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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all. I'm new here. I thought this would be a great place to possibly help me sort this out. I took my car in today because the steering has been less responsive than normal and I noticed a "clicking" type of sound if I jolt the wheel. I took it to a German auto mechanic and he said it is my steering coupler. Also said I need a new battery, and that the belt tensioner (I am pretty sure that's what it's called) needs to be replaced because it's making vibrating noises. He said $200 for the coupler, $225 for the battery, and $400 for the belt thing. I have an appointment at BMW this week to take it in, and I took it to this guy just to see what he said and what his prices are. I called BMW today just to compare the battery price- they want $386 for the battery! I went down to AutoZone and they have the battery for my car for $130. My question for you is this: Does a steering coupler sound like it that could be the reason behind my steering issue and the noise? BMW had never even heard of it when I asked them and they said I need to bring it in. (The guy said it connects the steering column to the steering rack unit.) Second, the belt tensioner I didn't think was an issue. My car has always made this noise so I never was alarmed by it, he drove it today and was the one that pointed it out. Is that a big issue? Also, he said he would have to align it after doing the steering thing and charges $90 for that. I am pretty sure where I bought my tires does it for free. Is it really imperative it's done at the mechanic right after he fixes it? Ok, thank you so much for any help you all can offer! My trips to BMW always seem to end up costing around $2,000, so I'm REALLY trying to avoid that! I have always taken it to a BMW dealer, but this time around I'm checking out my options.
 

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Cogito Ergo Zoom
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The steering coupler could be the cause of the noise. It's an easy and inexpensive DIY if you want to give it a shot. There is no need for an alignment afterwards, it only goes on one way and doesn't affect alignment.

A bad belt tensioner could cause vibration type noises. At one point, they were changed from mechanical to hydraulic. If you still have the former it might be time to upgrade.
 

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If you have never replaced the battery, you are probably due for one. Many have reported fine results with the AZ battery or even an Everstart from Walmart. A lot of the common batteries are made by the same manufacturers and then branded for various retailers. It's easy enough a novice can DIY. Just note that there is a vent tube that plugs into the side of the battery by the positive terminal that needs to be disconnected/reconnected in the exchange.

Steering couplers tend to wear as you describe at around 8 years so you're probably due there as well. It's like a small click and a little extra play whenever you change direction on the wheel when cold. No alignment needed.

Tensioners also go bad periodically. They are basically maintenance items that can last a few years to many. If one fails and it ends up killing your serpentine belt, you lose power steering which can be dangerous while driving, but more importantly you lose coolant flow and your engine will quickly overheat which can result in $$$$$. The belt can also do damage to fan, radiator, etc. Get that one fixed too, but $400 is crazy for one...... unless he's doing all new belts, tensioners and idler.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks so much for the replies. I'm a little confused as to why he wants to charge $200 for the coupler if it's pretty simple. I would attempt it myself, but I've never done as much as an oil change on a car, so I probably shouldn't try it! I'll definitely buy my own battery. As far as the belt tensioners go, he said there are two? To do both would be $400. It does sound like a lot of money. Any opinion as to if I should take it to BMW or not? They said they wouldn't charge me to do a complimentary inspection, but if they had to take anything apart, they would start charging diagnostic hours. Oh, I have never changed the battery- it's lasted since 2004! As far as the belt tensioners go, I am trying to get my service history from BMW to see if that's been done or not.
Thank you so much again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Anyone know where to get this part? I'd like to buy online or in a store but no one seems to know what part it is. Thank you for the help!
 

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The Arch Bishop
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Here is a diagram for the steering coupler. Look at part #2
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?model=ET37&mospid=47720&btnr=32_0942&hg=32&fg=30

Here is a diagram for the belt tensioner Look at part #2 (You'll see that the mechanical one has been ended and replaced with hydraulic tensioner. Both are still available for purchase. The hydraulic one lasts longer)
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?model=ET37&mospid=47720&btnr=11_2205&hg=11&fg=18

Each part has a part number shown in the table below. Just search that number on a parts website and the item should come up. I as well as many here like to use www.oembimmerparts.com for fast shipping and great customer support. However feel free to use whatever you like.

Hope this helps!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Oh, does anyone have an opinion on the minimum cold cranking amps? Found one at O'Reilly that is 760 CCA for $121 with military discount. Sorry to ask so many questions, I've really never done much research on any of this before.
 

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Where in San Diego are you? I know a few good and HONEST independent mechanics around town who know BMWs. I'd avoid the dealerships for the most part.

For batteries, see if you can still get an Autozone Duralast 49-DL. That's what I have and it's worked great for ~4 years, plus it's WAY cheaper than the "replacement" batteries.

As for the coupler, should be around $50 online, maybe less. Also, an indy should be able to tell you right away if you have a mechanical or hydraulic tensioner. Given the fact that my 2004 325i has hydraulic, I'm thinking there's a good chance you have the same. If so, it's just a matter of changing the rollers/pulleys on them. All-in-all, I think a mechanic shouldn't charge more than an hour or two to do the coupler and tensioner pulley/rollers, plus around $150 for parts if he swaps your belts at the same time. You should be out the door for under $250-$350, tops.

And you do NOT need an alignment after doing the steering coupler, if you're doing it right. I'd be wary of any mechanic who tries to sell you on unnecessary work like that.
 

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Only thing that may add time=$ to the tensioner job is if the car is an automatic, in which case it's a little more work to remove the cooling fan to get good access to the area - maybe a half hour more. But as I and others have stated, $400 is steep. The coupler should take about an hour of shop time max so $200 is a little on the steep side as well. Find another mechanic with more reasonable rates. This stuff is simple so you don't need the best mechanic out there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I am in Point Loma in San Diego. If you have any recommendations, I certainly appreciate the input and may take it for an estimate. I called BMW and they have the actual part for $70. My boyfriend is military, so the place on base said they would install it for $40... Sounds pretty reasonable to me. I'm hesitant to buy online just because I want to make sure I have the correct part. Plus, with shipping, I may only save $10 or so. When I started my car today, the vibration noises were really loud, which worries me a bit. I want to take care of my car, and I would rather fix it before it breaks and causes real damage. My issue is knowing what's actually going on. I never know which mechanic is being truthful, especially with all the help you all have offers me on here- it had opened my eyes a lot. I can still take it to BMW and see what they say needs to be done and go from there. Thoughts on that? Or anyone else in the area that would do a complimentary diagnostic? Thanks again for all this awesome information; you guys are great!!
 

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I am in Point Loma in San Diego. If you have any recommendations, I certainly appreciate the input and may take it for an estimate. I called BMW and they have the actual part for $70. My boyfriend is military, so the place on base said they would install it for $40... Sounds pretty reasonable to me. I'm hesitant to buy online just because I want to make sure I have the correct part. Plus, with shipping, I may only save $10 or so. When I started my car today, the vibration noises were really loud, which worries me a bit. I want to take care of my car, and I would rather fix it before it breaks and causes real damage. My issue is knowing what's actually going on. I never know which mechanic is being truthful, especially with all the help you all have offers me on here- it had opened my eyes a lot. I can still take it to BMW and see what they say needs to be done and go from there. Thoughts on that? Or anyone else in the area that would do a complimentary diagnostic? Thanks again for all this awesome information; you guys are great!!
The place on-base might be the best option, $40 is a good price to install the steering coupler and it's a pretty easy install so they are unlikely to mess anything up even if they're not completely familiar with BMWs. $70 is a little high for the part, but if you don't want to order it online, then it's not completely unreasonable.

I work in Pt. Loma, and I know there's a German place on Rosecrans a few blocks north of Nimitz that I don't have any personal experience with, but a friend had a decent experience. They're close to you and would probably check the car out and at least give you an estimate.

If you want to drive a ways, I can highly recommend Euro Auto Service on Andreasen in Escondido. This small family-owned business is great, don't mind the greasy cinder block shop -- they know their stuff and are as honest as the day is long. This is my indy of choice. They have saved me a lot of money.

I know a lot of people who have trusted a lot of BMWs over the years with good results to Minsky on Convoy Street in Clairemont. I think the prices there have come up a little since the kids took over the front office, but Minksy still knows his stuff.

See if you can get a report of the problem from a mechanic and an estimate for the work, and report back. It's hard for us to diagnose a problem over the internet, but many of the members here have a good nose for mechanic's BS.
 
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