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Blog : Shop Talk and BMW Advice

BMW Service – Understanding Your Bill

No one likes to spend money on their car, I hate it as much as you.  However, it’s a fact of life that all cars will at least need gas and oil changes in order that they continue to serve you on a daily basis.  BMWs require more than the average car, but less than others.  Needless to say, luxury cars usually produce luxury maintenance bills, as they are of a higher performance and have more electronic gagets that can break or fail for no apparant reason.  When customers bring their BMW to my shop in San Diego, I feel as though my number one job is to make them understand what they are buying and why.  To me, that’s just as important as fixing their BMW properly.

So, lets just say you brought your BMW to get it serviced and it was recommended that you have an Inspection II performed and your control arm bushings needed repair.  The service advisor tells you that the total cost will amount to about $1000.  Do you know what you are getting?  Did you understand what he or she told you?  Did you just say ok?  Stop.  I see a lot of past bills provided by customers, and in many cases I’m a bit shocked as to what they were charged for, and even more shocked about what things were not done to the car that should have been.  In addition, these bills are extremely difficult to read and are chock-full of words and sentances that just seem to fill the page and nickle and dime the poor bastard up to a $1000 with not much being done.  Call it illegal, call it un-ethical, but that poor bastard was the one that approved it all.  No wonder mechanics have a bad name, they’ve earned it.

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BMW Cup Holders – Why do they break all the time?

Cup holders on BMWs are usually downright junk.  If you have an e39 5-series you probably know exactly what I’m talking about — they’re flimsy, they don’t really hold much more than a can of soda, and if you blow on them too hard they snap in half.  What’s the point??

It wasn’t until the late ’90s that BMW finally made them standard equipment on most models while other manufacturers had been implementing them for years.  The main reason for this is probably a cultural one.  Germans, as a whole, do not bring food into their cars.  Most wouldn’t even fathom it.  The only thing that Germans typically would do while driving in their car is smoke.  Which is why all BMWs seem to have an adequate ashtray and lighter that is reachable and convenient.

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BMW Body Designations – Which “e” is my BMW?

While at your BMW Service Center you might have overhead a lot of “e” words, and possibly some “f” and “s” words, but terms such as e36, e60 and e28 have a distinct meaning to BMW technicians and enthusiasts.  For instance, if you have a 2003 330i, it is termed an e46.  These ‘e’ terms are used to identify BMW Body style design depending on the look and year of your BMW.  E is short for “Entwicklung” which is the German word for development, or to link the ‘e’, evolution.

If all these terms are Greek to you, here is a list that should prove helpful in determining the code name of your BMW.

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BMW of the Week – 1973 BMW 3.0cs – BARN FIND!

“Barn Finds” are talked about rather frequently amongst classic car collectors, no matter their preference in automobiles.  It’s a story of driving down a country road and out of the corner of your eye you see the sun reflecting off the chrome of a car just sitting half covered in a shack.  After approaching the owner you come to find that it belonged to their grandfather and has just been “sitting there” since the 70’s . . .

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Your BMW Warranty has expired – What now??

Once the factory warranty expires on your BMW, it can be a scary thing.  If your philosophy toward car care is the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” you’ll need to change your views on car maintenance or head down to trade it in for a new one.

Over the past 5 years I’ve noticed an incredible pattern with BMW owners.  They have little or no problems while under the warranty, which is not surprising as today’s automobiles are usually symptom free for the first 4 years or 50k miles.  They will have one or two little issues pop up from 50-70k miles which they will pay for out of pocket, and it’ll typically be expensive but not painful.   Things are honky-dory for the next year or so until 80k rolls around, then the car will basically need about $3,000 in catch-up work and they wind up hating their car.  Ouch! 

If your warranty expires today, here’s a few starters to keep the car going strong and to keep your wallet out of harm’s way.

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BMW and the Monterey Historics

A visit to the Monterey Historics should be on the ‘list of things to see before you die’ for any fan of vintage cars.  It is just around the corner, running from 8/15-8/17, see www.montereyhistoric.com for more details.  What the website won’t tell you is just how incredible this experience can be, and that you really need to be there for a full week.  There are many events not to miss, especially the concours events that are not really part of the Rolex event, but always coincide with the weekend.  This is a bit of a snap-shot from my last visit which was two years ago.

Far left is Rug Cunningham (since deceased) of Cunningham BMW.  He was one of the great dealership owners who had an extreme passion for BMW racing and was a staple of the historics as long as BMW was allowed in the gates.  Toward the middle is Boris Said, a successful GT Driver and current NASCAR driver for NoFear.  I first met Boris at a BMW tech conference in St. Louis and see him at different events here and there.  Incredibly edgy driver and a nice guy.

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Profile – BMW e30 325i – A new Classic

If you are looking for a Classic BMW, but you’re not prepared to spend upwards of $15,000, you just can’t beat the BMW e30 3-series. The ‘e30’ was delivered to the US Market between about 1984-1992, but I’d stick to the 325i versions from 1987-1992.  You can get them cheap, they are extremely reasonable to service, and they are a blast to drive.  What more can you ask for in an older BMW?  The e30 was available in various engine and interior combinations over the years, but the two that stand out are the 325ic and the 325is from about 1987-1992.

The BMW e30 325ic (1987-1992) – BMW goes topless for the Masses

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Tires for your BMW and the Run-Flat issue

Buying tires for your BMW can be expensive, and with so many brands these days that it can be hard to find what’s best for you and your car.  In San Diego we have it easy; all we use are High Performance Summer tires and never really have to worry about wet weather or snow.  If you live in an area that is subject to foul weather, my first suggestion is that you pick up another set of wheels and have all-weather tires mounted and keep them in your garage for when the weather gets bad.

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Oil and your BMW – Which is the Best?

There really is no ‘best’ oil to pour in the engine of your BMW, after all, if there was one that shined completely above the rest you’d be buying it.  Engine Oil has always been a great debate for those that are a bit serious about their service.  I sometimes feel that debating about oil brands is much like squabbling over which Brewery produces the best Lager.  I love beer, and I’ve had some really crap beers (especially in college) and I’ve had some really good beers.  Same can be said for Oil.  Crappy oil is the stuff that is really cheap, has generic packaging and there is usually almost all of it still on the shelf – the ‘Natrual Light’ of oils.  Hopefully none of you are using that stuff, or worse yet, drinking that sort of beer.

I find that the most common oils in the great debate are Mobile-1, Castrol, Royal Purple, and Amsoil.  I should say that I am not a fluids expert, I’ve done no crazy amount of testing on any of these oils, nor have I read 15 different case studies that have — this is all based on experience (and opinion).  Aside from all the great things that oil does for any engine, modern BMWs need oil to feed both the Vanos unit(s) as well as the hydraulic lifters (if your engine has them).  Now for my super scientific test results.

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