Tuesday, April 1, 2003
On the drive home from work a couple weeks ago, I thought I saw the display of the climate control head go black for a split second. At the time I dismissed it, thinking that perhaps the display found its way into my blind spot (you know, the blind spot every one of us has in each of our eyes due to the location of the optic nerve on the retina?)
Unfortunately, about a week ago I realized I wasn't seeing things...the display really was dark for a second. Then it illuminated again...then it went dark again. This cycle continued for a few more times, and then the unit returned to normal operation. I decided that I would drop by my dealer to talk to my mechanic about it the next morning.
In short, my mechanic confirmed that this is typical of a failing climate control head, and said that it was impossible to tell how much longer it might operate. Since I didn't like the thought of suddenly being without heat, air-conditioning, and defrost, I confirmed they had a control head in stock, wrestled with my blood pressure as they revealed the price and made an appointment for the following week to have it replaced. To make a long story short, the unit operated intermittently before failing completely on the way home on the night before the appointment. I went in the next day and my mechanic swapped the unit out.
The job involved pulling the radio in order to gain access to the control head, moving the faceplate, buttons, and temperature sensor fan from the old unit to the new, and reprogramming the control head for North American conventions via the BMW diagnostics computer (when I'm not flying, I prefer my temperatures in Fahrenheit, thank you very much!).
I had also noticed that the Auto/Manual transmission switch light had failed again, so I decided to have them fix that. I whined about this being, like, the 80th time this stupid incandescent bulb had failed and the fact that I had just dropped 8 bills in this place last month, so they replaced it for cost of parts ($28) only...no labor charge. What can I say...sometimes it pays to whine.
While this is apparently not a common failure in these cars, I have heard of one other occurrence in a '96 vintage 328. I hope this means this was a fluke of manufacturing, but it's impossible to tell without more data.
The damage? Parts, $325, Labor/Tax: $80, Total $405. Mileage 75812.