I was wondering what your opinion of a 1995 525i (automatic) sedan
with 97K miles on it would be, for a new driver? Assuming the car
checks out okay, is there anything about it that is a problem spot up
around this mileage range? Any issues I should be aware of?
Also, I always do my own servicing and repairs on cars I own...in the
last 25 years I've never had a car in for repair, anywhere. I never
buy new, so I try to buy reliable used cars. Never owned a BMW before,
but currently have a 1997 Volvo 850GLT wagon, which has been good to me
and is fairly easy to work on. Are these BMW 6-cylinder vehicles
generally as reliable, and are they easy to work on? I like having
OBDC-II connectivity, but for a 1995 model I don't think I'll get that.
The water pump is a weak point, but an improved design has replaced it
and isn't dear. By now you may be starting to need new rear subframe
bushings, cheap parts but not easy to fit.
One of the best cars to leave the factory, really well put together. See
www.bmwe34.com (or is it .net?).
I'd get the manual though, not the auto.
Who needs a life when you've got Unix? :-)
Email: email@example.com, John G.Burns B.Eng, Bonny Scotland
The cooling system is a problem area. Make sure the water pump has been
replaced with a non plastic version. The radiators tend to develop a
leak at the tank connection. Check the rear suspension 'dog bones' for
wear, and replace if needed.
What everyone else said. In addition, the front ball joints (in the
upper and lower control arms) usually are toast by this time. You
basically need to replace the arms, as it's hard for the home guy
to press new balls into the sockets. You might replace the strut
shock cartridge also.
Be sure to have a leak-down and compression test done.
Be sure to have a cooling-system pressure test done - any past
overheating (due to failed water pump) may show up as a bad
If the outer portion of the front tires appear worn, don't worry
about alignment, as these cars wear front tires that way.
The engine (other than water pump, and earlier problems with
ignition coils) is as bullet-proof as can be. Our '91 (doesn't have
the VANOS like the '95) has 147K miles, and looks good to go
at least to 200K, probably more.
You ask about a car for a new driver, but you give us your life history on
the cars you drive. For a new driver, I can't think af a better car than a
BMW 3- or 5 series. I think the margin of victory goes to the 3, for no
other reason that it is smaller. If you want to know about your first BMW,
then the car you found sounds like a good one.
Things to check for any driver - new or with 25 years of expereince - is the
radiator. The radiator on these cars is made with plastic tanks, and the
plastic is known to rot and the resulting coolant loss can be catastrophic.
Sorry...the car is for my son (18), my life history was mentioned
because I plan on helping him maintain the car (labor, not parts :-).
I agree on the 3 versus 5 statement. The 525i seems like a little "too
much" car for an 18 year old, especially given the likely parts cost
this will need as it crosses into the +100K mileage range. Thanks
everyone for their comments.
Got it. I was even guessing as much.
I have the 325i, which uses the same motor as the 525i for the year yours
was built. The motor is very strong, and my car has been the most reliable
car I have ever owned. I had some trouble right after I bought it that
caused the savings I realized on the purchase transaction to evaporate, but
once I got over that issue, the car hasn't given me any particular trouble.
I suppose the broken sunroof might be considered a problem, but the repair
parts cost less than $125, and I was able to affect the repairs myself. I
have put about 105,000 miles on my car in 4 years, and am on track to hit
between 125k and 130k by the end of the 5th year. I have put front brakes on
twice, rear brakes once and front rotors once. The plugs have been replaced
a couple of times, but that is about it.
I think this car would be good for a first car. There are issues relative to
the speed the car can attain, but if the kid is going to test the limits of
the car - and you should assume he or she will - then having one that won't
fold up on itself with your child inside seems like a good plan to me. I
like to think that my kid won't drive my car at 130mph, but I know for damn
certain that she will drive it at 85, so I like the idea that it will 1.)
stop when told to, 2.) steer when asked to, and 3.) not crumple into a ball
when 1 & 2 don't go well.
Back-tracking on my statement of the size, I thought this was an issue, so I
actually looked at some 5 Series cars. They really aren't very much larger
inside than my car. They may have a larger trunk and a couple of extra
inches in the back seat, but they width is pretty much the same. The 5 is a
little larger, but not so much to keep you from buying it for a kid. Indeed,
the 5 wasn't enough bigger to pursuade me to trade my 3 in.
If you are handy with a wrench, the parts that you will need aren't that big
of a deal.
I plan on buying the lowest powered 3 series in whatever age bracket seems
reasonably affordable for my daughter when she reaches driving age. For the
same reasons as Jeff's stop/turn/don't crumple argument. Can't imagine
she'll complain about driving an old BMW to school, I'm sure the boys will
be impressed. The right ones, anyway. :-)
We test drove a 1995 318ti. It literally could not get out of its own
way. The dealer was in the back seat. None of us weighed over 190
pounds. Up a slight hill, he said "you really should turn the air
If they didn't look so darn "Mrs. Doubtfire", a pre-Ford Volvo 850GLT
is a really good deal on the used market right now. Not bad for a
young lady, but I don't want to get one for my son (even though he said
he'd consider it). He's 6'1" and 190...but he'd still get teased in
My dad just sold his 780... I've always kind of liked Volvos, we had them
growing up and I respect them. But you're right, they aren't regarded well,
stylistically, by most people. I happen to think hte 850 is a sharp looking
car, but anyway...
I drove an E36 318ti around 1998 or 1999 that my boss had as a loaner while
his 540 was in the shop (nikasil fix). It had an automatic transmission,
and I was expecting gutlessness, but I found it to be sufficient to the
task. I only drove it solo, maybe that was part of it -- does anyone know
if they added some power later in the production run perhaps? My impression
at the time was that it was a capable enough car. Perhaps the example you
drove was tired.
Getting teased should be the least of *your* concerns as a parent.
Getting your son into a safe and reliable car would be my #1 priority.
Yes Volvos are safe. The reliability, I can't attest to.
I put my 2 daughters into SAABs. They are very safe, and pretty easy to
fix when things go wrong (they will with any older car) and they bring
it to their in-house mechanic, which would be me. ;-)
Well...he'd be getting teased by me...that's the problem ;-)
He's a good kid, and would probably take the brick...but man, I can't
go there. Vain? Probably...but up until mommy and I had kids we owned
cars that were fun to drive and just as much fun to look at. Heck I
had a CBR600 up until he was 6 years old (then it finally dawned on me
that I needed to stay alive for awhile longer).
I should be able to meet both objectives...that's what led me to
BMWs...seem to be nicely styled, safe and reliable. I think I'm off
this 525i for now...just the prospects of front end suspension parts
and a new radiator seem like too much of a parts-cost risk for him.
I'm going to keep my eye out for something with under 80K
miles...should stave off the parts gremlins for a couple more years, I
Also, I like the idea of getting something with OBDC-II connectivity
for my scan tool. It's nice when a part fails to have the car tell me
where to look.
Hey...one question I forgot to ask: These BMW inline-6 motors...any
problem burning the cheap stuff (i.e. 87 octane)? Er, maybe not
'cheap' anymore, but still cheaper than premium fuel...
I hear ya, but you have to leave something for him in the future when he
can buy his own cars ;-)
Ditto here, and almost at the exact same age, but it was a BMW K100 for
me. Now I have to satisfy my urge for 2-wheeling with an XR400 dirt
bike. But I got the boy an XR too, so it's all good.
A lot of the cooling parts seem to go in the 80-100k mile time frame.
Then after they've been replaced you're good to go for another 100k.
But neither area of repair (cooling system, suspension) is particularly
hard for a DIY guy. Heck, drag the little (yeah little?) guy in the
garage and he can be learnin to wrench with the ole' man. Talk about
your "quality time"...
OBD2 is cool. I have a reader that I can hook up to the laptop. But
the pre-OBD2 bimmers have the ability to put them into a mode where they
flash out the codes on the CEL. So, yeah OBD2 is more versatile, but
you can get the error code info even on the old timers.
Depends... some engines require 91 AKA or higher. All 3 of mine only
need 89. I don't think any BMW engines should be run with 87, though
maybe some of the really oldies (2002s, etc.) could.
FWIW, I own both an older 3 series (E36) and older 5 series (E34). I
happen to have a V8 in the 5 series, but aside from that, the 5 series
is equally as economical to repair as the 3. Assuming a 2.5L I6 in the
5 series I would say they would be roughly the same to maintain.
The 5 series is a bit bigger. This can be a good thing if your progeny
happens to run into something (or someone runs into him). The 3 series
is certainly the sportier handling of the two, and that may promote a
more aggressive sort of driving, though God knows 18 year olds don't
need any prompting for that.
I'd say buy which ever you can get a good deal on and work on the kid.
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