Forums have long been a popular "go to" source for automotive information. You can search a forum for a specific topic, or post your question on a forum and hope somebody can provide the information or help you are looking for. But how accurate are posts and replies you find on a typical automotive forum?
The main advantage of forums is that ANYBODY can post content. Although many forums are moderated to prevent people from posting spam, off-topic content or porn, many forum moderators do not edit or validate the information people are posting on their forums. The better forums may have a competent moderator who has knowledge in a particular area and will comment on a post or a reply if they think it is needed. But many forums make little or no effort to weed out good information from misleading or totally incorrect information.
As an automotive tech writer, editor and author, I am constantly researching topics online. Google search results will often include snippets from various forums as well as links to forum discussions on the topic I am researching.
My experience has been that probably a third of forum posts and replies contain accurate and helpful information. Another third are of questionable value or are just people expressing their personal opinions or preferences which may or may not be helpful or accurate. The final third are totally wrong, misleading or incorrect!
Back in the days when most information was published in some type of print format (magazine articles, newspaper articles and books), content provided by a writer was edited and validated by an editor or team of editors to make sure it was as accurate as possible. Facts were checked, sources were verified (and credited), and corrections were made as needed before (and sometimes after) an article was published. Not so today.
With many forums, do-it-yourself websites, YouTube and Tiktok videos, Instagram posts, Facebook and other social media, ANYBODY can post ANYTHING. There's no fact checking, no validation, no peer review, no crediting sources of information. Some of the information is really good, helpful and created by somebody who knows what they are talking about, but a lot of it is pure BS, nonsense or even dangerous. The quality of the finished product ranges from excellent and professionally produced to really amateurish. Nothing is worse than watching a 20 minute how-video that could have been edited down to about 3 minutes.
My point here is that when looking for accurate automotive information on the internet, you have to be very discerning. Consider the source. Hagerty does an excellent job of presenting factual, accurate and entertaining content. Many other dedicated automotive sites do as well. Social media sites are the ones you have to watch out for, especially YouTube and now Tiktok.
“My point here is that when looking for accurate automotive information on the internet, you have to be very discerning. ”
Of course this is true for EVERYONE on the internet. Ahem…everyone. In my particular area of experience I’ve read a lot of nonsense that got past an editor.
As to forums, I’ve had good experience on those related to specific car models, and consider the ones I’m registered on as an awesome archive. If it’s technical information, a how-to etc., I can look at that person’s previous posts, his length of time on the forum and post count, as well as any credentials that might be cited in a signature. If some aspect is still in question I could even send someone a private message (PM) to address it. In my experience, bad info or advice is not just edited by moderators but is also swiftly corrected or challenged by other members. It’s usually not difficult to separate those who know what they’re talking about from those who are camped out in mom’s basement.
“FAQ” and/or “Sticky” threads are typically only posted after review by moderators and numerous views by members. So the information within them can usually be relied on.
I agree with @Hagerty Fan that this issue isn't just confined to automotive forums - it's virtually everything on the web anymore. You give the floor to anyone and everyone, and you are going to get them all expressing their take on a given subject. In most cases, without any need to support their view with sources or research or even factual backing from others. It's gotten so bad that we are even told to not trust the actual publications where we used to go for information before we gave the podium to every Tom, Dick and Harry out there (with apologies to Toms, Dicks, and Harrys out there - no offense intended). Here's how bad it is: I just expressed my opinion about something on an internet forum...can I be trusted to know what I'm talkin' about? 🙄🤔
i'm in automotive repair for 30+ years and in spite of that quite often bumping into difficulties to find solution for technical issues, in case of which official service manuals provides no help at all. particularly when vehicle for last 30-60 years was amateurishly modified and went trough harsh abuse in use.
also we should consider fact that majority of old cars/trucks enthusiasts aren't billionaires to fork out unlimited fund to revive such vehicle and usually trying to do this job in affordable to them way, often adapting parts and elements which never was in original assembly of that unit.
automotive forums in most cases do provide wealth of info and tips in such cases as very often someone before you faced similar situation and been kind enough to share own experience and way of solving that issue. sometime i can't find direct answer to an issue but often did found something like unrelated one but which hinted me to find own solution.
definitely printed media doing it's own contribution but it cannot have volume of information which can be found on internet.
i old enough to do comparison of pre-internet and present times and can tell you - hands down i much more like present possibilities.