MarkinKY
MarkinKY New Reader
8/15/10 6:42 p.m.

We all know how the economy has been, is going. Ten years ago I bought a BMW 328i (e36) with "sport suspension" (in Europe that was the "M" suspension). Times were good, life was good, it was and has been the Ultimate Driving Machine. Due to the economy and it's impact on me, it has suffered through at least two years of neglect (meaning: oil changes but little else). Current mileage aprox. 157,000 miles, original clutch, only one brake change. For sure showing its age, although it's a BMW and has lots of life left. Accumulated deferred maintenance is at least $4,000, the true estimate I expect to hear within 24 hours from out local BMW CCA preferred independent mechanic (he's already told me it needs new catalytic converters too, not includes in the above estimate). I asked for a priority list of repairs: must have, should have, nice to have but can be deferred.

Market value between $4,000 to $5,000 depending on which web site you use. Wife says: "Why spend more than it's worth?" I say, "Well, because it's a Bimmer" but realistically in terms of cash flow she has a point (repairs: Big Buck$ up front, car payment spread over time). At this point in my life, if I don't keep this one, I do not expect ever owning a BMW again (that's a sober assessment, see sentence four above).

Here's where I need your input: Where would you put the $ line between repair the e36 or bail for something else? If I give up the BMW -- and while I know the answer to every question if "buy a Miata" -- what would be a worthy albeit less expensive alternative for <=$15,000 with random need for grand kids in the back seat? Subaru WRS? Honda Civic SRI? Mini (I've heard they are expensive to maintain too, BMW family and what)?

Help please!!

Junkyard_Dog
Junkyard_Dog HalfDork
8/15/10 6:55 p.m.

MIATA!

What deferred maintenance are we talking about? If the bad parts could be replaced with higher performance versions that in turn help the value that might be worth considering. While it will never be worth a lot, if the body and interior are in good shape I doubt it will be going down in value much more. Just as the E30 has reached its low point and is being discovered by a new generation of enthusiasts the values are creeping back up for nice cars. The same should eventually happen with the E36. If you fix the car can you see keeping it for another ten years? My point is you know this cars history from day one. A used car, no matter how good a reputation it has, is a craps shoot.

Then again if your car is really a mess you might want to cut your losses now and move on. Not sure I would jump into a car payment in your situation however. If money is an issue and BMW ownership is a priority, you can get an awfully nice E30 for $4000-$5000

Timeormoney
Timeormoney Reader
8/15/10 7:20 p.m.

Sell it. Keeping a BMW when you are the one that needs to replace most of the cooling system and the wear items in the suspension is something that should only fall on a true bmw lover. I think you are looking for a different brand.

Try acura, lexus, maybe subaru. 15k would get some amazing examples of those in the used market. Heck even those infiniti g35's might not be bad.

I own 2 1987 bmw's and the only reason i can own them is i do my own maintenance. If i had to pay someone, i would own japanese.

bc

MarkinKY
MarkinKY New Reader
8/15/10 7:21 p.m.

In reply to Junkyard_Dog:

I'm not planning upgrades, only "in bringing it up to snuff as a trustworthy daily driver capable of long distance worry free trips" -- my request to my mechanic. Body and interior in good if not excellent shape. I hear and agree with everything you say, but for what it's worth, financial considerations are as important now as those us "enthusiasts" would employ.

triumph5
triumph5 Reader
8/15/10 7:55 p.m.

Have it professionally detailed by a really good shop, replace the tires, put on new front brake pads, and you have the makings of an easy-to-sell BMW.

Then take your money to one of the above-mentioned car dealers/private owners and get some peace of mind for yourself, your wife, and when you have the grand children in the car.

It sounds like you're trying to convince yourself it's time to move on--hard to do, but, it's time.

speedblind
speedblind Reader
8/15/10 7:57 p.m.

I say keep the car. From what I can tell, you're debating between 4k in maintenance or spending 15k on another used car. The next used car will most likely be in the same spot as your current BMW (few people complete a ton of expensive maintenance and then immediately sell), but now you'll have a car note to go along with your deferred maintenance.

Option 2 - email me a list of what your mechanic says it needs and then sell it to me. :)

MarkinKY
MarkinKY New Reader
8/15/10 8:02 p.m.

In reply to triumph5:

No, to be clear: I do not want to move on to something else. However, I need to be pragmatic -- difficult for us enthusiasts to do -- given limited resources.

pigeon
pigeon HalfDork
8/15/10 8:13 p.m.

You know the car, you know the issues, you want to keep it, so keep it. What's the monthly payment on a $15k loan? Put that away towards maintenance for a few months, then take care of a few issues, rinse and repeat. Soon you'll be up to date and have a BMW that's good to go for another 50-100k miles.

VanillaSky
VanillaSky HalfDork
8/15/10 8:21 p.m.

I'd repair. Then again, I buy crappy cars and fix them. I'll drive a $500 car till the wheels fall off and sell it for $500 to the next guy. The wife gets the new cars, I don't. Tools are my warranty.

Are you looking for something that is cheaper to repair? Are you looking for something that's already in good shape? You can't buy much of a new car for $15,000 these days. Maybe a CPO vehicle? You can get into a CPO BMW for less than $20,000.

MarkinKY
MarkinKY New Reader
8/15/10 8:25 p.m.

In reply to VanillaSky:

Excellent feedback, exactly what I was hoping to get from this group -- keep it coming! I have mixed emotions about my next step, but realize I will need to make a decision soon. Complement me, ridicule me, sympathize with me, logic with me -- whatever, I need the input!

stuart in mn
stuart in mn SuperDork
8/15/10 8:35 p.m.

If you like the car and aren't concerned about having something newer just to say you have something newer, I'd say keep it. What if any repairs can you do yourself? Things like replacing the radiator and hoses, or brake pads and rotors, are fairly simple DIY projects and can save a lot of money over paying to have the work done. There are several good sources of BMW parts at a big discount over what you'll pay for them at your local BMW dealer.

dj06482
dj06482 Reader
8/15/10 8:37 p.m.

Can you list the deferred maintenance that the car needs? Any chance you'd consider doing some of it on your own? I'd have to think that there would be at least some in that list that you could defer a bit more. One thing you don't want to mess around with is the cooling system. If that hasn't been replaced yet, or hasn't been replaced in a while, I'd definitely look into replacing it. Check the radiator (plastic pieces, especially), water pump (some came with the plastic impeller), fan blades (for cracking), and the expansion tank (for cracks). Thermostats, Aluminum Housings (stock plastic ones can crack), and hoses are relatively cheap, as well.

Is the car driving OK?

I hate to say this, but market value is probably closer to $4-4.5K, I thought the E36s were fully depreciated when I bought mine a year ago, but they've gone down a little more since.

MarkinKY
MarkinKY New Reader
8/15/10 8:41 p.m.

In reply to dj06482:

Here are my specific list of "to dos:" Stand by, it's extensive (at least to me):

 Replace the power steering reservoir and miscellaneous hardware (hoses, fluids, etc.)  Remove heat shields from the catalytic converter  Install passenger seat sensor mat, reset air bag sensors  Replace water pump, thermostat and housing (after market aluminum thermostat housing? Fan and fan clutch? Coolant hoses? Regardless, coolant needs to be flushed and changed.)  Replace control arms and bushings to repair a high speed shudder under breaking  Replace oxygen sensors (check engine light is on)  From your invoice no. 14306: “very bad oil leak (valve cover gasket)”  When I had new tires installed and an alignment performed, I was told the left inner tie rod end needed to be replaced  It’s on it’s original clutch, and I would rather replace it sooner than later (i.e. I don’t want to be stranded on a rainy night). Also and importantly, the shift linkage bushing are shot and need to be replaced.  Brakes were replaced just once: how are they holding up? Regardless, I can’t remember when the brake fluid was replaced, meaning it needs doing.  Speaking of fluids, I change the oil myself (Mobil 1 104-40) but transmission and differential fluids need to be changed.  It needs a new fuel filter.  Belts where replaced within the last 24 months, but should be checked. In addition I have this wish list, things I would like but don’t really need:  If the transmission is going to be out for clutch/bushings, it would be nice to add a short-shift kit. I’ve heard you can replace the 328i shift lever from an M roadster (PN 25-11-2-228-384) bent slightly to fit as an inexpensive alternative to the aftermarket kits – true?  The fog lights, both sides, have burned out/been busted, need replacing.  The radio lights are dead – is there an easy fix?

There you have it.

mtn
mtn SuperDork
8/15/10 8:51 p.m.

Figure out pricing on everything. Figure out how much a car payment would be (and the increase in insurance). Fix one thing at a time. Put the things like radio lights to the very end, you don't need those.

speedblind
speedblind Reader
8/15/10 9:30 p.m.

Alright, let's work on helping you keep that car. Looks like we have a couple weekend's worth of work ahead of us. As you state, there's a lot of stuff going on - we're going to address just about every major part of the car - as they say, you have to eat the elephant one bite at a time.


In reply to dj06482:

Here are my specific list of "to dos:" Stand by, it's extensive (at least to me):

 Replace the power steering reservoir and miscellaneous hardware (hoses, fluids, etc.)

Reservoir's about $25, and you have two lines to replace, at about $30-35 each. Call it $100 an hour of your time and your power steering system's got another 150k miles in it.

 Remove heat shields from the catalytic converter

Not sure what this means - is this labor?

 Install passenger seat sensor mat, reset air bag sensors

Not sure what part this refers to?

 Replace water pump, thermostat and housing (after market aluminum thermostat housing? Fan and fan clutch? Coolant hoses? Regardless, coolant needs to be flushed and changed.)

This is a biggie - every self-respecting BMW owner deserves a chance to bitch to friends about the cooling system maintenance. Let's go all the way and handle the water pump, thermostat and housing, fan clutch, all the gaskets, new rad. cap, etc. The goal is to not do this again for a looong time. $307 total and an entire day with plenty of breaks/lunch.

 Replace control arms and bushings to repair a high speed shudder under breaking

$180 for two control arms, bushings included. The car goes up on jackstands in he morning and we'll spend all day replacing the suspenion stuff listed here.

 When I had new tires installed and an alignment performed, I was told the left inner tie rod end needed to be replaced

I picked the most expensive tie rods, and we're doing the entire assemblies, not just the ends. $50 each = $100 total.

 Replace oxygen sensors (check engine light is on)

I assume two needed? Sparkplugs.com has the OEM for $97 each. Depending on location, we might do this while the car's on jackstands for the front suspension work.

 From your invoice no. 14306: “very bad oil leak (valve cover gasket)”

This part, with the spark plug hole gaskets, is ~$20. It'll take you about twenty minutes to knock out in your driveway with basic tools. Add $3 for a can of brakekleen if you want to get fancy.

 It’s on it’s original clutch, and I would rather replace it sooner than later (i.e. I don’t want to be stranded on a rainy night). Also and importantly, the shift linkage bushing are shot and need to be replaced.

If it's not slipping and the throwout bearing isn't making noise, I say leave it. Gently driven cars can go a couple hundred k miles on the original clutch.

 Brakes were replaced just once: how are they holding up? Regardless, I can’t remember when the brake fluid was replaced, meaning it needs doing.

New pads and rotors from any given place will be $150. Tons of options. Let's go nuts and add braided ss lines for another $100. $250 total, and easy work.

 Speaking of fluids, I change the oil myself (Mobil 1 104-40) but transmission and differential fluids need to be changed.

$40? Pretty easy to do - this goes on the long day of work list when we do the front suspension.

 It needs a new fuel filter.

$15 part, easy to do one evening after work.

 Belts where replaced within the last 24 months, but should be checked.

I wouldn't worry about them, but you can probably buy all the belts for $30 and have them in the car.

In addition I have this wish list, things I would like but don’t really need:

 If the transmission is going to be out for clutch/bushings, it would be nice to add a short-shift kit. I’ve heard you can replace the 328i shift lever from an M roadster (PN 25-11-2-228-384) bent slightly to fit as an inexpensive alternative to the aftermarket kits – true?

I bought the Bimmerworld kit for my E30, and I think it was around $120. Included the major bushings and the Z shift lever.

 The fog lights, both sides, have burned out/been busted, need replacing.

Thanks to ebay, replacement lights/lenses are dirt cheap. If you have the kind that can just take a new lense, it's going to be around $20. If not, new lights can be had off ebay for less than $40. Easy evening job in the driveway.

 The radio lights are dead – is there an easy fix?

No idea. Let's play it safe and add $60 for a new CD player.

There you have it.


So, I've got a little over $1,400 in parts and some fun weekend projects. I think what's killing you is the labor on all the little stuff. A shop's going to charge $90/hour whether they're pulling your transmission or screwing in fog light bulbs, so doing the really simple stuff will save you a ton, let you keep the car and provide another $100k in fun driving.

Incidentally, I ran the numbers on a 48 mo., $15,000 loan. Assuming you're buying a new(er) car, you can get a decent rate from any bank/credit union (nothing approaching new car rates, though) - I assumed a 7% rate and 48 months and got $359/mo. 60 months gets you a bit under $300, but many banks are hesitant to loan 5 yrs. on a used vehicle.

Even at $300/mo., you're looking at five months of saved payments to take care of all your maintenance issues (including the short shifter and fog lights). The side benefit is that you'll be intimatly familiar with our car, and as I've said previously will be able to attend BMW enthusiast events and complain knowingly about the half-assed cooling system and the fact that suspension bushings wear too fast.

nderwater
nderwater Reader
8/15/10 9:31 p.m.

There's a lot of stuff on your list I'd just continue to live with. It's a $5,000 car, right? Replace the stuff which is dangerous or is really pissing you off, don't worry about the rest, and drive it until the wheels fall off.

speedblind
speedblind Reader
8/15/10 9:31 p.m.

By the way - if you happen to live in the Northern Virginia area, I'd be happy to help. I accept beer and burritos as payment.

oldtin
oldtin HalfDork
8/15/10 9:44 p.m.

Is this your only transport? Meaning if you take on some repairs can it be out of service for a little bit. If time is on your side - buy a bentley manual, check forums...learn some of the repairs and you could put a good sized dent in the estimated repair cost (i.e. the maintenance light reset tool for my e28 is $80 from bmw, or you can do the reset with a bent paperclip, pads and rotors will be several hundred in a shop - less than $200 diy with some basic tools). If you hang on to a car, what its market value is - well, it's sort of irrelevant. What may be more critical is your cash outlay. Trading for a 15k car - even the best scenario leaves you down 10k - more if you finance part of it. Even at shop rates that's 6k+ that stays in your bank account. Prioritize the fixes, bank the equivalent of a couple of payments and start knocking down the projects - cooling system first. Even at 2k/year in repairs/maintenance is less expense than taking on payments - and after a year or two (or less) the new car will start racking up maintenance expenses in addition to the payment, but at least work out the math so whatever you do it's with open eyes.

pigeon
pigeon HalfDork
8/15/10 10:38 p.m.

Many of the listed repairs are really easy DIYs that with a handful of basic tools and some time can be tackled by anyone with basic mechanical skills. I don't know where Taylor Mill, KY is but I'd be willing to bet that there's a couple GRMers nearby who would be willing to help out a new member in need, especially one that shows some enthusiasm in trying to learn

If you decide to buy, and I feel like a broken record on this, finance through Pentagon Federal Credit Union. New or used, 2.99% for up to 60 months, and they'll loan full NADA retail on cars up to 10 years old.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
8/16/10 5:35 a.m.

honestly, none of those repairs are very hard. I only see the airbag sensor light in the seat needing specialized tools or help. If you can turn wrenches, everything you outlined can be done in your driveway.

I know I replaced most of my bushings and R&Red the front suspension on my ti while it was sitting in my driveway in a couple of afternoons. that was all new poly bushings, front brakes (upgraded from non-vented ti rotors and calipers to 328 spec stuff) brake lines, new M3 aluminum control arms, and my Bilstien PSS9 coilovers...

I might want to mention my driveway is made up sharp little rocks too

dj06482
dj06482 Reader
8/16/10 9:37 a.m.

Speedblind's breakdown is right on the money. Here's some info I put together on the cooling system overhaul:

http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/e36-cooling-system-overhaul-notes/13016/page1/

I think if you're willing to tackle some of the stuff on your own, you'll save a ton of money. In most cases the clutch will start slipping long before it'll leave you stranded. Put it in 5th on the highway, and get on the gas. If the RPMs shoot up with no corresponding increase in speed, then your clutch is on its way out. Otherwise, I'd just leave it. Belts should easily go 24 months, but it doesn't hurt to check them.

Transmission and differential fluid are not that bad to change. The only issue is that there's limited clearance for the fill plug on the rear diff, you'll need a short 14mm hex socket. I bought one on eBay, I think it was something like $20 with shipping. The first time I use it, it pays for itself many times over.

Most suspension and mechanical parts are cheap. As I've mentioned in several of my posts, I've gone on Bimmerforums.com, checked out one of the vendors posts about discounted prices, and have PM'd them with a list of parts that I need. Bimmerzone.com came down something like 20% off of their already very fair catalog prices, and my order was only in the $300 range. You have enough items that if you could purchase them through one vendor I'm sure you'd save a boatload. Use http://www.realoem.com to get the part numbers. Eeuroparts is not on the forums, but they're also a very reasonable source for European parts. They have free shipping over a certain dollar amount, and they're local to me so I get everything quickly.

I would highly recommend the 101 Projects book from Pelican, as well: http://www.101projects.com/BMW/index.htm It'll give you a good idea of what the various maintenance tasks involve. You'll need some special tools (19mm wrench for the coolant drain plug, fan clutch holder, 32/36mm combination wrench for the oil filter/fan bolt) to do some of the worth, but even with the tools you'll save a fortune. BMWs are pretty good for DIY work, so I think you can take advantage of that fact. There's also a huge knowledge base on this and other forums, so don't be afraid to tap into that.

Don't get discouraged by the long list. Just tackle things one at a time, and you'll be through it pretty quickly.

amg_rx7
amg_rx7 HalfDork
8/16/10 9:42 a.m.

It only makes sense if you are doing the work yourself. Otherwise, labor is very expensive. At that point punt and get a newer car.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
8/16/10 2:51 p.m.

even if you can't take care of the work yourself.. if you budget the work out over several months worth of car payments.. you will be golden

wcelliot
wcelliot Reader
8/16/10 7:06 p.m.

Awesome amounts of great advice given (I've been daily driving BMW's for years)... but no one has asked if maybe you're just ready to move on.

The best daily driver I've ever had was an E36M3. the car did everything right and little wrong. But at the end of three years, I was ready to move on and try something else... even if there was absolutely no reason to. I've not had anything since I liked as well and likely won't. But I haven't regretted selling it... again, I was ready to move on.

So if you're itching to trade cars, be honest with yourself about the motivation and just do it. Just know that with a little help from fellow enthusiasts, it's not a forced choice (or maybe even the logical one).

My wife's daily driver (by choice) is an E30 convertible that just turned over 180k... it replaced another E30 vert with even more mileage.

conesare2seconds
conesare2seconds New Reader
8/17/10 1:41 p.m.

In reply to speedblind:

Super cool offer, man.

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