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KwS's E36 318ti

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As if my plate wasn't full enough, I remember why I shouldn't be left alone on Trademe.

I had been looking for a second reliable road-legal car for a while since neither the Marina nor Tomcat fits the bill and having just the one working car for both of us has proven bit of a pain. Thankfully the couple I had looked at ended up falling over as they were up there in price and it turns out I needed the money to get the Tomcat back together.

Once the idea was planted it was hard to let go of, so I started keeping an eye on the lower end of the market, the sub 1K cars. Either something that I could fix easily or something that was already on the road ready to go.

After wading through pools and pools of utter shite on TM and FB, I bid on a cheap 1st gen Manual Honda Jazz that had failed a WOF on surface rust on the underside, but when bidding hit my upper limit I bailed out and let it go.

Next I spotted a cheap E36 Compact. Under a grand, and had hit reserve. It was local, but the auction finished that night, so no chance to go inspect the car.

The description on the listing was vague. The model, "a future classic??" and "sold as is because it's an old BMW, please view". was all that was said. On the plus side, it had a new WOF, current rego, and moderate KMs. The photos showed the car as in OK condition, and the seller had answered a question asking if it ran/drove and if there were any faults, with a fairly simple "no error lights, drives well, leaks a few drops of oil and has a dent in the side".

1665107797-1024x768.jpegA photo from the listing
What can possibly go wrong?

I chucked a couple of cheeky auto bids at it, kind of expecting to be outbid, but suddenly I was the highest bidder and the listing was closing. I turned to my wife who was watching TV next to me and said "Uh, I just bought a car". Needless to say, she was somewhat surprised.

The next day I met the seller in town, had a quick look around and handed over the cash... $1050. It didn't quite end up being sub 1K, but it's hard to argue with a new WOF and ready to drive away.

That's how I became the owner of a 1998 BMW 318Ti Compact with Motorsport options in a fetching Arctic Silver Metallic. It has the mighty M44B19 1.9L 4 Cylinder and a 4-speed auto. The engine has no fancy anything, other than fuel injection, but is a simple and reliable twin cam that puts out about 138hp. Compared to the N series engines that followed, with Vanos, Valvetronic and all manner of fancy gubbins, the old M44 is bulletproof.

The drive home was uneventful. The car had half a tank of gas in it, even if it was likely to be some old 91 octane. One thing that immediately struck me though was how slow it was. I've driven an auto 318is before, albeit in a coupe, and found the engine rather sprightly and loved to rev; this one was flat and felt down on power.

That was until I gave it a bootful when joining the motorway. My wife who was following me in the Honda, commented that there was a cloud of brown smoke, but suddenly the car was feeling a bit more lively. The more I drove it hard, the more the engine freed up. Clearly, it had been living an easy life, puttering around town never seeing more than quarter throttle.

The suspension is a bit soft but good for absorbing bumps for a smooth ride, and the auto shifts like a 90s auto. Not silky smooth, but not harsh or jerky (and no Jatco jerk like I had in the 323i).

I do really like the E36 series cars. It's a classic design, easy enough to live with, and generally built quite well. There is also that distinctive smell, kinda like crayons. Getting into this car for the first time instantly transported me back to my first BMW (the 323i above) and it was very nostalgic.

On the way home I swung by a local river and grabbed a couple of quick photos.

IMG_20211223_193431-1024x599.jpg IMG_20211223_193452-1024x758.jpg IMG_20211223_193503-01-1024x677.jpg
I know the back end is a real Marmite thing; people either love it or hate it. After years of not really liking it I'm firmly in the love it camp, but only under certain conditions, such as this one where it has the Motorsport bodykit and topped off with that little spoiler on the tailgate. The poverty pack ones don't do it for me.

And yes, that is a proper tailgate, not like the Tomcat with a pathetically small boot opening. The whole glass opens up on this to reveal a spacious load space, with split-folding seats. It's very practical.

Interestingly, the compact weirdness doesn't end with the back end. The front panels are from the saloon, not the coupe (saloon front is apparently shorter), the doors aren't pillarless like the coupe (they are similar to the saloon doors but apparently bespoke to the compact) and the interior is just... weird. It's like a crossover between the E30 and E36, but sharing little with either.

I can imagine a low spec model without half leather seats must be a pretty dreary place to be as its all hard plastics and the dash does feel quite low cost. To be fair, the whole car was designed to be low cost as it was the entry-level model, designed as a stepping stone into the world of BMW luxury.

The interior trim on this is kinda special for such a low-cost model; all the leather trim has blue stitching and it gained the MSport steering wheel which under all the filth, has the tricolour ///M stitching.

It's all in dire need of a damn good clean, but it's generally in good condition with only a couple of minor spots worn through the leather on the drivers bolster, a couple of cracks in the door trim, and some sagging at the back of the headlining; all common 90s car/E36 stuff.

The other major weirdness with the compact is that while it shares the front MacPherson strut setup with all other E36s, the rear suspension is completely different and more similar to the Z3 or E30, being a semi-trailing arm setup rather than the more modern multi-link setup.

The mighty M44B19 in all its filthy and unloved glory. No coil on plug, no Vanos, no Valvetronic, no E-throttle, just an iron block with an alloy head and two cams.

It has a sticker on the windscreen showing it's been serviced in the past, which is a good start, albeit it's due for another service by time (not KM). It also looks like it may have had a replacement radiator at some point as it and the coolant cap look quite new. Everything else is filthy though (and damn I hate people that write on the engine like that).

As the previous owner mentioned, yes, it does leak oil. I have narrowed down two of the leaks, to the valve cover gasket and the oil filter housing gasket, so have ordered replacements for those (along with service items). Both are super common E36 leaks. I haven't looked under the car yet, so hopefully it's not the sump gasket too.

One thing that wasn't mentioned was the brake shudder coming down from speed, so as soon as I can I will check the runout on the rotors and see which ones need replacing. It's not bad enough to fail a WOF, but it's annoying. Same with the rough idle the car has when warm, also annoying, but harmless.

Overall, I'm chuffed with the car.  It drives well, I like driving it, and the more I drive it the more it's freeing up and not being so sluggish. Once I empty the tank down enough to fill it with 98 and reset adaptations hopefully it will open up a bit more power again. I've quite enjoyed being back in an E36 platform car again, even if it is bottom of the rung powertrain wise (well, let's not even talk about the 316... ugh).

The day after picking the car up I was even brave enough to drive the car the 60 odd KM round trip to work. Other than the speakers all being shite, the car performed flawlessly.

IMG_20211224_075349-01-1024x641.jpgYes, that's the ding in the guard. A shame. Check out the tinted windows though.
Being the tinkerer I am, I tinkered with a few things on my lunch break. First was to retrieve the passengers window switch, which had been pushed into the center console. With the surround popped off, the switch was found and pulled out.

Thankfully both the window and the switch work perfectly, all that was needed was to refit the surround and clip the switch in. Pity the surround is cracked so it doesn't hold the switch securely. It does still work, you just have to be gentle pressing the buttons. I either need to glue this back together or find a replacement.

Both switches refitted. The drivers switch needs replacement too as it's damaged on the down button. It still works, but isn't nice to touch.

IMG_20211224_132123-1024x768.jpgNo electric pop out rear windows on this one, unfortunately, hence the blanks.
I took a bit of time to check some other things too, such as the first aid kit that was kicking around in the back seat. This is complete and unused.

This is meant to slip down into one of the two pockets at the side of the boot floor, but the one it fits into currently has the Japanese owners manuals, and a wheel chock (both of which will come out at some point) so after finding the two straps with the tools in the boot, I strapped it to the boot floor for now.

Speaking of tools, this car has the complete tool kit, including the weird tools for lowering the underslung spare wheel

The red cap in the above photo is covering a hole in the boot floor, which if the spare wheel has been stowed correctly should line up with the tyre valve, so you can check the pressure easily. Sadly this one wasn't stowed correctly and doesn't line up.

Another weird little Compact thing is that the gauge cluster doesn't have an economy meter (or oil temp for the M3) below the tacho, as all other E36 models have. It's just a solid blank.

IMG_20211224_133057-1024x768.jpgPretty good Ks
It's not quite as good looking as my co-workers new F30, but it's charming in its own right.

Another fix I have done to the car is to replace one of the center vents as all the vertical vanes were missing so the direction could not be changed, which was a pain as this was the vent for the driver.

I picked up a whole vent cluster from Pick A Part, but only replaced the actual vent as it's quite easy. You tip the vent right down, and then push further until it clicks.

And then using a thin trim tool I gently levered the LH side of the vent against where the dial is, to pop the pin out of the clip and then the vent can be removed. Once the vent is removed you can see how it works; there is a little track on the side leading to a clip that a pin clips into for the tilt function.

This is why I was replacing it. Empty.

No sign of the missing parts, so they probably fell into the heater box. Doesn't seem to rattle, thankfully.

And the replacement

To fit the replacement you slide the pins on the track and push the vent into place until it clips in, and then tilt it back up again.

Because I can't help myself, I chucked an LED into the interior light too. I tried to fit one to the boot light (Which wasn't working) but it seems the switch is at fault on that one, and it's a Compact specific part.

That brings us up to date. I have had the car a week today, and have been driving it as much as I can. Various parts are on the way to fix a couple of things and to give the car a good service.

This will not become a project though. I swear.

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Great little cars. I really miss our one (that was written off due to attempted theft). 

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Great read thank you and an awesome car for the money :)

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Nice one. My 318is had a ropey idle as well, a good clean of the ICV and throttle body will do wonders for it!

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2 hours ago, aja540i said:

Nice one. My 318is had a ropey idle as well, a good clean of the ICV and throttle body will do wonders for it!

Where is that, i think i spotted it under the intake manifold? I see the PCV hose is like chewing gum and the PCV valve has oil residue around it, so a new valve is on the way and I will replace the hose while im there; ive seen a couple of posts on here indicating a duff one of those can affect idle too.

Interestingly, this is my first 4 cylinder bmw, and my only (out of 4) E36 to have standard mirrors as all my previous ones had M3 mirrors (even the 323i).

Edited by KwS

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Cost me around 2k to refresh most of mine. Plastic coolant flange on back of the head is the only major flaw. Usually do it the same as PCV\hose as the coolant hose is glued together with it 

Grab a M42 bottom airbox and intake duct if you can, cleans up the engine bay and maybe a better throttle response.



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1 hour ago, KwS said:

Where is that, i think i spotted it under the intake manifold? I see the PCV hose is like chewing gum and the PCV valve has oil residue around it, so a new valve is on the way and I will replace the hose while im there; ive seen a couple of posts on here indicating a duff one of those can affect idle too.

Interestingly, this is my first 4 cylinder bmw, and my only (out of 4) E36 to have standard mirrors as all my previous ones had M3 mirrors (even the 323i).

From memory it hangs off the bottom of the top part of the intake manifold, it would probably be worth making sure you had a few meters of new vacuum hose before you start digging around, you will end up replacing all of them!

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Ah damn, the reliable second car became slightly less than reliable.

To be fair, it was probably my own fault for leaving the car for a couple of weeks without driving it, outside, in all weather...

I needed to swing by the hardware store to grab some things, and had my choice of cars. Of course, I took the Tomcat for a spin (because after spending all that money, who wouldn't?) and it performed flawlessly

Upon returning home I realised I had forgotten the one thing I went there to buy


That could only mean one thing, I had to make another trip. Since it was a hot day, and the Tomcat lives outside now, the last trip was a hot one. This time, I chose to jump into the Compact instead.

It fired up straight away and settled immediately into its usual slightly rough idle. All seemed good. I set off down the road and within a few meters, it misfires. Just for a second, but it was there. It clears as quickly as it came on, and the car returned to driving normally. Pulling away from the next intersection I give it a boot full, and it is running like clockwork. Weird, maybe it just needs the plugs I bought a while back, fitted.

I get to the store, do my shopping and jump back in the car. I turn the key. The engine cranks, and cranks, and cranks.


I try a couple more times, you know, just in case it decides it wants to be nice. Nope, just cranks.

Occasionally I can get the engine to start, but it runs super rough and shuts off immediately. 1 in 20 tries, if I give it a boot full of throttle it will rev up, super rough and then stop dead.

Interestingly, the transmission warning light is on. I think nothing of this at the time though.

I pop the hood, wiggle some stuff, which makes no difference. I try unplugging the AFM, no change.

My wife is at the supermarket in the Honda, so I send her a text letting her know I appear to have broken down, and that I'm going to walk home and come back for the car later, once the store had closed.

IMG_20220207_154454-1024x768.jpgLooks alright, sitting there. No one would suspect a thing.
Thankfully my wife was awesome enough to come find me on my walk home and gave me a lift.

Googling the fault came up with many many common issues; crank sensors, fuel pumps, etc etc. If it has it, it can break.

Later that evening, once the store had closed, we drove back and checked the car. Sure enough, on the first try, the engine started, and as long as I kept the revs up it would run, albeit rough.

After getting some heat into the engine, the roughness cleared and it would idle, so I wanted to try a lap around the carpark to see if it would make it home. It takes off in second gear, since the trans is in limp mode (warning light on) and proceeds to die on the other side of the carpark. Stopped dead mid turn, like the ignition had been cut.

It wouldn't start again, just lots more cranking.

A (not so) quick phone call to the AA, and a technician was on the way. In the meantime, we did some window shopping, and my wife took a couple of photos of the car.

The BMW where it rolled to a stop, and the ever reliable Honda Fit lurking in the distance. The Compact is a decent looking little car; I quite like it. When it goes.

After about half an hour, the technician arrives in their tow truck. Sure enough, the car starts, misfires a couple of times and then idles like nothing happened. I give it a couple of laps of the carpark and it drives perfectly fine. I ask him to follow me home and we drive off in convoy.

The car acts perfectly on the drive home. Not so much as a stutter. I thank and wave off the towie.

I couldn't be bothered with the car at the time, so it sat out on the street on the naughty step for the night.

The next day, after work, I pulled the car into the garage and had a look at what was going on. My leading theory based on the symptoms was a soggy DME (ECU).

It's quite cool that with the removal of one 10mm bolt, you can set the bonnet into service mode, where the hinges kinda flip over and the bonnet opens vertical. The car is nose down in the photo, otherwise it would be straight up and down.

IMG_20220208_172648-1024x768.jpgUgh, that dent.
The DME is behind the battery, so that has to come out first. Once the battery is out, this cover is held in with those two round clips. You're meant to pry the centers out and then remove them, but I just pulled the whole clip out by hand, in one go.

Removing this allows you access to the actual sealed cover, held in with a bunch of little screws

Once that cover is removed, it can be unhooked from the main loom. In this car, there are also a pair of relays attached to the inside of the cover. I left these attached and just set the cover aside.

The DME is sitting right on the bottom of the stack (with the trans controller above it). You can remove the DME connector by unclipping and lifting up on the silver locking tab, which will push one side of the connector away from the DME. Continue to gently rotate the connector, and remove the hook in the other end. This will allow you to grab the DME and just slide it forward and out of its bracket. It's not held in with any screws, just friction. To actually remove the DME I had to turn it 90 degrees so it would slip past the fuse box.

DSC03921-1024x575.jpg DSC03923-1024x575.jpg
The above images pinched from doing the same check on the M328i as I forgot to take any of the compact.

This left me with an empty space

Hmm, that black bracket looks damp. Oh damn, so does the underside of the DME. It's soaked.

I removed all the screws in the bottom of the housing, bent back/broke off the tabs, and opened it up.

It was dry inside, but immediately I noticed the corrosion on the circuit board.

It wasn't terrible, but there were a few patches of obvious corrosion. Thankfully no obvious damage to the traces or any components, but the water must've been shorting it out.

I gave both sides of the board a good scrub with contact cleaner and a toothbrush until I was confident the corrosion was cleared off. I then reassembled the DME ready to refit.

The water had to come from somewhere, so I needed to do some digging. E36 are known for blocking the cowl drains, but I could find very little information about these on the compact (as they have a different firewall/cowl set up to the other E36s).

These next steps are also, coincidentally, the steps to remove and replace the cabin filters.

I did this with the battery removed, and I'm not sure if you have the space with it installed or not.

The first step is to remove the little grate above the engine. This is the inlet for the fresh air. This plastic mesh has a series of (probably broken) clips along the top edge. Mine just pulled up, along with the rubber.

This will leave you with a metal tray, with a plastic insert.

To remove either, you need to remove the two screws in the tray, which hold the wiring loom to the bottom of it

The wiring loom can then be pulled forward off its clips.

There are now two screws on the firewall, one on either side, that need to be removed to free the tray

IMG_20220208_183432-1024x768.jpg IMG_20220208_183434-1024x768.jpg
With them removed, the tray is just wedged into place. You can pull it forward and remove the plastic insert. This is a deflector to direct air and water to where it needs to be. It is held in place by the big tray, and by hooking over the metal edge at the top.

Now pull the tray completely out and marvel at the stupidly placed/designed cabin filters that have never been changed, and how disgusting they are. On this car, there are two curved panel filters, as opposed to some that had a pair of round filters, one either side of the blower motor.

Both of mine were PACKED solid with grime, and jet black. I don't have spares on hand, so have removed them for the time being.

Now, if you look down into that cavity the blower motor is in you will see two rubber grommets on the front, down the bottom. One is in the RH corner, and the other is on the left but closer to the center. These are the two drains. Both of mine were 100% clear, and free flowing. Damn.

For further investigation, I removed the main cowling under the windscreen. On other E36s this covers the drains, but on this, it covers nothing but steel.

I marked the wiper placement, removed the caps over the nuts

And removed the wipers completely

Now the trim can come off. The LH side is held in with two plastic screws on the far left, and then a series of clips on the underside. The RH is just held with clips on the underside.

It was super manky under these

IMG_20220208_180412-1024x768.jpg IMG_20220208_180415-1024x768.jpg
A real good cleaning, and I put it all back together again. No real obvious sources of water ingress, other than just so much dirt under the trims that maybe the water couldn't drain away as it should've.

I feel like due to the design there is a perfect storm that can result in the DME getting drowned, no matter what.  There is a drain in the front corner of the DME housing; just a small gap (red line) between the base and the dividing wall (black lines) that I guess is meant to allow any water that gets into the DME enclosure to drain next door and go out the cowl drains.

The problem is that if the car is leaning to the left, as it does when parked at the side of the road, any water would pool on the other side of the enclosure, where there is no drain. In theory, if it had rained hard overnight, with the car parked on the street, there could be water pooled there. Now, if you drove a very short distance (a couple of blocks) and then park nose up (as I did), there is the potential that water could run towards the back of the car and drown the DME, instead of running forward and down out the drain.

Without blocking the drain and potentially causing more issues, I can't see any way to remedy it. It's just a bad design. If the DME was raised up a couple of mm off the bottom, it would be fine.

It's just something I will need to keep in mind. But if it happens again, at least I know what it is, and there is nothing actually wrong with the car, it's just an E36 thing.

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Had this issue many years ago. It would happen any time I put the car through a carwash. The issue is due the the join between the air conditioning area and the enclosure for the ECU electronics not having a water baffle. If you get extreme rain or high water ingress into the air conditioner fan area it can't drain away fast enough when the drain tube is even slightly blocked. The water builds up in the air conditioning area and overflows into the ECU enclosure, especially if it's raining really hard and you do hard RH turns.

I found this not long after purchasing an E36 - water killed my ECU. Luckily the local BMW (Hastings) let me pilfer parts from other broken ECU's to get mine going.

I added a small aluminum baffle between the air conditioning area and ECU enclosure, bogged in with urethane sealant which stopped the water flowing through. Since then I've had no further problems in 18 years. It also means if the air conditioner area drain ever blocks up I'm unlikely to get a flooded ECU...

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35 minutes ago, wrs said:

Had this issue many years ago. It would happen any time I put the car through a carwash. The issue is due the the join between the air conditioning area and the enclosure for the ECU electronics not having a water baffle. If you get extreme rain or high water ingress into the air conditioner fan area it can't drain away fast enough when the drain tube is even slightly blocked. The water builds up in the air conditioning area and overflows into the ECU enclosure, especially if it's raining really hard and you do hard RH turns.

I found this not long after purchasing an E36 - water killed my ECU. Luckily the local BMW (Hastings) let me pilfer parts from other broken ECU's to get mine going.

I added a small aluminum baffle between the air conditioning area and ECU enclosure, bogged in with urethane sealant which stopped the water flowing through. Since then I've had no further problems in 18 years. It also means if the air conditioner area drain ever blocks up I'm unlikely to get a flooded ECU...

There is a big plate between the DME enclosure and heater area which is sealed around it, although there is the small drain gap at the front of it. You'd have to have litres of water in the heater area to fill it up and its quite deep. The coupe/sedan and compact firewall appear quite different where the heater fan is.

Im wondering about ways to waterproof the DME. seal the casing with sealant? I can see where its been getting in.

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@KwS Thank God for Honda's Engineers

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Laughing with you, not at you. Fun read, good story telling.


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Nostalgia'd back to my old one.  Didn't really appreciate it at the time, I am far too picky.  Looking back at the pics makes it look so solid.



Edited by GorGasm
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Unfortunately, due to my special ability to keep bringing neglected cars home with me, I now have a dire need to make some space, so the BMW will be sold.

But of course, being me, I can't sell the car without first making it better than when I got it.

That meant I needed to look into why the car kept marking its territory everywhere it was parked.

The previous owner mentioned it had an oil leak when he sold it, but "didn't know" where it was from. A quick look around under the bonnet at the common failure points identified two sources of the leak; the rocker cover gasket and the oil filter housing.

I identified these quite early in my ownership, and ordered the relevant parts to fix it. It's taken me until now to actually do it though (and typically, only really for sale).

The first step is to pop the bonnet and glare at the engine that didn't magically fix itself.

The leak from the oil filter housing is both a very common issue, and quite easy to see. Just grab a torch and have a look around the housing and look for pools of oil and lots of muck

The other source was the rocker cover, which was leaking on the low side of the gasket. It's harder to see, but look for wet black muck along the side and front corner of the engine

I started with the oil filter housing. To access this, first, the airbox and all associated gubbins need to come out. The top comes off nice and easy once you undo the hose clamp to the AFM, disconnect the air temp sensor and AFM and unhook the clips around the edges. Remove the lid and filter.

In both the top of the lid, and the bottom of the box it was lined with some noise-dampening foam. This was all starting to crumble if you so much as looked at it. Its held in place with a plastic cage that is clipped into the bottom of the box.

Then I just scooped the foam out of the bottom. The rest got tipped into the bin once the bottom of the airbox was removed.

Which is done by undoing the two bolts on the inner guard, and then normally it would just lift out, except for the giant stupid air duct that runs over the radiator. That needs to come out first, by undoing the four bolts on the top housing and removing the housing. The lower half of the housing is clipped into the fan shroud.

So much room for activities. It's crazy how much engine bay there is in front of the engine on the 4 pot BMWs. How much space? You can fit a jandal between the radiator and engine.

The next job to do, is disconnect the battery as we will be messing with the feed to the alternator

It's best to crack the oil filter housing cap off now, whilst it's attached to the car. Mine was done to eleventy-thousand NM and needed a breaker bar to crack it. The force started to round the brand new filter housing tool. It only needs to be 25NM, and heck it's moulded into the cap if you forget!

DSC06580-1024x575.jpg DSC06581-1024x575.jpg
I like to completely open the cap, as this can let the extra oil in the filter housing drain back to the sump.

Now I had to remove the drive belt. This is done by backing the tensioner off. Remove the plastic dust cap to expose the 16mm hex bolt in the center

Use a rachet or bar and turn counterclockwise to loosen the belt, and slip it off the alternator pulley

It pays to take a couple of photos of how the belt runs too. It's pretty simple, but could be easy to route incorrectly.

With the belt off, it was time to work on removing the alternator

Undo the two wiring connections on the back first. One is 10mm, the other 13mm.

Now the two alternator bolts need to be removed. The top one will come out easy enough

But the bottom one will hit the power steering reservoir

So the trick is to undo the two nuts that hold the res on, wiggle it off the studs and gently move it out of the way

DSC06591-1024x575.jpg DSC06592-1024x575.jpg
Now use lots of wiggling and a pry bar to remove the alternator. Take care because it is quite heavy.

Now we have access to the bracket, but still not the housing. Remove all four bolts.

Once you remove those bolts, you can pivot the bracket away from the engine on the lower power steering pump bolt. This gives you access to the oil filter housing.

Yup, I think it's been leaking

DSC06598-1024x575.jpg DSC06597-1024x575.jpg
Gently crack off all the bolts and remove them. That bottom corner one will envoke some great curse words, since it's got very limited space to work with.

Once the bolts are out, the housing should need some wiggling to free, since the top bushing should be sealing to the block, but in my case, it almost fell out.

The bushing was stuck in the housing

The bushing has a pair of o-rings on it. The old ones were flat and hard as plastic. The new o-rings are visibly larger.

Everything got a real thorough clean down, to make sure the gasket surfaces were spotless. I then lubricated the bushing with some oil and pressed it into place in the block. A very thin smear of Hylomar was wiped on the block side of the gasket surface, and the gasket stuck to it. The housing was then refitted, the bolts all done hand tight and a new oil filter fitted. The braket, alternator and belt were refitted.

That's half the job done. Next was the rocker cover gasket.

The spark plug cover comes off first, using a screwdriver to turn the two locks

Hey, what's that blue thing?

It's a built-in spark plug boot puller. Slip it over the top of the boot, pop a screwdriver through a hole and use it to pull the boot out

That's a really cool touch. What wasn't cool, was finding cylinder two was drowning in oil

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I completely removed all leads and coil pack together

All the cover bolts were loosened. If they have been there a while the rubber seal will stick them to the cover, otherwise they will come right out. Once again, the back corner ones will make you hate BMWs. Don't forget to carefully remove the PCV hose from the back of the cover (although chances are this has turned to chewing gum and will break).

With some careful prying in various places, the cover will pop up and can be removed.

Something tells me it's been leaking a bit

And here

The gasket was pretty moist

I didn't think the gasket was too bad; it still felt flexible like rubber, but once I removed it, it held its shape and was stiff as a board. The new gasket is all floppy.

The new gasket kit came with seals for the bolts too. Not all kits come with these, I specifically chose one that did.

The old seals were quite hard and had been compressed. Since the bolts bottom out, if the seals are too compressed, they won't seal.

I used some side cutters to snip the seal and then ripped it off

Then using an appropriately sized socket, some silicone grease and a soft face hammer, I knocked the new seal on, using the socket as a driver and a couple of good whacks from the hammer to get it over the shoulder.

A stack of old bolts with new seals

Now it's time to bugger around getting the new gasket into place. I tried a few different ways to do this, and they all sucked. The one that worked was to fit the gasket to the cover, zip tie it into place (with an additional zip tie where the arrow is), and try to keep the gasket from snagging too badly as you refit the cover.

Don't forget to bad some sealant on the corners of the half moons at the back

And on the timing cover joints

With the cover in place, as long as the half moons are correctly seated, insert a few bolts finger tight and then snip and remove the zipties. Insert all the bolts, and torque to 10nm working from the inside out.

Now is a good time to grab a mirror and check out the back of the engine and make sure the half moon sections of the seal are correctly located and seated. The mirror can also help to check the rest of the gasket.

Before refitting the rest of the parts, I changed the spark plugs. The old plugs were genuine BMW, and quite worn (even for the weird 4 electrode plugs). I wouldn't be surprised to find they were original.

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In went a new set of BKR6EK (twin electrode) and the leads and coil were then refitted.

Next was to change the PCV valve. I had heard these can cause the unstable idle if they are tired, so I thought I'd give it a go.

This is a real fiddle to do. First, remove the battery. Next use a T30 on a 1/4" ratchet to undo the two bolts, trying not to drop them.

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You can unhook the hose from the PCV if it's in good shape, or in my case, I just cut the hose to remove the PCV.

You can see how dirty it was around the valve. The gasket was very flat and the internal components were covered in filth

The old hose was soft like chewing gum and had crumbled internally

I replaced that hose with some oil/fuel safe 5/8" hose. I did need to cut the plastic sleeve that joins the PCV hose to the coolant hose. I carefully did this with a sharp knife.

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Finally, I ripped all the foam out of the airbox top

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And drained the old oil and filled it with 5.5L of nice fresh 10W50 Penrite. The old oil wasn't due to change for another 4000km, but was overdue by time. It was black and stank like old oil. The previous owner had been topping it up too, so who knows what it was.

Starting the engine up, it still started and ran the same, so the PCV hasn't magically fixed the idle. I suspect it requires the typical M44B19 timing adjustment, but I'm not going to mess with that. The idle is a bit lumpy, but harmless.

I backed the car up the drive and gave it all a real good degrease and wash down. There was old oil everywhere, and it's still not perfectly clean, but it's better. It was ridiculous how much fresh oil there was on the underside of the engine/steering/gearbox/everything. It had leaked about a litre of oil in the short time I had been driving it, so it was getting through it.

A quick run around the block to dry the engine off, and into the garage it has gone. It needs a clean inside and out, and then it'll be ready for sale. The engine got a quick wipe down, which helped, but I can't do much about the old yellow cosmoline wax all over the engine, that's just an old BMW thing.

Hopefully it won't take long to sell. It's a good little car and I have enjoyed my time with it, but I'd enjoy the space and cash more.

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Internet award for the most thorough post ever?


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6 minutes ago, M3AN said:

Internet award for the most thorough post ever?


I've done more thorough ones for different cars 😅

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