BMW E30 - A List of Common Problems
I had asked for a list of bmw e30 common problems and got a lot of responses to my e-mail. Here is the list. As much as I would love to take credit for all this knowledge, most of it isn't mine and credit is due to Louie Rendek, Chris, Larry and MrReeliZm.
The ETA engine (the "e" in "325e") is one of BMW's most durable engines IF the owner is reasonably conscientious about maintenance ESPECIALLY changing the cam belt every 50-60k miles. One of its drawbacks is that the valves need adjusting every 20k miles or so.
Also, the car isn't exactly a "rocket" but it great for interstate trips, etc - great mileage, reasonably comfy ride.
The cars up to 87 were more reliable because they had a transfer pump in addition to the fuel pump. The 2 fuel pumps give the car positive starting and running. The single main fuel pump gets clogged at times...causing hard to start conditions. So you might want to take this into consideration.
87 is cars are the ones to look at...they are cheap nowadays and the only i car with dual fuel pumps.
- Oil pressure sender
- Pan gasket after 100K (leaks like pig)
- Thermostat housing (to oil cooler)
- Rubber half-moons under valve cover
- Rear main seal on motor
- Rear seal on tranny
- Shifter shaft seal on tranny
Steering rack leaks
Check this by pinching each rubber boot and trying to rub the inner surfaces of the boot together. If this is hard to do, you're ok; Otherwise, the rack may need replacing due to leaking seals.
Replacing the tie rods with the rack is highly recommended
Cost (parts and labor)
* dealer: $1000-1200
* independent: $800-1000 (locale dependent)
This not a hard job for a reasonable competent weekend mechanic.
Parts from various aftermarket outlets run from $200 - $350 (rack)
and $80 - $125 (tie rods).
Car will need alignment after installation.
Front lower control arms and bushings
If these have never been changed or they were changed 100k miles ago, it could be time.
Symptoms - road handling/steering response seems sloppy / lacking in "crispness."
Costs: * dealer $400
* independent: similar
This is a fairly straight-forward job. The only hard part is pressing the new bushings onto the control arms. A press is needed.
Parts, from the dealer (!) ran me $260, total, with my BMWCCA discount.
Guibo and center support bearing
The guibo is a rubber/metal "donut" at the output of the tranny:
Guibo showing several cracks
Its job is to "smooth-out" the slight variations in the engine/tranny output. The drive shaft is a 2-piece shaft. The center support bearing does what its name implies. Does the car clunk when you shift from first to second or second to third? Could be the guibo.
* dealer $160-200
* independent: similar
With the engine off, jack-up one rear wheel. Rotate the tire and listen for a "squeaking" or grinding noise from the under the car.
Could be the center support bearing.
* dealer: $175 - 225 (?)
* independent: similar
If you have to replace the guibo, replace the csb at the same time as the driveshaft has to come off for both procedures.
I assume it's a 5-speed. The tranny may be a Getrag 265. If it is (mine is) (green "do not change gear lube @1200 mile/2000km" sticker), it's near bullet-proof except for the 2nd gear synchro. Driven with some care, it'll last forever. I use Redline MTL (manual tranny lube) in mine.
Clutch slave cylinder
About $25 front various suppliers.
Symptoms - you have to add brake fluid frequently (the brakes and the clutch hydraulics share a reservoir).
Also, the clutch may not always disengage fully or may feel soft. Easy fix.
Almost bullet-proof if you don't drag race. Of course, that's a futile undertaking with this car!
Cooling fan clutch
To save energy, the mechanical fan (as opposed to the electric fan) will spin at engine speed only when the engine (and therefore, the fan clutch) gets up to a certain temp.
Symptoms - in hot weather, while idling at a red light, the temp gauge will creep up towards the red zone.
How to check? With the engine hot, using a rolled-up newspaper, GENTLY try to stop the fan by pressing the side of paper roll against the MOVING (watch the fingers!!) fan. If it chews the paper, the clutch is probably ok. Easy fix IF you've got access to a 32mm open end wrench! Part is about $70 from various suppliers.
They seem to last 60k miles which is the mileage interval for changing the cam belt and tensioner!!! German engineering at its best!
Many discussions about the merits/demerits of the Behr aluminum + plastic radiators. Check at the bottom of the radiator for leaks where the plastic side tanks and the aluminum core meet.
New radiator runs about $175.
Reliable although some owners report warping rotors. Use AXXIS (formerly Repco) Metal Master pads - no dust, no squeal, good wear & performance.
Cost $65 for all four wheels (from Imparts). Easy to install. Change the brake fluid yearly. I use Castrol LMA DOT 4.
Reliable. There are 5 or 6 grounding points in the car which should be cleaned every 2 years or so.
Also, check for corrosion around AND under the battery platform in the trunk (!).
Ensure the battery is vented to the outside. While in the trunk, check for evidence of leaking tail light gaskets (about $10 each side). Have the strut cartridges and shocks been changed in the last 60k miles or so? Will affect handling, of course.
- * Rear license plate lights
- * Right rear wheel well - where fuel hose attaches: pull off right side trim in trunk and check out wheel well - mine had a 1" round hole right through!
- * Rocker panels at the vertical weld (near front of rocker)
Make sure it blows cold! otherwise $$$ for new A/C
Make sure all 4 speeds work
Make sure they work properly
Use keys in all locks and make sure every lock can lock/unlock the car
Double lock the drivers door (make sure drivers door lock cylinder works)
When double locked check all other doors (should be impossible to open)
When double locked check trunk - should lock and unlock ok
- Shifter bushes gone at 100K
- Control arm bushings shot
- Head bolts (on the sixes)- look for the hex head, they'll need to be swapped for the torx
- Transfer pump, listen for the main fuel pump to buzzzzz
- Jerky Wipers
- Dim OBC
- SI board
- Timing belt, tensioner, water pump replacement every 50k if it's a M20 six cylinder engine