Having regular maintenance work performed on your BMW is important, but what you do between your visits to Angelo’s is just as important. How you drive and care for your car from day to day can makes a big difference: being a conscientious BMW owner can prevent costly repairs, lost time, and even traffic accidents. Here are a few things you can do every day to ensure that your BMW continues to drive smoothly and safely.
Have your BMW preventative maintenance performed according to schedule.
As with any vehicle, BMWs run best when you regularly change their fluids and filters. BMW has used the service interval notification system on the dashboards of their vehicles for years, and for good reason. Driving a BMW with old oil or a dirty air filter is like trying to keep a human being alive without enough blood in its veins or enough air in its lungs. Ignoring the service light on your dash can dramatically shorten the lifespan of your car. When your car says it’s due for maintenance, call us or send us a message using the form to the right, and make an appointment ASAP!
Keep your BMW’s fuel tank topped up.
There are a couple of reasons why you should head to the fuel pump before you drop below a quarter of a tank. The first is that, over time, particulates and debris build up in your fuel tank, and become more concentrated as your tank runs low. When you get close to empty, you’ll force more and more of these contaminates into the fuel line. While your fuel filter should catch all of it, you’ll end up needing to get your fuel filter replaced much sooner than necessary.
The potentially more expensive reason why you should keep a full tank has to do with heat. The fuel pump, which sends gasoline from the tank to the engine, is basically a small electric motor. Because it’s working constantly while you’re driving, it generates a lot of heat. If a motor is allowed to become too hot, it will eventually fail (which is why there are temperature sensors on the much larger motor that powers your car!). Fluids are an effective means of removing heat, which is why we use oil in cars. In the case of the fuel pump, it just so happens to be sitting in the middle of a handy reservoir of fluid–the fuel in your tank. While a fuel pump is constantly cooled by the fuel that passes through it, it’s also passively cooled by the fuel tank’s reservoir of fuel. If the tank is allowed to run low, the pump will no longer be able to dump excess heat.
For a visual, think about the last time you left a water bottle sitting in your car on a hot day. If it was full, and you happened to come back and grab it within an hour or so, it was probably still cool. But if it was nearly empty, then it was likely warm, or even hot. That’s because smaller amounts of fluid are heated more rapidly than larger amounts. So as the amount of gas in your tank decreases, it will be more easily warmed up by the fuel pump, and the the temperature of the fuel pump itself will rise.
As mentioned above, engines don’t do well when they overheat. The hotter the conditions, the more quickly it will degrade, even if it doesn’t fail catastrophically. If you regularly allow your gas tank to go nearly empty, your fuel pump will end up having to be replaced much sooner than if you maintain a full tank of gas. Fuel pumps can be pricey fixes, so it literally pays to take good care of them.
Check your BMW tires regularly.
There are times when the condition of a car’s tires means the difference between life and death. A car can be in perfect shape, but if it’s equipped with bald or damaged tires, its ability to brake and maneuver is seriously compromised. This is especially the case when roads are wet or otherwise in poor condition.
Make a point of examining your tires every couple of a days. Here’s a convenient checklist of things to look out for:
- Tire tread depth: Tires with shallow tread are much more likely to lose traction, so it’s important to keep an eye on your tire tread. The Department of Transportation’s recommendation is that tires should be replaced when their tread depth reaches 2/32,” and in California the legal minimum on standard vehicles is 1/32″ (tire tread is measured in 32nds of an inch). An easy way to check your tire tread is to use a penny. Turn the penny so that you’re looking at Lincoln’s face, with his head pointing straight down. Insert the coin between the tire treads. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, then you’re probably good to go. If the top of his head is exposed, then it’s time to get your tires replaced. However, traction can begin to degrade before tire tread reaches 2/32nds (recent studies suggest that tires with 4/32″ of tread will lose half of their friction, compared to when they were new), so it’s better to replace your tires before they reach that point.
- Irregular wear and damage: If your tires have uneven wear patterns, such as more wear on the outsides than the insides, chances are you need to have an alignment done. In addition, look out for bald spots, cracks, or foreign objects piercing tread or sidewalls.
- Sidewall condition: Even though tire sidewalls aren’t exposed to the wear and tear that tread surfaces endure, they can still fail. Tire sidewalls should be smooth and flat. Watch out for bubbles, bulges, or other distortions in the sidewall, as these indicate that the sidewall is weakening, and will ultimately fail. Also, rubber degrades over time, so if there are cracks in the sidewall, then your tires must be replaced.
- Tire pressure: It’s advisable to get a tire pressure gauge, and manually check the pressure once a month and before long trips to make sure that your tires are at the pressure specified on the sidewalls. At the very least, do regular visual inspections. If there is visible bulging in the sidewall, then it’s likely that the tire needs to be inflated. If a tire has to be regularly reinflated, then the tire has a leak, and will need to be repaired or replaced.
- Valve caps: While not strictly necessary, valve caps help prevent damage to tire valves. Also, if a small object lodges in an exposed valve, it can cause the tire to deflate. It’s best to make sure that all your tires have valve caps.
Check all of the exterior lights on the front and rear of your BMW.
Not only are fully functioning headlights, turn signals, and brake lights necessary for the safe operation of your BMW, they’re also a legal necessity. ALL lights must be in working order–in the state of California, you can receive a ticket for more than 200 dollars just for having a headlight out, and receive a point on your driving record, which will affect your insurance rates.
Obviously, it can difficult to tell if a light is out while you’re driving, especially with lights on the back of your car. Once a month, have someone sit in the driver’s seat while your BMW is parked, and have them operate the each of the front and rear lights while you watch from the outside. If you discover that a light isn’t working, make an appointment with us immediately to have it replaced.
You may wish to have a headlight guard installed, to prevent damage to your headlights caused by road debris.
Do regular checks on your BMW’s windshield wipers.
If you can’t see, you can’t drive. Drivers often forget about their wipers during dry weather, only to discover during the first rainstorm of the year that their wipers just turn their windshields into a blurry mess. The rubber blades on windshield wipers degrade due to age and heat, which is why the transition from hot, dry summers to wet autumns can be so dangerous. Every couple weeks, run the windshield washer on your car to make sure that the blades are still effectively clearing water and debris from your windshield. If this isn’t the case, then they need to be replaced.