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BMW of the Week – 1998 528i

It never ceases to amaze me how fast someone can make a $45,000 car turn into a total pile of shit.

I got to work pretty early yesterday morning, a little before 7am . . . I like to get to the shop early.  It’s quiet and I can get a lot done before the phones start ringing and the cars start coming in.  I was greeted by this little number sitting dead smack in front of the gate, a 1998 BMW 528i, or e39 in BMW lingo, and I already know it’s a total pile of crap.

BMW Car of the Week

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BMW Air Filters – things to know about ‘performance filters’

One thing that I cannot explain enough to people is that there is no way in hell you’ll feel a significant change in horsepower in your BMW by switching to a different kind of air filter.  The most popular of which is K&N filters, which are more of a screen filter with some foam that utilizes a special oil to help it filter.  Your local auto parts store will usually have some sort of demonstration with a ping-pong ball that floats higher over one of these filters when compared to its stock counterpart.  That’s all fine and dandy, but the last time I checked, there weren’t any ping-pong balls in my engine bay.

Oil Saturation Filter

I’ve also seen many graphs when one of these filters are installed, and the car is put on a dynometer with the end result being a gain in horsepower and torque.  Before getting all giddy, these ‘gains’ are usually about 3-5 horsepower on an engine that produces over 250hp, giving an end result of about a 1-2% gain from that $65 filter you just bought.  Remember too that dynometers have a certain margin of error that can produce a different result through many tests. With any modification, I want to feel it in my seat.  The only way you’ll feel one of these filters in your seat is if you were to put it underneath your butt.

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The BMW CPO and Extended Warranty – What’s the deal?

OK, so you’re at the car dealer and there are two different warranties that may apply to a pre-owned BMW.  The first is a Certified Pre-Owned Warranty which is only available through an actual BMW Dealer.  This warranty comes ‘free’ when you buy a Certified Pre-Owned BMW.  The second is an Extended Warranty which is available from what I call ‘B-Dealers’ and it is issued by a private company not owned by BMW.  These warranties can be a good thing and you can make them work for you.  But here are some basic things you need to know before getting all excited about the fact that you are ‘covered.’

BMW Warranty info

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High Gas Prices and your BMW

This is my car, a 2000 BMW M5, which I love, except the fact that all M parts are extremely expensive, especially for the M5.  The only other thing I dislike about it is that I have to measure my fuel consumption in ‘smiles per gallon’ as it gets about 12mpg around town and 22mpg on the freeway if I’m lucky. . .

BMW gas guzzler

 I’m going to fill up my tank this morning and I thought it would be fitting to speak about gas and your BMW.  With the average price of regular gas in California sitting at around $4.57/gallon many are feeling the pinch, especially those who have long commutes or vehicles that are not fuel efficient.  Luckily I only have a 4 mile commute, so I haven’t had too much to complain about.  However, I’ve seen many BMWs complaining over the past few months about their owners choices in gas.  BMWs have strict gasoline requirements, and this is what you want to know before deciding on your own that ‘regular should be fine.’

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Customizing your BMW – Wheels

The aftermarket BMW parts business has been steadily growing over the past 10 years with more and more products available to the public, at cheaper and cheaper prices.  In California especially, many people love to do things to their BMW that sets them apart from the rest.  From wheels to stereos to cold air intakes, I’ve seen just about everything imaginable on a BMW — some of it good, some bad, and some indifferent.  Unfortunately, the aftermarket parts industry is not based on what is good for your car, it’s based on what will sell, and the margins said product will produce.  Here are some things to consider before you take the plunge on those 20″ wheels and a new set of tires.

Don't do this!

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BMW Inspection II – The Major Tune-Up

If you are driving around right now and the words ‘Inspection -3458 miles’ shows up, chances are that you are due for a major tune up or Inspection II.  This is another example of what I call the BMW language barrier.  I grew up in New Jersey.  In New Jersey when you need an ‘Inspection’ that means you’ll be heading to the local DMV testing station where they test your brakes, lights, and run an emissions test.  In California, ‘Inspection’ means nothing, so many ignore it.  What it should read is ‘Tune-Up.’   Some ‘places’ have an interesting philosophy as to what should be done during the Inspection II, these same ‘places’ also tell you that you only have to change your oil every 15,000 miles.  So, what exactly constitutes a proper tune-up on a BMW??

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Spark Plugs are Spark Plugs on a BMW, Right?? WRONG!

If you are inclined to change your own spark plugs on your BMW there are some things you need to know before heading out to the local auto parts store . . . just cause it’ll fit, doesn’t mean that it’s correct.  There are many areas of the auto parts industry where quality and sound advice has taken a back seat to marketing and profit margins.  One of these areas is the good old spark plug.  I’m going to attempt to keep this simple and not too technical, which basically means you’ll have to trust me. (trust me, now that’s  mechanic line if I’ve ever heard one.)

When you go to the auto parts store and order spark plugs for your 1985 535i they will have a neat little diplay that has about 5 different spark plugs ranging from what looks like a normal plug to one that looks like a space probe on the end.  The guy behind the counter will tell you your options, all of them with code numbers that make no sense and he’ll eventually tell you how great the platinum ones are with the 4 prongs at the top.   STOP!  You need to go in there knowing exactly what you need, and getting only that item.  Most people will get the platinum spark plugs by the way.

BMW Service San Diego

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BMW Restorations – Know your options ahead of time

In recent years the restoration market has gone through the roof, especially in the American Muscle car category.  Personally, aside from a 1965 Mustang fastback, I really am a die-hard BMW fan with a few old Ferrari cars mixed in.  With all the hoopla on TV, the auctions, the car shows, etc, many people get into this world of ownership without having the proper knowledge about the car, or about the restoration process in general.  If you are looking at an older BMW with the hopes of restoring it to a fine example of a car, this is what you need to know before buying that ‘candidate’ that needs everything.

BMW Resorations

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The Cooling System – Killing your BMW

I got a phone call from a guy once in regard to his 2002 3-series.  Here’s how it went:

Guy – ‘Hi, yesterday I was driving on the freeway and all of a sudden I lost my power steering, the battery light went on and then I noticed that the temperature gauge was in the red.  So I pulled it over and had it towed to my house and I’d like to tow it over to you to see what is wrong’

Me – ‘Well, what most likely happened is that the water pump failed and you lost the belt that operates your power steering and alternator.  Unfortunately, with the car over-heating, you are most likely going to need a new engine in the car as those engines cannot survive an overheating without major damage.’

Guy – ‘Well, it runs fine except that in the morning it runs pretty rough for about 30 seconds and then it’s really smooth.’

Me – ‘You are definitely going to need an engine, but feel free to tow it in.’

This is the number one killer of BMWs built after 1999.  The Cooling System.

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