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  #1  
Old 01-02-2012, 11:44 PM
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X3 long term reliability?

Hi, everyone. I'm new here.

I'm shopping for an SUV. There's a 2004 X3 for sale near me...it's within my budget, but it has 225K km on it (140K miles). Looks great, drives nice, and the owner has a thick file of maintenance records.

I'm trying to decide whether to take a chance on the X3, or purchase something else with fewer km on it.

I need a vehicle that is good in snow, as I drive a lot on mountain highways in winter conditions--but I also want good reliability. Any suggestions as to things I should check for on the X3? How much mileage would one reasonably expect from an X3 that's had good maintenance?

The front wheel bearings have been replaced recently. When I looked underneath the engine, the crankcase cover looked a bit wet (but I didn't see any hanging drips...then again, it was a quick look). The clutch engagement feels a bit high in the throw, but that might be normal (I'm not familiar with BMWs at all)--clutch has never been done AFAIK.

Also, the "check engine light" is on--the owner will give me the codes, his mechanic says they relate to the catalytic converter, which may need replacement.

Any information or suggestions would be highly appreciated!
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Old 01-03-2012, 03:46 PM
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Is the engine Petrol or Diesel?
Who has done the servicing - BMW Dealer or third Party?
Who and Where has it been driven - Lady owner on High Way or Rally Driver on Dirt/unsealed roads?
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  #3  
Old 01-03-2012, 09:44 PM
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Gasoline engine, 3.0.

Third party service (no dealers in this area).

Mostly highway driven, used as family car.

I spoke to the mechanic, he says it's recently developed an oil leak (don't know where).
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Old 01-14-2012, 07:30 PM
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BMW sixes with over 100,000 miles often develop an oil leak at the lower rear corner of the valve cover. I'd suspect that's the culprit. My wife has an X3 2.5 with nearly 130,000 miles on it and I will have the valve cover gasket replaced at the next service. Aside from that all I've done is replace the serpentine belt at 120,000 miles, brakes at 60,000 miles, and tires every 45,000 miles.
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Old 01-14-2012, 09:34 PM
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The X3 is good in the snow, but you will still need winter tires. Not sure where you are in BC, but we spent a fair bit of time visiting family in the Kootenays, and it always did great. The Hope Princton, Anarchist, Blueberry Paulson, Nancy Green, and the Salmo/Creston are all firmly etched in my mind.

Most of the discussion on this board is on the X5 instead of the X3. In comparison to the X5 platform, the X3 is quite a bit simpler (E46 origins). That helps with reliability. The M54 engines are pretty bulletproof. And it is a manual transmission model. Those are the good points. The negatives are that parts aren't necessarily cheap compared to some other brands, and you either need a trusted independent mechanic or an ability to do some of the repairs yourself. The mileage is getting up there, so if ultimate reliability is the issue then I would look for a lower mileage alternative. If you expect to have to repair things as they go, over time, then you will be better off than thinking that "everything has just been done so it is good now". That thinking is a recipe for later disappointment.

Make sure that all trouble code issues are resolved prior to making an offer.
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  #6  
Old 01-16-2012, 06:32 PM
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I can say with close to 100% confidence that it there's nothing wrong with the cat, regardless what the mechanic says.

I suspect the code has to do with a lean condition or something related to the O2 sensors. The cause is (likely...) neither the cat nor the O2 sensors.

It is likely the rubber intake boot that cracked at the branch going the idle control valve. If once that is fixed the code persist the cause is the crankcase ventilation system. Before touching the cats or the O2 sensor address these two: they both crap out around the 80K miles. If before checking/fixing these the mechanic insist on the cat, walk away from the car because is time bomb... Really...

When we bought ours I had to get it smogged to have it transfered. I took it to the smog station and the CEL came up: luckily this is our 4th BMW with an M5x motors so I knew what was wrong and I was right. In the process I removed the vacuum line that goes to the flap in the exhaust (now it's always open) and plugged the hole in the manifold. I just wanted to avoid having to go back at a later time because another rubber hose cracked causing a vacuum leak.

Other things that commonly fail on these cars:

1) waterpump and/or thermostat and/or expansion reservoir
- the waterpump has a plastic impeller and a cheapo bearing ($150 for the EMP Stewart WP)
- the thermostat leaks right where the electrical connector is ($60)
- the reservoir cracks right above the return hose form the cockpit ($80)

2) oil leak comes from either the valve cover gasket or the gasket between the oil filter housing and the engine block ($50 for the gasket kits))

3) the transfer case oil IS NOT lifetime. The control module of the transfer case monitors the oil wear and stores a code when it needs replacement. Unfortunately such code does not cause a light to go off in the dash and can only be pulled using the BMW GT1 software. I would suggest replacing the transfer case fluid. (IIRC the oil last ~70-100K mile of regular use). People have neglected this and ended up with a failed transfer case. ($50 for BMW transfer case fluid)

4) windows and moonroof are assembled with little to no lubrication. They have nylon guides that are ok, but eventually seize or get stuck. It's somewhat labor intensive but with some basic tools you can spend a Saturday removing the door panels and lubricating them. Same thing for the moonroof: otherwise it gets stuck (when we bought ours, the moonroof was getting stuck and the windows were very slow). Doing it yourself will allow you to take some extra time to assemble the door cards correctly and avoid annoying water leaks. (lubes, 3M weatherstrip adhesive, duck tape)

5) the doors squeak when going over imperfection: some Gummi Pflege around the gaskets and the felt area of the seals goes a long way ($15 on Amazon)

6) There was a recall for Bremi spark plug coils, but Bosh can be just as bad. If you get misfires on a specific cyclinder mote the coil around and see if the code changes along with the coil. If so replace the coil (~$35)

7) Don't be surprised if you go through 1 qt of oil every 3K -5K miles: that's just how the M54 is...

8) The battery compartment is made of metal and prone to corrosion if the battery leaks. In my case (and this is the second BMW that I observe this, the other was a Z3) the previous owner replaced the BMW with an aftermarket batter which fit quite about the same but not all the way. It wasn't secured right and acid spilled. I caught it on time and got it resolved with some baking soda, warm water and some spray paint. But do yourself a favor: if the battery goes kaput, get a BMW batter. They cost a bit more but they have lasted me an average of 7 years. Let alone, they won't move around, or start leaking.

9) You might occasionally get a "Check Fuel Cap" light after fill up. There was a TSB on the subject which was resolved with a ECU software update (the ECU monitors for fuel tank leaks by basically pressurizing it and measuring how much the pressure drops - the software update likely lowers the threshold that triggers the light). In my case I was able to resolve it by removing the green seal from the fuel cap and coat it with some silicon lube.

As far as snow performance, since I live in CA I don't buy snow tires, but use chains when up the mountains. Last month at Big Bear I pulled an H3 out of a ditch. The X3 had two chains on the rear and there was about 1 foot of snow on the road... Your result may vary, but for me the X3 works just fine in the snow. In the summer I use it to haul the toys to the track: 3 people and 2 motorcycles plus gears and it didn't have any problem.

Last edited by ZetaTre; 01-17-2012 at 12:55 AM.
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Old 01-17-2012, 12:25 AM
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Zeta

Good list. Couple of comments:

I don't believe water pump problems relate to plastic impellers. I would use an OE pump myself.

If you change the TC fluid before the light comes on you still need to reset the TC with the same tool, according to the service manual.
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  #8  
Old 01-17-2012, 12:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCL View Post
Zeta

Good list. Couple of comments:

I don't believe water pump problems relate to plastic impellers. I would use an OE pump myself.

If you change the TC fluid before the light comes on you still need to reset the TC with the same tool, according to the service manual.
You are probably right. My experience with the WP was on the older cars and I just got the habit of replacing them with the EMP Stewart: I do all my works so what I tend to buy upgraded parts with what I save from labor.

As for the TC you are also right. I have a DIS setup in my computer and that's how I originally found out about the code for the oil. When you follow the instructions in the DIS to reset the code it actually also adjust the adaptation of the TC. You can actually hear the servo motor moving as you go through the procedure.

I've also added about the fuel cap that I remembered of on my way home...

Last edited by ZetaTre; 01-17-2012 at 12:57 AM.
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  #9  
Old 01-17-2012, 01:16 PM
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Just my two cents, but you couldnt pay me to buy a 140k mile BMW. I'm not saying they don't last a long time, and as long as it doesnt bleed me dry, I plan on keeping my X well past that point, but you're just asking to spend gobs of money on repairs at that point in it's life.

Again, just my opinion, to each their own, but if your budget is such that the only BMW you can afford is one with 140k miles, you should probably be looking at a newer, non-luxury vehicle.
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Old 01-17-2012, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoVols! View Post
Just my two cents, but you couldnt pay me to buy a 140k mile BMW. I'm not saying they don't last a long time, and as long as it doesnt bleed me dry, I plan on keeping my X well past that point, but you're just asking to spend gobs of money on repairs at that point in it's life.

Again, just my opinion, to each their own, but if your budget is such that the only BMW you can afford is one with 140k miles, you should probably be looking at a newer, non-luxury vehicle.
... unless one is nearly 'car tech' in skill, loves to DIY, and is willing to make that kind of leap of faith, I would also look for a much lower mileage car. If the budget is the key rub that leads one toward that kind of mileage BMW, I would look at other brands, with much less mileage, also. Just my opin...
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