By Craig Hastings
This story is about a car. Ladies please don’t stop reading just yet because there’s much more to this than oil and gas. A couple of months ago my oldest son bought a thirteen-year-old BMW 335i. They’re cheap, plentiful, and his generation loves these things. I’m not really sure why but, there’s a whole host of things I don’t understand about his generation. He had one of these same cars about a year ago and it was nothing but one thing breaking right after another. He sold that car last fall and the buyer, also of the generation and mindset, ended up blowing it up a few months later. It had about 160,000 miles on it when he had so I really wasn’t surprised. In fact I kept waiting for the same demise of that car to happen to him. Good, no more cheap, old, high mileage, expensive to fix BMWs to worry about.
Well, as I stated earlier, he and his gear headed buddies who also own one or more of these old 335i BMWs went on the hunt for one for Payton. After an extensive search all over Illinois, he found and bought one in Indiana. It’s been a trouble-free car so far considering it’s nearing 100,000 miles. The car had a couple of modifications done to it prior to his purchasing it but nothing of horsepower consequence. These cars were released with a twin turbocharger set up that seemed to be quite the rage when first released in 2006. As the years passed by and these cars accumulated high mileage BMW discovered a problem with the turbochargers. They developed a horrible rattle with the wastegates in the turbochargers around the 70,000-80,000 mile mark. So in 2011 the twin turbocharger configuration was converted to a single unit; problem solved.
You probably guessed what’s next. Yep, it’s time to replace Payton’s turbochargers. Most repair shops will allow twenty hours of labor time alone to be charged to do this. Do the math and you will see this amounts to $2000 plus just in labor. The turbochargers and the incidentals it takes in parts to do the service are another $1500 and that’s not even using original BMW replacement parts. I was quoted an “estimated” complete parts and labor repair of $4500 by a BMW dealership shop. That’s more than half the value of the car! This is where my story gets interesting. Payton sourced all the necessary parts and told me that he and his BMW pals were going to do this in my garage and I could help. Me, I know nothing about these cars and trust me they are a different breed of automobile for sure.
The first thing I did was jump on the internet and start searching the install videos of the turbocharger replacement details of this job that takes twenty plus hours. What I watched was one “Oh my god” video after another. The subframe must be dropped out of the car to get to the turbochargers! Ladies and gentlemen that don’t know what this means, it means this; the engine must be securely supported from on top while the service is done because it becomes completely detached from all support other than the transmission mount! All of the front steering components must be disconnected, motor mount plate removed on one side, exhaust system, oil and antifreeze and only then can a guy can get to the turbochargers! I told Payton if they couldn’t find someone willing to let them use a lift, I was out. Oh I did watch videos of guys doing it in their driveways but holy geez, all of this parts removal on your back!
Fortunately Payton has an understanding a gracious employer who enabled him to “borrow” a car lift. There’s a catch to this project. There’s an event called The Texas 2K in Houston, Texas and Payton and his friends wanted to leave by very early Tuesday morning. This would give us just forty-eight hours to repair and test his car. He could have taken it to Texas as is but he said the rattle was driving him nuts. I told him there was no way we could finish this project in forty-eight hours. Anyway, I packed up all of my metric tools along with all other tools I could think of and the three toolboxes it took to transport them. He and I started in on it at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning and stopped at 5:00 p.m. We got the car torn down and turbochargers off. Not a bad start I thought. However, standing and reaching up above my head for eight hours turning wrenches removing parts took its toll on me. I was dying at home that night. I was nursing sore muscles and cuts on my hands and wrists. It reminded me of my work in my youth and how much respect I have my friends that are doing this for a living five days a week.
Sunday, day two, and the first thing I see is Payton standing over me telling me I needed to get up. He had to work until 5:00 p.m. so I would be joined by one of his BMW geeks at 9:00 a.m. and another by 11:00 a.m. We worked on the car through any lunchtime. Payton joined us at 5:00 and one of his BMW geeks left at 6:00 p.m. We continued on and by 8:00 p.m. I started getting muscle cramps everywhere. My own fault, I don’t eat or drink doing this stuff and soon I’m reminded of my stupidity. The other BMW geek left by 9:00 p.m. leaving Payton, me, and now Noah, who had joined us to lend a hand. We stopped work at 10:30 p.m. and packed my tools up, cleaned up the shop, and pushed the BMW outside. We had about fifteen hours in on the repair so far. We had to get the car out of the shop for Monday morning customers service work. The car was all back together except for a modification I didn’t realize we were going to do. This little addition added about four more hours to the job.
This required relocation of this and that to make it fit. Fabrication work. It’s time consuming and a pain in… We were out of time. Payton would be going to Texas via riding in someone else’s car. I’ll be sixty-three in two days and I feel every bit of it and much more. This last forty-eight hours has put me in more pain than I can remember. Muscle cramps in my legs and shoulders are occurring hourly, either one or the other. I have a cut on one finger worse than the other cuts that is swollen and probably should have had a couple of stitches. And my hands have black oil and grease stains that will just have to wear off. It won’t wash off. I’ve tried and I remember when my hands looked like this everyday working at a job repairing cars and other machinery in the 70’s. Of course the four pre-twenty-year-olds I was working with feel nothing but jubilation from “getting” to do this job.
It’s been a grueling forty-eight hours but through it all, being asked by my son and his friends to be part of the experience was rewarding for me. Even if I do lose my finger! They’ve invited me to the Texas 2K event next year. If I go I’ll for sure drive myself and won’t be riding with any of them at night on the Texas four lanes! I hear you might get passed by many cars traveling at 120 mph plus! Nope, I’ll just watch and listen from a distance.