It’s now been nearly 7 months since I took ownership of my BMW and if I’m totally honest I can’t really foresee myself driving another vehicle that isn’t along these lines as my main vehicle. Sitting up high with a commanding view of the road in a leather-lined cabin may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m not much a tea drinker anyway!
That said I have had a few little niggles with the X5, as one may expect with any vehicle over a certain age…especially one from a luxury manufacturer that’s loaded with complicated electronics. Now please don’t think I went into this purchase with my eyes closed but it’s still a little annoying for me that these relatively minor issues have cropped up even though the car has been main dealer serviced for it’s whole life. As such I have attempted to put up with these issues for as long as I can, but now I’m starting to get around to finally solving them.
The first little job I was able to tick off my list was not so much a fault with the car, but an upgrade I chose to make because the yellow ‘halo’ sidelights on the car didn’t really look very good. A lot of cars on the market come with LED daytime running lights, and although the circular ring design of the sidelights on my car are at least distinctive the halogen bulbs cast a dim and dated look which I disliked – especially when the xenon main headlamps are so bright and clear. The fix for this was actually painfully simple and only took a little online searching; a couple of LED bulbs slotted in place of the existing ones in a compartment very conveniently located within the engine bay. Admittedly the results are not quite as dramatic as I had hoped (or that my night pictures suggest), but for a relatively small outlay I am pretty pleased with my work and the results avoid the aftermarket look that many non-stock bulbs can give.
The next item on my list was a little less superficial but is probably the least problematic to my thoughts, but was the next easiest to sort and so obviously I chose it! Way back in June my driver’s front speaker began to fail and quickly I had to grow used to living with a car that only had sound from 3 corners. Fast forward a couple of months and the front passenger speaker also gave up the ghost…I now had ‘equal’ speakers again (although both in the back and so I had to have the volume up high) but it turned out that the Bluetooth and navigation directions were only functional through the front speakers…a pain for sure if not essential to my everyday driving.
Surfing various BMW forums it became clear that this was by no means an uncommon fault, and required the repair or replacement of the amp that resides in the boot of the car. Eventually I narrowed down a company which specialised in this particular issue and came recommended by several forum contributors on xdrivers.co.uk, and by some great stroke of luck it turned out to be based in Enfield where I live, not even a 10 minute drive away! But I am not somebody who is either confident dealing with mechanics or who parts with money easily, so for another couple of months the website for Carphonics sat in my phone’s browser waiting for me to do anything, until on Friday I decided just to go for it and at least investigate getting it sorted. A quick phonecall later and I was on my way to drop the car off – I also had decided on getting an auxiliary input installed, meaning that I could play my iPhone easily without having a cumbersome FM transmitter plugged into the power socket. After a couple of hours I received a call to say that my car was ready and sure enough when I picked it up all the speakers worked (the amp had been upgraded slightly in actual fact) and I had a smartly integrated aux jack…the price? £150 – £100 for the repair, £30 for fitting and removing the amp (optional but I’d recommend it unless you know what you’re doing) and £20 for an aux input.
So what is left on my list of niggles? Well a few things actually, chief of which are the dents in the bonnet caused by a falling roof tile. All that really needs to happen is for the dents in the bonnet to be pulled out and then resprayed to get rid of the chips in the paint; I went as far as getting a very casual quote from a professional body repair shop who said that the front wings needed to be blended too (to make sure the paint matches), and as the paint is BMW metallic it’d need 3 coats! £500-600 is a little rich for my mind, but then this is a company who are used to dealing with insurance companies for who money isn’t too much of an option. Admittedly I won’t be paying for the repair but I will still feel awful if my mum pays too much; I intend to get at least one more quote, but it’s something I really need done before the winter sets in.
Also pretty high up is the constant annoyance which comes from my faulty seatbelt buckle; a while ago the spring inside my seatbelt clasp failed, meaning that to get it in properly I have to press the button multiple times to get the ‘tooth’ bit of the mechanism to retract, either that or very gently tap it so that it goes back in. On a normal day this is a mere annoyance that adds seconds to my journey, but in the pitch black when I leave for work it can make me late and get me pretty damn stressed! Phoning a BMW specialist turned out to be a bit of a fail, with a replacement part retailing for £150 and labour charges making the total repair cost in excess of £200! I won’t be paying that but I do have a couple of alternatives which should be a bit more cost effective; the simple option would be to buy a belt extender built for ‘larger’ drivers – under £10 and should work, but it means a clunky extra buckle on my seat and I am a little worried it would end up being a waste of money. The alternative is buying the part off of eBay (I saw one for just £35!) and then getting a garage to fit it…the only problem would be finding an affordable garage who is comfortable enough to do it.
The only other thing that doesn’t ‘work’ on my car is the cruise control, but whilst it is annoying it has not yet reached the point where I want to outlay money searching for the fault and then spending more on top of it…I suspect it’s something I will get sorted when I get it serviced, although I am already thinking that I should get that done sooner rather than later even if there are still 3 out of 5 service lights lit upon startup.
My other really niggles are not so much with things that aren’t working, but more me being paranoid that something dramatic will happen sooner or later and as a result will cost me dearly. I had investigated and even seriously considered getting an aftermarket warranty, but the reputations of those companies are dubious at the very best and with over 86,000 miles they are not going to offer me a cheap warranty or one that covers many of the things that could go wrong. Instead I think that I would be better off getting the car thoroughly serviced and getting the gearbox seen to aswell; nothing seems amiss at the moment but even though BMW says the 6-speed ZF is ‘sealed for life’, they often seem to go around the mileage my car is at now…laying out a few hundred pounds to get the fluid changed could save me a lot of heartache in the long term and also make my car drive better now. The turbo is a similar worry but a service would probably give me a better idea of things there.
If we’re spending fictional money then I may as well add in a solution to one of my pet peeves – the car’s fuel economy. Now I’m not stupid and I know that anything that weighs over 2-tonnes is not going to be economical in the slightest, but even though the trip computer states ‘30.7mpg’ as my average over the past 7 months I still think I could do better. For starters that 30.7mpg is pretty optimistic…my last tank of fuel claimed a 29.7 average but feeding my fuel costs/mileage into a website suggests that the real figure is 26.9 – not awful I guess but annoying considering that 1/3 of that would have been motorway miles. My day to day driving mainly consists of town driving/dual carriageway with lots of traffic lights, and at this time of year my early starts mean that it’s not uncommon for me to be driving in low temperatures for short distances (not good for mpg in the slightest).
As I am pretty gentle with my car anyway probably the best way to improve my fuel economy would be to go down the remapping route; there are plenty of outfits who offer anything from ‘chipping’ through to a proper analysis of the engine and all give results which improve fuel economy and performance. I’d personally be inclined to choose an option that offers both – not that I find my car slow but because that’s generally what people plump for and owners often cite combined figures of 33-38mpg, which I think would be realistic for me even with my unusual driving habits. I don’t think that these upgrades are particularly expensive either, but I would be concerned about how they might affect insurance premiums – watch this space.