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My BMW is Broken Already, and It's a Nightmare to Fix

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author photo by Tyler Hoover October 2017

Yes, the honeymoon is over. Actually, I never really got one with my 2005 BMW 745i that I called the most hated BMW in the USA. After its first (and only) road trip from Wichita to Kansas City, something came loose in the front suspension, and the engine bay started smelling like burning oil. Under normal circumstances, an oil leak wouldn't be a big deal -- but because we're talking about a BMW, it's the kind of job mechanics have nightmares about.

Now, I've admitted before that I have some bias against BMW after three horrific years with a 2003 X5 4.4i V8 when I was in college. It was so unreliable, I felt justified buying a cheap Mercedes diesel as a spare car -- so I really should give BMW credit for starting my hooptie fleet 10 years ago. But the brand has left a bad taste in my mouth ever since.

Since my trip with the 745i, it's been parked in storage for over a month. A shredded control arm bushing caused my suspension woes. The oil leak was coming from the valve cover gasket, which is a minor repair for almost every other car in the world -- but not with a modern BMW. For such a large car, the engine bay is packed tight, with little thought of the placement of other parts and accessories for serviceability. This job is way over my head, so I enlisted the help of my mechanic, the car wizard. This was one of the first times the wizard complained about having work, as he knew what was coming.

The first step involved removing lots of unnecessary decorative plastic so you actually see the 4.4-liter V8 -- but the naked engine bay looks more like a bowl of spaghetti. The endless noodles of wiring dominate the engine bay as it connects to random electronic meatballs -- and the cost of most individual parts would pay for a year's worth of spaghetti at the Olive Garden.

The first step in replacing the valve cover gaskets is removing the ignition coils. Two of these coils are impossible to remove without unbolting the ABS pump and pulling it out of the way. Next, you remove what seems like hundreds of plugs made of brittle plastic (some of which inevitably break) before unbolting the valve cover -- which also happens to be made of plastic. You also have to remove the VANOS control systems, which are bolted to the valve cover -- and which have a corkscrew-looking appendage that controls the variable valve timing.

The biggest obstacle for removal is clearing the sensors for the VANOS system, which also plug-in from the valve cover. With all the extra wiring and accessories in the way, along with the tight engine bay, it seems impossible to remove these plastic valve covers without yanking the engine. Somehow, the wizard was able to wiggle things around to barely squeeze them out.

As for the reverse process of putting it back together, I have no idea how that's going to happen. The entire afternoon was spent just getting the valve covers out. I won't be filming any more of the process, as the video would be heavily bleeped like a lively episode of Jerry Springer.

This experience has made me realize this isn't the BMW for me. I really want to like these cars -- and keeping the most hated BMW in the USA isn't going to help the cause. If I'm going to dip my toe into BMW ownership again, it should be with a car that I've always wanted. This means as soon as my 745i is fixed, I'll sell it as quickly as possible. Taking an automotive mulligan might be the smartest thing I've done since beginning my crazy journey with Oversteer almost a year ago. We'll see...

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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My BMW is Broken Already, and It's a Nightmare to Fix - Autotrader