Originally Posted by VinceAD
I am looking to buy my first BMW 3 Series. Budget will allow an 01' -03' model year. I would like to know how many miles is typical before changing the clutch (I know how you drive makes a big difference) and what the cost is for a shop to replace the clutch. Also if I am looking at a car above 75k miles would you stay away from a manual and opt for the auto? Does the 3 have a timing belt that needs regular replacement and how often?
Any help is greatly appreciated.
First off, BMW's do not typically have timing belts. instead BMW uses timing chains which are internal with the motor and typically last anywhere from 175K miles to anywhere north of 250K miles+ (depending on how well the engine was maintained) so you do not need to worry about it.
One thing you will want to look into is potentially replacing/rebuilding the VANOS unit. The seals wear out and cause your engine to lose power and sometimes your engine will sound like a diesel. However, replacing the seals is straight forward for the most part and any certified mechanic will be able to do it (most people do it in their back yards if they like DIY's)
The automatic and manual transmissions vary in their maintenance. For one, BMW sometimes will say that fluid in automatic transmissions is a "lifetime fill". I will tell you right now there is no such thing and it is a "marketing gimmick" to make cost of ownership cheaper. If you are buying a car with 75K miles make sure you replace the tranny fluid with the proper fill. Your transmission will thank you and so will your wallet. I replace my ATF fluid every 2 years/20K miles. It can be pricey at $200 but I'd rather keep my tranny for as long as I own my car.
Manual transmissions on the other hand require fluid changes as well. I think buying a used MT car versus an automatic is the safer bet because typically manual transmissions don't require as much maintenance as their automatic counterparts. However, make sure the fluid is replaced with the recommended fill and clutch wear depends on many factors. There's really no way of telling clutch wear unless you've driven the car over its entire lifetime or the clutch slips frequently if you test drive it. Clutches last anywhere from 75K - 125K miles depending on how the car was driven. If driven hard for a long time clutch life obviously can greatly decrease. if the clutch needs to be replaced also replace the flywheel.
All of this is meaningless if the car does not have paperwork. I would never buy a pre-owned car from someone I don't know without a relatively complete maintenance record. With the records you will easily be able to tell how often oil is changed, what repairs have been done, if the car has been reliable or not, and in general you'll be able to get a pretty decent idea on what kind of shape the car is in. If in doubt ask the owner if it would be okay if you take it to bee inspected by a mechanic. If they have nothing to hide they will have no problem having it inspected.
Good luck on the search and let us know what you come up with.