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Tools You Need for Working on Your BMW

Making the commitment to work on your BMW rather than sending it to a shop is commendable, but even with the money you save in labor, you’ll need to make an initial investment in tools. We’re not talking about spending thousands of dollars for BMW-specific VANOS adjustment toolkits from Germany, just the basics.

There’s nothing worse than getting halfway into a job and discovering you haven’t got the tool you need to fix your car. With a little bad luck, this could mean undoing all your work so you can drive back to the auto parts store. Rather than have that happen, get these essentials in your garage before you get started.

A Socket Set

Many BMWs come with a small toolkit that folds down from the top of the trunk. In it, you’ll find around 10 basic tools you can use to do basic jobs on your car, including box wrenches. You only need to try removing a battery with a box wrench once to learn the value of a good ratchet and socket set.

A Torque Wrench

The service manual says those head studs should be tightened down to 100 ft. lbs., but, hey, if you guesstimate, what could go wrong? The answer is, quite a bit. Instead of being unsure and putting expensive BMW parts at risk, get yourself a torque wrench so you know when you’ve tightened things to the proper spec.

An Air Compressor

An air compressor is a particularly handy tool for cars that do weekend warrior duty at the track. It’s easy to let air out of your tires, but how do you air up without visiting a gas station? Install a compressor in your garage and you’ll be able to stiffen up those sidewalls before your track session. Just make sure you allow them to cool before letting air out — you could damage tires if you don’t wait.

A Multimeter

Why isn’t that new head unit you installed working? Should you be worried about the life left in your alternator? Is that broken window switch just not getting power, or is something else wrong? These questions and many more can all be answered by the handy electrical multimeter, a tool all car do-it-yourselfers should own.

A Work Light

Is a light a tool? We say yes. When the sun goes down and you’re still knee-deep in a project, a work light lets you get the job done. Besides, if you fail, all the people at cars and coffee are going to give you crap about BMW reliability. Actually, they’ll probably do that anyway — but the point remains, don’t be that Bimmer owner.

An Impact Gun

When you’re working on suspension components, wheels have to come off. When you’re working on other components, sometimes you need to get to suspension components. Impact guns make this easy, and they can remove or install a whole lot more than just wheels. Plus, they make the coolest sound of any car tool, so who wouldn’t want one?

This list will get you off to a good start, and there are many more wise additions to your toolset you can make from here. Equipped with a solid set of tools, your BMW repairs will be cheaper, your bond with your car will be stronger — and, most importantly, your bank account will be fatter.

My Buddy Found this in an M3’s Oil Pan…

You don’t need to be a Nobel Laureate to know that E46 M3’s have a few issues. Let’s see, there’s Vanos, rod bearings, and cracked subframes to name a few. But when these cars work, oh man are they the bestest. I wrote that last sentence like a twelve-year-old, because that’s what an E46 M3 does to me; They make me feel like a kid again. I get all giddy inside and all I want to do is put my hands all over it and go fast. It’s one of the car fountains of youth. I’ll own one someday.

It was yesterday, however, when my friend on the other side of the country set about to take up a mountainous task: Changing an E46 M3’s rod bearings. It’s not his own car, but a friend’s. He used his own as a guinea pig to rather good success, as so he told. And now he’s applying his talents to another specimen. Hope he’s getting somewhat compensated for his journey to Mordor…But, this article isn’t about rod bearings though.

So I’m at work when he sends me the photo above. The caption? “This was in Harper’s oil pan…” Yikes. Doing the rod bearings does require dropping the oil pan. Normally, you should only have oil in there, not metal parts. These look like 9mm bullet casings though. What could they be from?  My friend has pointed to the Vanos system for fault. The car in question was bought with the prior owner stating that the Vanos had been replaced. Why was it replaced? Likely because it exploded, made obvious by the loose gaggle of parts. But, they didn’t fish out the parts that grenaded, just put new in. What are those metal pieces exactly? Could be a roller bearing in the oil pump or drive disc.

Either way, the amazing thing is that the car is fine. Who knows how long this debris has been in the pan. A win on BMW’s part for putting a shield in the pan to prevent the oil pump from sucking it up and distributing throughout the engine. That would’ve made things go bang.

I’m not saying everyone should drop their oil pans just to see if they have metal bits in there. Or you could drop your oil pan and find a gold Rolex. But maybe use it as a buying lesson. The prior owner DIY’d the Vanos, so when buying an E46 M3, make sure you really trust them as a mechanic. If the owner says he did “everything himself” but acts like a clown school dropout, maybe it’s best to walk away. The M3 in question though, it’s not giving up that easily!

Is the new 2017 BMW 5 Series a hit or miss?

Well by now you’ve all seen it. The new 2017 BMW 5 Series, that is. It’s hard to believe the current F10 generation 5-series has been on sale since 2010. Yes, it’s old. It’s a very familiar shape on the road, having been a smashing sales success for the Roundel. However, to keep up with the times, BMW has ended the life of the F10 for the new G30 edition.

As you might recall from my drive of a 528i in Florida, it’s bit of a mixed bag in how I regard the outgoing 5 Series. I find it’s shape incredibly unexciting, and lacks emotion and further excitement while driving, but it is very comfortable, gets great gas mileage when easing on it, has great power and one of the best transmissions available. Overall it’s a good car, but not exactly a BMW in my opinion. But then, what do I know; I’m just an Internet nitpicker.

2017 BMW 5 Series Rear

So, for the new 2017 BMW 5 Series to be any good it would have to address my issues with it’s immediate predecessor. As far as looks go at least, it is a definite improvement. Taking the appearance of a shrunken 7 Series, it exudes a satisfying shape of elegance and class. But I still wish it had more drama to the shape. Optioning the M-sport package sure spices things up with the larger, almost gaping front air intakes to show it means business. The M5, with the surely obligatory wide fender flares and haunches will be a real looker given the base car’s form. I’m not too sure about the hockey stick running along the bottom of the doors though. It’s directly taken from the 7 and I didn’t like it there either. BMW indubitably could have come up with a more interesting design cue for that area.

The real question though, is how will it drive? If the direction the new 7 went is any indication, I don’t think it will win me over in this category. The new 7 is wonderfully compliant and smooth. With the seat massages optioned and rear-seating package, it is, to be frank, a very nice place to be. The 7, though, does drive with a sense of disconnection, isolating the driver and his/her entourage from the outside environment. It’s not my exact ideal driving characteristics, far from it to be precise, but it is slated as a genuine luxury car. It’s a car that puts on, as Will Ferrell would say, its big-boy pants, every day; not a racing suit. This is what the 7 is supposed to be, not a sports car, so I can’t dislike it for that reason.

However, if the 5 were to achieve this same style, I would be disappointed. The 5 series has always been, historically at least, a driver’s car, just of a larger dimension. Each time I’ve had a chance behind the wheel of an E60 era 535i, with it’s twin turbo six, it’s a joy compared to the outgoing model. The steering has brilliant weighting and feedback with a firecracker of an engine. V8 guise gets even better, and has aged remarkably well when wearing the M-sport uniform, especially the M5. This is the car I would like the new 5 to be more like, but seeing its emphasis on technology, it likely will continue in BMW’s current trend of further disengaging the driver. Though, compared to the last Mercedes Benz E350 I drove, a current 528i feels like a track star. It could be disconnected as per BMW standards, but will very likely be the driver’s pick still of the current range of offerings by rival marques.

The engines on offer seem to be the same that appear in the also new-for-2017 330i and 340i, and will receive the same bumps in model name. The entry-level four-cylinder 5 will be called the 530i and the six-cylinder variant the 540i. You know, they have to seem like they’re improving in some regard. Bigger number, better car, right?

Autonomous driving capabilities seem to be pushing further to full robotics each few months, and BMW has instilled the G30 with some self-driving prowess of its own. No, it’s not a Tesla in what it can do, but remember, people usually buy BMW’s because of how they drive, not how they, er, drive you. A new version of iDrive also appears imminent, even if iDrive 5.0 only was released a year ago. It looks to continue the trend of BMW having the easiest and most intuitive infotainment system on market. In terms of features of the technological kind, the new ‘5 has got it made.

Perhaps my biggest wish of the new 2017 BMW 5 Series? That it includes a backup camera as standard equipment. I mean, come on, how is a backup camera not included as standard on a $50k+ car? That is perhaps my number one “what were they thinking moment?” on the outgoing car. Wonder how many people bought 5’s thinking it standard only to be surprised when going into reverse.

There you have it, my thoughts on the incoming 5-series. I’m sure it will be another BMW sales success, but will it be a success as a BMW is the real question. We will just wait and see!