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8 Series Buying Advice

Discussion in 'E31 (1991-1997)' started by mspoteet, Nov 28, 2008.

    • Member

    mspoteet

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    I have been searching for a good "buyers guide" for the 8 series but I am coming up short. So, I would appreciate the feedback and comments from some of you 8-series owners. Particularly known problem areas, differences between the 840's and 850's, particularly problematic years, etc. I have heard (unsubstantiated) that these cars are electrical nightmares. If so, please let me know what kinds of electrical problems one can expect. I am very interested in what kinds of "big ticket" maintenance and repair items one would expect at about 100,000 miles. And, during a pre-purchase inspection, what would you advise be looked at (apart from the general condition of the car).

    Thanks in advance!
    • Member

    TeamStowell We love driving!

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    Mike Miller writes a column in Bimmer Magazine (must read for enthusiasts) which is a market update for models that have been out for awhile. In it, he covers current availability, upgrades, trouble spots, and a host of other information. I found it to be an fantastic resource when searching for our E24. If you have trouble finding a copy of June 07 or Feb 06, email me.

    Good luck in your search.

    Autohaus guest

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    Just like what TeamStowell said. Try to order a back issue from Bimmer magazine that covered the 8 series Buyers Guide edition. Just be prepared to have $5K in handy AFTER making the purchase to do maintenance and service if you buy a 8 series w/o service records. At 100K miles, I would do a full tune up (parts alone will be about $1K for the V-12), full coolant overhaul, change out all fluids, etc... For a pre-purchase inspection, have your indy mechanic go over the whole car and check the batteries (thats right, batteries as in two in the trunk) to make sure they are getting the full charge from the alternator. One battery powers all the gizmo's while the other just starts up the car. You will have electrical nightmares if the batteries aren't going at full capacity. Make sure the suspension components are in good shape. Do you want the 6-speed or the automatic? The ultimate 8 would be the 94-95 850csi (6-speed) but they command at least $40K. You can get an 91-92 850i that had the 6-speed but at that age (approaching 16-17 years old) you can expect problems to arise unless service records are available. The pop up headlight motors also go. BMW has a 15 yr warranty on the these motors so if you score a 94 or newer you should be fine. The automatics need to be serviced every 30K with fresh fluid and filter. If you buy a high mileage automatic with no service records........:(

    mlweaver guest

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    Hi,
    Biggest concern is that some of the early 840 V-8's had the "nikasil" engines (prone to pitting cylinder walls on high-sulphur American gas). Verify that the engine is "alusil" if you get an 840, or that there is no compression loss if it is "nikasil". The aluminum V-12 is pretty robust as long it has NEVER been overheated!
    Automatic transmissions are candidates for replacement after about 75,000 miles.
    The front suspension is intolerant of the slightest variance (such as worn bushings).
    Common failures include the thermostat, the radiator fan clutch, the headlight adjusters, the brake booster O-ring seal, sagging headliner, and seat motor adjustment cables. Many cars will develop a leak at the heater core. You can expect to address all of these issues by 100,000 miles.
    These are just "usual suspects" on old BMW cars with high mileage - nothing special about the E31.
    The display screen of the MID unit (on board computer) commonly develops blank vertical lines of dead pixels, and the replacement units also fail (I am on unit #4 in 6 years of ownership). It is just a bad design.
    The electronics are not especially bad in this car - but the engine management system is obscure and poorly documented by Munich (if it fails, you will not necessarily understand the failure. This is where the internet owner's forums such as roadfly.com and wuffer.net can save you).
    The car will drain the batteries quickly when left parked, and create havoc. A battery tender is essential if you don't drive it routinely.
    Weaknesses of this model (often changed by owners) include interior and exterior lighting. They all came with a (now useless) analog car phone. The differential gearing is impractically high (for the U.S.). but can be changed. The sway bars are too small (but possibly can be changed, if you are lucky). The 850Csi incorporated these performance upgrades, but is very expensive still.

    Short answer: great car (equal or better quality to other 90's BMW's), but hard or expensive to service IF something goes wrong. You must either budget 5 - 10 thousand for repairs (if using a BMW dealer), or be capable of doing the work yourself (with the help of the aforementioned web resources). My car would not be on the road without the generous help of other owners:
    http://forums.roadfly.com/forums/bmw/bmw-8-series-e31/
    http://www.wuffer.net/

    Best wishes,
    • Member

    mspoteet

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    Thanks to each of you for the excellent feedback - much appreciated!

    Autohaus guest

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    If you still plan on getting an 8 series, please post pics :). Don't be a stranger. Come back for any more questions.
    • Member

    mspoteet

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    Two Choices

    Well, folks, armed with the knowledge I picked up from this forum I feel that I have a leg up on what to look for in a BMW 8 series. I did fiind a copy of Mike Miller's Buyers Guide on Wuffer's site and read it. I have the Market Update in my magazine collection.

    I have been looking at two local 8's for sale, both black on black and both in really nice condition given their age.

    1. 1995 840 auto with 96K miles; spotless inside and out; no service records available. Clean CarFAX. $10,900 asking price. This car has been offered for sale for several months according to some local BMWCCA members. Car is reportedly originally from a nearby city (2 hours away).
    2. 1992 850 manual with 45K miles; somewhat dirty, service records available. Clean CarFAX. $12,900 asking price. CarFAX and the original sales ticket (in the car) indicates that this was purchased locally and spent its entire life here.

    I test drove the '92 850 today. It seems to drive OK, but the V12 is somewhat gruff sounding (may be a normal sound since I have never had the pleasure of driving a V12 before). Plenty of power, and seems to drive and ride very well, no significant wind noise/ alignment seems OK, tire wear looked even, etc. I took it on about a 10-15 mile trip down the interstate and the OBC indicated it was getting about 21-22 mpg @76-77 mph which seems to be about what one would expect based on published data. During hard acceleration (such as a freeway on ramp) you could see the mpg drop like a rock (to be expected, I believe). The service records in this car indicate that it had an Inspection II in 2004 @ ~45K miles (at the local BMW dealership) along with a new battery (couldn't tell if it got one or two new batteries). The left battery has a battery tender plug hanging out so I presume the previous owner (a lady) kept it plugged to to keep the batteries from running down. The 2004 service ticket also seemed to indicate that something may have had to be done to the electronics when they replaced the battery (service ticket was vague on whether this was just a customer complaint or whether they had to repair something else). Nothing else noted since, and the mileage on the car is for all intents and purposes the same as it was in 2004. I found other paperwork that seems to indicate about 39K in 2002. I contacted the dealership and they didn't have anything subsequent on the car, so I am presuming it has not had any further service. The car was pretty dirty so I believe somebody had let it sit without driving it for a while. All of the electronics, windows, lights, AC, heat, etc. seemed to work properly and most of the pixels seemed to work (there were a few stray dead pixels). Only one small noticable door ding that could be easily fixed, and no scratches to speak of. A good detailing and buffing would probably make this car look really good.

    Advice, please. Pursue the 1992 850 further or look closer at the 1995? Three years difference, and $2,000 difference. Also, given the 4-year interval between the Inspection II and now, what should I have done right away? I am suspecting coolant flush, brake fluid, differential fluid?, transmission fluid?, oil change? Belts, hoses? Other?

    Thanks!
    • Member

    az3579

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    Expect to do a bit of maintenance. It's been sitting for quiiiiite a while, as it seems. The asking price is pretty low though; I've seen some go for over 20 grand with slightly more mileage.

    Autohaus guest

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    Go for the 92. Manual trans > Automatic. You should take the car to a BMW indy mechanic and have a PPI done. He/she will let you know what will need to be done. Regardless of what you are told (meaning on a positive note), perform the maintenance items you just mentioned (all fluids changed out), belts, hoses, etc... That price is good. Do not, however, rely on Carfax. I read that they only cover like 20 something states.

    mlweaver guest

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    45k miles is a great find on a manual transmission 8-series! Even if you spend $5000 on repairs, I think you have a bargain there.
    see ya round the forums ...
    • Member

    mspoteet

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    Follow-up Question to 92 850i

    Did some more background research on the '92 850i manual w/45K. An independent tech knows the car in question and says it is going to need a new clutch very soon (unless it has already been replaced) due to improper care by the well-heeled owner (won't go into more on that - read between the lines). I can't find records to indicate that it has been replaced. He says this is a $3,800+ job due to the "special design" of the 8-series clutches. Anybody have experience/knowledge of this? Anybody else have cars which experienced early clutch problems like this? I'm going to take this car for another more careful test drive/inspection and would appreciate any feedback on what to look for regarding the clutch issue in particular.

    Devilsown guest

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    if you want the car that bad and the rest of it is in good shape thats a small price to pay to ensure you have a amazing car.

    mlweaver guest

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    There is nothing "special" about the clutch in an 850. Even so, the $3800 quote is not surprising. Get a few more estimates when the clutch actually fails.
    The flywheel will burn if the clutch is actually slipping (if that is the case, the damaged flywheel will be obvious when the clutch replacement is done).
    If the clutch feels OK at test drive, I wouldn't change my mind based on hearsay. The tech may know that the current driver slips the clutch badly, but you still can't predict WHEN the clutch will actually fail. I think the clutch in my car is original, and still going strong at 125,000 miles (knock on wood).

    John Greene guest

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    Mike Miller's article on 840 - 850's

    Please send me a copy of Feb 06 and June 07 articles on the "8 series".

    Thank you,

    John Greene
    • Member

    mspoteet

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    8 Series Buyers Guides

    Try this website:
    http://www.wuffer.net/

    They have a ton of information on the 8's. Excellent resource.

    biomimetic guest

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    Mmm... V12 goodness... gruff how? I've always heard 'silky'.

    projecte30 guest

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    E31 850CSi wheel setup conversion to E63 M6 19" ???

    Greetings enthusiasts,
    Researching information in regards to the subject to see if this is possible. If so, what modifications need to be done to the current set-up of the wheels to accommodate the new wheels?

    Thanks,
    Adrian
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    CRKrieger

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    Do you have a clue what you're talking about? :confused: What is "the current set-up of the wheels"?

    Measure the wheels, including their offset, and get back to us.

    projecte30 guest

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    wheels specs

    Thanks CRKrieger,
    Here are the specs;
    255/40 19 Front (tires)
    285/35 19 Rear (tires)

    8.5 J X 19 front rims
    9.5 J X 19 rear rims

    projecte30 guest

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    wheels specs

    I forgot to add the wheel offset is as follows;
    12 for the front
    17 for the rear

    Thanks,
    Adrian

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