Home » How BMW Replaced One Of Its Best Engines With One Of Its Worst Engines

How BMW Replaced One Of Its Best Engines With One Of Its Worst Engines

Bmw N20 Engine Topshot
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It should go without saying, buying a cheap, heavily-depreciated German car is probably a bad idea. Buying a decade-old heavily-depreciated BMW is an extremely dumb idea because although BMWs have always had at least minor issues, there was a period of time where the firm’s mainstream entry-level N20 engine offered a major problem without a whole lot of love back.

BMW went through a rough patch in the early 2010s, and one little four cylinder sought to derail the firm’s Motoren middle name with a coarse turbocharged four-banger that offered drivers plenty of timing chain problems but few reasons to jump for joy. This is a little backgrounder on what came before, what happened, and the liminal space between.

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The Last Of The Real Ones

Bmw N52

Alright, so the N52 inline-six wasn’t strictly the last naturally-aspirated inline-six. That would be the rest-of-world N53, which offered all of the problems of the bi-turbocharged N54 with none of the power. However, the N52 was the last naturally-aspirated inline-six BMW sold in America, and it fixed several of its predecessor’s issues while shooting for the moon.

The oil pump nut issue found on M54 engines isn’t found on the N52, and since the N52 doesn’t use high-pressure variable valve timing, the dreaded VANOS service simply consists of pulling two easy-to-access solenoids and cleaning their filters, rather than internal engine work. The cooling systems attached to N52s aren’t stupidly pressurized to 2.0 bar, meaning plastic components are more durable. Oh, and did I mention that the N52 brought more power and more revs?

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Bmw N52 Outline 2

This was BMW’s mainline naturally-aspirated moonshot. With a magnesium-aluminum composite block, variable valve timing on both cams, variable valve lift on the intake cam, an available three-stage variable-length intake manifold, and one of the highest-flowing cylinder heads BMW’s ever installed on a non-M production engine.

In three-liter, three-stage manifold form, the N52 made 255 horsepower, revved to 7,000 RPM, and offered buckets of low end torque. Perhaps most impressively, the 215-horsepower three-liter version with the single-stage intake manifold made a plateau of peak torque from 2,750 rpm to 4,000 rpm, and it kept pulling past 6,000 rpm on the way to that 7,000 rpm redline.

Bmw N52 Dyno

 

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Oh, and the crazy part of it all? The N52 was fairly reliable. It’s extremely common for these engines to last more than 200,000 miles with just regular maintenance. Sure, that regular maintenance may include a water pump, an easy-to-change valve cover gasket, and an oil filter housing gasket, but most of that stuff wouldn’t be uncommon to do on a mid-2000s Toyota or Honda on the way to 200,000 miles. In fact, this engine only has two real, unique problems, one of which affected a small range of model years and one of which requires willful neglect to produce.

If you’ve spent some time poking around N52 forums, you’ve probably heard cam ledge bearing wear mentioned once or twice. These days, it’s essentially a non-issue, but broken VANOS bolts are a real issue on a small run of cars. According to a technical service bulletin, engines built between Sept. 2009 and Nov. 2011 may have been equipped with substandard bolts for the variable valve timing phasers. Those bolts can snap, leading to internal VANOS unit oil leakage and engine malfunction. Needless to say, this isn’t fun. While many of these affected engines were fixed under recall, some weren’t. However, you can avoid buying an N52-powered car with this issue with proper maintenance records, or by going to an older model year.

Bmw N52 Oil Filter Housing Gasket

The second problem is related to the oil filter housing gasket. Over time, this gasket for the cartridge-style oil filter housing on top of the engine will dry out and eventually leak. Ignoring the eventual leak could be catastrophic. Not because you’ll lose all your oil pressure, but because a severe enough oil leak from the oil filter housing gasket will find its way onto the serpentine belt. Once that belt gets all slippery, it can slide off of its pullies, get caught behind the crank pulley, and get sucked through the front main seal. Goodbye engine. This final failure mode takes forever to manifest, so if it happens to you, you probably deserved it.

Still, if you do your diligence on model year and maintenance history, and then just maintain an N52-powered BMW like you would something that isn’t a fiddly European beast, it won’t be a fiddly European beast. Reliable, silky-smooth, makes power everywhere. What’s not to love?

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Less Is Less

Bmw N20 Engine

Well, maybe the tested fuel economy numbers of vehicles with the N52 weren’t great. Look, the end of the N52’s run coincided with the downsizing craze, and instead of another silk-ripping naturally-aspirated six, BMW replaced it with a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This is the story of the N20, and why it was so disastrous.

Bmw 2 Series

The N20 had all the soul of a DMV administrator, but it got solid posted fuel economy numbers, was smaller than the N52 and easier to package. Most people who leased one were perfectly happy with the off-the-line torque, the fuel economy figures, and most importantly, the badge. This was good news for BMW, since the N20 engine was spreading like gonorrhea in The Villages through the brand’s expanded lineup. If we’re talking about total global availability, customers could order the N20 in a 1 Series, a 2 Series, a 3 Series, a 4 Series, a 5 Series, an X1, an X3, an X4, and X5, a Z4, and a partridge in a freakin’ pear tree. In America, it was the corporate entry-level engine, and everything was going according to plan. Then timing components started to go boom.

Bmw Forum Quote

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In 2017, a small group of BMW owners filed a class action lawsuit over N20 timing chain problems, and made some pretty damning claims. For instance, the suit’s introduction claimed that

The primary chain plastic guide assemblies in class engines are defective and prematurely fail. The primary chain plastic guide assemblies become brittle and break apart because the guide assemblies are made of defective polycarbonate composition and other materials. Pieces of broken off plastic from the chain guide become lodged in the crankshaft drive sprockets causing chain breakage or chain skip sufficient to cause severe engine damage or complete engine destruction.

Yikes. Oh, and unsurprisingly, BMW apparently knew of this defect by the time the lawsuit was filed. Superseding parts numbers show that BMW revised the timing chain hardware for the N20 in 2015, well before people filed suit. Yeah, this was going to be a disaster of epic proportions.

In the years between filing and settlement, the failures piled up, but a resolution was eventually reached. In 2021 (the legal system moves slowly), a settlement was agreed on that included a limited warranty extension covering the timing components on, well, you take a look.

Bmw N20 Settlement Vehicle List

Yep, it covers just about everything with this engine made between the beginning of this engine’s life and late February of 2015. That’s a massive model year spread.

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As you can probably expect, customer awareness of most service bulletins isn’t crazy high, and now there are N20-powered BMWs running around on original timing chain components well outside of the limited warranty extension period. As a result, when the timing chains on these often buy-here-pay-here-fodder vehicles go, they end up for sale online with gnarly front end noises or catastrophic engine damage.

Bmw F30

Now, you might be thinking, didn’t the older BMW V8s also have timing chain issues? They certainly did, but the old V8s gave you something back for that unreliability. They gave you character, soul, astounding performance relative to common engines of the time. The N20, well, it was just another gravelly, economy-minded two-liter turbocharged four-banger that falls off up top. The N20 is competent when it works, but nothing more. An unreliable engine that doesn’t give the enthusiast anything back.

The Inbetweeners

Bmw Z4

Tech transitions are never seamless, and the space between the N52 engine and N20 engine was weird indeed. Generally, vehicles introduced in the mid-aughts had the N52 and vehicles introduced in the early 2010s have the N20, but there was a weird gap. The then-new 2011 BMW X3 28i, 2011 BMW 528i, and early E89 Z4 sDrive30i used the N52 instead of the N20 because the N20 just wasn’t ready yet. As a result, they meld the reliability of the old N52 with the mod-cons of a BMW from the 2010s. Sure, these vehicles aren’t exactly what I’d call the Ultimate Driving Machines, but they’re luxurious, comfortable, fairly practical, and have seriously fun engines. More proof that rare and good doesn’t always equal valuable.

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(Photo credits: BMW)

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bmw325_num99
bmw325_num99
7 months ago

spreading like gonorrhea in The Villages”

If I had been drinking something it would have been a spit-take. Hahahaha.

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
7 months ago

I am a big fan of buying fully depreciated BMWs. I own two e36s, a 328is and an M3 which is my daily. I used to daily and e39 M5 and my parents are now on their third e38. They are easy cars to work on, easy to get parts for and other than the 90s cooling system woes of the e38, generally quite reliable.

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
7 months ago

Hondas can last 100k miles on a timing belt. GMs can go 400k+ miles on a timing chain. Why can’t BMW figure this out?

I have a M62 with a timing chain rattle. I can’t say exactly how many miles that took because all the pixels in the instrument cluster are dead. Another BMW only problem.

Ronald Pottol
Ronald Pottol
7 months ago

Um, BMW still sells a naturally aspirated straight 6, in the K1600 motorcycle line.

Frederick Tanujaya
Frederick Tanujaya
7 months ago

Whats your opnion on the B48 that replaced the N20?

Day One Dave
Day One Dave
7 months ago

Heads up Bimmer people, there is a new 155,000 vehicle recall for the VANOS bolts:
https://g87.bimmerpost.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2061784

Sept 09-July 12 vehicles are impacted.

Ted Schwartz
Ted Schwartz
7 months ago
Reply to  Day One Dave

I was going to add this if I didn’t see someone else post it. I just got a 2011 328i wagon a month ago with the N52. I’ve already scheduled it in to the BMW dealer in December. Hopefully they’ll be ready to take care of it by then.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
7 months ago
Reply to  Day One Dave

Yup. And remedy is not available yet. Shades of the PCV heater issue. Joy.

(other than that, I love the N52 engine)

Motorhead Mike
Motorhead Mike
7 months ago

People say what they will about BMWs. I’ve had two. An E34 touring, with an M50, and an E82 with an N52. The E34 made it to 297.5k, and I’m still dailying the E82 at 241k. The E82 has a 6 speed and, God help me, I want that to be my forever car. Still leaks oil like a bastard, though. (I need a new oil pan. Rusting…)

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
7 months ago
Reply to  Motorhead Mike

E82 128i is a hidden gem in the BMW pantheon.

Super Bonk 3000
Super Bonk 3000
6 months ago
Reply to  Motorhead Mike

Almost 200,000mi on my M54-powered manual X5 (E53). No rattles, no smoke, a slight oil leak that I need to track down but not bad, and with the stupidly-low final drive and trans ratios it pulls like a diesel (which means spinning at almost 3500rpm at 70mph). I doubt the M54 oil-pump-sprocket-nut issue would affect me.

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
7 months ago

“Least cost “ is always a phrase I have used to describe BMWs engineering philosophy.

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
7 months ago

BMW loves using plastic whenever possible in the engine bay, honestly don’t understand why.

Mike F.
Mike F.
7 months ago
Reply to  Alec Harvey

As one who was victimized by the infamous plastic radiator neck in my E36, I have also spent too much time mulling over this same question. By the side of the road.

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike F.

I really liked my E39 when I first got it, but by the end I just got sick of all the constant little breakages of all the plastic parts.

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Alec Harvey

The plastic trim ring around the headlight switch on an e39 costs $300.

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
7 months ago
Reply to  Alec Harvey

My parents have owned 3 e38s, dating back to the first one bought used in 2001. I think we are on replacement expansion tank number 4. Also in there were a few radiators and even a water cooled Bosch 180amp alternator.

At least they got the cooling system right in the e39 M5, engineered to go racing, which meant it was up to par of a normal everyday car from other manufacturers.

Abe Froman
Abe Froman
7 months ago

I bought a 2015 328i xDrive in Fall 2018. It was a lease turn in from a doctor (I know this because he left EVERYTHING in the glove box and Google). It had 32,000 miles on it and over the next 5 years I brought it to 140,000 miles. It had the N20 engine and I never had an issue. Routine maintenance was all it ever required. I loved that car and was sad to see it go, but it was time.

We traded for a 2023 X5 45e and haven’t looked back. It makes the N20 328 feel like a Nissan.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
7 months ago

What is with modern German engines and timing chain tensioners?? Various Audi/VW products also had big timing chain guide and tensioner problems. Older BMW timing chains were typically pretty problem free, my ’91 M30B35 is trucking right along, before that had a 2000 323i w 215K when I sold it with 0 timing chain related problems and the motor still pulled strong. I truly think the sunk carbon costs of more reliable but higher emitting vehicles that stay on the road longer have been way overlooked in the push to improve right now emissions.

I would love to to get something with that 255 hp N52 and a six speed manual-not entirely sure which cars you could get that combo in-if any? I assume the Z4, any of the sedans or wagons?

Otter
Otter
7 months ago

Search for a 128i like my 2012. Manuals are not easy to find, but very worth it. To get that 255-265 hp, you will have to add a three-stage intake and a tune to make it work, but factor in that perfect torque curve and the 230 hp it starts with is plenty for me.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
7 months ago
Reply to  Otter

A buddy was trying to talk me into searching for a 128i-looks like the 255 hp variant mentioned in the article wasn’t sold in the USA? Though agreed 230 is plenty peppy for a car that size, a pinch more than the new GR86 and way more torque.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
7 months ago

No, but put a 3-stage intake manifold from any of the following: 330i/xi, 530i/xi, 630i, 730i, Z4 sDrive30i, or X1 xDrive82i and then flash the DME to 130i spec using Bimmerlabs’ flash images, and you’ll be (essentially) driving a 130i.

Last edited 7 months ago by Derek van Veen
Parsko
Parsko
7 months ago

I’ve got that in my E61. BMW has other flaws, like using shit wire insulation in 06 and 07.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
7 months ago

I’ll die on the hill that German cars are fine and your mechanic just hates learning new things. But even I, mightiest defender of the Roundel, can’t defend the trash heap that is the N20.

That said, I put the needle to the limiter everyday on my N52. I even bumped the limiter up 500 more revs for lolz. Motor didn’t skip a beat my entire ownership. Did it tick every second of that, yes. But at 330k, with probably multiple drift sessions in it. Thing still held factory spec compression across all cylinders.

Alexk98
Alexk98
7 months ago

I find it so ironic that German brands so commonly use timing chains due to “strength and durability” compared to belts and to say “no replacements, no problems, lower ownership cost” and yet somehow manage to consistently use the cheapest, worst wearing guides known to mankind, and have been for decades, and yet never learn from their mistakes, maybe the Germans do have a sense of humor after all.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
7 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

The sad part about this is BMW at least made engines with good timing chains for years-I’ve owned 2. It’s like everybody came out with Turbo 4s and decided to see how much light weight ness and cheapness they could milk out of them smh

The Schrat
The Schrat
7 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Their bikes have good chain guides, at least.

JDE
JDE
7 months ago

Now tell them about the Twin turbo v8’s with the turbo down in that heat valley of the engine.

Richard Truett
Richard Truett
7 months ago

This is EXACTLY why I come here…
This was good news for BMW, since the N20 engine was spreading like gonorrhea in The Villages through the brand’s expanded lineup.”
Shit.
That is fantastic.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard Truett

Indeed: ‘Educate and Entertain’ freaking exemplified!

Last edited 7 months ago by TOSSABL
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
7 months ago

So, this is like BMW’s version of when GM went from the 3.8 V6 to the 3.6?

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Or when Jeep went from the 4.0 to the 3.6. Or when Honda Odyssey went from a really solid four cylinder and four speed auto to a j30 and very failure prone five speed. Or what could be said about many other cars.

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I tend to gravitate towards these good engines. Just this evening I sold my Oldsmobile with a GM 3800 series II, I have a Jeep with a 4.0L, a BMW with the S52, and am presently looking at a Honda with the K20A3.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
7 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Yeah, the 3800 Series II makes 205 hp and is both stone reliable and simple to fix. The 3.6 is an I Do Cars regular.

Mike F.
Mike F.
7 months ago

I drove an N52-equipped 330i for ten years and that engine was incredibly reliable. The first water pump went at 80K but the second was still going at 190K when I had it proactively replaced (as my daughter was driving it at that point). Valve cover, oil filter housing, and oil pan gaskets were all replaced at one point or another. And that was it. I got rid of the car with 220K miles on it after the interior flooded and the electronics went wonky but the engine was as solid as ever.

These two engines are great examples of why you have to do your homework if you’re buying a used Bimmer. None of them are going to be Hondas in terms of reliability, but there are many that will have minimal, well-known, and easily handled issues while there are others that are rolling disasters. The excellent driving experience these cars provide is well worth dealing with a few known issues, but nothing is worth the kind of problems the N20 has.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
7 months ago

BMW used very substandard materials for the gaskets on the N52. Pretty much every “rubber” gasket on mine failed after 60k miles. Yes the engine was a joy, but mein Gott did the bean counters fuck it up.

Alexk98
Alexk98
7 months ago

This is unfortunately often the case, give a bunch of accountants with no understanding of material science (or any Eng. principles really) the power to overrule engineers on system critical components, and the engineers get the blame when things go sideways. That said, in the case of the oil pump nuts mentioned last week, yeah, engineering miss for sure.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
7 months ago

See also: soy-based wiring insulation…

(although, to be fair to BMW, that was due to German or EU environmental law)

Last edited 7 months ago by Derek van Veen
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago

German cars have an apparently well-deserved reputation for being overcomplicated, unreliable, and expensive to repair, especially once they’re more than ten years old or so. Many people advise to never buy a cheap high mileage German car.

But every car on the market in 2023, even the most “tough truck” f250 or most bare bones Versa, is more complicated and computer controlled than a mid 2000s Mercedes, and I expect that in 15 years 2024 vehicles will be worse than 15 years old Audis are now.

The future is bleak for those who don’t have $50k for a new car every four years(aka 80% of Americans).

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

That is the reason I think that that will be no “Classic” cars from 00’s on the road in the far future. There won’t be ICs and other critical components to keep these computers running. Sure, some people will have some of these around, or will be recycled, but will be me much harder to keep thing on the road than a 50 year old car today.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

Some version of this has been said for anything that’s made vehicles more complex for the last century.

“Fuel injection? Give me a carb I can adjust any day!”

“Turbos? Give me the simplicity of a naturally aspirated engine!”

“Screens? They’re just going to fail anyways!”

And yet, cars last longer, run better, and are more efficient than ever. Nothing is perfect of course, but at some point you’d think the Chicken Little attitude would stop.

Pedro Soto
Pedro Soto
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I think the one point that is accurate is that, modern vehicles are very reliable, safer and will last about as long as people tend to own them.

However older predominantly mechanical vehicles are able to to be worked on, maintained and repaired far longer because it is more straighforward to keep them running and fabricate or manufacture replacement parts. They were also to a much bigger degree “designed” to be maintained.

This is really similar to lots of other industries. For example, I’m in manufacturing, and we have some big grinders that are 70 years old and running beautifully, because they are pretty straightforward to repair, maintain and upgrade, yet I have a 40 year old CNC machine which is a doorstop and requires a complete electronic rebuild because several boards in the control aren’t made any more and are impossible to find.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Soto

Parts availability is a choice though, whether it’s electronics or mechanical parts.

I concede it’s more likely for aftermarket companies to fabricate some mechanical parts for older cars, but that’s by no means universal. I’m going through a restoration on one of the most popular classic vehicles of all time (67-72 Chevy truck/Blazer) and even there some parts are completely unavailable. A less popular older vehicle is even less likely to have everything made for it.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Way true. I really wanted a Volvo 1800es, but some stuff is just NLA—and there weren’t enough made to make production of some new parts worth it

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

That is what I was trying to say. Is already hard to find new parts for something a bit exotic and highly depreciated from 00s, say, any luxury german stuff computer thing. Cars can more reliable than never, but some time in future, they will wear out no matter how well cared they are, especially the eletronic stuff without repairability in mind.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
7 months ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

The 3.0L N52, transmissions, suspensions, and associated DME are common across multiple platforms (1 / 3 / 5 / 6 / 7 / x1 / x3 / z4) so it will be a while before there’s a surfeit of parts to keep your 2005-2014 non-turbo BMW running. Now the interior and infotainment bits may be a bit harder to source, but that’s a problem for pretty much any older cars these days.

Hgrunt
Hgrunt
7 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Soto

However older predominantly mechanical vehicles are able to to be worked on, maintained and repaired far longer because it is more straighforward to keep them running 

They also needed far more frequent maintenance and ‘tune ups’ to keep them running properly than a modern car does. Grease the suspension, adjust the ignition points, adjust the carburetor, change the oil every 3000 miles, change the spark plugs every other oil change, etc.

The Ford Model T’s engine can be babbited (equivalent of crank bearing replacement) in an afternoon with some basic tools, a small forge and a crucible, on the other hand, it had to be done about every 50k miles as regular maintenance.

Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, modern cars have engine bearings effectively last for the useful lifetime of the car

Goose
Goose
7 months ago
Reply to  Hgrunt

To be fair, there are a few modern cars I can think of that if their main bearings failed the whole car would probably mean the end of its lifetime. See V10 Touareg, W8 Passat, W12 Phaeton & A8, V10 S6 & S8, V12 Q7…. Wait a minute, why are all these VAG products?

Last edited 7 months ago by Goose
Jmfecon
Jmfecon
7 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Soto

That is my point. Although hard, it is possible to fabricate something out of metal, but it is not exactly possible to do the same with a integrated circuit. Also, proprietary software will be a problem. There will be people willing to try to replicate something using other parts and software, but there are some limits on that.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I’m guilty of some of that: apprehensive about fuel injection, doubtful about fuel management for turbos, actively scorned awd vs old-fashioned 4wd, etc. Now I have all of that in my driveway —and over 170k miles.
Still, some of it is warranted: I’d be quite worried about a used car needing OTA updates given that the different generations of standards do eventually expire or are no longer supported which I see as the same thing.
The one big thing I was down on that I have yet to work on is CAN bus. But, given my track record, I’ll keep my spice cabinet stocked for the day I have to eat that particular crow

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Well you weren’t wrong to be concerned. Fuel injection, turbos, and AWD all have some significant drawbacks compared to carburetors, naturally aspirated engines, and old school 4wd. Not enough to outweigh the advantages in many cases, but drawbacks nonetheless.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

And it’s also about use-case. My Subaru is awd: fun on gravel & in snow, but if I wanted to actually go trail riding, I’d very much want mechanical 4wd. Or, at least the option to lock the center diff.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I am also a bit concerned about OTA stuff, but I won’t be truly worried unless it’s something that can brick the car, not just nav updates or infotainment stuff.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Replying to myself for the flip side. In the last 20 years the availability of cheap computing power has increased seemingly exponentially. Take today’s Laser in the Showdown: there’s a good chance that, if the voice module goes out, you can buy a homemade replacement from some guy in SmallTown Indiana that not only works perfectly, but allows you to insert all sorts of custom stuff.

Basically, from what I’ve seen, pretty much every era of gearheads has had hand-wringers and those who proclaim that it’s the Best Of Times. I’m now pretty much a centrist who leans toward There’s Some Pretty Awesome Shit Out There (if you can afford it)

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I think in this, as with so many things, we set a great deal of our views on what is “Good” in our youth/20s, but by our 30s most new technology is viewed with suspicion. I’m hardly immune to this myself!

I’d suspect the ranges of ages and attitudes among commenters have some correlation in this.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

True. That’s pretty accurate for me. Have worked on cars from ( note: not during) the 50s up to this century. Reassembled my first electronic fuel injection car @ 35—and have been slowly mellowing ever since about the ‘evils of this modern crap’

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I think you’re spot–on in regard to 20’s and 30’s. When you get into the later 30’s and 40’s I think a lot comes down to experience too. You’ve seen more changes (and the ensuing growing pains) to be rightly skeptical.
I turned 50 this year and I think that most of the time I’ve had the experience of going through being skeptical only to find out that it’s no big deal that now I embrace new things more than I did in my 30’s.

However, I am having a hard time with a lot of what’s coming. Not due to the technology in and of itself (I’ve always loved new tech and read about it almost as much as cars) but rather wondering how it will age.

Is it really going to be a big deal when the batteries start to fail in these BEVs? If manufacturers stop supporting these more integrated infotainment systems, will there be any way to replace or upgrade them? Is there security risk in these since we keep hearing about how little auto manufacturers understand cyber security in something as complex as these connected cars? Once they stop supporting them can a hacker (I hate using that so generically) affect my safety or drivability of my car.

At the end of the day, I think these are all growing pains and when I get ready to buy something used in another 10-15 years there will definitely be models I’ll avoid. But I also think that if we continue to be informed and learn, it’ll mostly work itself out.

What I really and truly hope for is the future where the aftermarket becomes really sophisticated and can replace a vehicles entire operating system with their own custom jobs, unlocking additional features and capabilities. It sounds too ridiculous to be possible and I’m not sure I’d ever fully trust a home–grown setup like that but I’d sure as shit enjoy watching the YouTube videos.

Last edited 7 months ago by Ottomottopean
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

“there’s a good chance that, if the voice module goes out, you can buy a homemade replacement from some guy in SmallTown Indiana that not only works perfectly, but allows you to insert all sorts of custom stuff”

Make it an old school BSG Cylon voice with customizable messages and I’ll take two!

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Not long ago when 3G cell technology was phased out a lot of early “connected” cars lost some degree of functionality. Wondering how these signature based functions that requires an internet connection to work will do once the current technology doesn’t work anymore.

Gubbin
Gubbin
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

We hit a plateau between the early 90s and the late 00s, after we went from vacuum hose spaghetti to fairly dumb closed-loop digital EFI, and before we ceded everything to body control modules and (later on) touchscreens.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

What, other than vibes, is the evidence for this?

The average age of vehicles on the road keeps increasing. That average increasingly consists of vehicles from the 10s.

Hgrunt
Hgrunt
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I think survivorship bias plays into this a lot because a lot of people millennial age or older, only see vintage cars in good shape, which leads to the perception that old cars were built to last. In reality, for every surviving car from 1965, thousands were crushed and turned into altoid tins.

Nobody really stops to think about how a modern car will basically run the same for 100,000 miles while an older car will need a lot of valve adjustments, spark plugs, suspension greasing, etc.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  Hgrunt

Great point, and 100% true.

There’s a reason so many vintage cars have been resto modded with modern powertrains, but no one ever goes the other way.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Maybe not now but I recall a lot of folks back in the day replacing FI systems for multi carb setups, electronic ignition for dual point distributors, etc.

I’m guessing those FI systems were crappy throttle body ones and the dual points were to get a hotter spark or something.

Ultradrive
Ultradrive
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Or Bosch CIS *shudder*

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Ultradrive

My Mk2 Scirocco had that. My stepdad also had it on his Ferrari 308GTS QV. Plenty of other things to complain about but CIS FI was fine on both.

JumboG
JumboG
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Reminds me of time back in the 80s when I was at a tire shop and one of the employees was bragging about how he removed the turbo from his SVO Mustang for ‘reliability’ reasons.

Hgrunt
Hgrunt
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Great point!

I feel that during transition periods like that, it’s often easier to use older systems because they’re well-understood, easier to work with and adjust

There’s been similarities over the years, like substituting MAF sensors with devices that simulate the output, converting engines from DI to port injection, swapping an electronic throttle body for a cable one, etc.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Hgrunt

And it wasn’t just owners. GM took the Corvette back from FI to carburetors too.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Moving from points to electronic ignition was one of the cheapest, easiest and best upgrades I ever did to my old Triumph. Modern gaskets were another quantum leap.

Some things are indeed worth doing.

Goose
Goose
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I mostly agree with this, but surely there is probably gonna be some point we stop increasing reliability & durability and we hit a downward slope. Just look at any major home appliance; shit simply don’t last, or in the very least can’t be realistically repaired. A single control board can shut down your entire fridge, stove, or washing machine, but probably costs like 50% of a new whole appliance. I don’t think we are there with cars and I’m not sure if/when we will get there, but if it happens I wouldn’t be surprised if we all figure it out 10 years after the fact. Sadly, it’s not usually because of the technology though, it’s usually due to financial decisions from the original manufacturer to cheapen the product/technology, make easier to produce/assemble on the line, or drive up aftermarket sales.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  Goose

I think the difference (which you hint at) is appliances cost the same in nominal dollars as they did decades ago, and cars don’t. I just bought a dishwasher for like $600, and it wasn’t close to the cheapest. Dishwashers have cost ~$600 all my life. At this point, they are just a wear item.

If cost cutting of that magnitude was evident in cars, I wouldn’t be so confident. But I don’t see it yet. The history of automotive quality is of almost constant improvement.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Goose

That varies greatly on trim and brand. I find quite ironic how reliable my German dishwashers are and how to easy they are to repair, at least when its not an unobtanium control board. They also tend to use similar parts so the circulating motor from a Bosch is the same as in a Miele or a Gaggenau. I buy my dishwashers second or third hand from folks who want a shiny new thing or are remodeling and want something that goes with the new decor. Sometimes, especially if you’re flexible about color you can get them for free.

The fail points tend to be stripped pump impellers (they’re designed to be the weak link so they’re an easy fix), door seals or soap clogged pressure sensors. The latter is caused by using too much soap. Control boards do go out but it does not seem to me to be a common fail.

Do yourself a favor and buy a bag of citric acid on Amazon. Its exactly the same stuff as commercial dishwasher cleaner. Every month or so fill the soap dispenser with citric acid and run an empty load. That will clear off the soap scale and help keep your dishwasher working at its best*. Double the fun by using regular white vinegar as rinse agent. IMO it works as well as anything.

*As a bonus a bit of food grade citric acid sprinkled in a glass of water also makes a tasty, refreshing and healthy summertime beverage. That’ll keep you working at your best too.

Hgrunt
Hgrunt
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Thanks for the advice on the dishwasher stuff–I have a Bosch and I’ve had to work on it before and found it pretty easy

I recently discovered that the Bosch dishwasher’s control box is shared between a bunch of models, Bosch and Non-Bosch and the only difference is the programming

Annoyingly, that means the PN on the box is the same across a ton of different dishwashers and doesn’t correlate to whether or not it’ll work in a specific model. I had to look up a bosch-specific PN on their website (it’s not stamped or labelled anywhere) and buy one from a compatible model…

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Hgrunt

Good to know though I hope this won’t offend you when I say I pray I never have to use this bit of insight ;). I tried fixing a control board once. It did not go well.

RC
RC
7 months ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

Eh, the additional complexity also makes some things easier. It was quite easy in the era of ‘dumb’ carbureted vehicles to run them lean or rich and in turn hose catalytic converters or piston rings. If the car stopped running, you had no idea why. If you needed to replace a belt, you also had to grab the timing gun, hook it up proper, and fetch the timing instructions out of your hopefully-handy manual.

The average age of cars on the road right now is 12 years. Part of that’s due to COVID-era inflation and such, but a big part of it is that the vehicles being built are significantly better designed despite the additional complexity.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  RC

I think vehicles from 10-12 years ago are massively less complex and failure prone than vehicles from 2024 model year……..

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I imagine when comparing “like for like” that’s true but that a 2024 Corolla is still less complicated than say a 2013 Mercedes C class. I don’t have experience with either so I’ll leave it to those who cross shop such things to throw in their $0.02 here.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
7 months ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

Most/All OBD cars can be ran on a stand alone. Which will get the car running. Just a matter of time before we get stand alone BCM and TCM units.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
7 months ago

Take a BMW F series. The car has 2 (or 3, can’t remember) different network protocols to handle communication between computers. And it is not the most complex out there. I can just imagine how Tesla computers talk to each other using distinct network interfaces and protocols to handle things like FSD.

I may be just a bit pessimistic, but I don’t see a bright future with cars that depends on several computers talking to each other.

Tim R
Tim R
7 months ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

I had a 2007 6cyl Accord manual, which was a rare configuration. The computer for the accords was specific to the config, so when mine went out it took forever to find a compatible one. There were initially none available in the US. After we got that fixed, I decided it wasn’t worth continuing to drive when it might end up a paperweight at some point.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
7 months ago
Reply to  Tim R

I think that this kind of car will be kept in the road by people who find value in it as a special item, will want to keep it running forever and will stash hard to find items for later.

I don’t know when it happened to you, but even today I would not say that a 2007 mass produced car should be considered old by any means, and should not be hard to find something for it.

Gubbin
Gubbin
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

That’s why our pre-OBD2 F250 went to the shop for an engine rebuild instead of to the junkyard.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

And why my newest vehicle is a 1995. I don’t own anything with OBDII. Not that I dislike vehicles a little newer than that, but my dads 2007 is a little too computerized and fancy for me.

JumboG
JumboG
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Because it’s a lot easier to jumper two wires on a hidden connector and counting how many times the check engine light flashes over plugging in a cheap and readily available code reader?

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  JumboG

I did say I don’t dislike vehicles a little newer than that. OBDII is also fine.

Pre OBDII vehicles don’t throw cat efficiency or evap codes, so you get 90% less check engine lights to begin with. The one time ever I have gotten a light and not already known the reason, yeah it actually was easier to jump a connector and watch the flashing light than it is to go to the parts store to get the code read, because I don’t have a code reader, because any code reader worth a darn is at least $150.

So really the code reader is not that cheap and readily available. At least not like a piece of wire is, cuz that’s all I need to pull obdI codes. Of course, not all my cars have obdI either.

JumboG
JumboG
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

You can get a code reader that will read engine codes for less than 40 bucks – it’s the one the generally use at the auto parts store. Now if you want one that will read Brake, trans, and airbag codes, yeah that’ll cost you more.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  JumboG

I would love to have one just like the one at the parts store for $40, I just haven’t seen any for less than like 150. Do you have a link?

JumboG
JumboG
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Autozone, search for code reader they had a couple under $40.

Hgrunt
Hgrunt
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I have a 1989 F250 with the 7.3 IDI. When it runs it runs, but when it doesn’t, it’s insanely annoying to troubleshoot.

I’d rather plug something in and get some error messages as a start point, rather than stand there with a stethoscope, fuel pressure gauge, a pair of dowsing rods and a ouija board to figure out what’s going on

Thankfully, I found a mobile diesel mechanic who finds working on my truck “refreshing” and was more than happy to go out of his usual service area to work on my truck

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Hgrunt

If an IDI isn’t running there are very few things that could be the problem, considering there’s like five moving parts and one wire.

Fuel tank/pickup/line
Fuel lift pump
Fuel filter
Injection pump issues
Clogged injector
Or internal engine damage.

Not that OBDII can diagnose really any of those issues except injection pressure.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
7 months ago

They should use Toyota engines. Something in exchange for making the Supra.

Fourmotioneer
Fourmotioneer
7 months ago

2.0 bar is just the cap pressure. Coolant pressure through the cooling components like thermostat housing, radiator, will be much higher, and have more affect on durability than the cap pressure. Higher cap pressure should promote better conditions at pump inlet in fact

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Fourmotioneer

Umm….. how much resistance to flow do you think the thermostat and radiator really provide? I wouldn’t expect more than 1 psi pressure drop across the radiator.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

how much resistance to flow do you think the thermostat

Well… is the thermostat open or closed? Is this a trick question?

Fourmotioneer
Fourmotioneer
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

It’s closer to 15-20psi each at redline. Open thermostat restriction is pretty high for a poppet valve

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Fourmotioneer

So you’re telling me that when I’m at redline, my 13psi cooling system actually has 33psi in the upper radiator hose, and 53psi in the head?

Seems like an awful lot of resistance for the water pump to work against, and a really good reason to run a bigger thermostat.

Except now that I think about it, my 13psi radiator cap is on the inlet side of the radiator, upstream of the cores, so the upper radiator hose can never exceed 13 psi.

Fourmotioneer
Fourmotioneer
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Yeah, and it’s highest at pump outlet (likely in the block). Some of your radiator pressure drop comes from the turn into the the tank and transition from upper rad hose to hose barb, so the upper rad hose pressure will be higher than the radiator pressure

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