A Closer Look at BMW Telematics

Have you ever pulled up your favorite GPS program and been pleasantly surprised when it knows just where you’d like to go next? If so, you’ve experienced the benefits of telematics.

Tele-What?

Telematics are services that combine communications technologies with vehicles, computers, and electronics.

Until recently, the banner of telematics was largely carried by companies like Apple and Google. But BMW’s new ConnectedDrive service will offer a fully integrated suite of technologies that surpass and expand on what you might do using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

A Brief History of BMW Telematics

You’re probably aware that your BMW’s onboard computers record data about the car’s operation. For example, a check engine code or your favorite seating position.

BMWs have supported the use of onboard SIM cards since way back in 2001, as any proud E38 or vintage 8-series owner might remind you as they brandish their sweet armrest-entombed Motorola.

However, it’s only recently that wireless technology has become potent enough to relay meaningful information about your car back to BMW corporate servers in real-time and make use of it effectively.

Introducing BMW CarData

Great, so now your car company can track your every move along with your cell phone provider! Don’t lock yourself in the basement just yet, though, because the BMW ConnectedDrive service is completely opt-in.

The service is available as a subscription and can provide several intelligent benefits. It’s been available in Europe since 2017 and is available in the USA since 2020. For example, how about using the car’s voice command system to pull up directions to your next destination on-the-fly?

Directions are only the beginning, though, because the telematics integration built in to new BMWs allows for a host of helpful services and features. All aspects of the driving experience can now be fine-tuned to fit your preferences.

One of the most helpful components of CarData is the ability to request and download your car’s data at any time and manage how it’s used. You’re in control. And there’s a lot you can do with your car’s data.

Tunes, Tuneups, and Cheaper Insurance!

Only you and BMW can see data collected by BMW CarData. However, you can opt to share the data with whomever you decide.

So, in the scenario that you choose to share your data with BMW only, you might get reminders about your vehicle’s service at regular intervals or advice to bring your car in to resolve an outstanding error code. You would also be eligible for over-the-air software updates from BMW, which they promise will take no longer than 20 minutes.

Get a little more adventurous, though, and you might find there are a lot of things you can do with ConnectedDrive and CarData. Imagine authorizing your insurance provider to access your car’s data, revealing that you average a very high number of miles-per-gallon because you follow speed laws and don’t drive aggressively. Add to that that you’ve had no accidents in the past year, and congratulations! You’re eligible for a refund. Or at least a lower rate.

BMW has also promised that CarData and the sister service BMW ConnectedDrive will allow you to take advantage of enhanced functionality from your car’s infotainment system. So you might authorize your favorite streaming radio service to view data on your listening habits and get suggestions about new music or playlists through your BMW’s infotainment interface.

You Control Your Data

BMW Group uses the phrase “trust through transparency” to describe the CarData data sharing architecture on their own website. Rather than shy away from the topic of data governance, CarData is positioned as a system that gives you total control. And from the looks of it, they’ve done a good job.

All third parties that make use of BMW CarData data pay for it. In exchange for their compensation, they get the right to offer special, exclusive services to CarData users. Subscribers can log in to the CarData portal at any time and download a report that will show exactly what data was forwarded to what provider, when, based on your consent.

In a world where it seems our data is being traded, bargained for, and stolen out from under our noses every day, it’s a refreshingly honest approach.

Is CarData for You?

Telematics has historically been the realm of fleet operators who want to keep a close eye on the maintenance of their vehicles to minimize unplanned repair costs. However, the possibilities with these new technologies go far beyond knowing when to check your oil.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are CarData’s two biggest problems. The two popular cell-phone-derived car integration suites might appear to offer the same things that CarData does at first. In fact, they’re somewhat different.

BMW’s decision to launch telematics before many third parties have had the chance to develop more robust offerings might mean it’s slow to catch on. But look for the service to develop a following as more customers are able to take advantage of their vehicle’s data.

The BMW Owner’s Guide to Engine Oil

Whether you’re driving an old beater or the newest model to roll off the assembly line, there is one thing that every BMW has in common — the need for regular oil changes.

What do you need to know about getting engine oil for your car? Can the handy among us change their BMW’s oil at home? Let’s take a closer look at engine oil for the BMW and everything you need to know about it.

Conventional or Synthetic Oil?

When you drive to your local auto parts store, you have two types of oil to choose from — conventional and synthetic. Conventional oil is petroleum-based while synthetic is manufactured with a variety of chemicals and natural elements. Which one do you need for your BMW? That depends entirely on the year, make and model you’re driving.

The best answer to this question is going to be in your owner’s manual. That little booklet in your glove compartment offers a wealth of information on everything from recommended tire pressure to the type and weight of oil you should use for various seasons.

Does Brand Matter?

There are nearly as many brands of motor oil as there are cars. Does the brand of oil you choose matter, or can you just grab whatever is on sale at your local AutoZone?

Again, we recommend referring to your owner’s manual. You may find that it only suggests weight and type, but there are cases where the manufacturer recommends using only BMW branded oil. This is a bit pricier than what you might find on sale, but it is specifically designed to protect BMW engines. If your manual doesn’t recommend BMW branded oil, there will likely be a list of brands that the brand considers safe to use for their vehicles.

What Color Should Your Oil Be?

You should be checking your oil at least once every couple of weeks just to ensure that it’s maintaining levels. For older cars that aren’t equipped with oil level sensors, you may want to bump that up to once a week. When you do, make sure you’re checking the color of your oil as well as the level. Fresh oil should be transparent and amber in color. Over the course of regular use, it will slowly darken. This is entirely normal over the course of a few months, but if your oil is turning black quickly, it could be the sign of another problem.

The same goes for oil that turns milky or opaque. That is usually a sign that there is water in your oil, which could be from a blown head gasket. That is why checking your oil regularly is so important. If you don’t, it could be months before you spot that problem, leaving it to wreak habit inside your engine while you wait for your next oil change.

Can You Change Your BMW’s Oil?

Many DIY mechanics like to change their own oil and do their own maintenance at home, many only taking their car to the shop for major repairs that they don’t have the tools or experience to accomplish. Can you do the same with your BMW?

The short answer is yes, especially on older models. The long answer is more complex. Many modern BMWs built in the last 10 years or so come equipped with engine covers that make it nearly impossible to work on your own vehicle. In some cases, there isn’t even a dipstick for you to check your oil. That said, there are still ways that you can change your own oil so you can skip your trip to the shop. Just make sure you have everything you need on hand so you don’t have to make a mad dash to the parts store.

How Often Are Oil Changes Needed?

Twenty years ago, getting your oil changed every three months or 3,000 miles was the golden rule of automotive maintenance. Older engines and older oil formulations necessitated these frequent changes, but we’re living in the 21st century. The old rule is a thing of the past. Most BMW owner’s manuals recommend changing your oil every 15,000 miles.

If you don’t drive much, you can get away with this extended interval, but in most cases, you’re going to want to change your oil every 7,500 to 10,000 miles. That way you’re getting the most out of your oil but you’re not pushing it to absolute extremes and potentially putting your engine at risk.

Don’t Skip Your Oil Changes

No matter how new or old your BMW is, it can benefit from regular oil changes. Don’t skip this essential maintenance step, no matter how inconvenient it is. Losing an afternoon to an oil change is still less hassle than dealing with a broken-down car.

Adding a Gun Rack to Your BMW: 5 Points to Remember

Whether you’re an avid hunter, or just getting started on your hunting journey, a gun rack in your vehicle can be a valuable tool. These racks keep your firearms accessible while ensuring that they’re secure throughout your trip. 

If you’re thinking about adding a gun rack to your BMW, here are a few things that you should remember. 

1. Understand the Legality 

It’s important to understand the legality of using a mounted gun rack in your vehicle. In most cases, gun racks are legal but you may run into some state-specific caveats. In California, for example, you can only store your rifle or shotgun in a mounted rack if it’s unloaded. 

Everything else has to be both unloaded and stored in a locked container, defeating the purpose of the gun rack. If you bring home an AR-15, it too has to be carried unloaded and in a locked container. AR-15s have other regulations to consider, so it’s important to take a holistic view of things if you’re planning to make a joint purchase of a rack and firearm. 

In Florida, it’s only legal to carry a gun in your car as long as it’s in plain sight unless you have a concealed carry permit. Take the time to study the firearm carry and transportation laws in your state to ensure that it is legal to use a gun rack before you start drilling holes in your BMW.

2. Measure Twice, Drill Once

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when you’re installing any aftermarket equipment on your vehicle is to measure more frequently. 

When you’re working on a carpentry project, the old rule of thumb is to measure twice before you cut once. In this case, you’ll likely be doing more drilling than cutting, but you still want to measure twice to ensure that your installation is even and secure. 

You will be drilling into steel or aluminum, depending on the year and model of your BMW. This is necessary to anchor the gun rack. Make sure you use bits designed specifically for drilling into metal. That way, you’ll have a clean hole to work with and you don’t need to worry about damaging your tools in the process. 

3. Choose the Right Rack

As with most gun accessories, there are so many options to choose from that you may find yourself overwhelmed. Unless you’re planning to stick with one gun for the entire life of your vehicle, it’s not a good idea to purchase a rack that only fits a single model. Instead, opt for a gun rack that will fit in your BMW and will be flexible enough to fit any firearm that you want to carry with you. 

If you are planning on bringing home your first gun, but want to have somewhere to transport it, a flexible rack is going to be your best choice. Say you want to buy a larger gun for hunting or home defense. Having a gun rack that only fits handguns won’t do you much good, will it?

4. Hang Your Gun 

Once your rack is installed, the last thing you need to do is hang your gun to ensure that it’s secure and won’t be in your way while you’re driving. Do this before you start moving, if only because the last thing you want to worry about while you’re tooling down the highway is your gun falling out of the rack. 

If you are going to leave your gun in your vehicle while you’re not driving, it’s a good idea to invest in a rack that offers a locking mechanism as well. It will make removing the firearm more challenging if you have to do so in a hurry, but it will prevent casual thieves from making off with your expensive toys. 

5. Show Off Safely

A few decades ago, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a gun rack hanging in the back of a truck or the back window of a car. While it wasn’t the best option — especially if you consider the kind of damage extended exposure to sunlight can do to stocks and leather accessories — it was useful for anyone who spent a lot of time out hunting or needed a secure way to transport their guns. 

Today, with changes in legislation, you won’t see them as often but they are still valuable tools for anyone who spends a lot of time transporting their rifles or shotguns. 

Before you break out your tools and start shopping for a rack for your BMW, make sure it’s legal to transport your guns that way in your state. 

The Ultimate BMW Forum