View Full Version : My 325i Winter Beater Basket Case Project

12-23-2011, 09:01 PM
Welcome to the epic saga of a man whose BMW experience begins by purchasing what might very well be the worst piece of crap E30 in the entire country. For use as a winter beater fcplm

I was on kijiji (of course) looking at cars $1000 and under to sacrifice to the angry god named Saskatchewan Winter. There were several likely candidates including several Integras, an MX-6, and the value leader, a $350 Swift. I'd always liked the Mazdas, but by the time I replied to the ad it was sold. Lucky for me, since it turned up on kijiji again a week later as a parts car due to timing belt failure *shiner*

I kept looking and soon enough this turned up:


1989 325i BMW Coupe - heated seats, pwr windows, manual sunroof, original sound system, aluminum wheels, summer (Feb/07) & winter (Nov/07) tires (winter studded on it now). Parts and work we've done since Sept 2006 when we purchased it in addition to regular oil changes:

- ABS brake relay Dec 2006
- Fuel Pump Apr 2007
- Rear Brakes Oct 2007
- Alternator June 2009
- Block Heater Oct 2009
- Front Brakes Oct 2009
- Battery Dec 2009
- Radiator Cap Jan 2010
- All 3 belts Oct 2010

The cons - has rust driver and passenger doors and rear fenders, rear defrost doesn't work, front signal lights sometimes don't work but rears do, muffler needs to be replaced, check engine light is on - oxygen sensor the Eurosport mechanic tells me, doesn't like to start when's it's below -30 without being plugged in.

Good little car and with a little work will last a lot longer. The kids have moved on so it's time to sell.

I was intrigued to say the least. E30s are rare here; I've only seen a handful and most of those restored and definitely not in the under-a-grand price range. 265,000 km on it, nothing exceptional for a 20+ year old car. Automatic, bleh -- I'm 41 and have never owned a slushbox before. But heated seats, studded tires . . . this thing had winter beater written all over it.
The winter tires looked like new, the asswarmers worked, it started, moved under its own power, and stopped when requested. Sold for nine hundred bucks!

I loved it *love* ABS, sufficient traction with the studs, but still able to slide all over the place with a bit of throttle. The 325 was my first rwd car since my '86 MR2 many years ago, I'd forgotten how much fun they were. There was just one thing I needed to do . . . replace the timing belt. I've learned the hard way to never let that slide, especially on a vehicle without a complete service history. The MX-6 on kijiji proved motivational as well. The idle was kind of erratic as well, so I thought I'd see what that was all about . . .

12-23-2011, 09:17 PM
Congrats! Any more pix? Perfect beater!

12-23-2011, 09:38 PM
Of course you're all snickering now, because you know all about E30 idle troubleshooting:


Well, some things you just have to learn the hard way *shiner* I got the Bentley manual, looked up some timing belt DIY articles, and ordered a timing belt kit plus a camshaft seal and o-ring. While I was waiting for the parts I started reading about idle issues . . .

. . . and reading

. . . and reading

And finally reached the point where I felt I knew enough about it to begin the troubleshooting process. So let the horror show begin . . .

Spark plugs and air filter seemed like a good way to ease into it. I can't believe I didn't take a pic of the filter, but as things progress I'm sure you'll be able to imagine it accurately enough. Here's what the housing looked like:


And a representative example of the plugs:


Not only were the plugs in that condition, they weren't the right plugs. Not even close. I don't remember the exact number but when I tried to cross-reference them with other brands the only application that came up was LAWNMOWER. But wait, what about that O2 sensor mentioned in the ad? Let's have a look over there . . .


Is there a Jesus Wept smiley here?

So, add new plugs and air filter to the list and forge ahead. Next up the intake tract, the AFM!

12-23-2011, 10:17 PM
It's not pretty, but a little oxidation is to be expected, right?


Inside, things take a turn for the worse:


I'm not too alarmed yet, I've read approximately ELEVEN BILLION PAGES of E30 related stuff and know that a bit of oily crud in the intake tract is nothing to get excited about. And after the air filter and plugs I'm getting desensitized to dark wonders of this engine bay. If I want to fix the idle I should be looking for vacuum leaks, which is easy because they're everywhere!


Why spend all that money on a silicone air intake boot when you can just cover your cracked-to-shit rubber boot in silicone? You'll also want to note the electrical tape on the broken ICV-air boot connection, and the discerning eye will also see the pressed-in throttle housing fittings, which are no longer pressed in so much as being trapped in a thick layer of baked on greasy crud. All the other hoses were dry rotted into oblivion as well, some taped up some not.

The throttle housing didn't fail to fail to disappoint:


An even less flattering angle:


I didn't notice until much later when I was reassembling, but the throttle linkage was nicely bent. Next pic makes a good visual representation of my sanity at this point: superficially intact, but cracked to the point of being completely nonfunctional.


And way down there at the bottom of the throttle housing was this poor guy. You can't really see it here but it was completely full of oil. I took it apart, cleaned it, and drilled a tiny drain hole in the bottom of the casing.


The O2 sensor had more problems than just being unplugged:


I gave it a good soaking in Sea Foam:



After the crud was loosened up a bit I cleaned it up as much as I could, plugged it back in, and no more O2 sensor code! Of course the CEL didn't go out, either.

12-23-2011, 11:04 PM
So the parts list groweth, with the addition of an air boot plus various hoses and gaskets. Unfortunately, removing the throttle housing meant that I could see into the intake manifold. This pic was taken on the bench with better light, but for narrative purposes we'll pretend it's still on the car:


The other end, at the FPR vacuum fitting:


Clearly, no decent human being would allow this to continue. Fortunately for this car, neither would I :) The manifold must come off! But ohhhhh those fiendish Germans and their almost-but-not-quite-impossible to access manifold nuts . . I swear I had to devise a combination of u-joints and extensions that could twist in more than 3 dimensions to get them all. A mighty effort which was rewarded by finding this at the #6 intake port:


And yes, it was like that before I moved the manifold at all. Removing it revealed this:


HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN? How could someone fail to notice the broken gasket was just hanging off the top stud at an angle? Or maybe the last guy who had the manifold off just said "**** it, close enough".

12-23-2011, 11:09 PM
Now I'll digress slightly, in order to show you the amazing super power of this M20B25: it carries more oil on its outside than it has inside!

(the hose is to keep stuff from falling into the spark plug hole)







Now because of the thick protective coating of vulcanized oil I expended a great deal of effort cleaning the engine bay. Each component I removed revealed new areas that not only could be cleaned, they had to be cleaned before removing anything else, to prevent mass quantities of crap from getting into the engine. There were many cycles of degreasing and rinsing throughout this project . . .

. . . all carried out under the not entirely unreasonable assumption that one of the intake ports was not, in fact, completely open to the engine bay. Thus:


Oh look, #6 intake valve is swimming in Engine Brite! Greetings, O citrusy merchant of doom! By pure dumb luck the valve was completely closed so I was able to suck the liquid out. Catastrophe averted.

12-23-2011, 11:40 PM
lol i have to say you make it an interesting read

12-24-2011, 01:12 AM
nice project thread

my intake manifold gasket was also ripped like that causing vacuum leaks, any other ideas on why it happens?

12-24-2011, 09:12 AM
cool thread man, looks like that little guy found himself a good home after years of abuse, good luck with bringing it back up to par, feel free to post any questions or problems you encounter alot of the guys on here are very resourceful when it comes to e30s, welcome aboard

12-24-2011, 05:35 PM
Fantastic reading. Keep up with it and keep the pictures coming!

Some of us (me included) are fortunate to have B25s not as oily, so its intriguing to see the difference and restoration!

FYI have you found the service manuals yet? There are plenty of links to the actual service manual (in reality quite vague except for great wiring diagrams and pictures, but instructions seems to suck missing many steps).

Bentley's is good to have as a backup. I predict you're going to like this car so much you're going to run it in the summer, or buy a rust free manual version.

Prepare yourself for the addiction of an early 80s car that can deliver a driving experience like little else.

12-24-2011, 06:26 PM
I predict you're going to like this car so much you're going to run it in the summer, or buy a rust free manual version.

Prepare yourself for the addiction of an early 80s car that can deliver a driving experience like little else.You've hit the nail on the head my friend, as you'll see when this continues *th-up* The more I work on it, the more I like it. Part of that comes from the continually improving driving experience as I fix things, a lot of it comes from sheer admiration and amazement that it was still running at all :eek:

12-24-2011, 06:46 PM
Great thread...curious though why is someone in that neighborhood driving a sub $1k beater in winter?

Also is that your homes driveway? How did you and the neighbor get to join drives, can't do it here, need to leave 3-4 feet of green :(

By your writing you do not sound like a 17 year old living with mom and dad.

12-25-2011, 12:56 AM
Good work so far, slap that thing together and slide around until spring :)

12-25-2011, 01:54 AM
Awesome I love the progress! Although I did cry a little seeing how that car has missed the easiest of maintenence, keep up the good work!!

12-25-2011, 01:09 PM
there is no doom of having some engine brite in the valve chamber.. All that will happen is it will burn off once the valve is open. not nearly enough to create hydralock. Fun watching someone else do this for a change...been there done it too often. :-) I know time factor may be at play here but since you are doing the "dirty" on the block. you may want to remove the pan gasket as well?

Frost plug!!! Great idea especially out there!

12-25-2011, 10:32 PM
How did you and the neighbor get to join drives, can't do it here, need to leave 3-4 feet of green :( No such regulation here; if you look in the background you can see that houses next to each other have the opposite layout, one has the driveway on the rightmost edge, the next has the driveway on the left, so that as you go around the crescent there will be 2 adjacent driveways separated by a wide expanse of front yard.

Great thread...curious though why is someone in that neighborhood driving a sub $1k beater in winter? I have to admit that's not my neighbourhood *shiner* That's the pic from the kijiji ad. They bought the car for their kids to learn to drive with (and it has the scars to prove it).

However . . . if I wanted a house like that, selling my acreage would get me into one. I prefer country(ish) living. Only 10 minutes from the city limits, but it's a whole different world out here. Very few neighbours, very little crime, noise, regulations, you name it.

Why am I driving a cheap old beater? Because I spend all my money on cocaine and hookers, why else? :moon:

Seriously though, it's just a question of priorities (and personal quirks). If I really wanted a new car, I could make the payments on quite a nice one. But I haven't had a car payment in 20 years and have no intention of ever having one again. I have friends who make more money than I do but can't afford any toys or a workshop/mad scientist lair like I have . . . the difference is the car payment. Sink a bunch of money into something that loses so much value so quickly, multiply by a few decades, it adds up.

Of course being frugal by nature helps, and so does my MacGuyver-on-crack style. Every time I drive a new vehicle I think "wow, this is really nice" . . . then after an hour or two I get bored because there's no excuse to take an angle grinder to it or spray it with bedliner :D So instead of one or 2 nice vehicles, I have much more fun with a whole bunch of project vehicles and a continuously upgraded shop.

And finally, I care very little about cars in the first place because I, sir, am a motorcyclist :cool: Not a biker, bikers are fat hairy guys who ride Harleys. I have 5 bikes right now, and my gf has another 2 *rockout* Even in Saskatchewan a bike is my daily driver from April to November, rain or shine; if I can trick the gf into doing all the grocery runs I can go weeks at a time without needing 4 wheels. It's been quite a while since I thought of a car as anything but a necessary evil I have to endure until the snow melts once again. Every dollar wasted on a car is a dollar that could be put towards more bikes, more mods, more tools . . . Score one for the E30, it has charmed me into elevating it from disposable transpo-container to perpetual project status :D

12-26-2011, 01:39 AM
...my MacGuyver-on-crack style.

I pride myself on this same thing. Very good thing to have a problem solving mind like that. *high five*

Props on riding a bike too. You are a cool dude.

12-26-2011, 10:20 PM
Problem solving is a big part of my job, unfortunately. Most of the time I have to undo several other peoples' work before I can do my own. I even have my own slogan: "Doing it right, so you don't have to!" fcplm

I don't have any good pics of my favourite bike since I finished putting it together just in time for a few rides before winter, but here it is anyway in all its frankenbike glory. 1998 Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird, with the complete front end from a new zero-mileage Kawasaki ZX-14R, CBR1000RR front brake calipers and master, Danmoto 3d adjustable bars, SS brake lines, Pazzo knockoff levers, Akrapovic Supersport header with Yoshimura TRC-D can, Corbin Smuggler seat, Mavryk Designs lithium-iron battery, Factory Pro adjustable ignition advancer . . . I'm probably forgetting a few things, and the project's hardly begun :) It's a pretty good overview of how I go about things -- functional awesomeness first, cosmetics when I get around to it.

Stock: note the giant, heavy, indestructible twin torpedo exhaust, conventional (undersprung, nonadjustable) forks and the old school front brake calipers:


Work in progress:






I got the exhaust bits dirt cheap because of some crash damage (fixable), and scoured ebay for the best deals on most of the rest. The whole exhaust weighs less than one of the stock cans and is much less restrictive; the LiFePo battery weighs 1.6 lbs vs 8+ stock, and the new front end has inverted forks fully adjustable for preload, compression, and rebound plus radial brakes. Fitting the ZX forks required custom fab work on the steering stops and ignition cylinder mount, plus making spacers for the brake calipers and top steering stem bearing.

Of course the bodywork is trashed (not my doing) and with the ZX-14 front fender it now has 3 different colours going . . . I'll get around to it one of these days. I have to admit I love my uber-beaterbike.

But anyway, back to the E30 *th-up*

12-26-2011, 10:39 PM
When I finally got the intake manifold off, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry:




I'm no certified mechanic, but I'm fairly certain there's an above-average amount of crap in here.

A nicely overexposed pic with the injector out of the way:


And speaking of the injectors:



I rigged up a test harness for the injectors and they all seemed to work, so I just cleaned them out and added new o-rings to the parts list.


All the black goo in the pan came off of, and out of, those 6 little injectors. The carbonite coating in the manifold just laughed at brake cleaner, and wasn't much impressed with carb cleaner either. I finally got its number by putting a nozzle with a tube on my can of Permatex gasket remover and alternating Permatex treatments with reamings courtesy of a Dremel with a stainless wire brush on the end of the flex tube. I cleaned the intake ports on the head with a toothbrush dipped in carb cleaner.

Onward to the exhaust ports:


Just plain nasty, but pretty mild compared to the intake.


12-28-2011, 07:02 PM
Exhaust manifolds were a nice combination of carbon and rust:


The insides got the Permatex + wire wheel treatment. When they were clean I took a die grinder to the rough casting and smoothed it out especially around the recesses for the studs; they seemed unnecessarily restrictive. Just a little OCD folks, nothing to see here. Really nothing, since I seem to have lost a lot of my pics. But seriously, cast iron headers . . . what are we, cavemen? *shiner*

I cleaned up the flange surfaces as best I could, they looked like medium-altitude shots of the surface of Mars. I ordered new downpipe gaskets but reused the manifold-->head gaskets after cutting off the disintegrating heat shields. I was going to ceramic coat the headers inside and out but ended up skipping that step. Not normally something that people do with stock cast headers, but it would only cost a few bucks to do it myself (Techline Cil-Gen Satin Black + airbrush). In fact I intended to blast and paint every part I had to remove, but time was becoming a factor, and as always I'd researched just a little too much . . . enough to Start Getting Ideas. There's a reason my gf has standing orders to taser me if she catches me cackling maniacally while reading a project-related forum.

Back to the work in progress:


The entire area behind the valve cover baffle was a solid mass of sludge. If I'd had any idea how much work cleaning it would be I would've just removed the baffle, hosed it out, and riveted it back on.

By this time I'd dealt with (or at least identified) all the factors contributing to the idle problem, and I managed to remember that replacing the timing belt was the whole point of this exercise. The front of the engine was in the same sad shape as the rest:




The cam seal, didn't:


Beauty shot of the thermostat housing mount:


And this little beauty . . . it was packed full of sludge, and not much fun at all to clean out. I had no idea what it was, but figured it must be important since the BMW logo was cast into the bolt head. Let's just say that by the time I figured it out, I knew my way around the realoem diagrams.


12-28-2011, 07:53 PM
When I got the car the radiator was just sort of flying in formation in the general vicinity of the front of the engine, with enough freedom of movement to contact the fan just enough to wear a nice circle into the fins without actually rupturing anything.

Each lower rad mount consists of a rubber bumper on the rad that fits into a plastic cup on the frame; one side had the bumper but no cup, the other had the cup but no bumper. I moved the cup to the driver's side to make a complete set there, then fabbed up a bumper and cup for the passenger side from . . . stuff. I believe some of it began life as abs plastic hose fittings. I can't find pics of it and that whole afternoon is kind of a blur. Snow was in the forecast, I was way behind schedule, and I really didn't want to resort to putting ice racing tires on my Blackbird (or buy another winter beater) so I could get to work fcplm

My awesomely functional fan clutch wrench, made from 1/4" 6061 aluminum:


The rad and the fan clutch were a solid mass of compressed greasy dust (again no pics because I was in a hurry). It took many gallons of compressed air to get the rad in acceptable shape, and the dust is now evenly distributed around my garage. In the future I'll remember to do such things outside no matter how cold, dark, and windy it is, but I had no idea how much would come out, and after the first blast it was far too late. I'm having trouble restraining myself from making a Peter North joke here.

And finally (FINALLY!) I get to the timing belt, and find out the whole ordeal was worthwhile:


And then, as the Haynes manuals say, installation was the reverse of removal :moon:

The engine work was just about wrapped up, the horror almost over. Here's a pic I forgot to include earlier, but what the hell. I never get tired of showing people how wretched this car was when I got it:


A few other things I just remembered but don't have pics of: the distributor rotor was cracked to the point of disintegrating, the plug end of the #3 spark plug wire fell right off in a show of green dust, and the oil drain plug had been stripped and helicoiled at some point. I think that covers everything in the engine compartment. Oh, and the hood shock is worn out. I discovered that if I remove the arm the shock attaches to, the hood will open far enough to overbalance and stay put. Do not attempt this outdoors on a windy day, with the car parked facing up a slope, or if you consider the kidneys in the grill to be non-loadbearing.

Between the all-inclusive idle troubleshooting and needing access to find oil leaks and clean thoroughly, I ended up removing pretty much everything attached to the engine. So, I spent quite a while putting it all back together. I used a couple cans of contact cleaner on the many and various electrical connectors and more than a full tube of dielectric grease to seal them up. Changing the oil and mixing up 12 litres of coolant good to -50C were the last and least of the jobs. While the car was down the battery in my gf's Matrix needed to be replaced so I donated the Motomaster battery from the E30 and replaced that with a brand new AC Delco 775 CCA, 160 amp-hour battery I got surplus from work for twenty bucks :cool:

I hooked up the new battery, and after an unexpectedly short time cranking the reborn M20 fired up with nary a check panel warning or CEL in sight *par-t* It idled at 800 rpm at first, then settled down to a rock steady 650-ish when warm. While it was warming up I backed it out of the garage and bled the coolant FOR GOD-DAMN EVER until air stopped coming out. Then it was time to take it for a maiden voyage around the block (by which I mean, 3 miles of grid road to the highway, 2 miles down the highway to the next grid, then back). I shut it off, went into the house for a while, came back out and it absolutely refused to start.


12-28-2011, 08:16 PM
Nice work. Your thread makes me want to get a semi-rough E30 and get it fully sorted. :D

I'm holding off on any more cars until I get a proper shop in place. My single car uninsulated garage from the 70's is a tad small but could work if I pull out everything in it, and it's too frigging cold to work in the barn during the winter, not to mention it's dirty and dusty all the time.

Also, country life FTW!

12-28-2011, 09:39 PM
My single car uninsulated garage from the 70's is a tad small but could work if I pull out everything in it, and it's too frigging cold to work in the barn during the winterMy garage is also unheated, which is a big part of why I get less done in the winter than I'd like. It's very well insulated (built in 2000) and doesn't get below freezing until we've had a solid week of -20, but I'm a big wuss. There's a small heated workshop attached and I can half-assed heat the garage by propping the workshop door open and making its furnace work overtime, but that gets expensive. Also, you can't live on an acreage without cats, and our cats live in a big basket under a heat lamp in the garage. The workshop is the only place exempt from cat sabotage, leaving the door open defeats the purpose.

Even with the short days we tend to get a lot of sunshine in the winter, solar hot water heating is another project on the list. If I could get 5 or 10 degrees free that way, it wouldn't be too expensive to use radiant or gas heating to get it all the way up to a comfortable temp when required.

Also, country life FTW!

Damn straight *th-up* The city can't compete with this:






Okay, scenic interlude is over *wave*

12-28-2011, 10:51 PM
Successful reassembly, cold starts fine, runs fine, won't restart unless left sitting for several hours. This sounds like a job for --- a guys who's read ELEVEN BILLION PAGES of E30 related info recently! That, or Batman. Although when you think about, Ironman is probably a much better mechanic.

I admit that Mr. Motronic helped by throwing a 1223 aka coolant temp sensor. I had to pull the electrical connectors from the injectors and move the plastic wiring harness housing, but managed to get the sensor out without pulling the whole fuel rail. Tested it with a multimeter and yep, it was toast. Infinite resistance, which AFAIK meant the system was under the impression it was in a permanent extreme cold-start situation. That would explain the ummmm, slightly rich condition responsible for the extreme carbon buildup I had to clean up earlier. Ironically, it was probably running better before I fixed the multitude of vacuum leaks. All that extra unmetered air would've balanced things out a bit *shiner*

As it happened, I had an extra coolant temp sensor on hand. Just like I had an extra #3 spark plug wire to replace the corrosion victim I mentioned earlier. Damn those overly informative E30 forums *uzi*

If you looked at the bike pics above, you know I'm no stranger to hacking up perfectly good motorcycles. So imagine me giggling like a schoolgirl when I found entire sections of forums devoted such things as automatic to 5-speed conversions. I wasn't doomed to endure the slushbox for winters without end! But wait, what's this? Engine swaps, you say? How very intriguing. This is the point where my gf should have tasered me (just ask her). But she missed her chance and I ended up reading a further few terabytes of forum, followed by a few weeks of intense kijiji and salvage-website watching. Then I just blacked out for a while and when I regained consciousness this was in the yard:




My $400 1989 535i :D M30B35, unfortunately an auto but you could hardly expect otherwise. Seemed like a good deal because the car only has 107,000 km and looks like it was a garage queen until its unfortunate demise. I mean, look at this *rockout*


This is what I meant when I said the car had been upgraded to perma-project status. Also why I decided not to bling up the M20 before putting it back together. That will be much easier to do later when it's out of the car. I think that selling the M20 and tranny, plus the tranny and whatever else from the 535i, will go a long way to paying for the swap. Good used vintage BMW parts are not so easy to find in Saskatchewan, and shipping tends to be lethal. Last time I bought a wrecked bike I ended up tripling my money parting it out, and that was after I removed the whole front end for a swap (which was the reason for buying it). Heck, the basketweaves are probably worth half what I paid for the car (the left front is bent but there's another in the trunk, bless those crazy Germans and their full-size full-bling spares).

So anyway, I replaced the coolant temp sensor and once again I was in business, no check engine light, and this time with warm-start capability :)

The Twin
12-29-2011, 11:54 AM
I could read this thread for hours lol
awesome writting style, and VERY nice rescue on that that little bronzit e30!

like others have said, these cars are VERY addictive, and are somewhat easy to work on...much like Lego if anything.

coolant temp sensors will yield fantastic results when replaced, they are like the e30 antibiotic. They devise excellent outcomes when they are at fault.

M30b35's are the last of BMW's notoriosly awesome "Big 6's" a few guys on here have swapped them, and with only 107K on that one you're barely even close to breaking it in.

All the best, and enjoy the fruits of your labours!....which, evidently come along with Bentley manual studies, Maxbimmer, E30tech, R3vlimited and Bimmerforum discussion in which these cars are disected through and through and inside out again and again.

12-29-2011, 05:02 PM
Now I'll digress slightly, in order to show you the amazing super power of this M20B25: it carries more oil on its outside than it has inside!
Catastrophe averted.

Awesome posts! thanks for more info.. I have read a few pages on the e30 now and have to get over being in love with the first one I am looking at.

oh and actually laughing out loud at the last post
'she should have tazered me at this point'

12-30-2011, 08:21 PM
Naturally, the more time I spent on the car, the more problems I found. As the previous owner had mentioned, the rear defroster wasn't working. The tab on the driver's side was broken off; that was easy enough to fix with the Permatex repair kit. I was very annoyed that the kit contained enough of the conductive epoxy to glue a dozen tabs back on, but in packaging deliberately designed to be single-use only. Cheap bastards. While I was back there I took a look at the rear speakers, which had been ominously silent since I got the car. I swapped in a speaker from the 535 with no improvement. Of course not, that would've been far too easy :mad:

The driver's side mirror heater and lock heater weren't working either, and the central locking system wasn't fully functional. With the engine pretty much sorted out it was time to tackle the electrical system :puke:

First I cleaned up the big multi-pin connector in the driver's doorjamb. And everything started working again, even the rear speakers! Ok, that's a load of crap. It didn't help, so I took off the door panel and kick panel and prepared for some serious electramatitioning.

When I was taking the kick panel off I noticed a little fuse block sticking out from under the dash; I pulled on it and it came right out in a tangle of wires. Encouraged by this, I kept pulling and eventually all this came spilling out:


Which explained this thing I found earlier:


Yay, free remote starter! The perfect addition to any winter beater, if only it came with an actual remote. Not to worry, there's a place in town that has a proverbial bin-o-obsolete remotes. But I'm not going to worry about it until I get the rest of the electrics sorted. At least the Germans used mostly Bosch . . . if I had a British car I'd have to order some of this:


12-30-2011, 11:38 PM
Haha nice pic.

So an M30 swap is in the works? Then a low ratio LSD, and then, and then, and then....

12-31-2011, 08:06 PM
VERY nice rescue on that that little bronzit e30!
Ah, that reminds me . . . at some point in my research I discovered that my car was bronzit, and that I should be deeply ashamed of this fcplm

Now back to the driver's door. The lock heater control box didn't look quite right:


I used the Dremel to remove enough of the potting to expose some wire:


Then, for reasons which escape me at the moment, I decided to solder in a spade connector instead of soldering the wire back on directly. Then a bit of repotting and it was good to go:


Re-loomed the wires, and was enraged because the crappy Princess Auto heatshrink I found in the garage when I moved in, didn't shrink much at all:


Reinstalled the box and . . . still nothing. This is as far as I've gone with this; at this point I don't know if the lock heater box is kaput or if the problem lies elsewhere. It could be the heater itself, or something else. I know the mirror heater duty cycle is linked to the outside air temp sensor, not sure about the lock heater. I have the factory electrical troubleshooting manual and a bunch of DIY articles, just haven't gotten around to continuing with this.

The central lock issues are as follows: I can lock, double-lock, and unlock the car from the driver's door. I can lock and unlock the passenger door from the trunk, and vice versa, but the driver's door lock doesn't respond at all. I'm pretty sure this means the actuator isn't, for lack of a better word, actuating. Next time I feel like molesting the door innards I'll find out.

12-31-2011, 09:19 PM
Onwards! And by that I mean backwards! To the rear of the car, that is. The last thing that needed attention was the diff:



Not a pretty sight at all, the pass. side output flange seal appears to be toast. However, from the looks of the plugs the diff hadn't been touched in a long time, possibly not since it was installed in 10/88. I was pressed for time so I decided to just top up the fluid. It was only down about 200mL, so unless it started leaking very recently it's not a huge deal, especially since I doubt I'll be keeping a 4.10 open diff after I get the M30 installed. I changed the diff fluid a few weeks later and it was . . . interesting. I drained it into a shallow white pan; normally I can shine a light up through the bottom and see if there's any filings or other crap suspended in the oil. But the old gear oil was impenetrable. It was less than an inch deep in the pan but my 2 million candlepower spotlight was powerless against it. Then I put a strong magnet against the bottom of the pan and watched a halo of bright filings form around it. Moving it around made a silver comet form in the dark brown oil. Too bad I couldn't get a decent video of the effect, it was as cool as it was disturbing.

Speaking of disturbing, here are some more glamour shots of the underside:








And now the narrative has caught up with the present time. I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing with this car; clearly it needs a complete suspension refresh, new shocks, springs, struts, and every conceivable bushing.

However . . . I haven't decided if I'm going to do 5-lug swap or just bring it back to new oem spec. 5-lug would be a fun project in itself, and big brakes would be nice to have along with a big motor. OTOH, there's the reality that I live in Saskatchewan and with the exception of freeway onramps this car will never see curves worth mentioning. New stock suspension bits would be a huge improvement and give me all the handling I'd realistically ever need, but of course replacing stock parts would be much less satisfying than modding the crap out of something. So, still undecided.

Either way, a suspension refresh is not something I'm going to attempt on a car I need as a daily driver . . . let's just say I've learned the hard way that projects like that have a way of taking way more time than I think they will, especially on old neglected vehicles. I had to promise my gf I'd never again do anything more involved than changing fluids unless I had another complete, running, plated vehicle to drive if things went awry. In return, she promised to not kill me in my sleep over this specific issue. She reserves the right to do so for unrelated offenses *shiner*

And finally, if I were going to the trouble to r&r the entire bloody suspension, it would be convenient to do that at the same time as the engine and tranny swap . . . and if the drivetrain as well as the suspension were removed, well hell you couldn't pick a better time to cut out the rust, weld in patch panels, finish and repaint everything.. And then there's the exhaust . . . of course if I did all that it wouldn't be right to keep it as a winter beater, so I'd have to get another one of those . . .

12-31-2011, 09:42 PM
good read!

01-02-2012, 09:42 PM
Great read, PS. this looks to be far from the worst looking e30 in the country ;)

01-02-2012, 09:57 PM
entertaining indeed! ;-)

01-02-2012, 09:59 PM
Man I laugh so hard at your posts. I'm so glad that your kidneys are "load-bearing" that's awesome. Great work so far!

01-03-2012, 01:35 PM
Hurry Winters coming!!! or did you mean winter beater for next year? lol im just teasing

01-04-2012, 08:41 PM
Ah, an e30 in Saskatoon and on Max... wish I had noticed this thread while I was in Toronto for the holidays. I'm working in Flin Flon these days (**** you Devon, it's a real place) and I woulda brought you back a hockey bag of parts. Mom would not have cried a drop to have them out of her garage.

Anyway, I haven't read the thread yet-- looking forward to it. Good luck... hopefully soon I will have an interesting BMW to come down and visit you in. I bought an F150 as they are all the rage up here but it isn't doing the trick for me. ~$250 for gas to Saskatoon and back! FFFFffffffffuuuuuuuu

Still, better than staying in Flin Flon all winter :P


01-04-2012, 09:41 PM
I bought an F150 as they are all the rage up here but it isn't doing the trick for me. ~$250 for gas to Saskatoon and back! FFFFffffffffuuuuuuuu

Don't most full size trucks have better fuel economy than E30s? *shiner*

Most of my driving is on the highway with the cruise set within shouting distance of the speed limit, and 23 mpg is the record so far. Still better than it was; I had about 120 km on the tripmeter before I did the engine work, that tank worked out to about 18 mpg. The dead coolant temp sensor was having a wee bit of an effect :P

01-04-2012, 10:33 PM
Don't most full size trucks have better fuel economy than E30s? *shiner*

Most of my driving is on the highway with the cruise set within shouting distance of the speed limit, and 23 mpg is the record so far. Still better than it was; I had about 120 km on the tripmeter before I did the engine work, that tank worked out to about 18 mpg. The dead coolant temp sensor was having a wee bit of an effect :P

Ford's new "ecoboost" turbo six might give you a run for your money. Me, I'm rocking a big V8 and will be lucky to see half your mileage... *thmbsdwn*

01-05-2012, 12:09 AM
Well, I finally got around to reading this thread, and let me tell you; we've all been in your position at some point, if not currently. It never ends. As soon as you think it's all good, your blower stops working, fog light burns out, and your subframe bushings take a crap. I like that you're pushing through though, and I like that your girlfriend hasn't killed you in your sleep. My GF has only killed me in her sleep. The repairs and maintenance is one thing, but once you start modding, you're almost guarenteed a new GF within 6 months unless you can maintain the steady lying and excuses like "Don't worry, I got this super rare e30 __________ for a really good price". On many things I would suggest using the word "free". I haven't got my GF a ring yet, but I have two e30's, and enough sets of rims to stack to the moon!

The only thing that was staggering (all the other things are normal) was the buildup in the intake manifold. Just brutal. I take my intake manifold off a few times a year for cleaning and dried-up-hose replacement, and it's barely 1% as dirty as yours!! What I'm saying is; Congrats!! You have the shittiest E30 in Canada, but hell, it works and you can be proud of it.*th-up*

Keep up the steady work!

01-11-2012, 12:05 AM
The repairs and maintenance is one thing, but once you start modding, you're almost guarenteed a new GF within 6 months unless you can maintain the steady lying and excuses like "Don't worry, I got this super rare e30 __________ for a really good price".

No worries there, I have that rarest of all things, a rational gf *love* I pay my share of the household expenses and whatever else I do with my money is nobody's business but mine. As long as there's room to get her truck in the garage when necessary she doesn't really care what I get up to out there . . . although if my project backlog gets to a certain point she'll strongly recommend I finish a few things up before I tear off in a new direction *shiner*

I think I'm about done with the car for now. We're finally supposed to get real winter and I think I'd better leave well enough alone for now. My driver's door lock is now refusing to double lock, it won't turn past 45 degrees, so I think a lock cylinder rebuild is in my future. I still haven't had time to test the actuator but it wouldn't surprise me if it's shot as well. I nearly choked when I looked up the price of that -- over $100 :eek: We install them at work and our cost is like six bucks. Not exactly the same kind, but we tested some to 100,000 duty cycles without failure. For a hundred bucks, I think I'll try to adapt one of mine.

I looked into the 5-lug swap, and I think at this point it's not worth it. I've been accumulating a monster parts order instead, for a complete refresh of the stock suspension, with the possible exception of springs. Every-damn-body makes E30 sport springs, and they're not hard to find for sale cheap on forums, but I know next winter I'd regret lowering the car even an inch, especially if I replace the front lip. And an adjustable setup is way, way more than I'm willing to spend on suspension for a car in the prairies. If I want to pull Gs it's a lot more fun to do it on a bike, even around town at legal speeds with a bit of creative late-apexing. Not something I could do in a car without looking and feeling like a complete poser retard :P I might get poly bushings for the rear subframe, diff, and trailing arms just for ease of installation.

I did just acquire a splendidly tasteful bit of aftermarket bling that no rusted out Bronzit beater should be without:



12-04-2012, 04:46 AM
Almost a year later, and I'm almost ready to get back to work on the old Dirty 30. *th-up*

Last winter was one of the mildest in history, which was fortunate because the block heater turned out to be non-functional. Of course I didn't know about this until after the car had been back together for some time, and with the weather so mild I really didn't feel like draining my brand new coolant to install a new frost plug heater (never mind the hellish ordeal of bleeding the system again). So I let it slide, and there was only a single week of really cold weather so it didn't turn out too badly. And that puny M20 was getting yanked before the next winter anyway, so why bother?


Yeah . . . that whole engine swap thing didn't happen. I started looking for an M30-friendly 5-speed last spring, and then got completely sidetracked and spent every spare moment from March to October on a landscaping project that got completely out of hand, even by my standards. And it's not even close to being finished, just on hold until next spring when I'll finish up what I started last March, clean up the no-man's-land looking hellhole that is currently my yard . . . hopefully in time to deal with the 1200 or so trees and shrubs that will be here in late April. Also, my shop budget for the next few years is being "repurposed" for a tractor with a front end loader, so I can get the yard finished before the heat death of the universe. But anyway, that's how I ended up facing another winter driving a winter beater with no block heater. As an added bonus, the heated mirrors have also stopped working altogether *drink*

Of course no E30 story would be complete without a blower motor incident. Mine had been ticking on low since I got it; a few months ago that escalated to squealing, then shrieking on all speeds, and then finally stopping altogether. That pretty much describes my own response after pricing out a new blower. But since I'm really really seriously for real intending to park this thing indefinitely in the near future for some serious work, I didn't feel like buying a brand new blower right now. So I overhauled the old one. And by overhaul, I mean I removed it, sprayed most of a can of electrical contact cleaner through it, and greased the bearings. I reinstalled the (relatively) clean and free-spinning blower, and . . . nothing. Really nothing, because now the car wouldn't even crank. Must've been something to do with the unloader relay because after I pulled fuse 10, dropped it somewhere in the engine bay and lost it forever, sprayed out the socket with contact cleaner, and put a new fuse in, it started cranking again. But still no blower.

After spending several hours testing everything I could think of (I actually had to replace the batteries in my multimeter before I was through) I accidentally touched the wires near the blower while the key and switch were both on, and away it went. I'd say I wasn't even close to being startled enough to shart a little, but that would be lying. Moving the wires around made the fan speed change radically; eventually I narrowed it down to a bad power connection. I cut the old connector off, crimped on a new one, and enjoyed one hearty self-administered pat on the back. Then I put the cover back on, and the blower stopped working :mad:

Much, much later I discovered that I'd done a really half-assed crimp on that new connector. I fixed it, retroactively revoked my premature back-patting, and finally got the bastard thing reassembled in good working order. Better than ever in fact, if you count ever as being the period I've owned the car. I know it won't last, but I'm confident that it will last long enough. And it seems that the Z3 blower is the same part, so when I have to replace it I'll look for a used Z3 unit . . . still cheaper than new, but possibly a decade newer than a used E30 part.

More to come, hopefully soon (although this is by no means my most behind-schedule project). Short term, I have a set of cheap shocks and struts ($107 and free shipping) on hand, adequate for winter-beater duty. I also have a decent Kenwood head unit with rear USB, a pair of Boston Acoustics 6.5s, a 10" Energy sub, a little MB Quart FX2.60 amp, and some ports and wiring, all for about $400 thanks to some advanced bargain hunting. I had instructions for building the fabled E30 LukeBox on a now-defunct computer; I'll have to track down that info again. Right now I have no sound system at all (not even a screeching blower) because some crazy person paid me fifty bucks for my stock head unit plus the amp/crossover from E34. *par-t* He was fixing up a 2002, and wanted audio components that were genuine BMW (if not exactly period-correct).

12-09-2012, 02:58 AM
I think this is the best read I've seen on here to date. Kinda wish you were doing the swap sooner, rather than later, just because of the awesome funny shiz you say in your posts.

12-09-2012, 12:25 PM
Welcome back! First of all, your lights look dope (if those are indeed yours)

Yeah no one likes screeching blower motors although most of us have had to deal with them (I still Do!) but your new audio components sound like they'll be much better! That 10" will pack out your e30 no problem -- I love my energy stuff it's real quality and amazing sound. I use energy stuff in both my e30 and e46.

Good luck on all to come! Suspensions next then?

12-09-2012, 01:11 PM
This is by far the most interesting and accurate e30 read , it's like an old shoe nothing new fits or smells like it .:cool:

12-09-2012, 05:05 PM
Welcome back! First of all, your lights look dope
This forum is way too forgiving . . . on r3vlimited, at least 47 people would've told me that buying those cheap tacky lights makes me a worse person than Hitler, Pol Pot, and Chris Brown put together. :)The pic is from the listing on Amazon, I haven't installed them yet but I powered one up and the halo is just about too dim to see. Which is fine because I got the lights just to use the housings for a bixenon projector retrofit. However, the lights are so cheap I think I'll just stick with the sealed beams for now and do a proper upgrade later.

The good news is that the Dirty30 is now released from winter beater duty *par-t* It has been replaced by this even more winter-friendly beater:


1996 Pathfinder SE, 252,000 km, 4x4, 4-spd auto, hitch, trailer brake control, pretty much loaded with leather, ABS, heated seats and mirrors, power everything including sunroof, auto climate control, built in garage door opener, gel battery, and new tires. So now I just have to finish up a few things in the garage before I can tie up one side of it for an indefinite period with a seriously dismantled E30.

02-15-2013, 08:24 PM
Finally, a rare E34 535i manual shows up on salvage . . . and the next day, a 5 ton dump truck backs into my Pathfinder. Which moves obtaining project parts down quite a bit on my priority scale.

With no way to get to work and a wait of several days before I could get an appointment to get the insurance claim started, I needed another vehicle asap. In the short time I had the Pathfinder I developed a distinct taste for well equipped 4x4s . . . and an equally pronounced distaste for land-barge handling and sub-20 mpg fuel economy. So imagine my delight when my emergency vehicle search came up with this:


2003 A4 Avant 1.8t quattro. 186,000 km, very clean, full maintenance history. All the utility of an SUV, double the gas mileage, and the handling is not too shabby either. And despite the teeny engine and hefty curb weight, it's acceptably quick especially in the city. It's got a 5 speed Tiptronic but that's fine with me for a vehicle that will get 90% of its use in winter. Honestly, compared to the visceral mechanical experience of a sportbike, cars are so far down on the scale that autos and manuals are about equally (un)engaging. But the amenities are a bit better:



With the exception of one motorcycle (which I promptly traded for another project bike), this is the first non-beater I've bought in over 20 years. Frankly, having to care about things like door dings and regular washes makes me a little uncomfortable fcplm

02-15-2013, 11:20 PM
Awesome thread! Congrats on the new car.

02-18-2013, 09:30 PM
awesome read, I'm in the process of maybe buying a E30 I also have an E46M3 that takes a lot of my money, LOL