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BMW 3-Series Fuel Pump Failures
Dear BMW Customer Relations,
On Saturday, April 2nd, I was driving my 2007 BMW 328xi from my home in upstate New York to New York City when my engine abruptly shut down at mile 65 of the N.Y.S. Thruway. Fortunately, I was close enough to the entrance ramp of the Modena service area that I was able to coast safely off the highway and into the parking lot. When I attempted to restart the car, the starter turned over, but the engine would not start. Accordingly arranged to have my 328xi towed to Hudson Valley BMW in Poughkeepsie, which is the dealership that sold me the car.
On April 5th, I received a call from a service representative at Hudson Valley BMW. She told me, as I expected, that my fuel pump had failed and needed to be replaced. She said that the cost of the repair would be approximately $750 plus the $125 diagnostic charge. I told her that I was surprised and concerned that the fuel pump had failed on a car that had only 96,000 miles on it, but that they should go ahead and replace the pump.
A few hours later, I received another call from the service representative, this time informing me that the service technician had determined the reason my fuel pump had failed – namely, that the fuel lines leading to the pump had deteriorated. She then explained that the only way to replace the fuel lines was to replace the entire fuel tank, at a cost of $2500. To say the least, I was taken aback at this information. When I asked what could have caused the fuel lines on a car with 96,000 miles to deteriorate in this manner, she said it might have been caused by “excess alcohol” in the gasoline I was using.
I was even more astonished by this explanation than I was by the problem itself, but I told the representative that I needed a car, and I authorized her to order the fuel tank and perform the repair. Immediately after this conversation, I called BMW Customer Relations. I informed them of what had happened and I expressed my dismay at the supposed cause of the problem. They said they would initiate an inquiry and get back in touch with me.
I next called Hudson Valley BMW and spoke with the service manager there. In response to my question, he reiterated that the fuel pump failure had been caused by excessive levels of alcohol in the gas I was using, which caused the fuel lines to swell and crack, thereby fouling the pump. He emphasized that it was essential to use “high quality” gasoline in the 328xi. I informed him that the great preponderance of the 96,000 miles I have put on my car in the last four years has come from driving the same route between my home in upstate New York and New York City, and that I have habitually purchased my gas at the numerous Mobil stations along the way.
He told me that while Mobil was considered “high quality” gasoline, the Mobil stations on the Thruway were “a real problem” because they sometimes added extra alcohol to their gas. When I expressed amazement that BMW was making cars that were potentially so fragile that they not only required their owners to pay close attention to the brand of premium gas they used, but to the possible variations in the quality of that brand, he said that he would speak to “the factory” and see what he could do in terms of getting me some consideration on the cost of repairing my car.
The next day, the service manager informed me that he had spoken with the company and was prepared to take $1000 off the cost of replacing my gas tank. That would reduce the cost of the repair to $1500, plus the $750 to replace the fuel pump, plus the $125 diagnostic charge. I thanked him for his efforts on my behalf and told him to proceed with the repairs.
This has been my experience so far. Now let me state my position on what has occurred.
It is disappointing that a fuel pump would fail at 96,000 miles on a well-maintained luxury performance car, but in itself, I accept that things like that occur. The explanation I have been given as to why the fuel pump failed, however, puts this matter into a whole other category.
Quite simply, if the fuel pump on my 328xi failed because of the deteriorated fuel lines in my gas tank, and if those fuel lines deteriorated because of the supposedly high alcohol content in the admittedly “high quality” brand of premium Mobil gasoline I have been using in my car, then that failure was caused by a design deficiency that BMW needs to take responsibility for correcting. BMW manufactures cars and sells them in the American market. It goes without saying that those cars have to be designed to operate safely and efficiently in that market. Accordingly, BMW instructs its owners to use premium-grade gasoline in the 328xi. I have followed those instructions faithfully. BMW further advises its owners to use “high-quality brand-name” gasoline in the 328xi. I have followed that advisory faithfully, consistently filling my tank with Mobil, one of the brands that BMW specifically recommends.
To state the obvious, it is simply unreasonable for BMW to suggest that its owners should not only fuel their cars with “high-quality brand-name” gasoline, but also guard against any undetectable variations in the alcohol content of the gasoline sold under those brand names. If the fuel lines installed in the 328xi are not sufficiently robust as to be able to withstand those undetectable variations in the alcohol content of the fuel, then that is a design flaw in the car. (An obvious fix would be to design the vulnerable fuel lines so that they can be replaced at regular intervals without requiring the replacement of the entire gas tank.)
As it is, the service manager at BMW of the Hudson Valley was clear in stating that the fuel pump in my car failed because of the deteriorated fuel lines. Therefore, it is my position that BMW should reimburse me for the full cost of replacing both the fuel pump and the fuel tank. Anything less than that would represent an abdication of responsib