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From digest.v6.n59 Tue Jan 14 14:05:28 1997
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1997 03:41:11 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: <E30> 325e things to watch

The ETA engine (the "e" in "325e") is one of BMW's most durable engines IF the owner is reasonably consciencious 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.
Things that need checking on an E30:

  • - 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 & 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 BMW(nospace)CCA discount.

  • - Guibo and center support bearing
    • The guibo is a rubber/metal "donut" at the output of the tranny. 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. Cost (parts & labor) - 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 csb.

      Cost - 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 _at_1200 mile/2000km" sticker), it's near bullet-proof except for the 2nd gear syncro. 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'll brake fluid frequently (the

      brakes and the clutch hydraulix share a resourvoir). Also, the clutch may not

      always disengge fully or may feel soft. Easy fix.

  • - Clutch - 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

      guage will creep up towards the red zone. How to check? With the engine hot,

      using a rolled-up newpaper, 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.

  • - Water pump - they seem to last 60k miles which is the mileage interval for

    changing the cam belt and tensioner!!! German engineering at its best!

  • - Radiator - 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.

  • - Brakes are 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.

Haven't heard anything about rusting. The factory seems to have done their homework as far as rustproofing is concerned. The car was warranted by BMW NA for 6 years from original purchase for rust perforation. Electrics are reliable. There are 5 or 6 grounding points in the car which should be cleaned every 2 years or so. Also, check for corrossion 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.
I guess that's it. Seems like a lot but these are not atypical for a car of that age and mileage.
If your friend buys, have him join BMW(nospace)CCA - best $35 I every spent! HTH YMMV
Mark Fiumara
BMW()CCA #37523
Arlington, VA
1985 325e, 132k miles (a rookie compared to yours candidate!).

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