'84 BMW 5-series starting problem

I just recently bought a '84 BMW 533i (3.2L inline-6) from an auction. It has 146K miles on it and appears to be in nice shape (body and general mechanics). When it was delivered to me the battery was dead. Jump started it and drove it once and it was quite fun–it accelerates really nice… Unfortunately ran out of gas about 5 miles into my journey–should have know they would skimp on how much gas was in it… My wife rescued me and I put about 8 gallons of new premium gas into it. It started up just fine, drove it around, drove it home and parked it in the garage (drove it for probably 45 minutes after filling it w/ gas). Hooked the battery up to a trickle charger. Tried starting it the next day and it turns over just fine on its battery, but it just cranks and it won’t even pop like it’s trying to start. It just keeps cranking. Checked and it has spark in all 6 cylinders. Smell gas under the hood when trying to start it, but haven’t checked anything else yet. Any help? Can’t figure out why it was running fine the whole time the day before (when it had gas), but now won’t even ‘pop’ when trying to start it–did running out of gas foul the injectors or something? Thanks!

Assuming you have spark, then yes, you may have plugged something up on the fuel side, or (maybe more likely) it had this problem to begin with. There are so many things that could be wrong on an '84. Do you have a BMW mechanic you can tow it to?

Have you bought a Bentley manual for it? This’ll be the best $60 you’ll ever spend:

I hope you weren’t expecting to get a 26 year old BMW on the cheap and not have to put some significant money into it - that just doesn’t happen.

You need three things:

  • Spark you have.
  • Compression, have it checked.
  • Fuel. Try a little starting fluid in the air intake when trying to start it.

Thanks for the feedback–yeah I’ve seen the Bentley manuals and have been thinking of buying one already. Yeah I figured the car would have some issues being that old, but considering it started up just fine that first day I had it (both before and after it ran out of gas), and idled and accelerated just fine, I was suprised that it wouldn’t even try to fire on the 2nd day. Right now I can crank it non-stop for a minute and it won’t even ‘pop’. Thanks,

Thanks, I’ll give the starting fluid and compression testing a try.

If you can let it sit for a while, I’d get the manual, I imagine there are some problem-solving flowcharts you can use to work through the no-start. Given it ran well the other day, I bet it’s a fuel problem, which might be something easily fixed, once you know what it is. I think I just saw one of those at lunch, I was out walking. I haven’t seen one in a long time. I’d like to have one, that model combines good looks, performance, and practicality.

Yeah, I really got to like the mid-80’s 5 and 6 series when I was a teen (in the 80’s), so when I got the ‘itch’ again to buy a project car, I started looking at these. It’s my first BMW, and I’m used to American cars. So getting used to the differences here. That’s what stumped me, is it was running great the day before–I had a blast driving it for the (total) 15-20 miles that I drove it–it ran thru the gears nicely up to a relatively high rpm with no issues whatsoever. And considering it ran fine for quite a while after it ran out of gas and I put the new stuff in, I figured any debris that got flushed up might have been burned off already. But yeah, it’s my summer car so plenty of time to get it going. Thanks,