It’s OK To Just Let the Pros Handle It

It’s important to know when to throw in the towel, no matter how far you’ve come as a DIY wrencher.

byPeter Nelson|
2002 b5 audi s4 sunset
Peter Nelson

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My relationship with my 2002 Audi S4 project has been complicated. On one hand, I'm thrilled to own one of my top attainable dream cars, automatic transmission or not. On the other, it's been a very real lesson in dealing with maintenance complexity, as I've enjoyed the challenge and it's absolutely raised the bar for me, skills-wise. But it’s not without being a pain in the ass.

This is why when it came time to face what is possibly the chassis' most giant elephant in the room—the timing belt job, and its associated componentry—my feelings became even more complicated.

I was ready to take it on, boxes of new parts from ECS and FCP Euro and all, but I just kept putting it off. I felt more trepidation about this entire front-end-off job than ever before, especially after moving apartments and no longer having the ideal outdoor digs (or extra-cool landlord) to have the car resemble bits of that one scene in Face/Off. Plus, if I messed something up, it could mean a full do-over or destroying the engine.

So I decided to just leave it to the pros, which was a hard decision to make. But what a massive relief it was.

Peter Nelson

It's Not Easy

Financial aspect aside, it's tough throwing in the towel and paying someone a labor rate to do something that you could do yourself. I'm also in a very privileged position of having a perfectly reliable other car and being able to wrench here and there on the clock in the service of writing Project Car Diaries.

I'm no egoist, but it also put a dent in my pride. I solved the S4's massive coolant leak, completely re-did its very-tired braking system (sans hardlines), fixed any old-car issues along the way, and swapped out its steering rack—that proved to be the biggest pain yet. I felt unstoppable.

But there was just something about this job. All of the variables came together to make one complicated equation: Having far less space, the time-consuming intricacies of removing and re-installing 20-year-old German plastics, the time-consuming aspects in general, the potential danger (even though I'd bought cam and crank locking tools)—I just couldn't summon enough courage to do it.

But I wanted to be unyieldingly fearless in accumulating mileage in the thing; after all, it's a car I've always wanted to own. So I called broken arrow and hit up a shop that a buddy referred me to.

Peter Nelson

It’s OK to Trust Others

No matter where it happens in life, it's always relieving to say "It's out of my hands," yet even more so when "It's out of my hands, and instead in extremely capable hands."

Eurozone Motors is a few miles from me, has excellent reviews, and the owner Ronaldo even has a B5 S4 of his own. They quoted a very reasonable price to perform the job, and while in there made some photo-backed suggestions about other stuff worth taking care of while the S4's face was removed. Some of it I wouldn't have spotted from underneath or up top—I happily agreed to all of it.

Then, the photos that Eurozone sent while the job was happening were menacing, to say the least. This was particularly validating—they're perfectly suited for all of it, and yours truly … not so much.

They're thoroughly familiar with the chassis and all of its potential issues, and have done all of these jobs dozens of times. It's getting done quickly and right—not slowly and first-timer-status. For not a whole lot more time and effort than doing the timing belt, water pump, and thermostat, I'm getting a car back that truly will run more reliably, and ensure that I can cover the ground that I want to in the coming months.

I went through a similar situation when I had EF1 Motorsports in Signal Hill, California, handle my BMW 128i's oil pan gasket and four-wheel alignment. They flawlessly did everything that I could've really struggled at.

My wallet's a few notes lighter, but the part of my brain that controls stress and relief is flourishing, especially considering the fact that I intend to hang onto this thing for a good, long while. Finally, I'm also justified in getting into the fun part of enthusiast car ownership: suspension, chassis, wheel/tire, and mild engine modifications. 

Stay tuned, my friends.