Today’s featured repair is replacement of the transmission hydraulic unit on a 2006 BMW M6.
2006 BMW M6
The 2006 BMW M6 is an awesome car, featuring a V10 engine coupled to a Getrag SMG III semi automatic transmission.
Trying to combine the best of both worlds this transmission has a clutch but no clutch pedal and has no conventional standard transmission gearshifter. You can choose to shift it yourself by moving a shifter handle or clicking paddle shifters on the steering wheel. You can also set it to automatic and allow the computer to do the shifting for you.
This all happens compliments of a hydraulic control unit that mounts on the top and side of the transmission. Large solenoids take the place of the shifter handle and the clutch is operated by an electronically controlled hydraulic slave cylinder. All of these components are serviced as a single assembly: when one part breaks, the whole unit must be replaced.
This was the service that was required on our M6. The clutch worked fine but the transmission would not shift gears. As you might guess the hydraulic unit was extremely expensive (many thousands of dollars). We were fortunately able to source a good used unit. Replacement involved removing the transmission which provided access to the hydraulic unit. It was a time consuming job but reasonably straight forward as the hydraulic assembly bolts onto an essentially manual transmission.
After repairs a road test was performed and everything functioned well.
We work on a wide variety of cars and trucks at our shop and always appreciate a road test in a fine high-end sports car. This BMW unfortunately was a huge disappointment. In spite of the 507 horsepower monster engine the car really lacked the get up and go that we expected, and much of that can be attributed to the semi automatic transmission. The delay between shifts really affects the thrill and performance of this car. A regular manual or an automatic transmission would be far superior.
Top and left side view of the semi automatic transmission. The red arrows point to the solenoid unit on top of the transmission. These connect to the transmission shift rods. Yellow arrow points to the clutch slave cylinder & green arrow points to the hydraulic reservoir. These parts are all included with the hydraulic unit.
Talking BMW with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive, Vancouver’s award winning auto repair and maintenance shop in Marpole, voted 13 times Vancouver’s best auto repair shop by it’s customers!
Mark: Morning, it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive and we’re going to talk about BMW’s. How’re you doing today Bernie?
Bernie: Really well, really well.
Mark: So BMW has developed a real reputation as a desirable car, very high tech vehicles, the kind of car that says “You’ve got it made”. So are they all that they’re cracked up to be?
Bernie: Well, they’re certainly well built cars and you know, whether or not they’re actually the ultimate driving machine as they once claimed in their advertising is to be debatable. But like many German cars in the high end scale, they’re well built and awesome to drive, but they are not without their issues.
Mark: So what kind of issues are you seeing with BMW’s?
Bernie: Well, some items that come to mind and these are mostly when the cars age a little bit are the water pumps leak, thermostats fail, some models, especially those with the V8 engines develop some expensive oil and coolant leaks. They usually happen when the engine gets little older, you probably wouldn’t see anything like that until the car is eight or ten years old.
I think BMW’s 6 cylinder engines are awesome. They’re definitely the best option if you want a reasonably trouble free car. It’s amazing the engine, the 6 cylinder BMW, they make them in every size from a 2 litre up to about 3.2 litre. If you look at the engine under the hood it looks like the same thing but they’ve just enlarged or contract the engine, put different accessories on. You know it’s a smart idea from a manufacturer point of view but it’s also great as they’ve had time to perfect it and make it work really well. I mean, over all, they’re really reliable engines. But like all complex machines, especially German cars, they’re kind of finicky-things like check engine lights goes off a lot for various things
Mark: So what other repetitive concerns do you see with BMW’s?
Bernie: Well one big one that we see, and this is usually on the 6 cylinder engine is the crankcase breather valves fail and when these valves wear out,, it can cause a number of issues like check engine light being on, sometimes you’ll start the car and a big cloud of blue smoke will blow out the back, or the car tends to burn oil; which is kind of serious but fortunately, it’s not a very difficult thing to fix. I mean it does cost a bit of money, but it’s not the complete engine which is a really good thing. We repair these frequently on BMW models, on the 6 cylinder engines. The brakes also wear fairly quickly on many models, especially the sport utility vehicles and like all German vehicles, when the pads wear, the rotors wear out too, they are very hard on rotors for some reason. But in all fairness, it’s not really any more than any other equivalent German car like a Mercedes or Volkswagen would be.
Mark: So how did BMW get to build such amazing cars, didn’t they start as a motorcycle company?
Bernie: I was doing a little research on this, they actually started off as an aircraft company in 1917, but they were forced out of the industry after the First World War and then they started making motorcycles and then they started making cars. But during World War II they got back into aircraft engines. They made some pretty amazing engines during that time, but after WWII they got back into cars and motorcycles again. It’s quite amazing how the company has evolved when you look at some of the cars and motorcycles they used to make. I’m always amazed when certain companies like Bombardier which started with snow mobiles and now they make world class commuters airplanes and trains but it’s funny how they evolved, but BMW has kind of done the same thing, they started with motorcycles and now they make some of the most amazing cars on the planet. If you’ve never seen a BMW Isetta, it’s worth looking at. It’s a hilarious looking car, it has the door of the car in the front and you climb in and there’s two seats, I’m not sure if it’s a three or four wheeled car. But the two back wheels are very close together and has an air cooled motorcycle type engine. It’s quite hilarious to look at. It’s hard to imagine that they would of built the kind of cars that they do now from that. When you look at the WWII aircraft engines, you can see where their precision of manufacturing came in and quality came in. It’s not surprising that they build the kind of cars that they do now a days.
Mark: So, I’ve heard that BMW’s don’t require service very often, can you tell us more about this?
Bernie: Well, BMW, like a lot of European manufacturers, pride themselves on infrequent service intervals and I think, in a way, environmentally it’s a good thing, the less often you have to change your oil is wasted and in need to be remanufactured and disposed of. It’s also a great selling feature for the salesman or woman, they can explain to their potential buyer, “oh you know this car is great because it doesn’t need any service, you’ll rarely have to come in for service and that’s one of the great features. There’s also electronic reminders for when the service is due. It me, it’s a somewhat an engineering coup that they’ve been able to do this. If you’re leasing a car for a short period of time, maybe 3-4 years, it’s a great sales feature because you don’t need to service very often and the can probably throw in some free maintenance or low cost maintenance, really the car is not going to need much. I mean, theses long service intervals, while there’s a lot of engineering that goes into them, I really think that it’s not best to stretch it out to that long, long term interval. Most BMW’s is 24,000 for oil changes, to me, that is way too long. By the time the oil hits 24,000km’s it’s really toxic. I don’t know how good the lubrication quality is. I know there’s a lot of engineering that goes into that, they wouldn’t suggest it if there wasn’t at least some sound basis for it, but I think that if you want to keep the car for longer term I wouldn’t go more than 15-18,000km before changing the oil. You know, the other thing too that happens of course, is when you’re leaving your vehicle for that long a period of time, you’re not getting inspections done, it’s great when a car is new, but as a car gets older, every 10-15,000km’s, you should really have the car hoisted and looked at, things will wear and you don’t want to be in an unsafe position.
One of the things that is amazing about BMW, a lot of newer BMW’s is that they have reminders for service, like they’ll tell you when your brake pads need to be replaced and these aren’t just wear sensors, but they’re actually computers, I don’t know how they figure it out yet to be honest. But they seem pretty accurate. With tire pressure monitors and that kind of thing you can almost trust the system for a while. But when the car gets older, like 8-10 years old and older, you will want to have it inspected on a routine basis.
Mark: Any final thoughts on BMW?
Bernie: You know, over all they’re great cars, they’re quite reliable, but being a fancy European car, you will usually spend more money than you would on an American or Japanese car but that’s not always true. BMW has a variety of models of cars, they’ve got sedans, convertibles, sport utility, some quite racy cars. They’re pretty amazing so if that car appeals to you, I’d say go for it. It’s a great car, but you will generally spend more money on maintenance and repairs than you would on a well built Japanese car. It’s interesting, sometimes even though they are more expensive, as I’ve said before, sometimes European cars can be cheaper to fix.
If you’re looking for a great shop to service your BMW, we can absolutely be that shop for you. So that’s all I have to say about BMW today.
Mark: Thanks Bernie. So we’ve been talking with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive, they’ve been voted 13 times Vancouver’s Best Auto Repair shop by their customers, which is a pretty amazing record. If you need any kind of service on your car or truck these guys to go see. Thanks Bernie
Our latest featured repair is Crankcase Vent Valve Replacement on a 2006 BMW X3, brought to us by a client from Squamish, BC.
2006 BMW X3
All engines have a ventilation system to deal with the pressure build up that occurs in the crankcase. Combustion gases also escape the piston rings: these contain particularly noxious pollutants that are extremely damaging to the atmosphere.
Up until the 1960’s most engine’s dealt with the crankcase gases with a simple road draft tube. This prevented pressure build up but vented the harsh pollutants to the air. Crankcase ventilation systems were developed whereby the blow-by gases were sucked back into the intake system and reburned.
Crankcase ventilation system systems vary from a very simple arrangement of two vacuum hoses and a PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve to more complex arrangements such as those found on this BMW.
Components of the BMW X3 crankcase breather system are common to most BMW 6 cylinder engines. At the heart of the system is the crankcase vent valve. From there a series of hoses connects to various engine parts: the intake manifold, the valve cover and the oil dipstick tube.
Components of the BMW crankcase ventilation system. The Blue arrow points to the Crankcase Vent Valve. The green arrow points to a break in the hose which runs to the oil dipstick tube. This hose was rotted out from the combustion gases. Other components of the system are the hoses and plastic manifold which clips into the intake manifold. Our featured vehicle was originally from Ontario and comes equipped with the cold weather style of crankcase ventilation. This includes insulating covers over all components to retain heat.
When these components fail several concerns will occur including billowing clouds of blue smoke on start up, excessive oil consumption and a rough idle. Our featured X3 was suffering from the first two: oil was needing to be added to the engine every couple of weeks and some engine start ups were accompanied by an embarrassing cloud of smoke.
Engine oil burning is always a concern as it can involve expensive internal engine repairs, fortunately on BMW’s with 6 cylinder engines the cause is almost always the crankcase vent valve.
Our latest featured service is Oil Pan Gasket Replacement on a 2005 BMW 325i, brought to us by a client from Kensington/Cedar Cottage, Vancouver.
2005 BMW 325i
The BMW 325i features a straight six cylinder engine used in many BMW vehicles. This engine design has been utilized for many years and, while it looks basically the same on the outside, has been altered to many displacements and performance levels. This is incredibly smart on BMW’s behalf as they can efficiently manufacture many engines with the same tooling.
Overall these are a very good engine from a performance and reliability standpoint. There are few things that go wrong with them, but they are not perfect. Like all engines, there are numerous gaskets to seal the oil and coolant inside the engine. Over time these gaskets wear out. In the case of our featured BMW 325i the engine oil pan gasket was leaking oil.
During a regularly scheduled maintenance service we found a large amount of oil leakage at the front bottom of the engine. While we suspected engine oil, there are also power steering and transmission cooler hoses in the area that were oil soaked which added to the possible leak sources.
Proper diagnosis is key to finding oil leaks. We employ two techniques to positively identify the leak: first we clean off the leaked oil and second we add UV dye to the engine oil (and any other fluid that we suspect might be leaking). Inspecting the leak after an overnight drive by the vehicle owner verified the oil pan gasket as the leak.
Oil pan gasket replacement times vary greatly from car to car. The simplest types can be done in an hour whereas some take days.
Tuesday’s featured repair is Tail Light and Headlight Bulb Replacement on a 2009 BMW 328iX, brought to us by a client from Richmond, BC.
2009 BMW 328ix
While tail light and headlight bulb replacement may seem like a rather simple service it is anything but inexpensive on this BMW. As a fine European car this vehicle features state of the art lighting technology. The headlamps are xenon bulbs and the tail light assembly uses LEDs.
Our client brought in his BMW 328iX with 2 concerns: the right front headlamp flickered and the left rear turn signal did not blink properly. The instrument panel indicated the malfunctioning bulbs.
After testing and diagnosis we determined that all lights were receiving proper power and ground and the cause of the concern was in the lights themselves. The xenon headlight bulb for this vehicle comes complete with ballast which eliminates both wear out components of this system. Turn signal repair required replacement of the entire tail light assembly as nothing is serviceable separately.
Illumination of the lights on this BMW is impressive but it comes at a cost. Ordinary bulb replacement would have cost far less than a hundred. This service cost over eight hundred.
Today’s featured service is Catalytic Converter Replacement to rectify AirCare Test Failure on a 1991 BNW 750i and brought to us by a client in Marpole, Vancouver
1991 BMW 750i, Top of the line in it’s day and still a beautiful car.
This beautiful flagship BMW 750i features a 5 liter V12 engine. While the V12 engine is fabulously smooth, at a 5 liter displacement I would say it’s really overly complex. When many manufacturers make a much larger, more powerful and just as smooth V8 engine who really needs the extra 4 cylinders. It’s just a lot of extra stuff to go wrong.
Our clients 750i failed AirCare from bad catalytic converters. I use the term bad, as opposed to worn out, because the converters in this vehicle were only 4 months old! They were very poor quality and did little to reduce the emissions of the engine.
Some important lessons can be learned here and that is to be careful where you buy your parts. In the case of these cats, the owner purchased the pair for $500.00 from an internet part supplier. While they bolted in very nicely, clearly the catalyst inside was very poor quality. With catalytic converters you really get what you pay for. The reason being is that the catalyst materials are precious metals: platinum, palladium and rhodium. These are very expensive materials so reducing their quantity saves cost.
While I did not price out original BMW converters I would guess that for this car they would cost between $1000.00 and $2000.00 each. While you will get a very high quality converter, at that price it can be prohibitively expensive.
Poor quality catalytic converter removed from BMW 750i. From the outside it looks perfectly good. It’s what’s inside that counts!
What we did for our client is custom install Walker Calcat catalytic converters. These units meet California emission standards and as can be seen by the fabulous results on the AirCare retest, they really work. Cost for these converters installed was about $1100.00. Lots more than the internet garbage but a far cry cheaper than OEM.
Coolant expansion tank replacement on a 2001 BMW 330i is our featured repair today.
2001 BMW 330i
This BMW was towed in due to a sudden loss of coolant. The culprit was a cracked expansion tank.
The expansion tank is made of plastic and like so many other plastic parts on cars eventually gets brittle and breaks.
Unfortunately there is usually no warning when these parts fail. BMW is not the only vehicle to experience these concerns. Volkswagen, Mercedes, Jaguar and Audi, just to mention a few manufacturers, also suffer from sudden failure of plastic parts.
The best prevention is to simply replace the high failure items every 10 years or so.
Plastic coolant expansion tank. Note the large crack on the side corner.
Friday’s featured repair is Ignition Coil Replacement on a 2006 BMW M3.
2006 BMW M3
This sporty performance vehicle arrived at our shop running very roughly and with the check engine lamp illuminated on the dash.
The first step in any such repair is diagnosis and we determined that #2 cylinder’s ignition coil was dead. This 6 cylinder engine features 1 coil per cylinder. After replacement the car ran great.
While a single coil replacement solved this concern we recommended replacing all coils as they’re all the same age and failures of the others could be just around the corner.
One unique feature of this car is the clutchless manual transmission. There is no clutch pedal but you still have to shift gears, either by stick or paddles on the steering wheel. Clutch operation is automatically controlled by the computer.
Clutchless Manual Transmission Stickshifter. No ‘H’ pattern here, just move the stick forwards and backwards to shift.