Where does one learn to fix a BMW?

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I've owned a couple of E34 5 series cars over the last 20 years. I consider them the last cars with the true BMW look, and they're quite DiY serviceable. My experience with the 4-liter V8 was great. Factory-equipped 6-speed manuals are rare birds, but the automatic trans is robust with proper care -- I took mine to 300k miles. Rust had its way with it, but if you're in southern California, there should still be some decent ones around. The straight-six variants are much easier to service, but they aren't very powerful. The 530i versions have all the serviceability issues of the bigger V8 with the power of the 6.

The successor chassis, the E39, still is pretty serviceable. BMW chose to substitute the timing chain idler sprocket in the valley of the V8 with a V-shaped guide. As a result, timing chain service is almost inevitable on them. My sister had a 528i touring that she liked very much. Again, in much of the country rust-free examples are pretty rare, but in Cali ...

As others have mentioned, a 3-series is more fun than a 5, but they tend to get beaten up. I also think the 5s have better build quality. So if you're looking deep into the used market, I'd focus the search on a 5er.

Edit: Ooops, I was looking at the wrong post, assuming a Californian was the OP. That said, I wouldn't mind doing a road trip for a nicely-kept classic BMW.
 
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This thread is not helping my desire to give bmw another try. I liked so many things about the little I4T 328 I tested a couple years back, but couldn’t get right with the seat, and the closeness of the windshield to the steering wheel. But the driveline and dynamics were superb, while delivering great mpg. Nooooooo……..
 
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This thread is not helping my desire to give bmw another try. I liked so many things about the little I4T 328 I tested a couple years back, but couldn’t get right with the seat, and the closeness of the windshield to the steering wheel. But the driveline and dynamics were superb, while delivering great mpg. Nooooooo……..
The newer ones are not as fun to work on. A good friend owned a tuned 2015 F30 335xi. I helped him put in an improved charge pipe which was a better design over the factory plastic one, it was a nightmare trying to get it in there. Both of us finished the job with completely scraped up arms. The AWD and turbo made it a very cramped engine bay. My E90 is non-turbo RWD which makes it much easier, but still not as easy to work on as an E46, E36, E39, etc. Those cars are almost enjoyable to fix. Not quite Jeep 4.0 enjoyable, but close.
 
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How does BMW get bad reputation. Here is post by same person from Facebook group:
9E7008D6-0E85-49C5-8607-5D7118BC6AA8.jpeg

He bought new cluster. One if those custom ones with different graphics. Good ones go for $400-500.

Same person 3 days later:

D655DAD2-931C-4A25-8044-93F15AE57FD0.jpeg


I have money for cluster, but not for spare.
 

SC Maintenance

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So I have been researching and I think I am getting the jest of things. All BMW's are made more or less the same way. So whether its the cheapest model or a M car, it could have an aluminum subframe or suspension, magnesium engine parts requiring special fastners, and if the best way to build the engine was to put the most likely part to break under 20 parts that don't - well so be it. So even though the cheapest model might look like a civic - it isn't - its still BMW. So your civic mechanic that doesn't understand this, and has no capability to understand this design and manufacturing reason, doesn't like it.

Am I close?
 
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So I have been researching and I think I am getting the jest of things. All BMW's are made more or less the same way. So whether its the cheapest model or a M car, it could have an aluminum subframe or suspension, magnesium engine parts requiring special fastners, and if the best way to build the engine was to put the most likely part to break under 20 parts that don't - well so be it. So even though the cheapest model might look like a civic - it isn't - its still BMW. So your civic mechanic that doesn't understand this, and has no capability to understand this design and manufacturing reason, doesn't like it.

Am I close?
Close. There is a method to the way things come apart. An example would be one time use aluminum bolts on some engine parts for the magnesium block on my E90. If you know they are one time use, not a big deal. The bolts really aren't expensive, and you just buy them with whatever part you need to replace before doing the job and torque them appropriately. If you are the average mechanic or DIY'er that just takes the bolts out, reuses them and they snap, it turns into a nightmare.

The right tools make a big difference too, I've seen people try to remove or tighten E-torx head bolts with a regular SAE or Metric socket and round them off, making whatever job they are doing 10x more difficult.
 
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So I have been researching and I think I am getting the jest of things. All BMW's are made more or less the same way. So whether its the cheapest model or a M car, it could have an aluminum subframe or suspension, magnesium engine parts requiring special fastners, and if the best way to build the engine was to put the most likely part to break under 20 parts that don't - well so be it. So even though the cheapest model might look like a civic - it isn't - its still BMW. So your civic mechanic that doesn't understand this, and has no capability to understand this design and manufacturing reason, doesn't like it.

Am I close?
They are all built to support strongest engine planned. I for example have M control arms in the back. They fit perfectly. In RWD models all M thrust arms and control arms are also direct fit.
Brakes from M model? Yes you can do that too. Actually, I am about to fit Brembo calipers from F30 3 series and master cylinder from E90 M3. And in TC control there is option to code to performance brakes if Brembo calipers are used so EBD is adjusted.
Bingo bongo, you are done.
Other cars require much more upgrades to do all this.

Take into consideration that balance and performance is key. Battery in small compartment in trunk? Yes! Hard to get out? Yes. Battery under the hood in Lexus IS? Yes. Easy access? Yes. Balanced vehicle? Absolutely not.
So in BMW you will find solutions that are there to limit understeer, put weight closer to the ground etc.
 
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So I have been researching and I think I am getting the jest of things. All BMW's are made more or less the same way. So whether its the cheapest model or a M car, it could have an aluminum subframe or suspension, magnesium engine parts requiring special fastners, and if the best way to build the engine was to put the most likely part to break under 20 parts that don't - well so be it. So even though the cheapest model might look like a civic - it isn't - its still BMW. So your civic mechanic that doesn't understand this, and has no capability to understand this design and manufacturing reason, doesn't like it.

Am I close?

All cars are generally designed, and manufactured in the same way, as well as maintained and serviced in expected ways.

The difference with the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, is that deviance from those expectations is less tolerated and more risky.

Their engineers have more latitude to specify costlier, and more complex solutions to problems, to achieve better performance, which also brings additional demands on the users and servicers. More liberal choices in materials and higher design complexity are accompanied by higher costs, and may require specific producures and tools for repair or replacement.

The goals that the magnesium block of an N52 can better achieve are more than offset by the use of the sacrificial fasteners required by it. Or that it must be filled with oil meeting LL-xx, 5xx.xx, or 229.x, or ACEA standards, etc.

Do things their way, the right way, and as the only way, and things will turn out right.

But that's not to say that those more complex designs, or additional features are foolproof; sometimes they go too far and that burden can be said to unfairly fall on owners and servicers. As humans, they're going to crank out some bad designs as well.

However, it is also not fair to say that those engineers don't value easy serviceability. Otherwise, they would not have gone to the effort to engineer oil systems with top-side cartridge filters, and extractor-compatible dipsticks and oil pans. Those features have been present for 30 years at least.

(As opposed to just hanging a canister filter somewhere on the block, wherever it is convenient for them, and not the servicer, which I curse on my Mazda)

A lot, if not most, drivers who see their vehicles merely as conveyance, and expect appliance-like reliability, may not value those ideals or rewards as highly, or be as willing to accept the accompanying risks, and costs.

That's why such ownership is described as demanding a higher commitment.
 
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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.
... and the proper set of Bentley Service Manuals
 
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Guess it is subjective, but IMO the e36 did not age well from a design perspective. Don't know much about e46, but the design aged better.

Two of my friends have had e36's on an M3 sedan the other a 318 sedan. the drive trains were solid, things like window regulators not so much...

I guess finding a nice E30 is a pipe dream though....
 
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So I have been researching and I think I am getting the jest of things. All BMW's are made more or less the same way. So whether its the cheapest model or a M car, it could have an aluminum subframe or suspension, magnesium engine parts requiring special fastners, and if the best way to build the engine was to put the most likely part to break under 20 parts that don't - well so be it. So even though the cheapest model might look like a civic - it isn't - its still BMW. So your civic mechanic that doesn't understand this, and has no capability to understand this design and manufacturing reason, doesn't like it.

Am I close?
Pretty much nailed it, but I would add that there's a risk of breaking one or more of those other parts during their removal.

For example on my 435i there's a small coolant overflow pipe which runs from the expansion tank across the front of the engine bay to the upper radiator hose. This part will fail and when removing care must be taken to not snap off the connection at the upper radiator hose otherwise you'll have to replace it.

BTW the magnesium block was a short lived feature but BMW uses a lot of TTY fasteners (ex strut bar).

Oil pan gasket is a known problem. I6 layout requires dropping the front subframe to gain access. AWD models require even more work because the front axles pass through the oil pan itself.

Maintenance isn't hard.
 
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Maintenance isn't hard

Nor is it expensive, when considering the useful life of the vehicle. My first and only BMW was a X3d which I loved. Easily one of the best vehicles I've owned and among the easiest to maintain. Replaced it with a pickup truck because we needed it, but always have my eye out for a good project BMW.

Neglecting maintenance leads to cascading failures and expensive headaches.
 
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I started out with VW bugs, so I already had the metric wrenches. I bought my first 528e because I loved car pooling in my BIL's with the leather power seats. I borrowed my BIL's Bentley E 28 manual for the hard stuff. I bought my 1st '88 528e in '97 with 150 K miles on it. 12yrs later, I retired it at 350K. I never had a breakdown, my son did,but I had a new throttle cable in the trunk and the tools to swap it. in that time. An absolute essential was a volt /ohm meter. A lot of the fancy tools mentioned in Bentley could be accomplished with bigger hammers, prybars, and a sawzall instead. I hung out on line with a group of fellow E-28ers. '88 BMWs were designed to be maintained and if maintained could be a a great car. The timing belt especially. I would never consider one, that wasn't an I-6. Not a turbo fan, at least not to own. But what a ride :cool:
 
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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.
Forums, Youtube. I don't kno wabout the new ones but the E36/E46 era ones are pretty easy to work on. The problem is to find a well maintained car of that age. There are plastic parts that crack and need to be replaced but it's not a big deal. I have spent more time and money repairing Hondas than BMW as DIY. A dealer or an independent shop will be BOHICA.
 

01rangerxl

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eBay is a great resource for things like manuals. I have a nearly foot high stack of genuine Ford manuals for my Explorer.

That said it really depends on what kind of BMW you are working on. A lot of older ones really aren't bad. I remember doing oil changes and stuff on 90s BMWs with inline engines and they were often super simple to figure out and work on.
 
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I've a question for the contingent of folks that are very obviously well-versed in BMW's: if a person wants to buy either a 3- or a 5 series BMW, say one of the last ones that are i)naturally aspirated, ii) port injected, and iii) that have a hydraulic PS system - and CRITICALLY here - who is VERY FUSSY re his 5MT or 6MT having synchro's in excellent, as-new condition... what to do? Can a person rebuild his MT to freshen-up the synchro's in this line of BMW's?
 
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I've a question for the contingent of folks that are very obviously well-versed in BMW's: if a person wants to buy either a 3- or a 5 series BMW, say one of the last ones that are i)naturally aspirated, ii) port injected, and iii) that have a hydraulic PS system - and CRITICALLY here - who is VERY FUSSY re his 5MT or 6MT having synchro's in excellent, as-new condition... what to do? Can a person rebuild his MT to freshen-up the synchro's in this line of BMW's?
BMW has a policy of replacing rather than repairing transmissions. Consequently I think it's going to be difficult to find a way to overhaul the unit (Gs6-37bz) due to a lack of aftermarket parts. Diffsonline.com has some race ready units. They may be able to help you source parts.
 
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I've a question for the contingent of folks that are very obviously well-versed in BMW's: if a person wants to buy either a 3- or a 5 series BMW, say one of the last ones that are i)naturally aspirated, ii) port injected, and iii) that have a hydraulic PS system - and CRITICALLY here - who is VERY FUSSY re his 5MT or 6MT having synchro's in excellent, as-new condition... what to do? Can a person rebuild his MT to freshen-up the synchro's in this line of BMW's?
A call to Metric Mechanic might be in order. They are well known for rebuilding diffs and getrag manual transmissions for the older BMW’s. I bet they would know.
 
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Thx for the responses, folks. Will enquire with both potential sources... and then there's also, as @BMWTurboDzl intimates, BMW themselves. A stripped box with no bell housing (if indeed they are separable from the case proper) and without the tail end (again if separable) may be the cost effective route. Getrag or ZF may have a program of factory rebuilds...
 
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