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ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
10/1/15 5:08 a.m.

Good advice in this thread. I left VW/Audi years ago for BMW and have not regretted it. Wouldn't own a VAG product out of warranty that's been built since, oh, 1992. Ditto Mercedes-Benz.

My BMW parts vendor of choice is Pelican Parts. Best prices I've found and a web site that is easy to use. I don't find RockAuto particularly special nor do I get all the fawning over BavAuto. For upgrades I like Bimmerworld the best.

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/1/15 6:59 a.m.

Regarding the electrical silliness referenced for the E46-era cars: You can get PA Soft BMW programming tool for $30 and code everything. Lots of online support. Replace that pesky headlight switch without the tamper dot, or switch out clusters (headlight switch is the redundant data center for the odo.) You can recurve the temp gauge to provide meaningful data. It's a must-have.

http://www.amazon.com/iSaddle-Scanner-Programmer-Diagnostic-Windows/dp/B008RHJTS2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443698612&sr=8-1&keywords=pa+soft

Of course with all that wizardry and special tools required to ensure nobody could tamper with the odo reading when the car was new -- now you can just flash the odo to whatever you want for $30. Different tools, but no harder than rolling the odo back in the old days. Buyer beware.

t25torx
t25torx Dork
10/1/15 7:49 a.m.

See my restoration thread for what usually goes wrong when someone defers maintenance on an E39. https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/wheeler-dealers-usa-episode-3-2001-bmw-525i/90566/page1/

The hardest thing to do on this car was actually replacing the ABS Computer, has to be VIN coded to the car. I bought a $10 cable off ebay and downloaded the BMW software from one of the forums for free. I would probably only go upto an E46 if I was wanting to keep maintenance costs down.

dherr
dherr New Reader
10/1/15 8:24 a.m.
mad_machine wrote: I drove a 318ti for ten years... car only left me broke down once.. and that was for a bad fuel pump.. and even then, it started one last time to actually get me home. Unlike an American car.. replacing the pump was easy peasy.. pull up the bottom of the backseat.. unscrew a couple of screws holding a plate tight to the floor.. and there was the top of the tank. Parts were cheap too.. like cheaper than the Hyundai it replaced

Yes, I just ordered a fuel pump last night. The car will start on a little starter fluid, so it is getting spark, and when I bypass the relay, I can hear the pump spin but not getting fuel, so 95% sure the pump just gave up. Pretty common issue on these E36 cars from what I understand, but simple to swap out. Should have the car running soon, I'll list on the 2015 classifieds if anyone is interested in a cheap e36 convertible.

Chris_V
Chris_V UberDork
10/1/15 9:05 a.m.
pointofdeparture wrote: And you wouldn't find me dead in a post-E32 7-series. Avoid any BMW with an automatic transmission...not just because they are lame, but because they are garbage.

So much hate here that I'm loathe to respond, but...

The E38 is not garbage. It's easy to work on and cheap to buy OEM parts for. I've had two of them and love them for daily driving and spirited backroads, as they get smaller around you the faster they go. The Steptronic trans in the Sports is a great transmission, well suited to the car and it's mission (both sporty and luxurious).

This is my last one:

And this is my current one:

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/1/15 9:21 a.m.

What about 2002/1600s? There's a ton of them around where I live, but you don't see many on the road.

Harvey
Harvey HalfDork
10/1/15 10:11 a.m.

I really like the E38 7 series as it is a big car that drives much smaller. I think they have probably reached the point where you can do most major work on it yourself if you're so inclined, but a 3 series is still easier and cheaper to deal with.

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/1/15 10:39 a.m.
Kreb wrote: What about 2002/1600s? There's a ton of them around where I live, but you don't see many on the road.

It's because they have all returned to the earth. And the ones that are left are vintage swaggermobiles. I'd love to have a 2002 for a vintage car, but couldn't ever find one that wasn't rusted all to hell or too expensive for an occasional use car. A really nice one is an appreciating asset and a helluva lot more fun to stash your money than an ETF, CD, or your 401k.

A 5spd-equipped 320i makes a nice parts car so you can get freeway-friendly gearing.

320s are the forgotten Bimmer. Worth next to nothing, usually because they're parked with CIS issues...that wonderful injection system that is much-defended here so I shall not speak ill of it.

02Pilot
02Pilot Dork
10/1/15 10:40 a.m.
Kreb wrote: What about 2002/1600s? There's a ton of them around where I live, but you don't see many on the road.

Wonderful cars, stupid easy to work on. The usual enemy is rust. Find a non-rusty one that just needs mechanical work and you're golden. I've owned and driven mine for 20 years.

Harvey
Harvey Dork
10/1/15 10:47 a.m.

My father had a 1600 for most of my early years. And then after that we had a 320i that I drove as one of my first cars.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/1/15 10:58 a.m.
02Pilot wrote:
Kreb wrote: What about 2002/1600s? There's a ton of them around where I live, but you don't see many on the road.
Wonderful cars, stupid easy to work on. The usual enemy is rust. Find a non-rusty one that just needs mechanical work and you're golden. I've owned and driven mine for 20 years.

In California they don't tend to rust that bad. But for every nice one, there's several that have been run hard and put away wet, and need substantial attention to make nice again. So my question is mainly as regards parts to make them whole. Common and reasonable? Or scarce and pricey?

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture PowerDork
10/1/15 11:17 a.m.

In reply to Chris_V:

That is a TOTAL misquote. I never said that the E38 was garbage, just that you wouldn't find me in anything post-E32. I said that the automatic transmissions are garbage, because they pretty much are. Remember that these have the factory "lifetime fill;" nobody but the most savvy owners ever think that the factory recommendation might not be kosher, and as such, you see a LOT of the BMW autos crapping the bed at about 150k. And that ZF steptronic might be a neat transmission when it works right, but try to find someone willing to help you out when it needs a rebuild...or price out the special fluid it needs...yeah.

Some might have had good luck with the E38 but all that I have personally laid eyes on and driven have been ragged and full of problems. I also have little interest in any BMW without a straight six. Ergo, I have no interest in any 7-series beyond the E32.

gearheadmb
gearheadmb Reader
10/1/15 11:34 a.m.
t25torx wrote: See my restoration thread for what usually goes wrong when someone defers maintenance on an E39. https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/wheeler-dealers-usa-episode-3-2001-bmw-525i/90566/page1/

That was a really good build thread, thanks for the link. When looking at the final results it is hard to believe that car was ever a $1000 beater.

02Pilot
02Pilot Dork
10/1/15 12:05 p.m.
Kreb wrote:
02Pilot wrote:
Kreb wrote: What about 2002/1600s? There's a ton of them around where I live, but you don't see many on the road.
Wonderful cars, stupid easy to work on. The usual enemy is rust. Find a non-rusty one that just needs mechanical work and you're golden. I've owned and driven mine for 20 years.
In California they don't tend to rust that bad. But for every nice one, there's several that have been run hard and put away wet, and need substantial attention to make nice again. So my question is mainly as regards parts to make them whole. Common and reasonable? Or scarce and pricey?

Mostly common and reasonable. The engine is the tough-as-nails M10; at the absolute worst you might have to pull the head and have it refreshed, but in most cases the motor will not require more than fresh ignition parts, new oil, and maybe some carb fiddling. The suspension is simple and there are replacement parts for everything in there - just do it all at once and call it done. Drivetrain might need the guibo and/or center support bearing, and wheel bearings will go from time to time. Brakes are simple and decent out of the box; upgrades are not hard and well-documented. Electrics are simple, so there's not much to worry about there. The only stuff I'm aware of being in short supply are some interior trim pieces, especially in the less-common colors, and much of the Euro-spec and early model (1600) bits.

Chris_V
Chris_V UberDork
10/1/15 12:12 p.m.
pointofdeparture wrote: In reply to Chris_V: That is a TOTAL misquote. I never said that the E38 was garbage, just that you wouldn't find me in anything post-E32.

One of the interesting words in the English language is "implication." You did it when you said that and then said the automatics are garbage. The E38 is post E32 and has an automatic. Thus the implication. In my experience the E38 is a better driver's car than the E32, and I think it looks better. And it's as easy and cheap to work on, and may have a much larger supply of parts that are cheaper than the E32, especially OEM parts. I know the aftermarket is larger for the E38.

I like the big 6 in the smaller cars, but for the full size cars, the V8s and V12s are just better choices (and I'd love to add an '01 750iL Sport to the collection)

I said that the automatic transmissions are garbage, because they pretty much are. Remember that these have the factory "lifetime fill;" nobody but the most savvy owners ever think that the factory recommendation might not be kosher, and as such, you see a LOT of the BMW autos crapping the bed at about 150k.

I see a lot of cars of every type E36 M3ting the bed at 150k due to lack of maintenance. But most of the E38s I've had the pleasure of dealing with have been going strong well past that point (my first one had 143k on the original trans when I got it and was still perfect at 185k). My current one had 150k on it when I got it. Trans works just fine.

Yes, there are horror stories of "Transmission Failsafe Program" messages and the cars going into limp mode, but they aren't as common as you might think and often have nothing to do with the transmission.

And even though they are lifetime fill, many people do the BG Flush on them and have great luck up to 250-300k miles.

And that ZF steptronic might be a neat transmission when it works right, but try to find someone willing to help you out when it needs a rebuild...or price out the special fluid it needs...yeah.

When it needs a rebuild, you replace it as good used ones are inexpensive. But they rarely need a rebuild. And a BG Flush costs a reasonable amount, so just do that instead of pricing out BMW fluids.

Some might have had good luck with the E38 but all that I have personally laid eyes on and driven have been ragged and full of problems.

Then you've barely experienced them at all. I'm in an owners group of a few hundred of them and none are ragged and beat on. Check out E38.org and the E38 section of both bimmerboards and bimmerforums. It's a great, large community of people that know quite a bit about these cars.

Here's a part of a recent local meet of my group, Midatlantic 7s:

And another:

And here's my buddy's 500 hp supercharged one:

The_Jed
The_Jed UberDork
10/1/15 12:19 p.m.

I ride my bike past a haggard E34 535i almost every day on my way to the gym. The windows are tinted so I can't tell if it's a manual or slushbox.

Despite the haggardness it still kindles a lust in me for a sporty European Sedan.

gearheadmb
gearheadmb Reader
10/1/15 1:34 p.m.

Ok, so I feel we have established that ownership experience for e36 and e46 isnt bad. It looks like parts are cheaper than I expected, and the work itself isnt that bad.

But what about the drive itself? Im thinking 3 series, 6cyl, manual trans. Is it "The Ultimate Driving Experience" or will I will a guy quickly get bored with it? This important to me because Im ultimately thinking of consolidating the fleet. Selling off a few vehicles including the mustang, and combining the hobby vehicle and the commuter vehicle into one bmw. Keep in mind that it most likely wouldnt be an M3, as prices are pretty steep on those. So I want something that will hold my interest more than five minutes.

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture PowerDork
10/1/15 1:48 p.m.

In reply to gearheadmb:

BMW has steering, clutch and shifter feel like nobody else in the biz. They may not be the fastest cars on the planet, but the level of feedback they provide really does make them a pleasure to drive, even for cars like the base 318i. So as long as you don't NEED 300HP to have a decent time (some people do if this board is any indication) you'll probably really enjoy the experience.

Harvey
Harvey Dork
10/1/15 1:58 p.m.
t25torx wrote: See my restoration thread for what usually goes wrong when someone defers maintenance on an E39. https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/wheeler-dealers-usa-episode-3-2001-bmw-525i/90566/page1/ The hardest thing to do on this car was actually replacing the ABS Computer, has to be VIN coded to the car. I bought a $10 cable off ebay and downloaded the BMW software from one of the forums for free. I would probably only go upto an E46 if I was wanting to keep maintenance costs down.

What happened to the other build you were promising?

CobraSpdRH
CobraSpdRH Reader
10/1/15 2:46 p.m.

So I'm going through this thread and pop open AT to see what is in my area, and I come across this E36 323 vert and think, hmm, interesting. But scrolling through the pictures, all of a sudden I see a RHD picture, then a LHD picture with what looks like the same seat covers??? Someone help me, am I going crazy?

Anyways, not to hijack, but very useful info here, definitely got me thinking about the E36/E46 market...

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UberDork
10/1/15 3:28 p.m.
CobraSpdRH wrote: So I'm going through this thread and pop open AT to see what is in my area, and I come across this E36 323 vert and think, hmm, interesting. But scrolling through the pictures, all of a sudden I see a RHD picture, then a LHD picture with what looks like the same seat covers??? Someone help me, am I going crazy? Anyways, not to hijack, but very useful info here, definitely got me thinking about the E36/E46 market...

Some of the pictures are mirrored - see the backwards license plate in the "RHD" exterior shot?

I drive a '98 328 vert with over 250K miles on it. The convertible top has been a bit of a pain. The rest of it is fine as long as you do most of the work on it yourself and keep up with basic maintenance.

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture PowerDork
10/1/15 3:37 p.m.

In reply to CobraSpdRH:

That car looks totally shagged and the mirrored pictures would indicate they are trying to hide something...'verts are the least valuable of all E36 models, you can find a much better deal than that. Especially on Craigslist, and we're approaching winter so the prices will be dropping even further...

CobraSpdRH
CobraSpdRH Reader
10/1/15 3:42 p.m.
pointofdeparture wrote: In reply to CobraSpdRH: That car looks totally shagged and the mirrored pictures would indicate they are trying to hide something...'verts are the least valuable of all E36 models, you can find a much better deal than that. Especially on Craigslist, and we're approaching winter so the prices will be dropping even further...

Mirrored, got it. Will continue reading up on these threads and other build threads and get better knowledge of these German machines.

Furious_E
Furious_E Reader
10/1/15 3:58 p.m.
pointofdeparture wrote: In reply to gearheadmb: BMW has steering, clutch and shifter feel like nobody else in the biz. They may not be the fastest cars on the planet, but the level of feedback they provide really does make them a pleasure to drive, even for cars like the base 318i. So as long as you don't NEED 300HP to have a decent time (some people do if this board is any indication) you'll probably really enjoy the experience.

I'm with you on the steering, absolutely phenomenal feel, but I always thought the shifter on my former e36 328is was a bit notchy and the clutch was fairly stiff given the amount of power and torque. Not to say either was unpleasant to operate by any means, I just wouldn't consider those the high points of the driving experience.

To answer the OP, I never really got sick of mine. The silky smooth I6 made enough power and torque to be entertaining, without overwhelming the chassis. Not that that would be easy, as it was incredibly composed and easy to drive at the limit. Driving that car on snows with a few hard packed inches on the ground was some of the most fun I've ever had in a car-just hang the ass out and reel it back in, all day long.

Its the quintessential 'greater than the sum of its parts' car. I need to stop reading this thread, I'm now semi seriously searching craigslist for another 3 series. I hate you all

Harvey
Harvey Dork
10/1/15 4:12 p.m.

The 330i ZHP which my wife used to have is probably the pinnacle of the regular E46 cars IMO. The steering feedback on that car was so good and the ratio so quick and the stock suspension was just tight enough to make it an excellent handling car, but at the same time it managed to soak up New England roads no problem. The car had plenty of power and it came on so smooth. I sold it with 98k miles or so on the dial for $9500.

The 335i xdrive she has now feels so numb compared to her old car even if it has ridiculous power.

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