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Old 07-30-2020, 10:36 PM   #1
Terry Kennedy
There and back again
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Carmudgeonly Ride: 2003 BMW 325xiT; looking for a new fun car
Location: New York
Posts: 2,655
E46 repairs / longevity / I love my car

Inspired by the "Gunna be a good driving day today !!" thread...

I'd been having unexplained coolant loss (none when parked, but filling before starting would give me an intermittent "add coolant" warning light when running). Plus, it was coming up on an Inspection II (AKA "give us all your money) at 17.5 years / 135K miles. I took it to my local BMW-centric independent shop with the expectation that the leak repair was going to be "replace everything between the fan and the engine block" and it was. Aside from that and the Inspection II there were a bunch of other mostly-minor things, but the out-the-door price was $5300 ($3000+ in parts alone, either BMW or aftermarket depending on where the better quality is found). This on a car that generates automated trade-in offers of between $700 and $3000. Of course, that doesn't take into consideration that it was the highest-spec 325xiT ever sold by BMWNA (confirmed by them - actually spontaneously commented on when I was at a BMW event at Lime Rock years ago and Tom Purves happened to notice my car). And that's before all of the Euro-only options I added, etc. For those who want to catch up, a lot of my mods are documented here.

Anyway, the shop owner commented that my car still drove like a new car and commended me for keeping it. I told him I never intended to sell it.

The shop ends up with a bunch of cars that end up with them due to being much more expensive to repair than they're worth, so the shop pays some small amount and fixes them up to be loaners. The loaner I ended up with while my car was in the shop was a 2005 E90 330xi. What a piece of crap. Aside from the original buyer's terrible taste in color (very light blue exterior, yellow/brownish interior leather and plastic, pecan dash wood) it was far less ergonomic than my E46. Particular complaints include the downward-sloping driver's door armrest with all of the controls bunched up at the far end, 1st-generation iDrive, a generally floaty suspension, etc). The only improved thing I noticed in my 2 weeks with it was the exterior door handle puddle lights, and that is a bit of a gimmick, not a real feature. It had navigation but no disc, so I burned the 2015 (last disc for that generation) DVD and added the shop as the one saved destination as a favor for them.

I never really looked at newer BMWs other than at a 5-series at the New York Auto Show (with some other folks from the 'fest and here), which was the year they replaced the spare tire with a piece of styrofoam that held lots of expensive electronics and that the roof gutters drained into, causing a very expensive non-warranty repair until BMW got slapped with a class action suit. I also looked at importing a new Euro M5 Touring during the last year of production, but there were a bunch of obstacles not worth overcoming. [Yes. there's the 25-year rule. But I know the top lawyer in NJ for vehicle title / registration issues and he can get just about anything done by stipulation, but $$$$.]

When I bought the E46 I'd heard that BMW learned how excessively they'd de-contented the E36 and that most of it had been fixed on the E46. Looks like they forgot that lesson on the E90. Maybe it is like the saying about Star Trek movies, that every other one sucks. But BMW has drifted so far away from their enthusiast roots that I can't see myself ever looking at (let alone buying) a current model.

The only out-of-the-blue repairs (once BMW fixed the wiring harness error when I first bought the car) were 2 window regulators (one failed in the middle of the winter in a blizzard, the other in Death Valley on a dirt road) and a bumper crop of CV joints (which were replaced at no charge after the first 3 as goodwill). The latest CV joints have been good for 60K miles or so now.
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