Where does one learn to fix a BMW?

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I should mention i was until recently a card carrying member for the BMWCCA.

Buy one, you'll learn to fix it.

However, much like many enthusiast cars there is good help in the forums and in the Roundel as well.

As far as i'm concerned the last legit BMW was a E30 and it had a big wing nice ones are hard to find.
E36 manual still has the old BMW feel. E46 was the end of the car company as we knew it. They got too big, complicated and fancy after that.
 

CleanSump

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What everyone has already said. Plus experience from working on other vehicles, working on Mercedes experience points you towards the German idiosyncrasies, and the patience developed by working on aircraft so you don't get frustrated or intimidated by having to remove half the fuselage and 42 good items to get to the one bad part.
Plus get use to buying replacement one time use aluminum screws and turning 90 deg + 90 deg after torqueing to some miniscule Nm value.
 

SC Maintenance

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Thanks for all your replies. Think I will start by finding some older manuals and peruse them. I am used to reading industrial controls manuals that originated in German and were likely translated to Jinglish in an old version of google, so should be right in my wheelhouse.

I noticed most recommendations were towards 3 series. Is that just preference or is the 5 series something to avoid?
 
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Thanks for all your replies. Think I will start by finding some older manuals and peruse them. I am used to reading industrial controls manuals that originated in German and were likely translated to Jinglish in an old version of google, so should be right in my wheelhouse.

I noticed most recommendations were towards 3 series. Is that just preference or is the 5 series something to avoid?
What BMW do you own?
Depends, F10 5 series is a departure from 3 series. E60 5 series and E90 3 series are very similar as they share a lot of parts etc. With F10, BMW moved 5 series to a more luxury-oriented segment and departed from the idea of a big sedan focused on athletics.
How hard or not it is to fix BMW depends a lot on the model, engine etc. I can tell you that I would replace any day electric water pump on my E90 xDrive (generally considered as a job requiring patience and athleticism if being done on jack stands) instead of the master brake cylinder on the Toyota Sienna I had.
The key is researching other people's experiences and avoiding mistakes. Many mistakes come from the fact that mechanics are just on a certain type of vehicle, and they have expectations that it is being done the same way. Aluminum bolts? Why is BMW putting aluminum bolts? Why they don't do that like on Toyota Camry or Accord? Bcs. steel bolts don't do well with magnesium which BMW engines have a lot. Why? Bcs. weight reduction to improve performance, and less weight is generally a good thing. So, go buy new aluminum bolts and call it a day.
Everyone wants a superb driving machine, but the simplicity of Corolla. There is a reason why BMW is nice to drive, and Corolla falls in the category of comparison with the GE refrigerator.
 
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Legit question. I read all the time on how working on BMW's is harder or at least different, you know remove the engine to change the air filter, etc. I have worked on a lot of things, but never a German car. It intrigues me. So where do I start?

Is there a place to get a FSM without spending a million dollars?

Is there a youtube series that is accurate?

Which model(s) would be a good place to start.

If you were going to buy your first BMW with the intention of it being a hands on tutorial, which would it be?

I know this is pretty open ended, but any knowledgeable advice is appreciated.
Youtube - There are plenty of channels but FCP Euro has a ton of DIY's for almost everything. M539 Restorations has some good content on older models. Pelican Parts for older maintenance.

For the FSM you can buy a third-party manual from Bentley for older models.
BMW forums will point you to dealer diag software (ex, ISTA) or factory software (INPA) or you can buy various Android Apps (ex, Protool, Bimmerlink, etc) which offer support that is similar to ISTA. Note: you may need a power supply to do some higher level coding.

As for which car to choose? I would avoid AWD, V8's. Look for a vehicle which has an N-series engine in I6 or I4 or newer. Parts will be easier to source as the older models are coming up on 20 years. Perhaps a 3-series since they were typically the largest seller so parts should be cheaper. The annoying thing with BMW is that although the engine/drivetrain may be the same between models some parts will differ.
 
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One thing I found very helpful was that RealOEM has a complete parts list for BMW cars. Then I would just go out and shop for parts at either an online dealership or at one of the big resellers like FCP Euro or RM European. I generally found that BMW parts weren't much more expensive than Japanese parts if you shopped around, however I did notice that in the last year or so some of them have dramatically gone up in price. Plus for my 1994 530i the number of NLA parts started to rise.

You do need to be patient though since for an older model it is highly unlikely you are going to get a part the same day or even within several days unless you're willing to pay.
 

SC Maintenance

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What BMW do you own?
I do not own one. I might buy one, or not.. This is more a curiosity since almost everyone - including many on this board - have lamented on how different or difficult they are to work on - so its part curiosity, part education, and if I buy one part challenge.

I certainly wouldn't be buying anything newer, and not old enough to be valuable. Probably something in the category of what others consider junk.
 
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Thanks for all your replies. Think I will start by finding some older manuals and peruse them. I am used to reading industrial controls manuals that originated in German and were likely translated to Jinglish in an old version of google, so should be right in my wheelhouse.

I noticed most recommendations were towards 3 series. Is that just preference or is the 5 series something to avoid?

Traditionally, the 5ers have been executive sedans with a sporty character, but nicer and plusher, given their higher price points.

The 3ers were smaller and sportier, and the lower price point reflected in some of the components.

There will be a lot more 3ers on the market, but more of them will be modded, or clapped out because the owner(s) didn't, or couldn't afford to maintain them properly.

The 5ers will have attracted a more mature buyer, more likely to have the means to buy and maintain them, so it's easier to find them in better condtion. But even those owners can tire of the maintenace or repair costs, and desire to offload them, and/or simply want something newer. A car coming from such an owner, in an off-market sale, would be a gem.

In general, the less complexity there is, the less potential risk, or problem areas there will be. V8s and AWD increase those risks. More luxury gadgets.

The 2002 is considered the archetypical BMW. Small, light, and simple, with a 4-cyl with good power.

But that was a long time ago, and as the lineup grew, the sweet spot became a 3 or 5 with a silky-smooth inline six.

The big 7 didn't really become competitive with its intended targets, the S-classes and such, until the E32 generation, and then they also stuffed a V12 into them.

For a BMW cultist, the successor E38 7er is probably the pinnacle of that class. Large and comfortable, but no excessively so, but more importantly, still with the fun and soul. Those willing to tackle the issues with the timing case on their V8s could find them relatively cheap from owners who wanted to dump them and not fix them. It's a straightforward, but time consuming and thus somewhat costly job. Its successor, the E65 7, introduced the "Bangle Butt" (though it was actually styled by van Hooydonk) and awful first generation iDrive telematics to the mix. The formula was changing.

The newer models have strayed farther and father from those eariler ideals, even the M models, but that's a topic in itself.

It depends on what you're after.
 
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Thanks for all your replies. Think I will start by finding some older manuals and peruse them. I am used to reading industrial controls manuals that originated in German and were likely translated to Jinglish in an old version of google, so should be right in my wheelhouse.

I noticed most recommendations were towards 3 series. Is that just preference or is the 5 series something to avoid?
I think the 3s are generally just more common, and maybe had a higher engagement in the true sports driving and handling department. In it’s time, the e36M was neck to neck with a Porsche 911. for the 5 to compete, you got the V8… the 540 MT was a monster but in my limited experience they made awful used cars because the engine had weaknesses, complexity, and no room. I looked at a few and saw common failures, including guys who flip cars outright giving up on 5s and trying to sell for nothing just to get out of the flip-gone-wrong. Stay with inline engines in a 5 series and I’d wager it a more pleasant car for daily commuting. Quiet, smooth, and more room under the hood. I looked at a 528 years back and would have bought it based on how it drove until I popped the hood and saw the previous repairs done to it… wallet was already out of my pocket…. That said, the 3 might be more fun for body English.
 
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I do not own one. I might buy one, or not.. This is more a curiosity since almost everyone - including many on this board - have lamented on how different or difficult they are to work on - so its part curiosity, part education, and if I buy one part challenge.

I certainly wouldn't be buying anything newer, and not old enough to be valuable. Probably something in the category of what others consider junk.
I would look for a late model E46 330i or E90 328 or 330. They're getting close to 20 yrs old.

Both of these are 3-series cars but come from different engines families (M54 I6 vs N52 I6). In the US BMW didn't offer a 4 cylinder from early 1990s up until around 2013.

I'm kinda jealous. I'd like to have a project car of my own.
 
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I would look for a late model E46 330i or E90 328 or 330. They're getting close to 20 yrs old.

Both of these are 3-series cars but come from different engines families (M54 I6 vs N52 I6). In the US BMW didn't offer a 4 cylinder from early 1990s up until around 2013.

I'm kinda jealous. I'd like to have a project car of my own.

I agree with those choices. It's best to experience a BMW with what they do best, a compact sedan with an inline six and manual gearbox.

But the dearth of 4-cylinder engines in the US market occurred later, not during that period.

The E30 carried over the 2002's M10 when it first appeared in the US in 1985. Then the detuned eta M20 six was added for 1986 in the 'e' models. 1987 brought the full tune 'i' models, and 1988 brought the facelift and small 2.5mph bumpers, projector headlights and airbags. And the S14 four in the M3 of course.

In 1991 came the M42 four, in the 318is and i/ic, which was revised with a new dual-stage intake, and put into the E36 from 92-95.

From it sprang a more efficient M44 version, with OBD 2, for 96-97. The detuned M52 six then took over as the base engine in the 98-99 323is.

Going forward, the base engines were then smaller, or detuned versions of the sixes, until the N20 signaled the return of the four circa 2012.

Edit--on second thought, I now recall the E30's facelift came in two stages. New lights and airbags in '88, and new bumpers in '89. So the '88 models are single year oddity, with the old larger chrome bumpers.
 
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I do not own one. I might buy one, or not.. This is more a curiosity since almost everyone - including many on this board - have lamented on how different or difficult they are to work on - so its part curiosity, part education, and if I buy one part challenge.

I certainly wouldn't be buying anything newer, and not old enough to be valuable. Probably something in the category of what others consider junk.
Generally what everyone wrote is correct.
Problem are modifications. Little Johnny down the street saw his friends 2007 335 with 450hp. He wants same car and 650hp bcs. he saw it that is possible on internet.
He gets himself 2008 335 with N54 and 150k on clock. Original hoses, original coolant reservoir etc. Then he gets tune online and then the malarky show starts.
Johnny gets bunch of misfires, car is stalling etc. He doesn’t realize he needs new injectors, bigger intercooler and possibly bigger turbos. His O2 se sensors are shot etc.
Somewhere there his coolant reservoir explodes bcs. plastic is brittle and BMW ran in those years really high pressure. He fixes that but his Mickey Mouse flange fails bcs. same reason. He doesn’t understand that new coolant hoses and reservoir etc. could be only $250 in total. All of them! But money wet to tuning and cold intake and LED bulbs.
Than catastrophe happens. Serpentine belt snaps, gets wrapped around oversized crank pulley and doesn’t have anywhere else to go but into engine through crank seal. What would be $70 in parts and 1hrs of time, destroyed engine. And he than complains to his dad, who complains to his mistress, who than complain to her husband, and then her husband tells you that they are bad cars.
That is how it goes.
 

SC Maintenance

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Generally what everyone wrote is correct.
Problem are modifications. Little Johnny down the street saw his friends 2007 335 with 450hp. He wants same car and 650hp bcs. he saw it that is possible on internet.
He gets himself 2008 335 with N54 and 150k on clock. Original hoses, original coolant reservoir etc. Then he gets tune online and then the malarky show starts.
Johnny gets bunch of misfires, car is stalling etc. He doesn’t realize he needs new injectors, bigger intercooler and possibly bigger turbos. His O2 se sensors are shot etc.
Somewhere there his coolant reservoir explodes bcs. plastic is brittle and BMW ran in those years really high pressure. He fixes that but his Mickey Mouse flange fails bcs. same reason. He doesn’t understand that new coolant hoses and reservoir etc. could be only $250 in total. All of them! But money wet to tuning and cold intake and LED bulbs.
Than catastrophe happens. Serpentine belt snaps, gets wrapped around oversized crank pulley and doesn’t have anywhere else to go but into engine through crank seal. What would be $70 in parts and 1hrs of time, destroyed engine. And he than complains to his dad, who complains to his mistress, who than complain to her husband, and then her husband tells you that they are bad cars.
That is how it goes.
****.

I have been looking online. It looks that the two biggest problems is finding one that isn't molested already, and it seems Henry Ford and BMW had one thing in common - they only come in black. Well 80% of them.
 
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****.

I have been looking online. It looks that the two biggest problems is finding one that isn't molested already, and it seems Henry Ford and BMW had one thing in common - they only come in black. Well 80% of them.
Well, i was looking for a year 328 I wanted. Flew from Colorado to DC to pick it up.
They can get abused. I track mine, drive kids to school, then go to work. Drive it twice a week to ski. 7 out if 10 cars on track here are BMW’s. Where Toyota has 14mm bolt, BMW has 18-20mm. They take abuse great. Bcs. of that people can get away and be sloppy then sell car like that. Like my fried said who is racing actually, you cannot be sloppy with Subaru bcs. you rea have to pay attention what you do to make them track animals or race them. With BMW, you can get away with bunch of stuff as they are built like tanks, come with oversized brakes, etc. But ultimately, that is what messes them up as people don’t like to invest time into it but they want 0-60 monster or track car etc.
I got mine with 84,000 miles. I clocked 45,000 since January 2020. Had TPMS module failure. That is it.
That doesn’t count upgrades for track etc.
 
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I'd buy an e36 or e46 like a 325i, 330i. They can be found cheap but not too badly beaten, and maintenance parts won't completely drain your wallet. Youtube and forums is how I've learned. The older ones really aren't harder to work on, just different. Once you figure out the logic behind how they were put together, it makes sense.

Buy a good set of torx and E-torx sockets.

Highly accurate post. I had 2 e46s & 1 e36 and never an issue from any. I did go in with a tip from a BMW tech, if you understand they're designed to break, you'll never be disappointed 😂.
Real OEM, Pelican Parts, & FCP Euro will be your friend. Along with forums & YouTube as mentioned, you can enjoy the car & easily maintain it.
 
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I agree with those choices. It's best to experience a BMW with what they do best, a compact sedan with an inline six and manual gearbox.

But the dearth of 4-cylinder engines in the US market occurred later, not during that period.

The E30 carried over the 2002's M10 when it first appeared in the US in 1985. Then the detuned eta M20 six was added for 1986 in the 'e' models. 1987 brought the full tune 'i' models, and 1988 brought the facelift and small 2.5mph bumpers, projector headlights and airbags. And the S14 four in the M3 of course.

In 1991 came the M42 four, in the 318is and i/ic, which was revised with a new dual-stage intake, and put into the E36 from 92-95.

From it sprang a more efficient M44 version, with OBD 2, for 96-97. The detuned M52 six then took over as the base engine in the 98-99 323is.

Going forward, the base engines were then smaller, or detuned versions of the sixes, until the N20 signaled the return of the four circa 2012.

Edit--on second thought, I now recall the E30's facelift came in two stages. New lights and airbags in '88, and new bumpers in '89. So the '88 models are single year oddity, with the old larger chrome bumpers.
Thanks..I realized I meant to say late 1990's.
 
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