Tips for purchasing a Z3

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Justin Time
Joined: Thu 22 Jun, 2006 21:34
Posts: 2182

  Z3 roadster 2.0
Location: Kent

Tips for purchasing a Z3

Post by Justin Time » Fri 20 Jun, 2008 19:02

Having looked around the forum for a definitive guide, two years ago this month, I found quite a few threads on this subject, but none that contained everything.

So I condensed what I could find, and made it into a notepad text file. Since then I've sent copies via pm to those who asked for tips but didn't find any. What I'd like to do is gather enough tips on what to look out for on a Z3. If this thread works, maybe we could have it added to the knowledgebase section as a single reference that new members of the forum can refer to if they ask for such tips.

The list I have is as follows:

Minor issues:
- Check power hood works (if one is installed).
- Do the seats move without rocking? (motor function is smooth forward and back?)
- Make sure back window is in good condition, fogging and scratches are expected (both cheap fixes) but no cracks, or allow £150-200 (dependent upon labour costs) for replacement.
- If fitted with heated locks, windscreen washers, side mirrors make sure they work and mirrors heat all the time.
- Make sure mirrors can be folded inwards easily and that bases are not corroded (if they are, allow for £500 to replace both sides).
- Make sure there is no corrosion around boot lock.
- Make sure passenger central locking actuator functions or allow about £140 for replacement.
- Make sure all electrics work, check the windows go up/down without assistance or noise (if noisy it is a minor fix), that there are no damp patches on the floor in the cabin and boot.
- Dont be hurried when viewing and throughly check out paperwork. (see below for service timing)
- Look out for steady idle, no engine rattles on start up (a ticking may be heard on warmup and usually disappears when hot).
- Check the seat belt holders on the seats. Broken? Minor fix is possible and is in the Z3 knowledgebase on the forum (as are quite a few fixes)
- Underneath the carpet in the boot is a tool kit, make sure all the bits are there (if they aren't you can get replacements for a few quid each).
- Check the main key unlocks the storage compartment behind the seats, and the glovebox.

Major issues:

- Make sure the roof has no tears and isn't heavily faded, or allow up to £1000 for a replacement.
- Be sure there is no white smoke coming out exhausts. No rear diff grumbling or whining when in reverse gear or moving off. Be sure to reverse in it-very important!
- Check that all the tyres are the same make and model, if they aren't it's not advisable to drive fast. Handling/grip around bends is reduced when not identical (suggest ps2 tyres or goodyear eagle f1 gsd3, i have the f1's, great in the wet).
- Make sure you get it up to a good speed on the test drive. One car I heard about was great to drive until it got up to 80, then it developed a very alarming judder!
- On the test drive, test all gears. Any flat spots in acceleration could indicate cam problems/gear problems. A test should be performed before ANY cash is handed over as it is essential on a Z.
- Temp gauge on the dashboard runs in middle after a 15 minute journey.
- No permanent warning signs on the dashboard. diag tests at BMW dealers cost £35-50 a time, and not to mention the cost of replacement parts.
- Make sure to have the master set of keys, and 2 spares upon purchase. Without the master set, new locks, new storage box and glove box, keys and alarm settings will be needed which is roughly £1000 to do.

Side notes:

-bmws have nice and reliable engines so dont be afraid of older years at an average of 10,000 miles per year. check the service book for regular servicing before you sign anything, the Z3 uses an on board computer that decides on the service interval so don't expect services every Year/10,000 miles. The system works on a 5 green/1amber/1 red light display, under the mileage indicator. After a service, all 5 green lights are active. After 3000 miles or so, a green will go out. Once the amber light comes on, it is suggested you service the car. If the red comes on, do not use the car unless you are taking it to a garage to be serviced. Services are usually done on average every 15,000 miles (the car calculates when it is needed) and a system is in place which is different to most other cars. Services go:

15k Oil Service
30k Inspection 1
45k Oil service
60k Inspection 2
repeat sequence

Inspection 1 is slightly more expensive than an oil service (oil service being about £160 inc everything from BMW) and the inspection 2's can be rather expensive. Search the forum for more information. Using the sequence above can help you when sifting through the paperwork on the car as servicing isn't always done every year on some cars. Also, charges for servicing can differ dependent on the model you own, and usually increases, the more powerful a car you have.
-Electric hood, heated seats, passenger air bag, air con. all optional extras you want. Also lookout for cars with rollover bars behind the seats, look good and can save your life.
-How does it smell? Some Zs smell damp and mouldy. Could be leaky roof or windows, or the gutter outlets could be blocked (possible if its had a rear end collision). Be particularly suspicious if it is stuffed full of air freshener!
- Check Parkers and AA websites, they also give clues as to what to look for.
- Don't worry about a strange sound when you reverse with full steering lock, its normal apparently and has been discussed a lot on this board!

Make all the normal used car checks in respect of paintwork and body condition and especially check that panel gaps between bonnet and front valence are good as many cars have been 'nudged' and things don't quite line up.

If anyone can add to this list, or correct it in any way, please do so.

Please note: It's not my intention to take credit for this list, nor will I, as they are tips given by various members of this forum in various other posts. All I am trying to do is make one single guide that can be a good reference point for those wishing to buy a Z3 in the future, based upon the combined knowledge of this forum.
BMW Z3 2.0L Velvet Blue Individual Edition

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Robert T
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Joined: Mon 12 Jun, 2006 11:35
Posts: 10047

  Z3 roadster 1.9
Location: Cheshire

Post by Robert T » Fri 20 Jun, 2008 19:15

JT, your service intervals are a bit long. Mine has only averaged about 8k between services. It has already had it's Insp II and it hasn't (quite) reached 40k miles yet and it just dropped it's second green light yesterday. I think the intervals may be longer on the post-facelift cars. In general the higher mileage cars will have had longer between services, but it is not unusual to still find cars that haven't yet had and Insp II.

Cheers R.
Arctic Silver '99 Z3 1.9 & Black '59 Frogeye 1275cc

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Justin Time
Joined: Thu 22 Jun, 2006 21:34
Posts: 2182

  Z3 roadster 2.0
Location: Kent

Post by Justin Time » Fri 20 Jun, 2008 19:56

According to this thread, service intervals for S50 and S54 engines are 5000 miles c/a and 15000 miles c/a respectively. My M52 2.0 is averaging 15000 miles between services and inspections, and has just had it's insp 2 at 55k. Your theory about pre and post facelift seems about right.
BMW Z3 2.0L Velvet Blue Individual Edition

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Joined: Tue 08 Jan, 2008 21:10
Posts: 1189

  Z3 roadster 1.9

Nice post

Post by BonBon » Sat 20 Sep, 2008 20:39

I'd like to add a few small details to see if the previous owner was pedantic:
0. Gap between front bumper and bonnet is the same on both sides of car
1. Make sure that the AC fan works in all 4 speeds
2. Check that the headlight switch, ashtray, cigarette lighter and AC bulbs all illuminate
3. No rattle from Cat converter when knocked.
4. Seals on both door sills are in good tact
5. Radio stations are clear (Antenna)
6. All speakers working properly
7. Driver's inner door handle not loose
8. Wheel rims not damaged from curbs
9. Ask for any extras (many have tonneaus that aren't thrown in with sale)
10. 3rd brake light works ok
11. Water level in radiator in order
12. No water or dampness in boot wells (battery and roof motor areas)

Joined: Wed 16 Mar, 2011 17:54
Posts: 113

  Z3 roadster 2.0
Location: Cradley Heath

Post by theduck » Wed 16 Mar, 2011 18:14

No rear diff grumbling or whining when in reverse gear or moving off. Be sure to reverse in it-very important!

Just seen this, what does it signify if it whines in reverse? The inlaws new car does this!

Joined: Sun 09 Jan, 2011 16:52
Posts: 53

  Z3 roadster 2.8

Re: Nice post

Post by devboy » Wed 16 Mar, 2011 21:11

BonBon wrote: 7. Driver's inner door handle not loose
I've recently had an MOT and service (Inspection 2), had a ball joint replaced all for £250.* The mechanic also helpfully provided a list of things he'd noticed that needed attention, I have a longer list but a professional eye was most welcome.

The above fault is present on my zed, apparently it can be caused by people trying to open the (electric) window when frozen, without a warm up. This makes sense as the guy I bought it off had been keeping it outside in the snow during the last winter. I now need to locate the drivers side window and regulator, as both need replacing.

Great list, I wish I had read it prior to purchase but put my hands up to buying under circumstances that led to erring on the side of hopefulness rather than caution. Still, I didn't do too bad in my opinion and it will only make my smile grow broader as I get things fixed as time goes by.

* Is there a section where we can 'big up' independent BMW specialists' that have treated you well and appear honest and helpful?

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