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Thread: To buy or not to buy - 1998 Z3 2.8

                  
   
  1. #1
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    To buy or not to buy - 1998 Z3 2.8

    I may have an opportunity to purchase a 1998 Z3 2.8 with ~70K on the ODO and was wondering if there are any known weaknesses with this chassis and drivetrain. The price seems pretty reasonable, but I haven't actually seen the car yet and need to know what probing questions to ask the current owner. My intuitive short list of potential issues includes leaks in/around the convertible top, and water pump, radiator, clutch, brakes and electrical problems. I want to make sure I don't miss some known but not-yet-apparent problems with this model/year that might lead to early post-purchase regrets. I fully realize that no BMW is cheap to maintain properly and that no one can say for sure that something expensive will never break. I just don't want to end up kicking myself for not going into this with my eyes wide open.

    Many thanks,

    Bob

  2. #2
    Senior Member pseto's Avatar
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    your list is pretty good, also look for subframe tears as these are a big issue with any e36
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  3. #3
    Senior Member mcoupemindy's Avatar
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    You should bribe a fellow NCC member to look at the car with you. I've always found that a second set of eyes is very beneficial.

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    Look especially for evidence of the rear subframe separating from the floor, or the rear floor spot welds failing. It cannot be fully diagnosed from a visual inspection only, unfortunately, but bad cases can be seen visually and should be avoided. Remove ALL carpeting / etc from the trunk floor and have a good look at the seam and spot welds. Push on stuff. Any lifting and separating of the panels, or broken spot welds, is what you're looking for. Do the same from the underside if you can get it up on jackstands.

    Even these 'large' failures are correctable and are small % failures... just more expensive ones. Good luck.
    Mike R.
    2002 M3 - ultimate driving excuse
    formerly: 2005 Z4 3.0i

  5. #5
    Member MPWR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcoupemindy View Post
    You should bribe a fellow NCC member to look at the car with you. I've always found that a second set of eyes is very beneficial.
    Definitely good advice. Where is the car?

    Generally speaking these cars have very sound drivetrains and chassissies (however you spell the plural of chassis). Take care of them and they last most of the way to forever- so you're really just looking out for the car that really hasn't been taken care of.

    E36s are probably the easiest and cheapest to maintain bimmers out there now. Personally I have two, and love them. They're not hard cars to work on or look after.

    I wouldn't buy a car if I thought it needed engine or tranny work (drive it and see). But otherwise if it looks to be in decent condition, there's a very good chance that it is.

    Ask if it's been overheated. If it has, make sure the engine's healthy if you plan to buy it. If it hasn't, rebuild the cooling system anyway when you buy it. Don't worry too much about the brakes, they're designed to be replaced. An airbag light is a big potential PITA on used E36s- if you can't fix it, it won't pass a safety inspection.

    Buying a used car can always be risky, and you should be prepared to buy some parts for it once you've bought it (rotors/shocks/water pump/etc). But if you accept that, used E36s can be great cars.

    If you buy it, bring it to a DIY....
    Andy Miller
    1995 Avusblau M3
    1997 Alaskablau 318ti M Sport

  6. #6
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    Thanks!

    Thanks for the advice on the Z3, everyone. I plan to take a look at it Friday afternoon (Dec. 4). The subframe issue is a new one on me! I'm going to see whether the current owner will allow me to take it to the shop that works on my 335i coupe and have them spend an hour or so looking it over. If I do buy it, the Z3 will be my wife's fun car. She'd have bought my 2001 325i when I sold it after getting the E92, but she couldn't afford it at the time. Since she hates to ride with me and I'm not particularly fond of her driving, either, maybe we'll be taking both bimmers on club tours next year. Or, I'll get her to attend one of the club driving schools to improve her confidence and skills as well as help her understand why it only FEELS like we're going to go skittering off those curves when I'm driving . . .

  7. #7
    Senior Member mcoupemindy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoombie View Post
    Thanks for the advice on the Z3, everyone. I plan to take a look at it Friday afternoon (Dec. 4). The subframe issue is a new one on me! I'm going to see whether the current owner will allow me to take it to the shop that works on my 335i coupe and have them spend an hour or so looking it over. If I do buy it, the Z3 will be my wife's fun car. She'd have bought my 2001 325i when I sold it after getting the E92, but she couldn't afford it at the time. Since she hates to ride with me and I'm not particularly fond of her driving, either, maybe we'll be taking both bimmers on club tours next year. Or, I'll get her to attend one of the club driving schools to improve her confidence and skills as well as help her understand why it only FEELS like we're going to go skittering off those curves when I'm driving . . .
    She sounds like a prime candidate for our autocross school in the spring ...

    You can sign her up (and possibly you too) for our school notification list here:

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  8. #8
    Senior Member pseto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoombie View Post
    Thanks for the advice on the Z3, everyone. I plan to take a look at it Friday afternoon (Dec. 4). The subframe issue is a new one on me! I'm going to see whether the current owner will allow me to take it to the shop that works on my 335i coupe and have them spend an hour or so looking it over. If I do buy it, the Z3 will be my wife's fun car. She'd have bought my 2001 325i when I sold it after getting the E92, but she couldn't afford it at the time. Since she hates to ride with me and I'm not particularly fond of her driving, either, maybe we'll be taking both bimmers on club tours next year. Or, I'll get her to attend one of the club driving schools to improve her confidence and skills as well as help her understand why it only FEELS like we're going to go skittering off those curves when I'm driving . . .
    you can read up more on the subframe issue on bimmerforums in the z3 section. also, convertibles arent allowed at driving schools, but she'd have a blast at autox school like Jonathan suggested.
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  9. #9
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    Chapter 2: follow-up

    I had a pre-purchase inspection done on the Z3 at Atspeed Motorsports. It needs new front tires, a new bushing on the rear of the lower control arm in the driver's side front suspension, and a new rear tranny mount/bracket (which is an aluminum casting that somehow got cracked on one side). Also had leaky rear shocks, will need new pads and rotors in the rear, and the clutch pedal bushings are shot. Some of the underbody shields were also missing. Etc., etc. The good news is that the rear subframe is fine, there's no body/frame corrosion/damage, and the engine/clutch/tranny/diff seem fine. The seller had been asking $8500, but I showed him the write-up and made an offer of $6500 and he accepted. Now, I just need to decide how far I want to go beyond just fixing what's broken and replacing what's missing . . . a nice set of rims and good rubber, maybe . . .

  10. #10
    Member MPWR's Avatar
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    Sounds very reasonable for that car at that age. When we bought the ti earlier this year (same milage), it's list was similar. It took a couple of weeks to get everything done, but the only thing we had to take it to a shop for was the alignment.

    You also may want to consider replacing the thermostat/water pump/radiator, and general fluids (diff, tranny, etc). If the rear shocks are leaking, it's probably time to do all four. Blisteins or Konis would be worth considering over OEM, and will probably cost you the same or less. Replace both lower control arm bushings together, and replace them with the concentric E36 M3 bushings.

    The first DIY of next year will be on Jan 16, at At Speed. Bring it over, much of this stuff you can do yourself. And if you need a hand, just say so.
    Andy Miller
    1995 Avusblau M3
    1997 Alaskablau 318ti M Sport

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoombie View Post
    I had a pre-purchase inspection done on the Z3 at Atspeed Motorsports. It needs new front tires, a new bushing on the rear of the lower control arm in the driver's side front suspension, and a new rear tranny mount/bracket (which is an aluminum casting that somehow got cracked on one side). Also had leaky rear shocks, will need new pads and rotors in the rear, and the clutch pedal bushings are shot. Some of the underbody shields were also missing. Etc., etc. The good news is that the rear subframe is fine, there's no body/frame corrosion/damage, and the engine/clutch/tranny/diff seem fine. The seller had been asking $8500, but I showed him the write-up and made an offer of $6500 and he accepted. Now, I just need to decide how far I want to go beyond just fixing what's broken and replacing what's missing . . . a nice set of rims and good rubber, maybe . . .
    Thats not a bad deal, I'm watching a Z3 M coupe auction, and its nearing that$ with lots of body damage. Bob

  12. #12
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    Here's an update on the new-to-me Z3:

    It's currently at AtSpeed Motorsports getting new

    - Water pump
    - Thermostat
    - Coolant
    - A/C and accessory drive belts
    - U/L radiator hoses (fortunately, the radiator itself is aluminum, not plastic)
    - Brake/clutch fluid flush & refill
    - Power steering fluid flush & refill
    - Clutch pedal bushings
    - Rear shocks
    - Front driver's side lower control arm bushing & full alignment
    - Transmission rear brace
    - Splash shield
    - 4 tires & wheels (from TireRack)
    - plus MD state inspection (have temp tags on the car now).

    I plan to do the diff and tranny at the DIY day on the 16th. I've already done an oil & filter change, replaced a leaky valvestem on the spare tire, put in new floor mats, bolted in a battery tender, etc. etc. I reset the oil change and service indicator lights (who knew that would be so easy?), and used a Peake Research R5/SRS tool to read, evaluate and reset the fault codes that had triggered the airbag indicator light to be on. I find the Bentley manual to be pretty good for most of the service I've needed (or would ever attempt) to do. It doesn't tell you how to rebuild the engine, transmission or differential, but it does tell you how to remove and reinstall them. So far, the Z3 doesn't seem too intimidating to work on, but this car really wasn't in bad shape to begin with so I haven't had to tackle anything dicey. Hopefully, with the fixes and preventative maintenance I'm doing now, it'll stay roadworthy and reliable for a long time. I'm really looking forward to a warm day when I can put the top down and enjoy the Roadster as it was meant to be enjoyed. Diid I mention how much I dislike winter weather? It may be a good season for working on cars, but driving in cold and precip isn't much fun, and getting a nice car coated with road salt residue and not being able to get a day above freezing to wash it off is a real disincentive to putting miles on what should be a fun car. No wonder the SoCal folks are such car nuts!

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