Found a “Catalog Error” at one of my parts suppliers.

Can you spot the difference?

I’m preparing for a road trip in a few weeks in the E85M, and addressing some issues that have accumulated over the past few years. One is that my washer fluid reservoir leaks. If I fill it up it will be empty in about a day. This prompts one of those annoying yellow lights right between the two big gauges on the dash. (The other light is right next to it, the TPMS system. I know the problem there… all my wheels are as old as the car, which was built in late 2006, so their batteries are dead. I’ve sent one set of wheels to my local tire shop for new shoes and new TPMS sensors. I could rant about how TPMS creates as many problems as it solves, much like OOB/Out of Band management infrastructure for remote server management… but I’ll spare you. )

Last year I replaced all the grommet-seals around where the pumps for the windscreen and headlight washers attach to the reservoir. I figured if there was a leak, it would be the most likely cause. Fifteen+ year old rubber, living in a dry environment, etc. Nope. It is the reservoir itself. My favorite BMW parts supplier has always been Bavarian Autoworks, but they suddenly went TANGO UNIFORM a few years back. Of course I had a shelf full of cores to return to them for credit. Shrug.

So now I buy from a range of suppliers, including the company that bought up the remains of BavAuto and another one that is named after an ugly seabird. The latter primarily serves P-car people, but they are on the west coast and usually ship to me very quickly. So I went on their website, plugged in my car, and searched for “washer fluid reservoir” and they presented two options. One said only for early 2006 cars with no headlight washers. The other didn’t say anything about restrictions like that so I assumed it was the right choice. Some USPS shenanigans later and some time away from home, I finally got to shop to install the new part. Wrestle the old one out, which is tougher than it sounds because all the things that plug into it (two washer pumps and a level sensor at the bottom that is attached by a VERY short wire) are hidden underneath the rather large reservoir.

Finally freed from the car I grab the replacement and look at it and note the difference shown in the photograph. There is no place to put the washer pump for the headlights. I call the vendor and talk to customer service about returning it. They say “just go on the website and order a new one, then fill out an RMA form.”

Okay, go to the website and look at the two reservoirs they list for my car and one says “Not for cars with headlight cleaning” and THE ONE THAT I HAVE IN MY HAND, which also doesn’t work with headlight cleaning.

Okay, now I’m confused. So I call them back, and instead of navigating the phone tree to customer service, I head for the “BMW parts specialists”. A guy named “Gene” gets on the call with me and we spend some time together figuring out the situation. I tell him how I got here and he agrees that something is wrong. We use my car’s VIN to search for the part and he sees the same thing I do. I tell him the part number of the leaking reservoir that came out of my car, and he says they have it, but not showing that it fits in my car. Sure enough, I search by part number and thar she blows…

Fits a lot of 3 series cars, including the contemporary M3.

So my car is an odd mashup of the E85 Z4 and the E46 M3. Basically the running gear and suspension of the latter (S54, 6-speed manual, clutch, brakes, EMS, and suspension) of the M3 squeezed into the smaller, lighter chassis of the Z4. It’s a wonderful machine taking the best aspects of each parent and making a badass little sports car.

Gene agrees with me that the error is on their side, and sends me the right part with expedited shipping and agrees to hand me off to customer service for arranging the RMA of the incorrect part. So, problem (likely) solved. Hopefully I get it here and installed before my road trip.