My 2001 BMW 325ci

    This page is for sharing pictures, stories, and information about the coolest car I've ever owned: a 2001 BMW 325ci automatic.  Clicking on any image opens the original file.  If this article helps you, please, donate to paypal to the email address @puresimplicity.net (see my Contact page).

Initial Price

     When I bought it, the wife and I paid $8,500 for it around 14 December, 2013.  Here are some specifications on the specific car I own (I am not listing the VIN, but I'll list the options it came with).  It came equipped with:

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Questions People Ask

     I have moved the questions I get asked and other general BMW brand and dealership information to my BMW page.  Please read it for any of the frequently asked questions about BMW.

Maintenance History

31 March 2013

    Previous owner had the BMW dealership change the oil.

30 April 2013

    Previous owner had a power steering line replaced and both the cooling system and power steering fluid flushed.

17 May 2013

    Previous owner had a power steering line replaced (again).

8 August 2013

    Previous owner had the third and final (there are three) power steering line replaced.

3 October 2014

    BMW performed a recall on the passenger airbag on this day.

3 Jan 2015

    Had Techmaster of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, replace the upper and lower idler and tensioner pulleys, and replace both belts.

14 Jan 2016

     Today the handle came off the trunk.  It's plastic.  I ordered an entire new assembly and replaced it easily.  Around $100 in parts.

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5 Nov 2016 to 1 Feb 2017

     After putting up with a coolant leak that lasted for a couple months, I finally had time to go and try to fix the car.  I read online that the coolant reservoir is usually the first part to go.  But once I got it out, I couldn't put the new one on.  So I removed the entire radiator to figure out why.  I took it to the BMW dealership and they said to have the local radiator shop test the radiator.  Sure enough, the radiator had a leak around the filler neck.  So I ended up replacing essentially the entire cooling system (which I read online is common every 75,000 miles, and my car was on 79,000 miles).  About $350 in parts and I haven't had a problem yet.  Keep in mind, due to the holiday season and being slightly strapped for cash, this is why fixing it took a while.  I had to focus on college and Christmas presents for my sons.
     I noticed some things about this car as I fixed the various problems:

  1. The A/T has an intercooler with a thermostat of its own (see picture).  This thermostat is made partially of plastic.  If it breaks, you can't ignore it and install the reservoir over it: you must change it.  I also noted that because the (transmission) thermostat is plastic and so is the bracket it is installed into, they often melt together over time: removing it was impossible.  So you may have to replace the bracket.
  2. The radiator hoses (upper and lower) are a very tight fit: they're well designed and close in tolerance.  So buy a can of silicone (lubricant, not sealant, not adhesive) spray and spray the ends of the hoses: they go on much easier.
  3. You might as well change the mounts each time.  It seemed like my mounts were fine, or at least good enough, but I still recommend replacing them.  Also, if any of the plastic fasteners break in the process, replace them.  I bought several at BMW for $0.44 each.  So I also safety wired my radiator in, just because I didn't want it to move.  I had a few days between installing the radiator and getting all the hardware attached, and left the safety wire in place after all the mounting screws were purchased and installed.

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27 February 2017

     The red battery and oil light came on during a trip.  I removed the battery and had it tested (it was 10 years old!) and it was indeed bad.  I replaced it and got right back on the road.

18 March 2017

    I got some replacement grills in from ECS Tuning to replace my broken stock kidney grills.  I got these black gloss grills only because they were cheaper than the stock grills.

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23 March 2017

    Today I decided to try to clean my MAF sensor out, all "CSI" with some isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and cotton swabs.  During the process, I accidentally broke it.  So learn from my mistake: buy MAF cleaner spray.  Do not touch the MAF sensor.  The MAF elements are very delicate, and will break.  This part costs $75 from ECSTuning.com.  It's in the mail as of today.
    I noticed, though, that the K&N Air Filters had not leaked or gotten oil on the MAF.  Doing some research, K&N has disproved the myth that their air filters leak and destroy MAF sensors.  So if someone tells you their MAF sensor was broken by a K&N air filter, don't believe them.

24 March 2017

    So today I drained and filled the A/T for the first time.
    I noticed the "lifetime" BMW ATF came out looking like crude oil.  It's supposed to last 100K miles but it looks like crude at 80K.  Don't believe anyone claiming it's "lifetime."
    I also noticed that the fill port is very difficult to reach, and being aluminum, strips out.  So if you're going to do this, assume yours will also strip out, and have a new fill bolt on hand.
    The fill procedure is exactly like the E46 forum says it is.  It worked great.  It's a bit messy but it's great.  It took exactly 4 quarts.
    This is the first drain and fill: I didn't change the filter.  I looked at the math and if I do two drain and fills, then replace the filter, I've replaced 93% of the fluid.  I'm doing this because I'm moving away from BMW "Lifetime" ATF to Valvoline Max Life ATF (which matches the proper BMW specification).

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25 March 2017

    Today I once again drained and filled 4 quarts out of the A/T.  It once again came out dark, but as it was draining, it seemed to have a red hue to it, so I think it's starting to clear up, as I had predicted.  My transmission seems to be shifting a little smoother, and behaving a little better.
    Then I undertook to clean my DISA valve, because I was curious.  There was a lot of red dirt and oil inside the intake, so I cleaned that out, and I cleaned the DISA valve with a toothbrush and some rubbing alcohol.  Because of this finding, I am planning to replace the CCV valve and associated hoses sooner than I previously had planned.

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27 March 2017

    Today the MAF sensor came in (see above) and I installed it.  The service engine soon light disappeared.
    I want to clarify something that's been bugging me.  Specifically, those who believe that an A/T warning light is caused by a MAF sensor.  Below is an electrical schematic diagram of the ZF (5HP-19) A/T computer sensors and wiring.  It's a simplified one, for the sake of being educational.  I stumbled upon this on the internet somewhere, and I haven't been able to find it again, but it is from what looks like a credible source.  (Click the icon for a larger 2.9 MB PNG picture of the schematic.)
    You will notice that the MAF sensor is nowhere in this schematic.  Too often, other BMW E46 owners are giving bad advice, saying the MAF fixed their A/T light.  With decades of military aircraft computer troubleshooting experience, I would be more willing to accept that your A/T computer is being fickle or having odd problems than to accept that the MAF is causing your problem.  You might say "but when I replaced my MAF, the light went away."  Again, this technically should not happen, so I'd be more willing (like I said) to blame your computer.  Engine load information, even if it's being sent, is being sent via the CAN bus from your Engine Control Module (ECM).  The ZF transmission gets input speed (from flywheel) and output speed (towards rear differential) so it doesn't need anything more to discover how hard the engine is working and how fast you're driving.
    That being said, notice I said the 325ZF (5HP-19) A/T.  I was researching the other A/T BMW used in the E46 family and there are some GM (yes, General Motors) transmissions that were used in some E46s.  When I was trying to find a good schematic on what signals these A/Ts use, I found out that some (4L30-E) use Mass Airflow input signals.  So I guess one of the ways to tell if you have a GM or ZF (ZF Friedrichshafen AG) A/T is to unplug your MAF sensor: if the gear symbol automatically illuminates, you might have a GM A/T.
    Given that the 5HP-19 A/T also was used on Porsche Boxster cars in the same years as the E46, and because (for many reasons) I strongly dislike Government Motors GM, I now realize that I must make a mental note that if I ever buy another E46, I must make sure it doesn't have the GM A/T.

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28 March 2017

    I got an EML light on the way to work, so after doing extensive reading on the subject, I removed and cleaned out (with rubbing alcohol) the ICV, which had a lot of carbon build-up.  I also noticed that two of the vacuum lines coming from the upper intake boot were so badly deteriorated that they had cracked and snapped.  So I replaced the lines.  I test drove the car twice and the EML light stopped coming on.
    Basically, per the Siemens manual for this engine management computer specific to the BMW E46 series (this car's family), when the EML light comes on, it means the ECM has detected that the ICV has stuck open or closed.  If stuck open, "VANOS and knock control are deactivated, which reduces engine performance."  Basically, if stuck open, the engine is going to feel like it has no power.  When my EML light came on this morning, I wasn't losing power: the car was dying at idle and deceleration.  The manual doesn't say what happens when the valve seems stuck shut.  But given the ICV's main job, "to smooth out the transition from acceleration to deceleration," an ICV stuck shut can cause the engine to die at idle and when one lets off the gas pedal.

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1 April 2017

    I got my A/T filter in the mail.  I thought it was the right one, but it was not.  (ECSTuning is being really nice and refunding this to me.)  So I had to reinstall the old filter today once I already had dropped the pan.  This does mean my fluid is now around 93% brand new, which was my intent.  However, it means I need to do the filter and gasket soon.  Still, the A/T is acting very nicely, and the fluid now looks red (fresh) rather than black (old).  This first picture is what I got in the mail.  The rest are of the actual procedure today.

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This is a picture of me draining the fluid from the A/T.

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    This is where your fill port is located.  Notice I accidentally dinged the A/T trying to get the stuck fill port to come out.  I had to (due to space limitations) take a chisel to the outside of the fill port to get it to loosen.  Always buy a brand new fill port when you go to replace the fluid and filter on this A/T.  Also, keep in mind (I'm guessing) the pan, A/T housing, bolts and ports are all made of aluminum.

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This is what a brand new (ECSTuning) fill port looks like.

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My wife did a fantastic job cleaning out the inside of the pan.  The magnets, in this picture, are removed because she cleaned them all by hand.

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This is what the A/T looks like with the filter removed.  Notice the solenoids are towards the back of the valve body: I hear it's completely possible to replace them if they start to fail.  Take good care of your A/T.

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This is the correct A/T filter for the 325Z (also called ZF and 5HP-19).

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This is what happens when you have to remove a stuck fill port that stripped out.  You end up taking a chisel to it to get it out, as you can tell with how the outside of the fill port looks.

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4 April 2017

    Today the BMW dealership performed the driver's airbag recall.

5 April 2017

    Today, I replaced the fuel filter at approximately 80,000 miles.  It took me about an hour.  This was routine maintenance: nothing was wrong with my car.  Helpful hints: always take the new filter to Autozone or some auto parts store first and make sure you get about a foot of high pressure fuel-rated hose in both sizes that fit on your fuel filter.  I did that, and I'm very glad I did.  My fuel hoses were so old that they were very difficult to remove, so I cut them off.  Also, you might want to get six of the very small hose clamps: mine were so old and had so much gunk in them that I almost couldn't get them to loosen and tighten.
    As usual, keep in mind you should wear rubber gloves and probably a rubber apron and even suit while working in fuel.  You are going to get sprayed by fuel no matter how careful you are to clear the line pressure.  Wear eye protection: in fact, a full face shield.  I had eye protection on, but the left side of my face got sprayed.
    Below is how the new filter looks when almost completely installed.  The blue line (which is towards the back of the car) is the fuel feed line.  On the forward side of the fuel filter, there is a right angle connection that broke easily.  There were no clamps on it: it seemed to be a factory molded line.

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    Helpful hint: you can clamp the blue fuel feed line (which is metal) up above the muffler, where it becomes rubber hose.  If you don't, the fuel line will just keep spilling fuel (due to the siphon effect) while you're trying to work.

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This is what a fuel filter looks like when it's brand new.

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    Below is what happens when you don't use high-pressure hose: they rupture.  When in doubt, use high pressure.

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6 April 2017

    Today I got the right rear ABS sensor in.  I chose to replace this relatively cheap sensor due to the BMW dealership saying that it was bad during the passenger side airbag recall (3 October 2014).  So I finally got the money and went to change it.

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    Here's where the sensor plugs into the car behind the right fender well.

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    Here's a shot along the body of the car leading to the right rear suspension.  Yes, one clip broke.  These clips are plastic, so don't be surprised if they break, no matter how gentle you are.  A pack of 25 is $25: I think I'm going to wait to get some more.

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    Below is a shot along where the wires meet the body.  Another clip broke near the wheel structure.  Yep, I'm going to have to get more clips.

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    This did not fix my problem.  So I may have to dig further into the problem.

8 April 2017

    Today I replaced the center console drink cup holder with one from ECSTuning.com.  It fit perfectly and now the cup holder doesn't come out and stick to cups.

11 April 2017

    Today I installed the right filter and gasket on my A/T.  When you try to catch all the drainage to re-use the fluid, you end up wasting only about 2 quarts.  The pan bolts are 47 in/lb per the Haynes manual, but I like to go with 50 in/lb.  The A/T shifts like brand new.

19 April 2017

    Today I replaced the alarm bracket and the windshield rain cowl.

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13 May 2017


    Today I drained the oil and replaced the oil level sensor, valve cover gaskets, oil filter, and spark plugs.  I ran out of time at the Auto Hobby Shop.  I also found where the air injector line was broken, and spliced it with a piece of rubber hose.  So far, so good.  I'll finish the rest Tuesday.  If you do this job, don't overuse RTV, it makes replacing the gasket a pain in the rear.  Always replace rubber components and gaskets while you're doing a job like this (which should only need doing every 100,000 miles, in theory).  Also, maybe get a permanent marker and/or paint pen and mark your components as you replace them.

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16 May 2017

    Today I finished buttoning up the valve cover area, then focused on the intake.  I removed the intake to replace the CCV and intake gasket.  The CCV hoses were so old the insulation was cracking and the line on the top of the intake actually broke when I bent it.  So it was definitely time.  Looking under the intake, the CCV line going to the oil dipstick was in horrible shape.
    So I replaced the CCV and lines.  While the intake was off, I figured out why the secondary air injectors were popping codes and lighting up the check engine light: the line was broken in two places.  The plastic line was good, but the rubber parts were shot.  So I replaced those.
    The fuel injectors are a royal pain, let me warn you.  Easy to remove, hard to put back on.  I strongly recommend that when you go to put those back on, make sure you own a magnet, and stuff some wrags down behind and between the intake runners so that you don't lose any hardware.  Most the hardware, if you lose it, falls down the side of the engine and comes to rest under the starter.  I don't think it will harm anything, but now you know where to feel around for anything you lose.  Which is why I suggest you stuff wrags down there to prevent lost hardware.
     I believe God gave me a flash of genius while I was struggling with the fuel injectors.  So I sprayed both sides of the injectors with silicone spray, plugged the injectors into the intake, then pushed the fuel rail down on top and put the clips on forwards, then spin them around to the back.  It worked for me.
    Make sure you snake the positive battery cable out as tight as you can through the intake.  I must've left a little slack, so I couldn't put the whole cable in the cable keeper that is attached to the cabin air filter housing.  But it won't harm anything.
    Always stuff rags or something into the intake runners on the head.  You don't want anything to fall down in there.  If necessary, before you even take the intake off, use a vacuum to get rid of any debris in that area.
    I started her up and no "check engine light."  Also, the oil pressure light went out immediately, not after 20 seconds.
    So this two days I replaced the spark plugs, oil level sensor, oil & filter, valve cover gasket, intake gasket, CCV and hoses.  Still on my list to fix: the DSC.  I have isolated it to a right rear brake pad wear sensor, so I'll replace that as soon as parts come in from ECSTuning.

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23 June 2017


    To recap, on 4 April 2017, the BMW dealership told me the right rear brake pad needed replacement.  Two days later, I replaced the right rear ABS sensor and the lights didn't clear.  I noticed the brake pad wear sensors looked bad. 
    So today I replaced the front and rear brake pad wear sensors because of the "yellow trifecta", or ABS plus brake plus brake pad warning lights on the dash.  The brake pad warning light went out, but the DSC and brake lights (the rest of the "yellow trifecta") did not.  Further troubleshooting required.  But keep in mind the ABS system itself is working.

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2 July 2017

    I replaced the left rear ABS sensor on the car today, trying to clear the DSC and/or brake warning lights.  I learned that there's a separate warning light for these sensors: the ABS warning light.  I also learned that the DSC and brake lights are not related to ABS sensors.  And now the ABS light won't extinguish.  I've created another problem.  I'll have to start over again with trying to troubleshoot these problems.

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22 July 2017

    About a week prior to this date, I had my car's suspension inspected by an expert, who pointed out that my front lower control arm bushings need to be replaced.  So today I replaced them.  I learned a valuable lesson while replacing them: do not twist them off.  Use a fork tool to pull them off.  The reason is you end up with the inner piece separating from the outer piece (see first and third picture).  The end of the control arm isn't perfectly circular, and the inside of the bushing isn't, either.  Therefore, you destroy the inner rubber, leaving the inner metal piece that slides over the control arm.  Which means you have to now cut it off or get lucky prying and pulling.
    This fixed the clunking sound I heard when accelerating and/or braking hard.

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5 September 2017

    A month ago my driver's side window switch broke in such a way that it stayed down.  Basically, an internal plastic piece had broken.  So today I replaced it.  Easy as ($50) cake.

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9 September 2017

    Took the car to Playground Auto Service today to have the brake fluid flushed out, to see if maybe it would turn off the ABS light (which is now not on first thing in the morning, but is on all other times) and DSC light and brake light.  It didn't affect any of these.  The BMW dealership will charge me $145 to scan the DSC.
    Also, recently the DISA screws got stuck, so I need to extract them.  I already have the replacement screws from the BMW dealership.

3 November 2017

    This morning my car  wouldn't idle on its own, so I had to double foot pedal it to work. If I didn't hold it at 1,000 rpm or higher, it would die. Engine quality while running, though, was powerful and not rough. I read the codes when I arrived at work. Stored codes: P0172 too rich bank 1, P0175 too rich bank 2, P1500 ICV stuck open.  Pending codes: P0174 too lean bank 2, P0102 MAF A circuit low. After I got to work, I went back outside, yanked the MAF sensor connector off, and started the car and drove it around.  My car immediately started acting a whole lot better.  So I zip tied the connector to keep it from getting beat up and ordered a VDO MAF sensor (which, I'm told, is the stock manufacturer that BMW rebranded).  Keep in mind, this car's cruise control won't engage if the MAF is not present, but otherwise the engine runs fine, and power output isn't lacking.  In fact, I floored it for a split second at a stop sign to see if power was the same, and indeed it was: I easily spun my rear tires.  So I ordered the MAF through FCP Euro.

10 November 2017

    Here's how the MAF sensor saga went.  I replaced the part and drove 30 minutes to an appointment.  On the way, I got the gear symbol, but the A/T did not go into "limp mode," as RPM and speed stayed what they should.  Also, it was as if the A/T was attempting to send a "let off gas" signal to the engine because it was thinking it would need to shift soon.  As well, cruise control would not engage.  Reading the information on how this car works, the A/T and the engine both heavily utilize the MAF.
    I pulled the negative battery cable off while I was in the appointment (one hour or so) and then put it on and drove it back, thinking the engine management and A/T just had to re-learn the MAF sensor.  I got the gear symbol again.  It's my daily driver, so I kept driving it to work.
    But today I went on another appointment 30 minutes away and I had no problems with it.  So I think the engine management and the A/T just had to re-learn the MAF sensor.  The engine and A/T, and really the car itself, drives great and I am having no problems with it.

17 November 2017

    The brake light switch came in.  This was one of the easiest parts I've ever had to replace.  I'm glad I did it myself.  And the adjustment system makes knowing whether you have it installed properly very easy.  But of course, the trim panel it was underneath is starting to crack, so I'll probably need to replace it.  These pictures are with the switch in, right before installing the trim panel.  It worked: my A/T isn't popping the gear symbol on the dash, and cruise control works.

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8 December 2017

    Had it towed to a shop because it wouldn't start.  Battery voltage was good.  Today, shop asked for the spare key (I don't normally carry it), and the car started right up with the other key.  So what did I learn?  First, always carry the spare and/or valet key with you.  Second, a bad key, even if the car beeps with key inserted and the door open, even if it can turn the car on, can refuse to start the car if part of the circuitry is bad.  I went over and ordered a key from the dealership: $179.

10 December 2017

    Had Playground Auto replace the water pump pulley with an ECSTuning aluminum model, and replace the serpentine belt.  I told them, while they were in there, to locate the squealing pulley.  They replaced one of the belt tensioners.

28 December 2017

    I took my 325ci on the road to Georgia for the first time.  It performed flawlessly on the highway and at all times, even in the cold, and even in sub-freezing temperatures.  I got roughly 33 mpg on the way and 32 mpg on the return trip.  (I tend to drive the speed limit everywhere and I use the cruise control religiously.)  So much more comfortable than my Honda Fit "Sport".

16 February 2018

    I took my car to the auto hobby shop to inspect the suspension.  No problems were found.  I inspected the rear differential oil level at this time, it was fine.  However, it probably needs to be replaced soon.  I ordered a magnetic differential drain plug on ECSTuning.

3 March 2018

    Took the car to a shop and had them remove the stripped DISA mount screws.

4 April 2018

    Changed the rear differential gear oil with Royal Purple 75W-90 and replaced the drain plug with an ECS Magnetic Differential Oil Drain Plug.  Mileage is roughly 91,000.
    Here are some tips to keep in mind: first, it's faster to pull the fill plug first: the used oil drains faster that way.  Second, keep in mind the location of the fill port: you're going to need a fluid pump to get your differential oil into the differential.  Third, since some hand pumps are not very efficient, come prepared with two quarts of the oil, not just one.
    Fourth, due to BMW's use of aluminum and magnesium in some areas, in my opinion, always replace the stock drain plug and then hold on to the old drain plug if it's in good condition.  One way to make sure you can remove it in good condition is to gently pound the 14mm Allen bit all the way into the plug with a rubber mallet to ensure it doesn't strip when you try to remove it.  If there's dirt and filth inside the Allen bit well in the drain or fill plug, clean it out so you get a good deep grip on the drain plug.  Trust me (see above), if you mangle a drain plug while trying to get it out, like I did on my automatic transmission, you could end up making your car unfit to drive while you wait for a drain or fill plug to come in the mail.  Always have at least one plug of each kind on hand.  In this case, the differential drain and fill plugs are the exact same BMW part number, per RealOEM.com.  Cars get old, and plug can seize.

1 May 2018

    I had the power steering system flushed out with Valvoline Max Life by a shop in my area.

16 May 2018

    I had all four shocks and struts replaced by a shop in my area (because I'm doing full time work plus full time college) using Sacchs and Mehle brand shocks and struts.  My car has the sports package, so I got sports package shocks and struts.  It made a huge difference in how it drives: at 92,000 miles I still had the original factory shocks and struts.

25 May 2018

    I changed the oil and filter.

30 June 2018

    Rotated tires.