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.
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. (more…)
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?? (more…)
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.
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.
Right around the late 90’s BMW decided, for some reason, to change the ‘Check Engine’ light to read ‘Service Engine Soon’. One problem I have found on the consumer level is that most people see ‘Service Engine Soon’ and feel as though it is time for an oil change, which makes sense. Check Engine has been the standard for years throughout the automobile industry, so I’m not quite sure why they changed it, and I’m not going to call and ask.
I feel as though my first duty to everyone is to get them on the right track as far as maintenance is concerned. Let’s talk about Oil Changes. BMW is now telling it’s customers that they only need to change their oil every 15,000 miles. DO NOT follow this maintenance schedule!!! You must change your oil every 5,000 miles, or twice a year if you put fewer than 10,000 miles on your BMW. My first encounter with the end result of this program came on a 2001 BMW 525it with 86,000 miles. It had a leaking valve cover gasket, so we removed the valve cover and uncovered what is now a growing problem: