Monday September 1, 2003
Because I was a bit late performing the last (mid-cycle) oil service, I covered only about 3500 miles before the red service indicator and the "OIL SERVICE" text appeared. I don't really like doing oil changes more frequently than 5000 miles because there's simply nothing to be gained by doing so, but if for no other reason than to get back "on schedule", I did it anyway. My mechanic took care of everything perfectly as usual, but had one surprise in store for me (what else is new).
He mentioned that I may need front brake pads soon(!) After I got up off the floor (again), I told him I honestly hadn't looked at them recently, but that with only 24K miles since I did all four wheels and given that the first set of pads & rotors lasted 60K miles, I couldn't believe they would be due anytime soon. He told me that the rotors were still well within spec, so I would only need to replace pads. That was the second thing that didn't make sense...I told him I thought BMWs *always* replaced rotors and pads together because they usually wore at equivalent rates. Apparently not.
The only reason for the accelerated wear my mechanic could offer is that BMW must have changed vendors or the vendor changed formulations. I had heard of E46's going through front brakes every 30K miles, but I figured that was because the pads and rotors were completely different than the E36. Apparently not. He then went on to say that he regularly replaces pads before rotors and that, depending on my driving style I might still have 5-10K miles left on them. I thanked him and then walked over to the parts counter to do some research.
I asked the Parts guy if he could trace the part numbers for me to see if BMW at least acknowledged any change in brake pad vendor or formulation via a different part number or whether BMW offered a "high performance" pad for special applications. He said there was only one applicable part number for front pads and another for rear pads because they were from different vendors. Fronts are made by "Textar" and the rears by "Jurid". I've never heard of either vendor, but the fact that my rear brakes were wearing on schedule and the fronts were in the crapper about 35K miles too soon made me think, "uh, Textar brake pads suck ass". Oddly, opinions online seem to favor Textar.
Now for the interesting part...I spoke to a friend with a '98 528 and he said he just replaced his original pads and rotors at a bit over 50K miles. Given that the 528 is a heavier car, it's no surprise he got 10K less life out of them than I did, but I think this proves that my experience with the original pads, while certainly exceptional, is not unique. BMW MUST have changed pads at some point after my car was built (perhaps replacing a semi-metallic with an organic). I told my friend to keep a close eye on his front brakes, because they will likely last half as long as the original set.
So, looks like front pads will need to be done sometime in December. My tires are also nearing end of life (and wearing evenly, incidentally), so I'll likely be out another $600 as well.
Oil Service (P&L): $89, Mileage 83584.