Home » BMWs Are The Most Reliable Cars You Can Own: COTD

BMWs Are The Most Reliable Cars You Can Own: COTD

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Over the weekend, David Tracy wrote a take so hot that it might have generated the most comments we’ve ever seen on a single post. On Sunday, our fearless leader was brave enough to say if your car has a timing belt, it’s not really reliable. To condense his logic down to a single sentence, David believes that a car’s owner shouldn’t have to shell out a thousand dollars every 100,000 miles or less for a part that could have been engineered to last the life of the vehicle. Since the average American drives about 13,000 miles a year, that’s an expensive thing to replace every seven years. But you know what will last forever, a BMW with a timing chain!

I do think David’s overall thought process is sound. A well-designed timing chain system, or better, gears, is something you never have to worry about. Smart Fortwos have timing chains, but Mitsubishi did such a great job that so long as you change your oil somewhat on time, they’ll survive just fine. I’d go as far as to say the timing chain is perhaps the most reliable part of a Smart’s engine. Problem is, some auto manufacturers crank out timing chains so bad it’s worse than having a timing belt. I’m looking at you, Volkswagen EA888 engine.

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Jared Johnson knows the reliability of a quality German car:

Love the hot take! Meanwhile I’m here driving an older BMW where the reliable timing chain will definitely eat a guide within another year or two. The car as a whole is reliable… as long as you replace rod bearings, replace parts in the VANOS, and change the entire cooling system out periodically. But if you do that it should get an easy 250k miles before any engine work lol

Earlier today, Lewin wrote about the disaster of the Oldsmobile diesel V8 engine, an engine that borrowed the architecture, and head bolts, of a gas V8 to save money. This sparked another one of those awesome reader stories from Squirrelmaster:

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I’ve been looking forward to this article. I’ve mentioned before that my mom owned an ’82 LeSabre with the Olds 350 diesel. It was the car I learned to drive in, only driving my dad’s Mercedes after he knew I could handle the Buick land yacht. My mom’s had head studs installed, and my dad installed a secondary fuel filtration system, and with those mods the thing was actually shockingly reliable and made it close to 200,000 miles before any major issues. It wasn’t fast, it hated passing at highway speeds, but in that big beast of a car it would routinely get over 30mpgs on the highway and usually upper 20mpgs in the city.

The one thing to note, as is the case with all older diesels, is that running it out of fuel was a nightmare scenario. It had a manual priming pump on the fuel pump, so you could prime the pump by hand if you ran it out of fuel. If memory serves, the manual priming pump had a diaphragm that dissolved if you put in any fuel additive to handle the lack of water filtration, so the one time my mom ran it out of diesel (fuel level sender died) it was a trip to a local diesel mechanic to get to the pump primed – the dealership didn’t have the tools or know-how to do it. The diesel mechanic rebuilt the priming pump, and my dad and I replaced the fuel level sender and added the additional filtration similar to ones used on diesel generators.

Dang it, Squirrelmaster, you make me want to buy one of these old diesel beasts. Finally, we have Bishop’s wonderful idea to make trucks smaller. EmotionalSupportBMW and Spikedlemon see a niche, here:

Clearly, the world beckons for the luxury Subaru Baja.

Spikedlemon

Better yet, the Subaru Brat.

Just imagine: Leather seats in the bed.

Oh yeah, I’d ride in a Brat with heated and ventilated leather bed seats. Sign me up! Have a great evening, everyone.

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Ben
Ben
1 month ago

Problem is, some auto manufacturers crank out timing chains so bad it’s worse than having a timing belt.

People keep making the fallacious argument that because bad timing chains exist it somehow means timing belts are fine. All of these bad timing chain examples everyone keeps bringing up are considered defects! Having to replace a timing chain after 80000 miles is unacceptable. Why would a timing belt that always needs replacement be any better? David didn’t say all engines with timing chains are reliable, just that engines with timing belts aren’t.

Bryan
Bryan
1 month ago

Haha. Bmw, timing chain, reliable. Three words never to be uttered in the same sentence. As the (soon to be former) owner of an f11 5 series on my second timing chain (100k), I cant disagree more. I woukd guess all those affected by the n47 timing chain recall would also have something to say about reliability. Plastic timing chain guides! Also, it’s an engine out procedure because why wouldn’t you put a wear item at the back of the engine? I’m with Jared Johnson on this one. Don’t get me started about leaky headlights, rear door leaks, leaky air suspension, oil leaks, interior plastics quality….

3WiperB
3WiperB
1 month ago

My folks special ordered a diesel 81 Chevy G20 van so that was the kid hauler in my family. I remember my dad running it out of diesel on a trip (it was somewhat hard to find) and having to take it to a mechanic to prime it. The engine on that was reliable too. I think it had well over 250,000 miles on it when they sold it. Nothing else was reliable on that van, but the engine sure was.

ManuelShackelford
ManuelShackelford
1 month ago

I do enjoy me some old BMWs but their M62TU was a glorious mess. My business partner owned an E39 540i which I maintained. It wasn’t particularly hard to work on but the timing chain and guides had short lives and the VANOS was always doing something weird. Ran like a bat out of hell one day and then felt like it lost 1/3 of its power the next… At least the engine could stay in the car for timing chain and VANOS service (unlike my beloved Audi 4.2 with the timing chain at the rear). And to its credit, it only went through one full cooling system replacement in the 150k miles before it was totaled by a red light running goober.

Sarah Blikre
Sarah Blikre
1 month ago

The blurb about the E60 makes me wonder, what brand is the king of “just replace this and this and this and this and this and upgrade this and it’s bulletproof” ?

Crab People
Crab People
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Blikre

BMW has to be up there, but diesel truck guys will spend tens of thousands to make their truck “bulletproof”.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Blikre

Nissan. Most notably their economy cars.
Problem is nobody bothers to follow through with upgrades or maintenance given that particular platform.

Last edited 1 month ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Camp Fire
Camp Fire
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Blikre

Ford 6.0 Powerstroke. After $10,000 in upgrades it finally becomes a reliable engine.

The 6.4 Powerstroke has a similar reputation.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago
Reply to  Camp Fire

An EMT friend said “at least the 6.0 can be bulletproofed.” They claim you can’t really bulletproof the 6.4 at all.

Mick Molte
Mick Molte
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Blikre

Just to pick on David and his scorching hot take a little bit more….I’d put anything with the Jeep 4.0 six on that list. Reliable, just gotta totally rebuild the upper end every so often, and for god’s sake whatever you do don’t overheat them so you better upgrade the garbage-from-the-factory cooling system while you’re in there.

Camp Fire
Camp Fire
1 month ago
Reply to  Mick Molte

Don’t forget the broken piston skirts! And the 0331 head casting issues.

That engine is very overrated. The AK-47 of engines. Old, obsolete, sloppy tolerances, and inordinately loved for the robustness facilitated by those same sloppy tolerances. Yes, some of them will hit 250k miles. Some of them. But requiring routine piston & upper end replacements is not a sign of good engineering or precise manufacturing.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 month ago
Reply to  Mick Molte

Ah yes, the unkillable AMC straight six that David has revived from the dead so many times.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Blikre

The Subaru WRX, without a doubt. Specifically the older EJ-engined ones. All you need are head gaskets, air-oil separator, baffled sump (well, actually, better get an accusump. On second thought, let’s play it safe and build a dry sump) and an upgraded radiator to give your engine favorable odds of surviving one spirited drive on a twisty road. That is, assuming you leave the power stock.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 month ago

Reliability<Emotional Support

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
1 month ago

The Subaru Brat bed seats had two giant holes in them from the factory, so I guess you could say that they’re already ventilated

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

Especially in the winter in northern climates.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago

Thanks Mercedes! While I’m not sure I want another Olds diesel, I’d love to see a new Brat with leather chicken-tax seats in the bed!

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

A diesel brat, in beige with tan leather. Wouldn’t want to burn your ass in black leather in the summer.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Now that could be a head gasket reliability nightmare… Subaru flat four diesel. At least changing the plugs is less of an issue.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

Apparently they did: the EE20. Subaru history I did not know. From a quick skim, case & crank issues loomed larger than head gaskets.
—which is why I searched it: was thinking, ‘you can’t do that in a reasonably light case: it’d come apart!’
so, thanks

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I was joking when I wrote that. Had no idea Sub had done a diesel. Sounds like they didn’t do their homework or testing correctly. I own a Sub tribeca. Great car if a little thirsty due to the awd. The thing has been dead reliable, but I look after my cars. It has developed some rust, but anything in this area does that. Have you ever checked out the Subaru flat 12? Another ambitious project that didn’t pan out.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

I ran pre-awd Subarus for years, so I was vaguely aware of their flat 12. Loved my little mountain-goat GL wagons w/ 4LO, but they lacked power, and rust was an issue even here in the Mid-Atlantic area. Picked up an 02 wrx a few years back and enjoy cosplaying a WRC driver on isolated dirt & gravel roads now.
I hope your Tribeca serves as long & well as my old beaters did 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by TOSSABL
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