We get a lot of threads asking repeat questions. Many try the search function but have a difficult time because the search results generate too many hits and it can be tedious to weed through all the results to find the one that's relevant. Here are some tips for doing an effective search. Note that the results I generated in the results (e.g. thread counts) will change as time goes on and people post more threads about a particular topic. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
This is the search most people do. If I search on Bilstein, I get 500 hits. You'll get every thread that has a post that mentions Bilstein.
Adding additional terms will limit the search results. If I search on Bilstein 5100, I get 244 hits. It's the equivalent of saying 'Give me the threads that have at least one post with both "Bilstein" AND "5100" in it'. You'll get any post that mentions both Bilstein and 5100. Any thread could mention both Bilstein or 5100, but at least one post in the thread has to have both terms in it or it won't be a hit.
If I search on "Bilstein 5100" (in quotes) I get 192 hits. You'll get any thread where a post contains the specific phrase Bilstein 5100. (Bilstein immediately followed by 5100).
If I search on "Bilstein 5100" 1st gen , I get 1 hit.
This one can be tricky to work. If you add the word "not" to a term, it will exclude posts that have that term in it. For example, in the "Bilstein 5100" search, there's a post about 1998 4-Runner (you may have to page through to find the post). So if I search on "Bilstein 5100" not runner it'll eliminate that result. This can be a tricky search since it will only eliminate from the results if Bilstein 5100 appears with the elimination word. However, even if post has the elimination word, someone else's post in the thread may have Bilstein 5100 but not have the elimination word, so it would be considered a hit for that post and the thread will still appear in the results.
There are more options in the Advanced search box.
You can limit the search to "Search Titles Only". That would get you only threads that mention the search term in the title (so you wouldn't get "The Useless Posts" Thread as a result to a Bilstein search). Searching Bilstein with "Search Titles Only" results in only 89 hits whereas in the first attempt, it resulted in 500 hits. Plus, the posts are more likely to be relevant since the terms are in the title of the thread. It's also a helpful search if you remember a part of the title but don't remember where it was. An example is thread "Things that make you say...WTF" If all you remember about the thread was "WTF", you should do a title search. WTF appears in a lot of threads, but is not as common in the titles.
Search By Username
To the right, there's a Search by Username box. If you know the person you're interested in finding a result from, type that user's screenname into the box. After a few characters, the forum software will generate a list you can select from. It's helpful if you don't recall how to specifically spell their username. There's also a pulldown that will allow you to select "Find Posts by User" or "Find Threads Started by User" The first option will generate any results where the user has posted whereas, the second option will only generate results where the particular user started the thread.
You can choose specific forums by holding down the <CTRL> button while selecting the forums you are interested in. So if I search using Bilstein and select only the 1st Gen and the Suspension forum, I get 359 hits (vs 500 above). If I choose only the 1st Gen forum, that number drops to 69 hits. If I add "Search Titles Only", I get 3 threads.
You can also use the * wildcard. So if I'm interested in Signature pics, I could search Sig* and "Search Titles Only" and get any post that has the three letters s-i-g at the beginning of a word in the title (e.g. Sig banners, Signature banners) but you'll also get results like "Sign in" but you wouldn't get a term like "Assign" since the sig is not at the beginning of the word. Putting the * in the middle of a term can help with commonly misspelled words (e.g. searching on Bilst*n would hit on Bilstein or Bilstien).
For an "or" "Search Titles Only" search, if I search on Sig or Signature, I'll only get Title threads that have either Sig or Signature in the title(eliminates the "Sign In") result.
The other options allow you to further reduce the hits if you know certain things about the post (e.g. about when it was posted). So if you knew a post was put up within the last month or two, you could limit the results to only newer posts.
The "Show Results As" option will display threads or posts. The Thread selection will show the threads that match a search, whereas the Posts selection will show the post itself that matched. The Post can be helpful if the result you are looking for happens to reside in a huge thread. Rather than page through 50 pages of a long thread, do a post search and you can see if directly if the result was the one you were interested in.