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BMW 3-Series (E90 E92) Forum > E90 / E92 / E93 3-series Technical Forums > Mechanical Maintenance: Break-in / Oil & Fluids / Servicing / Warranty > Drive Belt Replacement

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      03-03-2017, 08:45 AM   #1
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Drive Belt Replacement

Hey All,

Have a few questions for ya.

Background: I have a 2011 BMW 328i that is almost exactly 60K miles. Love the car and couldn't be happier. Took it in for a coolant flush and to get the battery changed about 3 weeks ago with a total cost of $540. Didn't think that was too terrible granted I can't do the battery myself with the possibility of draining the battery faster than usual due to the complex nature of the BMW electrical system. Bought the car used maybe 2 years ago (not a single maintenance item apart from an oil change until the battery, coolant, and the below) and the warning light literally popped up on the way to the mechanic (not BMW dealership, but one that specializes in European cars and really does do a nice job) that the coolant was low. Could have just done a topoff, but what the heck, since I bought it used i opted for the coolant flush as I don't know if it's ever actually been flushed. Work was completed, I'm a happy camper and then i get THE LIST (it could probably be much worse)!

1) Serpentine Belt and Tensioner - $460 parts and labor
2) Oil Filter Stand Gasket/Oil Change/Oil Filter Kit (he said a very very very minor leak in the housing and to just get it replaced on my next oil change) $614 (this sounds reallllyyy excessive, but I'm not a mechanic and that's why I'm here)
3) Front Strut Arm Bushings - $486 parts and labor

So, the Serpentine Belt NEEDS to get done ASAP for many obvious reasons (i do have some slight mechanical sense). My real question is here: I called my other mechanic who normally handles my fiances jeep and has done a few minor things on my car (embarrassingly enough I couldn't find a dang light bulb that was out and it actually took him a minute to find it as well) and he quoted me at $200 parts and labor for the drive belt replacement. I was at work and had to hop into a meeting and I suppose I neglected to mention the 'tensioner'. So, I assume this is just a drive belt replacement, but at $200 I'm not complaining. Would it be totally necessary to also do the 'Belt Tensioner Kit'? Would I be shooting myself in the foot by just doing the belt and then having to go back in and do the tensioner? On this note I'm not certain what the condition of the tensioner is I just know that the belt needs to be replaced, but was quoted by the European Specialty garage for the whole shabang (again they do a great job, but i think sometimes they might do too much).

My dad is visiting this weekend and he's really good with (specifically Audi's, his favorite, let's hold our comments please) cars and maintenance. I have pictures of him rebuilding the engine in a VW Bug sometime in the 70's which he then drove around all of North America. What would the level of difficulty be (1-10) in replacing this belt and tensioner for two guys? Myself who can change spark plugs, oil, and yes my proud point the alternator on my GFs jeep compass (took me 8 freaking hours, damn AC compressor!) and my dad who can rebuild a VW engine, but has no experience with a BMW and both of us maybe a few beers deep?

Finally, my brakes are all good (dash says to have them replaced in 1.5K miles, but the mechanic says both back and front are in good shape) and tires are 60% on the front and 50% on the back (could be reversed, i should have been listening better). Any other recommended items to keep an eye on now that the car is 60K? I've read about the water pump, etc.

Really appreciate your feedback. I know it's long, but any advice you can provide would be appreciated!


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      03-03-2017, 11:15 AM   #2

Drives: 11 E90 335i
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I recommend starting with the most urgent items, which in my mind are:
1) the brakes
2) serpentine belt

On item #1, your (or with the help of your dad) should verify that the brakes look good. If the brake sensor came on recently saying it is time for them to be replaced, something changed. If you just bought the car and the indicator has been at 1500 the whole time, whoever last did the pads may not have reset the system correctly. Take the wheels off and look at the pads to see if they look good. Well worth your time.

On item 2, at a minimum you should replace the belt. The tensioner is a tougher call. It has probably not failed at this point, but they have a history of failing. Since you have to take the belt off to replace the tensioner, it is a good time to do it, but the tensioner is a $100+ part. At a minimum replace the belt now, it is a pretty easy 30 minute job, you do not have to pull the fan as suggested by the manual. It can be done with the fan in place. This would be a skill level of 2-3. Replacing the tensioner is a bit tougher, but probably only a skill level of 4-5. You and you Dad could easily do it.

The OFHG is a cheap part, but a decent amount of labor as it requires changing the coolant as well. Hence the $600 quote. Probably let the mechanic do this one. The last one, strut bushings? Do you mean control arm or thrust arm bushings? Either way, 60K miles seems early, are you have a suspension related issue?
bone stock

Last edited by robthewrench; 03-03-2017 at 11:26 AM.
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      03-03-2017, 10:52 PM   #3
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I'd bet the belt is in just fine shape. Serpentine belts should be replaced when they start getting small cracks in the parallel ribs. Serp belts last a very long time and much longer than 60,000 miles. But if you wan to waste the money the parts are just over $100 for the belt, tensioner, and idler pulley. If your Dad rebuilt a Bug motor in the 1970's, then the belt, tensioner, and idler pulley should take him less than an hour, assuming he has modern tools. I'd bet your Dad and me are about the same age .

People way over-maintain these cars. I replaced my tensioner at 300,000 miles. I replaced the belt every 100,000 miles.
A manual transmission can be set to "comfort", "sport", and "track" modes simply by the technique and speed at which you shift it; it doesn't need "modes", modes are for manumatics that try to behave like a real 3-pedal manual transmission. If you can money-shift it, it's a manual transmission.
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      03-13-2017, 07:30 AM   #4
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If he's asking $200 just to replace the belt - you're crazy to do it (unless of course you are completely mechanically handicapped)

I replaced the tensioner, idler pulley, & belt for less than that for just the parts & DIY

My car had around 58k on it, nothing wrong with belt/tensioner at that time - just did it as a maintenance item...
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      03-13-2017, 01:30 PM   #5
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You can find the tensioner, idler pulley and belt kit online for $150ish. Honestly, I'd just replace the tensioner and belt for that price.

I've done the belt and tensioner on a few different e90s. Each time the belt looked brand new, but the tensioner was starting to let the belt walk off the pulley. It doesn't take long at all to do, maybe a half hour.

Normally, this isn't really an issue, but it is with e90s. If the belt comes off there is a chance it shreds and gets pulled behind the crank pulley, which allows the pieces of belt to get pulled through the crank seal and damage the engine. The chances of this happening are small, but there are two damaged N52 engines for sale on Craigslist in my area that had this problem. I'd say for $150 and a little bit of time it is cheap insurance, considering how expensive BMW engines are.

The oil filter housing gasket can also be done yourself. The part is maybe $10 max. The job isn't difficult, just a bit messy. If you aren't noticing coolant loss/contamination it isn't something you need to do ASAP, but it does make a bit of a mess in the engine bay when it starts leaking a lot.
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