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'91 BMW 535 falling to pieces

Being stationed overseas, I bought a temp car to last me while I was here. Live german, drive german, I guess. I just couldn’t resist the offer of $2000 for a used beamer. Everything worked fine and it ran great when I test drove it, so I bought it. It’s a '91 BMW 535 (200+hp), with about 160,000 miles on it.

1. About a month after driving long distances the AC stopped working, it would start out cool, but being stuck in friday rush hour traffic jams, it started blowing warm air, and it wouldn’t even cool down when driving faster after the 2 hour traffic jams were over.

2. I ran out of gas once, (yes, embarrassing!), from which the engine never seemed to have recovered. It would stall and feel like it wasn’t running on all six cylinders, when starting the engine. It would run smoother after warming up, but it seems not to its full potential.

3. Returning from a five week trip, the car started, but not very enthusiastically, having been sitting in negative fahrenheit temperatures. It died immediately and I had to keep on revving it, so it wouldn’t stall. Even after warming up, the rpm’s continued to drop when idleing, to almost dying a few times.

4. At the same time, when attempting to slow down or stop, when pressing the clutch, it felt like the front axle was coming loose. The car did these terrible rocking motions, (it felt like more to the front left), accompanied by this terrible clanking sound.

It would only do it when attempting to break or slow down. It did make a lot of noise when breaking at higher speeds at about 50-60 mph, but no rocking. I don’t think it’s the allignment or the balance of the wheels, since I had new winter tires put on a month after I bought the car; and the car would continue to run smooth at higher speeds, no noise, no rocking…

My questions:

1. Is worth fixing it? Or should I just sell as is, and get my $2000 back, if I can get it back; and try get a cheap honda?

2. If I do decide to fix it, what all needs to be done to a) keep it running, b) possibly increase the resell value?

Any input is welcome. I don’t always get to listen to the show, although I try, but just in case you do discuss my case on air, if you could still please reply via email also, so I don’t miss it.

Thank you for your service and entertainment in supporting our troops overseas.

El Niko!!

  1. I think it is not worth fixing. I can live without the A/C, and I think a fuel filter change will help clear up the engine, but the clutch problem scares me. The transmission will probably need to come out to inspect the clutch itself. See #2.

  2. Nothing will increase the resale value. You probably overpaid to begin with. This is an 18-year old car with 160,000 miles on it. There’s nothing too special about this car that will convince potential buyers that it is worth more than that. If you do decide to fix it, do enough just to keep it running.

Strange you were able to buy such a old car,my impression of the Germans when I was over there was they don’t fool with old cars like us Americans.

Many BMW’s have a set of large bushings at the back of the lower control arms (I can’t think of their technical name now,it eludes me) well these bushings get worn and when you step on the brakes the suspension stops but the car body keeps moving a bit (it looks really odd if you watch the car while someone else is driving) these bushings can be replaced without much trouble or cost.

Is a mandated inspection time comming up? will the car pass?

Did you run out of gas on the Autobahn? get fined?

I wouldn’t deal with this car just because it is so old and expensive to repair.If your bitten by the BMW bug look for a better car.M-car would be a different story

Thanks for the reply. I’ll take a look at those bushings, that sounds like the most logical.

There are a lot of older model cars amongst the military folks, just because they’re cheap; a lot of guys just don’t want to invest a lot if they’re only stationed here for a short time. Car inspections for military are a little more lax than for germans.

No, I ran out of gas when working late one day and forgot to get gas, and then ran out the next morning on my way to a gas station. Got stuck in the middle of the Bavarian forest. My wife and a buddy came to my rescue. Yeah, I heard about those Autobahn fines, they can get pretty stiff.

Shoot, two grand for a '91 535i? Not bad.

OK, you’re in Germany. ALL the mechanics are named Klaus or Heinz. Find one and tithe to him regularly. Is the car worth fixing? You bet. It’s virtually worthless if it’s not running, worth a little more if it’s running poorly. Klaus or Heinz will know what it needs, and it’s probably not much. Let him know that you only want to make it run, you don’t want to restore it to “new”. I’d suspect the fuel filter, for one thing. Running out of gas can cause the dregs of the tank to be pushed (part way) through the injectors. The AC may just need a charge. But hey, it’s Germany in January. Who needs AC? As stated above, the suspension bushings are a possible cause for the handling issues you mentioned. So are rear wheel bearing(s).