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Old 03-05-2020, 05:24 PM
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Default Are E90 BMWs DIY-friendly?

While my wife love's her '98 323is, it is getting long in the tooth (256k miles) and starting to show its age. We weren't really planning on upgrading it any time soon but her brother has a mechanic friend with a 2010 328i for sale that is supposedly completely sorted out (and it looks great in the pictures).

I don't have any details other than it's an automatic but are these cars something that a reasonably competent (or even myself) DIY person can keep running or is this a can of worms that will have to go to a mechanic?

I don't have a lift or power tools but, aside from alignments, mounting/balancing tires, sucking freon, and the Miata's clutch last summer because I just didn't want to do it, I haven't had a mechanic touch our cars in over a decade.

Thanks,
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Last edited by BeerBurner; 03-05-2020 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 03-05-2020, 06:38 PM
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I bought a 2006 325i in November 2017. It had 109K miles at the time. It is about to hit 150K. For what it's worth, here is a list of the things I have done on the car. I have a two-post lift in my garage.

Oil change
Pretty easy. Oil filter is in a very nice location.

Replace brake pads
Brake pads are easy. I also flushed the brake fluid.

Replace rear diff input seal
Not so bad. Had to remove the drive shaft.

Replace water pump and thermostat
My pump failed on me and left me stranded in North Carolina. Easier on this car than on my 996, 986, or 924S.

Replace radiator
Of course this happened about two months after the water pump failed. So I had to replace the coolant again. Fairly easy job though.

Replace oil filter housing gasket
This took me a little over an hour, taking my time. Gasket cost about $20. I had my car at BMW of Annapolis for a recall issue, they notified me of the leaking gasket, and they quoted me over $500 for the job. Really??? One hour, $20 gasket.

Replace manual gearbox
My son missed a shift And while I'm in there, clutch and pressure plate. And I threw in a new starter and slave cylinder. There were a couple of tricks here, but it wasn't bad. One weekend for teardown; one weekend for reassembly. I have removed-replaced gearboxes on my 996 and my 924S, and on a friend's Jeep Patriot. I would say that on the German cars they were about the same degree of difficulty; maybe a bit easier on the BMW. I did not enjoy doing the job on the 4x4 Jeep so much.

Replaced valve cover gasket
While doing the tranny I noticed a leak from the VCG. This job was probably considerably more of a PITA than the usual valve cover job. The inline six sits far enough back in the engine compartment that you have to remove a LOT of stuff to be able to get the cover in and out. The valve timing adjuster also adds a bit of a wrinkle to the process. While doing this job I replaced the spark plugs and coils.

I think that about covers it. There are probably others that can give better advice, but considering I have had this car for only about 2.5 years, I have done a fair amount of work on it. I would say it is on par with working on the Porsches I have owned.

One thing that has caused me some grief is the audio system. No Bluetooth audio in my 2006 car, and I would love to have simply replaced the head unit with a Kenwood from Crutchfield. However, this car has all this fiber optic, MOST crap. There are ways to go aftermarket, but they all appear to be a big hassle or big $$$.
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Old 03-05-2020, 06:51 PM
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Thanks, Mark, for the feedback. I'm hopeful that since it's an automatic, my wife won't miss a shift.

Otherwise, I'm good with staying on top of maintenance. Since I do everything on my 944, it sounds like I'm not too far out of my league.

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Old 03-05-2020, 07:50 PM
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OTOH a clutch is much cheaper than a new transmission

I'd want to see regular fluid swaps with a bmw slushbox.
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Old 03-05-2020, 08:21 PM
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mechanically...the basics are the same as other BMW's..primarily the crappy plastic cooling system parts.

however...the electronics will kill you. as with most newer cars, everything is connected and proprietary. nothing is simple and many things require the dealers computer to diagnose.
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Old 03-06-2020, 08:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmartin View Post
OTOH a clutch is much cheaper than a new transmission

I'd want to see regular fluid swaps with a bmw slushbox.
Supposedly all of the maintenance is up to date and he has the records to show.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mlytle View Post
mechanically...the basics are the same as other BMW's..primarily the crappy plastic cooling system parts.

however...the electronics will kill you. as with most newer cars, everything is connected and proprietary. nothing is simple and many things require the dealers computer to diagnose.
That's the part I'm more worried about.

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Old 03-06-2020, 09:27 AM
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Check the maintenance schedule, not a lot there. These cars seem built to be leased and be cheap to run. For the first ~75-100k miles. That said I think you'll like it. I dont think they are very well put together but what is today? I wouldnt worry much about the normal things, assuming its in decent shape, but you'll need to buy the right software to do anything more than parts swapping.
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Old 03-06-2020, 10:00 AM
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I did a quick read-up and found the Schwaban (sp?) scan tool that seems to be well-liked on the internet. Does anyone have experience with that?

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Old 03-06-2020, 11:03 AM
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I've had a 2006 330i for 8 years. I've replaced the water pump/thermostat, fixed a shifter wire issue, re-torqued head bolts, changed valve colver bolts/gasket, all fluids several times, lower front thrust arms, oil pan gasket, brakes, window regulators, etc. The biggest thing for me doing DIY on these cars is an active DIY community posting issues and resolutions, which the E90 has. E90post is pretty much as good as E46fanatics for researching issues. To date I haven't had a problem that I couldn't find a DIY article on in 10 minutes

Compared to my E46, IMO the E90 is a little harder to work on (a bit more complex), but also better built. THere seem to have been some lesson learned from the E46 and it's issues (e.g. the coolant tank is in a better place).

The electronic stuff is just kinda a thing you have to deal with. I don't find I need to hook up a scanner to the E90 any more than I do with the E46 - less actually. The E46 is always having an airbag light problem or SES light problem, where the E90... doesn't.
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Old 03-07-2020, 09:03 AM
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I should have updated it earlier but I have some more information about the car. It's got the x drive and the mileage is at 171k which is higher than I'd like (not that I'm afraid of high mileage cars, I just don't know if there are other mileage-related issues I should be aware of).

One thing I'm concerned about is the head bolts. Another E90-owning friend of mine is waving the red flag over the bolts and the mileage but it looks like those bolts are mostly a problem with the '06-07 engines. Does anyone know anything about that?

Thanks!

BB.
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Some say "My car is a Porsche!" I say "My Porsche is a car!" and I drive the hell out of it.
'90 Miata; '87 Porsche 944; '10 BMW 328i xDrive (her's); '98 BMW 323is (also her's)
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