Top 10 things to look for when buying your first used BMW
This list will help you when looking for your FIRST used BMW to purchase. The list is in no particular order and assumes you already checked the VIN history for accidents, or bad-titles such as salvage, stolen or floods which can all severely hinder the reliability and resale value of any brand car.
- Oil leaks: BMW’s are known to have oil leaks due to their gasket design. Typical leaks consist of valve cover gaskets, oil filter housing, oil pans, differentials and rear main seals. Power steering lines are also known to leak on older models (1998-2006).
- Coolant: Many older BMW’s are prone to coolant leaks either through the radiator plastic end-tanks, brittle overflow hose, coolant sensor o-rings or cracked expansion tanks. Check for “low coolant level” cluster warning, or simply look at the reservoir level on a cold motor.
- Tire Wear: Due to the geometry of BMW rear multilink suspension, many models are prone to wearing the inside edge of the rear tires prematurely. If you glance at the tread level of the rear tires when inspecting a prospective purchase, make the extra effort to get on your knees and look under the car at the condition of the inside edges.
- Subframe Tears: On E46 (1999-2006 3-series) coupes & convertibles the rear floor tears away at the subframe mounting locations. It’s sometimes hard to spot by looking underneath as the subframe bushings can cover the tear initiation points. If a previous owner has done the subframe reinforcement work, this is a bonus and can greatly extend the life of your E46.
- Front Bushings: BMW’s are prone to wearing out the front control arm bushings, sway bar links, ball joints and wishbone. Take the prospective car to a mechanic and have them inspect the entire front end for any of these worn items.
- Flex Joint/Guibo: The rubber flex joint (or guibo) is an item at connects the transmission output shaft to the driveshaft assembly. These rubber guibo’s usually last 10yrs or 100,000km before requiring a replacement. This part is impossible to inspect without the vehicle being on a hoist. A severely worn-out guibo can be detected on a test drive by pulsating from a standstill to a slow pace.
- Rod Bearings/Actuators: On E9X V8 M3’s (2008-2013) the two weak points of the S65 motor is prematurely worn connecting rod bearings and faulty throttle actuators. The rod bearings must be replaced before (almost certainly) catastrophic failure occurs. Aftermarket rod bearings are offered with very tough coatings more resilient to wear. Throttle actuators are prone to failing and can leave you stranded roadside. Check the service records on these cars for this work done.
- M60/M62 V8’s: Older non-///M BMW V8’s have certain issues. The M60 (1993-1996) 3.0L & 4.0L V8’s are prone to having premature chain guide wear. Many times, when you hear the chain rattle, the damage is done and a new motor is around the corner. The M62 (1997-2005) 4.4L, 4.6L, 4.8L V8’s have lots of cooling issues including a common water transfer pipe that runs across the center of the “V” configuration. Check for smells & low coolant level during inspection.
- Water Pumps: In 1992 BMW water pumps used a plastic impeller blade that often disintegrated with age. This would leave you stranded curbside and potentially catastrophic failure if you didn’t catch the overheating motor quick enough. In 2006+, BMW decided to go with an electric water pump on their inline 6 motors that tends to fail at the 100,000km mark. Check to see if this has been replaced by the previous owner.
- Windows & Doors: BMW from late-90’s to late 2000’s are prone to having their window regulators break due to their plastic construction. Check to make sure all the windows work. Door actuators are also known to go.
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