When little things turn expensive - Mick's Workshop Tips 423

By: Mick McCrudden

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mick mccrudden mick mccrudden

How just one minor problem turns into an expensive drama

We’ve had the Editor’s BMW E39 540 Sport in for a bit of work lately, which turned out to be a fair bit more dramatic than we expected. Initially it was just for brake shudder, which we cured – machined discs, and a proper service of the calipers dealt with that.

So far, so good. The Ed’s partner, Ms M Senior picked up the car and wandered off, only to be on the phone barely 10 minutes later. Apparently there was steam pouring out of the thing and it was going nowhere. Interesting.

Because the car has been worked on by a couple different people in recent times, it’s difficult to point the finger at anyone. However it did raise a few things the home mechanic might want to be aware of. For a start, a car like this is going to be a bugger to service properly unless you have a hoist at home. Axle stands don’t really cut it when you’re working in such a tightly-packed space.


Like lots of modern cars, it has a giant cover underneath the sump and that cover has a little service hatch for when you want to drop the oil. Good in theory, but not so much in practice. A lazy mechanic will just use the hatch – we much prefer to remove the entire cover so we get a proper look at what’s going on, and this is a great example of why.

Years ago my grand-dad used to drive me mad by quietly causing a little havoc on a job in his workshop, then watching to see how long it took me to find it and nut it out. But it was great training for what I now do.


What happened with the Bee-EM is a single power steering pump bolt came loose and dropped out. The second bolt loosened as well, the pump started moving, which in turn threw out the tension in the belt. Eventually, the belt got smacked and almost cut in half by a pulley and let go. On the way out, it put a hole as big as the Grand Canyon in the plastic radiator!

So there you go, one loose bolt eventually causes hundreds of dollars-worth of damage. Right now I reckon Ed Guido is muttering something about cars and their ability to empty your wallet.


So here’s a tip: when you work behind a cover, remove the whole thing and have a good look around. And, while I encourage people to work on their own cars because it can be very satisfying, I also reckon it pays to take it to a pro once every 18 months or so, just to get a fresh set of expert eyes over it.

Note: Mick runs Glenlyon Motors in Brunswick, Vic. Tel (03) 9380 5082.


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