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Need Help-Checking out 1988 635csi

Discussion in 'E24 (1977-1989)' started by CMajik, May 30, 2008.

    CMajik guest

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    Can someone provide some good solid guidance for a newbie to this forum and to BMW classics? What are some of the key areas/items to lookout for when shopping for a older classic model BMW. Specifically the 635csi models? Thanks for your help.
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    TeamStowell We love driving!

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    This page on the big coupe group web site may help. I purchased ours a few months ago, and found Mike Miller's articles in Bimmer mag. very helpful. Find someone in your local chapter who has had some experience with this model and take them along when you go looking.


    Good luck, and enjoy the hunt!!! :D

    AlexW guest

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    This guy has a lot of good BMW information. This is a link to his E24 page:


    I have been told that going with an M6 or M635csi can be overwhelming for someone who is new to the scene. I personally have a euro-spec 1985 635csi that I like. It's a bit rough, but mechanically dependable. Watch out for potential fuel leaks around the filler neck (I speak from experience), as this can cause outright dripping on the ground or leaking fumes into the passenger compartment (like mine is doing). Generally, the automatic transmissions are not seen as robust as the manuals, and one equipped with an automatic should never be revved. This will tear it up!

    The engines are really solid and have to be entirely dejected and abused to truly be shot. Mine sat in a field for quite some time (a decade give or take?) before being started, and once it had a set of crank sensors in it, it never had any issues. Except for the throttle cable that snapped, probably because it was rotted out. My E24 has been the most reliable car I've owned thus far. I think that says a lot about the car's engineering since mine was neglected for so many years.

    Also, check for leaks around the sunroof, windshield gasket, doors, windows, and trunk. One of the biggest complaints about this car is the water drainage system. If you check out the car after it has rained, touch the floorboards for dampness and check the headlining and seats for any evidence of water staining. When mine leaked water into the black back seats, you could see a white outline of water spots.

    Do a complete fluid change, unless it's been done already, and check the condition of the belts. These engines are robust, but belts are their primary weakness. I believe that all of the M30/M90/M88/S38 engines that are found in the E24's have a chain-driven timing gear. It'd be nice to know the last time that it was changed, if ever. Generally, they aren't considered to be breakable, and they certainly last longer than the timing belts of the M20's (I think it's a 50k mile replacement for that one), but they have been known to break.

    Anytime I get into an old BMW to check it out, the first thing that I'm looking for is what lights show up on the dashboard and which ones don't. Do all of the appropriate check lights come on before the engine is started, and do they all go out once it's started up. On this note, one thing you really want to see is that all of the green lights in the center of the instrument pack are lit. Any yellows or reds mean that the car needs to be serviced. I don't remember how a proper one lights up in the accessory position vs the running position. My E24 has some dash light issues, so I wouldn't trust it to be the one to sample from.

    If you get the chance to drive it, check for the notorious front end shimmy. Can kick in at 45, 55, 65, whatever-5 mph. Mine's an odd-ball - it only kicks in while braking, but I can't replicate it on demand. Sometimes it shimmies when braking slowly, sometimes under hard braking, sometimes at 70, sometimes not. This is an indication that you will need to spend $$$ to replace the tie-rods, control arms, or something else that is fastened behind the front wheels.

    E24's were burdened with TRX wheels and tires. Lots of owners replace them, and I will be joining those ranks very soon. Don't know if you know this, but the TRX is a metric-sized rim that only works with the Michelin TRX tire (now only sold by Coker, I think). Prices can range from $200 a tire to over $500 a tire. Be warned that if the car you buy doesn't already have after-market wheels, then you will need to spend serious money at some point to either replace the stock TRX's or buy new wheels and tires. Of course, you may want one with the old TRX's so that you can put your own wheels on it (like I did), but I wanted to go ahead and say it in case you were not aware.

    Small item, but glove boxes are usually crappy unless the car has been well maintained. Latches will break, or the thing won't close right. It can be a number of things. Cosmetic thing that you may not think about until you try to open it for the first time or close it after having opened it for the first time.

    FWIW, I will say that I've owned two BMW's on two ends of the spectrum. My first one was a 1989 325is. Meticulously maintained by the two previous owners for all 279999 miles that were on it before I got it. I drove it to 314k before it was totaled. Seats were tremendously plush, and it was one of the cleanest E30's that I've ever seen. It had high miles, which was probably the reason that I spent roughly $3k on repairs in the 3 years that I drove it. I now have an E24, former field-sitter. Looks decent from 20 feet away, but has a poor paint job, dings, rock hard seats, cracked dash, unknown miles, no A/C, the list goes on. Generally described as a beater car, but mechanically solid, except for the shimmy from worn tie-rods. I've now had it for 2 years and the only repair cost has been the $30 throttle cable that snapped one day. I will be replacing the wheels, tires, and front end suspension components (joints and linkages), which will be real $$$, and it will come close to what was spent on my E30. But whereas my E30 left me stranded 3 times, my E24 has left me stranded once (darn throttle cable!).

    I would definitely second the suggestion of having someone from your local chapter who is well versed in E24's go along with you to check out the car.

    Good luck!

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