"It looks like you killed a Smurf," said an oh-so descriptive co-worker while we were inspecting the driver's side of the X3. Smurf guts or not, someone hit something blue. And that something had splattered all along the driver side of our poor SUV. The color is what I've decided to call Handicap Parking Spot Blue (which incidentally isn't too different from Ford's Grabber Blue), and it was everywhere.

From the direction of the spray, it looks to have pooled around the driver front tire, and when the X3 started rolling again, that tire flung the blue stuff everywhere: front bumper, rear bumper, wheel wells, every side body panel, trim pieces, and both wheels. The body shop work visit was not going to be inexpensive.

Fortunately, South Bay BMW, in Torrance, CA, sublets to a body shop, and when the X3's dash indicated a service interval was approaching -- at around the 15,000-mile mark -- I decided to try taking care of both issues there. Beyond the availability of a body shop, I chose South Bay because of the friendly and quick service I had experienced last time, not to mention the manual 335i convertible loaner they offered.

Like last time, the dealership experience went smoothly. I called the day before to schedule an appointment, showed up on time, and was met by a pleasant service advisor. I left shortly thereafter in a 24-hour complimentary 328i loaner (sadly, the 335i convertible had sold). If I had opted to stay and wait, the dealership offered iPads to pass the time with.

Later that afternoon, my service advisor called to inform me that the service was finished and the body shop estimate was ready. The total service cost for an oil change and inspection? Zero, thanks to BMW's complimentary service program that lasts 4 years and 50,000 miles.

Unfortunately, the estimate from the body shop, Prestige Too Autobody, also in Torrance, wasn't so low. Their team tried to remove the apparently oil-based blue paint from the body panels with light tools, like a clay bar and a buffer, to no avail. The solution? The X3 would have to spend a few days being repainted, and we'd be out (or our insurance company) a few thousand dollars -- $3401.37, to be exact.

The X3's visit to the body shop was painless, aside from the price. Even with the enormous amount of trim that had to be replaced and the number of panels that had to be repainted, it emerged less than a week later free of blue paint. It also emerged free of tape marks, overspray, and orange peel, a sign of the care the body shop took when performing the work. The color of the repainted panels matches the rest of the car perfectly; it's nigh impossible to tell that it's been repainted. The bill may have been high, but the X3 certainly received the high quality work we paid for.

Next month, we'll take a closer looks at the throttle delay issue the X3 has been exhibiting. We plan on strapping on the test gear to see if we can pinpoint the delay and, eventually, find a fix.


Our Car
Months/miles in service9/19,332
Avg econ/CO221.4 mpg/0.91 lb/mi
Energy cons157 kW-hr/100 mi
Unresolved problemsThrottle delay
Maintenance cost $0 (2- oil change, tire rotation, inspection)
Normal-wear cost$0