You’re driving on the highway in your typically reliable BMW when the check engine light comes on. Immediately, the questioning begins. Is something wrong? How urgent is this BMW repair? Is my car on the brink of collapse or simply in need of a check-up? If you’re like most drivers, the check engine light seems to create more questions than it does answers. The only thing you know for certain is that it’s on, and now you have to deal with it. So, do you resign yourself to taking it in to the dealership and accepting all of the costly consequences that go with it? Do you ask a friend of a friend’s brother-in-law who claims an expertise in BMW repair? Or, is there a way to get some reliable answers without the enormous retail mark-up of a BMW dealership? If your car has been running a little strange lately or is definitely in need of a BMW repair, here are a couple of self-help tools to stay informed and keep your expenses down.

CarMD is a simplified solution for your check engine light. Using technology similar to those used by professional mechanics, this simple, easy-to-use gadget plugs in to your car’s internal computer and helps you to know if you’re facing a costly BMW repair or a simple fix. The price tag is slightly upwards of one hundred dollars; however, when facing a potentially expensive alternative, this option may be very cost-efficient. It’s important to note, though, that this tool does not replace a full automotive diagnostic by a trained technician.

RepairPal’s online estimator provides incredibly useful information regarding your problem and how much it is going to cost to have it fixed. Just type in your make, model, and repair to get an estimated price (parts and labor) for the fix. Most of us are not automotive experts, and we couldn’t tell you how much even a small BMW repair should cost. This tool provides you with a ballpark estimate of a reasonable repair price so you can know what price is fair before you head off to the mechanic’s shop.

Driverside is an extremely useful web-based automotive sidekick, giving you useful tips and comments about your specific vehicle. Enter your make, model, and year to populate a list of useful pieces of information including recall notices, upcoming services, parts, and valuations. Before you agree to a costly BMW repair, check out the great resources available to you for free online. Education is one of the greatest assets you can have on your side when dealing with something as technical as your vehicle.

A BMW repair can be time-consuming and costly. Utilizing these resources could save you hundreds if not thousands in auto repair expenses. With resources like these at your disposal, you can make an informed, accurate decision about your BMW and the best ways to keep running for years to come. Though none of these tools is a substitute for a trusted mechanic’s expertise, they are great ways to increase your knowledge about your vehicle.