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Category Archives for "BMW"

BMW 320i 2005 Battery Issues

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local we're here wth Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And of course today we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. And actually I do want to add, I haven't told you this yet, but we're actually 22 time winners now.

Mark: 22! 

Bernie: Thanks to our customers. So. Yeah. It's exciting. 

Mark: Awesome. 

Bernie: To share that with you and everyone who watches this podcast first.

Mark: Congratulations. 

Bernie: Thank you. 

Mark: BMW 320i is today's victim, a 2005 that had battery issues. What was going on with this BMW? 

Bernie: This vehicle had battery issues plus a few other things. The customer came to us, first of all, the battery required boosting every time. It wouldn't start. And also there's some transmission shifting problems and a couple of other things. But those were the two main concerns. And of course, with the transmission shifting, you know, the owner was thinking, well, is it worth doing anything with this car or is it time to say goodbye? So those were the things we looked at. 

Mark: So what was causing the transmission to shift badly? 

Bernie: Well, it turns out the transmission issue and the battery issue, or one in the same. We're going to get right into the battery because there's some good pictures I want to show and we can start talking about what we found and why the battery caused the transmission to shift badly.

So let's just get right into a screen share here. So here's our 2005 BMW 320. I mean, it's an E46 chassis. BMW looks the same as pretty much all the other four door sedans of its type, depending on paint colour of course, and trim. But that's a, it's your standard. I call it your standard BMW.

BMW 320i 2005 Battery Issues
BMW 320i 2005 Battery Issues

Good reliable car in most cases. There's our battery. This is our battery. This is our positive battery terminal. This is what we found. This was causing, of course, it's obvious when you look at this, that the car might not start, but as this was also the cause of the transmission shifting issue.

Mark: Okay. So what causes such beauteous corrosion to take place on a battery? 

Bernie: Yeah, so this is interesting because this battery is located in the trunk of the vehicle and 99% of the time, like almost a 100% of the time when we go to look at a battery in a trunk, it's very clean.  You can't even almost tell the age of the battery, even if it's a 10 year old battery, because it sits out of the, you know, sits out of the elements of the hood out of the heat. It's actually a good place to put a battery really. It's not, it's a very unhostile environment, but this was kind of a surprise.

So what, you know, speculate as somehow, somebody, either the battery was defective or somebody you know, when they put the battery in, somehow broke the positive terminal and let acid leak out all over because this is basically an acid reacting with the metal that causes this kind of corrosion. 

You can see this piece here, this is a current sensor. So these electrical systems are highly monitored in these cars. And with many modern cars. BMW may have been a little ahead of their time compared to some brands, but these vehicles are, they, you know, they monitor how much current is going through the battery. So the charging system and the rest of the electrical system can, you know, make choices and adjustments on how to manage the power. 

The positive battery cable, clips right in here. So this terminal actually pops apart and the positive battery cable, which runs the length of the vehicle to under the hood, clips into there. 

So but you can see, just by looking at it, this is not a healthy thing. 

Mark: It's not a healthy thing to put your hands on either. 

Bernie: No. And we wear gloves for most of the work we do here. So, yeah. 

Mark: So you said that this is the transmission problem was caused also caused by the battery. How, how is that possible?

Bernie: So these vehicles are very sensitive to the operation of the electrical system. And basically what we did in terms of the diagnostic in the vehicle, of course, before replacing the battery, we were able to a hook a booster up, road tested the vehicle, extracted a number of codes. Did a little research and found there's a technical service bulletin by BMW for issues relating to the electrical system and battery. You know, the part of the technical service bulletin, you know, puts notes about whether, you know, someone's installed some aftermarket electrical equipment that might cause inter electrical interference in the vehicle or to look at battery and battery cable issues. And of course we found this and we figured we were pretty much onto something.

Of course the only, you know, it was a bit of a gamble for the customer because transmission repair is very expensive. And the only way to really get the electrical system working properly, is to install a good quality battery which is a glass mat battery in the case of this vehicle, and they're generally expensive. And then replace that battery cable end, which is not a cheap item either. We were able to find a good quality used one. As I say, those things rarely ever wear out. So this was a good used part. We were able to come up with that and we replaced it and it all worked fine. So, that's basically how it all works. You need good electrical flow. Any interruption in current flow can cause the transmission to shift improperly. 

Mark: So how did you diagnose that the battery was the causes of transmission problem? 

Bernie: Well, the TSB was one of them, you know, and it's basically, you know, with a lot of the work we do, it's a step by step procedure. Some things are clear, some things aren't. But once we have a technical service bulletin from a manufacturer that says, if the battery is bad or something, you know, to that effect and it's causing this. I didn't say guaranteed to find the issue, but that's a good start for our repair. And that's what we did. If that hadn't done it, of course we would have been into actually testing the transmission and diagnosing, you know, the electrical system or that the actual transmission itself. But in this case, a happy ending for all. The battery fixed everything. 

Mark: So how'd the vehicle work after you replaced the battery and cable? 

Bernie: Yeah, it was really good. Of course it started fine. Charging system worked well. The transmission shifted like it was supposed to. No more trouble codes returned to the transmission module or engine module. It was all good. You know, the vehicle did need some other repairs, but they were, you know, brakes and ball joints and things like that. But nothing electrical or drive train related. 

Mark: So I know that 320's, at least in some years, are Canadian only models, I had one that was a nightmare. My fault for buying a bad car. But is this a Canadian only model? 

Bernie: Yeah. I shouldn't say it's a, at least in North America, it's a Canadian only model. I'm sure they sell them in other markets around the world because Canada's car market's pretty small. So that's the only thing about this car that can be a little bit of a pain, is it was only sold in Canada, in North America. So getting, finding, looking up parts is a little more difficult, but most of the items on the car are the same as the 325 model and  E46. They're all pretty much the same car, but of course the engine's a little different. It's a bit smaller, but pretty much the same. It was interesting because this car had California plates on it, but the owner had obviously bought it in Canada moved to California, came back to Canada. So it was kind of a, it would be even a more of a strange beast down in California. 

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your BMW, even the rare ones in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They're always busy. Or check out the website, many, over 600 articles on there about all makes and models of cars repairs. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, over 350 videos on all makes and models of cars and all kinds of repairs. And of course, if you like what we're doing here on the podcast, give us a like on Apple podcast, we'd appreciate it and thank you for watching and listening. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. Always appreciate it.

2011 BMW X3, Battery Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 21 time winners. 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How are you doing today, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: So we're going to talk about a BMW X3 that was having a battery problem. What was going on with this Beamer?

Bernie: So this vehicle came in for a regular maintenance service and battery. The battery was tested during the service and found that it was weak and needed to be replaced.

Mark: So were there any other indications beyond the readings on the testing that you guys did?

Bernie: Yeah. So how we found that the battery was weak. We have a tester, that we put on and it indicated the battery was near the end of its lifespan. The other thing that was noticeable is when you crank the engine over, it just felt a bit sluggish. It cranked over okay but it just had this laboured feel to it which you'd kind of get when a battery's weak and old, you know, the car still starts, but it had that feel. So that's the other indication we had that, Hmm, maybe this battery is not good. And the tester verified that.

Mark: So why are we talking about a battery replacement? This is pretty straight forward. Is there something different about replacing a battery on a BMW?

Bernie: Well, there is actually, there's a reprogramming process that's required that you have to do through a scan tool in the vehicle computer, believe it or not. It's never simple these days, but there's a number of different options of batteries you can put in the vehicle. And so yeah, that's kind of why we're talking about this because there's an added complication. And BMW is not unique to an X3. A lot of BMWs for, this is a 2011, you know, for at least five years previous to this, maybe longer, you know, this has been our required procedure.Failing to do so, the battery may not charge. So you put a battery in and a week later it's all of a sudden dead.

Mark: So you have to go in for service where you, they know what they're doing. You just can't do it yourself.

Bernie: Exactly. Now you might get lucky and put it in yourself and it might work, but you have to put exactly the same battery in and hope it was all programmed properly beforehand.

Mark: So is that part of why they made it this complicated?

Bernie: What, so you go back to the dealer for service? Well, that would be the conspiracy theory of it, but honestly, I mean the reason why is that they can control the, you know the electrical system can control the, make proper use of the alternators power.
It's more efficient if they know what kind of batteries in the vehicle. So, yeah, it's more complicated, but it's not really there, just so you have to go back to the dealer. Although that's probably like a nice little bonus. And of course you don't have to go to the dealer. I mean, we do it in any other good independent repair shop as has the tools and capabilities to do it.
But it makes for a more efficient charging system. I mean, these vehicles have very high electrical demands. You know, heated seats, heated steering wheels, electric power steering, you know, there's a number of things. If you get into a slightly newer model year, the start stop technology is part of it. So when you come up to a red light, the engine shuts off. And then as soon as you like your foot off the brake, the engine starts again for, you know, obviously reduced emissions and better fuel economy. So that again, requires a very good battery and a precise charging system.

Mark: So you mentioned there was different kinds of batteries. What, what. This is new to me. What, what, what batteries are different?

Bernie: Yeah, there are, yeah. So I mean, the traditional battery you know, in a vehicle is a lead acid battery. It's known as a flooded battery. And there've been you know, other technologies available, but this, this vehicle uses an AGM battery. It's called absorbed glass mat.
It has acid and lead plates like a traditional battery. But the way it's designed is different and it's much more efficient, lasts longer. Charges. quicker, has more power. So let's just get into a couple of pictures. I'll show you some stuff here. And then we can talk more about the AGM batteries.

2011 BMW X3, Battery Replacement
2011 BMW X3, Battery Replacement
2011 BMW X3, Battery Replacement

Ok, so this is our scan tool screen that gives you the options for the battery capacity. When you replace the battery in the vehicle, you need to go into this particular, this is an auto logic, but you know, there are a variety of different scan tools that will do this particular job. So you can see different options here, 70AH, that means amp hours. So you can see these different options. Then you have the AGM options from 70 up to 105, the stock batteries a 90 amp hour AGM. And, so depending on which battery you put in the vehicle, you can put a non glass mat battery in but it, it's definitely, the vehicle comes with an AGM battery, so it's always better to use that. The other advantage of an AGM battery is, is it doesn't gas like a regular battery, like a regular lead acid battery, has gas that comes out of the battery as it charges. And because this battery is actually mounted in the trunk of the vehicle, you really don't want gas coming out.

So it does have a vent too, but the gassing is extremely minimal on an AGM battery. So it's pretty critical to use one of those on any vehicle. It has a battery inside the vehicle, but not all vehicles require that, but it's best to have it. So this is, this is the again, the screen again, we use the 90AH amp hour AGM battery in the vehicle. So that's what we programmed in.

Now other pictures here. This is our testers. So hook it up to the vehicle, says near end of life charged 62%. Now you think, well, maybe we could charge it up and make it better. But these, these testers are very intuitive. They actually test the resistance of the battery. They put a little mini load tests on the battery and they do a variety of things so it can, it can tell information about a battery that's you know that you can't often detect yourself, but as I said, we suspected the battery was weak just by the way it cranked over and the tester verified it.
So we get other messages here. Sometimes it says bad battery. Other times it'll say good battery and it isn't actually good. But, 95% of the time, these testers are really accurate. The other picture I want to show is this, this is the battery mounted in the back of the vehicle. The reason I took this picture, I mean this is just, it used to be that a battery would have a, here's the positive terminal here. You can barely see it and the negative terminal here, it would just have a one big thick fat wire coming off each of these terminals and that was it. We can see this thing has that as a, just a host of other items here, extra wires. It's like a junction box there. There are voltage and current sensors detecting how much voltage current is flowing in and out of the battery and they have it on the positive and negative side of this battery. So there's a lot of complexity here. This is mounted in the trunk. It takes a while even to just to change the battery cause you know, the hold down brackets, it's got a couple of hold down brackets and it's, you know, it's not like it used to be. We're just be under the hood. You pop two terminals off and away you go. So there's our picture show.

Mark: So what exactly is an AGM battery?

Berne: So it stands for absorbed glass mat and instead of having a, you know, just lead plates with a liquid, this sulphuric acid and water liquid floating around, it actually absorbs the lead acid mixture or sorry, the acid mixture in a glass mat plate, and it's all sandwiched together very tightly. So these batteries can handle a lot more vibration. They can be charged quicker. They have more power. There's just a lot of advantages to them. Plus they don't gas like a regular battery. There's no off-gassing, at least, or it's, I should say, it's very minimal. Now you're wondering what's the downside?

Well, the downside is the price there. There are a lot more money you know, 50% to sometimes twice the price, 50 to a 100% more money. But the good thing of it, the lifespan of this battery. This one and that's, it's hard to tell because when a battery is kept in a trunk, it all stays clean. Unlike when it's under a hood, where it is, where it often gets grungy. This battery, I'm pretty sure is original, which makes it a, we're in 2020. The battery is about nine years old. So that's pretty good life for a battery. I mean you will get the odd flooded, regular lead acid battery that will last that long, but it's extremely rare.

If you have a car that has one, you should probably go buy a lottery ticket because it's, you've beaten the odds pretty good. But you know, eight, nine years is pretty good. You know, kind of a, probably a lifespan you get out of these as opposed to the typical five years you get out of a regular battery.

Mark: And how did the X3 start and run after the battery replacement?

Bernie: Well, it was a noticeably different, you know, it wasn't like it was cranking really badly, but there was just a noticeable difference in terms of, it just felt peppier and more lively when it started. So that made a big difference, I would say, you know, about the life of these batteries is, you know, if you do have a vehicle with the start stop technology, you probably get a little less life out of it. And this issue with this battery would have probably been a little more noticeable because, you know, every time you stop the car, you know, at a light and it restarts that starters being used. So there's a lot more, a lot more activity involved. And you, you would probably notice a difference sooner on a vehicle like that. And the battery would probably live a little less long of a life because it's being used, you know, being cycled a lot more. But anyways, this is not the case with this. And the car was great.

Mark: So what's your opinion on BMW X3s, I know you actually own one of these vehicles as well. What do you think of them?

Bernie: It's a nice vehicle to drive, really nice. More issues than I'd like to see. I mean, I've you know, I'm kind of like, like anyone else. I love fixing cars, but I don't like fixing my own. And I think things tend to wear out in these cars a little sooner than they should. Things like, you know, they tend to develop oil leaks and coolant leaks. There's a lot of complexity and expense to them. So that's kind of, you know, to me, that's kind of the downside. If you own one, you're definitely getting a nice vehicle. It's a good feel, good looking, drives well, but you will spend more money, you know, for sure taking care of this and you went on, you know, say an equivalent, a Japanese or Korean type of SUV.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your BMW or X3, if you have it in Vancouver or battery replacements, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They're always busy. Check out the website there's over 600 articles on there about all makes and models of cars and repairs. Over 350 videos on YouTube Pawlik Auto Repair, search on there. You can find our channel. And of course, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it, click the subscribe button.We'd really appreciate that even more and leave a review. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie; Thanks, Mark, and thanks for watching. We really appreciate it.

2014 BMW 328d xDrive – Transfer Case Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. We're talking cars. How're you doing today Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: So BMW 328d xDrive. What was going on with this car?

Bernie: So this vehicle was brought to our shop. The owner had been servicing it at the BMW dealer his local dealership and there was an issue with it. It was running kind of funny, like lacking power, shaking, misfiring was what it felt like. And it's a diesel. And they basically said they didn't know what else to do with it and recommended they take it to a diesel specialist.

Mark: Ok wait a minute. Like the dealer didn't know haw to fix the brands car where they have the experts factory trained et cetera, et cetera blah blah blah, we're the best at fixing this car. They couldn't fix the car?

Bernie: Exactly and you know, this isn't the only time we've seen this. I mean, this is the first BMW we've seen like this but we had, actually same week, we did this repair last week. We had a Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel. We have the same thing with a lot of these Jeep diesels, where the dealers can't, they don't really have the expertise to fix it. I think the thing abut dealerships, people don't realize they tend to cherry pick their work. They're into making profit. It's a good thing for a business but you know, what when you buy a vehicle it's a little bit outside of the normal edge. You can expect that kind of service from a dealer where they may not be actually able to figure out what's going with the vehicle, unless it's something simple. And in all fairness, it was a little complex in terms of, there's no plug the scan tool in and figure out what was going on with it. There was no information around that. But still you know any decent technician, I mean they should stand behind their products and their work, you know and charge accordingly to fix it.

Mark: So what tests and diagnosis did you do on the vehicle?

Bernie: So of course, our first thing with pretty well any diagnostic like this is, road test the vehicle, get a feel for the concern. We did that. Then next plugged our scan tool and did a full vehicle code scan and found nothing. There was no codes in the engine module. Nothing in the drivetrain. So at that point it was a little bit interesting. Ok, what could it be? So we drove it around a little while longer and kind of intuitively, myself and my other lead technician, we drove around quite a lot. I had a sense it felt like possibly an engine misfire but it also had a feeling like there could be something with the drivetrain. Like something that either the transmission or transfer case or something that was causing it to buck and shift and do some weird things. So that's kind of where we're at. We're kind of left with a feeling of what it might be.

Mark: Ok so that's where the 38 years of experience comes into play. No conclusive data to make a decision on but basically intuition. What were you next steps?

Bernie: Yeah so our next steps of course are research. Of course the dealer had already faced this problem and they had no suggestion other than take it somewhere else. There's a lot of information online. We have a lot of resources. We pay subscriptions for repair information programs that have a lot of good repair information and network. I way network or like other technicians, who may have found issues who post repairs. We did a little research there. Then our diagnostic scan tool also comes with a team of, it's a European scan tool. They have a whole team of technical resources people, where we can send in the data files. We get information from them. So when you come to our shop, this is the kind of thing that you get with a lot of the cars that we service. We have those resources that are really , the kind of thing you'd expect only from a dealership. Well actually in a way ours is better because we actually have resources. We we set the file in, talked with a technician who suggested possibly a transfer case issue. So our next step was basically to unhook the transfer case. It's electronically controlled. Road tested the vehicle, sure enough, drove perfectly well. The issue was gone. So the clear conclusion, the transfer case was defective.

Mark: So what's involved in repairing the transfer case?

Bernie: Well basically this is a replace the unit only type of job. So we bought a transfer case from BMW. Not certain if it was remanufactured or brand new. It certainly looked brand new when we took it our of the box but the do charge a kind of hefty core charge but nonetheless, it's an OEM spec BMW transfer case.There's a lot of electronic controls on these things and so that was basically the replacement. It's not an entirely difficult job. Fortunately it's a few hours work but fairly straightforward to unbolt and bolt back in and then there's some electronic programming that needs to be done to encode the transfer case to the vehicle which again not overly complicated. You have to have the right tools and data files but again not overly complicated and it worked fantastic.

So there's the nice 328d xDrive again. This is a diesel and..

2014 BMW 328d xDrive - Transfer Case Replacement
2014 BMW 328d xDrive - Transfer Case Replacement
2014 BMW 328d xDrive - Transfer Case Replacement

Mark: A four wheel drive

Bernie: A four wheel drive, yeah and that as you know, adds some complications. So I mean all wheel drive is great but it certainly adds complexity. There are some vehicles where I find that the all wheel drive really doesn't create any extra costs and that Subaru is certainly one of them but a lot of European cars there are issues. So this is the transfer case. This is a view of the transfer case, it actually bolts up to the transmission end. So this would be the drive output to the front axle shaft, there the front drive shaft. And then this is a view of the rear end of it. So this goes to the rear drive shaft. This is, there's an electronic module, a control unit on the bottom of this thing. So there's the plugs underneath there. Fortunately for diagnostic purposes it wasn't too difficult to access them and unplug them and plug them back in. You know that is a piece of the transfer case. It obviously comes with the unit. So what's inside is probably fairly straightforward but you never know what these kind of things. You know they're not your sort of American style four wheel drive transfer case where it just locks gears together. These allow for smooth, they allow for slippage under certain conditions. So you don't feel like you're, the vehicle doesn't bind when you're going around corners. But of course, sometimes things go wrong like they did in this case.

Mark: So when you unhooked it, was it just running a straight pass through or just running the rear wheels, driving driving the rear wheels?

Bernie: I imagine that's what was happening. I can't really say for certain but all I can say is that the bucking and that strange power loss and all those issues that we were experiencing was gone. So is was something, I would imagine that there were some clutch packs inside the transfer case that were engaging and disengaging at times that they weren't supposed to. Causing the vehicle to shudder and do strange things and that could have been as a result of that electronic module or just sending the wrong signals or something with a worn out clutch pack or something like that.

Mark: Is this a common issue on xDrive BMW cars?

Bernie: So the owner of this vehicle fortunately had an extended warranty and in this particular warranty, we deal with a lot of extended warranty companies. This company insisted on sending an inspector over to have a look at it to verify that we diagnosed the right thing that they they were spending their money, the customers money wisely. So we took him out, drove it around, unplugged the module. He verified that he was happy with our diagnosis and actually he said, "Oh yeah, we see this problem all the time." According to the dealer I bought the transfer case from I returned the core he said, "We hardly see any of these things. It's kind of surprising". So different opinions but it seems like a common enough problem. So if you own one of these vehicles, you can expect you know, probably a transfer case repaired possibly at some point in the history of the vehicle.

Mark: So I imagine that the owner was pretty happy to have an extended warranty. What was the mileage on this vehicle?

Bernie: Only 62,000 kilometres So it's still a youngster. I mean very low mileage. You kind of think well, you know, when you're up to 150 or 200 K's maybe that would happen. But 62 is pretty young and the vehicle's of 2014 so its only 5 years old. So not really very old. Yes, I would imagine he was very happy to have that. Certainly more than paid for the price of the warranty with just this one repair job. I'm often sort of sit on the fence with extended warranty. Sometimes I think, well they're not worth it. You know certain cars like, a lot of Honda products for instance, they've you know, and Toyota's, they proved to be exceptionally reliable and having something like this go wrong with a car like that would be very unusual. But with a lot of European cars, there's so many fancy, expensive things that you know, they are, it is worth having most of the time, an extended warranty.

Mark: And this is a diesel without a lot of miles, not necessarily what we would recommend people to buy, but how are these BMW diesels for reliability?

Bernie: I'll be honest. We have very few clients with them because they're just not very common cars which explains whey the dealer is even saying take it somewhere else because even they don't have a lot of experience. When you look at the lineup of BMWs, there's very few diesels around. We have serviced a few. They've tended to be fairly reliable so far but all of them have been pretty low mileage and I hate to say it but they are a European diesel. There's a lot of stuff that goes wrong with Volkswagen diesels. A lot of stuff with Mercedes. So given time, things will go wrong with this vehicle. I mean certainly, the gas mileage is fantastic and there's a lot of of good features about it but I think it's a kind of vehicle you probably don't want to hang on to for too long lest there be some very expensive repairs down the road. But so far, you know, we haven't run into too many issues with them.

Mark: It might be a car that if you were driving for instance, a hundred thousand kilometres a year and doing a lot of highway driving, it might be a fantastic vehicle for that. But driving around town, maybe not the best choice?

Bernie: Exactly. Yeah I will say that with diesels, they've got to be hot. They've got to be really hot and driving a lot is good for it. Anything else you know, short trips definitely not the best for a diesel. Not good at all.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service and the dealer doesn't know what to do, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112. It happens more often than you think. And of course is a place to check out over 650 articles on there about all makes and models of vehicles and repairs. Pawlik Auto Repair is the channel on YouTube and there's many hundreds of vides on there talking about the same thing. And of course, thanks so much for listening to the podcast and watching. We really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you Mark. And thank you for watching.

2011 BMW 335iS – Electric Coolant Pump And Thermostat Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience. 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, or 20 time winners, I'm sorry, 20 time winners. I'm cutting you short, Bernie. We're talking cars. How you doing?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: Today's victim is a 2011 BMW 335is. BMW has such long names. There was problems with the electric coolant pump and the thermostat. What was going on with this BMW?

Bernie: Yeah. The owner was driving the vehicle and an amber warning light for the coolant system came on the dash. Then, shortly after, a red warning light came on and the vehicle went into a limp mode. I'm not sure whether he had it towed in or whether it was driven in but, anyways, the vehicle was not running well. The other thing that was happening at the same time as the electric coolant, there was a loud noise coming from under the engine, which was actually the fan running at high speed. That's basically how the vehicle came in with cooling system problems.

Mark: What testing did you do and what did you find?

Bernie: First testing we always do on a cooling system is to verify is there coolant in the engine? Had a visual inspection, looked at the coolant, it was down a little bit. Added some coolant to it, but it only took about not even a cup of coolant, so really not low enough to cause any sort of issues. Pressure tested the cooling system, made sure there was no leaks, there weren't any. Then, we proceeded to the next step, which is to hook up a scan tool, essential item to do in this kind of vehicle, hook up a scan tool and see what was happening with the engine running temperature and the operating temperature.

We did that, found a couple of codes stored in the engine module and ran some tests and found that basically the electric water pump was not functioning as it was supposed to. Now, that loud noise under the hood was basically the radiator fan running at high speed. Again, that's an electric fan and it'll come on whenever the computer tells it to. It'll tell it to come on, if there's a problem found with the cooling system, it will tell it to come on. That'll create the coolest possible temperature in the radiator and help cool the engine down. Say, the water pump isn't actually circulating, it'll help keep the engine cool.

Mark: Is it possible to do diagnostic procedure, I guess, on this vehicle without a scan tool?

Bernie: Pretty much impossible. I mean everything nowadays on cars, this car included, it's highly electronic. You really do need a scan tool to do pretty much anything. As I said, I mean the visual tests and the pressure tests, those are important initial tests and that could be where the problems are found. You've got to use a scan tool. You've got to have one to do any work on this kind of car.

Mark: We have some pictures.

2011 BMW 335iS - Electric Coolant Pump And Thermostat Replacement
2011 BMW 335iS - Electric Coolant Pump And Thermostat Replacement
2011 BMW 335iS - Electric Coolant Pump And Thermostat Replacement
2011 BMW 335iS - Electric Coolant Pump And Thermostat Replacement
2011 BMW 335iS - Electric Coolant Pump And Thermostat Replacement

Bernie: I do, let's get right into it. There is our 325is, I apologize if the brake rotors look a little rusty. We just washed the car and it still has a bit of moisture on it and the brakes were sitting. That's what happens with brakes when they sit, the rotors get rusted. A drive around the block, all that rust disappears. This car doesn't look quite as nice as it could. Next photo, we've got ...

Mark: Scan tool.

Bernie: Scan tool. When we do the initial test, we test the system for codes. It's always best on a lot of modern vehicles to actually test the whole vehicle. We can actually do a full vehicle code scan, because sometimes there'll be a problem in a different module that actually relates to a module you don't think is... Is not related to the engine. It's helpful to get that information. In this case, there were four codes stored in the system, two of them not really relevant, oxygen sensors.

These aren't relevant to engine overheating issues, but these two are, engine coolant pump cutoff, engine coolant pump speed deviation. What's happening here is that the computer commands the electric coolant pump to turn at a certain speed. It expects a certain thing to happen and it's not happening. That's why this speed deviation code is here. It's a pretty clear diagnosis from this based on experience that the electric coolant pump is defective. There are tests we do to warm it up, make sure there isn't anything else going on and we verified that the coolant pump was in fact the problem.

The coolant pump, let's have a look at that. There is the electric coolant pump, pretty fancy looking unit. It's got a very large motor in it, very robust piece. Even though it's a very robust large motor, they don't last as long as you think they should because this is an exceptionally common failure on any BMW that has an electric coolant pump, which is a lot of models. The business end of it here, this is where the pump impeller is. There's an electrical connector here and then there's an inlet and outlet there and there. The coolant just... Simple otherwise. Couple of other items on this vehicle, there's an electrically controlled thermostat and this is bolted up to the water pump.

We replaced it at the same time because, again, this is a failure item on these vehicles. In this case, it wasn't the failure item, but it would not make a lot of sense to take all this stuff apart and not change the thermostat at the same time. This is an electrically controlled thermostat. You can see there's a connector here with a couple of pins sticking out where the wire goes. Now, why would they have an electrically controlled thermostat? The thermostat generally, this is actually inside of the thermostat taken apart. This is the actual thermostatic piece that opens and closes.

Normally, in the past, it's got a wax pellet inside that expands with the temperature of the coolant. As the wax expands, the thermostat opens and allows coolant to flow. If the temperature gets below the specified point, then the thermostat closes again. This keeps the engine at the operating temperature it's designed to keep at, but it's limited. It'll only do that specific temperature. With electrical control, it'll actually heat the thermostat. If the computer says, "Hey. We need to open this thing faster or let's get the engine cooler or let's keep the engine hotter," it can control that thermostat opening. It allows more control over the thermostat, and that's our picture show for the day.

Mark: The coolant pump was bad. Why would they use an electric pump?

Bernie: Again, it's control. As I talked about with a thermostat, there's control that can be had with having electric components. You can switch the pump on and off. You can't do that with a mechanically belt-driven pump. It just runs. When you're idling, it runs at a certain speed. When you rev it up, it runs faster and that's the limit of control. Whereas with an electric pump, they can pump it at a low speed, a high speed, whatever requirements are needed. If the engine is getting too hot, they can pump it faster. If they want the engine to warm up really fast, you can just leave the pump off and just let the engine warm up quicker. Those are some of the things you can do. That's why the electric pump.

Mark: Ultimately, it's causing better... That's part of the system. As well as with the electric thermostat, because you're controlling temperature more exactly, you can reduce emissions and increase fuel economy.

Bernie: Exactly, and performance too. Yeah. All three of those can all be controlled much better.

Mark: Is this an expensive repair?

Bernie: I always think of expensive as being kind of a judgment call. Yeah, it's not cheap. The electric pump itself, I can't remember the price off the top of my head, it's a pretty pricey part. If you own one of these cars, you will need to replace it. No ands, ifs or buts. I own a BMW X3 with the same type of engine, the electric coolant pump's gone on it already. They go on all of them and probably sooner than they should. Yeah, I consider this to be a pretty expensive repair, certainly more than it would cost to do a mechanical pump.

Mark: How are BMW 335s for reliability?

Bernie: They're good. I was thinking, I mean it's a good car, but there are certain issues that you're going to face with this car. I mean one of them is this electric coolant pump. I mean that's a guaranteed issue. Say you buy the car from new and keep it to 130,000 kilometres, you'll need to do this electric coolant pump. You'll need to do the thermostat. You'll probably have some ignition coil problems. This car actually had one after we fixed it. Went out for a road test, the engine was misfiring, one of the coils had crapped out. I don't know whether it was brought to us like that. It was no code in the system.

It may be that as the engine got hot, it caused the coil to fail or they just do on these things. You can pretty well count on ignition coil replacement, coolant pump replacement. There will probably be some front end bushings that wear out and some brake work, which those kind of things are sort of normal and expected on pretty well any car. I mean the nice thing is these are predictable, but they are... Some of them are expensive being a BMW. Also, there's some fuel injection issues with some of them as well, injector issues with some of them as well, but that's basically it. Otherwise, it's a really nice car. This is a sporty car, fun, lots of power. It's a fun ride.

Mark: Of course, in the future, as more and more of the European specs kick in, actually at the start of 2020, almost every vehicle is going to be using an electric everything. Basically everything is going to be running... Any accessory type stuff is going to be running off electric, because they have to in order to meet the emission regulations.

Bernie: Yeah, yeah. Already, we have electric power steering in a lot of vehicles, which is fantastic because there's so much more flexibility. The neat thing about electric power steering as well, it has the potential to be super expensive to repair. We've never actually repaired one electric power steering unit in our shop ever, which is maybe disappointing because we do an awful lot of conventional power steering repairs. The good news about that is that there's a component there that's been electrified that's very reliable. Not to say it's 100%. I mean there's some that have had issues and I know that a lot of those have been covered by manufacturer's warranty.

There are things that have been kind of sorted out, but it's a really reliable system. I think they've had to do that. When you build something with a steering component, I mean if there's any problem with it, you don't want a failure where the car decides to steer its own way. I mean you're just asking for major lawsuits. I think the manufacturers of, this is my guess, but I think they've just taken it, gone, "Wait a minute. We can't F around this stuff. We got to make it like bullet proofly reliable."

Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your BMW 335 or any BMW, they're experts on it at Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112, you have to call and book ahead. They're busy, always busy, but they do excellent work. You can check out the reviews, really highly reviewed. Of course, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. Of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast and thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you, Mark, and thank you for listening and watching.

2000 BMW 323i Engine Misfire Repair

Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and Video Series and we're here of course with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 20 time winners of the Best AutoRepair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and today we're talking cars. How you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So 2009 BMW ... 2000 sorry.

Bernie: 2000 yeah, it's an oldie.

Mark: Yeah, BMW 323I. Had an engine misfire. What was going on with this BMW?

Bernie: Yeah so the vehicle was brought to our shop. The engine was shaking, running rough, clearly a misfire condition was happening the check engine light was also on. So we proceeded to do some testing and diagnosis.

Mark: What testing and diagnosis did you do?

Bernie: Well so for a concern like this, first thing of course is to verify the client's concern by driving it, which we did. Second was to plug in a diagnostic scan tool and just retrieve stored trouble codes, see what data's available, see what information we can get. So that was the first step. Found several trouble codes stored, but most predominantly was a cylinder four misfire. Well there was actually two, cylinder four and cylinder one.

But when we can review data, and it'll say how often the misfire occurred and cylinder four was clearly I believe there's 74 or 70 occurrences, it's actually probably a lot more. But the data for cylinder four was much higher than cylinder one. Cylinder one may have misfired just because of number four, but clearly cylinder four had the issue.

So from there, we can narrow down our testing and there's a couple ways to, I mean, there's a few things that will cause a cylinder misfire, one could be bad compression, the other could be an ignition problem like the coil or spark plug, or it could be a fuel injector, or a massive vacuum leak. Those are some of the things that can cause a misfire.

But it's pretty obvious from years of experience, it's pretty obvious when you have an ignition misfire, you can feel the roughness and because the issue occurred suddenly, it's usually a good first place to start.

So from there, we have a really nice lab scope we can actually test the ignition firing pattern by just putting a probe on top of the ignition coils. Now this is a direct coil on plug ignition system, so it's a six cylinder engine and there's one coil per cylinder. So we can go and test each coil while the engine's running, and it was very clear looking at the scope pattern that the number four ignition coil was not firing properly at all, it was dead.

So basically found the problem right there. I mean the other way that we do it without this is we can take the coil out, we can swap it to another cylinder, clear the codes, see if the misfire now moves to the other cylinder, that's also an effective method to find the issue. In this case, it was verified right off the bat. So number four cylinder coil was dead.

Mark: So is misfiring a fairly common problem on BMWs?

Bernie: It is one of the more common issues that we repair on these vehicles, yeah. It is yeah.

Mark: And the ignition coil tested bad? What else and was there anything else contributing to this misfire?

Bernie: Well the other thing that we always test of course is once we verify the coil's bad, I mean, the coil fires the spark plug, so you know we didn't know the condition of the spark plugs. It wasn't like you know, I mean if we'd known they were replaced last week or a couple weeks ago and we'd done them ourselves, we probably wouldn't look any further. But because there was no history on spark plug replacement, the next thing to do is pull the coil out and do a visual inspection.

There's a big long coil boot, it's a rubber piece, I'll show a picture in a minute and then of course, inspect the spark plug. Pull the spark plug out, inspect that, and the spark plugs in this case were extremely badly worn. So I mean even if we changed the coil, firing on an old spark plug is probably not the best thing because the coil has to work a whole lot harder to fire, so.

Why don't we just get into some pictures? So there's our nice condition, 323I, still, 235,000 kilometres, still looking good, it's a nice car. Again, if you take care of your car, it'll keep looking good and keep running well. What do we got for the next picture?

2000 BMW 323i Engine Misfire Repair
2000 BMW 323i Engine Misfire Repair
2000 BMW 323i Engine Misfire Repair

So this is the coil boot. I actually didn't take a picture of the ignition coil for some reason, but the ignition coil sits up here. And this boot is, basically attaches. The spark plug sits down here. Now you can see this rubber, this is a soft rubber boot but with 235,000 kilometres and almost 20 years of life, the rubber's kind of hard and cracked, and it was breaking off. So this was another piece that we replaced while we did it.

This was kind of like the equivalent to a spark plug wire, but it's very short. But again, it's critical to have this sealing properly because with anything electrical, electricity always follows the path of least resistance. So for some reason a gap were to occur here, it might actually fire the spark down the side of the spark plug wall instead of down the insulator or against the spark plug tube instead of actually firing the cylinder. So pretty critical piece to replace.

And then finally, the spark plugs, and I apologize this is not the sharpest picture I've taken, but you can see even in a fuzzy image, this is the old spark plug, this is the new one. Besides looking a little grungy, I'll just go over a couple of pieces of spark plug. So this is the centre electrode that serves as positive terminal of the spark plugs, and you can see this one is flat and flush with the ceramic insulator. You can see this one here, the ceramic insulator even in a crappy photo has got cracks, and the electrode is really badly worn. It's not flat and flush to the edge, and these are the ground electrodes. These are kind of an interesting spark plug. They have four ground electrodes. A lot of spark plugs if you've ever seen them, this ground electrode kind of goes over top of this, and it fires the spark directly.

But these ones can fire in any direction to any of these four ground electrodes. But again if you can see these ground electrodes are really badly worn against the insulator, there's a huge gap. So there isn't a spark plug gap spec for this particular spark plug, but you can see visually just how badly worn this is. So it's kind of a miracle this thing was actually running as well as it did but also a testament to how long spark plugs last nowadays.

Mark: So how often are spark plugs scheduled to be replaced on this model of BMW?

Bernie: I didn't actually look up the spec, but I think it's somewhere around 160,000 kilometres. That's kind of a standard nowadays for spark plugs.

Mark: So and it looks like these were in right from new?

Bernie: I think so. They were actually BMW ... you know, they actually said BMW on the spark plug so that tells me they were original equipment spark plugs.

Mark: So that's a pretty long life.

Bernie: That's a very long life.

Mark: So BMWs have earned a reputation for needing a lot of expensive repairs. How's this generation of the 3 series?

Bernie: You know, these are pretty good cars. I mean, they do have their list of quirks and things, I can rattle off a few. I mean, among them you know, ignition coils are a failure item and the crank case vent valves are a failure item. There's a lot of cooling system issues with water pumps and plastic parts, thermostats, hoses, even radiators, plastic parts get brittle and there's some suspension bushings, control arm bushings. Those kind of things.

Other than that, it's a good reliable car. And you know I think with any car, if you know the things that are going to go wrong and these are fairly predictable, then you can decide, hey is this car going to be worth it? And if you're buying a used one, you know, have these items been fixed and repaired?

But generally I'd say these are less ... Even though they're complex for their age, they're actually less complex than a lot of newer ones and I'd say more reliable.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your BMW in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment, or check out the website,, YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds of videos on all makes and models of cars and types of repairs and maintenance and of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark and thanks for watching.

How Reliable Are BMW Vehicles

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, Producer of The Pawlik Automotive Podcast and Video Series. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive, in Vancouver. Of course, 20-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers, including this year, 2019, and 38 years repairing cars in Vancouver. And, how are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Good, very good.

Mark: Excellent. So, we're going to talk about BMW, the ultimate driving machine, the reliability thereof. Are BMW's reliable?

Bernie: Well, that's a pretty broad question. There's ... I mean, there's a huge lineup of vehicles from your sort of, let's say, your sort of basic three series sedans, up to SUV's, luxury SUV's and the X5. Compact SUV's. We've got some very nice sporty models, including the Alpina, which is a ... I hope I said that properly, which is kind of a AMG'ish type version of a BMW. And, the M Series, high performance. So, there's a lot of variety in BMW. I mean, you won't find any pickup trucks. But, you can find pretty much everything else.

Mark: So, there've been some studies that claim that BMW's the most expensive car to repair. What's your experience in the shop?

Bernie: I'd say they are pretty expensive to repair. There's a lot that does go wrong with BMW's. Not all models, but I would say, in a nutshell, you could expect to be paying more to fix a BMW than a lot of other brands of cars. Maybe not any more than a Mercedes or another equivalent European car, but there are a number of issues that happen.

And, I know the study you're talking about. Kind of compiled from a database of auto repair costs, and I believe it was acquired, I think it's from a mobile auto service or an online booking service, and they kind of looked at the pricing and stuff. And so, it is somewhat accurate, but I don't know that it's really a full sort of sample of the whole automotive market place. But, I would tend to agree with that, generally. They are definitely more expensive.

Mark: And of course, is it fair to say that for the brand, BMW, we're talking about generalities. We're not necessarily branding or stating that they're X or Y, because certain models within any brand of vehicles that's made, certain models would be better. Certain models, eh, not so much. Is that true for BMW as well?

Bernie: Yeah, absolutely. There's a wide variety of issues in different models of cars. And, I mean, we can talk about some of the more specific things, but I think generally, some models are better than others.

I think I've said this on my pod, my daughter owns like, a 2003 Series. It's a really reliable car. I mean, very little's gone wrong. And, I know you had a three series that's maybe a little older, that you had all sorts of problems with. And, you know, we see other newer three series where there's a number of things. So, there are some common problems to them, but generally, some are more reliable than others.

Mark: So, let's work our way through. How are the brakes on BMW?

Bernie: Brakes are generally good. There's not really a lot of issues in the brake department. Pads and rotors, of course, need to be replaced. It's a typical European vehicle where, as the pads wear, they usually wear the rotors at the same time. So, to do a proper job, you'll do pads and rotors.

They also have an electronic wear sensor which is, it's a little additional item that you won't find on a lot of North American or Japanese cars, but that's another item that needs to be replaced. But other than that, the brakes generally, they have an average life span, 50 to 80 thousand kilometre type of range. Some of the SUV's, they might wear a little quicker. But, that's the general rate. So, brakes are good. Nothing unusual in that department. And, not overly expensive to repair, unless you get into some of the high performance M series where the rotors and pads are oversized.

Mark: What about steering and suspension?

Bernie: There's a few issues there. Control arm bushings, especially on some three series vehicles, have been problematic for a long time. They tend to wear out, and when you replace them, they tend to wear out really quickly even after that. So, that's certainly something we see. There's some ball joints will wear out in the suspension.

Other than that, pretty good. But, there are some predictable parts that we'll see on certain models that will wear out. And these are mostly, I think, like, the three and five series.

Mark: What about engines?

Bernie: So, engines, well, there's a lot to be said for engines. And, BMW really has two ... unless you get into the V10's ... but, I mean, two common engines. They have V8's, and they have their straight six engine, which they've used for a long time.

Now, the six cylinder engine is, you get some that are like, two litre, some that are a three litre, and they've just sort of changed the dimensions inside the engine to accommodate. But, on the outside of the engine, looks pretty much exactly the same.

And, of course, they modified them as technology's increased with variable valve timing, and variable valve lift, and all sorts of pretty nifty technologies. But, I think the six cylinders, generally, are much better than the V8's. There's some problems with the V8's that can be ... And again, I'm going back to kind of the early 2000 range where their timing chains would wear out. And just, horrifically expensive to fix. So, you know, like, it's like 25 or 40 hours labor type of time, if you can just add a, multiply that by a hundred dollars or a hundred and fifty, or whatever you pay for labor. You can see, that would be an extremely expensive repair, plus parts.

Coolant leaks are common on those V8's as well, and again, extremely expensive to fix. So, I'm often like, I like power and performance, but I find those V8's, I'd be kind of scared to own one. Six cylinders on the other hand, I mean, they do have their problems, but they're much more reliable in many ways. And, some of the issues we see with the six cylinder, oil leaks, valve cover gaskets will leak. Oil pan gaskets will leak. Oil pan gaskets, valve covers, oil filter housings, talking about a lot of different places here.

Some of these oil leaks are actually pretty expensive to fix, too. Like, on an X drive, drive shaft goes through the oil pan. So, it's a very labor-intensive job to change an oil pan gasket on many of these. So, they do fail on most of them, so that is an expensive issue.

Mark: How about coolant leaks?

Bernie: Coolant leaks, yeah. That's the other area. So, coolant leaks have been kind of a common issue. Water pumps, a lot of plastic parts in the cooling system that'll cause leaky seals and you know, some of these ... Again, I'm thinking kind of back a couple of, a decade and a half, a couple of decades. You know, as the plastic gets old, it tends to get kind of brittle. And, we even had parts in our shop where somebody just lean on a radiator, and the radiator neck where the hose attached to it will snap off because the plastic gets brittle and hard.

So, that's an issue that's been common with a lot of BMW's. And, I think if you're into preventative maintenance, you want to keep one for a long time, there's certain parts that we can recommend to you to replace, just for a liability purposes. You know, certain plastic hose ends and things like that. I think that kind of covers it for the cooling system.

Oh, one other engine item that does tend to fail too, and a lot of the six cylinder, the crank case vent valve is a pretty high failure item. And they will ... You'll know it's bad, the engine, sometimes you'll start the engine, and a big pod of blue smoke will come out the back. Or, you'll have to add a lot more oil than usual. You know, maybe a litre every thousand or five hundred kilometres. And, the check engine light may also be on with a rough running condition, depending on how badly the valve's deteriorated.

But, that's again, a thing to fix. Now, I know we've talked about a lot of problems here, but in favour of BMW, I mean, the general guts of the engine, like, things like the head gaskets are usually bullet proof reliable. The pistons, the compression, the internal workings of the engine, besides timing chains, tend to be extremely reliable. Like, the valves, the pistons. You know, things that keep the compression component of the engine are generally, very reliable.

Mark: So, what about transmissions, the drive train, all wheel drive? What about issues there?

Bernie: Usually, pretty reliable. I mean, the transfer cases can cause issues when the vehicles reach really high mileage, but they're generally pretty reliable and well built. We don't see a lot of transmission problems with BMW's. Again, pretty reliable. The drive trains, the drive shafts, differentials, they're all pretty good. CV joints, CV boots, they're all pretty reliable.

Again, when a car gets really old too, the things ... And, I'm saying old like, you know, 12 to 20 years old, then a lot of other issues start to happen. But, generally, that part of the vehicles is really, quite reliable.

Mark: What about fit and finish? The interior and the body?

Bernie: Yeah, it's nice. I mean, it's good quality. The components are generally well built and you don't run into a lot of problems. Like things like power windows, again, we don't fix a lot of problems with those. They tend to work pretty reliably, yeah. Overall, that part of the car is usually pretty good.

And, the one thing I realize about engines that I did miss is, there's a lot of newer models that do have four cylinder turbo charged engines, that they're generally a pretty reliable option, and much better on fuel than some of the other models, so just jumping back to the engine category.

Mark: And, how about electronics? Electrical systems? Generally, can be an issue with German cars.

Bernie: Can be an issue. I mean, we don't see, again, a lot of problems with them. I mean, I do know someone who bought a, I think it was an X3. It may have been brand new. And, she had a lot of problems with the, I think it was the navigation system or something. And, the vehicle was in the shop for months, trying to get fixed. And, those are kind of irritating issues that you hope you have warranty on. But, usually for the most part, the electrical and electronic systems are pretty good, which is great, because there's so much to it that they could be problematic and expensive. And generally, things are pretty good.

You know, as far as interior items too, like heating and A/C, again, pretty reliable. But, I know some models, I'm thinking the three series again, going back and sort of in the 2000's decade, the heater blower fans would tend to fail. Start making noise or not work. And, very expensive to fix. So, the way they're designed, it's a very labour intensive job, plus, an expensive part. So, that is one thing that can be an expensive issue.

Mark: So, let's pick on some here. Are there any particular models that you see a lot of?

Bernie: We service a lot of three series. We service a lot of X3's. Those are probably the most common for us in our shop. I think I've alluded to some of the, a lot of the issues I've talked about there would apply to those vehicles, with the exception of the V8 engine, because they don't put that in that model. You'll find the V8 in the larger five and seven series, and the X5 models. But yeah, I mean, I think I've kind of spoken ... Most of the issues I've talked about are related to those particular vehicles.

Mark: What about X3's? I know that's a model you see a lot of. It has some quirks.

Bernie: Yeah, I mean, I actually own one myself, so I can speak from personal experience. I mean, pretty reliable, but this vehicle, a hundred thousand kilometres, it's had some oil leaks, new oil pan gaskets need to be replaced. The oil filter housings leaked oil. The electric water pumps failed. And you know, that's actually another item that BMW, they've gone to electric water pumps. It's an expensive part. So, yeah, there are some expensive things. And in my opinion, not as reliable as they should be.

I'm most happy when these kind of things start failing at around the 200 thousand kilometre range, instead of a hundred, seems a little too young, in my opinion. But you know, they're good running vehicles.

The other thing in the little X3 issue, taillight. They have LED taillights that quit working. And, it's a manufacturing defect. There's a little module, a little electronic board that turns the LEDs on, and they fail. They're just not made properly, so if you go to BMW, they'll sell you a whole taillight, but we can actually fix it. We've done the research, and found out how to repair it for substantially lower cost.

But that again, is like, a little quirky thing on the X3. It doesn't seem to ... We've seen other BMW's where the taillights fail, the LEDs, and you have to buy the whole light because it's a different design. But generally, they're pretty robust and pretty durable.

Mark: What about the X5? I know that's another one that we've talked about a lot.

Bernie: Yeah, X5, coolant leaks, to me, are probably the biggest thing on those. The earlier generation of V8's were really bad. The newer ones are better. And, X5's do come with the six cylinder as well, which, I think, is a much more reliable option. So, some of the things we talked about, problems with the six cylinders, like, crank case, vent valves, some of the oil leaks and coolant leaks, those are the kind of things you're going to get with a six cylinder.

But yeah, the V8's are, they definitely have their sort of ... They're more expensive coolant leaks from coolant pipes that run under the intake manifold, and pieces like that. You know, again, the older X series too, the V8, the timing chains can be an expensive issue to fix, as well.

And, one thing I'll say about an X5, it's an all wheel drive, and a lot of them have very large tires on them. So, they're not great on gas. But, you know, you don't buy a car like that for good fuel economy. You buy it more for the luxury. But, they are kind of, probably a little worse than they could be.

Mark: BMW's, what are the steps as an owner, to kind of maximize the reliability of my BMW? What do I need to do in maintenance?

Bernie: Well, regular service, for sure. And, this is a great question. Thank you for asking it. You know, BMW's maintenance schedule, they really try to stretch out the oil change interval. A lot of them are 24 thousand kilometre oil changes. They've been using that for a long time, back in the early 2000's, even earlier than that, late '90's.

You know, in my opinion, way too long for oil changes. The only time you ever really want to do that is if you're doing nothing but straight highway driving. So, changing your oil for sure. But, I would say every 12 to 15 is a much better time interval. You're much safer, you're still, that's a long interval for an oil change, and you're going to be having cleaner oil.

BMW also, you know, a lot of their transmissions, they say you don't need to service them. They're filled for life fluid. But, the fluid in them is no different than any other transmission fluid. And, the system works exactly the same. There's nothing magic about a BMW transmission, and changing fluid in that, I would recommend doing that.

So, the brake fluid every couple of years. You know, regular service is kind of the key for everything. The control arm bushings I talked about earlier, I mean, when they get bad, you'll hear clunks and things. Or, the brakes will feel a little weird. If you bring your car in for regular service, you'll know all these things and you can fix them before they become big problems.

Mark: So, there you go. If you've got a BMW in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112, to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They're busy, always busy. And, of course, if you want to check out their website, Hundreds of articles and blog posts on there. Videos on all makes and models, and all kinds of repairs. Our YouTube Channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, same thing, hundreds, hundreds of them. And, of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. Thank you, Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you, Mark, and thanks for watching.

2011 BMW X3 Electric Water Pump Replacement

Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert, Producer of the Pawlik Automotive Videos and Podcast. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. We're here talking about cars. How you doin' this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: We're, of course, speaking about a 2011 BMW X3 this morning that had a water pump problem. What was going on with this BMW?

Bernie: This BMW, the owner's complaint was that an overheat warning light would come on, on the dash and along with that, the vehicle went into reduced power mode, so you couldn't accelerate the vehicle properly. That was what was basically going on with the vehicle.

Mark: What sort of test procedure did you use to find the cause of the concern?

Bernie: First thing we always do when there's any cooling concern, of course I ask the client, what happened to the vehicle? In this case, was there steam, did you see leakage of fluid out under car? No, no steam, no fluid. We verified that. When we looked at the vehicle, of course, checked the coolant level, it was full in the coolant bottle, there was no leaks anywhere, so we knew the problem wasn't from a leakage issue, it was more ... perhaps the water pump wasn't operating or thermostat sticking kind of condition. Maybe a radiator fan issue. The next step with this type of car is to hook a scan tool up, see what kind of information is in the scan tool and when we scanned the engine there was a number of trouble codes for a electric water pump related issues, which I'll show you in a picture in a few minutes. We basically determined that the electric water pump was intermittently failing.

Mark: Electric water pump. Now that's kind of different. Why does this vehicle use an electric water pump?

Bernie: Well, the simple answer of why is because BMW chose to use an electric water pump, but they're actually, reasonably common in a lot of vehicles and as vehicles get newer, they're getting more and more common. A water pump traditionally as been driven by, it's a belt driven mechanical pump and as the engine is idling, it's turning it a certain speed and as the engine speeds up, of course, it turns faster and flows more water. All very good, but in the world of trying to get the most efficiency out of an engine, any accessory run off the engine takes power.

With the electric water pump, the idea is you run the water pump at the speed that's needed to do the job, to keep the engine at the right temperature. When the engine is stone cold for instance, you don't really need to flow any coolant through the engine at all for maybe a few seconds to a minute or two, depending on the condition. The electric water pump as the capability to do that kind of thing, so that's why they use it. It's basically for efficiency, fuel economy, mileage, power, all those things combined.

BMW isn't the only manufacturer that uses them. Actually a lot of manufacturers, especially Europeans and their luxury cars have used electric water pumps, more as an auxiliary pump, so it'll provide quick heat to the vehicle or perhaps it'll provide some heat to the vehicle when you shut the engine off, you can sit in the car for a little while and get a bit of heat flowing through the vehicle.

Electric water pumps have been used as an auxiliary pump for a lot longer than they've been used as a main pump, but this vehicle, this is the main coolant pump, it's electric.

Mark: You have some images?

Bernie: I do. Let's have a look here. There's our 2011 BMW X3. Pretty much, they've made this model look the same for I think 2011 up to about 2017 or '18. They all pretty much look alike. This is a 3.0 version, which is a twin turbo, a higher horsepower model.

2011 BMW X3 Electric Water Pump Replacement
2011 BMW X3 Electric Water Pump Replacement
2011 BMW X3 Electric Water Pump Replacement
2011 BMW X3 Electric Water Pump Replacement
2011 BMW X3 Electric Water Pump Replacement

Okay. Scan tool. Here's what we found when we plugged the scan tool into the vehicle. We can disregard the first bit of information, but there's a code here, it says message: electric coolant pump missing. It's not running when it's supposed to. Engine cooling system, reduced power, coolant pump voltage low. Again, another message for coolant pump not operating. An interesting thing is, with this particular scan tool we have, you can actually drill down into these messages and it'll show freeze frame data, when the item occurred and certain conditions that were occurring. It's interesting with this code here, I don't have a picture of it. You can actually see that this issue happened four times, previous to the time where it had set a lot of warning lights off, where the pump had been failing. It's a pretty good indication that, that was the issue.

I often say, we can't just plug a scan tool in and find out what the problem is. In the case of this vehicle, this is a very common failure item, so you can be pretty sure, once you see these codes that that's the issue.

Here's the electric water pump. Bolts up to the side of the engine. You can see inlet and outlet, big electrical connector here and yeah, that's basically it. Big motor inside here and commanded by the computer to run when it needs to and at various speeds, so it does not just run on full out, it can run at any infinite number of speeds.

Here's a thermostat. This is another item we replaced while we did the job. It's not necessarily required but there's no extra labor to do it and this is also an electric part here. There's an electrical connector here. Thermostat's ... again, these used to be a purely mechanical item, but on many newer vehicles, they're now electrically controlled so that the computer can send it a signal to open the thermostat, as well as it being mechanical, there's also some computer overrides. I'm just going to stop ... actually, you know what, there's one more picture I want to look at, to show too and that is the instrument panel.

This is the instrument panel in the BMW and what's very curious about this is there is a temperature gauge in this vehicle, however it's not an actual coolant temperature gauge, you can see it actually shows a little oil can. This is actually an engine oil temperature gauge. It's not really a very reliable indicator of engine overheating. The other thing interesting is, you see how high this temperature goes, a 170 degrees of coolant temperature, your motor would have been cooked long before it ever reaches that temperature. Engine oil temperature, it works differently than coolant, it warms up slower, it gets hotter over time and on a turbo charged engine, a lot of the time, if you're going down the highway, this temperature will go over a 120, which is fine, it's normal.

I don't know why BMW chose to put an engine oil temperature gauge, it's kind of a useless item. They really should have put a coolant temperature gauge. If you have a BMW, have a close look at this gauge and you can't really count on it, quite the way you can with a coolant temperature gauge because it'll give different readings. Just a little tip and bit of advice there.

Mark: You alluded to this is a common failure item on this model of BMW or is it on all BMW vehicles?

Bernie: There's a lot of BMW's that use this engine type and a lot that use electric coolant pumps and electric main water pumps and they'll all fail, it's an enormous failure item. They do on all of them. The more I work on cars, the more you can count on certain things. If you have a 2.5 litre Subaru timing belt engine, you can be guaranteed you're going to be doing head gaskets. I mean, it'll happen. It's kinda neat when you have those kind of guaranteed failures. Then you know when you're buying a vehicle, you know what to expect and what's going to happen. I mean, this is one of the things with a BMW, the electric water pump, it will fail at some point in time.

Mark: Is this an expensive repair?

Bernie: Well, expensive is always a relative term, but I would say yes, it is. There's a fair bit of labor involved, the part is very expensive. Canada-wise, it's in the $700-$800 range for the pump, so it's a lot of money for the pump. They're not really any cheap substitutes out there and you do want to use something that's good quality, even that thermostat is over $200 bucks for that electric thermostat. Again, they're expensive parts, bit of labor, it's not your 1970 Chevy non-air conditioned four door sedan, water pump, where you can buy a rebuilt pump for 40 bucks and thinking way back when labor was a lot cheaper too. In today's dollars, maybe a three, four hundred dollar job, whereas this BMW is 15, 16 hundred bucks taxes in. It’s up there for sure.

Mark: You mentioned the temperature control, any other items that you serviced at the same time?

Bernie: I mentioned the thermostat. We also replaced the engine coolant at the same time. It used to be that flushing antifreeze and cooling systems was a really common procedure on cars, the technology of antifreeze is really changed over the years, so much on the automobile. It used to be that you would flush your cooling system twice a year and thank God we don't anymore, because I hate to think of where all of that antifreeze used to go, down the drain probably. Nowadays, modern engine antifreeze and coolants are good for one or two hundred thousand kilometres, even more on some cars, you know five or 10 years flushing intervals, they really do last a long time.

Whenever you have a problem like this, this is a good opportunity to actually replace the engine coolant because it's probably near the end of its lifespan, it's a good opportunity to do it. Coolant flush and also the thermostat. Again, the thermostat wasn't the problem, but there's no extra charge for labor to do the thermostat because it all comes out with the water pump, so why not do it at the same time because it's probably gonna fail, who knows, next week, two years, whatever it is, but you have to take a lot of the stuff back off to do it.

Mark: You alluded to other European manufacturers, does anyone else use electric water pumps?

Bernie: Well, a lot of manufacturers do and the ones that come to my mind, I'm thinking Toyota Hybrids, I mean they have electric water pumps. A lot of accessories on hybrids are all electric. A lot of Prius's, I can't remember after 2011, they don't even have a drive belt, everything is electrically driven, the air conditioning, the whole thing. That's the one vehicle I can think of for example, but many vehicles use 'em and they're going to get more and more common because again, it's about having control over these items, where it's not just a pure mechanical device drawing power, you can go, hey, it's going to draw less power, that's going to give you better fuel economy and power and have better engine performance overall. Even oil pumps in some engines, they have an electrical component to them or they're electrically driven. Again, it's about having that computerized control.

Mark: How reliable are BMW X3's?

Bernie: They're pretty reliable, but BMW tend to have more issues perhaps than a lot of cars, so you'll spend more money on this car then you will on an equivalent SUV, of a lot of others, but I mean, generally, it's a nicely built car, good quality. This one has a lot of fancy stuff on it, so you can expect that you'll pay more money to fix it over time. Generally, pretty reliable car.

Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your BMW X3 or any model of BMW, or you have an electric water pump that needs replacing in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead because they're busy or check out our website, YouTube channel: Pawlik Auto Repair, close to a 1000 videos on there on all makes and models and types of repairs. As well, thank you for listening to the podcast and thank you Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark and thanks for watching, we really appreciate it.

2008 BMW 328xi – Front End Clunk

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and videos. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. We're talking cars this morning. How you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So, BMW 328, XI 2008 vintage, had a front end clunk. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Last Friday, the vehicle came in for some service and among one of the items there's a tire pressure warning light on. It needed a flat repair on the front left wheel so we did the flat repair. We noticed after we drove the vehicle, so we just unbolted the wheel and put it back on. We hoisted the vehicle up and down, of course, which we needed to do, there seemed to be a really loud clunk in the front end. Course it was late Friday. The customer needed the vehicle and we did not have time to look at it.  We weren't even sure if the clunk was possibly there beforehand. It turned out it hadn't been but for some reason this horrible clunk had developed in the front end. BMWs do have front end parts that wear out quite frequently. Things like ball joints or control arm bushings wear badly. We figured well maybe it just happened to have worn out, something like that had happened. That's what we figured was what was wrong with the vehicle. We proceeded to look. That's basically what led to the vehicle, so it came back for a look at. What we found was the engine mount bolts had broken on the right hand side. Basically the bracket that had held the engine mount in place had broken. That was what was causing the clunk. 

Mark: So do you have some pictures? 

2008 BMW 328xi - Front End Clunk
2008 BMW 328xi - Front End Clunk
2008 BMW 328xi - Front End Clunk

Bernie: I do. Yeah, let's get into some pictures. There's our BMW 328. Nice, decent, all-wheel drive sedan. This is the engine mount bracket here that was loose. There's a bolt here. That's the yellow indicates the bracket. This is actually with the assembly redone but what we found when we did the inspection on the vehicle, no loose front end parts surprisingly. We found the heads of the bolts lying on the vehicle splash pans. These are three of the four bolts for the engine mount. You'll see they're actually all broken. The fourth bolt was no where to be found. It had worked its way loose at some point. These are all aluminum bolts. Obviously aluminum is not as strong as steel, which explains why they cracked. That's at least why they're broken, because a steel bolt would not break like this, but aluminum certainly will. That's what we found. The loose mount was causing it. When you'd hit a bump, the engine would be banging up and down on the frame of the vehicle.

Mark: Or I guess if you accelerated hard as well.

Bernie: Well, interestingly enough, it didn't because it was the right hand side so all the torque is on the left side so actually, fortunately for the owner of this vehicle, it was the right side that broke, because it was already sitting down on the frame of the vehicle. But it's surprising that we didn't feel more vibration in the vehicle when you accelerate, because you'd think that ... usually it transfers quite a vibration but for some reason, however it happened, it wasn't noticeable. 

Mark: So how could it happen? 

Bernie: How could it happen? Well, what we speculate happened was that these bolts had probably been loose for some time, and the fact that one of them was completely missing, I mean if someone had been in there previously and done a repair or-

Mark: And not tightened everything properly. 

Bernie: Either not tightened the bolts or the bolt was loose, or somehow they just worked their way loose over time. Obviously, the bolts were all loose and at some point, and I'm assuming it happened Friday afternoon at some point on one of our road tests or just jacking the engine up or down, the rest of the bolts were loose and snapped, maybe two out of three were broken. And the last one finally snapped and just kind of went crazy. But that caused the clunk. 

Mark: So why do they use aluminum bolts? That seems kinda crazy. 

Bernie: Good question. Yeah, you're right. It does seem kind of crazy because aluminum is such a light-weight material compared to steel. But it's really light-weight is the reason that they do it. When you consider a car how many bolts there are in the engine and in various spots, there's got to be several hundred pounds worth of bolt, so if you can reduce half of them. An aluminum bolt is a featherweight. It's really interesting holding these bolts 'cause we bought a package of new bolts from BMW and there's four of them in a bag and they weigh ... It's weird when you hold them, because they weigh nothing. It's like holding up a piece of paper. It just doesn't seem right, because the steel bolts you get used to the weight of something like that. That's essentially why they use aluminum bolts to save weight. And they've obviously done their engineering and figured okay we can use aluminum bolts here. We can use them there. That's why they do it. 

Mark: Are aluminum bolts reusable? 

Bernie: No. Well, I'll say only at your peril. I would never reuse an aluminum bolt. The factory way of doing things is you replace them, so this is why a lot of these kind of things are ... as long as the car's not too old. Aluminum bolt technology is something that's only been ... This is like a ten-year-old car, so it hasn't been used for too long. The Germans seem to like it a lot. But a lot of times these bolts will be stocked or pretty easy to get. We never reuse them because they're designed for one time use and that's it. 

Mark: Yeah. I remember Audi used to use these as well, right? 

Bernie: They certainly do. 

Mark: Could you substitute ... are there aftermarket steel bolts? 

Bernie: Oh yeah, you could use a steel bolt. The threads are all standard types of metric threads. You could just get the right thread pattern and use them. We just in this case of this repair, just chose to get the bolts from BMW. They're easy to get. They've got the right socket heads and that's what the factory recommendation is but you could certainly hunt around and try to find aluminum bolts. 

Mark: Steel bolts.

Bernie: Steel. I'm sorry, yeah. Thank you, Mark. You could certainly hunt around and find steel bolts and probably even get ones with similar heads on them, but that takes a lot of extra work. And a lot of times metric bolts and getting the right length and so on and the right type of head are difficult to find. So we went with the factory bolts and torqued them to spec, and all should be good. 

Mark: With a completely loose right side of the engine basically, that sounds like a pretty bad thing. Did any further damage occur from this issue or could it have occurred in the future? 

Bernie: Well, it certainly could have. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, it was a good thing it was the right side and not the left, because the left side as soon as you accelerate, the engine lifts because of the torque and the rotation of the engine. Usually at that point you get much worse damage of things like the radiator fence. Being a BMW, it may have a fan or some pulleys it will hit on things. But being the right hand side, I guess reverse is where it's a risk, because if you accelerate hard in reverse, the engine will jump up. In this case, fortunately nothing else got damaged. So that was a good thing. But it certainly can. A broken engine mount is a pretty serious thing. It can cause a lot of extra costly issues to occur. 

Mark: So we're learning things. Cars' crank shafts turn clockwise, basically. 

Bernie: They do. Yeah. Some engines actually turn counterclockwise. It depends on ... but I don't know of any rear wheel drive, this is essentially this is an all-wheel drive but BMWs are all basically rear wheel drive cars, so that they're longitudinal engine. I can't think of one that has a counterclockwise rotation. They all rotate clockwise. But some transverse mounted engines rotate the other way depending on which way they put the transmission and which way it's configured in the engine compartment. 

Mark: So how did the vehicle drive after your repairs? 

Bernie: It was good. Yeah, no problem no clunks. Just about perfect. 

Mark: And how are 328 and 328xi all-wheel drives for reliability? 

Bernie: Well, they usually need a few more repairs than your average vehicle. They're oil and coolant leaks develop on these after time. There's spark plugs and things, those type of things wear out as usual. Ignition coil failures are common. But overall, they're a pretty nice vehicle. But if you own one, expect that you're going to be spending more money on repairs and maintenance than you would on an equivalent type of Japanese vehicle. 

Mark: So your elegant European hot rod is going to cost you a bit more for maintenance? 

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. 

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for repairs, maintenance on your BMW in Vancouver, the experts to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112. You have to call and book because they're busy. Or check out their website Our YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there. And thanks for listening to the podcast. Remember for all you others across North America, they can't diagnose things over the phone. We are not experts over the phone. We have to see your product in order to be able to give you an accurate diagnosis, so if you're in Vancouver, we'd love to talk to you. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. And thanks for mentioning that. It's much appreciated. Thanks for watching our podcast. 

2011 BMW X3 LED Tail Light Repair

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver’s best auto service experience. I think now it’s 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and serving and repairing, maintaining vehicles in Vancouver for 38 years. How’re you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So congratulations.

Bernie: Thank you

Mark: And I guess we’re going to talk about a BMW X3 that has a fairly common problem, the LED taillights needed repairing. What was going on with this 2011 BMW?

Bernie: So on this 2011 BMW, the right taillight was not functioning and through doing a little research, we found, so it’s an LED taillight that there’s a repair available to do this job, besides just changing the taillight. 

Mark: So with an LED, can you just change the bulb?

Bernie:  No you can’t. So an LED is basically, well it’s like a bulb but it’s an electronic bulb and they’re all a molded assembly, so the LED’s are generally molded right into the plastic of the taillight and the neat thing about it is when the light’s illuminated, it gives a kind of a nice band of light. You see a lot of new cars with kind of uniquely sculpted lights nowadays and that’s thanks to LED technology. They are individual lights but when you put a number of them together and put the right glass over the top of them, it looks like one strip of light. So no, you can’t just change the bulb unfortunately.

Mark: So what is the repair?

Bernie: So the repair is, there’s a little electronic driver module inside the LED taillight on this BMW and they tend to fail over time. If you look on the internet, there are repairs where you can re-solder the boards, but you know this is a fairly new repair to us, what we found in many cases is there is nothing to re-solder on the boards. They’re just basically, they just basically fry and wear out and according to some of the information I’ve read, if you re-solder them they eventually burn our again anyways. Again, it’s an engineering issue. They just weren’t built robust enough to last for a long time and this affects every X3 from 2011 up to at least 2016 or 17. So there’s a lot of models and a lot of years that’s out there.

Mark: Ok this seems a little bit, how do you repair it I guess?

Bernie: Yeah well, how do you repair it? Let’s have a look at a few pictures. So there’s an example of a nice 2011 BMW X3, 3 litre twin turbo model. There’s a photo of the culprit taillight. So this vehicle has inboard taillights, as well as outboard, and you can see, this is a nighttime shot, the right rear taillight it’s not functioning in this particular case. So the repair. So this is the unit that died, this is the board here. It’s a Valeo driver module essentially, has four electrical connectors on it with a pin. This is very small. I actually took this picture on a little carpet in my shop so you can see, this is a little pine needle that’s lying or little chunk of wood that’s lying beside so you get an idea of the scale. This is really small, it’s only about three quarters of an inch by two inches in size. The repair that we found is this particular thing here, it actually doesn’t look all that interesting compared to the original board, but basically all that’s out here is inside this module and the repair is to basically just snip the old connector out, solder in this new unit, and away it goes. So of course, after the repair, there’s our functional taillight.  

2011 BMW X3 LED Tail Light Repair
2011 BMW X3 LED Tail Light Repair
2011 BMW X3 LED Tail Light Repair
2011 BMW X3 LED Tail Light Repair

Mark: So I guess we haven’t really mentioned this, but I guess in most cases what people do is if they can’t replace that board, if they can’t do it themselves or they try and solder it themselves and it doesn’t last, what they have to end up doing is actually replacing the entire taillight assembly. Is that what happens?

Bernie: Exactly and if you go to BMW, no doubt they’ll just sell you a complete light assembly, they’ll never do a repair like this at a BMW dealer. I mean, there’s a lot of shops that don’t even know to do these kind of repairs. But yeah that’s basically it and it’s incredibly wasteful. I mean you’re throwing away a perfectly good unit that, you know, that’s otherwise good with the exception of this little module that’s dead. 

Mark: And does this save money?

Bernie: It’s huge, I mean it’s much less than half the price of a new one to take, you know for us to actually replace this particular unit, and it works every bit as well. So it’ll last just as long or longer than the original.

Mark: Yeah, LED lights being rated for anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 hours of use, which is a long time, 10 or 20 years.

Bernie: They last a long time and you’ll see on certain vehicles, I mean LED lights are getting more and more popular and a lot of them say on a truck for example, you can see they have a round light assembly and it’ll have, you can see like you know, 20 little LEDs and after a while one will burn out, and another one and you know, once I can’t remember the specs, once a third of them burn out, then the light’s junk and you throw it away. But for a lot of cars I mean the LEDs will last you know, 20 years, the light, the actual light assembly. So, they’re very, very durable.

Mark: And is this a repair you only offer in Vancouver?

Bernie: No, I mean of course if you’re in Vancouver and you have a BMW X3 with a taillight, please bring it to us, but if you live somewhere else and you want it repaired, you can mail it to us, we can repair it and send it back to you.

Mark: And how about LED lights, since they are so much more popular these days, what about LED light failures on other cars? I know a lot of other BMW’s have this same issue.

Bernie: Well you know, this is something that’s fairly new to us. I mean, LEDs, they have been around for quite a while but they’re starting to get to the point of failing on a lot of cars. So the answer is wherever possible, we’ll repair them, and it’s a need to research each individual car as we go. So certainly if you’re you know, if you need something done, contact us. We’ll look into it, see what we can do and its definitely, I’d say an area that we’ll be doing a lot more of because we can you know, it saves resources, saves money to fix it but it again, it’s a matter of how easy is it to disassemble. With the BMW, fortunately it’s a board that’s not hard to remove and it’s separate from being molded inside a piece of plastic. So they’ve fortunately made it repairable, unfortunately not as durable as it should be in the first place. 

Mark: So there you go. If you’re looking for a repair on your BMW X3 taillight assembly, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book an appointment, book ahead, they’re busy. Check out their website at, our new Podcast on iTunes, Pawlik Automotive Repair or you can check us out on YouTube. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark

2011 BMW 335D; Glow Plugs

Mark: Hi  it’s Mark, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and Show. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So we’re talking with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 38 years of repairing and maintaining vehicles in Vancouver and 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers, and today we’re going to talk about a 2011 BMW 335D that had a glow plug problem. We don’t talk about these very often, a BMW diesel, what was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: So the vehicle running fine, but a check engine light on and a code P0671 which is a glow plug fault, glow plug circuit fault, cylinder number one. So that’s what we were looking at on this vehicle.

Mark: And how did you diagnose this?

Bernie: Well, so they’re the code’s pretty specific. It says glow plug circuit fault and a lot of people would think oh yeah, it needs a new glow plug. Well actually the code’s a circuit fault. So the circuit is the glow plug, it’s the wire to the glow plug any related wiring and it’s also the control unit. Those are the items that could be at fault in this particular situation. So to diagnosis this particular vehicle, the glow plugs and the control module are all located underneath the intake manifold. So it actually required removing the intake manifold to do any further diagnosis on the vehicle.

Mark: Ok that sounds like a lot of work to figure out what was going wrong?

Bernie: Well it is actually a lot of work to at least get into what’s wrong and this is you know, where we like to do a little pre-planning with our client to say, you know to keep the cost down, if we were just to say, I just want you to diagnose this, it would be very expensive for us to take everything apart, test everything, put it all back together and tell you you know, this is what’s wrong with it. So it’s the kind of thing where we need to kind of pre plan what could actually be wrong with it. It could be the glow plug, it could be the control module, the most likely cause of the fault and with the vehicle being 7 years old, you might just need to replace, if one glow plug’s bad, you may as well replace them all. Or if it’s a lot of work to take the manifold off, why not just replace everything and then you’re done with it and it’s not going to leave anything to say 6 months from now, oh well plug 6 died or something to that effect. So this is the kind of pre planning we do in certain situations like this. Because it make more sense, if you’re going to take the manifold off to just fix everything at the same time. So once we remove the manifold, then we’re able to do some tests. We actually found the glow plug would actually heat up and light up and the module is faulty but as said, based on the mileage in the vehicle we ended up replacing all the glow plugs and the control unit at the same time while everything was apart. Let’s just have a look at a few pictures here.

This is the 2011 BMW 335D, your sort of standard BMW sedan but of course with a diesel under the hood. The engine again, covered in plastic with a nice, beautiful plastic, it’s hard to know what, you don’t really know what’s underneath until you take the plastic off. But this is the engine with the intake manifold removed and I’ve put some nice red arrows there indicating where the glow plugs are located. So the glow plugs were actually removed at this point, the intake manifold actually has two ports for each cylinder. So you have your lower set of ports, your upper set of ports. These are the fuel injector lines. The fuel injects are located up in this area here and the red arrows point to where the glow plug holes are. So we at this point removed the glow plugs and just for reference, the control unit sits down around this area under these hoses. What else have we got in the way of pictures here. We’ve got a view of the intake manifold removed. This has a swirl valve, well that’s a Mercedes term, but an intake manifold runner so you can vary the intake ports for different air flows and performance at different engine speeds. And here we have the EGR valve and throttle unit and in this area we did find some carbon deposits which we cleaned and we can talk about that a little later on. And finally the stars of the show, the glow plugs and the control unit. So here’s an example of two of the glow plugs. Your basic, standard type of glow plug and the control unit which looks like it says BMW on it, made by Bayer. These are, this type of control unit is very common. They look pretty much the same on a Mercedes, Volkswagen, a Isuzu diesel that we do a lot on, like in a medium truck. They’re basically all the same type of thing and they all tend to fail, same with the glow plugs and so once you get to a certain mileage, it’s best just to replace it all and be done with it.

2011 BMW 335D; Glow Plugs
2011 BMW 335D; Glow Plugs
2011 BMW 335D; Glow Plugs
2011 BMW 335D; Glow Plugs

Mark: So what did you find that was actually wrong? Was it the unit?

Bernie: It was actually the control unit that was bad in this case. As I mentioned we took all the glow plugs out and we were able to power them up and heat them and they all heated up fine. Now that still doesn’t mean the glow plug, even though it heated up fine didn’t have some resistance issue or something that the control unit found faulty. But in this case, the control unit was from what we could tell, the item at fault.

Mark: And you mentioned carbon deposits, I know that’s a huge issue on diesel intake systems. What did you find on this car?

Bernie: Well it wasn’t too bad as you could, I mean I know we’ve you know the pictures are gone now, but really there was actually a very minimal about of carbon deposit in the intake runners which is a good sign. This vehicle only has 78,000 kilometres, so it’s still pretty low mileage and it sounded, the owner I believe, has done a lot of highway driving with it so that all helps to, but we did find in the EGR valve and on the throttle plate, there was a lot of carbon deposit. We remove those and clean them out while we had everything apart. So that’ll definitely help airflow in the vehicle. 

Mark: Now something we’ve mentioned before about BMW’s, they use a lot of plastic parts, is this a plastic intake manifold?

Bernie: It sure is, yeah they use a lot of plastic wherever they can. Well a lot of other manufacturers do too, but yeah this is a plastic intake manifold. So nobody issues like that, you know I showed that swirl valve or you know, intake runner, whatever, every manufacturer has a different name, you know, those kind of things tend to wear after a while. I remember having a Ford years ago where that intake you know, after moving for years and year and years, it just wears the plastic away. So thats the kind of issue with plastic you know that you eventually get and the intake manifold will probably need to be replaced at some point. Who knows when. I mean at this point, it’s in very good shape.

Mark: And how are these BMW diesels for reliability?

Bernie: So far we’ve found them to be pretty good but you know, to be honest, we haven’t worked on a lot of BMW diesels. There’s not a lot of them out there. I think that’s mainly the reason, we’re starting to see more and more of them as they come off warranty and you know, there a few more on the market but when you compare it to Volkswagen or Mercedes, they really haven’t sold a lot of diesel vehicles or they’re pretty rare for BMW. Not so much for Volkswagen or Mercedes. 

Mark: And contrary to what people might think, this is a BMW high performance vehicle. In fact it might be the fastest 3-series and certainly in terms of torque, is that right?

Bernie: Yeah, it’s very peppy. After we did the repair I drove it, I go wow, it really moves well. So yeah, it’s a nice car, there’s really no compromise with a diesel. You know as I say, the thing about diesel’s that always worry me and we see it a lot, is they do cost a lot of money to fix when things go wrong and they tend to go wrong more than they use to. So you get a lot of good fuel mileage, you save a lot of money on fuel while you’re driving this vehicle that ’s for sure.

Mark: Absolutely. So if you need some service for your BMW diesel in Vancouver or your Mercedes or Volkswagen, the guys who are experts at it are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 or check out their website We’ve got hundreds of videos on there and lots of them about all kinds of different diesels or our Youtube channel Pawlik Automotive or our new PodCast. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

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