What Pain-In-The-Ass Repair Are You Putting Off?

Illustration for article titled What Pain-In-The-Ass Repair Are You Putting Off?
Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

My name is José and I like BMWs. The support group nods. Actually, I like old BMWs. The support group winces. OK. So the support group is just a bunch of wrenches and screwdrivers that I won’t need to work on my car, but the job is draining nonetheless because it’s the kind of repair you won’t know will work for sure, until it doesn’t.

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I’m chasing down electrical gremlins in my 1997 BMW 318ti and have been for the past week or so. My left directional went last week. I noticed when there was no sound, no sing-song click and no arrow light on my dash. I had to turn back home and cancel my plans lest I drive on the road with no signals. I refuse to be that BMW driver — though, now I suspect that half of these BMW Joes may not use turn signals simply because they don’t have any!

The gremlins manifested in burnt-out fuses that I kept optimistically replacing and finally ended with a busted directional/hazard light relay. Of course, none of the auto parts stores nearby had the relay in stock. I had to turn to Pelican Parts and decided I would treat myself and my car to a set of fresh turn signal bulbs all around plus the relay. I doubled up on the whole order because when it fails again, I will be ready. Or, so I thought.

The next few days brought trouble-free driving until I noticed, as I pulled into the garage, that I was running around town with one headlight out. Dammit! Back to the auto parts store. They had the H1 bulbs I needed, so that was good. I came home, put the new bulbs in and patted myself on the back. I have harnessed the power of light!

Well, not really. Because both H1 bulbs went out the next day. As in I took them both out and could see the little filaments tumbling around. Back to the store! I bought a new relay, this time for my low beams, and a new pair of headlight bulbs. I replaced them last night but I know something is off. Something is just waiting.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Yes, driving a cool, old car is very rewarding. Keeping that car on the road is a good feeling and routine maintenance never feels like a chore. Most of all, the feel of a RWD, five-speed, naturally aspirated, high-revving, tail-happy little car is unmatched. But when things go wrong, and you face the common failures of these cars it’s a real pain in the ass. I need to fix it, but I’m not in a rush to put more time into fails.

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In the case of my BMW e36, it is well-known and well-documented that gremlins lurk in the electrical system. I am not looking forward to tracking these gremlins down but I will. I must...at some point. So, what repairs are you readers not looking forward to in your dailies? What PITA jobs await you?

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Periodista automotriz, Naturally Aspirated Stan.

DISCUSSION

fails
Andrew Fails

It’s over 25 years old and British, so the list is...extensive.

Replace the entire exhaust system (flex pipe is shot, so might as well replace everything).

Replace the gauge cluster bulbs with LEDs.

Replace the rusted out rails that support my window glass, because sometimes new chunks of rust fall and jam the tracks and the window seizes up.

Remove the terrible aftermarket power locks.

Replace the subframe bushings.

Replace all the screws that hold the front grill on with rivnuts so I can remove it more easily.

Replace the suspension cones. No idea how old they are, but they could probably stand to be replaced.

Then there’s the easier stuff like replacing shocks, bleeding brakes, adjusting handbrake, etc.