A year in the life of a BMW 7 series...

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Well, it's been a year since I bought the E38 on evilbay.


I paid $7500 for the car. It had 140k miles on it at the time of purchase. It now has 158k on it. Black on black, and in excellent condition. I didn't have a chance to see it or inspect it in person before I bought it, but I asked a lot of questions, and got pictures of the instrument cluster when the car was running to se if it had the telltale arrows indicating system malfunctions. Carfax had come up clean, and the pictures of the dash said all was well when running, so I took a chance. Glad I did.

There are certain areas where these cars have known problems. There was no record of those areas being addressed, but at 140k miles, I'd have to assume that they either had been or would need it soon. Those areas are the cooling system, charging system, and some of the sensors. Luckily, those areas are cheap to deal with.

I decided to start out with that I would replace some of the cooling system for peace of mind. The radiator was $145, the expansion tank for the radiator was $45 (I bought both off of ebay, as well. The radiator was an OEM unit, but the expansion tank was aftermarket.) I also replaced both hoses. The replacement of these items took about an hour with just a pair of screwdrivers. Not long after the cooling system was upgraded it threw a code for the camshaft position sensor, and was hard to start. The CPS cost me $95 at the dealer, and took 15 minutes to change with just a torx head screw. That solved that problem.

Two months after these repairs, and I noticed a coolant leak. After searching it out, turns out the new aftermarket expansion tank had cracked and was leaking. Serves me right for not going OEM. Went to the dealership and bought a new one for $65 (BTW, I had also joined the BMW Club not long after buying the car and the club membership alows discounts at certain dealers; the one next to me gave a 20% discount on parts and service to club members!).


Last fall the battery light came on. After doing some checking, the alternator was not charging. Checking with e38.org (the best source of info for these cars) it was reported that the regulator internal to the alternator was the most likely culprit, as the brushes tend to wear out. Well, it had enough miles on it I guess. The regulator with brushes was $95 at the dealer. A few hours of labor and the alternator was repaired.

That has been it for repairs on the car. Not too shabby for a year in the life of a 150k mile BMW...

Had these repairs been done at a independant shop, you'd be looking at probably $100-1500 total over the year to have done it. But, E38.org has detailed photo writups of most major and minor repair and modification processes, and a surprisingly large number of owners do the work themselves. Most of them are, in fact, using the BMW as the first car they've done any work themselves on, and are successful. That's how easy they are to work on.


I've upgraded the lighting on it and added the M style real lip spoiler. Plans include the updated LED taillights and the factory M Parallel wheels. (I'd already have them but for the cost.) It's been a great daily driver, getting upwards of 27 mpg on the highway, and averaging around 20 mpg in the in-town commute. It handles outstanding, not just for a large car, but in comparison to cars in general. I loved taking it on Skyline Drive in the mountains of Virginia! BMW knows how to get suspension and steering right. The E38 is a stylish car still, even after all these years. Much better than it's replacement. Next goal, 200k miles!

posted by  ChrisV

I loved our 1997 e38. It was smoooth...and FAST. The only complaint I had when we first bought it was the A/C. We had just come from owning a Lexus LS400...and at that time the BMW A/C's weren't the best units on the market. We would get almost instant cold from the Lexus A/C even during summer months here in So. Cal. The 7 would take a few minutes to "warm up". Aside from that, I much preferred the 7 over the Lexus.

HOWEVER...to this day...Lexus comes with far better support at the dealers than BMW. I still buy BMW's despite this fact.

posted by  BavarianWheels

The E38 is by far my favorite 7...but I think about anyone would say that :laughing:

http://memimage.cardomain.net/member_images/5/web/233000-233999/233886_6_fu ll.jpg

Are those the wheels you're getting? Cause they're awesome.

posted by  jedimario

Other than the discount I get as a BMWCCA member, I'd never go to a BMW dealer. With the discount at the local dealer, parts prices are the same as ordering aftermarket parts online. Only reason I step foot in there. I do have a trusted indy for jobs that I feel like checkbooking, but I haven't had to use them on this car yet (other than the initial state inspection)

posted by  ChrisV

Yeah, those are the type I want, though I tend to vascillate between them or the 19-20" BBS replicas. Either one of these looks woudl be fine with me, but man, they are big money:



I'll probably do the cheaper mods first, like the taillights and dual exhaust, since I already have the spoiler and clear corners/side markers. Mechanically, I don't want to touch it as a daily driver. I just want it to look slightly different than the ones around me.

posted by  ChrisV

We bought a certified-pre-owned so it came with a full warranty. The work they did was fine...price was expected. The service however was lacking. Sometimes we were kept waiting for our car up to a week! They provided a rental most of the time, but when you own a 7 Series and are put into a Mercury as the free loaner...leaves a foul taste if you know what I mean.

Lexus treats EVERY Lexus owner the same regardless of which Lexus they own or how they became a Lexus owner. BMW, on the other hand, gives the "perks" (and there's only a few) only to NEW car buyers...and each dealership (in my experience here in the L.A. area) gives preferrence to their own buyers and not of other BMW dealers. It's a sad fact. I can drive a ratty old Lexus into a Lexus dealer for service and come out with a loaner guaranteed! Our local BMW dealer has MAYBE 10 loaner cars...while the Lexus dealers have many. LONGO Lexus, I believe, has close to 100 loaners or more!

I would still buy a BMW over a Lexus. I prefer the BMW ride to the Lexus...and the newer BMW's have made some improvements to their A/C since.

posted by  BavarianWheels

Ricer :PP :laughing:

Those 19s are awesome, But I think they need to be smaller.

posted by  jedimario

I'm partial to the Alpina style wheels myself.

http://www.fantasycars.com/gallery/Cars/Alpina/B12%206.0%20E-Kat%20(E38)/al pina_b12_60_e383.jpg

But more so on the e28's


posted by  BavarianWheels

While I love the color of the Alpina car (that blue is gorgeous) The Alpina multispoke wheels have never done it for me. Though if I had a real Alpina 7, I wouldn't change them out. ;)

I know the Mpars are pretty common on these cars, including the factory Sport versions, but they just look so good. I love that staggered look, too.

And yeah, I've done the ricer mods. This car is more than fast enough to get me in trouble in every state. ;) I want to cruise and be stylish in it. I'll save the race car stuff for another car (like an E30 or E36)

posted by  ChrisV

True, there's a reason we don't have an M7.

posted by  jedimario

Good to see you active again Chris.

Ive been looking for a DD so I can have "fun" with the Z and Ive come across a few bimmers. I am just too scred to buy one, I know a tranny will shit on me and Ill be SOL and stuck with a huge tranny repair bill. I do all the work myslef otuside of trannies and internal motor work outside of domestic V8s and a selct few others.

Im mostly looking at 90-96 5 series but they get shit for gas mileage and Id prefer a 7 or 8 series. Im really considering just biting the bullet and getting an 8 series as Ive always wanted one, but upkeep would be killer, adn Im not in the mood for an LS1 swap.

posted by  Enthusiast

Why would you swap an LS1 into an 8?


posted by  jedimario

More hp than the 840i And because the early 8 series V8s have nikasil liners which were/are problematic. Other than that there's really no reason to, especially if you get a manual trans version.

Early 8s had build quality problems, and a lot of new tech was introduced on them that ended up on the rest of the models later in the '90s. As always, get the newest you can afford. Beautiful cars, but I think the 7 makes a better daily driver.

posted by  ChrisV

I've not owned a '90-'96 5 series, but having owned a '97 e38 it would seem if the gas mileage for those years 5 series is crap...then you'll probably be getting the same mileage out of the larger 8 cylinder in the 7 series...??

posted by  BavarianWheels

Good to see the car is still doing fine :thumbs:

its exactly what my Buick wants to be :laughing:

posted by  nighthawk

Cheap, I know my way around them very well, good power and potential.

Id feel bad and be scared to dog on BMWs V8 and V12 cause if it broke, Itd probably only be able to stare at it, If I broke and LS1, I could dive right into it and not have to worry about a thing.

Plus parts are more readily available and cheaper.

Its been done before.

posted by  Enthusiast

After talking to alot of the local owners I know. It seems the V8 in the 7 usually gets better mileage than the old 2.5 in the 5 series.

more displacement can sometimes result in better economy, especially in sporty cars.

posted by  Enthusiast


posted by  fireExotic

Well, it's getting nicer. Here it is at 162k miles, with the new LED taillights and '01 740i Sport shifter, waiting on the new 19" wheels and H&R Sport lowering springs...





posted by  ChrisV

Oh, and these are the wheels I ended up buying. 19x8.5/19x9.5 staggered set with Pirelli P-Zero Rossos for tires.


Can't wait for them to arrive and get them mounted up.

posted by  ChrisV

Nice wheels, they remind me a similar looking pair of BBS'

posted by  MakeItRain

And here are the wheels on the car finally. I think the 19s are just the right size on this car.




posted by  ChrisV

I love the LED lights, and the paint is amazing for the age and mileage of the car, but I think the wheels are just a tad too much. I don't know if they are too big, or just too shiny, but I feel there is just a little too much wheel for the car. My :2cents:. Maybe it is just the angle of the pictures, I find photos tend to distort perspectives a little bit. I don't know, just my :2cents:.

posted by  dvdrose18

I dont really like those style of alloy wheels but I must say, they do suit the car indeed! Very nice looking:thumbs:

posted by  True_Brit

Beautiful, Chris!

posted by  BavarianWheels

Wow glad to know its treatin you well.

Like the wheels, I think they are te same thing as the HP Evos. Alot of the F-body guys have had good luck with them.

What happened to the M Parallels (I think I just murdered the spelling on that)?

Any troubles with it yet?

posted by  Enthusiast

No troubles with it yet. But holy F%$@#k, the new exhaust sounds orgasmic!

Got the magnaflow cats and tips on, with no other mufflers. It's the "gentleman's hot rod" sound I wanted, halfway between a musclecar and a Ferrari. Quiet when cruising, but absolutely stunning when you get on it, rumbling at lower revs, but turning to a small bore rip as the revs climb. And at part throttle (or "cop throttle," as I now call it), quite mellow.

I'm a hot rod guy at heart, and this fills that role for me, while also being a comfortable highway cruiser and executive yacht. ;)

The guys at the exhaust shop were like, "I've NEVER heard a BMW that sounded like this!" And I startled the guy in the SL65 AMG as I was coming home.... Hahahahahahah!

They didn't quite tuck them in exactly where I had planned, and I'll probably move them to where I want them myself, so they are tucked in a little closer. but for now, I love it. Wish I had a good microphone to catch the sound... this clip is pretty close (it's of a twin to mine): reving.wav (http://home.earthlink.net/~twc9528351472/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfil es/reving.wav)


posted by  ChrisV


posted by  jedimario


posted by  ChrisV

The M-pars just ended up feeling way too common on these cars. They are the factory Sport wheels for the 740, and so many guys upgrade to them. I really wanted something different that stands out, and this style of wheel is much less common on them. I also wanted something larger than the factory 18s but not all the way to 20s. And I definitely wanted hot rod style lip on them, with some depth, which I got.

19s make the car look smaller, too...



posted by  ChrisV

looks good chris!

posted by  Zalight

Well, more changes. Lowered it this weekend with H&R Springs. Much more aggressive, crisper cornering, and it still rides decent... (Springs installed with no spring compressor, just unbolt the top center nut on the struts, jack the car up, tilt the struts/wheel ******d and pull the springs off by hand. Easy.)

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=918&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=520c039056a8a550ad99c086ee018e4 b

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=921&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=520c039056a8a550ad99c086ee018e4 b

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=927&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=520c039056a8a550ad99c086ee018e4 b

posted by  ChrisV

Why the heck is "o u t w a r d" censored??????

posted by  ChrisV

It always has been for some reason....I don't think we ever established exactly why though, lol. Car looks nice though Chris! :thumbs:

posted by  Cliffy

fresh pics from this morning:

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=939&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=e611f47883c96969a96cee1926beb64 9

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=933&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=e611f47883c96969a96cee1926beb64 9

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=936&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=e611f47883c96969a96cee1926beb64 9

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=948&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=e611f47883c96969a96cee1926beb64 9

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=954&g2_serialNumber=1&g2_GALLERYSID=e611f47883c96969a96cee1926beb64 9

posted by  ChrisV

The third picture makes it look like it has its ass in the air, otherwise it looks good:thumbs:

posted by  dvdrose18

More new pics...

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=1028&g2_serialNumber=1

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=1075&g2_serialNumber=1

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=980&g2_serialNumber=1

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=1072&g2_serialNumber=1

posted by  ChrisV

love that staggered look, too.

posted by  popular123

They have a rake, stock. if you ever follow one on the interstate and sit behind the car off to the side, you can see it pretty easily. The H&Rs tend to exxagerate that as the fronts drop the car about an inch farther than the rears (so do the Eibachs and other aftermarket springs) in order to get it to sit level, you actually have to tuck the rear tires in the fenderwells a bit.

posted by  ChrisV

A little update after another year. Still daily driving the car (except for during that blizard the mid-atlantic region got hit with this past winter), and this summer, had to recharge the A/C.

That's it for added repair costs. Still cheap to own and fun to drive.

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=1895&g2_serialNumber=1

posted by  ChrisV

I want to buy BMW 745i, so I am Happy if I can see someone satisfied.

posted by  Carmaster

Almost another year later, and finally, it died. Or rather, it was killed. Horrible thunderstorm the other day and flash flooding meant that my wife (who was driving it at the time) was caught out in standing water. She drove into an intersection and the water splashed up over teh hood, stalling the car out. Tried to start it again to get out of the intersection but it stalled again, then wouldn't even click. After getting it home and trying to get it to start it turns out it was hydrolocked and broke a connecting rod.

So, through no fault of it's own it needs a new engine now. I'm going to try to rebuild it.

posted by  ChrisV

Bummer, Chris. We just lost our '01 325i to a head-on collision with a traffic light pole. My daughter was driving (her car). She hit the pole at about 35-40 mph having been hit into the pole by a car making a left turn into the intersection. No injuries other than a contact burn on her forearm from the front airbag.

We've since replaced her car with a really nice '05 MBZ C230 Kompressor.

posted by  BavarianWheels

Found a replacement engine with only 72k miles on it out in Utah, had it shipped and will be picking it up from the shipping dock tomorrow. It'll be good to get started on it again and maybe get it back together before spring...

posted by  ChrisV

A couple years later, and I am back in another BMW E38 7 series, this time a 2001 740i Sport. Did a few cosmetic upgrades and now it's my DD.

edit: pics went away. here they are again:

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=9176&g2_serialNumber=1

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=9167&g2_serialNumber=1

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=9170&g2_serialNumber=1

http://www.midatlantic7s.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2 _itemId=6032&g2_serialNumber=1

posted by  ChrisV

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