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??

What we try to do during the Inspection II, is to change every single servicable item on the car that we can. We recommend this service about every 25k miles or every 2 years. The meat and potatoes of this is typically the following:

BMW Oil Change

1. Oil change, transmission fluid change, differential fluid change.

These are the three basic fluids that allow the car to keep moving.  On the side of every BMW transmission you will find the words “Lifetime Oil.”  Which means that you never have to change the fluid, as it is good for the lifetime of the transmission . . . . well . . . all that means is that when the transmission dies that the fluid is still in there.  See where I’m going with this?  It is essential to change your BMW transmission fluid with every tune up to increase the ‘lifetime’ of the transmission.  Transmissions range from about $4-6K installed.  If you can get another 50-75k miles out of the transmission by simply changing the fluid, it’s worth it.  The differential allows the rear wheels to turn and also can benefit from fresh oil and the engine oil change is part of every tune up.

BMW Spark Plugs

2. Spark Plugs changed and valves adjusted (when possible).

Some cars, mostly older, have adjustable valves.  Having the proper valve clearance is essential to how your BMW performs.  If valves are too tight, or too loose, it can damage the engine.  The spark plug issue is a great one.  Spark plugs are good for about 30k miles tops.  Many are of the opinion that they last for 100k miles, which they can, but not without costing you.  Time after time I review customers’ past bills and I see that they have bought ignition coils at about $90 a piece.  The ignition coils allow the spark plug to fire while the engine is running.  What I never see on those bills is the purchase or installation of new spark plugs, which cost about $16 a piece at the high end.  What has happened is that the plugs are so worn that the coils are continually stressed out and ultimately fail in their efforts in getting a limping spark plug to keep firing.  I’d rather spend $16 on a plug, than $90 on a coil — plus my engine will run better.

 BMW Filters

3.  Air filter, Fuel filter, interior microfilter

These are all basic items that promote clean air and clean fuel.  The interior microfilter cleans the air that enters the passenger compartment.  I’ve seen these filters so clogged that barely any air will come out of the vents when the A/C is on.  If your car has a funky smell when you have the A/C on, chances are that your filter is bad.

In addition to these items a good Inspection II should also provide an inspection of the entire car.  Check the suspension, check the tires, look for alignment issues, and check the brakes.  Check all mounting points for the engine, transmission and differential, as well as inspecting the driveshaft for any faults. A general look at all the safety items to make sure that they are functioning properly (but we don’t test airbags).  Generally you want to have all the door hinges lubricated and the weatherstripping treated with protectant.  We also scan every single module on your car to see if there are any issues worth investigating, and re-set your ‘Inspection’ light.

What is most important is that the technician that performs your Inspection II is familiar with your car and the possible issues that may arise.  Like I said before, I’m not too privy to Mercedes Benz and the different issues that certain models have.  What I am able to do on any BMW however, is to zero-in on areas of the car that are known to present driveability or safety issues, and address them accordingly.  Knowing how to change all of the tune-up items is great, but knowing the car you are working on is so much more valuable.  It allows me to give you a detailed report of what your car needs now, and what it might need 6 months from now, allowing you to plan ahead instead of getting hit with a big repair bill at a bad time.

A proper Inspection II Service is probably the best thing that you can stay committed to during your ownership of a BMW.  It keeps the car efficient, well tuned, and most importantly, you’ll be well informed.

Chris Keefer

Independent Motorcars

5836 Autoport Mall

San Diego CA 92121