2003 BMW 325 CI - need advice

I am thinking about purchasing this 2003 BMW 325 CI (convertible, 2.5l l6, 5sp manual). It is priced in line with NADA guides for this year/model/make, it has 110k miles, and a clean carfax report. I have always owned Fords, so, I have no idea what I would be up against as far as maintenance and repairs. Can regular american mechanics handle BMW's? Or will I pay a small fortune for a "foreign car repair shop"? What kinds of special things about BMW's will I need to know about? Since it is a 6 cylinder, can I assume it has a timing CHAIN and not a timing BELT? I've never owned a convertible, but, since I live in Texas where winter is not too long, I'd probably only have it up for a couple of months - what special consideration is there about the convertible tops for BMW's?
Just give me any sound advice you can think of to help me decide and be alerted to anything I need to watch out for.
Thanks. Littleberry
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I am thinking about purchasing this 2003 BMW 325 CI (convertible, 2.5l l6, 5sp manual). It is priced in line with NADA guides for this year/model/make, it has 110k miles, and a clean carfax report. I have always owned Fords, so, I have no idea what I would be up against as far as maintenance and repairs. Can regular american mechanics handle BMW's? Or will I pay a small fortune for a "foreign car repair shop"? What kinds of special things about BMW's will I need to know about? Since it is a 6 cylinder, can I assume it has a timing CHAIN and not a timing BELT? I've never owned a convertible, but, since I live in Texas where winter is not too long, I'd probably only have it up for a couple of months - what special consideration is there about the convertible tops for BMW's?
Just give me any sound advice you can think of to help me decide and be alerted to anything I need to watch out for.
Thanks. Littleberry
=================================You need to sign in to a forum called E46Fanatics.com.
The engine does have a timing chain, but you cannot assume that just because it is an inline 6. My opinion is that the 5-spd transmission is superior to the automatic. Both of my kids had the automatic trans in their respective '00 323s, I have a manual in my '94 325.
My personal experience is that all of the routine maintenance can be done at home, brake service, plugs, cooling system, belts and hoses, pretty much any repair that does not require taking the insides of the engine or transmission apart. Since replacing the clutch requires taking the transmission off, I leave this sort of thing to the professionals. But, I replaced the entire suspension on my '94 325 by myself, at home. I do all of my own brake work, and so on. My kids were driving somewhere just over the 200-mile limit of my towing plan and blew the cooling system. I had AAA bring the car to my house and I replaced all of the parts myself for about $300.
I find my BMWs to be pretty easy to work on. They are not any more mystrerious than any other car you have owned, and I find the parts that need service to be easily accessible and simple to understand. You will want to find an independent BMW service center for any repairs you cannot do yourself.
Your BMW has a diagnostic port that allows a technician to plug into the car and find that a particular transistor in a specific part has a failure -- the diagnostics told me that a transistor gate was shorted to ground, causing the MAF to be unreliable. I was very impressed when I saw this. The BMW diagnostic package is not cheap, but it saves lots of troubleshooting time. Find an independent garage that uses it (I believe it is called the GT-1), and they will be able to do anything your car needs to have done.
If you do not already have one, you should buy an OBD II Scan Tool. These come in wide range or price points, I suggest you should spend about $150 to $175 for one to use in your home garage. They (Peake Research) makes one specifically for BMW, but it cannot be used on any other makes. The generic scan tools can be used on any car or truck made for the '96 Model Year, or later. So, if you had a scan tool by Actron or Innova, for example, you could scan your mother's car, or the cute girl that lives next door, to help troubleshoot the Check Engine Light. BMW (or the independent garage) will charge $90-ish to scan for codes, so for the price to scan twice you can have your own scan tool and share it with friends and neighbors. You can spend as little as $40-ish, and more than $250, so dialing in on a tool for $150-ish is a balance of value and features.
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On 2012-12-12 17:50:26 +0100, Jeff Strickland said:

you CANNOT compare a 94' 325 with a 2003' 325 in the 2003 model, there is A LOT of electronics that requires the authorized dealer's computer to check and maintain. you will be able to make some basic maintenance (oil, etc,) but you will need to go to a real garage to reset the indicators. this wasnt necessary on a 94' 325 of course.
--

Jean-Yves.


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I did my own service on a '00 323. This cannot be significantly different than the '03 that the OP is considering purchasing.
The top of the '03 is not the same as the one in my '94, that's entirely true. But engine management is not very much different, and ALL malfunctions that trigger the Check Engine light can te accessed with an off-the-shelf scan tool. Yes, there are diagnostics available that take specialized equipment/software, but there is no reason to think that
I maintain that my cars, four different 3 Series, have been easy to do routine service on at home. In more than 10 ten years of ownership, my cars have been to the shop a grand total of less than 10 times.
Drive happy.
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wrote in message SNIP

Really, my guy is a specialist. He has tons of Bosch gear and a little box that can read several makes.

I had a [1982] 735i with a service indicator and an LED fault panel in 1985

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On the 2003, the guy with the proper tool can interrogate the engine control computer and see all the parameters... the position of the MAF sensor can be displayed, the voltage coming off the O2 sensor, and you can see what the ECU is doing with all those sensor inputs in most cases. This makes diagnosis of things like rough running conditions a whole lot easier than on my '74 where the common answer is to shrug your shoulders and say "it's either the ignition or the carb" and start inspecting parts one at a time only to find it's actually a muffler blockage. --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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On a 2003, you're in a sort of in-between level, where a tool costing a couple thousand dollars can do the job. The $100 tool from Wal-Mart will show you error codes but nothing else. But, the system has been reverse-engineered to the point where the professional handheld tools can do the job and you don't need the super expensive tool that only the dealer has. Indicator reset you can do with a special tool that isn't THAT expensive.
Which means your local independent BMW shop becomes your friend as soon as you have anything really substantial going wrong. But even so, most mechanical stuff you can do yourself (although there is a lot more clutter in the engine compartment of the 2003 than the '94). And there's no reason you can't do transmission and differential changes in your driveway. --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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Contact the BMWCCA. Get a list of local independant BMW mechanics in your area. Have him check the thing out.
That car DOES have a timing chain, although some 6-cylinder engines have belts. It's a nice chain design as well, and if the engine is treated well and gets good maintenance it will last a long, long time.
However, DO expect that you will need to do more maintenance than you do with an American car. The maintenance schedule has a lot more stuff on it, there is more frequent fluid change, and you will find the front end needs more attention.
But, as you will note, it is one hell of a fun car to drive, even with the top up, and it is worth the extra effort.
The BMW specialist will probably wind up charging less than Joe random mechanic since although he may charge less per hour he's going to take less time to do most work. If you're wanting to work on it yourself, it is a joy to work on. Parts that on a similar vintage Ford or Chevy have turned into solid blocks of rust will move easily on the BMW just because the alloy is a tiny little bit better. Things are more designed for easy maintenance than in American cars.
I can't speak for the reliability of the convertable top; driving MGs for years spoiled my ability to judge that impartially.

Join the BMWCCA, get a discount on parts and maintenance. Follow the severe maintenance schedule in the book. Drive carefully and stop at crosswalks. --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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