RRTIt is not very often we can really recommend good car mechanic. But today I would like to do just that. I have almost always been taking my cars to Curry’s Auto Service in their Dulles, VA location until they decided to close that branch.
I have been looking for competent alternative in the area and I think I found one.

The place is called Road Race Technologies. I took one of my cars there for alignment and I am happy with the result so far. And it was just $110 which is also cheaper than I paid before to do the same in both Curry’s or BMW of Sterling. The guy on the phone told me that they usually take BMW’s to next door shop for alignment, but I did not mind since the price was right anyway. When I came to pick up my car that evening I saw that all they were working was BMW cars. Their regular hour cost is $95. Which I think is reasonable now.
Check them out if you are in the Dulles, VA area. I’d like to see more review of them. So far I have only found one on Yelp.

BTW, the way they specified their address on their web site does not work in Google map. So here is correct one with the like for you convenience.
23700 Overland Dr, Sterling, VA 20166

And one thing that I did not especially like is that they open at 8:30 am which is kind of late if you let’s say want to drop your car there in there morning and still get to work on time to some place like in DC.

Here is a little video demonstrating BMW’s later feature, the Comfort Access System.

The comfort access system puts an end to searching for car keys in your handbag or pockets. Simply approach your BMW, open the door and press the Start button. Your unique key is recognized remotely by the comfort access sensors as soon as you come within 1.5 meters of your BMW, wherever you happen to be carrying it – in your pocket, your handbag or briefcase. Touch the door handle and the door unlocks.
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In case you missed it. There is some interesting article on WSJ web site, “Europeans Raise Pressure on Detroit”. According to the source US auto makers will face new stronger competition from European car manufacturers.

While US companies shorten production and facing cash flow troubles Volkswagen AG (further VW) and BMW AG are preparing the expansion of their US market share withing few years.

US small vehicle market historically is dominated by US and Asian auto makers. Autodata’s research from 2001 shows steady decline of US manufactures share and Asians and Europeans shares are steadily increasing.

VW is building their first US factory since they close their previous one in July of 1988 due to some quality problems and high cost of production with unionized labor.

This time VW is betting on non union workers. They plan to introduce several new models specifically designed for US market. VW get its optimism from other markets. For example VW has bigger market share in China than Toyota has. I would attributed that to centuries old tension between China and Japan so Chinese do not like to buy anything made in Japan in my opinion. New US factory is going to open in 2012 with production of 250000 cars a year. VW’s luxury unit Audi is also planning to increase its marketing spending. So we are going to see more Audi ads including on Super Bowl.

BMW is also planning to increase its market share by introducing more One  series cars and by selling more of their Mini cars. Although BWD has already increased prices for most of 2009 models. So unless hyperinflation really hits the US as most classic economics law suggests. It is going to a little harder for them to compete on price level  with other manufacturers when they start to clean up stock.

I bet you owners of newer BMW cars with that start/stop engine button did not know you could run your car without the key in ignition lock. Apparently if you had your engine running and when you turn it off, remove the key from ignition lock you then have 15 seconds to push start engine button and drive away without your keys.
Some say it is anti hijacking feature some say it is BMW new comfort access option. Hmm, I guess if hijackers got your keys and you are still sitting in your seat you can drive away… that is of course if you are still conscious and without gun pointing at your head. But by all means though if your life is in danger don’t try to be a superman and drive away from gunpoint. Your car is most likely insured, but scientists yet to discover way to resurrect people from death.

After a brief struggle with my parsimony, I have finally decided to buy original BMW transmission fluid. Sticker on side of gearbox was worn out, but it was of yellow color indicating that I needed MTF-LT-2 fluid. Local BMW dealer had it for MSRP price about $140 for 5 liters. It is a bit more expensive compared to everybody’s’ favorite Red Line MTL, which one could buy from for example OGRacing for just under $9 per liter.

The manual gearbox fluid change is really easy DIY project.

You will need the following tools:

  • 17 mm 6pt socket
  • Some ratchet
  • 17 mm box end or combination wrench, 6pt is the best in my opinion since plugs made from some very soft metal and you can very easily strip plug’s flange if using open ended wrench.
  • Torque wrench
  • Some hand pump
  • one or two feet of clear plastic tubing
  • Floor jack or similar to jack up the car

First of all you’ll need to jack the car up. I usually just drive rear wheels onto ramps and jack up front of car with floor jack, then secure jack stands. Some people drive front wheel onto ramps and jack up the rear. I personally find it a bit dangerous since car can roll away once rear wheel s are off the ground and besides my E39 has rubber jacking point in the front and nothing except rear differential on the back that I could use as jacking point.

Find transmission under the car after car is off the ground and leveled. Read the label and make sure you are going to use the right fluid for you gearbox. Here is view of transmission from under the car.

Photo from BMW325i.NET

Before you remove drain plug make sure that fill plug is not seized. And definitely use either sockets or box-end wrenches to break seize. I almost stripped my fill plug flange when tried to use open end of wrench. Believe me it is very soft.

Here is what color fluid came from my gearbox after 52000 miles. I seriously doubt that it is healthy to have it in the gearbox for the life of car. Well I have to agree with thought that the lifetime fluid is most likely BMW marketing gimmick to attract more customers. It is very unlikely that BMW cares what happens to our cars after 50000 mile warranty and they will gladly offer us replacement transmissions for one forth of car price.

Once plugs are removed and old fluid drained. Replace drain plugs and torque it, on my BMW E39 car it is to 70 Nm. Using hand pump and plastic tube pump transmission fluid into fill hole until it overfills and it starts to leak out of the fill hole. Replace fill plug, tighten it to same torque as drain plug (70 Nm). Check for leaks and you are done.

One more thing, do not forget to lower your car on the ground.

I have discovered some unusual sound from my BMW E39 with M54 engine. I have noticed it when applying gas slightly in second, third and forth gears. I think I do not hear it on fifth gear or first or whenever it is in neutral or whenever gas is not applied.

Could you please listen to this Unusualy loud sound sound I recorded while I lightly shifted from first all the way to forth gear. And please let me know what could be the source of it.

I have changed transmission and differential fluids last weekend, but it did not help at all. Could that be the engine noise and I just do not hear it while it is not in gear?

Is there any trick/technique/know-how regarding how to compress front strut spring with cheapo spring compressors like these ones, maybe location when you bite on the spring matter? I have all three of them know, borrowed and even bought last one. But I could not release the spring so it rests on lower rubber pad nicely.

strut spring compressor 1Strut spring compressor 2Strut spring compressor 3

My latest attempt last night looked almost as it should be. Just on one side rubber pad seamed a little bit off. And here is how it looked by this morning. Spring pushed rubber out completely on one side. So I have to compress spring again and try to realign everything. I just wonder what I was doing wrong since I can not get spring in place correctly.

I also wonder if compressors like the one below works on E46 since although they look similar BMW’s one shown in TIS. The one from TIS uses kind of ring adapter to press against upper plate. For some reason it seams like it should compress spring more evenly. Did anybody try such compressors?
BMW Spring Compressor fro TISHere is screenshot from TIS. The tool is shown assembled for E46 and upper adapter (it is the right one on the picture) is actually a ring. It does not look like anything from kit above could be used like that ring. And without such ring it would be worthless as any other cheap compressor just because there are not enough coils in spring

This funny story about how Bumbling carjackers could not start BMW reminded me of story of one of my coworkers. He is primarily Nissan – Infinity kind of driver, never owned anything European.

So couple of years ago this guy went for trip to Germany and decided to rent some brand new 750i. Then, he was telling that, he just sat there in the car for like 30 minutes unable to start that car, embarrassed to ask anybody until he tried all the options he could think of and to read the manual in German which he did not understand. Exhausted he turned for help to some cab driver who knew some English.

And of course it was something very simple he just needed to apply the brake pedal.

On another side of the “keys” topic. Look at this video, those guys found that way to scan the BMW locks.