A list of common problems

Oil Leaks

  • Oil pressure sender
  • Pan gasket after 100K (leaks like pig)
  • Thermostat housing (to oil cooler)
  • Rubber half-moons under valve cover
  • Rear main seal on motor
  • Rear seal on tranny
  • Shifter shaft seal on tranny

Steering rack leaks

Check this by pinching each rubber boot and trying to rub the inner surfaces of the boot together. If this is hard to do, you're ok; Otherwise, the rack may need replacing due to leaking seals. Replacing the tie rods with the rack is highly recommended

Cost (parts & labor)
  • dealer: $1000-1200
  • independent: $800-1000 (locale dependent)

This not a hard job for a reasonable competent weekend mechanic. Parts from various aftermarket outlets run from $200 - $350 (rack) and $80 - $125 (tie rods).

Car will need alignment after installation.

Front lower control arms and bushings

If these have never been changed or they were changed 100k miles ago, it could be time. Symptoms - road handling/steering response seems sloppy / lacking in "crispness."

  • dealer $400
  • independent: similar

This is a fairly straight-forward job. The only hard part is pressing the new bushings onto the control arms. A press is needed. Parts, from the dealer (!) ran me $260, total, with my BMWCCA discount.


I assume it's a 5-speed. The tranny may be a Getrag 265. If it is (mine is) (green "do not change gear lube @1200 mile/2000km" sticker), it's near bullet-proof except for the 2nd gear synchro. Driven with some care, it'll last forever. I use Redline MTL (manual tranny lube) in mine.

Cooling fan clutch

To save energy, the mechanical fan (as opposed to the electric fan) will spin at engine speed only when the engine (and therefore, the fan clutch) gets up to a certain temp.

Symptoms - in hot weather, while idling at a red light, the temp gauge will creep up towards the red zone.

How to check? With the engine hot, using a rolled-up newspaper, GENTLY try to stop the fan by pressing the side of paper roll against the MOVING (watch the fingers!!) fan. If it chews the paper, the clutch is probably ok. Easy fix IF you've got access to a 32mm open end wrench! Part is about $70 from various suppliers.

Water pump

They seem to last 60k miles which is the mileage interval for changing the cam belt and tensioner!!! German engineering at its best!


Many discussions about the merits/demerits of the Behr aluminum + plastic radiators. Check at the bottom of the radiator for leaks where the plastic side tanks and the aluminum core meet. New radiator runs about $175.


Reliable although some owners report warping rotors. Use AXXIS (formerly Repco) Metal Master pads - no dust, no squeal, good wear & performance. Cost $65 for all four wheels (from Imparts). Easy to install. Change the brake fluid yearly. I use Castrol LMA DOT 4.

Other Stuff

  • Shifter bushes gone at 100K
  • Control arm bushings shot
  • Head bolts (on the sixes)- look for the hex head, they'll need to be swapped for the torx
  • Transfer pump, listen for the main fuel pump to buzzzzz
  • Jerky Wipers
  • Dim OBC
  • SI board
  • Timing belt, tensioner, water pump every 50k if it's a six.

From the BeN (BMW e30 Network)

Bav Auto