BMW car recalls faults and remedies E30 E34 E36

The E 30 chassis.

This is not a hub to bash BMW's. On the contrary it is through my love of BMW cars that I write this hub or perhaps series of hubs. I would like to allow BMW owners to consider the advice given here as an adjunct to, or back-up for their regular servicing and preventative maintenance.

I will begin with the earlier models and update the hub whenever a new problem is worth writing about.

I'll begin with the 3 series built between 1983 and 1991. The chassis series designation E30.

Bad servicing has caught up with the early 3 series now, and many have had their engines overheated and had more cylinder-head head gasket changes and shaved heads than you could imagine.

E30 BMW notice the grill and headlight placement.
E30 BMW notice the grill and headlight placement.
BMW E30 3 series interior
BMW E30 3 series interior

The cooling system itself was much improved in the E30, but too many years between water pump and hose changes have often resulted in the car being driven home with an almost dry cylinder block and destroying the tensile strength of vital components like compression and oil rings, or drying out the oil in the valve guides.

Brake wheel cylinders and master cylinder will always need to be checked thoroughly for leaks on all E30s. All will need to be replaced in most cases.

The tail-shaft balancer if worn will vibrate at certain speeds or constantly and destroy the car structurally if left unattended to for any length of time. The cost of repair is often in the thousands.

Oil leaks were also common in some of the six cylinder motors and could if unnoticed lead to total engine failure.

Frankly a good one is a rare find. The suspension although much improved was still pretty ordinary anyway, and it is only valuable today in the rare body shapes, such as their tidy little coupe.

BMW E34
BMW E34
BMW E34 interior
BMW E34 interior

The E34 chassis.

Always look for rust in a used E34. This can be a car killer if it is in the structural part of the chassis. Look carefully around the body for signs of rust at the bottom of the doors and the four jacking points under the car for signs of repairs that hide rust.

Many E34 BMWs develop a front wheel wobble at traffic speeds than can be as simple to fix as wheel bearing adjustment or as unlikely as the wheels having been changed to E39 wheels and the special spacing rim missing.

Also check pitman arm, upper and lower control arm bushes, thrust arm and sub frame bushes.You can usually see some feathering of the tire edge if the front end is generally worn.

If it has the front wheel wobbles and the wheels are undamaged and balanced expect some serious expenses to fix it.

Any sign of vibration from the drive train is likely to be the tail-shaft balancer which is often expensive to repair.

Any sound at all from the gearbox is fatal. The gearbox is wonderful, quiet and.... expensive!

The BMW E36 More modern treatemt for the headlights and grill.
The BMW E36 More modern treatemt for the headlights and grill.
BMW E36 interior
BMW E36 interior

The E36 chassis.

Open the bonnet, look for the water pump, then replace it unless it was replaced recently.

The original pump had a nylon impeller which went hard and broke! The water pump is cheap to replace as are hoses. Any sign of crustiness and the hoses get replaced. Never worth the risk.

The radiators were also poorly designed and prone to leak from the plastic section attaching the hoses.

For a very comprehensive list of known E36 faults go here.

The E36 is certainly a nice looking series, and have a keen following amongst BMW owners.

One of the features of the E36 (1991-99) was the rear suspension. The E36 was fitted with the Z axle multi link suspension as used on the Z1. The E36 also used the double overhead camshaft  2.5 Litre M50B25 motor until 1996.

In 1996 the 328 was introduced with the 2.8 Litre M52B28 motor.

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Comments 14 comments

agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia

Great informative Hub for someone contemplating purchasing a use BMW car. Tweeting out!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

I am realy surprise about BMW. Apparently it hadn't been tested long enough and properly. Or am I drawing the wrong conclucsion?


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks agvulpes, my intention was exactly that.

I know from your business history that you have always been one of those rare people who educated their customers thoroughly.

Used BMW buyers need to know what to look for when buying.

Fortunately there are many proud owners updating to new BMW's and the condition of used BMW cars offered for sale is generally good.

As you well know ag, service history is everything when buying a used car.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you for your comment Hello, hello.

BMW have had some component failure, but as you will see as I write more hubs, BMW have less problems than most other manufacturers, but it is important to know them.

Even Honda (possibly the best assembled cars in the world today)have a long list of design faults sadly. Actually I made most of my living out of motorcycle and car design faults so for me it has been profitable.

BMW do extensive testing on all components, but with more than 10,000 parts in most cars, there is room for error.


DavidLivingston 6 years ago

Good to know they did. Thanks.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks David.


onrea profile image

onrea 5 years ago from Rochester, NY

Just bought a used BMW 300 series. Nice read


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks onrea, I see you come from Detroit. I had a great time when I was there. I liked the people a lot.I hope you enjoy your BMW, they are wonderful to drive.


Right On Time profile image

Right On Time 5 years ago from Australia

Very comprehensive article, thanks. Definitely thinking about getting an E30 but in concours condition.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you Right On Time, I agree if you are buying an E30 there are still plenty of immaculate cars for sale in this series, so why not have the best? Funny thing is, you won't pay much more for one in great condition.


Nicky Smart profile image

Nicky Smart 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Definitely thinking about getting an E30 but in concours condition.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

They are still out there Nicky. I saw an immaculate bright red hard top coupe the other day in mint condition. It was for sale too!


pet 5 years ago

Good quality information is hard to find, great comments i will follow this post with interest.

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Nadim 4 years ago

I bought my 1994 e36 6 years ago. Now the tailshaft is gone after I've spent 2 k on guido, power steering, clutch / gearbox, muffler, etc etc. I l ove the car but it can't last long now. I never drive it faster than 50 km/hr though

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