BMW 2001 Maintenance Issues

I bought my 525i 2001 BMW at an auction in Pennsylvania almost 5 years ago. It had appr. 40,000 miles on it. It now has 106,000. During the time I’ve owned it, I’ve need to replace the alternator (at 75,000 miles), a "pvc breather valve (not sure exactly what that is), have had to repair numerous oil leaks in the last 15,000 miles (another one this week), plus a few other things. I’d like to get some opinions on whether this is normal for a car with this many miles. The car will be paid off in 3 months at which time Kelly BB says the value will be about $6,500. I’m not sure if I want to keep it or sell it privately and get a new one that includes maintenance.

Your comments are much appreciated.

Normal for a Camry? no. Normal for a 525? yeah, they’re a bit higher maintenance, as you now know. Cooling system (radiator, water pump) can also be a problem. But the ‘numerous oil leaks’ is a surprise. I wouldn’t buy a BMW at auction. You really need to get a detailed inspection of these first. If you want minimal maintenance, sell it.

All you have had is a alternator,a crankcase breather valve and some minor oil leaks (couldn’t be too bad you whould have remembered)? This is not bad at all.

BMW’s don’t go through alternators like domestics do so this one is suspect in my book.

It seems unusual for a 3 to 4 year old BMW with 40K miles to sell via auction. Despite the unknown history you have done pretty well as far as repairs so far. As the car gets older more things, and more expensive things, will need repair and/or replacement.

You can either budget for these repairs by putting a $300 monthly payment to yourself in a savings account. Or, sell the car and make a monthly payment to a bank or finance company for a new or newer one.

I own 3 BMWs and although the specific problems you cite are unusual for this car, that amount of repair over a 60k mile interval is not unusual or anything to be concerned about. Compared to the cost of a new new car with a warranty, you have not spent much on repairs.

Loosing an alternator at 75k miles is very unusual. Usually the only thing that fails on those alternators is that the brushes wear out, which normally takes about 150k miles. People usually replace the voltage regulator with brushes attached. Part is about $50.

The check valve in the PVC in BMWs seems to dissolve in synthetic oil. This seems odd since synthetic oil is recommended by the manufacturer, but the PVC lasts for 6-8 years, so it is not really a problem. Good to put a fresh clean one in every few years anyway.

Now the bad news. After 9 years and 106k miles, you are about due for a new radiator and new oxygen sensors. If you intend to keep the car, I would suggest replacing ALL the hoses, including heater hoses, while you are replacing the radiator. Since you don’t do your own work on the car, you will be looking at well over $1000 in maintenance in the next year or so.

You should also have the transmission and rear end oil replaced soon. I know that BMW says that the transmission fluid is “permanent” but if you are keeping the car, change it.

This is no reason to get rid of the car, unless you simply want a new car. I have two BMWs with over 200k on them, one is close to 300k, and I have no intention of getting rid of either one of them any time soon. I spend less money per mile on my cars than anyone I know.

It sounds like you have a pretty decent car in my opinion; especially for a vehicle purchased at auction. Many auction vehicles may have a shaky history behind them.

The alternator could have just been one of those things or it could possibly have been helped along the road to failure by a weak battery, etc.

The PCV valve is a normal maintenance item (dirt cheap) which should be inspected and replaced ever so often.
If the PCV is clogged this could be the reason behind the oil leaks as a clogged PCV will pressure up the engine crankcase and force oil out past various seals and gaskets.
With any oil leak complaints, the PCV should be the first thing inspected.

I don’t see anything there that would cause me to worry about the car at all.

Hear hear…I own an 87 528E that presently has 266,000 miles on the clock with its original engine and 5 speed transmission, all still running strong. During that time the car has gone through 3 clutches, 4 timing belt rebuilds, 1 drive shaft, 4 sets of rotors, 1 set of struts and springs, 2 suspension / steering rebuilds and a set of headlamps - plus normal maintenance parts such as belts and hoses.

The car is consistently driven hard, maintained to spec and must be the cheapest car I’ve ever owned.

A BMW(likely lease return) turns into auction fodder either without any documented maintenance history or any sort of reported accident(minor or major).

I would suggest that the maintenance and repairs you have had are on the upper end of normal.

I don’t know about how you maintain your car, but it is almost always more expensive to put off maintenance than to have it done on schedule. If you like the car, keep it, but make sure you have all the recommended (recommended by BMW as listed in the owner’s manual) done on time. I would also suggest a transmission fluid change including dropping the pan and cleaning the filter if it has not been done in the last 40,000 miles.

Thank you everyone, for your insightful comments and helpful advice. I bring the car into the shop tomorrow. Let’s see what happens! I really appreciate all your help!