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lou's garage

The latest, unfortunate crisis story comes from a customer who drives a Honda, but this story isn’t about a Honda. This mother of a 20-year-old called me a year ago for advice as her son was thinking about buying a used 2013 BMW 335i. Her friends were cautioning against the purchase so she reached out to me. My advice only confirmed her friends’ suspicions, that a high-mileage BMW screamed money pit. In the very least, I recommended a comprehensive third-party warranty.

Six months later, another phone call came in from that same customer, hesitant and embarrassed to tell me her son 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 car’s purchase price itself – was outrageous. She said the worst had just happened, and the engine had just expired. This phone call was to request a quote to replace the engine. After days of trying to find a suitable low-mileage replacement used engine, I reluctantly provided her a quote for $15,000, which included parts, labour, tax and of course, a substantial warranty. I say reluctantly because it is outrageous to me that a used engine should cost this much. What I was expecting at that moment 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 more than $20,000. I did not hear from her again until last week.

After months of searching, she said her son found a used 2017 BMW 335 engine south of the border. His parents were trying to teach him a lesson by making him co-ordinate the sourcing, shipping and installation and only offered to loan him the money. I’m not so sure that was a good idea either as she was now requesting assistance once again. The shop who installed the engine a month earlier could not get it to run properly. They were essentially washing their hands of it, indicating for her to take it to the dealer. Mom and dad are out $12,000 so far with no end in sight. Afraid of the dealer hourly rate, she was requesting for us to take over the project.

I conferred with our shop lead and we both agreed that such a project was indeed best left for a dealer or better yet, a BMW specialty repair shop. We were concerned with the project as the engine that was reportedly installed wasn’t even the correct series. A 2013 uses an inline six-cylinder and a 2017 model uses a four-cylinder. Something wasn’t adding up and sadly I don’t think I made the mom’s day any better when I suggested her son may have purchased the wrong engine. I provided her contact details for a local shop that repairs BMW’s exclusively, but I suspect they will refuse the project as well once they get the same details.

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


Your automotive questions answered

Hi Lou,

My son drives a 2014 Mazda 3, and is now looking to replace the vehicle’s battery. He has found out from the local Mazda dealership that his vehicle requires a battery that costs more than $400. The dealership tells him it is because his made-in-Japan 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 take over the world completely, dealing with ever tightening fuel economy standards for fossil fuel burning vehicles will be forefront. I-eloop is one of Mazda’s initiatives to deal with just that. This system uses a similar regenerative braking system found in hybrid and electric cars to charge that special $400 battery. Every vehicle has a radio, wipers, lights, blower motors and many other electrical items. The vehicle’s alternator charges the battery as it depletes, using a small amount of engine horsepower and subsequently additional fuel to do so. The i-eloop system uses regenerative braking to charge the battery instead, and takes the load off the alternator, hence saving fuel.

Obviously, the Mazda battery in question is designed for this system and will work best for your application. However, if you read online Mazda forums, you will see many owners have found alternatives, which they claim work just fine. Keep in mind, however, that while an aftermarket battery will do the job in many cases, it will pose a problem should you ever have an issue with any onboard electrics. If you take the vehicle in to any dealer for an electrical problem with an incorrectly specified battery, they will immediately recommend replacement of it before any trouble shooting begins.


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

Thanks, Ken D.

Ken, that’s not much to go on with far too many variables for me to be able to answer accurately. You haven’t mentioned any details of the previous repair, but as with any air conditioning repair, determining refrigerant levels is usually a repair shops first diagnostic path. Given that it only worked for a few months after it was fixed previously suggests it has a leak, and that leak was not properly fixed the first time. I suspect when you have the system reinspected, they will find it empty again. It’s simple plumbing at that point; find the leak, replace the leaking part, verify the leak is fixed, service the refrigerant system and send you out back into the sunshine with your windows rolled up and a smile on your face, albeit slightly poorer.

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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