I've driven many different cars over the years, but I was surprisingly let down by the repeated malfunctions of my 2005 BMW 325l.
So Much for "Quality German Engineering"
Owning a BMW was one of my longtime goals, but now that I've achieved it, I wish I'd never set this goal in the first place.
I am not a vain person. I'm not into status symbols. I don’t know fashion and I don’t go to the hip clubs. But I do appreciate quality, and when I am lucky enough to be able to buy nice things, I feel that I deserve them. My "Beemer," unfortunately, has not been one of those things.
The History of My 2005 BMW 325l
I was frugal and bought it used just about two years ago. It’s a 2005 325I. Although I’ve discovered how ridiculously different people react or treat you when you drive up in even the most basic BMW, I wanted it simply because I thought the Germans made a superior vehicle—more value for the buck.
Plus, I’ve had a fascination with all things German for quite some time. German was my college major for a few years, back when I thought of being a United Nations interpreter. I have (or had) family living in Germany, and I have backpacked through the cities there. I thought I would live there one day. I heard angels sing when I stood in the Olympic Village and gazed upon the four cylindrical pillars of BMW Headquarters in Munich.
But in the short time that we’ve been together, I’ve had numerous complications with my little car and am now terribly disenchanted with what I always thought was stellar “German engineering.”
In my own defense, I am NOT rough on my cars, I take care of my stuff, and I have a 12-year-old custom Harley that's in pristine condition.
Here are just the major items I can remember about my 325l, in no particular order:
1. A/C Goes Out
In Georgia. In the summer! Thank God it happened while still under the initial warranty. This was just the beginning.
2. Sunroof Breaks for No Reason—With No Warning
I open it one day and hear a horribly loud pop. Dealer says that because it’s all one piece built inside the roof, it cannot be fixed without a minimum $1,800 repair.
3. Bad Fuel Pump
Drive to work one day at 9 am. Attempt to leave for lunch. The car almost cranks, then dies. A few helpful friends and an AAA tow truck later, I am about $800 poorer, because it had a bad fuel pump.
4. Passenger Window Has Issues
One day out of the blue, the front passenger window gets stuck in the down position (of course). Goes back up slowly, sometimes not at all. Have to pull it up by hand.
5. Battery Dies
It costs about $180 to replace because it’s in a funny place and requires some special kind of charging or prep work. Why does a 3- to 4-year-old factory battery die?
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6. Oil Leak After an Oil Change
OK, this one may not be the car’s fault, as it seems to have been a slack oil changer that didn’t replace the oil ring. But since I’m not so sure...it goes on the list.
7. Driver Side Window Has Issues
About six months after the passenger window malfunctions, the driver’s side joins in the fun. You can hear/feel a click of some kind. They both need new regulators.
8. “Central Locking System” Button Doesn’t Work
Neither does the hazard button next to it. I checked all three fuses and they’re fine. WTF?!
Update: Not exactly sure how to explain what it is still, but apparently a little latch that is activated when you push the lock/hazard buttons is broken. My husband jerry-rigged it with tape, but that's only temporary. So now the little button casing just sits outside of its cubbyhole, and I use it that way. And why don't the doors lock when you begin to drive anyway? Even my old Fords did that!
9. Windshield Washer Fluid Stopped Spraying
A gloomy day and the dirty windshield reminded me that the windshield washer fluid stopped spraying about nine months ago. I have to clean the window by hand. That's fine when I’m at home, but on the road, not so much.
10. Express Window Feature Works Infrequently
The express down feature on windows only works when it feels like it, yet it works going up (when the front windows actually go up). Maybe this is related to items four and seven?
11. Lock Alarm Doesn't Sound
From the very beginning, the alarm hasn't sounded when you lock the car. You just hear a "thunk."
12. Gas Door Lever Is Broke
September, 2010. The gas door lever breaks. So the gas door just flops around without locking.
13. Front Driver-Side Window Button Broke Off
14. Coolant Leak
November/December 2010. A coolant leak develops. It needs to be refilled about every two weeks.
These things can be expected in an older vehicle. But come on, this car is barely five years old! And only three years old when I got it! And it’s German! I now have a new appreciation for every Ford product I ever owned or leased. I miss you Escort, Probe, Mercury Cougar, Mountaineer, and yes, I even miss you, Taurus.
Yes, I know the warning that cars like Mercedes and BMW can cost a lot to maintain, but we’re not talking about regular maintenance here. I was rear-ended on the 285 a few weeks ago, and the guy at the shop asked me how I liked the car. I subconsciously hesitated in my response, and he called me on it. He then told me his boss had the same car and had multiple complaints, including the sunroof and electronic glitches that required him to enter from the passenger side. I’ve heard a few other tales as well.
So, I am somewhat comforted to know that I am not alone with my BMW troubles and disappointment. Buy American, Japanese, Swedish. Hell, buy Chinese. But DO NOT BUY BMW! OK, buy "the ultimate driving machine" if you like, but don't say you weren't warned.
UPDATE: I'm sad and happy to report I got rid of this P.O.S. in February, 2011. I wish everyone else with Beemer woes good luck getting rid of theirs. I'm fortunate to not have to get a new car right now. And while I'm not totally turned off by Germany, I'm definitely not going back to Bavaria.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.