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The joys of owning a BMW...


Nick

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Warning: Long essay/rant ahead.

Well guys, it has been a while. I remember a couple years ago making threads on deciding what car I was to get. It has been about a year and a half since I have owned my 1999 BMW 540 6-speed. I just love the car. It is pretty close to what my view of a perfect car is. I love to drive it. It drives great, it is nice inside and out and has respectable performance.

When I got the car it was pretty much stock (except for the Dinan CAI and Stage 2 software). Since then, the car and I have been through a lot together. When I got it I knew it wasn't going to be cheap, and that I would have to maintain it. This didn't bug me too much, and for quite a while I was able to work on it and maintain it myself. Even install and paint/prep upgrades where/when it was needed. Almost right away I got new wheels for it, then came new grills, taillights and side markers, along with the trim spoilers to really set it off. I then picked up a few interior tidbits which complemented the interior quite nicely. I got a high performance clutch pack for it, I piecked up the euro angel eye xenon headlamps for it, upgraded engine and tranny mounts along with a short shift kit complete with double sheer selector rod. New brembo rotors and pbr pads with stainless lines and ATE blue fluid. Not to mention the full suspension install I did which consisted of Koni sport adjustable shocks/struts, H&R springs, and eibach sway bars. All this along with a multitude of other things, including all the maintenance and repairs such as replacing pullies, belts, hoses, nearly the entire cooling system, valve cover gaskets, thrust arms, and many other things.

After spending so much time with the car and over 30k racked up on the odo I felt a conenction with it. Granted, I felt a connection with it on day one, but it grew over time. I felt a strong emotional, and even physical conenction with the car.

My car is not the most reliable of BMW's. BMW specializes in their I6 engine and only recently have they started dipping into the world of 8+ cylinders. They haven't been in the game too long, and if you want to get right down to it, my engine, the M62tu, is one of the first V8 blocks BMW has ever really produced (yes, before that was the M60, but the M62 isn't much different from the M60...basically the same engines, the m62 is 4.4 and has more torque compared to the m60's 4.0...same hp though...i won't get too much into it). Their M62 was a great engine. It performed very well overall and made decent numbers at 282hp and 324lb/ft. On the other hand, it's longer term reliability turned out to be not so pretty. The cooling system was a disaster with seams bursting on the plastic/aluminum composite radiators, expansion tanks cracking, water pumps failing, and clutch fans seizing. Then of course there was the infamous valve cover gaset leaks and worn out thrust arm bushings. If one thign can be said about their "reliability" it was that they were very consistent. Nearly every engine would have the same issues at the same mileage intervals. This made working on it easy as there was a wealth of information on it available through the itnernet, especially my bigegst resource, BimmerForums, which helped me through a lot (with over 80k memebrs last time I checked which was a while ago it is an abundant soruce of info regarding these cars). BMW is starting to get it down now and their new V8 engines are pretty nice. Much more reliable than my engine anyhow, and their valvetronic technology is much improved over their older vanos technology.

Something catastrophic happened to me recently (maybe it could be classified under that C&G curse I hear everyone talking about :P ). About a month ago I was driving into work. It is about 4:00 in the afternoon and I'm cruising on the 101 heading in to the valley driving through Calabasas. I'm in the fast lane and after finishing going up the grade, traffic speeds up again as the freeway dips down into the valley. I'm cruising a bit, going maybe in the 75 range...traffic wasn't too bad at that point. All of a sudden my engine light starts blinking, and not a moment later my car begins to misfire like crazy and dies. Traffic is too heavy and moving too fast to merge over so here I am beginning my humiliating coast to a hault in the fast lane on the 101 during afternoon rush (of coruse, this part of the 101 just happens to be the part where the left side shoulder/emergency lane just ends). When my car died I immediately threw my hazards on and coasted to a hault. I call up AAA and they notify CHP and send a tow truck out immediately. Not long after the call a metro patrol truck spots me and pulls up behind me with his lights on and he confirms the chp is on his way, and a minute later I can see a chp weaving ont he freeway slowing traffic to a dead stop. The metro patrl truck pulls perpendicular to the freeway stopping all traffic completely goign in my direction. How humiliating, yet still somewhat surreal seeing all those cars backed up for miles and yet nothing in sight in the other direction. The chp says over te PA system " Make sure the car is in neutral and the brakes are off. I am going to push you off to the side and we will continue off and through the exit" (which just happened to be Fallbrook, and there is a neighborhood right off that exit). He gently taps my rear and we're off. He pushed me into the neighborhood where I await for the tow truck. Luckiyl he was pretty cool about it. He wasn't an ass or anything which he could've been, especially because of my limo tint windows. He didn't say anything, but I was nervous for a second as he went ahead of me to turn around and then waved bye to me as I returned the wave but then realized he couldn't see it due to my limo tint widnows all around. He was cool though (lucky for me).

When I got the car back to my house I checked the codes with my code reader...I haven't seen so many codes before. All cylinders misfired, there were vanos errors popping up everywhere, plus a multitude of other messages...I had it taken in to a shop the next morning. The mechanic dropped my oil pan and knew what was wrong right away. I came in and he showed me the elftover fragments of my timing chain guide along with metal shavings galore. It didn't look good, and he confirmed the worst.

The timing chain guide broke. When this happened the car jumped timing, with this came the likely collision of valves with pistons and valve guides, and the overall destruction of my heads among other things. My timing chains would also have to be reset. In the end, the entire engine might as well be f@#ked. It would be cheaper to replace the engine with a used/refurbished engine than to fix the issues on my engine. We got some second opinions and they all confirmed the same thing. I didn't know what to do. For a week or two I was driving aronud in a neon rental car, then I jsut bummed rides and borrowed cars from the family. It was stressful and put a huge burden on everybody. The car is still sitting out in front of my house, lifeless. I have no doubt that the cause of the malfunction was due to Vanos. The funny thing is nobody has ever heard of my issue, and I am willing to bet I am one of the few documented cases of this ever happening...if it has even happened before to anyone else (I'd be suprised).

For x-mas my parents decided to help me fix my car for my x-mas gift. They want to see it fixed and running just as much as I do because it is still putting a burden on everybody including myself. Right now I just picked up a ford focus rental car. My car should go in this week to have a new (used) engien installed. There is a salvage yard in the San Fernando valley which deals primarily with BMW's. We found an engine out of a 740 (same engine, sameyear pretty much) with 60k on it which will be installed into my car later in the week. All in all it will end up being around 6 grand if not a bit more.

I wish I could do a custom engine swap. There is nothing more I would want to do than drop an LS2 in to it. Then it would truly be the perfect car in my eyes. Hell, I can find a complete 3000 mile LS2 with T56 and computer for about 5-6 grand on e-bay. I would do it in a heartbeat, unfortunately none of the elctronics in my car would ever work again. That's another story though.

I just feel really bad about this entire situation. It has turned my issue into everyone else's issue, and when I told my parents I would be completely independant with my car, I never expected anything so catastrophically random as this to happen. This was something I could not fix myself.

Sure, I will be ecstatic when my car returns. But I have a feeling this might be a sign of things to come. I wouldn't be suprised if the tranny is up next, and that is one thign I don't want to deal with. The getrag 6-speeds are pretty crappy trannys, and when they go out, they are enarly impossible to work on. Nobody can work on them being that they are modular, so they can't be fixed, only replaced. Chances are I will fall in love with my car again once I get it back...I just hate for anything bad like this to happen again.

I think I will look in to selling it not long after getting it back...atleast some time this year. I keep eyeing the LS2 GTO's and they keep calling my name. I'd love a black 05/06 with the 18" rims and a 6-spd of course. I keep falling in love with that car. So much more potential than my car. So much more reliable (and efficient too I am willing to bet). They are still a decent looking car and can be made to look pretty badass. They are cheaper to modify and maintain. It is coincidentally nearly the exact same exterior dimensions and weight as my car. They have decent interiors (though that will be one of the drawbacks because while it is decent, it isn't as nice as the 5er's and doesn't have the same features which I have grown to love on my car). It's just there is somethign about owning a BMW that is hard to give up...The GTO is nice, but it's not the same. It's not jsut the way it drives...Pedders makes excellent suspension packages for the GTO (and I would atleast need sway bars right away) and I'm sure it can handle great with the right components, just like my car. But it will just be hard to get used to...it is hard to explain, and some of you may not want to hear this, but it's just not a BMW. Until you have really lived with one and grown with it you really don't understand. They are just wonderful experiences despite some of their faults. I will always love BMW's even after I get rid of mine. Hell, I know a guy who traded in his new M3 for a 06 GTO. He loved his M3 and it was a hard decision for him to make, but he just found more enjoyment out of the GTO. It will just be something to get used to I suppose (which I doubt will take very long). The BMW community is great once you get involved. It is so much fun and I have met so many people through it. It has really changed my life. Luckily, the GTO, and basically any GM car with rwd and a v8 (especially the LS series engines, or 6 if you want to get in to the GNX's and turbo 3.8's of yesteryear) are well respeced among the BMW community (granted, there are always the elitist pricks, but they are usually shut down by the true enthusiasts who are generally the coolest BMW guys to meet and talk to...but i digress).

It has been a rough end and start to the year with me and my family for a multitude of reasons, with my car probably being at the forefront of it all...As my nonnie says though... "This too, shall pass..."

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Wow, that sucks, sorry to hear about that. My GTO has being doing great so far (coming up on a year) and you can get slightly used ones for great prices (I actually found a cheap used '06 and now my dad's interested in upgrading :lol:). However, with all the work and modifications you've put into your car I would keep it for a while still if I were you. I know you don't want to put in another tranny, but seeing that you've already done so much, what's a little more?

However, if you do want a GTO, go for it. The only thing I don't like about mine is that it's as auto and gets sucky fuel mileage, but I wouldn't have gotten it if I was worried about mileage. Camino does have a rare one for sale, too, ya know :AH-HA_wink:

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Hey Nick, that was quite a story. It is very mature of you to share it. I hope everything goes smoothly with the engine replacement.

On a much, much smaller scale, I feel like I have a bit in common with your plight. Each one of my 4 VW's had minor, very odd things go awry. Things that I've never had go wrong with any of my GMs, but when balanced with the sheer joy of driving, it was worth owning them at the time. This time around, I almost sprung for a Rabbit or GTI, but a dose of reality interfered with my plans and I went with the safer longterm bet . Sometimes, the big picture becomes clear.

Best of luck to you, sir.

Edited by ocnblu
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Sorry to hear of the problems.

On the parent side, that what parents are there for. It's not always easy for them, but the day you enter this world they realize it won't be easy or perfect.

On the BMW side, that is not the first time I've heard of a BMW engine die story. I-6, V-8 or . . . The problem here is that even though a Cobalt is not as exciting, it will bring MANY more trouble free, low cost miles to the person.

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I've always envied your M5, it's a gorgeous and very impressive car. This however is just

tragic, hard to beleive that a car of that sophistication can just self destruck itself like that.

I'd expect this from a 80s rolls royce or a jaguar but BMW makes good stuff. As you said

however their expertise has always been in INLINE-6 motors.

hope your rear bumper did not get too scratched up when he pushed you off the highway,

but at that point I guess it's colateral damage. So now since you thinkit's related to VANOS

do you see the point of stuborn asshoes, like me complaining about needless complication?

it's too bad that a motor like that got destroyed, best of luck with whatever course of

action you take.

FYI: If i was you (just a hypothetical) I'd buy that LS2 and have painless wiring hook me up

with a custom wiring harness, they will do that... you tell 'em "1999 BMW M5 donor car" &

"LS2 out of a totalled '05 Corvette" and they have some CR4ZY electronics engineer work

out the details. Look inot it, PAINLESS WIRING makes good stuff... and even if you had to

rip out the eintire wiring out of a Corvette/GTO and redo your gauges, it would still be worth

it for the bragging rights alone!!!

I'd love to have someone hit the Q45 bad enough in the grille to smush in the radiator

support & somehow f*** up the block but still have it be just a few $$$ shy of totalling the

car, I would drop in either an LS6... or perhaps a Northstar out of a totalled (RWD) STS or

more likely a sick, greasy, GMC blower equiped 383 stroker with a set of shorty headers &

a thirsty, old school carburator & snorkel sticking out of the hood. I'd paint the car flat black

and throw a set of Torque Thrust IIs under it with a Muncie M22.... sweet jesus I'd confuse

every car nut from here to Phoenix.

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