Getting EDGEucated: The “75k Mile List”
E36 3 Series (1992-1999, including M) Edition
After years of working on BMW’s, we have begun to see common problems and maintenance concerns that need to be addressed on nearly every middle-aged BMW. E36 3-series cars, like all BMWs, they have certain areas that need to be inspected regularly, and prospective owners should always have a pre-purchase inspection done to verify the condition of these items.
In this list, you will find items that should have been replaced or at least inspected by 75k-100k miles. Some are model specific, and will be noted as such.
Areas of Concern:
Lower Control Arm Bushing Failure
Common symptoms for torn or cracked lower control arm bushings are undesired front toe changes during cornering, vague and rubbery feel in the steering, and vibration experienced while braking at freeway speeds. Non-M bushings are commonly replaced with M3 bushings to increase performance with little to no change in comfort.
Tie Rod Wear
Symptoms include: steering shimmy, clunking during steering input and inability to hold proper alignment. If any of the ball joint boots is cracked (you’ll see grease coming out) then expect that component to need replacement. All components should also be checked for excessive play, and replaced if out of BMW spec.
Worn or Blown Shocks and Struts
Factory BMW shocks work great for about 30k. By 60k they are completely shot. Most folks who have been driving their cars since new hardly notice the deterioration as it is gradual. Symptoms include:Diving under braking and acceleration, excessive lean and suspension compression during cornering. Bouncy and uncomfortable ride. Shocks and struts may visibly leak shock oil. EDGE generally recommends replacing the factory units with quality shocks from Koni whenever possible. When replacing shocks and struts, keep in mind it is a great time to install lowering springs or freshen up other areas of the suspension. You will be amazed at the difference a good set of shocks can make in both comfort and performance!
Worn or Failed Swaybar Endlinks
Worn swaybar endlinks can compromise handling. A worn swaybar can sound like a metallic clicking noise. There is no critical danger in a failed swaybar endlink, but the handling of the car is severely compromised.
Torn Rear Trailing Arm Bushings (RTABs)
If the rear of the car feels strange during cornering or you have excessive rear tire wear, expect that your RTABs are shot. Typical mileage for the E36 is around 40-50k. Failure to replace could lead to torn subframe and costly repairs. EDGE recommends replacement with factory units and RTAB limiting shims. The shims prevent excessive movement and can double the life of the bushing.
Torn Rear Shock Mounts
Torn or destroyed rear shock mounts will produce a very pronounced clunk during any sort of suspension movement, and could possibly just tear right through the trunk carpeting into the passenger cabin. Sloppy and erratic handling and excessive rear suspension play are common symptoms of a RSM failure.
Torn Subframe and Subframe Bushings
Torn subframe bushings could lead to subframe failure. Common symptoms of subframe failure are erratic handling and unidentified clunks and bangs from the rear of the car. Early detection of a torn or cracked subframe bushing can prevent costly subframe repair and welding. Non-M 3-series cars do not have the subframe reinforcements built in, and thus tend to tear the mounting areas–even street cars! This situation can be remedied with the installation of the M3 reinforcement kit.
Torn or Cracked Transmission Mounts
Torn transmission mounts could lead to the dreaded ‘money shift,’ or mechanical overrev and the possible (and likely) destruction of the car’s motor. Worn transmission mounts allow for an excess amount of transmission movement. Symptoms can be hard, notchy and forced shifting during cornering, excessive shifter jerk during hard acceleration and braking, and muddy shifter feel.
Stock replacements are just “OK” –we recommend that stronger aftermarket units.
Ripped or Failed Guibo
A torn guibo (Flex Disc) will result in a perceivable ‘drivetrain elasticity.’ Acceleration will be preceded with a loud clunk as the guibo bolts bind together
Water Pump Failure
Water pump failure is without a doubt the easiest way to cause extensive and expensive damage to your BMW. The main symptom will be a rapidly overheating motor. What occurs is that the bearing or impeller on the stock pump, breaks, completely disabling the cooling system. If you ever see the temperature gauge on your BMW climb above the 3/4 mark.
TURN THE CAR OFF IMMEDIATELY AND CALL A TOW TRUCK!!
We can’t stress this enough. Failure to catch the overheating motor in time can result in a warped head or even more severe engine damage. We recommend changing out the waterpump in six cylinder cars every 60-80k.
Cracked Radiator Necks
BMW loves their plastic radiator tanks….Unfortunately…The plastic around the radiator necks become brittle and crack with age, often without warning (see warning above.) Radiators should be thought of as 80-100k mile wear items. Trust us, this is cheap insurance!!
Cracked and Failed Thermostat Housings
6cyl. Only. The factory thermostat housing can eventually crack causing cooling system failure. Replacement with an aluminum housing, or replacing with the new composite units every 60k or so will prevent problems. We also recommend replacing the thermostat while the housing is off.
All S50/52 and M50/52 thermostats should be replaced at the same interval. Sometimes they fail in the Open position (car runs cold, and you are lucky) sometimes in the Closed position (car gets hot and you need to pull over and call the tow truck).
Fan Clutch Failure
Most fan clutches fail between 80 and 100k miles. They provide the primary cooling for your car, and are easy for us to diagnose. If the car is hot (just drove it for a while) and you turn off the engine, you should feel a decent amount of resistance when trying to turn the fan clutch. If not, its toast.
Accessory Belt and Tensioner Failure
Worn tensioners and idler pullies will sound like a squealing noise from the engine bay. Belts should be inspected for cracks regularly. If a belt happens to snap, the cooling system will fail as the water pump will cease to operate. Power steering and the alternator will also fail to work. Again, pull over and shut the car off immediately should you suspect a belt failure or see the temperature gauge rise past the 3/4 mark.
Leaky Valve Cover Gasket
Prevalent on all BMWs, a burning oil smell could indicate a leaky valve cover gasket. If the condition continues unchecked, oil can seep into the spark plug holes and damage the ignition coils, resulting in costly replacement. Replacement of this inexpensive gasket is a good idea when changing sparkplugs as the coilpacks will already be out.
O2 Sensor Failure
Poor mileage, poor idle and flat spots in the power curve could be caused by bad O2 sensors. Even if your car isn’t throwing a check engine light, they may not be performing optimally. BMW recommends replacing the O2 sensors every 100k miles. Extended high-RPM running/racing and high-performance chips may shorten the replacement cycle.
Funky Window Regulators and Motors
If the window in your car jumps up and down, or if the one-touch feature doesn’t work, you may need a window regulator or motor. Unfortunately its hard to tell which until the car is apart.
Clogged and Dirty Pollen Filter
If the flow of air out of the air conditioning and heater system is not as strong as it used to be, it strongly suggests the pollen microfilter of your car has become dirty and clogged over time. A damp and musky smell can also indicate a dirty filter. This is a service II replacement item.