First Oil Change - 2011 BMW 528i Long-Term Road Test

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2011 BMW 528i: First Oil Change

July 22, 2011


Since our long-term 2011 BMW 528i was more than ready for an oil change by the time I returned from Montana, I called a dealership the morning after my return to schedule an appointment. So this was a Friday morning.

After a couple rounds of phone tag with Santa Monica BMW's switchboard and service department, I finally got in touch with Robert, who was friendly and professional, and quickly took down a lot information in detail (the car's VIN, the car's paint color, my address) so that it would all be in the computer when I arrived. He told me the service department had a slot available at 7:45 a.m. Monday and that I would have an "open appointment," meaning the first available service advisor would help when I arrived with the car. He also asked if I'd want to take the shuttle back to work, and I said yes.

When Monday morning rolled around, the appointment went smoothly... mostly.


When I arrived and pulled into the "Reservation Lane" at the dealership, a porter immediately approached and asked if I had an appointment. I said yes. Then, he asked which service advisor the appointment was with, and I said, oh, I was told it was an open appointment and that any service advisor could help me. He looked doubtful and went over to talk to one of the service advisors. That advisor looked up and asked why I was there, but didn't immediately offer to assist me. They continued to talk.

Meanwhile, I started taking some pictures (the ones you see here), and after a minute or two, another service advisor asked why I was there and then cheerfully beckoned me over to his desk. And we were in business.

Even though I'd given all that information over the phone, there was evidently still a lot of information for him to type in to make sure the oil service was covered under warranty so that the dealership can get paid by BMW. He asked me a question here and there to make sure that was all I wanted done today, and I said, yes, the car's doing fine, though I wouldn't mind if you topped off the windshield wiper fluid.

At one point, though, he turned serious, looked right at me, and asked, "Why were you taking photos of your car?"

"Because I'm writing about it."

"For BMW or for a magazine?"

This was a joyless exchange that put the customer on the spot, and it shouldn't have happened.

Then, the service advisor told me the car would be ready by 10 a.m. and that I could wait in the showroom for the shuttle. I had hoped to get the 528i washed, but all the service advisors had pieces of paper taped to their desks that read something like "Our car wash machine is out of order until August 15." I pointed to the sign and asked the advisor if that meant my car wouldn't be washed, and the answer was yes.

I went and put my name down for the shuttle and was told it would be back in 10-15 minutes. Almost 25 minutes later, I was ushered into a Chevrolet Uplander with two other owners. The van was perfectly tidy, but the level of NVH from the engine compartment as the driver accelerated up to 35 mph was pretty unpleasant. This is too many steps down the vehicle food chain for a BMW dealership; they should be using X5s or at the very least Honda Odysseys as their shuttle vehicles.

Around 10, I noticed a voicemail from my service advisor: "This is [xxx] from Santa Monica BMW. I need to talk to you about your car."

I called back and it turned out the service technician had found a nail in the left front tire and had written that "the rear tires are unsafe."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"I'm just reading what he wrote," said the service advisor. "Also, your vehicle is way out of alignment."

"Thanks," I said, "I'll take care of it."

I went and picked up the still dirty 528i, paid nothing and proceeded directly to Stokes (as in, Stokes our usual tire/alignment shop that just so happens to be right next to the BMW dealership). Stay tuned for a full report on the tires.

Overall, this service experience was just OK. It's great that it was free, but the level of professionalism from the service advisor was no better than what I've experienced at the Ford, Mazda and Nissan dealers on the same street. And it boggles the mind that a BMW dealership is not washing its customers' cars.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,308 miles

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