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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E36 (1991 - 1999)

E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 08-13-2014, 10:30 AM
macjack macjack is offline
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Location: Colorado
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 9
Mein Auto: 325ic
Just bought a 325 IC

I posted in the new member introductions area, but I thought I would paste it here as well, since I have some E36 specific questions buried in my intro (see the bold below).

So I've been reading and searching on this forum for the past two months or so and I thought I would introduce myself and my e36. Already before this introduction, I have gotten lots of helpful information from existing posts on this forum, so I am thankful that it is here!
Here goes. . .
Two months ago, I had engine failure in my Volkswagen and needed to pick up another car quickly. We had just bought our first BMW six months ago, an X1 for my wife, and really liked how BMW's drove and were built. I was very fortunate that a local seller had a 1994 325ic for sale right when I was looking. This e36 was the POs baby for the last 15 years, but after a melanoma scare, he wanted out of the convertible world. So I drove it, heard about all the maintenance he had done, read about people's excellent experiences with the e36, and bought it the next day. I have not been disappointed!
The day I picked it up, I needed to drive 4 hours round trip for work. What a treat. Four days later, emboldened by by first "road trip", I drove 12 hours round trip in the E36. This time I got to put the top down and really enjoy the convertible. I drove into the mountains of Colorado, over the continental divide, and put the heater on to keep my warm. Only problem I experienced was, shortly after I got back from my first road trip, the microswitch to automatically lower the driver's window upon door opening failed. I manually lowered and raised the window a touch when entering and exiting during this trip, but really wanted to fix it.
So upon returning, I took the door apart, replaced the microswitch, and everything worked again!
Four days after returning from the second road trip, further confident in the car, I drove with my two sons 28 hours across the country from Colorado to Massachusetts for a vacation. Since the car came with a 1 inch receiver mount, I had purchased a rear tray for extra luggage, but given that the receiver appeared to be mounted only to the sheet metal under the spare, I decided to pack light and we were able to fit everything for a three week vacation into the convertible trunk and interior. My sons loved putting the top down, asking me "Dad, can we have some convertible action?". Again, a 56 hour road trip without a problem.
Originally I had planned to keep the e36 for the summer until the VW got fixed, but now that I've had it for a few months, I'll definitely be keeping it longer than that. It is so fun to drive, and with the top down, it makes every little trip around town or through the mountains special. And the general reliability of the platform tells me that I could really enjoy this for a while.
So here's some more about the car:
157k miles (after I put on 7k in the past 2 months)
Automatic (I know)
Laguna Green with blue/grey interior in good shape (door panels loose)
PO spent about $1k a year on maintenance, with a thick pile of receipts for documentation.
Some of the things that have been replaced:
He replaced the top a few years ago, and replaced the leather of the rear seat backs and the drivers bottom within the past three years.
@150k he replaced the rear shocks, power steering return hose and both belts, oil pan, and upper radiator hose.
@ 113k, he replaced the front struts
@100k he replaced the fuel pump, both engine mounts, and O2 sensor
@60k he replaced the radiator and water pump

As I mentioned, I replaced the driver's door microswitch (what a contraption in there!). I just changed the wheels from style 6 to 30, which meant going from 15 inch wheels to 16 inch wheels. Looks much better!
Yesterday I purchased a BMW wind deflector, which definitely reduced the highway wind.

Next steps:
I experience a vibration when I hit uneven pavement above 35 mph, particularly when I hit with the left front tire. Strangely, I don't notice nearly so much when I hit with the right side. It seems like the wheel is vibrating 2 or three more times than necessary, and more than on the right side under similar circumstances. I don't know if this is the infamous cowl shake, as this is my first convertible, but I purchased a set of replacement front struts (Bilstein touring) with strut mounts (I haven't installed them yet). There is no obvious rocking or anything, but I'd like to tighten it up. But I am wondering what else could be causing this? I don't see any history of ball joint or control arm replacement, though the records might not be totally complete. How might I diagnose this? I don't notice anything on smooth pavement or on braking, and the cornering feels good. Might just the front struts need replacing at 44k miles? Do the bolts on the x braces ever need tightening?
In my last 12 hour road trip, I noticed the coolant temp move above it's usual spot around center when I went over a steep pass at 12k feet with three people in the car. It never got close to red, but definitely climbed. Since then, periodically around town it has climbed again very slightly. I am thinking the coolant needs to be bled. Any other thoughts?
I replaced the radio, as the previous 15 year old unit had no working display and now I have iPhone integration.
The vinyl windowsill panels are showing their age with micro cracks. I would like to either replace them or repair them, but not exactly sure what the best way to do that is. I assume that I need convertible specific rear panels, but the front door panels might be swappable from any coupe?
The PO said that the transmission exhibits a slow shift from 2nd to 3rd when it is colder than 30 degrees out, prior to warming up (it holds second longer than it should). From what I've read, the old GM transmissions do fail and this is a symptom. I would like to do a manual swap, but that is a bigger cost and effort, so I am waiting to see how long I can go. He has already flushed the transmission fluids somewhat regularly, and when I brought it to a transmission shop, they did not find anything out of the ordinary (it was warmed up already) and I don't notice any problems so far.
The driver's seat back recline function is not working. I have a tiny gear the the PO said might be the needed replacement gear insidet, but I haven't taken the seat apart to diagnose or repair it. Fortunately, it is in a pretty good position, so it is a low priority item.
The defrost and footwell vents only blow hot air. Is this a problem with the heater control valves? The other option, the dash vents, can blow cold or hot. I assume that this is not how they are supposed to work, yes?
That's about it.
I am a fairly handy DIYer with more tools than time, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of working on my cars. I like that the E36 is not quite so complex electronically as the later models, so I think I'll be getting more involved with this car. I look forward to posting more as I go along and am very glad that there is this forum with so many helpful members and articles in the Bimmerfest. Bimmerfest is almost as awesome as the E36! (not really, but you know what I mean).
-macjack

Last edited by macjack; 08-13-2014 at 11:45 AM.
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  #2  
Old 08-13-2014, 11:46 AM
macjack macjack is offline
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Location: Colorado
 
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Mein Auto: 325ic
now for the pics. . .
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1987 VW Vanagon Weekender Syncro TDI
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  #3  
Old 08-13-2014, 12:02 PM
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tim330i tim330i is online now
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Location: Boston
 
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Welcome to Bimmerfest. That is a lot of text! Can you break out your questions into more readable chunks? That will help you get more help.

Tim
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  #4  
Old 08-13-2014, 01:00 PM
macjack macjack is offline
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Location: Colorado
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 9
Mein Auto: 325ic
Thanks for the welcome, Tim!
And I hear you on the lots of text. Thought I would introduce myself fully but now I will break out the questions separately instead of having a "build thread".
-macjack
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2015 X1
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  #5  
Old 08-13-2014, 02:38 PM
TINFOILWRAP TINFOILWRAP is offline
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Location: Queens, NY
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2
Mein Auto: 95 325i & 01 325ci
Welcome,
I always love that color.
You have a lot of questions. The transmission works better when it is warm and below 40 it will be hard long shifts. I changed my tranny fluid to synthetic and even my son notice the difference and he is in the passenger seat. Less vibration, smoother. I would recommend to change everything in your car to synthetic oil even the power steering.

Your vibration , maybe control arm bushing.
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  #6  
Old 08-13-2014, 03:45 PM
macjack macjack is offline
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Location: Colorado
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 9
Mein Auto: 325ic
Thanks, Tinfoilwrap. Good to hear about your success with synthetics. I may look to switch to full synthetics as I get closer to the colder seasons. As far as the control arm bushings, is that something that I can check with a floor jack, getting the wheel in the air? I haven't lifted it to really start pushing and prodding in there. If I do find some slack, are the control arms usually replaced as a unit or can one replace just the bushings?
-macjack
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  #7  
Old 08-25-2014, 01:04 PM
macjack macjack is offline
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Location: Colorado
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 9
Mein Auto: 325ic
new struts and coolant expansion tank

Well, I finally replaced the front struts and figured out the cooling issue. I saw that the coolant was low, added some, then heard the expansion tank hissing and saw that there were white trails leading away front the driver's side of the tank. I replaced the tank and expansion hose, new gasket for the bleeder screw and the cooling issues have gone. I am having difficulty getting the level of the coolant correct, however. When it is cold, the level is about an inch below the line. when I open the expansion tank and the bleeder screw, the level rises and goes above it. I am getting the message "coolant low", and wondering if it will go away when I get the level correct or if it needs to be cleared?
As far as the vibration, I now can feel the difference with the new struts. The old ones had 44k on them, and weren't completely blown, but at least one of the many valves in there was likely gone. The new Bilstein Touring struts are great. That particular vibration//bounce in the front left on broken pavement is now gone. I do feel some cowl shake, but that is to be expected, and I am glad to have that job behind me. Strangely, the lower mounting bolts on both struts were the hardest things to loosen. They appeared to have a thread locker on them. I wonder if that is common or recommended to use? I didn't add any when I put it back together. Setting the strut back in place by myself without letting the wheel tip outwards while I lower the floor jack was a contortion, but doable. Reading other Bimmerfest posts about it being done solo inspired me to keep at it.
Thanks for all the help, Bimmerfest.
-macjack
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