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E36 M3 buyers guide - known issues

Discussion in 'E36 M3 (1995-1999)' started by pdudley, Mar 11, 2008.

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    pdudley

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    I'm looking for an E36 M3. What are the known issues with these cars?

    Thanks

    Paul
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    330indy1

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    Try to get a Bimmer issue with a 3 series market update

    go to their site to get a back-issue. And do yourself a favor -- subscribe!
    ... and soon you'll be the expert!

    tpalermo guest

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    They're great cars, but do need to be maintained, and given that the newest one you could find is already nine years old, you would do well to get a pre-sale inspection by a shop you trust, preferably someone familiar with the marque and the model.

    A quick short list to make sure you check out - rear shock mounts (look from inside trunk at top of towers (under carpet, by the speakers) - look for signs of metal fatigue, cracks, rust, etc.
    radiators and thermostat housing - plastic pieces on stock setup crack as they age.
    front and rear sway bar connect points can be cracking if it was driven hard.
    check condition of rear subframe, rear trailing arm, lower control arm bushings
    ask owner whether the oil pump nut issue was ever taken care of - if you get a blank stare, that means 'no' - meaning the engine has a slight possibility of self-destructing on you at any time. small risk, but not eliminated - up to you if that bothers you or not.
    door, window and sunroof seals can leak or clog, which could allow water in the interior - smell for mold inside.
    everything else would apply to any car purchase - check carfax, look at VIN numbers on doors, engine, fenders, etc.

    good luck, hope you find a keeper!
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    mjweimer

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    I'll add to tpalermo's excellent post.

    On cars built before 3/96 look at the front upper shock towers for signs of bending or cracking around the three upper strut bearing mounting studs. The towers can try to push upwards towards the hood and become deformed. Later cars had a reinforcement plate sandwiched between the bearing and the tower to strengthen the area. This is a rare occurrence but something that you should be aware of when looking over a vehicle.

    BTW: these plates can be added to any E36 and strut removal is not necessary if you are patient and disconnect the swaybar from the mounts on the strut (M3) or control arm (all others) and drop the strut down into the wheel well.

    Depending on mileage and the type of driving/roads the car has seen, the rear trailing arm bushings may be worn. You will feel this in the seat of your pants as a wandering feeling noticed especially under hard acceleration and/or hard braking. These are cheap parts that are not too hard to install though you will need an alignment afterwards.

    The Vanos units (variable valve timing) on these cars can also become noisy making the car sound like a diesel engine at idle and just off of idle. This is easy to hear with the hood open with most of the noise coming from the drivers side front of the engine at the units mounting position. Factory re-man units don't last for long and a good aftermarket solution has been developed. See http://www.drvanos.com for more info on this issue.

    Besides the cooling system issues noted above, I would add that the expansion tanks can fail. This is a separate tank mounted to the passenger side of the radiator with several hoses attached. Look for signs of dried coolant that may indicate impending major failure.

    Other than that find a car with a known service history, coolant, transmission, differential and engine fluid changes, etc. Buying from an enthusiast may save you headaches down the road.

    Good luck with your search!

    Matt
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    pdudley

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    Thanks!

    Thanks for the great feedback, exactly what I was looking for. Questions: Can you expand on the oil nut problem? What is the problem, how is it fixed, is it a permanent fix, etc. What are the issues with the rear shock upper mounts? Seems like an odd place to have problems.

    Thanks

    Paul
    • Member

    mjweimer

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    To put it simply, the nut that holds the oil pump drive sprocket becomes loose over time and falls off. This is of course very bad and can destroy a motor if the low oil pressure is not quickly identified.

    The fix is one of several; threadlock (Loctite) the nut onto the pump, safety wire the nut to the pump, peen over a few of the threads on the pump (with nut installed) or a combination of all the above.

    The sheet metal around the rear shock mount can fatigue and tear away from the chassis. It is a nasty looking problem but a repair part is available from BMW. Throw in a little grinding, welding, seam-sealer, paint, etc and the area can be as good as new.

    It is common to add the M-Z3 shock mount reinforcement plate to help address this weakness (it is a simple bolt on piece) but I have seen pictures of car with these plates and torn shock towers.

    Hope this helps.

    Matt

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