Running Reports – BMW E36 323i Convertible pt2

BMW 323i Convertible (E36 2.5l M52)
Starting mileage – 117662 7th July 2011 – 127287 30th September 2012
Total Miles – 9625
MPG – 25.76mpg

Costs –

  • £215 – 12 months VED (July 11)
  • £134 – Inspection Service
  • £251 – Front Dunlop SP2000E
  • £43 – Crankshaft Sensor
  • £220 – Pagid discs & pads all round
  • £493 – Insurance
  • £40 – MoT
  • £30 – Bonnet Badge
  • £400 – Front Bilstein B4 Shock Absorbers (£135), Front Sachs springs (£135) & fitting (£130)
  • £223 – 12 months VED (July 12)

It’s been over 14 months since my last running report on the 323i, and at first glance the costs may look expensive, but, two years tax & the insurance are just annual unavoidable’s, and even if there are cheaper to tax cars I think I’m saving some on depreciation. Tyres & brakes are service items and should hopefully see at least two-three years motoring, and neither were chosen on price, the tyres particularly, were chosen purely because they’re the OEM spec, and one of the reasons I bought the car was that it was, even at 14 years old, still running OEM spec tyres all round, so when the moment came to replace them, I chose to carry on running it on OEM Dunlops, rather than a cheaper mid-premium option.

The service was cobbled together with fully synthetic long life oil from the local VAG dealers (who for many years I’ve found to be one of the best on price which is useful when you need 7l of it), BMW dealer oil filter, and decent plugs. Then done round at a mates. We’ve found the car really nice to work on, alu block means nothing has seized up over the years, just some nice to work on details under there, and I also picked up a Peake code scanner & service reset tool. A slightly expensive gadget, but this allows you to reset the service lights on the car, and also to check the diagnostics, very very useful when the car picked up a hot intermittent misfire. Two minutes on that and the source was identified as the crank shaft sensor, saving a lot of money throwing other stuff at the car, and, when I decided “oh whilst we were at it, lets renew the camshaft sensor” it quickly identified that that was actually faulty & causing an even worse misfire. Luckily I’d not chucked anything away so we simply refitted the original & returned the faulty & un-required sensor.

One unfortunate thing I’ve discovered during my time with the car is the local Stratstones BMW dealership is absolutely useless. Slow, expensive, and the visit that resulted in me being sat ignored for 15 minutes was beyond a joke, so I shan’t be returning. Shame as it was very convenient from both home & work if I needed anything. Luckily, someone at Euro Car Parts must have been listening, as they’ve decided to open a branch in Chesterfield 100 yards from the BMW dealership. Result. I’ll still be using the VAG TPS for oil though…

I’d alluded to the brakes over heating in the first post, and I’d noticed the pads getting a bit thin, and the discs were getting a bit of a lip, it was getting close to the MoT and Euro Car Parts had a sale on, so a full set of Pagid discs & pads were secured for the car £140 all in. Bargain. A local garage then fitted them for £80 inc new brake fluid. The brakes are now transformed and can now press on without worrying about running in to a hedge. I’d still like a bit more bite, but that maybe something to look at rectifying next time with a different brake pad material.

The first MoT in May as ever was always a worry, and unfortunately she failed, one on a headlight bulb, easy £3 new H1 fix, and secondly on the Lambda emissions being over by a fraction of a smidgen. A run over at the garage confirmed the sensors & cat themselves were OK, so I resorted to both the mechanics & MoT testers advice, bung some injector cleaner in, and take her for an italian tune up along the bypass & then bring her in… Just the ticket.

Shortly after the MoT I noticed the front right shock was “bouncing” down my street & under hard braking. I toyed for a short while with renewing the lot with a lowering kit, and in some cases this wouldn’t have worked out much more expensive than just the new fronts. However with the local roads being so poor, and the convertible being easier to ruin on the wrong suspension setup, after a lot of deliberation I stuck to OEM spec front Bilsteains & Sach springs. WHAT a transformation that made to the front end of the car! I can see the rears being sorted soon, whilst can’t really feel anything amiss, I doubt it’ll hurt.

During this time the quite a few trips have been racked up, a 500mile mini break around the Yorkshire coast, 700 miles around the Norfolk coast, 350 to Farnham, and just done 1100 miles in a week around Cornwall. Plus of course various summer thrashes spirited drives over Snake, Cat n Fiddle & lots of other glorious peak district roads with the roof down just for the sheer hell of it. The cars never missed a beat on any of them, and evidently enjoys the runs, as she happily jumps the MPG upto a repeatable 34mpg.

I keep rather accurate fuel & cost records with the aid of Road Trip on the iPhone, generally the car has averaged over the time so far at 25mpg. However with a few dips & peaks which I’ve been investigating. All the peaks are longer trips, which the car happily returns 34mpg, with or without the hard top, at your typical 80mph indicated speeds. My commute used to be 3miles each way, it’s dropped to 1 mile each way, and it usually returns 25mpg. I’ve noted a few tanks at 19-21mpg and these seem to be related to super-market fuels, particularly Morissons being the worst, as this drop vs 25mpg is enough to pay nearly 30p premium per litre for fuel. I’m now running the car purely on branded fuel. At some point I’ll try to see if it likes branded super unleaded, a short test with Tesco 99 octane suggested it happily drank that as quick as regular Tesco fuel.

Speaking of the hardtop this really did give a secondary aspect to the car, though it went on at the end of September last year just before a major heat wave, and didn’t come off till 6 months later in March, slightly longer than I’d have hoped, partly owing to the fact I had to negotiate when I can get the roof in to dads spare room. Hoping our move this year will allow a bit more flexibility of dropping the roof on/off at a whim, even if I then still use dads for longer storage. The hardtop has some great details like rear lights, heated rear screen, all connected via the lock pins that secure it in place, so needs no further connecting. It helps ‘beef’ the car up, no doubt it makes it more structural, but maintains the full pillarless coupe, huge open side glass.

All this mileage has allowed me to cement my opinions that I’d formed by the first running report. Definitely the Audi was easier to drive quick without really thinking about it, but my god, get yourself in sync with the BMW, get it on cam, get it flowing, and it rewards in a way the Audi just couldn’t get close to. So much more balanced, faster, more grip, more, just more.  I’m unable really to fault the car in any real way. Other cars may be sharper, or faster or… But this offers, for me at least, performance useable on the road without being too fast that it draws too much attention from plod, it’s a fun RWD & you can drop the roof & enjoy the scenery. It’s practical enough to seat 4, it’ll carry 2 & a weeks luggage happily from one end of the country to the other, then be ready to go play. It’ll carry my computer work, but it’s not so big you get roped in to removals, and when we need to do so, well the local Ford dealership sorts a van for £50. It receives positive comments from car nuts at events, to random grannies outside the local shops. I like it so much I have absolutely no plans of changing it for anything else.

Coming soon? A clean, she’s bloody filthy following the holiday to Cornwall, and some new rear tyres, which despite what I said earlier in this blog re maintaining Dunlops, are Michelins, and are in the post as I type. I blame a very persuasive man at Michelin PR. The service indicator is down to one green light, so it’ll soon need an oil change service, so I’ll be off to Audi soon for another batch of fully synthetic before dropping in at my friends to get him to sort that. And then, well I’ll probably thrash her over snake pass again for the sheer hell of it…

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