Tom's BMW 2002 Repair and Photos : Pre-purchase Checklist

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BMW 2002 Pictures

Book Reviews

Wiper Repair


My Repair List


This list was created after I bought my 1974 BMW 2002. I was excited when at the time I was buying the car, and I didn't check the car as carefully as I should have. My car is fine, but given what I discovered after the purchase, I should have paid less. I only paid $1800, so I didn't do too bad.

While this list has some items specific the my old BMW, many of these items apply to most used cars.

You should also be aware that perhaps 3% of newer cars have been totaled, given a salvage title, "repaired", and now have a clean title. Consumer reports has advice and detailed information about used cars and fraud. Consumer Reports "telltale signs of a rebuilt wreck"

Disclaimer warning you of possible dangers and/or inaccuracies: I'm not a car expert, just a guy who has learned a thing or two. There are many ways to be injured or killed messing with cars. I try to point out unsafe things so you can avoid them, but you must learn about automotive repair safety before doing anything with or to a car. As far as I know my information and advice is good. By the way, I'm always open to advice.

  • Crawl all the way under the car looking for rust. If the car has undercoating (usually black and thick, somtimes rubberized), the owner may be trying to hide something. See the notes later about jacking up the car and how to do this safely.
  • Try the emergency flasher switch. BMW 2002 flasher light switches usually break, and the button won't stay in. A new switch is about $25, and fairly easy to replace.
  • Try the wipers and washer. In Winter it is common for a Bosch wiper motor to run slow until it warms up. My VW Bug does this too. I'm not sure how serious this problem is. The washer motor looks very powerful, but the brush holders rust. In the BMW, the pump for the washers is actually a brass gear pump! I found a new pump, but the cost was steep, and it wasn't an exact fit. Newer pumps for other model cars can be used, and run as little as $15.
  • Look inside the cowling around the steering column and switches. 1975 and 1976 wiper switches (with the interval wipe) are no longer available. Mine is being held together with a wire tie. I may try to switch to the early switch.
  • My turn signal switch was bad. I've seen another 2002 with the same problem. With my bad switch it was almost impossible to turn on the turn signal without changing to high beams. Again, I replaced the switch. Replacement was pretty easy. New they are about $85 from La Jolla Independent (about $114 from Bavarian MotorSport).
  • Try the turn signal, and watch the temperature gauge. Does the gauge move in time with the lights? Sounds like a bad ground. I've got this minor problem, and I'm not sure how hard it will be to fix.
  • While driving around, does the turn signal indicator light always work? Mine is spotty. Some of this may relate to a short in the wiper switch.
  • Late model horn contacts are apparently no longer available. I have a 1972 steering wheel, and it works great.
  • Remove the spare tire and look for rust in the spare tire well in the bottom of the trunk. Trunk floors rust out in may cars.
  • While you are in the trunk, look for rust on the shock absorber towers. I'm pretty sure that logitudinal rust damage here means that the upper spring perch is gone. This is common in old BMWs and apparently hard to fix. The shock towers are those large semi-cylindrical structures towards the front corners of the trunk.
  • Look at the bottom of the doors for rust. Most cars have small holes or slits where water is supposed to drain out of the door. The water gets in around the window rubber (this is expected) and drains out on the outside of the door seal. The problems start when the drains get clogged and water sits inside the door. Then the doors rust.
  • Try to look under the carpets. This is kind of hard because the BMW carpets are pretty firmly installed. More on this later. I can tell you that carpets hide rust.
  • Crawl in the back seat. The first question is: do both front seats flip up? Mine were both frozen, and the passenger side has busted cables. I think the cables are no longer available, but I'm going to make replacements out of bicycle brake cables. Before cables break, use fine sandpaper on the hook part of the release, and keep the hook and latch lightly lubricated. The seat back trim comes off with 3 screws at the bottom, although my seat backs are a little rough, with a screw or two pulled out.
  • Check that the rear windows open, and latch. One of my windows is ok. The knob turns to lock the window open.
  • During your test drive, in each gear accelerate, and then take your foot off the gas pedal. The purpose is to check for slack in the drive train, and to try to make the car pop out of gear. Bad syncronizers will pop out of gear with this treatment. Sadly, I did not notice that my 2002 popped out of second. A good used 4 speed transmission was $350, and about another $200 labor to install. BMW clutches are expensive - $225 just for parts.
  • When releasing the clutch, it should be perfectly smooth. Mine isn't perfect even after replacing the transmission. The mechanic says it may be a problem with too much play in my engine (end play in the crank). Any vibration when running, letting out the clutch, or shifting is expensive.
  • Does the car reverse smoothly? Slip the clutch just a little while backing up a slight incline. Any judder or shaking means repairs to the clutch, transmission, or driveshaft (or all three).
  • Do the back-up lights work? What about brake lights, turn signals etc?
  • Jack up the rear end and secure the car on strong jackstands. You want both rear wheels off the ground, and free to rotate. Make sure the car is stable. Start the engine, put the car into first gear and gently release the clutch. Be VERY Careful!! Use an extended mechanics stethoscope to listen to the differential and CV joints. Don't get under the car. This dangerous, even with the car on jack stands. My car makes a very rude grinding noise in the differential because it was run for years with little or no oil in the differential. Of course, the outside of the differential is covered in oil. It appears that mine leaked from the side flanges where the axles attach.
  • Shut off the engine. If you are certain that the car is safey supported by the jack stands, you might consider crawling under the car. Look at the diagonal brace from the rear of the transmission up to the shift linkage. Mine was snapped off, and badly repaired. The used transmission that I had installed included a shifter, so this repair was included with the installation of a used tranny.
  • While you are under the car look for rust. Common areas are the drain plugs in the floor, rocker panels (logitudinal structures below the door, behind the front wheels, in front of the rear wheels, inside the fenders, etc, etc.
  • While the rear end is up, set the emergency brake, then release it. Do both rear wheels turn freely by hand after releasing the hand brake? Just push the tire around. I can do this one handed with little effort. A small amount of rubbing noise between the brake drum and shoes is normal. With my frozen emergency brake cable, the wheel could not be turned after releasing the emergency brake. One new emergency brake cable is about $15. There are two. I replaced one of mine. It wasn't too hard.
  • At highway speeds listen for air noise from the quarterlight (wing) and windows. One car I drove sounded like a turbine was under the passenger side dashboard. I have no idea what was letting in the air (I did not buy that car). My door seals are gone at the rear of the window, so at highway speeds, there's quite a bit of wind noise next to my head.
  • Turn on the heater fan, and do some moderate to high G-force cornering. If the bearings in the fan are bad, the fan will probably knock when you make a left hand turn. If the heater fan makes a rattling noise, then the heater probably has to be replaced. The part is about $150 used. It's a lot of labor to replace since the dashboard has to come out.
  • While you are testing the cornering, see how the steering feels when changing from a shallow to sharp turn. Do some turns where you can turn the wheel slowly back and forth during the turn. In my car, something is not quite right in the front, and there is a kind of "bump" as though somthing is loose, or I have a bent front wheel. I expect that I need new ball joints, tie rod ends and an idler arm/bushing.
  • If the sunroof is stuck be worried. The cables alone very expensive, and there are two. I dare not touch my sunroof since it is currently closed and not leaking.
  • Try the rear defroster. Mine doesn't work (no great surprise). If the culprit is the defroster itself, you must replace the rear window. The window is about $200. I'm told that the heater elements are ceramic and built onto the surface of the glass.
  • Try to lock/unlock the doors. It is probably common that the lock mechanism inside the door has not been lubricated, and the doors won't lock.
  • Check the door brake. This is that strap at the hinge end of the door that keep the door from swinging to wide open. These are often bad, and where they connect to the car is often rusted, bent, or broken. I seem to remember that these things are expensive.
  • You probably can't check this before buying a car, but be warned: upon removing the door trim panel, I discovered that the window regulator spring was broken, and the lower part of the quarterlight (wing) frame is also broken. This explains why the wing is at a slightly odd angle. Luckily, mine neither leaks air or water. My windows go up and down fine without the spring too. I also discovered that the inner vapor barrier was badly repaired and had been leaking for some time. I have repaired this with Tyvek Housewrap and Tyvek construction tape. Here are photos of the same process on a 1989 VW Golf.
  • The emergency brake handle is supposed to go no higher than 4 or 5 clicks (according to the shop manual). It is common for the emergency brake to be unadjustable. In my late model 1975, I didn't have any trouble getting it adjusted after replacing the cable. New cable is $15. The brakes are pretty easy to work on.
  • Does the car make heat? Does air come out of the defroster vent? I don't have much defroster air, and I hope that requires only a small adjustment. The problem with my heater is that it doesn't quite turn off. Again, I hope that adjusting the cable to the heater valve will cure the problem. Check all the fan speeds.
  • Does the trunk lock/unlock? Mine locks fine, but is hard to open, perhaps from when my car was rear-ended earlier in it's life.
  • There are unnatural dimples in the body above each rear wheel of my car.I suspected a mild rear end collision. This was confirmed when I met an acquaintance of the original owner.
  • I've never tried this, but old timers say to go over the car with a magnet. The idea is that the magnet won't stick to areas that have thick body filler.
  • Look at frame members for weld beads. Most cars made from the 1960's on are spot welded. Bead welds indicate repairs.