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Old 02-11-2008, 05:59 PM   #1
ChrisV
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A year in the life of a BMW 7 series...

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!
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Old 02-11-2008, 07:49 PM   #2
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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.
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Old 02-11-2008, 07:57 PM   #3
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The E38 is by far my favorite 7...but I think about anyone would say that



Are those the wheels you're getting? Cause they're awesome.
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BavarianWheels
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HOWEVER...to this day...Lexus comes with far better support at the dealers than BMW. I still buy BMW's despite this fact.
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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)
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:07 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimario
The E38 is by far my favorite 7...but I think about anyone would say that


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

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.
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisV
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)

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.
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisV
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.

Ricer

Those 19s are awesome, But I think they need to be smaller.
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:38 PM   #8
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I'm partial to the Alpina style wheels myself.



But more so on the e28's


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Old 02-11-2008, 08:49 PM   #9
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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)
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Old 02-11-2008, 10:11 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisV
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)

True, there's a reason we don't have an M7.
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Old 02-12-2008, 09:28 PM   #11
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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.
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Old 02-12-2008, 10:18 PM   #12
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Why would you swap an LS1 into an 8?

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Old 02-12-2008, 10:29 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimario
Why would you swap an LS1 into an 8?


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.
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Old 02-12-2008, 10:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Im mostly looking at 90-96 5 series but they get shit for gas mileage and Id prefer a 7 or 8 series.

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...??
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Old 02-13-2008, 02:43 AM   #15
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Good to see the car is still doing fine

its exactly what my Buick wants to be
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