25th Sep 2018, 09:40

Update: 194,000 km. Yes, still have the car, 8 years and about 130K km after purchase. Since the last update, got the air con refrigerant topped up; got a new serpentine drive belt (100K km since the last one); needed a new crankshaft position sensor; coolant leaked from the plastic bleeder screw in the radiator hose. Just passed another warrant of fitness, but the rear right shock absorber has started to leak after 17 years, and the front left suspension bushing has a bit of movement in it. I replaced the passenger side power door lock assembly - took about 30 minutes with a used part ex-UK for about NZ$40. On routine servicing, new spark plugs (again after 100K km) and a new fuel filter were fitted too.

The car is due for a service in November, and in addition to the usual oil change and inspection, I will, as a precautionary measure, get the mechanic to replace the water pump, thermostat, and the coolant hoses - which are still ORIGINAL to the car. Unbelievable, but I'm now tempting fate. I've replaced water pumps and hoses on cars usually at 11-13 years old. Just from my own experience, having had Audis before, I feel as though the individual service parts of a BMW appear to be longer-lasting than those of Audi. Hoses, water pumps, thermostats, even brake pads and rotors (which don't tend to warp) tend to be more durable. Sure, the coils are a bit hit-and-miss, and maybe I happened to be very lucky, but, knock on wood, my alternator, starter, and air con compressor have never needed attention.

The flywheel still shudders at times - as it did 8 years ago, but never got worse - but the clutch plate itself is not slipping yet. Oh - almost forgot, I will need to get the vacuum pump rubber seal replaced, it leaks some oil at times. It's been done maybe 5 years ago.

The tyres are down to 3mm, so I foresee a new set of tyres next year sometime. The Yokohama BluEarth tyres I got at 126K km have lasted about 70K km so far, and the car has worn them fairly evenly (with rotation front-to-back), without even needing a wheel alignment.

I still see the older model E36 hatchback versions of this car running around Auckland, so clearly there must still be a lot of life left in this car. It isn't blowing smoke yet or anything. I seriously doubt that my next car, whenever it may be, will not be as long-term dependable or fun as this one.

25th Sep 2018, 18:56

Thanks for the update. Glad to hear the car has been good. I live in the UK and there are still plenty of these old BMWs about going strong.

22nd May 2019, 10:11

Final update - 201,400 km.

I have sold the car. It has still been my everyday car until the end, and I feel no less affection or love for it. I wish I owned it from new. But being dependent on only 1 car, it's now 18 years old and it's the longest I have ever kept a car (9 years).

I bought a 2009 BMW 320i (with the non-direct injection N46 engine, an upgrade of the one I had in the old car), with only 50K km. It's a Japanese used import, very well looked after. But I just could not find one with a manual gearbox anymore. I have been looking and waiting for at least a year.

Perhaps it was sheer luck, but that hatchback 316ti has been very, very dependable - only wear and tear stuff, no different to other cars. The fact that even the radiator hoses and water pump were still original until my last service and apparently still in good shape when removed, meant its parts were built right. Certainly better than Audi parts (I had a few of those also second-hand). All the electrics worked - cruise control too - and so did the air conditioning. The clear coat on the metallic paint had not peeled off either. I am hoping that my newer car exhibits some of the dependability of this one, though with the added complications of modern cars, plus the automatic gearbox, I have my doubts. All credit to BMW for my last car, it was an absolute pleasure to own.

23rd May 2019, 18:31

Thanks for the update. At 18 years old and in excess of 200,000 it has easily outlasted the average life of a car. I doubt it was sheer luck - your BMW was one of the last of the best from 1990s technology, which in my humble opinion was the sweet spot for reliability/longevity. A well looked after 1990s car is as good as it gets.

Good luck with the new car, hopefully you won't have any major trouble. If you do, the problem won't be the car, but the expense - not to spark the new vs old debate again (both have pros and cons), but the problem with more modern cars is when they go wrong the electronics costs are ridiculous to repair, even from a cheaper garage/mechanic. Whilst the engine and bodywork may be in good condition and perhaps arguably last longer and be tougher than cars of old, what's the point if a repair bill costs $$$$$ just to switch a fault indicator off on the dashboard?

If the longevity of modern cars are to be preserved, we need reduced costs of repairs bills to be passed onto the consumer, especially if they are there only for environment/legal requirements. Plus, used car customers' bad experiences will spread through word of mouth, potentially damaging a brand's name, so car manufacturers would be silly to ignore the used market, and need to ensure modern cars can last.

24th May 2019, 21:06

You're so right about the new-vs-old arguments - there have been a few on this site of late. I swear, I wished I owned that car from brand new. But the expenses - even on a seemingly mundane Japanese car (when something does go wrong, which does happen with age) - are eye-watering. And not preventable with maintenance - like inconveniently-located crank angle sensors (and expensive) and coils (on the plug). Can't preempt and replace them periodically because while cheap parts of questionable longevity, are available, proper OEM or original parts are dear. Cars are generally getting durable; it's not very often you find rusty cars these days. But perfectly good cars are junked because, as you said, the work needed to clear the codes and make them roadworthy, simply make repairing and using the cars not viable.

26th May 2019, 11:27

I have owned some really special cars. Before you buy, if this helps, consider this. Know that some cars will need expensive repairs at some point. Have money set aside or have funds to repair. Or pass over entirely. Some I have had, I spread the wear or usage by not driving everyday. I use another one of my cars. Drive it once or twice a week to work. Or keep as a weekend fun toy. Another option is don’t keep them that long by replacing with a new one. Less likely to have issues that way, as they are new. And hope the dealer doesn’t try to skirt the new car warranty. Keep vigilant on service records. New cars are complex. If the maintenance costs scare you, maybe try to do as much yourself with YouTube videos etc. As long as I can afford fun cars, I will stay in the game. If it is something that causes me anxiety or complaints, it’s simply time to sell and move on. I actually take Uber at times vs drive at all. Don’t worry about taking any car out downtown. Dropping off cars to be fixed is a pain at times. My worst experiences were with Mercedes. There was no small bill on any visit.