Oil leaks on prospective car? Should I expect them in a 10 year old BMW?

Third post for this newbie here. I ask this question to prepare myself for when I start inspecting cars come buying time.
Here's the question that popped into my head and scared the beans out
of me. I imagined myself finding a car I really liked. The car looks good, I am starting to really get interested. Let's say the car is something like a 93 E34 525i with 120,000 miles (all of this is made up). The only thing the owner says is that it has a "minor oil leak."
Originally I thought what I would do is try and determine the source of the leak, then guesstimate if it was something like a rear main seal (drop the tranny), or front seals (a bit less dramatic). Valve cover gaskets (piece of cake), or maybe some failed sensor. (I had a Volvo with the oil light sensor failed, leaked oil like mad. $9 fixed it all.)
Now I am thinking - I don't know a thing about these bimmers. Maybe I should just stay away from ANY leaks. Is it common to start seeing leaks in the 10 year old + cars, with over 100,000 miles?
The fear of the unknown has reared its ugly head in my mind!
Any comments?
PS: To try and narrow the hypothetical down, the scenario is my budget is now about $5000 - $6000 and I want a range of about 1991-1997. E34 525i with no more than about 130,000 miles. Manual tranny.
jamie
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JamieB wrote:
> Now I am thinking - I don't know a thing about these bimmers. Maybe I

I detest oil leaks. I simply don't allow them on my cars/bikes/whatever..
That said - there is a rather common one on the M50 series engine. This engine uses a cork gasket for the oil pan. With age - the gasket starts to creep a bit and leaks start. Not massive leaks, but enough to be visible.
Fix is pull the pan and replace the gasket. Doing this requires dropping the front suspension down so the pan can be removed. Not a trivial job for a home DIY - but not awful if you have good tools, jackstands and a floor-jack. If you don't - it will probably cost you about 4 hours of shop time.
That's the only "common" oil leak I know of with these engines. The valve cover uses a "profile" gasket - which is a rubber gasket. These might dry up and start leaking after a long time - replacement is pretty simple.
I think we could give you more intelligent responses if you described where the oil is leaking from, or at least where it can be seen.
Oh - on the older M30 engines - the oil-pressure sender was a common leak point (same sender as all euro engines of the era used - $7 at a NAPA parts place..) I haven't heard/seen that being a problem with the newer engines, but it's still easy to get to and see - I believe on the M50 engine it is located on the right side of the head (facing the engine from the front.)

There was no '96 5-series in the US, and the '97 will be an E39 (better car IMHO - I've owned both..) and will probably be beyond your $6k limit. I think you're at a reasonable budget point for a '91-95 5er/E34.
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Many thanks again for the helpful response.
Thank you again for correcting an inaccuracy. I tossed out 1997 as a random number thinking that would be the limit of my price range - but it actually went beyond the model year of the car I want. Thank you for that. I think '91-95 5er/E34 says it nicely!
jamie
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admin wrote:

The same engine is prone to valve cover gasket leaks. The rubber gaskets get hard and brittle with age. The right way to fix that is with new gaskets and all of the bolt donuts. The cheap fix is some good gasket sealing compound applied and reasembled.
--
-Fred W

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My '94 325i had an output shaft (I think it was) seal oil leak when it was 3 years old with 40k miles but the leakage was very minor. Power steering often also leaks and the oil gets on the engine/tranny.
I'd be asking the seller how much oil the car was getting through.
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Thank you. These are hypothetical right now. I haven't begun looking at cars yet. I want to be armed with a little knowledge in case these type things pop up.
jamie
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waffled on about something:

I'd say that no matter what make of car, unless you are 101% sure where the oil is coming from (and that you can fix it easily), run away!
If it's coming out round the bottom of the head, run away faster!
I have a 10 year old 325tds, 120k miles, and an engine bay filthy with dry dust, just the way I like 'em.
Personally I'm put off if I look under an engine bay and it's too clean (dealer steam clean). I'd much rather be able to look at a few years of dust/dirt, and see what's been touched/changed/played with, and see if it's leaking any bodily fluids.
Dodgy.
--
MUSHROOMS ARE THE OPIATE OF THE MOOSES

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Thanks! Great feedback.
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Well my E38 is approaching 12 years and no leaks whatsoever. I don't EXPECT leaks like I don't EXPECT things to go wrong like I don't EXPECT to be cheated at a main dealer.
However, having said that it always wise to have another scenario to fall back on. Like a 44 magnum under your left armpit...........
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
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snipped-for-privacy@h-gee.co.uk wrote:

Oh, I would definitely *expect* to be screwed at any BMW dealership in the US, or at least an attempt at same.
--
-Fred W

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Fred --- You left out my last bit.
I don't EXPECT it to happen but know it probably will try to be sneaked in so the scenario is act innocent and naive when booking. Don't sign any work orders - remember you are NOT an expert so why should you tell them what to do.
I always say - XYZ isn't working can you fix it? they always try to come back with "We can fit a new ABC control unit" Well I answer something like "I can take my dog for a walk" When the puzzled look appears I explain that I really don't know what he is talking about and repeat the question "Can you fix it" and that is all I say then I add "I would like a full breakdown of what was wrong and how you fixed it to put in my service records"
This way they can NEVER say to you "We changed the XYZ unit as you REQUESTED but it didn't fix the problem now we are going to start again and charge you the equivalent of a Space Shuttle Launch"
Nobody EXPECTS to be fleeced otherwise one wouldn't be able to go about their daily routing but everybody should be AWARE that not everybody is as nice as they are.
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
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Hello JamieB,
The camshaft seal in the front of the engine was a position where I had a minor leak. I never worried about it for a couple of years, but the remedy was probably to losen the transmission belt and the belt pulley and exchange the seal.
Best regards
Gunnar H


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The Dealer says I have a leak where the oil filter interfaces to the engine - this sounded minor to me, but the estimate was 5 or 6 hours. I found the procedure on one of the forums, a lot for DIYer but doable. I also found this was a common leak for an E39 (mine is 99 528 with 118k miles on it). I haven't fixed (or had it fixed) yet. It doesn't appear to leak that much, but it is very annoying.
Mike

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My E38 is now 13 years old and NOTHING leaks.
Clean as new and I don't molly-coddle it either.
Steve

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