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Old 11-20-2013, 12:31 PM   #1
aarondb4
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How Much It Costs to Drive a BMW

I have seen this question pop up quite a few times in my short tenure here. I think it is one of the main questions on the minds of potential E46 buyers, so I thought I would give my personal experience to hopefully help potential buyers out. Feel free to chime in with your experience with your own car.

When I went looking I wanted a 330 vert with less than 100k miles on it and I wanted to spend less than $10k on it. Took me a while to find due to my lower price range and limit on mileage. Finally found my 2002 330CI vert with 80,500 on it for $8,300. Felt pretty good about the deal I got, there was an 8 inch knife slash in the top that helped me get the price down and the chrome wheels were shot so that helped some as well. Previous owner claimed he had BMW do the 60k mile service on it and had replaced the lower O2 sensors, no other maintenance done by him since he bought it with 40k miles on it. The 60k mile service being done made me feel a bit better.

Test drive revealed burnt oil smell, determined to be a leaky VCG, later found the OFHG to be a bigger issue. Also the SES light was on, previous owner claimed front O2 sensor bad.

So I bought it and drove it the 8 hours home.

This car is my wife's daily driver on her 28 mile one way commute, so it has had the miles piled on it since I bought it, also a road trip or two but she averages over 16k miles a year.

I have done some cosmetic fixes and some interior goodies like bluetooth, iPod interface etc that I have not included. My below list is maintenance items only. The prices are for parts only as I have done all of the work myself. I still have a laundry list of things I need to check or replace. The car runs great right now, little low on the MPG at 21.5 average so I am looking into that currently. Anyway, on to the list.

2002 BMW 330CI Maintenance Date Completed Mileage Cost
Part Replaced/Repaired

Windhsield Washer Pump 5/25/2013 82,000 $18
Ambient Temp Sensor 5/25/2013 82,000 $36
Power Steering Resevoir Gasket 6/15/2013 82,500 $5
Full Suspension Replace 7/1/2013 84,500 $250
Front/Rear Strut Mounts 7/1/2013 84,500 $188
Front Control Arms/Bushings/Balljoints 7/10/2013 85,000 $300
Alignment 7/10/2013 85,000 $80
Ambient Temp Sensor 10/20/2013 90,000 $41
Oil Filter Housing Gasket 10/20/2013 90,000 $5
Upper Radiator Hose 10/20/2013 90,000 $40
Bank 2, Sensor 1 O2 Sensor Replaced 10/20/2013 90,000 $83
Rear Trailing Arm Bushings with Limiters 10/20/2013 90,000 $120
Adjustable Rear Lower Control Arms 10/20/2013 90,000 $115
Front 10mm Spacers 10/20/2013 90,000 $100
Continental Tires on New Rims 10/20/2013 90,000 $600
Alignment and Wheel Balance 10/20/2013 $90,000 $130
Idler Pulley 10/20/2013 90,000 $200
AC Tensioner Pulley 10/20/2013 90,000 Incl
Top Pulley Replaced with Hydraulic 10/20/2013 90,000 Incl
AC Belt 10/20/2013 90,000 Incl
Serpentine Belt 10/20/2013 90,000 Incl
Oil Filter and Oil Change 10/25/2013 90,500 $65
Wheel Balance and Alignment Check 11/18/2013 91,200 Warranty


Sorry the format is a bit off but you can get the idea. My total so far is over $2,300 in the last 6 months.

I am currently looking at a new thermostat as I suspect mine might be soft failing ad lending to my poor fuel mileage. Going to check and possibly replace the DISA. Have to do VCG and VANOS. Have to check CCV. Need to do fuel filter, air filter. Steering coupler is bad and leading to loose steering. Need to finish the cooling system with water pump, expansion tank, lower radiator hose and radiator if needed.

So my parts order today is another $200 with another $300+ needed in the next 8k miles.

So for me, 6 months of ownership on this car has been close to $3k in just maintenance.

I still feel okay about the car. I am into it for $11k, it is in great shape, almost mechanically refreshed and has 91k miles on it. I hope to get a few more things finished up and then be mostly done with it for the next 30-50k miles.

Just wanted to share my story and give a warning to those who might think they want an E46. If you can do your own work and afford the parts it is a great car. If you are scraping the bottom of the barrel just to buy the car, be careful, the maintenance can/will kick ur a&&.

Just for comparison sake, my wife's previous car was a 2003 Mazda 6. She bought it with 30k miles on it and we sold it with 150k on it. I replaced the front struts, the front brakes twice and the sparkplugs. Other than oil changes and filters that was it for that car. It ran like a champ and never broke down on her. Kinda makes me feel dumb for selling it now. The BMW is a much nicer car, but ya gotta pay to drive the ultimate driving machine.
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Old 11-20-2013, 12:34 PM   #2
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I would argue it's the cost to keep it in top condition, in 120k miles, you never replaced tires on the Mazda?
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Old 11-20-2013, 12:45 PM   #3
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I wouldn't say I am in top condition yet. Everything on my list for the BMW was a necessity. Stock suspension was shot, pulleys were squealing like a banshee, gaskets were leaking bad. I included the tires because the tires were good when I bought it, but because the stock suspension was blown the camber was very negative, got worse with the coilovers. Between that and the bad rear trailing arm bushings the car absolutely shredded the inside of otherwise very good tires, hence the need for the adjustable control arms and such.

So yes, I could have gone stock suspension replace and avoided the spacers and maybe the adjustable control arms, but the camber was bad before I lowered the car.

Top condition will hopefully come, but right now I am just fixing what is wrong and trying to get ahead of things breaking on me.
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Old 11-20-2013, 12:49 PM   #4
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Here's mine for 5 years and 1 month

October 19, 2008 - Car purchased with 81,700 miles ($10,000)
October 22, 2008 - New cabin filter installed ($15)
November 5, 2008 - First oil change Mobil 1 5W-30 with 82,200m ($90)
November 10, 2008 - New Kumho Ecsta ASX front right tire 82,300m ($140)
February 13, 2009 - Adjuster unit removed & new one installed 84,000m ($205)
February 13, 2009 - New OEM BMW air filter installed 84,000m ($20)
April 5, 2009 - Water pump/pulley, belts, thermostat & coolant changed 85,215m ($370)
April 6, 2009 - Upper radiator hose replaced 85,230m ($35)
April 12, 2009 - Intake cam sensor replaced 85,385m ($110)
May 19, 2009 - Upper tensioner and valve cover gasket replaced 86,500m ($210)
July 7, 2009 - Idler pulley replaced 87,270m ($70)
July 15, 2009 - Second oil change BMW 5W-30 87,600m (free promotion)
July 16, 2009 - Spark plugs replaced with NGK BKR6EQUP ($42)
August 23, 2009 - Fuel filter replaced with Mahle 88,000m ($45)
November 5, 2009 - Rear brake pads & sensor changed 89,980m ($120)
November 9, 2009 - Spark plug boots replaced with Bremi, ICV cleaned 90,000m ($30)
January 14, 2010 - Clutch fan, fan, fan shroud, lower hose & sensor replaced 91,000m ($160)
February 4, 2010 - Control arms, control arm bushings, inner/outer tie rods & sway bar links replaced on the front with Lemforder parts 91,500m ($690)
April 24, 2010 - Rear left brake retaining clip replaced to diagnose sound 93,000m ($20)
May 10, 2010 - Oil separator and four hoses changed with OEM, pre-cat O2 sensors changed with Bosch 94,470m ($110, $128)
May 13, 2010 - Third oil change Total Elf 5W-30 & Mann filter 93,500m ($75)
May 19, 2010 - Oil filter housing gasket replaced 93,675m ($150)
May 26, 2010 - Replaced turn signal stalk with OBC ($15)
July 12, 2010 - Replaced air filter 95,000m ($15)
December 1, 2010 - 4x Kumho ASX tires + install 98,000m ($530)
December 15, 2010 - Radiator, engine mounts, fan blades/shroud 98,300m ($300)
February 8, 2011 - Fourth oil change Fuchs Titan G1 5W-30 & Mann filter 99,500 ($70)
February 21, 2011 - New Meyle brake lines and ATE Gold fluid 100,000m ($100)
April 14, 2011 - Wheels rebalanced and rotated 102,000m ($30)
April 24, 2011 - Front pads/rotors replaced with Jurid/R1 Line 102,000m ($55)
May 19, 2011 - Replaced aux/mech fans with OEM Behr fan 102,500m ($30)
August 23, 2011 - Fifth oil change BMW oil. New Hella oil sensor 105,500m ($160)
August 29, 2011 - Replaced expansion tank and sensor, coolant flush ($70)
October 16, 2011 - Front and rear shocks, shock mounts, protection tubs, bump stops, nuts, front lower spring pad, all OEM 107,000m ($500)
March 9, 2012 - Sixth oil change BMW oil, Mann filter 110,000m ($75)
July 24, 2012 - Vanos seals, valve cover gasket/grommets, vanos gasket, vanos bolts, vanos oil line washers 111,000m ($120)
September 6, 2012 - Seventh oil change, BMW oil, Mann filter 117,000m ($75)
October 20, 2012 - Fuel pump, level sensor, relay 119,800 ($200)
October 24, 2012 - EMP water pump, thermostat, lower hose sensor, main tensioner, idler, coolant 120,000m ($326)
February 20, 2013 - Valve cover gasket/grommets , 8th oil change BMW oil, Mann filter, power steering hose replaced 123,800m ($227)
March 30, 2013 - Exhaust cam sensor 125,000m ($65)
May 14, 2013 - Broken water pump bolt extracted, oem water pump, oem thermostat, differential fluid, lemforder engine mounts and rtabs, oil pan gasket, oil filter housing gasket, eighth oil change, coolant flush 125,000m ($1400)
October 18, 2013 - Ninth oil change, LubroMoly, Mann filter 136,500m ($80)




October 31, 2008 - Led taillights, clear corners &side markers installed ($230)
November 19, 2008 - Black OEM leather shift knob installed ($55)
December 1, 2008 - Orion V2 angel eyes installed ($140)
December 15, 2008 - Interior dyed black ($10)
January 15, 2009 - M3 bumper, fogs/wiring, brake/air ducts & wheel liners ($770)
February 2, 2009 - Black trim clear corners installed ($40)
June 6, 2009 - Trim wrapped carbon fiber ($40)
October 1, 2009 - F1 Autohaus LED reverse, license plate & foot bulbs installed ($50)
April 1, 2010 - DDM tuning 55 watt 8000K HID kit installed ($68)
February 10, 2011 - Matte black grills, 3000k fog light bulbs, headlight covers ($135)
August 17, 2011 - Ebay painted trunk lip ($38)
October 31, 2011 - Philips 81522+ bulbs and ZKW clear lenses ($135)
January 12, 2012 - AFE Stage 1 intake ($220)
January 17, 2012- Style 197 wheels and Kumho 4X ($550 wheels, $600 tires, $100 install )
April 1, 2012 - Mtech 2 front/Arqray Lip ($900)
September 1, 2013 Style 78 wheels and Kumho 4X tires ($550, $400, $80 = $1030)

Last edited by Solidjake; 11-20-2013 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 11-20-2013, 12:50 PM   #5
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I was keeping track of my records and then I got lazy...

The most expensive thing for me has been tires. Eventually when I get to suspension (thinking next year once these bills get paid off soon) that'll be my most expensive endeavor. For the most part it's been little things here and there, and tool purchases. Some I needed to do, some I didn't.

I think for a 120k car mine is doing very well.
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Old 11-20-2013, 12:56 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Zell View Post
I was keeping track of my records and then I got lazy...

The most expensive thing for me has been tires. Eventually when I get to suspension (thinking next year once these bills get paid off soon) that'll be my most expensive endeavor. For the most part it's been little things here and there, and tool purchases. Some I needed to do, some I didn't.

I think for a 120k car mine is doing very well.
Yeah, I didn't want to do the list for fear of the total but decided I want to know what is done and what isn't for sure. Thought about leaving off prices for parts but decided I better do it so I can determine when the car is no longer worth keeping.
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Old 11-20-2013, 12:58 PM   #7
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I think if you have to rely on the dealership for parts/service, an older BMW is an expensive proposition. If you do the work yourself and use discount parts houses that often have OEM-brand pieces for half of what the dealer charges, then that's another scenario entirely.

I've found parts prices to be pretty reasonable compared to the last several cars I've owned (NC Miata, C6 Vette, MR2 Spyder, Porsche 944S2), all of which never saw a dealership's service bay (or that of an indie mechanic). And there are so many parts outlets so you have a lot of choices. My favorite vendor offers free shipping for any order over $50, which is nice. It's economies of scale, as so durn many E46s were built.

There's a real pride of ownership with a nice E46, the whole look-over-your-shoulder thing as you walk away from your car to appreciate its lines. The Mazda 6, not so much.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:02 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by aarondb4 View Post
I wouldn't say I am in top condition yet. Everything on my list for the BMW was a necessity. Stock suspension was shot, pulleys were squealing like a banshee, gaskets were leaking bad. I included the tires because the tires were good when I bought it, but because the stock suspension was blown the camber was very negative, got worse with the coilovers. Between that and the bad rear trailing arm bushings the car absolutely shredded the inside of otherwise very good tires, hence the need for the adjustable control arms and such.

So yes, I could have gone stock suspension replace and avoided the spacers and maybe the adjustable control arms, but the camber was bad before I lowered the car.

Top condition will hopefully come, but right now I am just fixing what is wrong and trying to get ahead of things breaking on me.
I wasn't saying it was in top condition yet. Just that the Mazda probably wasn't in as good of condition then as your BMW is now with the same milage.

I had a chevy s10 before my e46, only did oil change, spark plugs, and fresh tires once through the life of the truck. Probably all together spent anywhere from $1000-1500 on the car, that was in a little over five years, and 100k miles or so.

When I got my e46, I wanted to make sure I took good care of it, and have now probably spent around 3-4k also. That in just two years, and 22k miles.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:03 PM   #9
bee-em-dougle-u
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I was keeping track of my records and then I got lazy...

The most expensive thing for me has been tires. Eventually when I get to suspension (thinking next year once these bills get paid off soon) that'll be my most expensive endeavor. For the most part it's been little things here and there, and tool purchases. Some I needed to do, some I didn't.

I think for a 120k car mine is doing very well.
Fellow tool freak here! [raises hand]. Having just the right tool is key to having a great experience (or at least one that doesn't entirely suck).
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:09 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by bee-em-dougle-u View Post
I think if you have to rely on the dealership for parts/service, an older BMW is an expensive proposition. If you do the work yourself and use discount parts houses that often have OEM-brand pieces for half of what the dealer charges, then that's another scenario entirely.

I've found parts prices to be pretty reasonable compared to the last several cars I've owned (NC Miata, C6 Vette, MR2 Spyder, Porsche 944S2), all of which never saw a dealership's service bay (or that of an indie mechanic). And there are so many parts outlets so you have a lot of choices. My favorite vendor offers free shipping for any order over $50, which is nice. It's economies of scale, as so durn many E46s were built.

There's a real pride of ownership with a nice E46, the whole look-over-your-shoulder thing as you walk away from your car to appreciate its lines. The Mazda 6, not so much.
Agreed, the E46 is a great looking car and a pleasure to drive. I can't believe how nice it really is for an 11 year old car, get lots of compliments on it. And there is a nice pride that comes from doing your own work and knowing the car in and out.

I have used ECS Tuning for most of my parts, got my suspension as a returned rebuild from Street Edge, and was amazingly lucky to get my rims and brand new tires on CL from another BMW enthusiast. I have definitely done things as cheap as I can while still using quality parts.

The E46 is worth it, just best to know what you are getting in to. With the price of these cars coming down into the college kid affordability range there are a lot of younger people buying a car they can just afford the payment on. Just thought I would share the reality of how much it can cost to keep one in good shape. Many have spent far more than me, many have spent less.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:19 PM   #11
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I wasn't saying it was in top condition yet. Just that the Mazda probably wasn't in as good of condition then as your BMW is now with the same milage.

I had a chevy s10 before my e46, only did oil change, spark plugs, and fresh tires once through the life of the truck. Probably all together spent anywhere from $1000-1500 on the car, that was in a little over five years, and 100k miles or so.

When I got my e46, I wanted to make sure I took good care of it, and have now probably spent around 3-4k also. That in just two years, and 22k miles.
True, I could have done a better job on maintaining the Mazda. But it never squealed, had no leaks, didn't eat tires and ran great etc.

Definitely different cars. But I sold the Mazda for $5,300 and I bought the BMW for $8,300. Someone who needs a car for less than $10k and can't afford much to maintain it would be much better suited with the Mazda. I knew I was getting a $10-12k car for $8,300 so it would likely need some money put into it.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:22 PM   #12
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Agreed, the E46 is a great looking car and a pleasure to drive. I can't believe how nice it really is for an 11 year old car, get lots of compliments on it. And there is a nice pride that comes from doing your own work and knowing the car in and out.

I have used ECS Tuning for most of my parts, got my suspension as a returned rebuild from Street Edge, and was amazingly lucky to get my rims and brand new tires on CL from another BMW enthusiast. I have definitely done things as cheap as I can while still using quality parts.

The E46 is worth it, just best to know what you are getting in to. With the price of these cars coming down into the college kid affordability range there are a lot of younger people buying a car they can just afford the payment on. Just thought I would share the reality of how much it can cost to keep one in good shape. Many have spent far more than me, many have spent less.
Yes, good points. Gotta know what you're getting into, armed with the facts, then go from there.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:22 PM   #13
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This list is simply mods/maintenance, got killer deals on some of it too. Some not essential but purchased for assurance none the less.



Not including gas, shipping for all of the parts and other miscellaneous things my running total is just over 30k including sale of the car as of July 2012. It also includes insurance. All work minus clutch was done by me.

Ill be adding 430 tomorrow for a new water pump
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:23 PM   #14
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http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=960780
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:24 PM   #15
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^Keep in mind that's bare necessities. That's enough to flick your ponytail back and drop it in drive. If you are pickier, you can go beyond.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:25 PM   #16
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Fellow tool freak here! [raises hand]. Having just the right tool is key to having a great experience (or at least one that doesn't entirely suck).
I've broken too many things by trying to jerry-rig something to work. I won't do something without the proper tool anymore, no buts about it. I need my car to drive to work! Can't afford to break something and wait for it to get here and have to car pool the whole time.

I'll hold onto the tools or sell them depending upon where they could be applied in the future. But I think of them as investments. I mean I'll definitely be using my tool set for future stuff, even around the home. I've used the BMW trunk tool kit to take off a shower head
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:30 PM   #17
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I've broken too many things by trying to jerry-rig something to work. I won't do something without the proper tool anymore, no buts about it. I need my car to drive to work! Can't afford to break something and wait for it to get here and have to car pool the whole time.

I'll hold onto the tools or sell them depending upon where they could be applied in the future. But I think of them as investments. I mean I'll definitely be using my tool set for future stuff, even around the home. I've used the BMW trunk tool kit to take off a shower head
Great points!

I tackled the RTABs without the special tool, ended up having to spend $100 for an electric drill that could get through the old bushings.

I thought I could get the fan off without the special wrenches. Ended up breaking the upper radiator hose and chipping one of my front teeth when the screwdriver I had jammed in the water pump bolts snapped in half. Car was out of commission for a few days while I waited for the $30 special wrenches to show up. Got the wrenches and it came off in seconds.

Buy the special tool when the DIY calls for it. It will likely save you money and will certainly save you time and frustration.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:39 PM   #18
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Great points!

I tackled the RTABs without the special tool, ended up having to spend $100 for an electric drill that could get through the old bushings.

I thought I could get the fan off without the special wrenches. Ended up breaking the upper radiator hose and chipping one of my front teeth when the screwdriver I had jammed in the water pump bolts snapped in half. Car was out of commission for a few days while I waited for the $30 special wrenches to show up. Got the wrenches and it came off in seconds.

Buy the special tool when the DIY calls for it. It will likely save you money and will certainly save you time and frustration.
+1

It's definitely necessary. I purchased the same tool for the front fan before doing the electric fan swap, and it made things easy as can be. Also got the quick disconnect for the power steering lines, made one of them come off in seconds, the other was broken and I ended up giving up until I change the cooling rack.

My horror story was the first time I had to get the wheels off, and one of the lugs on the front driver wheel was WAY over torqued, I was using a rachet, and extention, litterally stepping on it, standing on it, it ended up sheering the end off the extention, and destroyed one of the 17mm bits I had. In the process it flew off and took a few chunks from the rim itself. Nightmare! Since, I've purchased a nice breaker bar, and two torque wrenches (to prevent the overtorquing that the previous owner did) and have had no issues. Wheels off and on in minutes.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:42 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by aarondb4 View Post
Great points!

I tackled the RTABs without the special tool, ended up having to spend $100 for an electric drill that could get through the old bushings.

I thought I could get the fan off without the special wrenches. Ended up breaking the upper radiator hose and chipping one of my front teeth when the screwdriver I had jammed in the water pump bolts snapped in half. Car was out of commission for a few days while I waited for the $30 special wrenches to show up. Got the wrenches and it came off in seconds.

Buy the special tool when the DIY calls for it. It will likely save you money and will certainly save you time and frustration.
Dude, sorry about your tooth! I've done a little blood-letting in the course of repairs, but never had to see the dentist! Point well taken.
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Old 11-20-2013, 04:21 PM   #20
KOpower
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Good story OP - we are all in the same boat - it's been a journey for me to get the car into shape - and lots of $$$$ thrown in - but the most fun car to own !!
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