From various forums, I found many BMW specific indy service shops in So Cal, but only visited a few based on geographic convenience to me. Among those I visited (btw, all I felt were at a minimum technically competent based on forum references), I selected Ronin Autowerks in Fullerton, CA to replace the front control arm bushings in my e46 (and hopefully for other future services). Key reasons I selected Ronin include the following (I won't mention expected items such as "they were nice", blah, blah):
- Matt, the owner, actually double checked my claim of bad bushings by grabbing the front wheel/tire, and pulling on it to see the play in the control arm/suspension. The other shops didn't do this (and this is not a knock on the other shops because, as a customer, I asked for quotes), but Matt taking this extra step was a sign of his experience and thoroughness to me.
- When I asked for a quote for the service, it was precise. What do I mean? I mean, one unnamed shop actually told me one price off the top of his head, no breakdown between parts and labor even after I asked. Can you believe that BS? I asked because I suggested I could bring in the part but he seemed disinterested. Another shop (owner there was very nice btw) quoted me a price with a breakdown, but he didn't even look up the parts price (maybe he does tons of control arm bushings on e46's?). Matt was precise... labor rate, time charged, parts price (after he looked it up to be sure), and very reasonable. Such a simple thing that others failed at... strangely, I found that stealerships actually do this quite well.
- Just a personal preference -- Matt has other techs working with him too (Josh and another person whose name I didn't catch). I liked the fact that there's more than one tech so that your car won't be stuck there forever, and having helping hands is great for diagnosis too (see below on noise diagnosis).
After making an appt, the replacement took place with no surprises, so everything worked out great.
Now that I had fresh bushings, I was able to get new tires the next day to replace my noisy, worn tires, and an alignment. Now that the car was up to (maintenance) snuff... a new noise became apparent -- I thought it might've been a bad rear wheel bearing (just a guess), but then, I'm not qualified to identify specific noises.
So I brought it back to Ronin for diagnosis and also asked for a quote on doing a rear wheel bearing (which is not an inexpensive fix). Again, Matt had to be convinced it was a rear wheel bearing before scheduling this work. We not only did a ride along in my car, Matt also put the car up on the rack and he and the guys checked the axles, diff, wheels, tires, etc. with the car fired up driving in gear and neutral, all with me observing. After a good amount of thorough checking, they uncovered a bent/untrue rear wheel, and so suggested not to spend money on replacing what appeared to be fine wheel bearings.
After this experience, I know I'll be going back to Ronin for future services.
Sorry for my long post, but I wanted to share this detail and how pleased I am to find a really good tech. I've seen many posts/reviews where people just say "go to xyz, he'll take care of you", so wanted to shed some light as to how Ronin operates so that folks can factor that in when deciding on a good tech for their BMW.