Checklist when buying used BMW

Here's my second thread. I've gotten some good bites on my two Volvos I am selling, so I am expediting my research in hopes of acquiring my first BMW sooner, rather than later.
I don't believe in you aficionados doing all the work, so I thought I'd layout what I think I should do, and hopefully you all will chime in and add or subtract.
Thanks! Here goes:
I'm kind of playing off what I'd do with a Volvo, since that's what I know best, combined with general knowledge. How about I keep the general inspection to a minimum and ya'll get BMW specific if/when applicable?
1- General exterior overview for straightness, paint matching, signs of damage or repair. 2- Tire wear for evenness. Could be poor rotation or signs of mechanical wear. 3- Does the car sit straight? (Frame damage) 4- Visual inspection for leaks. 5- Under the hood inspection. Is the wiring exposed, broken, frayed? Leaks? If the engine has been professionally cleaned, run the car to see if a leak begins. Once cleaned there is no accumulation of dirt/ oil to tell. 6- Start the car, making sure all warning lights work upon ignition and no possible tampering was done. Rev the car a few times listening for evenness, no misses, no vacuum hesitation, smooth engine sound. 7- Under the hood engine running inspection for leaks, smells, sounds. 8- Shift the gears with the car parked. 9-Test interior electronics: radio, A/C, heat, doors, windows, mirrors 10- Open trunk and check for water or signs of 'nature' in spare tire compartment. 11- Test drive beginning in large parking lot, going in figure eights to check steering, suspension. 12- Take 10-mile test drive to get tranny fluid hot. Stop and inspect tranny for signs of leakage and or smoke. 13- Check for signs of overheating. 14- See how brakes handle after multiple use. Do they hold up? 15- Attempt to make some curves at speed to see of the suspension clunks, vibrates, or feels unstable in any way. 16- Accelerate/decelerate numerous times. 17- Park and thoroughly check for leaks 18- Give owner lie detector test with bright light. (Optional) LOL 19- Check reverse. 20-Look under the seats to see if the PO was a slob.
OK, that's what I have off the top of the head. Any BMW specific topics that I missed? One thing I keep seeing is making sure you don't overheat the car and warp the head. Anything more like that?
Thanks!
Jamie B
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

setups are different front/rear. The front tires wear on the interior, the rears usually wear in the center (unless under-inflated).
Some tramlining and response to road crown is expected and normal.
2nd gear synchros seem to wear more than any other gear. You can expect an older (pre-'90?) BMW to have a 2nd gear that is a little hard to get a smooth downshift into. Not to worry.
FloydR
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Hum? Interior - never seen tyres/tires fitted inside out.........

However Floyd I have just driven a 730d fitted with 20" wheels and "adaptive" suspension. This setup has Comfort and Sport settings but only for the dampers. On Sport the car is nice but can wander with a few bump bump on road cracks and unevenness, on Comport it floats and wallows like a boat and didn't seem to know what it wanted to do or where to go probably due to the thin tires and large wheels.
If one was prone to travel sickness then this setup is NOT one to be ordered as it turned a great car into a heap.
The stock 7 series set up is very good with 18" or 19" wheels but NOT the 20".
If you only use the car for say 20 miles a week and have another then the Sport setup is Ok but hey man for everyday driving is no better than an un sprung horse drawn buggy or wagon that the cowboy's use in the wild west films....
Sir Hugh of Bognor
The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. Intelligence is not knowing the answer but knowing where and how to find it!
Hugh Gundersen snipped-for-privacy@h-gee.co.uk Bognor Regis, W.Sussex, England, UK
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

"Inside edge" better for you?
On second thought, it might be the outside edge wearing 1st - both of our BMWs have new tires that don't yet show wear.
FloydR
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks all, interesting topic.
Here's one I found at the Unix Nerd's BMW site that got me. He mentioned BMW clutches are harder than other cars, and he liked that. Then he said if they are too hard, something expensive to fix (broken 'ears') might be the case. I'm still leaning in the direction of a 1994ish M34 (M50?)or something close. I haven't ruled out the 3 series either. Any thing common to look for in the manual transmission/ clutch, besides that 2nd gear issue?
Thanks again, Jamie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Mine is a '92 E34/M50 with a 5 speed (117.000 mi). The clutch is hydraulic and I can't say it's 'hard' by any means. However, if it were to get stiff I'd surely think something amiss. Never heard of or experienced any 2nd gear issues.
I've rotated my tires about every 10K or so and been getting decent mileage out of them except the factory tires (Uniroyal Ralley's) which went to about 20K (lot's of Autobahn driving might explain it). Second set were Pirelli P6's which took me to ~50K (still some Autobahn, but came to US removing that accelerated wear component), then GoodYear AquaTred 2's to around 116,000 and now GoodYear Assurance's.
I've done somewhat regular alignments too, including the thrust angle alignment which some shops do not/can not do so have been only to Goodyear (Gemini). The one I use here locally has been very good.
For other than tires/alignments and the little things I do myself, my car has only been to BMW dealerships for servicing. Some may squawk at that due to cost, but I think of my bud and his 325i (and his Volvo 740 & 244 before that) using a European car specialist for his servicing (who charged only about $5/hr less than BMW) and the nothing but troubles he had with all three. That's not always the case with local shops I'm sure. If I were a statistician I bet the volume of problems/issues/complaints would be higher against local shops vs. a dealership (at least in BMW's case). So I pay a bit more to get the odds in my favor and know they're using quality parts and I don't have to wonder if they shop did this or that.
In an earlier thread you mentioned the maintenance cost concern. My car actually cost me less than a buddy with an Oldsmobile Cutlass wagon for routine servicing. I think the true difference (and this is very prejudicial on my part) is typical owners of american badged cars buy them, fuel them, maybe change the oil now and again and that's about it. If they were to take them in for the recommended servicing they would probably be shocked at the expense. I realize you are intending on doing your own maintenance, but what I mentioned may help ease your apprehension.
Good luck finding your car!
Nate
--
Why is it all the sensors seeking intelligent
life are pointed away from earth?
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Dumb suffixing my own note, but heh, I forgot to mention something...
Mine idles somewhat rough. Not bad at all and many would not think anything of it or even notice, but it's not silky smooth as you might expect and FWIW indicates about 600 RPM on the dash. I would have been very upset had this very fact not been mentioned in a late 1991 Car & Driver comparison of the 1992 525i, Saab 9000 Turbo (my other consideration) and several more I was reading before buying. My recollection is a sentence or two devoted to this anomaly for a BMW. Once up beyond idle even the slightest, it's smooth as silk all the way to the redline.
Although not absolutely positive, I'm fairly certain I read the idle issue disappeared in the 1993 M50 engine with VANOS variable valve timing.
<getting off soapbox now> Nate
--
Why is it all the sensors seeking intelligent
life are pointed away from earth?
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It all depends which car you're looking at. Some of the E36s (and E46s) have had problems with the rear subframe mounting area with stress cracks appearing. I've not heard of it on other models. I believe some of the 2.0 engines can rattle from the timing chain area and it's not uncommon to get a lot of tappet or vanos noise from the vanos engines.
In general, if the engine starts and drives fine then all will be well. Gearbox failures tend to be catastrophic but not all that common.
In general though, and something which will be unfamiliar to you coming from volvos is the BMW suspension is or should be a lot tighter. There are a lot of ball joints or bushes particularly on the 5 series and above and it can get annoying if not necessarily pricey to replace them.
Some mid-90's cars had poor cats fitted which break up and rattle eventually dissappearing or clogging the exhausts. Fuel tanks can be susceptable to rusting.
It's common for the airbag/SRS light to come on so some dodgey sellers might cover that up.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Many thanks again for the replies.
At this point I think the two cars I am looking at would be the mid-1990's E34 525i or the E32 730/735i (I don't recognize this model from memory - so I might lean toward a 740)
Thanks, Jamie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
As a preface, 'Exx' ("Entwicklungsnummer" or 'project number') is a bodyshell/chassis designator; 'Mxx ...' ('Motor') is an engine designator. Alll older E numbers are distinct. M numbers with the same first two digits are very similar to one another. The succeeding numbers and letters signify increasing refinements.

I'm not quite sure why you have an anomalous 'disconnect' here. If you want an inline six, you should not eliminate the E34 535i.
If you are including the two V8s (the '-30' and '-40' in 730 and 740), you should also include the E34 530i and the E34 'hot rod' first year 540i as well as the two E32s.
If you are in the US, I am pretty certain you will not find an E32 730. IIRC, the smallest engine here was the M30B35 3.5 liter inline six and the 3.0 V8 was never installed in US E32s. Were I to own an E32, my preference would be for the 735i, with the 740i a close second. Be aware that the E32 also came in a long wheelbase version, all of which are recognizable by the following 'L' on the model name. So, a 735iL and a 740iL are both 4 inches longer and a couple hundred pounds heavier than the correspponding 'i' model. *Unless you are insane*, you probably want to avoid the V-12 750iL. Mere mortals such as ourselves do not DIY them. -- C.R. Krieger (Been there; done that)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Hi, Thanks for the details regarding the models. I wasn't aware of much of what you mentioned. About the models I am looking for, I am still trying to learn the variants of the body styles and combinations. Yes, if I find a 535i I will definitely consider it.
In a nutshell, before coming to this forum, the ONLY thing I could tell you I knew about BMW is they made: 318, 325, 525, Z3, Z4, M3. That's all I knew. So when I am looking at what's out there I see the 525i, 318i, 325i and the 740. Those are most common. When I have cash in hand and do my search, I will start meticulously looking for the specific models we discussed - E34 525i & 535i, E32 740i and a few more in between.
I'm still getting over information overload on the E and M things. It's a lot to remember for a newbie - even with the charts I have.
Thanks again, jamie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.