M5 E39 X-Continental Trip Attempt & Accident

Hello fine M5 brothers! I got in some frustrating trouble..

I decided to quit my job and take off to Europe for the summer with the M5, this decision was back in April. During May and beginning of June I moved out of my place and shipped a good amount of my stuff to Europe in a crate. Intention was to drive from LA to NYC and ship car to *anywhere* in Europe, by so getting a road trip out of it and faster shipment time from NYC than from LA. No real long term plan.. just ‘gotta do this or I’ll regret it’.

Before moving out, figured it was a good time to do quick photoshoot of my M5 in the driveway:

Some backstage shots.

Had the car on jacks between May 25th and June 12th, doing repairs for the transcontinental drive and Autobahn preparations.. which included:

  • Brakes/rotors
  • H&R spacers 15mm
  • EGR Valve
  • Valve covers
  • Spark plugs
  • Belts
  • Tensioners & pulleys
  • Transmission oil
  • Diff oil
  • Power steering fluid change/flush
  • Coolant flush
  • Oil change
  • Thermostat
  • Temp sensor
  • That other coolant sensor
  • Air filters
  • Fuel filter
  • Rear door vapor barrier fix
  • Hood alarm sensor
  • Other sensors…& misc other replacements and repairs I forget by now..
Power steering fluids getting replaced

Valve covers and spark plugs (among other things) getting tackled.

Had to move out of the house by end of May, the car was still on jack stands waiting for pulley tensioner to arrive from Clemster. Clemster saved my wallet and the day!!
These parts are $$$$ @ Stealer. The pulley tensioner bracket experienced ‘galvanic corrosion’ and the threads stripped. Very frustrating when stressed and trying to move out. Had no choice but to tow it to friend’s shop.

The M5 and CiTi commuter ‘proof of concept’ motorcycle at my friend’s shop.
He’s designing the safest motorcycle ‘3-wheeler’ in the world, able to split lanes, more narrow than a police motorcycle and will have a body shell, giving ability to drive in rain in traffic safely @ 50mpg w/ Aprilia motor @ 180hp.
This is the fist ‘proof of concept’, the first prototype is coming up.

Parts that are coming out/back in are organized on the left.
All clean and nice, all parts removed cleaned and close to polished… sponsored by the OCD kicking in.
Coming back together.

Replacing the transmission fluid with Royal Purple and a pump nozzle I purchased @ Autozone for $5.
The original ‘life time’ transmission fluid was actually fairly clear for being in for 100,000 miles. Since the transmission oil does not enter the combustion chamber / cylinders like engine oil does, the oil does not get polluted with carbons, etc like engine oil. Gear oil was fairly clear too after 100,000 miles. The original transmission oil smelled like latex rubber, and Royal Purple smelled more like transmission fluid.

I didn’t believe in these “pseudo effects” people post here about smoother shifts after transmission oil change, but indeed it was slightly smoother shift, especially engaging into 1st gear. So, yes… it does make a difference.

Car was finished after sitting on jack stands for 14 days. Packed up & it was time to hit the road and drive from LA to NYC to ship car to Europe.

Leaving Orange County / Southern CA at 8pm to head east to NYC.

Left LA on June 14th, with flight ticket and container booked at NYC and by midnight was in middle of Arizona desert cruising comfortably when … SUDDENLY .. BAM!!!!!!

A shredded truck tire appears flying at the speed of sound from the semi truck in the right lane.. and nails the front of the car. The tire made the car jump of the ground as it passed underneath. Immediately pull over to asses damage, based on the hit (never hit anything close to that hard before)… there’s damage.

Get out and see the lower front end of the car missing and/or shredded with semi truck tire rubber/shrapnel lodged in auxiliary fan, preventing it from spinning. Immediately concluded that the trip is not happening and this will be needing a very far tow.
Cancelled air line tickets, container shipments, hotels, etc.. sucks with only-partial or non-refunds policies. Makes me think it is cheaper just to not plan anything and hope for best outcome in last minute- say hoping finding airline ticket same day for good price, etc.

The oxygen sensors are ripped off, all undercarriage panels damaged/destroyed, front bumper and fog lights wasted. Radiator bent back (stupid design on these cars- no lower core support), coolant smell appears as I keep running the car seeing if anything is getting stuck in belt fan or elsewhere; assessing if the car can be driven slowly to a better place.

The remnants of the semi truck tire after impact:

Fog light placed for comparison

Call AAA and I got the premium membership which offers 200 miles of free towing once a year (totally payed off for me). The AAA tow truck takes 3 hours to appear and at 3:00 am the car is moved onto the tow truck.

Still stoked on the repairs and new pulleys (that quieted engine down). The car has 152,000 miles on it and engine runs very quietly and smoothly. Sounds as if it was new. The tow truck driver had the tow truck turned off and desert silence (aside from distant cars), and was attaching the straps to the vehicle and asked “Is this thing on?”… lol. Stock exhaust & ripped oxygen sensors. HA!

Since there was 3 of us in the car AAA tried getting a crew cab tow truck, but no luck in the middle of cactus world. The tow truck driver offers us to sit in the M5 on the flat bed for the ~6 hour drive back to LA basin, since there’s no room in the cab. For next hours, we do exactly that. Bumpy ride I have to tell you, even with M5 and tow truck suspension. Tow truck’s charging $6/mile so AAA had a nice bill after 230+ miles to east side of So-Cal/San Bernardino city, where I had to pitch the final difference of 30+ miles. 9 hours later I arrived back in So-Cal @ 9am. As the morning dawned, realized there’s 2-3 shredded semi tires every mile. The Arizona heat from the asphalt, friction, etc. causes tires to fail at a high rate, leaving debris everywhere…

Tow truck ride:

Does not really show the full extent of damage here. That tire weighted 50+ pounds and at ~75mph the impact is serious, even if it is only rubber. It bends metal, rips through plastic bumper like it was a glowing hot Hattori Hanzo through butter.

I was concerned about the car getting salvaged due to age and high miles (Salvaged cars are not allowed in Germany/Autobahn)…
But the damage has to exceed 80% of car value and car was valued at $15,000+ by Mercury Insurance inspector/adjuster… @ 152,000 miles. These machines keep up the value lately…

Take the car initially to the first body shop I can find in San Bernardino, it is M&G auto body, quite small but it was the only one that picked up the phone on early Sunday morning. Drop the car/keys off and head home to get some sleep.

Now comes the trouble:

Epic road trip and inter-transcontinental drive delayed, I want a fast resolution.. but not so fast according to Mercury.

The insurance inspector shows up 3 days later, I head to meet him at shop and go over the damage.

Damage was on:

  • Radiator dis-lodged from support and smelling coolant
  • Radiator metal core support piece slightly out of alignment
  • Head lights pointing down severely low (noticed when parked after accident)
  • Hood (bent and scratched by tire wires)
  • Bumper
  • Aux fan
  • Oxygen sensors ripped off
  • Headlight Washer system
  • All undercarriage panels
  • Ambient temp sensor missing
  • Fuel line retaining/fastener bracket
  • Front Brake-air ducts bent up
  • Told them to throw away Dinan Cold air intake water guards (mangled)
  • Fog lights
  • Plastics surrounding Aux fan

The Mercury insurance inspector advises me taking car to a better shop where they can inspect the cooling system (since no visible leaks, just smell) and where he would take his car to…. Caliber Collision in Riverside, CA.

After a cluster F*** of towing hassle and a day wasted on that, the car arrives at Caliber Collision only for them to notify me contrary to Inspector’s statements that they can’t paint the car there because they only deal with official BMW colors and I got custom paint job “Hot Rod Flatz’.
I am more concerned with getting the cooling system/radiator inspected and the mis-aligned core support adjusted back straight.
I advise on the concerns issues, go over car with Caliber rep. Caliber calls me 3 days later, saying “Please come by, show us again what were your concerns”…I drive to them AGAIN (30+ miles one way for the nTh time) to repeat myself on just about everything.

Then Mercury / Caliber notifies me they won’t be able to do anything with the hood because it had “previous repairs”. I state it was in acceptable condition and send the same photos as posted above, where they rebuttal with “It is not up to industry standard”.
Well at least.. if they are so concerned with “Industry Standard” the rest of the vehicle should come out in top shape…minus paint. .. WRONG!

I get notified vehicle is “COMPLETE”, after more than 2 weeks. I drive to pick it up. The work performed on vehicle is something that could have taken me 1 day to get parts and 1 day to fix…. but I would have to be on some serious drugs to do such a poor quality job.

On preliminary inspection I notice:

  • The radiator/core support is not straightened or replaced, not touched what-so-ever.
  • The Aux fan that got hit only has the outside ‘mesh’ plastic replaced, though still spinning & wobbling, it was hit heavily during impact.
  • The fog lights are fogged up (lol). These are supposed to be water tight & brand new.
  • The fog light covers/bezel is missing
  • The head lights are still pointing down 20 feet in front of vehicle making it unsafe to drive. They just ignored this completely.
  • The bumper is not aligned to headlights with one side having a bigger gap than other.
  • The undercarriage panels are miss-aligned. I suppose they did not bother replacing the bent brackets holding such panels.

The shop Caliber Collision, claiming being best in industry and Mercury just bombed the job completely.
Here is the ‘damaged’ fruit of their labor considered “COMPLETE”. What a joke & all per Mercury’s recommendations.

Missing bezel and fogged up brand new ‘water tight’ lights.
Majestic undercarriage protection panel mis-alignment. Far far far worse than with original panels I had until 150,000 miles.

I drove to Caliber, expected to pick up vehicle, then notified of missing bezels/OEM parts and drove back to OC and kept rental until they fix it right, while figuring out what to do about paint situation w/ Mercury. Then I was notified by Mercury the car is indeed “COMPLETE” and I have to pick it up and return rental. 91 Fwy is some of worst traffic on planet and I wasted literally all day on it getting yanked back and forth by Insurance / Collision Repair Facility. Nightmare.

At this point I actually want to summon the hive mind of the M5Board to find the best BMW repair shop in Orange County and best independent inspector, which is where I want to take the car. Upon inspection I want to get the paperwork of the short comings and submit it with a lawyer to file suit. I have some lawyers in mind but maybe you guys know some really nasty ones that can make Caliber and Mercury bend over and take it so hard that they’ll be walking like cowboys for months for negligence and wasting my time & lost wages, etc. I want to get nasty with them.

I’ve lost more than 2 weeks of my trip already, sitting in limbo in LA waiting for things to get fixed.. now I have to spend more time fixing the negligence issues.
Paying the deductible at Caliber Collision body shop when picking up the car in this shape, was insulting, to say the least.

After bending Mercury over and sending them all the way back to Stonage or Mars, I will try again. I am too deep in on this to quit now.

July 4th, 2014
I called the insurance company and stated my lawyering up procedures and so and seems like they have gotten the message.
The car will be next week at Century Collision in Orange, CA and the inspectors will go over it and insurance company will pull their own inspectors out there as well.

I also got some ‘customer quality assurance’ representative calling me today and asking about my satisfaction at Caliber Collision.
I stated my nightmare scenario with Caliber, just like written up here.

Then came the kicker: The insurance guy said “Would you recommend Caliber Collision to your friends or family?”
I responded with “Absolutely NOT, matter of fact I posted the whole story on the Internet on BMW M5 enthusiast forum and a lawyer who owns same car said ‘How do they sleep at night, performing such work’… and one member EVEN offered to PayPal me beer money as condolences for what I have to deal with Caliber. I am not joking, go look it up on M5Board.”

July 11th, 2014
I delivered the car to Century Collision in Orange, CA beginning of this week. Found them through old posts on M5Board and figured if M5Board-ers say it’s alright, I should try them out. Caesar (owner) is definitely knowledgeable, I got a decent feeling.

The car was lifted up and Mercury Insurance adjuster came around again on Tuesday, I went in to Century Collision to attend the assessment of ‘damage’ done by Caliber Collision Riverside. Caliber did not replace various damaged parts that were hiding above the under-trays/engine covers.

Since I drove to Caliber Collision Riverside 3 times to explain exactly what I see damaged, ensure those fools do it right (one of the times it was them who called me over to show them everything I see damaged by accident), here’s what is in my opinion a fraud move and total negligence:

The oxygen sensors were damaged/ripped off by the truck tire. Not only did Caliber Collision Riverside not replace the oxygen sensor wires that were ripped apart at connectors (just reconnected them, not sure if the connector locking mechanism still even works), but they skipped to replace the protective housing for the connectors and merely zip-tied them in flimsy manner to a remaining bolt with a SINGLE zip tie!!! Not two or three zip-ties, but ONE!! I could have done better on side of road at accident location and continued driving. Left unprotected, this stuff is asking to get ripped off and damaged again by any debris traveling under the car that can latch onto the wire, on an engine critical part!

One of many damaged parts not replaced by Caliber Collision:

Here’s a list of existing concerns I sent to Mercury Insurance to evaluate at Century Collision, after Caliber Collision failed me.

  • Hood not touched
  • Bumper not painted
  • Headlights still pointing down with light only visible ~20-30 feet in front of car, rendering safe driving speed on non-lighted road/freeway at max 35-40 mph. The headlight beams also shake on Freeway bumps now. Looked up issue online on the BMW forums- there’s ‘plastic adjusters’ in the headlights that might have snapped from impact, other apparent issue/option is the headlight leveling adjuster mechanism by the wheel assembly is not properly assembled and/or damaged.
  • Fog light covers missing
  • Fog light fogged up with condensation/moisture (is this an OEM part?)
  • Undercarriage panels miss-aligned in front end, driver’s side ( I can’t see further deeper in under car without lifting up vehicle)
  • Undercarriage panel loose at one location/not attached under driver door, behind driver’s front wheel
  • Radiator still dislodged/offset from original position, as visibly noted by the offset on driver side radiator brackets on top of core support.
  • Concerns of leaking AC system/condenser (since it sits in front of radiator, behind aux fan) Yesterday, for first time in 7 years of ownership, I had to re-fill R134 refrigerant due to AC blowing warm, used to be ~40*F output at max cold setting (I have video of a temp test I performed a while ago). Note that the passenger side will start blowing warmer air than driver’s side as AC system loses pressure, by so that’s an indicator. I refilled it to just above ‘acceptable’ pressure, so let’s keep an eye on that, and easiest way to check is discrepancy between Driver’s side and Passenger side as pressure is lost, unless tested with proper AC tools and pressure loss is noted.
  • Anything else that comes up during your inspection. I also do have detailed video of most of the car’s front end with undercarriage panels removed, right before accident, because I spent 14 days repairing the car and preparing it for the transcontinental road trip, and filmed/photographer everything in order to post my progress on the enthusiast forums and personal reference.

Aside from list above, upon removing undercarriage panels at Century Collision for further inspection on Tuesday with Insurance agent on spot— not all undercarriage protection panels that were damaged were replaced, new panels hanging lose/not attached properly, bolts and plastic fastening clips missing/forgotten, the Oxygen sensors were zip-tied, as shown in image above, brake-air duct assembly that was mangled/bent was straightened slightly with pliers and left damaged, the attachment brackets for undercarriage panels that were bent were also left un-touched in existing damaged condition.

I never raised my voice with Caliber Collision, maybe this was a mistake, but it appears they mistook the calmness in my voice for the ‘wind noise’ a sledge hammer makes before impacting at full force.

Update July 19th, 2014
The car is still at ‘new’ body shop – Century Collision. Haven’t called them on car update last couple days.
The insurance agent did send me a copy of the new repair bill at new shop and it is about equal in cost to previous body shop, provided most exterior parts were purchased by previous shop, it shows how much they skipped out on.

But on the major part issues- they are replacing the AC condenser that sits in front of radiator. It started leaking from accident.

This week I was busy with a “emergency project” my old employer called me about once they found out I am still here in good old USA, AND talking to attorneys and getting (expensive) advise on how to maneuver the legal roadway to make sure I send Caliber Collision back to stone-age & to ensure that I don’t waste good money to chase bad money.

Frustration is still in the air. I’ve lost over a month of time, with no real place to stay at, in limbo. Summer is not exactly waiting for me either. Out of pocket expenses (towing, deductibles, etc) associated with this crap are adding up too. One of most upsetting facts is that my sister who was traveling with me initially, won’t be able to come along, as she’s going back to Australia. + Missed strawberry season in Europe + missed mid-summer eve (equally big to X-mas in Europe). Frustrations go on…

Update July 29th, 2014
After Caliber Collision blew the job completely, I had the car towed to Century Collision in Orange, CA.
Century Collision in Orange, CA has had the car for 3 weeks and completely blown the job.. again.

When I dropped off the car, Caesar- the owner, expressed confidence in repairing the vehicle and confidence in painting the vehicle. I met with him a total of 3 times before releasing the car for repairs, each time I expressed request to get the actual paint used on the car which is Hot Rod Flatz by TCP Global in San Diego. He said he has done many flat black jobs and not to worry about it, that he knows what paint that is.. bla bla bla. Pretty much didn’t want to hear about it, that type of arrogance. The bumper and hood has now been painted TWICE, because they can not match the paint. Now they are going for a 3rd coat/layer.

At Century Collision, Caesar, me and the Insurance Inspector/Estimator went over parts and repairs neglected by Caliber Collision, Riverside. Century has replaced some of the written up issues (AC Condenser, one undercarriage tray), the damaged brake air ducts are still left on. The radiator is still unseated/dislodged. Radiator should have logically been adjusted when repairing AC condenser.
Rest of the parts are still off or missing.. car is obviously disassembled.

Here’s what it looks like, at Century Collision:

Damaged air still on car:

2nd Paint job, still not matching.. “Going for 3rd paint job” … this is what happens when one doesn’t listen to where to get the paint from.
After 7 weeks… apparently no ‘quality’ shop in So-Cal can do a basic BMW repair job.
Radiator still dislodged from original position. Should have been done along with Condenser replacement.
I have no idea what they have done here, but they’ve messed up the fender paint.

I told Century Collision to freeze the job, that I am pulling the car out and going to yet another body shop, but first the Mercury estimator/inspector is coming out again.
I have not yet figured out where I will take it. I rather just do it all myself. At this point in time I have serious trust issues and a whole lot of time wasted. Patience is about to end.

Accident happened at 6/14 and its now almost August and very little progress has been made.
I’m raising hell on all ends. In short, everyone is pointing fingers, insurance pointing toward body shops, and they are deflecting all they can.
I am completely exhausted dealing with this.

Update August 1st, 2014
Mercury has now assigned an ‘lead inspector’ to go look at the car every day, until completion at Century Collision.
Mercury is playing the ‘non Mercury recommended body shop’ card, to cover liability, and the inspector is likely there to make sure Mercury has their liability covered.
The inspector is a knowledgeable guy though, and good to have 3rd party to keep track of issues, taking photos and date-stamping everything. He deals with lawsuits apparently.

Century Collision shop has not ordered the paint from TCP Global, even though requested by me numerous times, from day one and now by Mercury inspector. Today the inspector went by and Century Collision had no answer to him why they have not ordered the paint from the source requested. The car is just sitting there and collecting dust with no end date of repairs in sight.

Century Collision, appearing as a reputable shop with more than 30 cars on location, is run with such neglect that it is hard to comprehend how they are still in business.

The inspector advised that if I pull the car from there, non-completed out, they might charge storage fees and administrative fees and keep the repair $$$$ disbursement.

I am not sure what is wrong with people these days. I have lost faith in humanity. I’m getting the Bureau of Automotive Repairs involved as well, to get more documentation and leverage.

Just got call from ‘Lead Inspector’ who’s stating that Caliber Collision stated to the inspector that “Customer knew of everything they have not completed and was OK with it”…..BS.

Update August 8th, 2014

The current shop Century Collision has been fiddling with the paint for last 5 weeks, trying to get it right. It appears they have finally gotten the paint fairly close.. I’m awaiting evaluation on this once they have the car in clear and dusted off. I’ll see how it is, but I was about to walk out and just take the car unfinished and the losses (no paint, just time wasted), when they finally appear to have got it right. I still don’t know why they just didn’t use the paint I had before- Hot Rod Flatz, but insisted mixing their own? Would been a lot easier excuses for them had they used the paint I told them to.. but I have no more energy to deal with this right now; had I known this will be such an nightmare, I would have drastically changed plans right after accident, maybe just buttoned up the car and kept driving to NYC.

I’ll just re-paint the entire car soon enough, again. It’s the story of my life and I accept it.
One day I will buy one of those 3000 mile 2003 M5’s on AutoTrader and oykk the interior out and almost all parts and replace all the worn parts on my machine and then on top paint it flawlessly, I don’t care it if weeks of prep work.. then for couple of days it will be perfect.

Now I have to figure out how to go about the trip the best, since I lost two months of time dicking around with the car and insurance companies. Been a frustrating experience to say the least.
Car won’t be in Europe until fall, no matter how I look at it. Blahh.

Update Late August, 2014

Guess what’s back?! … now I just got to figure out the trip from scratch again, because I canceled everything scheduled 2 months ago when mis-hap happened.

But the issues keep on coming…
Mercury Insurance.. the insurance company, has been sending ‘high level’ inspectors out every day to the body shop, and giving me update/call daily on the situation. Likely this is to cover themselves for lawsuits, which they are VERY good at covering for, but it helped with getting the car done. They’re definitely working it after some whipping.

The body shop…

  • They didn’t adjust the radiator support after telling them REPEATEDLY too many times to count, but re-funded me the $$$ for that instead.
  • The parking sensors were not working once I got the car; fixed myself.
  • The parking sensor wires are hanging visible behind the lower grille/mesh…not tucked in where they supposed to be, once I remove bumper, I’ll fix that.
  • The headlights were 20 feet up in the air at 100 feet distance… at least they are new and not pointing down/broken; fixed/adjusted myself.
  • As they replaced headlights, they threw away the old headlights & body parts before I had a chance to even pick up the car, by so throwing away the White Angel Eye bulbs. Just ordered new ones.
  • Car’s been painted 3x or 4x (didn’t even bother to ask how many times), but it’s nowhere perfect or good enough, although tolerable for now until end of winter. I’m going to respray whole car so it’s consistent later.
  • Hood emblem is missing, but the shop is working on that and it’ll paint it black.
  • The AC on passenger side is blowing warm; a refrigerant pressure issue, but they refused to top it off, due to liability because they said it’s according to spec now. So I’ll just do that on my own.
  • They said they added 1/8 ounce of PAG oil in new condenser (rest of PAG is in rest of system), we’ll see how that works out. Seems awfully little.

Some $K later, couple months and now I got to figure out how to get to Europe, again.