HELP! Tell me if my 1989 e34 525i motor has just died. Wont't start. Timing belt? Fuel system? Starter? AArrgh!! URGENT

Hello everyone, Everyone PLEASE respond to this posting. I own a 1989 525i e34 with just shy of 300km (I'm in Canada). Yesterday about 20 seconds from pulling into my
driveway my car suffered a very minor loss in power and started to run louder than normal from the front end, but it still drove fine. (Sounded similar to a noisy pulley for example). I got the car in the driveway, popped the hood with the car still running to hear better where the problem was. Turned the car off and decided to investigate later. Went back to look an hour later. Started the car and it ran for about 20 seconds and it stopped. NOW the car will not start at all. The starter does turn over, spins the fan, but it does not sound the same as it normally should. Sounds like it's not really connected to anything. I called the local BMW repair shop for some advice and he said it could be one of three things.
1. Bad starter or pinion 2. Bad fuel system ( checked the fuel pump all ready and there is pressure getting to the fuel rail from what I can tell) 3. Timing belt
Regarding the timing belt. The BMW person mentioned that if the belt had gone I should be able to look through the oil cap and see if the cam spins when I crank the engine. When I crank the engine the cam does spin. To confirm I pulled the distributor off. Gave it a crank and it IS spinning. I took the final pieces off the distributor to try to get a glance of the timing belt. When I pulled the distributor off their was a lot of rubber dust (Like from a belt!). However once I could see the belt it still seems to be intact. I cranked it again and the belt SEEMS to be okay. If I take a long screw driver I can move the belt quit easily. Is the belt loose, broken, normal, or is this the problem at all? If it IS the belt what other damage has been done? how can I check. Etc. If it's not the belt I need some suggestions. PLEASE HELP EVERYONE. This is my ONLY vehicle. I don't like to take buses but I'm also not in the mood to buy a new engine (Or CAR!). Thanks everyone!!
Mark
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Mark Amero wrote:

Mark,
The belt should not move easily when poked by a screwdriver.
I am sorry to say that what has apparently happened to your engine is the timing belt tensioner has gone t/u or the belt has jumped off and though the belt is intact, it has most likely skipped teeth or the cam is longer being driven properly.
The damage that will have happened (if any of this is the case) would be that many if not all of the valves will have been bent from having been hit by the pistons. The pistons may also have been damaged by the valves.
If you quit dicking around with it you may minimize the amount of further damage to the pistons, but in all likelyhood at least the head will need a rebuild with new valves.
Time to closely inspect the bank account...
-Fred W
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Thanks for the post Fred. Does anyone else agree or disagree with Fred? If the belt has skipped or jumped off what am I looking at for repair bills. Or should I just cut my losses. The car is an 89, 300k beginning to rust and needs some suspension work done. Opinions? Either way if this is the problem I think this will cost me a lot of money.
Mark

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Agree with Fred. Normally the belt is under quite a bit of tension and can not move around by simply poking at it. If it has skipped enough teeth so the valves are contacting the pistons, usually a new set of valves and probably guides are in order. You should be able to get a ballpark cost on that assumption, plus of course a new timing belt, tensioner and as a precaution, the water pump.
May well not be worth it on a rusty '89 e30.
Cheers, Howard
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What are some simple signs or tests to diagnose any damage caused?

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Mark Amero wrote:

Pull off the valve cover and see how many valves are not retracted up to touch the cam. Those will be the bent ones...
I'm thinking you would be right that the car isn't worth much with a bad motor and rusty body, otherwise (if the body were worth saving) I'd suggest dropping a newer M50 or M52 motor in it.
Personally, I'm a big fan of the E30 body, but not the M20 motor. Timing belt vs. chain. Solid lifters vs. hydraulic.
-Fred W
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Well, I've pretty much decided to cut my losses. Going to buy a beater to transition. I am looking at buying a somewhat newer BMW as a perminant replacement. I've always liked the 1995-01 e38 740i(l). I was already looking at getting one before my e34 crapped out. Any opinions or sugestions. I know you need to be carefull with some of the early ones do to bad blocks. If thats been done they're great cars though.
Mark

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