View Full Version : Advice needed - 1990 325i

11-16-2007, 09:49 AM
I've been looking for an E30 as a 2nd vehicle/winter car.

I looked at a '90 325i auto (prefer this for the commute and my wife could drive it) last night, and I have some questions.

The car has basically sat for the past 8 months as the owner has a company vehicle and an SUV. When it was last test driven there was a coolant leak from the rad that was never tended to. 200,000 km, and a safety and e-test were done this past February - about 400 km ago.

The car is from out West and has virtually no rust anywhere. Interior is in decent shape. When I arrived the car had a dead battery and no coolant in the reservoir, and the almost empty tank has at least one month old gas in it.

The reservoir was filled twice with water, and we jumped started the car. Car started immediately with no smoke. I could hear a fair amount of ticking from the engine - I'm assuming a valve adjustment is in order?

Coolant started to leak from the lower driver's side of the rad. I couldn't see exactly where. There was also a coolant warning light lit in the car. The temperature gauge showed 1/2 way very quickly and remained there while the car was idling. I took the car for a short drive and the temp quickly hit 3/4 :(

As for the drive I wasn't overly impressed, BUT i have no BMW experience to compare it to and I didn't push the car at all as the temp was rising, gas was very low, and the battery was just jumped. The engine would stumble slightly too if you blipped the throttle from idle. Great first BMW drive eh??

Maybe it's the fact that it's an automatic, but the car felt sluggish. Built like a tank though. No driveline noise. Brakes felt good. Tranny shifted nice. Oil is not milky. Certainly could use some maintenance though.

The seller made it abundantly clear that he knows nothing about cars. I had to show him how to add water, and how to jump it. Not sure when the timing belt, water pump, etc. were last replaced.


- Could the rapid heating be from a blown head gasket? Unpurged air in the system?
- Could the sluggish performance be due to overdue maintenance? i.e. ignition tuneup, unadjusted valves
- He's asking $2K



11-16-2007, 10:30 AM
I'd say move on......sounds like a $500 car, if that.

11-16-2007, 10:32 AM
Really? That bad?

11-16-2007, 10:45 AM
K Well unless he can prove the timing belt was done and give you maintance records. I'd say this is what it needs to get it back on the road, estimates provided.

Battery ($100)
Rad + Thermostat + Hoses ($300? + Labour)
Timing Belt, tensioner + Waterpump + Belts ($250 + Labour$$)
Tune-up, plugs wires, cap, rotor. (300+ + Labour)
Valve adjustment (Labour)

- Brakes being serviced since it sat for a while.
- Change all fuilds.

Headgasket ($$)

That sounds like another $2000, maybe more with labour to get it on the road in good shape. Plus the risk the headgasket might be damanged (minimal)

and thats without looking at the underbody with the car on the hoist, it probably has oil leaks, hopefully no gas or brakeline leaks, but always possible when a car sits for a while.

Definately doesn't sound like a $4000+ e30.

11-16-2007, 10:46 AM
Might already have a fubared gasket if it leaks that bad. Contact info if you are not interested? I'm pretty good at haggling :D

11-16-2007, 10:57 AM
I would be able to do these repairs myself. I've done much more complicated things

The leak wasn't that bad, just a steady slow drip from the rad.

There are some oil leaks.....but after owning aircooled Porsches, that doesn't worry me!

He is willing to drive it to any local shop to have it looked at (at my expense of course).

Maybe I'm trying to talk myself into this one.............

11-16-2007, 11:05 AM
He thought that the timing belt was replaced in 2002. Not sure what the mileage was at that point, but due for a change anyway.

11-16-2007, 11:09 AM
I think something along the lines of this is a better buy.

But it's 5spd, dont see any auto's atm, usually there are a few.

11-16-2007, 11:10 AM
If you are going to be commuting, you are better off looking for a 318i/iS (M42 powered). The M20, especially when paired with an auto, isn't a very fuel efficient engine. Expect 10 L / 100 average if you do a lot of highway and have a light foot. Maybe a E36 would be a better choice? It's bigger, more roomy, and it's better on fuel (in general).

11-16-2007, 11:14 AM
Not big on the 318. Don't really care if it's a 5-spd or not. It would be nice to have an auto for commuting though.

I've been checking Kijiji, Craigslist, Autotrader, and here.

11-16-2007, 01:13 PM
To be honest anything older that 15 years will require work especially if it was driven daily. e30s are old cars now most being around 16-20 years old and most require serious work.

Daily driver should not be a car that you will spend weekends on to keep it running :-)

I would not pay more than $1000 for it.
There are very few e30s worth $4000-$5000.

11-16-2007, 01:31 PM
Ok, you guys have convinced me...........I'll pass on this one.

11-16-2007, 04:30 PM
Got contact info for this?

11-17-2007, 10:56 AM
the 1991 318is is a very nice car, easy on gas, fast and sporty.

Not big on the 318. Don't really care if it's a 5-spd or not. It would be nice to have an auto for commuting though.

I've been checking Kijiji, Craigslist, Autotrader, and here.

11-17-2007, 09:13 PM
Well i bought a '90 325i auto today for 2K. Silver with grey interior. Almost new Kumho snows all around.

Needs brakes badly, a few bulbs, and some routine maintenance. Drives nice, engine revs smoothly and pulls like it should. One spot of rust on the sunroof.

As for the contact info for the one I passed on:


You'll definitely be hearing more from me around here as I dig into the car.


11-18-2007, 01:56 AM
welcome to the e30 crowd :)

11-18-2007, 10:53 PM
Well, it was a busy day.

New rotors/pads all around. There was basically nothing left of the old ones. Sensors are missing.....

New plugs and air filter (old one looked like it was full of sand).

Parking brake is stuck. It will only move 1-2 clicks. Brake hardware looked okay while I had the rotors off. A bit rusty, but lots of thickness left and the adjusters work. Could the cable be seized somehow? Is the cable easy to replace?

Coolant warning light won't go out. Plenty of cooling. Even moving the sensor float does nothing. Must be defective.

The idle is a little rough, but is smooth with revs.

Almost ready to safety.

Oh....and I broke my bigass torque wrench too.

11-18-2007, 11:02 PM
Coolant warning light won't go out. Plenty of cooling. Even moving the sensor float does nothing. Must be defective.

Take off the connector, bridge the connections. Turn the key on, if the light is out, the sensor is bad.

11-19-2007, 06:51 AM
Good thought, I think I'll do that with the pad sensors too.

The parking brake concerns me though, because it is supposed to be functional for a safety.

Then there's the e-test............

11-19-2007, 08:01 AM
as long as the stock cats are there you should be fine for emissions, but a tune-up will only help you as well. Go to real-oem and look over the E30 handbrake section to see what you're missing and you can start to price it out from there and determine what needs to be done.

11-19-2007, 09:59 AM
Tuneup on these cars should include??

-Plugs, wires, cap, rotor
-Air filter, oil & filter, fuel filter
-Timing belt, water pump
-Trans filter and fluid
- Injectors?

Anything else?