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Info On The 325 Please

Discussion in 'E30 (1984-1993)' started by Doug 87L98, May 12, 2008.

    Doug 87L98 guest

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    My Son is interested in purchasing a 325.

    I just read through most of the posts in this section and I have a few questions.

    325i & 325e what are the differences between the two models other than the engine? the 325i has the M-20 and the 325e has the eta correct? Anything else that separates the two models? Any other models that we should be aware of?

    So far the cars that he has been looking at and that are available have been 87s In fact this
    Wednesday we will be test driving an 87 325i if it is still available.

    What I've picked up by reading through the posts are the following.
    --Timing belt MUST be replaced every 60K
    --Change the trans fluid every 30K and it will last a life time.
    --Shy away from an automatic trans nobody wants them and they end up as "boat anchors" :D
    --If a prospective car has electrical problems WALK AWAY FROM IT!
    --Check for rust in the trunk

    Anything else that we should be aware of? We do realize that we are looking at 20+ year old cars.

    The timing belt, is that something that a mechanically inclined person could change in his garage, or is that something that should be left up to a pro? And if left up to a pro what would be a reasonable price to have the timing belt changed?
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    az3579

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    The timing belt is a major job. The shop I sent mine to says it's almost an 8 hour job, but that may be because I also had the water pump, and distributor cap/rotor replaced as well. I suggest you shell out the bucks if you are not prepared to take out the radiator and everything else in the front of the car. For me, this job cost me $450 to do everything, but I heard some shops charging as much as $800. It all depends on labor rates where you live. 60k miles doesn't come all that fast in an old car... unless you use the heck out of it. ;)


    I do recommend you replace the water pump when you have the timing belt done. Since the belt is a major job, anything you can get while it's apart is good to do.



    I have the eta and have found that it had most of the options available for the car at the time. Someone mentioned that there is a difference between a 325 and a 325e but that's only different in options. I'm assuming the 325 was a less loaded car, missing power sunroof and whatnot.


    I have to say, +1 to the electrical problem. None of my interior center lighting works and can't for the life of me figure out why (instrument cluster lights work ok though). Also, beware of the service indicator board and/or batteries in the cluster. If you've got an erratic fuel gauge, non-working tachometer, temperature gauge, or service indicator lights aren't work properly, it's either the batteries or the board. If in doubt and want to have your gauges working, it's cheap insurance to replace the batteries, especially if your odometer is BROKEN. Mine was broken and my fuel gauge always read full, even when the gas light came on, so I can attest to how dangerous it is to rely on the low fuel light. You're screwed if that light doesn't work and neither does your odo or your fuel gauge.


    Another weird electrical problem I've experienced is with the 'brake lights' console LED being lit up (middle, top) even though my brake lights work fine. These are small, weird anomalies to look out for.

    Check your radio reception to see if the antenna is working OK. Another thing I found out while trying to get a radio station to work, one that works perfectly in someone else's car.



    I'll add anything else I can think of.

    Doug 87L98 guest

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    Thank-you

    These sound like cool cars! I just might end-up buying one for myself.
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    az3579

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    I've never heard someone say "those sound like cool cars!" after having someone list all the faults he's got with one. :D


    It is a particularly cool car, no matter how you look at it. It's a rare car; even if there are a lot in your area, there's just as much a lack in another area. It's simply cool because I have never seen a better looking commonly-available 80's car, ever, period. Its rarity is a major bonus in my book, though.



    They're rare in my part of the state most probably because their owners are idiots and don't take care of the 'bulletproof' M20. Even the ones that are around today are in pretty bad shape compared to mine, which has only been moderately maintained before I got it. If you're gonna buy one, make sure the previous owner can back up any maintenance that was done with paperwork, because that paperwork is invaluable in determining how much longer that car will probably last. If there is no paperwork, have it thoroughly looked at by an independant mechanic to make sure it's not bogus. It's soooooo worth the money when you find out you've got a well taken-care-of E30 on yours hands. :cool:

    Doug 87L98 guest

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    All cars have their idiosyncrasies. I've got an 87 Vette and it's got it's own personal problems. But you learn how to handle the problems and have a blast with the car.

    I run autocross with my stock Vette. When I work the course the BMWs are running. I'm amazed how they "stick" to the track.
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    MGarrison

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    The 6-cyl. engines used in E30's are all M20 engines, that's the engine 'family', as it were. 85-88's had 'eta' engines, the 'i' engine was introduced in '87 (there were '87 & 88' models using both eta & i engines.

    If you find one you're serious about, if you have a an independent shop who knows BMW's, it's well worth an hour of their time to thoroughly check over the car and advise you of any noticeable problems.

    snikwad guest

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    Doug 87L98 guest

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    That's going to be a little tough, the car we are going to look at is 2 1/2 hours away. That's why I'm trying to cram as much info as I can.

    Thanks for all the help guys.[IMG]
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    BMWCCA1

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    I'm surprised no one mentioned air-conditioning. If it's not working, don't expect to get by with just a re-charge. Around here an average price for E30 A/C repair is around $1000 and often requires an evaporator or housing or compressor. Head gasket leaks are common on the M20 engine with miles on it, too. In general they leak oil down the side of the block. Not a difficult fix if you're so inclined but figure close to $800 or more if you have to pay someone to do it and that only if you're not re-building the valve train while you're inside.

    I think we pretty much covered the i/e/no-letter differences here, in this thread.

    cj morgan guest

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    I'm a little disturbed by the first post in this forum regarding the auto transmissions being used as boat anchors...My 1990 E30 unfortunatley has an automatic transmission. I wish it didn't but it does. How long do these things tend to last? I have 173,000 on the car now.
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    az3579

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    Well if you're gonna get into stuff like that, then might as well mention the ABS system as well. Neither the ABS nor the A/C worked on mine but found it easy to live without both.




    One thing to mention for sure is to see if it idles properly. Some E30's have idling problems. For example, the idle may bounce around, or may be too high, or too low, or surge even when driving! Mine surges to 3000 rpm randomly, making it completely undriveable without implementing some kind of solution. In my case, it was a plumbing valve attached inline to the Idle Control Valve (which is disconnected), limiting the amount of air for idle speed.


    Oh, and now I'm remembering more things to check; check for leaks. For example, the carpet behind the passenger/driver seats. They could be wet, indicating a leak somewhere, and possible rust as a result.

    Window switches (if you have power windows) - if you have to push hard on them for the windows to go up/down, you may need to get new switches as that's usually a sign of a dying switch. They're cheap and easy to install.
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    BMWCCA1

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    The auto tranny in the E30 is nowhere near as problematic as the GM units in the E36 Threes. Sure they fail, but many have soldiered on for well-over 300k. Make sure you change the ATF and filter at least every 60k and treat it nicely. Certainly the manual transmission is more fun, but they have their problems, too. And I know which one I'd want to be driving if I had my left leg in a cast! :D

    snikwad guest

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    What's a E35?

    cj morgan guest

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    I'm guessing he meant E36? Good to know they last awhile even though they aren't as fun to drive.
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    BMWCCA1

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    Yep! Thanks. Corrected.

    Doug 87L98 guest

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    What I was referencing was another post I read in this section. In another thread someone was stating that many people who have autos in their 325's swap in a 5 speed and end up with an auto trans in their garage because they are unable to sell them.

    I wasn't dissing autos. In fact, what I learned on this forum is that the auto trans in the E30's is pretty reliable with proper maintenance.
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    az3579

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    They would have a hard time selling them because the only people who would rather replace the transmission in an E30 instead of scrapping it would be enthusiasts, and enthusiasts prefer manuals to automatics.

    jmalter guest

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    where the timing belt replacement is a mandatory item ev'ry 60k miles.

    when my '85 car was new, its 5-spd manual tran was graunchy when cold. This prob disappeared completely after I changed the transmission fluid to a 'Synthetic ATF' product.

    During a timing-belt change, a water-pump replacement is also a good idea, my early water-pumps died at 20k intervals due to bearing-failure, later replacement pumps have lasted longer.

    Most of my electrical probs were due to failure of solenoids (relays) located in the center of the fuse-box between the 2 rows of fuses, my current elec. prob is that the fuel-gauge sender is unreliable when the tank is <1/3rd full. My most difficult elect. prob was due to the trip-computer's 'anti-theft' circuit's solenoid failing, this guy must be energized in order for the fuel-pump to work, so when he goes TU, the motor ain't gonna start!

    An older car will likely appreciate a complete replacement of its ignition-wire harness (NTM the parts inside the distributor), aged wires from the distributor to the plugs can have internal gaps that'll prevent spark-plugs from firing properly!

    The original power-antenna in the left-rear fender can die easily, but can be cheaply replaced w/ an after-market antenna. I've never had a prob w/ power-window switches, if you need to replace one, it's easy to replace them all w/ illuminated switches from a 5-series (tying the illum. lead into the dimmed instrumentation wire).

    My A/C was bulletproof for many years, but I eventually had the compressor & engine-compartment piping removed & sealed off at the firewall (to save weight, NTM the expected repair-expense. I never really used the A/C anyhow.)

    If your car has a center-console 'multi-function trip-computer' thing, you can expect that one or more of its console-buttons will be non-functional. Pushing in on the left-side turn-signal stalk should cycle the trip-computer between its display-modes, but the '1000', '100', '10' & '1' setting-buttons @ the bottom of the trip-computer's button-array can also fail, I don't know of any fix for this (other than replacing the computer's display-board and button-array from a used part).

    Every now'n'then, I'll get a weird idle-speed episode, where it'll decide to idle at 600rpm or mebbe 1200rpm. This is a bit strange, 'specially since I'm using a Dinan ECU chip, but the motor never stalls at the low rpm, & it eventually decides to idle normally @ ~850rpm, so I've never tried to mess w/ the idle-speed.

    overall, I'd have to say that my car's mechanicals have been bullet-proof (if you ignore the repeated water-pump bearing failures). OTOH, i've spent a lot of $s on preventive maintenance, have let it lag in storage for 3 years or more, &also have punched it out for several summers where it spent as many miles on-track as it did on-street. Not to mention some memorable wreckages, & some other less-memorable low-speed wrecks. Regardless of which, my car's motor has never failed to fire up on the 1st (or 2nd) key-turn after an extended period of storage (provided that the battery had any kind of charge). These cars are hard to kill!
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    BMWCCA1

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    It has been found that time is as important as mileage. The timing belt should be changed every four-years or 60,000-miles, whichever comes first. Certainly this is precautionary and many will dispute it. But try telling that to a new owner of a $2500 E30 facing a $1200 repair bill because the belt failed.

    Your idle speed is "controlled" by your ECU but on the M20 engines there's also an idle-control unit and an idle-control valve. The ECU with your chip may be telling the idle-air-valve control unit what to do but either the idle-control relay or the valve aren't responding correctly. This can often be an electrical failure or sometime just a good cleaning of the valve insides with spray carb cleaner will take care of it. In the early days of these parts I'd just take off my shoe and smack the valve with the heel to drop the idle back to normal. The spark-plug socket from your trunk toolkit also works as a good hammer. ;)

    mvinco guest

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    325 info

    I just bought a 325is- which is the "sport" model. It has just turned over 60k and it's going to the shop next week. Quote for belt, tensioner pully, 3 new belts(a/c, steering and alt)
    and water pump, about 650 bucks. Not bad I think.
    I believe the 325e was tuned for maximum MPG which will cost you performance.
    These cars are great drivers, mine seems to ride better than some new cars I've been in lately.
    Good Luck
    Mark

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