Why a used high-tech European car is usually not a good choice for someone’s first vehicle

Why a used high-tech European car is usually not a good choice for someone's first vehicle

The latest unfortunate crisis story comes from a customer who drives a Honda, but this story is not about a Honda. This mother of a 20-year-old called me for advice a year ago when her son was thinking of buying a used 2013 BMW 335i. Her friends warned against the purchase, so she contacted me. My advice only confirmed her friends’ suspicions that a high-mileage BMW screamed a money pit. At the very least, I recommended an extended third-party warranty.

Six months later, another call came from that same customer, hesitant and embarrassed to tell me that her son had bought the BMW in question – and without any warranty. In his mind, the $5,500 price tag for the warranty — half the value of the purchase price of the car itself — was outrageous. She said the worst had just happened and the engine had just died. This phone call was to request a quote for the engine replacement. After days of searching for a suitable replacement low-mileage used motorcycle, I reluctantly gave her a $15,000 quote, which included parts, labor, tax, and of course a substantial warranty. I say reluctantly because I think it’s outrageous that a used engine should cost so much. What I expected at the time was a sticker shocked gasp from her, but what I got was a slight sigh of relief as she had already received a quote from her local dealer for over $20,000. I didn’t hear from her until last week.

After months of searching, she said her son found a used 2017 BMW 335 motorcycle south of the border. His parents tried to teach him a lesson by having him coordinate purchasing, shipping and installation and only offered him the money. I’m not too sure if that was a good idea, as she was now asking for help again. The shop that had installed the motor a month earlier couldn’t get it to run properly. They were essentially washing their hands on it, signaling that she should take it to the dealer. Mom and Dad have lost $12,000 so far and the end is not in sight. Afraid of the dealer’s hourly rate, she asked us to take over the project.

I consulted with our store manager and we both agreed that such a project was indeed best left to a dealer, or better yet, a dedicated BMW repair shop. We were concerned about the project because the motor that was allegedly installed was not even the correct series. A 2013 uses an inline six-cylinder and a 2017 model uses a four-cylinder. Something wasn’t right and unfortunately I don’t think I made Mother’s Day any better when I suggested that her son might have bought the wrong bike. I’ve given her contact details of a local shop that exclusively repairs BMWs, but I suspect they will also decline the project once given the same details.

The moral of the story. Used high-tech European vehicles are rarely a good choice for someone’s first vehicle.

Your car questions answered

Hi Lou,

My son drives a 2014 Mazda 3 and now wants to replace the vehicle’s battery. He learned from the local Mazda dealer that his vehicle will require a battery that costs over $400. The dealer tells him this is because his Japanese-made Mazda 3 model has an “i-eloop” system, which only works with that particular battery. Does he have other battery options that would work just as well, and are easier on his wallet?

Thanks Bob R.

Until electric cars completely take over the world, dealing with increasingly stringent fuel economy standards for vehicles running on fossil fuels will be paramount. I-eloop is one of Mazda’s initiatives to address just that. This system uses a similar regenerative braking system found in hybrid and electric cars to recharge that $400 dedicated battery. Every vehicle has a radio, wipers, lights, fan motors and many other electrical devices. The vehicle’s alternator charges the battery as it runs out, using a small amount of engine power and then additional fuel to do so. The i-eloop system uses regenerative braking to recharge the battery and relieve the strain on the alternator, saving fuel.

It is clear that the Mazda battery in question is designed for this system and will work best for your application. However, if you read Mazda forums online, you will see that many owners have found alternatives, which they claim work just fine. However, keep in mind that while an aftermarket battery will do the job in many cases, it will pose a problem if you ever have a problem with onboard electrical electronics. If you take the vehicle to a dealer for an electrical problem with an incorrectly specified battery, they will immediately recommend replacing it before troubleshooting begins.

I have a 2007 Nissan Versa. The air conditioning is not working. I had it repaired two years ago and it worked fine for a few months but now blows hot air. Not sure if it’s a compressor failure or no refrigerant. Any suggestions?

Thanks Ken D.

Ken, that’s not much to go on with way too many variables to answer accurately. You haven’t mentioned details of the previous repair, but as with any air conditioning repair, determining the refrigerant level is usually a repair shop’s first diagnostic path. Since it only worked for a few months after being repaired before, this suggests that there is a leak and the leak was not properly fixed the first time. I suspect that when you have the system inspected again, they will find it empty again. It’s basic plumbing at the time; find the leak, replace the leaking part, check if the leak is fixed, service the cooling system and send yourself back into the sun with windows rolled up and a smile on your face, albeit a little poorer.

Lou Trottier is the owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Do you have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail [email protected]by putting “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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