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lou's garage

2012 BMW X1.

A vehicle was recently towed in from another shop with a supposed failed timing chain. The previous shop isn’t an approved repair facility of the vehicle owner’s third-party warranty company, so it was sent to us. The owner arrived with the tow truck and confidently declared the timing chain had failed and their warranty company would be covering the costs. This 2012 BMW X1 has a two-litre turbo-charged engine that is well-known for timing chain failure at approximately 150,000 kilometres, so the initial diagnosis had merit. The warranty company however expects us to confirm the diagnosis before approving any claim. After initially inspecting the vehicle, I wasn’t so sure, as there were clues that a simpler repair needed to be investigated first. The part I suspected is called a servomotor; however, it is not covered by their warranty and would have been an out-of-pocket repair. I speak with them, and they are adamant that they are not paying a penny for anything that isn’t covered by the warranty as they are recently out of work and funds are limited.

I continued examining the vehicle and realized my initial hope for the simpler repair was in vain and the timing chain had indeed failed. This motor known as the N20 between the 2012 and 2015 years has issues where the timing chain rattles and breaks pieces off its guides before it completely fails. These pieces fall into the oil pan where they are commonly sucked into the oil pick-up system and partially or fully block the oil passages. When this happens a complete engine failure is lurking because of oil starvation. I’m sure this BMW had a nasty rattle from the engine every time it was started that the owner ignored.

To replace the chain and all the bits and pieces is an expensive repair on this vehicle – approximately $5,500. The reason why I hoped it was the simpler out-of-pocket repair was because I suspected their warranty policy had a repair cost cap, which indeed it did, at $3,000. Regardless of the repair, the warranty company would only be paying $3,000. It’s a hard conversation to let someone know they will have to spend $2,500 out of pocket and there is still the strong chance of engine failure. A used engine is not any better of an option at $10,000 plus installation. And of course, any used engine will also need its timing chain replaced to make it reliable.

Many people don’t research what they are buying in both their choice of vehicle and the warranties. Almost daily I have conversations with customers inquiring about their next used car purchase. For some reason everyone starts off wanting a previously enjoyed European vehicle. After I explain they must also purchase the top-of-the-line $5,000-$6,000 warranty along with that vehicle, they usually set their sights on something more realistic. The owner of this BMW only bought the cheaper $1,500 drivetrain warranty and apparently didn’t examine the paperwork with any interest, as it clearly states its financial limitations.

If you really want to drive an older European vehicle, make sure you add a hefty surcharge into your calculations for the proper warranty. The $1,500 warranty isn’t going to cover it when things go desperately wrong, despite what the used-car salesperson stated. The owner of this vehicle now has an unusable vehicle sitting in their driveway that they still owe money on.


Your automotive questions answered

Audi four-cylinder A4s and Q5s have long had an engine oil consumption problem where one needs to add a litre every 1,000-2,000 kilometres. Do you know if this has now been fixed by Audi and from what model year on?

Hope you can help me. – Claude

Audi did extend the warranties on some A4s and Q5s, but that was some time ago. I am thinking of the 2010 through 2014 years where this was a significant problem for them. The extended warranties from those years are now expired in most cases. Without knowing what year your vehicle is I can only make general statements. If your newer vehicle has a noticeable oil consumption issue, regardless of brand, you need to continually document your concern at the dealer level. If you are regularly adding oil between oil changes you must complain about it. You may be adding more oil than what is deemed normal, usually after your warranty expires. Even if the dealer brushes you off, having a documented history of complaint makes it easier to push the issue with the manufacturer when you are forced to actually do something about it.


Regarding run-flat tires; What does the car manufacturer say about winter tire use? They will be mounted for at least four months a year in Canada.

– Brooker

I assume you are asking if you can use non-run-flat conventional tires for winter. All vehicle manufacturers that specify run-flat tires as original equipment also state that run-flat winter tires must also be used. The wording varies between manufacturers, but generally when a run-flat is designated for year-round use that is what the manufacturer is implying.

Mixing run-flats and conventional tires will yield a failure for a provincial safety inspection, so that is a clear no go. Additionally, wording in provincial safety requirements varies, if it states anywhere in the ministry documents “tires as equipped from manufacturer” or similar then this is also a safety inspection fail.

However, there is no law I am aware of in Canada specifically stating you can’t use regular tires in place of run-flats. But keep in mind that you will be going against manufacturer recommendations and quite possibly provincial safety requirements. Best to play it safe and go with winter run-flats.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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