“I just can’t stop doing this to myself” I thought as I found myself hunched over the engine bay of my E90 BMW 325i recently. Like almost every German car I’ve ever owned, the breather hose that connects the valve cover to the PCV had cracked, essentially in half. Sixteen years and 165,000 miles worth of heat cycles under the engine bay effectively turned the hard plastic brittle and crumbly. Which led me to question why I keep doing this same old song and dance over, and over, and over again?
Admittedly, the problem wasn’t only with my PCV hose. Because it actually broke during the previous owner’s time, and he decided the best course of action was to actually zip tie it back together under the foam sheathing it had on it, I didn’t notice it was leaking right away. My first indication was the horrific smell of smoke, that smelled as if my car was about to burst into flames, as the oil made its way to my hot catalytic converter.
I thought I’d shorn a valve cover bolt, as they’re aluminum and if not torqued properly can break over time. Plus, the previous owner had replaced the valve cover gasket and, seeing his other work, I assumed he also over-torqued the bolts. However, that wasn’t the case, as I checked the torque on them and they were OK and replaced the bolts I thought were broken with new ones, at the correct torque spec.
Is this a huge deal? No, I just need to replace the PCV hose but since I should replace the hole unit while I’m at it, that’s going to be another Saturday wasted under the hood of my car not doing anything fun at all. Do you know how many weekends I’ve wasted fixing old German cars and how many times I’ve had to bail on plans because my car wasn’t running? Many more than I’d like to admit. But why? Why don’t I just go buy more reliable cars?
Before anyone says anything like “Because BMWs drive better than blah, blah,” there are plenty of affordable, reliable cars that drive well. If you don’t think so, go drive a Honda Accord or literally any Mazda. There’s admittedly something about German cars (I haven’t only owned BMWs) that capture my imagination and get me excited. I just like how they’re designed, I like their engines, and I like their premium cabins. But is that really worth the headache?
I love the way my E90 drives. It’s the lamest E90 you can find: an automatic, 325i sedan. However, it’s fantastic to drive. It has beautifully communicative hydraulic steering, perfect chassis balance, and a gorgeous naturally aspirated inline-six. On a twisty road, I even prefer it to most new BMWs. I also love the way it looks, as I think it’s the pinnacle of 3 Series design. It’s even mostly been reliable. Yet, I’m reaching my breaking point.
Could I just buy newer, more expensive cars? Yes, but I’m cheap and my wife already has a new car and I’m not looking for another payment. So it’s cheap cars for me for the foreseeable future. So if I have to buy cheap cars, why not buy more reliable ones, ones that when they do break have cheap parts? Do I really need to drive a BMW as my daily, especially when my job is as cool as this one and I get to drive great cars on a regular basis? Probably not. So this might be my last old Bimmer for a long time.
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