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Back in the Saddle

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Yay! OK… for those who’ve followed my automotive adventures to-date, my car blew a head gasket back in January. Because of finances and stuff I had to hold off on repairing it because I already had three vehicles and didn’t feel fixing my E46 was worthwhile. For those who don’t know, an E46 is the internal BMW code for the model of 3 series I have; See here for more information if you’re interested in learning more about the E46.


Well, I got the money together and in March I put my car in the shop to replace the head gasket, seals and stuff. 


Fast forward… four weeks. Ack! Yesterday morning I got the call that my car was finally ready. I’m not happy about the time it’s taken to get it all back, but things are definitely better now that I can go get my car 🙂


So I take an extended lunch hour, go pick up my wife and go get my car (the wife was so she could drive our Volvo home!) Ahhhhh… back in the saddle again!


So the damage? $2548.37. Eep. That sucks, but the work done was effectively a top-end rebuild. Even the valve-train was inspected, guides replaced where necessary… and the sludge that had built up in my valves was cleaned out completely. Yeah, don’t ask about that bit… if I ever find out who the previous owner of my car was I may have to educate them on frequent oil changes. An upstream O2 sensor was replaced because of slow response and a few other items were replaced… my original quote for ~$450 in parts inflated to ~$750 in parts, but labor was reduced so it was pretty much a wash (I asked them to go high on the labor quote just in case!) compared to my original quote. Differential was about $50. 


Anyway, so I’ve now been driving my car again for 24 hours. Given the crappy weather in St. Louis I’ve not had a chance to take her out and really get a feel for her again, and tomorrow I fly to Chicago for a business trip so I’ll be out of town until the end of next week. Ah well, maybe the weather will be nice next weekend 🙂


My feeling so far? Well, there’s still a faint smell of burning oil when I stop driving. I suspect that’s just residue in the tailpipe that’s burning off because I can only smell it at the back of the car. Even under the hood… nada. (for reference, I was getting oil/glycol mixing in the tailpipe but not in the cooling system or oil pan so it’s likely there’s a slight caking of oil in the tailpipe still). Still, she’s starting quicker and seems a little “peppier” than she was before. Part of that might be psychosomatic, but I suspect some of it may have been the performance robbing of sludge and water in the cylinders, particularly at high revs and/or high speed. 


Still, I’m going to drive her easy until the first oil change. I won’t exceed 4000 rpm and will change the oil in a week or so when I’ve got a minute, that way any shavings from the re-surfaced head will be out of the system. After this much work, I consider the engine to be “new” and will break it in as such… though albeit for reduced mileage from new.


So I’m happy… and my wife’s happy to get her Volvo back (the third car I sold two weeks ago; a minivan). Now there’s just a little body damage to fix (parking lot ding at the rear end) and I can get some pictures of my car to post up here on this site! 


So am I disheartened with the BMW 330i? No, the E46 is a gorgeous, fun and lovely little car and I just lost a gamble. Every time you buy a used car, you gamble that the previous owner was conscientious and did maintenance properly. I’ve taken that gamble a number of times… usually I win… this time I lost! I don’t blame anyone… this was bound to happen sooner or later with my habit of buying used cars. I don’t regret it, either… I love the car and plan to keep it for a LONG time. It’s fun to drive, comfortable, sporty when I need it to be and surprisingly fuel efficient (average 27mpg in mixed driving). 


So, good news. Hopefully I’ll have more comments to make REAL soon… and some pictures once I get the bodywork fixed 🙂

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