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$2,000 Valve Cover Gasket and the End of Cars as We Knew Them

I'm not an automotive alarmist. I remember working in a BMW shop when I was a teen (early 80s), and people were saying "cars are becoming too complicated for regular people to work on!" and bemoaning the end of the DIY car. And that was because carbs were being replaced by fuel injection. I didn't buy into any of that.

But I do think that we have finally reached the end of the internal combustion car, as "we" (those of us here) knew them.

I took my '08 BMW 328i to the dealer for some free recall work. They noted the slightly weeping valve cover gasket, and some other minor things, and gave me an estimate for the work.

To replace the valve cover gasket (not the head gasket, the valve cover gasket!): $1,930.

I don't know how much an '08 328i is worth, but I do know that $2,000 is a decent percentage of that number.

Like most of us here, I view a valve cover gasket as a $15 in parts and 1 hour of time job. How $15 becomes $2,000 is amazing.

So I did the job myself this weekend. It took all day. Why? Well, to give you an idea, one of the steps in the manual is to remove the windshield wipers and wiper motors. Get it?

Worse than that, everything in the engine compartment is plastic. These things are just not designed to last for 20-30 years. They just aren't. Clips, hoses, entire parts become so brittle from age and heat cycling, they break when you take them apart. And that's ok when the part is just a retention clip that can be replaced for $5, but it's not ok when it's an entire plastic valve cover with a ton of built in things, or other big bits that integrate a bunch of things and cost $$$.

And cars from the 2000s are still big displacement 6 and 8 cylinder normally aspirated cars, generally.

It got me to thinking about current cars. While it's true that the internal combustion engine still dominates sales, look at what they are. Most BMWs and Mercedes are highly stressed turbo 4s, loaded up with super complicated systems so they can meet emissions while still making power. I think at 10 years/120,000 miles most of them will be in the junkyard, with repair costs that exceed their values.

And this is by design. Even as late as the 80s, cars (like mercedes) were still being built to last 30 years. But no more. Cars aren't even being "built to a price" anymore they are being "built to a 3 year lease payment." What is being spent is spent on bizarro features for the marketing department to sell, not to longevity or quality.

So I do believe that the car as we knew it is now really dead. To the extent that the internal combustion car continues, it will be as a commodity or appliance, to be used for the short term and discarded for a new one every 3-5 years, like an iPhone. The concept of saving up to buy a high quality car to drive for 15 years is simply dead. There is no such car to buy any more, and there likely never will be again.
Old 01-07-2019, 03:14 PM
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My 2007 328i needs the same work done. I recently had it at the dealer (first time at a dealer in about a decade) for some recalls and they wanted me to approve it but I declined before even asking how much.

The job doesn't seem too terrible but certainly fiddly with all the brittle plastic stuff.
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:30 PM
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I totally agree
Old 01-07-2019, 03:31 PM
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I consider beemers and Mercedes to be undesirable cars for much the same reason you posted.
In much the same way an audi is a very good car, as long as it has an extended warranty with lots and lots of years left on it.
The cost to maintain them can be stupid crazy expensive after the odo turns 100, hence the incredible drop in resale value of these things when they start getting "older'.

You can find AMGs that cost well into six figures when new, selling for under $10 grand in good condition just because they have over 100k on them.
it used to be that to see that type of depreciation you needed to look at a British car.


But I don't see that being as much of an issue with other cars, maybe it's just a euro thing?

YMMV.

Last edited by sammyg2; 01-07-2019 at 03:35 PM..
Old 01-07-2019, 03:33 PM
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Agree; try it on the V8!
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:39 PM
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I agree. I don’t work on my own transportation appliances any more.
If we got rid of government emissions and fuel economy we could go back to simpler vehicles. But how far back? My 1947 Dodge has a hand choke and a hand throttle (to keep it idling when it’s cold). The starter is a pedal on the floorboard. It doesn’t have a valve cover, let alone a valve cover gasket. It gets about 10 mpg. My 356s get lousy mileage and need points, plugs, and valve adjustment every 3000 miles. I honestly don’t want to have to depend on any of those.
I think maybe something like a ‘69 Dodge Dart with a Scant Six and three on the tree would be at the top of the usability/maintain ability curve.
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:53 PM
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Yet a modern Toyota or Honda (or ???) will go 250k miles with little more than routine maintenance.
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:56 PM
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Just one of the many reason I love my W140 (1992, S420)

I never thought cars would ever become disposable.
People often talk about how electric cars are the future and they require virtually no maintenance. I find that hard to believe.
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:59 PM
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My advice would be to replace the BMW with a 4.2L V8 Jaguar.
Old 01-07-2019, 04:05 PM
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When you look at over $200 a book hour for service, the cost add up. When I had my CLK500, changing plugs was over $900. Admittedly it is 16 plugs, I did the work myself and saved allot of money. My take away from this was German cars out of warranty are expensive, including my VW. I have valve cover gaskets leaking on my V6 VW. That job is over $1100. I'm not doing it.
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:07 PM
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To change the oil pan gasket on my 530xi is $1800. They have to remove most of the front suspension to get the gasket off. It's not spotting the floor, so it will have it will be something the next owner will have to deal with.
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:13 PM
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I just did that exact job , 2008 328 xi, I did the valve cover gasket, oil filter housing lower gasket, and changed the oil.
I charged roughly $700.00 It was a pain in the arse. You have to unwind the servo motor for the variable lift camshaft system ( valvetronic ), and it just sucks some time up .
BMW probably bills 2x what I do per hour, and the sure are proud of their ****ty rubber gaskets .
Tons of plastic, that if you look at it wrong, you own it .
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fly Mach .86 View Post
To change the oil pan gasket on my 530xi is $1800. They have to remove most of the front suspension to get the gasket off. It's not spotting the floor, so it will have it will be something the next owner will have to deal with.
And the drive axles for the front wheels pass through the pan. I really love doing these on the v8 cars. not
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:16 PM
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The internals of any modern vehicle can see 200,000 without much degradation of performance.

It is rhe peripheral items that kill the vehicle. Alternators, water pumps, aged wiring. At 120,000 or so you start to see those problems pop up.

You gotta remember that in 1970 a trouble free 100,000 miles was much more difficult to attain.
Old 01-07-2019, 04:17 PM
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We still have a few german cars, but this is the exact reason why I have a love affair with my rusty 2004 chevrolet pick up .
Parts, are cheap, and it is simple to work on . No drama, alternator, starter, water pump, gaskets, it is all easy peasy.
And how is it , that my pos 200k mile chevrolet has no oil leaks, yet, but every day of the week, I make bank fixing leaking 70,000 mile BMW 's
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McLovin View Post
So I did the job myself this weekend. It took all day. Why? Well, to give you an idea, one of the steps in the manual is to remove the windshield wipers and wiper motors. Get it?
Every farking thing on these cars is a PITA to repair. Mother effing VW/Audi is the same.

Cutsie plastic stuff that just degrades to the suppleness of a mud dauber's nest for starters.

Once the noise is out of the way you best be knowledgeable of what steps to take as (especially BMW) you need new stretch bolts for a good deal of R&R.

VW/Audi. Front to back motors leak at the rear. Coolant/oil. 2 inches of work clearance. Control arm bolts corrode/freeze in the arm. Turbo related hoses melt. Get used to check engine light and buy coolant temp sensors by the dozen.

Test a starter on a 3 series? You can test the battery juice with a lightening rod length pole but not the "yellow wire" unless the intake is removed.

You need anti anxiety meds and just accept the fact that a three hour job on a Tayota will be two days.

They are fun to drive.
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Last edited by Bob Kontak; 01-07-2019 at 04:48 PM..
Old 01-07-2019, 04:38 PM
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Yep. DD is 96, fun cars are 96 and 85. Newest is an 05 A8, which is a 90's design. See the trend?
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:50 PM
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The rot began with OBD2. Before that cars were still shade tree fixable. At some point I won't be able to do my own repairs so I'll be driving a Japanese car, probably Mazda.
Old 01-07-2019, 05:00 PM
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I agree with OP but for people like us, forums are a saving grace. I have adored my W124 E320s, 2 wagons and 2 sedans, for years. Recently picked up an 07 328i Sport with well over 200,000 miles on it and think it is a fantastic car, somewhat addictive I like it so much, just researched tonight how to add a heated steering wheel.

Well cared for car but obviously has little things wrong with it. Common issue is the mirrors don't retract properly. 10 minutes of searching for a fix and 10 minutes with a drill making a tiny hole in the motor housing to spray Gibbs into and then using a pick to free up a stuck pin, mirrors work perfectly again. I would imagine new mirrors at dealer or independent would be 4 figures.
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Old 01-07-2019, 05:25 PM
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I predict in 15 years there will be very few gas cars on the road. The future is electric cars. Maintenance looks far simpler. No oil/filters/gaskets etc to change.
Old 01-07-2019, 05:40 PM
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