Category Archives: Car Care

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.

Take Your BMW Wrenching to the Next Level

Working on your own car is one of the joys of ownership, and many BMW owners have some working knowledge of how to repair their cars, but just how comfortable are you turning wrenches when the stakes are high?

Mechanics spend years learning the ins and outs of specific BMW models, so when you begin life as a Bimmer enthusiast, don’t feel bad if a few trips to the shop are required. Over time, you can work on enhancing your skills. Stay with it, and a few years down the road you could be bolting whole cars together in your garage!

Entry-Level Jobs

No matter what kind of car you drive, saving money on maintenance and repair bills is an attractive idea. This is why many car enthusiasts choose to perform small jobs like oil changes and spark plug swaps on their own.

You will need a basic set of tools to pull off even these tasks — your car is not a snap-together model. For a few hundred dollars, you can pick up a basic set and a crawler to allow access below the vehicle. Don’t forget a quality set of jack stands — without them, you can’t raise the car off the ground safely.

Stepping Your Game Up

Once you’ve learned the basic layout of your BMW and how to find everything when the car’s in the air, you can begin to tackle tougher jobs. Maybe you’d like to install some upgraded suspension components or change out an old and failing radiator.

The more advanced jobs you’ll take on will require better access to the car. To give yourself better access and visibility when performing these jobs, a lift makes a great investment. If you know you will use it, you will recoup the money on jobs that would have required a mechanic’s facilities down the road. In some cases, you can even use a lift to add some parking space.

Advanced Procedures

When you’re comfortable making changes to individual components and performing routine maintenance, you can begin to consider doing more advanced jobs. There are classes available both for BMW-specific applications, and general engine work, you should attend if you’re going to do these jobs.

More advanced work might include complicated engine repair such as changing a camshaft or bottom-end component, or it might be making considerable modifications. Many enthusiasts talk about wanting to do an engine swap on their BMW, and while it’s certainly possible, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.

You Should Also Buy Some Orange Clean

Or GoJo — whatever pumice-derived cleaner you like best — because when you achieve this level of mechanical knowledge, all your friends are going to come around wanting your help. Hey, you live this stuff anyway, right? And if times get tough, you can always find work at a shop.

There are many reasons to begin doing your own work on your BMW. Start today and become a part of the movement keeping these timeless cars alive and well on the world’s roads.

When to Replace Your BMW’s Suspension

BMW may stand for the ultimate driving machine, but even the ultimate driving machine is subject to the wear and tear that comes in the course of everyday motoring. Depending on how often you drive your bimmer, your attitude behind the wheel and the road conditions your car sees, it will have different maintenance needs.

While most suspension components aren’t typically considered wear parts like your brake pads or clutch, they will need replacing if you keep your BMW for a long time. How do you know when it’s time to swap your worn suspension components out for new ones?

Signs of a Worn Suspension

The easy answer is when it feels sloppy and disgusting. Of course, there are varying degrees of slop that a driver will live with depending on their needs for the car. What one person might interpret as bad, another could view as an extra plush ride.

Your car’s springs control forward and rearward motion, while shock absorbers locate the wheel and help the body roll left and right. A car that rocks fore and aft when performing mundane maneuvers like a simple stop is likely in need of new shocks, springs or both.

Why a Warn Suspension Is Risky

While some authorities will tell you to replace shocks at a particular mile mark, that isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more about how the shock absorber performs, and performance will degrade more quickly in a car that is driven more or carries heavy loads frequently.

If you choose to keep running suspension components that are on their way to the scrap heap, you could end up doing more harm than good. Bottoming out and overloading suspension components can cause damage to your car’s bodywork or sensitive mechanical bits.

If you’re not sure what your car needs to resolve unacceptable suspension behavior, go to a professional mechanic for advice.

OEM or Aftermarket Replacements

It’s safest to replace the equipment on your BMW with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts because they are the same ones BMW used in the original design. However, some owners will want to use different parts to imbue their BMW with a more performance-oriented ride. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to do your homework to make sure the parts you get will deliver what you want.

Often, people choose to install coil-over suspension kits that ride more stiffly and can alter the ride height of the car. These upgrades will give a more aggressive look and increase the vehicle’s grip when cornering, but the tradeoff could be a harsher ride during your daily commute.

The internet is a great place to do your research if you think you want to tweak the way your car handles. While shocks and springs are some of the most critical components, there are also additional suspension components that may wear down, or that you might want to replace. These include anti-roll bars, A-arms, rear trailing arms and even bushings.

If you’ve waited to maintain the suspension on your BMW, get the job done right so you can be safer and more confident on the road.