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From digest.v7.n864 Fri Jan 2 16:28:15 1998
From: Pearson-Franks Family <>
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 11:07:27 -0800
Subject: <E28> Purchase/Maintenance Observations, Part 2/3

Fellow Digesters:

Part 2 of 3 of my long post. Page down if WOB from your point of view. At least it isn't aircraft ABS!

More E28 look-for's:

3) Oil

  • Visually, 'fresh' oil will appear a clear brown, as you know. Black just means old, any cloudy or white means water, which is very BAD, 'bad' being defined as like crossing two anti-proton streams resulting in the destruction of the universe as we know it.
  • Check under oil filler cap - should have no cloudiness, and gives you an idea of internal cleanliness (which is good).
  • The owner's manual says it is 'OK' if the oil pressure light comes on 'at times', like idling when hot, but should go out when revved. Drives me crazy if it comes on at all! 4) Other Engine Compartment Stuff
  • All fuel lines are suspect by 100K - especially the short hank to the cold start injector at the lowest extreme of the intake manifold, for some esoteric reason. Don't use cheap stuff! Buy the BMW 8 x 13 mm stuff from one of many sources.
  • Vacuum leaks are a major hassle. Prime symptom is rough idle, flat spots at mid revs, may also be fuel pressure regulator.
  • If you pull the valve cover (which I would recommend) check that the two 12mm head 'banjo bolts' are snug, that secure the oil bar to the head. If these are loose this is _bad_ (refer to definition above).
  • Check the cam rubbing surfaces: the peaks of the cam lobes should have no discernable wear (using the patented fingernail technique) and the rubbing blocks on the underside of the rocker arms should all appear the same in profile. If the banjo bolts were loose, TAKE YOUR TIME doing this part! If replacing the cam, add $300 to head job.
  • Look at the brake fluid. Black is _bad_, but at least means it wasn't being topped up each week (see 'slave' discussion below). Color of the brake fluid is a very good indicator of the general tenor of the maintenance regime for the car. If it is black as pitch, indicating it is _not_ getting the yearly replacement the anal-among-us so lovingly do, check more closely for all the other maintenance opportunities.
  • Lots of things can make this baby idle rough; already mentioned vacuum leaks. Mucho covered in FAQ's. Best I have seen is by Sam Lin <> for a copy.
  • Plug wires are a 100k consumeable in my book. Cleap insurance, can help several marginal symptoms, lotsa sources, $80ish. 5) Tranny and Clutch
  • No experience with the 4-speed auto, so no comments.
  • The Getrag 5-speed should enter all gears smoothly - they are not especially prone to synchro failure in normal operation (i.e. not auto-x'd) but most are 'notchy', kinda hard to push into gear, especially when rev's not synched, but easily improved by putting in Redline MTL tranny oil.
  • Every 100K+ Getrag I've seen leaks. From the rear is OK but messy - shift shaft seal fails, soaking back of tranny. Output shaft seal weeps, no major heartache. Seam between front and rear half of tranny case weeps, wets bottom of tranny, but no sweat. Saving the best for last: If there is oil (not brake fluid, see below) coming out of the drain hole in the bell housing, either the tranny front seal is leaking, (likely) or the engine rear main (possibly). This is _bad_ (see definition above) because the clutch is not designed to be oil-bathed, and will tend to chatter and fail. Seals are $5-$10 each, clutch trio (pressure plate, clutch disk, throw-out bearing) are $300ish. All quite doable, but considerable labor, dropping exhaust, removing driveline.
  • Clutch pedal should depress smoothly, although with a lot more force in the 535i than the 535e or a 3-series. Should not hang up on either the upswing or downswing - that could be broken 'ears' on the throwout bearing.
  • Stick your fingers under the forward edge of the dash sound cover just above the brake pedal and feel for wet, and smell your fingers - odor of brake fluid means the master is leaking.
  • If brake fluid is leaking out of the drain hole of the bell housing, the clutch slave cylinder is leaking - very common, but cheap and easy to fix. Smell it to distinguish from oil, but bear in mind that you could be getting both. Another tip-off for this one is really clean brake fluid, from someone topping it up as it coats their garage floor.
  • While you're down there, check that the rear tranny mounts have not gone to mush, they do that. Check the mains, too.
  • Many of these beasties have developed a lot of play in the shift mechanism: worn shifter bushings, mushy rubber mounts on the shift pivot mounting plate. I greatly enjoy the result of Metric Mechanic short-shift kit ('tho I don't know where to buy one at this instant.) Stock shifter bushing parts will cost you $35-$60 at a dealer, MM shifter $170, ACS shifter $800. You choose.


Larry Franks
Issaquah, Washington
'86 535i
'86 528e - JimC'd and lovin' it!
'83 245 GLT (Swedish iron)

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