It’s been six months to the day that I’ve owned my Quarter Million Mile E90. A lot has changed in a very short amount of time, both on the car and in the world we live. Due to working from home for the last six months, I’ve only added roughly 3,000 miles to the odometer, which now reads just shy of 246,000 miles.
Since our last update, my elderly E90 has received a lot of smaller upgrades and maintenance. Not to be glossed over, these small upgrades equate to a big change in feel. The original front control arms were still on this car after all this time. With so many miles they had deservedly given up. Just like BMW’s of old, the E90 generation 3-series is like an adult version of Legos. You can piece together factory upgrades that make a considerable difference in feel, with no real downside.
In this case, I decided to put E90 M3 front control arms on my car. They offer an upgraded rubber bushing for better steering response, and a little bit more front camber for added stability mid-corner.
After the install, I sent it off to Premier Eurocars (the previous owners) for an alignment. During the alignment we discovered the right rear spring had rusted and cracked in half. This has been a typical 3-series flaw since the E46 generation before it. The cracked springs were replaced with new factory springs to preserve the ride comfort.
With the alignment complete, the car continued on feeling better than ever for 3,000 trouble-free miles! That is until today, exactly six months from the time of purchase.
The 250,000 Mile Reliability Report
While approaching a red light, I put my foot on the clutch to shift into neutral. As soon as my foot hit the floor the car stalled, leaving me with no power steering and one good shot at stopping with the leftover brake boost. After that, it was manual brakes for me! Luckily I was able to pull off to the shoulder and get the car easily restarted.
With no lights on the dash I continued on, and the car stalled 2 more times under the same conditions. This clearly could become a dangerous issue that we needed to resolve ASAP. Once I got home, I was able to scan the car to find a code for incorrect camshaft timing.
Although the scanner mentioned the camshaft sensor, the N52 engine actually has two solenoids that control timing via the VANOS (variable timing) system. These sensors get contaminated with sludge due to lengthy recommended oil change intervals, and stop functioning properly. Usually they go bad at 150,000 miles or less. Thanks to the meticulous maintenance of the previous owners, these lasted 100,000 miles longer than usual. New solenoids are on the way, and in a matter of 20 minutes the Quarter-Million-Mile E90 should be running perfectly again!
Thanks to a strong and helpful BMW community, I was aware that the VANOS solenoids are a common issue on these engines, so I was prepared to replace these at some point. Even with this most recent solenoid replacement included, I’ve still invested less than $3,000 in total for an almost completely refreshed E90. That’s only $1,500 more than what the warranty repairs would have cost on the Ford Fiesta ST this car replaced. With no regrets so far, onward and upward to 300,000 miles!