All posts by Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington writes all over the internet about cars. He was (probably accidentally) interviewed to be the host of the next Top Gear USA.

How to Fix Your BMW’s Windshield

Bimmers are famous for masking speed, a major factor in the unfair reputation BMW owners get for always pushing the pace in traffic. We’re not here to pass judgment about your driving habits, but if you’re going to explore the upper registers of the speedometer, we recommend making sure you have good visibility. That means keeping your windshield well maintained.

Windshield repair and replacement can be an expensive operation, and even more expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s highly recommended to do this at a shop and let the professionals do it. However, if you have plenty of experience with other repairs, you could give it a shot.

When to Make a Repair

Sometimes windshield damage can appear minor and then propagate. You can probably drive your BMW following minor window damage, but it’s best to act quickly to avoid the risk that the crack will spread. It might take some time to do, but if you don’t make proper repairs it can lead to a very unsafe driving situation.

Removing a Damaged Windshield

As with many premium brands, BMW repairs can have strangely high prices even when the work is the same for your car as the average econobox. Removing a windshield is one of these cases. So again, this can be pretty expensive if you make a mistake, which is why it’s usually better to go to a pro.

Begin by removing plastic trim and molding around the windshield using a pry tool, being careful not to damage your BMW’s finish. With this complete, use a cold knife or razor and separate the window glass and body. Cut the urethane from inside the vehicle to avoid breaking glass. Do as little damage to the pinch weld where glass and body material meet as possible.

Prepping for the Install

With your damaged windshield removed, clean the open pinch weld where the glass seats in the body. Remove any excess urethane. Add tape to any exposed metal that is not sanded, and then apply primer to the bare metal in several thin coats. This will encourage the frit band on your new BMW windshield to seat properly.

Finally, use a caulk gun to apply new urethane around the entire pinch weld. While you can use a manual gun, we recommend using an electric one to get a consistent seal and avoid air bubbles that could result in a leak down the road.

Seat the New Windshield

You’re nearly finished. With help from a friend, carefully align the new windshield with the pinch weld. Some windshield glass will include mounting blocks that will help guide you. Avoid touching the frit band, as oils from your skin will contaminate the bond between your glass and the car’s body.

You may have seen tape around the windshield of cars that have had glass replaced. This is one technique you can use to help support the glass until the urethane dries. The last step is to remove any old windshield clips and push a new gasket into place. Replace the trim around the glass, and you’re good to go.

Nice work! The price of a new BMW windshield install can exceed $1,100 in many cases, so treat yourself to a beer.

BMW Considered Most Trusted When It Comes to Driverless Tech

More people trust BMW to build self-driving cars than any other automaker, says a survey by car-tracking company Satrak. The brand from Bavaria earned the top spot over competition that included tech companies like Tesla and Uber, as well as more traditional auto marques.

More than half of people surveyed, 52%, said they would trust a self-driving vehicle from BMW. That number handily trumps the next-closest result, 39%, which went to Volvo. Also competing for the top spot were BMW’s neighbors Mercedes and Audi.

Age and Wisdom Defeat Youth and Guile

Despite offering one of the most advanced autopilot features on the market, up-and-comer Tesla only earned a 19% trust rating. It’s possible the low score is due to questionable performance from these types of systems.

Uber, who have never actually marketed a vehicle, finished a single point short of Tesla with an 18% trust rating. Google, which has invested heavily in robotics and is already testing self-driving cars in California, got only a 3%.

Location, Location, Location

Consumers seemed more inclined to trust well-established automotive brands than upstarts that might offer some experience in the high-tech end of driving automation. While the three German brands represented all performed well, Great Britain earned the highest trust rating of any country, with a score of 48%. Germany was second at 41%. Apparently, none of those polled had ever driven an MG or Jaguar.

Brands from parts of the globe less well-known for cars did not fare so well. Skoda, a Czech brand, scored a 15% trust rating, beating out French brand Citroën by a single point. When compared from a geographic standpoint, Czech cars earned a low 7% to France’s 13%.

What Will Self-Driving Bimmers Be Like?

To call BMW — or any of the brands included in this poll — low-tech is really unfair. The entire automotive industry has thrown itself at producing self-driving cars. Many brands, BMW included, have promised to deliver these game-changing vehicles by 2021.

The blue and white brand has been committed to self-driving tech for some time now. They sent a 330i around the Top Gear track under its own control as far back as 2007, and more recently taught their cars to drift themselves.

Having a reputation as a luxury brand gives BMW access to a large market of consumers interested in features like autopilot. Their line of i cars, which is expected to receive a refresher soon with the new all-electric i8, will make the perfect marketing vehicle for self-driving tech, no pun intended.

There is still a large body of consumers to win over, and BMW will have to compete with other manufacturers expected to deliver similar offerings around the same time. These include Ford, Toyota/Lexus, Tesla and Audi, to name a few.

For now, however, it seems their public is in agreement. BMW really does build the ultimate driving machine.

What to Look for When Buying a used BMW

Depending on who you ask, BMW either stands for the ultimate driving machine or “breaks monthly or weekly.” Ask a seasoned wrench hand their opinion of these cars and they’ll probably say the same thing they do of most cars. If you treat them well and take care of them, you shouldn’t expect more trouble with a bimmer than any other car.

What you can expect is an engaging driving experience, styling that is instantly recognizable but not obnoxious, and an interior that neatly walks the line between luxury and purpose. For many owners, nothing but a BMW will do, and these cars can be had at very accessible price ranges. So how do you make sure the car you pick is the right one?

Know What you Want

BMW is often credited with inventing the sports sedan, or at least bringing it to the masses. While smallish saloon cars and coupes remain the German automaker’s bread-and-butter, there are so many variants on the used car market it can be difficult to know where to start. You can even choose a BMW SUV, if that’s your thing.

The Three Series, BMW Iconoclast

A good place to begin your homework is with the three series, the car that made BMW what it is today. You could probably plop down for any six-cylinder three series made in the last thirty years with decent maintenance history and mileage and have a perfectly enjoyable car. They’re that good.

This is not to say that four-cylinder cars should be avoided, in particular the latest generation of small-displacement cars are very good, however with the exception of the now unicorn-status first-generation M3, most early four-pot cars were underpowered and not particularly stout.

Z cars typically fall into the 3-series bucket, and while opinions on styling vary, they don’t suffer from any outrageously different ailments than your typical 3-series, and might be described as a generally underappreciated small sports car.

The Five Series, Workaday Warrior

If the three series brought sport sedans to the masses, the five brought sports sedans to the junior executive. Offering slightly more room and plusher appointments than their smaller brethren, five series cars still offer exceptional driving dynamics.

Mid-2000s cars are subject to some questionable styling practices in the form of the notorious “bangle butt”, so if you’re in the market for a premium car, look for later models. If you’re willing to go earlier, a cozy 540i with 15 years or so of patina can be had for less than ten grand, and you get the decadence of a Bavarian-built V8. Just make sure you understand the inevitable costs of maintenance.

The five series was also the original family to launch a BMW SUV, the venerated X5. While there are 3, 4, 6 and 1-series variants out there, all of which are competent crossovers, the 5 is probably your best bet for a used BMW four-wheeler. Aside from the X models, if it’s rocking a roundel and 4wd, and wasn’t made in the last five years, purchase at your own risk.

The Seven, Like an S-Class With Handling Dynamics

About those maintenance costs, add a thirty-percent premium for BMW’s flagship land yacht, the autobahn-cruising seven. Having the best of everything, including particularly cosseting interiors that even included optional water buffalo hides on select models, comes at a price. But few cars dominate the road like a well-kept seven series.

Getting into a later model seven could be difficult as even used cars tend to be exclusively expensive or carry mileage well in excess of 100k. Stick to the V8 cars and avoid the seductive V12 unless you’re prepared to give your first born to keep it on the road. And that’s assuming it doesn’t break.

One-Offs and B-Sides

In addition to the standard three—five—seven lineup, BMW has made a huge number of unique models. In recent years, the brand has also used up just about every one of the digits with the exception of nine.

One and two series cars make a good choice if you’re looking for a compact and can afford a late-model BMW. The occasional six series is approachable these days, and there are some remnants of the old “shark nose” cars from the seventies floating around out there. Both are large, asphalt-leveling coupes on opposite ends of the price spectrum.

Speaking of big coupes, BMW’s attempt at a halo car was the early-90s eight series. Hardcore collectors love these cars, but those new to motoring or BMW should steer clear, if you even spot one, because of preventatively high maintenance costs.

M is for Motorsports

Actually, it probably stands for some German word that means motorsports. M cars are BMW’s homage to the company’s racing heritage. They offer uprated feedback and engagement, and limits that can be unreasonable to challenge without risking a ticket, or worse.

If you choose to go this route, get a full mechanic’s inspection, do your homework on the specific model, know what breaks, and be prepared to pay significant maintenance costs. Also, take comfort in knowing you’ll crack a smile every time you get behind the wheel. Just maybe keep the traction control on for the first week or so.

Take-home Lessons

These are good general pointers about what’s out there, but the best advice I can give you about purchasing a car is to do your homework about that particular car. Find out how many owners it has had, where it came from, and whether important recall work has been carried out.

If you’re buying a BMW for the first time, congratulations. Be smart and you’ll come away with a car that delivers driving pleasure not many can match.