So last time I posted, I was figuring out what to do with the slight coolant leak from the Z4's expansion tank.
“Replace it! And the entire cooling system! It’s super easy - barely an inconvenience!”
I’ve worked on German cars before. That doesn’t sound right...
“Trust me. I’ve owned a different car before. This is super easy!”
Well, so have I, and it was....
And so I went down the replace the entire cooling system rabbit hole despite not being a BMW certified mechanic. The disassembly went easy, and as an exercise, it was fascinating to see the things BMW engineers cut for costs (proper radiator brackets) and things they completely over-invested in (43 fasteners to cover the free floating radiator/fan/condenser to deter people from looking at the free floating radiator/fan/condenser).
The reassembly went worse. The water pump and thermostat went on easy enough. But the whole non-removable condenser/radiator/fan is this enormous cluster f-k where everything has to be done in a specific order, which there are no online or non-BMW mechanic documentation for doing. So I put everything together and take it apart like 8 times. I pay dealership prices for the one part my online shopping neglected. And despite my best efforts, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the coolant reservoir back in.
I spent a f’ing hour on this. There is insufficient space in all directions. The biggest culprit is the upper radiator hose connector. You have to push down on the reservoir so it makes a connection on two hoses. But you can’t do that because the top coolant connector blocks a straight-down insertion process. So eventually I forced it and broke a $200 dealer price temperature sensor.
So now I’m stuck, and I’m kind of in a “what do I do?” mindset. I know I have to pay $90 and wait a week for a replacement German plastic sensor, or $200 locally for the same part. But then I still can’t replace it myself, and nobody I know is a mechanic or cares to be. So I can hopefully pay someone to come bail me out. Or pay to have a broken car towed to a repair shop that will charge me up the ass to fix what I broke. Fun.
But it’s just money. I can always make more. The killer thing here is all of the time that I am blowing. Even when I am not working I am in a bad mood and that makes the time I spend with others less enjoyable. So what am I doing and why?
So that’s kind of the existential car ownership situation I am in. I’m old. I have a kid so I don’t have free time. I’m not track daying. My tires are blowing out from old age instead of abuse. I still have bikes to get adrenaline rushes from. So ignoring the Z4's issue, what now?
The Z4 was $8300 and bought because I missed having a convertible and needed something kid-safe(ish). That hasn’t changed. But it also has a BMW oil leak in addition to needing the entire coolant system replaced. All on a 69k mile car. Why aren’t people calling BMW out on their English/Italian level build quality? It’s nuts. Their over-reliance on plastic to cost save combined with poor engineering/management choices is mind-blowing.
My Porsche 996 has been incredibly reliable. If you ignore the pre-purchase inspection costs when I bought it, I have spent ~$75/year on unexpected repairs, mostly due to a MAF sensor I could have swapped out myself for 40% of the cost. But there’s always that ticking time bomb worry despite it giving me no evidence of any impending issues. Blackstone Labs oil samples each oil change reinforce how well the engine has been wearing.
Porsche spent for better parts, but you also feel that cost aftermarket. BMW replacement parts are $5 versus $500 because they’re under-engineered Chinese crap that’s bound to fail again, and again, and again. I hate working on the BMW because it’s German, but I hate working on the Porsche because I have a tendency to f- things up due to my poor mechanic skills, and the parts prices are crazy.
So old man me is saying trade them both in on a Lexus RC. Embrace practicality and have a nice, albeit somewhat beige, future. Both cars plus some cash should get me a low mileage example that should last me ages... unless the whole Toyota teaming with BMW is a sign that they’ve deviated from their 90s quality.
The real old man answer is to buy a Corvette. Maybe wait for the C8 unveil to hopefully drop C7 prices, or honestly just embrace a non-Z06 C6 as the simple-ish, reliable-ish car I can drive for ages. A C6 would probably be a wash price-wise, but respectably less maintenance and repair wise, both cost and time.
Or I can do the thing that seems most responsible short-term. Dump some cash into the Z4 to fix everything. It’s a fine car. And market prices are just that - market prices. The truth is it was a ~$45k car that I bought for ~$8k, so spending thousands keeping it running is still significantly cheaper than buying a new(er) replacement.
Strong feeling with some deep thought that I will just take the financial L, pay up the arse in repairs to keep the Z4 running until 100k. But even then, having worked on a few modern BMWs, they are horribly engineered vehicles designed to last through the warranty period and no longer. There is no reason why my older Xterra with nearly double the mileage should exhibit none of these issues, other than forced obsolescence which proves BMW has no interest in the long-term quality of their vehicles.
Getting the feeling that parenthood is what sucks. Have to imagine I’d get more satisfaction with less drama and cost if I was all alone with a KTM SuperDuke...