backlog and no damage is done.

I would like you to know that I do greatly appreciate the effort you put forth in providing the Mercedes reference #'s for the manuals and the drawing you provided, I will be purchasing these shortly to avoid any future misunderstandings.

Lastly, I would like to apologize for any time of yours I may have wasted in this whole process and would like to also say that you are a highly regarded authority on these machines and that is why I came to you in the first place and that is why others will continue to come to you.

I hope I have not turned you away from the other issues which require your assistance!

To everyone at MercedesShop,

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

stevebfl 12-23-2000 07:05 PM

I really need to stick to technical issues I guess. I really have been misinterpreted. I have no problem with anyone.

My problem I guess is whether or not to go into detail. I have no problem with doing this, but there often comes a point where there has to be some homework. I can't fix the problem without the car. I may be able to instruct someone to do such, but in this case the next step was text. Someone had to have the info card in front of them to do the next step. I could continue to gather and transmit each document but my time becomes wasted at that point.

To go where we were going a map was needed. I even need the map when I take the journey. I have no problem with people not wanting to go this far but I was afraid that I might loose a bull in a china store by hand feeding each item of info. Reference material is absolutely necessary to do this work. There are only simple answers if you've been there before. Maybe the most serious feeling was that I might make this seem so simple that one might hurt one's self.

lobito 12-23-2000 07:15 PM

I think that eventhough most of us do not work as car techs, in our heart we are. We are curious on what is happening to our cars, and with the great help of this forum we even help the techs that work in our cars to stay within the problem. This avoids guessing on their part and saves us money and time. I really enjoy this forum, and hope stays the way it is or evem improves more.


MikeTangas 12-23-2000 07:31 PM

Funny I should be reading this post now. Not fifteen minutes ago, I was on the phone with JCE and I mentioned that I was reading posts at the time. I also noted, that thanks to this site, I have learned an awful lot about cars in general. It is all the answers given that add to this knowledge, and the in depth technical answers help define MY limitations. To quote Dirty Harry, "A man's got to know his limitations", and the only way to know is to have them defined.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

LarryBible 12-23-2000 09:11 PM


This thread came from nothing to 2 pages in 7 or 8 hours.

All I can add is that I don't know how Steve does it. When he replies, it is almost always after some serious thought. When he is replying, it is almost always regarding a serious, non routine troubleshooting situation. He doesn't typically reply when someone is trying to figure out whether to use 10W30 or 15W40.

I'm sure that Steve gets hit with some really heavy emails beyond what we see here in the open.

I hope that most of the people that receive his help understand the time he offers here for free. And, I believe that most people do. He has helped me alot during my year of paying the car gods, and I appreciate it alot.

Merry Christmas,

Deezel 12-23-2000 10:40 PM

Lessons learned!
For those of us interested in working on our cars, go out and buy the basic manuals BEFORE you need them! There will always be specialty stuff (Like CIS and ASR) that we could spend hundreds of dollars on and never use, but if we don't have the basics, shame on us! The Partsshop sells this stuff (hint hint)! Have you asked Santa to get you one?

need2speed 12-23-2000 11:17 PM

Instant gratification...the pleasure and pain of the World Wide Web! Knowledge used to take time to aquire and we accorded it great value. Now it is available at the stroke of a few keys and we are impatient. :confused:

yal 12-24-2000 02:05 AM

Please don't stop answering technical questions the way you do. There are people who can use that kind of advise. A vehicle is a very complicated piece of machinery if the poster cannot afford to fix the problem then (sorry to be blunt) they cannot afford the car. I for example can't afford to own an Acura ;), I know people who have almost gone bankrupt owning one of those things. Buying a car is the easy part, maintaining it over time can be the real killer, especially if you bought it used with some serious clock time. I've lost several paychecks to vehicles I,ve's the nature of the beast. They're not wind up toys sometimes as an owner you just have to bail when you get in over your head, no need to shoot (insult) the messenger.

ketoj 12-26-2000 03:27 PM

Remember the fish Steve

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day
Teach a man to fish and he eats for life

Cliche....maybe, but the philosophy you practice...definately!

(junior rookie novice member)

Jim H 12-26-2000 04:23 PM

I tell my advisors (doctor, dentist, financial advisor, etc.) to "Use the right words, even if they're big. Explain what you have time for and I'll look up the rest." ;)

One persisted in simply telling me he was going to give me "medicine." I found another perveyor of the healing arts. :D

I'll vote for the long explanation. Anyone who doesn't understand the answer can ask follow-up questions.

Thank you Steve, M.B. Doc, Benzmac, Larry and all of the others who increase the knowledge pool here.

BCingU, Jim

Stevegman 12-26-2000 04:41 PM

A guide always leads.
As a guide always leads, you can write for every level. If the post goes over the head of the reader, he can learn or bail out. I have read posts that send me to the garage and posts that send me to the local shop. Sometimes I stretch my capabilities and knowledge, enjoying most every minute. I urge you to take the highest level and if the reader is lost, it's time for them to seek a local mechanic.

You cannot teach us, only guide and advise. Thank you for that. You are not responsible for research and if you suggest the reader invest in tools of manuals, it is up to the reader to weight the cost/benefit. I bought a torque wrench but not a BOSCH MOT. I think it is incredible that if the reader would buy the data and learn about the system that you would be willing to teach and walk through it on-line, for free. That kind of willingness is simply mind blowing.

IMHO, please don't stress, you are providing an outstanding free service and should be appreciated for whatever you post.

'85 SL500 Euro

Stevegman 12-26-2000 04:48 PM

Give a man a fish and you give him dinner,
Teach a man to fish and he will be out on a boat drinking beer every weekend.

ctaylor738 12-26-2000 07:16 PM

Steve -

You have been a great help to all of us - keep it up!


J.HIDALGO 12-27-2000 12:30 AM

Steve, I really thank you and all the other master mechanics who offer their valuable time for FREE.
One way I try "repay" for this service is to share my limited experience with my car with other members in a OPEN forum, that way, you and the rest of the experts do not have to "waste" your time with "minor stuff" and, at the same time, other members can benefit from the exchange of knowledge. If not now, maybe in the future (archives).
I am a DIY because I like working on my car and, at the same time, save some money in the process. However, I DO KNOW MY LIMITATIONS.
I advise everybody to INVEST in the manuals. If they choose not to buy for A or B reasons then, they are on their own.
Steve, I know you make a living from your trade and as a businessperson you know you can not satisfy everybody but, please do not get discourage, there are some people out there that really appreciates your efforts and all others involved in this wonderful site. Thank you!!!.

[Edited by J.HIDALGO on 12-30-2000 at 08:48 AM]

dlswnfrd 12-27-2000 12:42 AM

My Heart Bleeds for the Instructor
Steve, I'm new to the forum, but am a retired G.M. Training Center Instructor Cadillac Motor Cars; You are needed and appreciated. Happy Trails Beep Beep from Houston.

On your side Buddy

bondjamesbond 12-28-2000 02:56 PM

Is this a great forum or what?
How about on future posts we put our abilities on a
scale of one to ten. Keeps it simple.

Some possibilities...

Tools - 1
Diagnostic capability - 1
Mechanical capability - 4 (OK 3)
Typing capability - 3
Enthusiasm - 10
Appreciation for the help - 10 (OK 11)
Love of the Mercedes - 10

Keep up the great work guys,

93 500E silver/blue 56K
86 190E-16 blk/blk 120K
95 LR Range Rover 90K

dlswnfrd 12-28-2000 10:59 PM

Count 1,2,3
bondjamesbond, you said 1 to 10 and you stumped your toe and popped an 11. Happy Trails Beep Beep from twelve Houston.

that's 4,5,

be459 12-29-2000 10:36 PM


J.HIDALGO above said exactly what I have been trying to say.

Thanks a million; Happy Holidays.


dlswnfrd 12-30-2000 07:33 PM

In Dollars and Cents
Steve, do you take Mastecard or Visa? How about American Express? That's how valuable Instructors are to the Lay. Happy New Year and Hang in there we all are on your side. Happy Trails Beep Berep from all of my Cards were Cancelled Houston.

How about Credit?
One dollar down and
another when you catch me.

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