Fred Hathaway of Washington, DC, tells of his adventure of coming to Denver to pick up his iX:
"Prior to an iX, my experience with BMW's was a '75 2002. Eighteen years and 200,000 miles later, my mechanic gently convinced me that a newer generation BMW might have something more to offer.
"In theory, there shouldn't be a better place to find any used BMW than Washington. On any given weekend The Washington Post has over 100 listings and some dealers have up to 50 used BMW's on their lots. Although I hadn't been in BMW CCA since '82, somewhere in my subconscious I knew that 4X4 BMW's existed (osmosis from 10 years of Car & Driver subscriptions) as one day I saw "iX" on the back of a 3 Series and it clicked.
"Believing that there's no such thing as too much traction, and seeking a unique but somewhat affordable BMW in a city where BMW's are almost commonplace, I set out to find an iX.
"In nine months of looking through thousands of listings in The Washington Post , I found only nine and none from '90 or '91. I rejoined BMW CCA and scoured the Roundel . There were still not that many hits and none that fit the evolving criteria of a four-door (kids), five-speed. Besides, the idea of travelling long distances to look at cars didn't make sense with all the BMW's around here (once again, inside the Beltway thinking was wrong).
"The Roundel led me to Gordon Haines and the iXchange . An inquiry of Gordon resulted in a friendly, helpful reply. I learned that the iX was relatively much more popular in Gordon's home of Denver. The Denver Post listed more iX's in one week than appear in Washington in six months! Gordon also identified dealers that often have iX's and a shop that could check them out (BimmerWerks in Broomfield).
"The idea of travel to find an iX was still hard to get used to, but then the 2002 began burning a lot more oil, and I made some calls. I just missed a '91 black four-door, five-speed in the Denver Post . It was bought from Texas and being shipped to Alaska, so I wasn't the only one doing this. BimmerWerks had a very, very nice red '90 with about 40,000 miles, but it was sold. They knew of an Alpine white four-door, five-speed '91 offered through H.M. Brown & Associates, a buyer's broker in Englewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. Another miss, the buyer was awaiting financing.
"Encouraged by this abundance, I awaited next Sunday's Denver Post . Then, a call came from Xenti ("Chentee") at H.M. Brown; the white iX was unsold. Xenti was extremely decent to work with; he drove the car twice to BimmerWerks and back, over 100 miles total, for inspection and alignment with no commitment on my part, retrieved the prior service records, and got the car detailed at no charge.
"BimmerWerks rated the car highly overall. They uncovered a minor front end accident that had been very professionally repaired. The alignment showed that the accident did not harm the front suspension; all body panels remained original. There was no rust, no leaks, a recent timing belt and rotor/pad replacement, good paint (but for some chipping to the front air dam), four true alloys, good rubber, clean gray leather, 62K miles, and a factory CD player.
"The next thing I knew I was on a Friday morning flight to Denver planning to drive the 1,700 miles back to D.C. by Sunday. Gordon was again extremely helpful, meeting me at the airport and driving me to Englewood in his '88 iX. There had been snow and ice the night before (Denver headline: 52 Car Pile-Up) but much of it was already gone in the bright February sun.
"Laying eyes on the iX was almost religious. It was exceptionally clean inside and out. Coming from near the Rust Belt, I rarely see six-year-old cars so well preserved. This car had done very well by the dry air of Colorado and winter roads with sand, not salt. Sand caused the air dam damage and somewhat pocked windshield and fog lamp lenses, but that was more than a fair trade for no rust.
"Xenti and I did the paperwork straightaway. As a buyers' agent, he conducted a smooth, no surprise transaction with a very happy buyer. I then followed Gordon to BimmerWerks for an oil change and to meet more of the fellows that helped me out in this process.
"By three o'clock I was heading to Denver International Airport to pick up my dad. He had agreed to ride back with me and provide good conversation. Although not a strict highway cruiser, the iX was very quiet and easy for a pair of aged and aging tall guys to sit in for long stretches; the cruise control is the best I've ever used.
"I took the car to my mechanic, Grant Randall and his Alexandria Bavarian Service (ABS). The absence of much oil residue inside the valve cover and like-new appearance impressed; underneath the car was very clean, too. Mechanically, there were just a few issues and I already anticipated the major one, namely, finishing Inspection II. Grant instantly diagnosed a temperamental speedo/odo: a loose capacitor to be re-soldered.
"After a few minutes of gear talk and male bonding around the 20th Century equivalent of a new spear, I nearly ordered four new Bilstein HD shocks and M-Technic sport springs (the prodding was negligible).
"The iX is wonderful, but the people along the way were more important to making this a great experience. For that matter, that's been the case for the past 18 years of crossing paths with other people involved in BMW's.
Tim Racine of Lake St. Louis, MO, gives a tip of the hat to his Moda M1s & Blizzaks. Tim says, "I had a nasty wheel shimmy experience early last winter, due to snow & muck packing in the stock BBS rims. So, I ordered the Moda & Blizzak package from Tire Rack. One of the steel valve stems was not tightened down, so the tire was flat upon arrival. I mounted the other three, threw the fourth and my floor jack in the trunk, and ran up to the local gas station for some fresh air. Those Blizzaks sure are squirrely at highway speeds. But the Modas really look sweet on my '90 Sterling silver iX.... kinda hated to put my all seasons (on BBS) back on the car. I may have to buck up for another set. Anyway, love that car and its little engine. I thought I might be a little disappointed since my other sled is an E28 M5, but I just love the sound that 2.5L makes....very smooth. I'm running AMSoil (series 3000, 5-30W) and getting about 23mpg, don't know how that compares to most, but I'm not complaining."
Richard Bost of Seattle, sends, "Greeetings from the PacNW, where the scenery is beautiful, life is great and the drivers are neither.
"I grew up un NYC, came to school here in Seattle 25 years ago, and have lived all over the US and Europe. During all that time I always thought the drivers of NY were the worst. After living here for a year now, i recently went back to NY for a three day visit. All of a sudden I came to the realization that they don't drive so bad at all. I even liked it. Just goes to show that all is relative.
"We also have more debris on the Interstate than I have ever seen anyplace. After an encounter with a block of wood, I bent one wheel and flattened two tires. So my three remaining wheels are for sale. Since the offset is only for an iX I thought i would put this ad in your newsletter as well."
Bruce Monk of Colorado tells his horror story and warns us, "Better have someone standing by with the smelling salts before reading the rest of this... It gets UGLY.
"I believe your mechanic is correct. The splines on the shaft that comes out of the transfer case and drives the front wheels have most likely stripped.
"The same thing happened to me 3 months after buying my 88 which at the time had just over 100k mi. on the clock.
"I was on my way to work one day... stopped at a light, and when I started off again I was treated to the most awful sounding POP POP POP sound I have ever heard. The noise got worse the more I increased the load (stepped on the gas) on the car. I immed. had the car towed on a flatbed to to the independent I bought the thing from. Boy was he happy to see me coming back :)
Initial diagnosis was that the transfer case or the viscous coupler was bad. A new coupler was around $1500 while a rebuilt Xfer case from the dealer was going to cost $2600. (parts only, ~12 hours labor extra!) Holy cow! Honey, hand me the smelling salts now please.
"I decided to do some research on this subject. After all we were now looking at $3 grand with labor and all to get this pig fixed. I ended up talking to a very knowledgeable Svc. advisor here in Denver. Scott really knows iXs and was really helpful. He stated that he had heard of this problem several times over the years since there are relatively many iXs here in Colorado. Experience had taught them that if the transfer case was replaced WITHOUT also replacing the front drive shaft as well, the system would soon fail again. Great... Now we're talking another $550 for the drive shaft on top of everything else. ( Is this thing made of gold? No, It's just one of those dang iX specific parts - Remember Satch Carlson's column about how stuff for an iX always costs more? :) )
"On to better news... I got to be really good friends with the mechanic at the independent and was able to work closely with him, even to the point of actually getting my hands dirty several times!! When we split the two halves of the Xfer case apart we were amazed to find a Xfer case that literally looked like new on the inside. A great testimonial to the prev. owner changing fluids regularly? Found out later that this same fiasco had all happened to the prev. owner and that he had replaced the Xfer case with a rebuilt unit but did NOT replace the drive shaft. Also, I had not yet found out all this good information about the Xfer case from the Svc. Advisor!
"Anyway, we checked bearing races, the drive chain, (yes iX owners, your Xfer case is driven by a big chain!) everything seemed OK... but what of this black box... the Viscous Coupler - was it the problem? There is really no way to tell since it is a sealed unit. Did some more research and found out that no one had ever replaced a V.C. unit nor had they ever even heard of one failing. Hmmm.. What be the problem... Something was making that outrageous noise!
"As kind of a last resort we took the whole mess apart further and discovered the real problem...The splines on the shaft that drives the front wheels were completely gone... shaved flat. In fact, over a teaspoon full of metal shavings fell out when the shaft was pulled from the gear with which it mates!
"Allow me to vent for a moment... If you look at the spines on the iX output shaft you will see that they each are only approx. 1mm wide and 1mm deep! Ever seen the splines on an Audi quattro or a domestic 4X4 transfer case output shaft? They are HUGE compared to the iX's Mickey Mouse splines... no wonder this thing strips - It's clearly underdesigned. The Fritz who worked on this design blew it, it's as simple as that. Fritz, du bist ein Idiot! No wonder BMW gave up on All Wheel Drive! Long live traction control! Yea right, as if AST is EVEN comparable to a good (Say quattro!) AWD system! Whew! There, I'm better now.
"We very carefully examined the splines on the gear that the shaft mates with and came to the conclusion that the metal on this gear is orders of magnitude harder than the metal on the shaft. We measured the gear's splines and determined that they had not worn at all - the only wear was on the shaft itself. Based on all the info. we now had, we concluded that there was not a thing wrong with the Xfer case and that the only problem was this silly shaft.
"I again consulted with Scott and told him of our game plan. He did not agree. His contention was that the mating gear ($641) needed to be replaced too. Additionally, the drive chain ($380), the opposite side input shaft gear ($339) all needed to be replaced as well since they were a matched set! If you add up the prices of all this stuff, you might as well buy a complete $2600 Xfer case from BMW! So to do this job the way the dealer recommends you would need a Xfer case ($2635) and a new front drive shaft ($552) - over $4k with labor and all.
"My Mech. disagreed with Scotts assessment ... after all, the Xfer case would be a rebuilt unit, not new. Therefore only parts which were broken or worn appreciably would have been replaced. Do you really think they would have replaced this $600 gear? I seriously doubt it. Again, it is very hard and does not wear - the shaft does. I believe the reason the dealer recommends replacing all the components is that you really do need as close to perfect as possible mating surfaces for the shaft and the mating gear. (Remember those 1mm X 1mm Mickey Splines? There ain't much room for wear there!) Since our gear was good, I believe we did the right thing by only replacing the shaft in THIS case since my transfer case was virtually new.
"What will cause the shaft to wear is if it is installed dry - I think this is where the prev. owner's Mech. blew it and why it failed twice within 20k mi. Think about it. Every time you shift gears or hit the gas this shaft torques and releases as it drives the wheels. If it is dry, you have metal-to-metal contact which, as always, equals wear. My Mech. coated the splines with good old fashioned wheel bearing grease before installing the shaft. The hope is that the grease then will 'pad' the two mating spline surfaces such that they rarely actually touch each other. Additionally, the shaft is sealed into the gear by a rubber o-ring and dust cap so that the grease will never be exposed to the elements.
"I asked for and got a 12k/12mo. warranty on all this - so far so good but it's really too early (6 months/8kmi) to tell.
"BTW, replace all 3 guibos while the Xfer case is out and also replace any loose shifter components while you are there. The shifter parts are next to impossible to get at otherwise.
"The shaft part No. is 26 20 1 226 183 - list $551 but you should be able to get at least 20% off list price. Best case, depending on how much you pay for labor, I think you are looking at $700-$1200 for the job. Worst case, it will be time to hit the smelling salts again.
"Hope this really helps... Like I said it's ugly! "
James Ferguson of Calgary, Alberta, Canada tells us of his experience with Koni shocks for his iX. James contacted me (Gordon) first about my choice of 80-2522 SPORT shocks for my IX. James says, "I went with the ones that Koni recommended, the 26-1196 SPORT, which turned out to be a rather poor choice. They are high pressure monotube gas shocks with rock-hard rebound damping even on the softest setting. The high pressure monotube construction means that they harsher than a twin-tube low pressure shocks due to the rising-rate spring force that they exert on the suspension on compression.
"Koni failed to mention this when I origionally asked them what the difference was between the two shocks. After exhausting the range of adjustments (front and back) trying to make the shocks work I called Koni on their recommendation. They promptly backed down and sent me some 80-2522 SPORTs as warranty replacements. The 80-2522 SPORT is a low-pressure twin-tube shock with half the rebound damping of the 26-1196 SPORT, although it has 35% higher comression damping. It sounds like Koni is revising their catalogue to reflect this change.
"I am fine-tuning the adjustment of the front and rear shocks on my car and am achieving some really positive results. I expect the final adjustment will be 1 3/16 turns from softest on the front, and 1 3/4 turns on the rears. I have the rears on 1 1/2 right now and the back is still a bit jumpy (not enough rebound damping). To simplify adjustment of the rear shocks I tied a piece of twine around the bump rubber before re-installation and taped the end to the outside of the shock protector. This SHOULD allow me to adjust the rears without removing them from the car. I say SHOULD because I have not tried it yet. My adjustments so far have been done by removing the shocks.
"When I first ordered the adjustable shocks, it was with the idea that I could adjust them at will (softer or harder as I saw fit). Suprise! It turns out that installing adjustable shocks is the only qualification required to become a chassis tuning specialist. It soon became apparent that if I put a lot of sweat, blood and tears (not to mention a stiff neck and shoulders, and mild whiplash) into tuning the shocks, I would find a 'correct' adjustment that would suit the mass distribution and spring rates of the car. Once this adjustment is achieved, the only reason to change it is if you wanted to go racing AND have a stiff neck, if the two are not synonymous anyway.
"It is with this in mind that I am so pleased that I have actually come close to making these shocks work. I anticipate that with a few more adjustments, I will have the car riding just as smoothly as the standard shocks. If, as and when I get to this point, I will pass the settings along!"
(Ed note: we'll stand by and report followup info.)
Greg Bergey of Baltimore, MD replaces ball joints and wishes he had replaced his timing belt earlier: "I went with the ball joints from Zygmunt and replaced both on my 1991 iX (57,600 miles for $98 + labor, considerably better than the $758/pair + labor price my dealer quoted me for the entire control arm. My mechanic said that there was no problem installing them and they have literally transformed the handling of the car. My mechanic said that the regular E30 control arms used to be priced high, but that these were reduced. I suspect the number of iXs didn't make it worthwhile. In any case I highly endorse the Zygmunt selective ball joint fix. Now does anyone have an equally reliable cost-effective solution for a leaking (albeit slowly) steering rack.
"I should also note that despite my knowledge of timing belt replacement needs, mine broke at 46,000 miles causing the usual assortment of bent valve stems, cracked head, etc. ($3000 +). Fortunately my dealer, Schwing Motors, got BMW to cover 75% of the cost, despite the car being out of warranty. I have owned the car since new and it has not been driven all that hard. Don't take a chance, change the belt every 45,000 miles."
(Ed note: I don't know of anyone else who has had a timing belt break with this few miles.)
Tania Brice Coffin of Lancaster, NH, selects an exhaust sytem: "I ended up with a Remus system. Awesome throaty snarl and the response seems quicker in the upper RPM ranges (this could be my imagination though). After several calls to different folks at Bavarian, it seemed that while Remus may not be making new systems for the E30, there was at least one E30 system in the warehouse. The BMWCCA discount made the purchase much less painful than expected. I avoided the Tri-flo system because of the reported resonance issue. Who want's the Rector's Wife to call attention to herself everytime she drives down Main Street. Lancaster is too small for that, having the only BMW in town was enough to live down."
Willima Buckwalter of Canton, GA, says, "An ominous feel in the wheel and noise from the front end of our 89' ix while making tight turns told me the front c/v joints merited scrutiny. Figure eights in the cul-de-sac with the windows down confirmed we had at least one c/v joint under the front end going south on us. Since the car has 115k miles and we are looking forward to some trips this summer (including N.H. in July), I decided to have all the front c/v joints rebuilt. Reading up in my Ixchange library gave me the info to tackle the parts removal job in my garage (Gordon's strut removal description in the first issue was most helpful). So I pried the nut locks out of the ends of the front wheel hubs, broke loose the 30 mm nuts holding the axles on the hubs with my breaker bar and jacked the front end up for disassembly.
"When the wheels came off I had my first surprise. The inner edge of the right front tire was worn to the cord! Since the Dunlop SP8000's gave us 30k miles, a call to Tire Rack got the four replacements on their way (this time D40M2's). Back under the car I found a different way to "press" the ball joint out of the strut. Back the nut holding the ball joint most of the way off to protect the threads, then pass a chisel between the top of the ball joint and the bottom of the shock tower part of the strut. When it stops, encourage it on through with a few blows from the hammer, and the ball joint will pop loose. I was also able to drive the axle out of the strut with hammer blows (again, with the nut on the end to protect the threads) to a brass punch on the end of the axle. The trick here was to park the bottom of the strut back in the ball joint to hold it still while driving the axle through with a hammer and a brass punch. There was enough play on the inboard end of the axle to facilitate a little movement. Once it came loose, I removed the ball joint again and tapped the axle while pulling the strut away from the car to separate those parts.
"That was when I got my second surprise. There was some new play in the wheel bearing that was not there before I started beating on the axle end. So I pulled the strut, thinking I lunched the bearing with my "McGuyver" maintenance, to take it into a shop that can press the bearing out for inspection/replacement. The guy at the local BMW service department looked at it and advised there was nothing wrong, the bearing will tighen up when the axle is reinstalled (he was right). Next, I pried on the part of the axleshaft that is next to the differential to scope it out, and it came with no problem. The other axle on the pass side was a new challenge. It would not remove from the hub. I pounded on it until the threaded end mushroomed almost too much to clean up with the nut, and it did not budge. So I pulled the strut and the axle as a unit. The inboard end of the axle simply slides right out of the oil pan and differential with some persuading leverage from my big screwdriver.
"Both axles and the right strut were left with the c/v joint guy, who had them ready for me the next day. From the new marks on the strut, it appears he employed a bigger hammer and a stout vise to coax the hub off the axle. I then checked the integrity of the ball joints with my scientific instrumentation. Clamping my largest channel locks on the ball joints from top to bottom, I applied pressure looking for some give as the ball settled into the socket. No perceptible movement told me I could bypass ball joint replacement for now.
"With fresh c/v joints, boots, new rotors and fasteners for all the front end parts that were removed, I had the suspension back together in three hours. The back of the car went up on jackstands and all four wheels went to the local tire guy with the new tires for installation. That was when I got my third surprise. He found a bent rim while spin balancing the new tires. The spare rim was straight, so the bent rim was retired (ha!) to spare service and the new tires were installed. A test drive told me everything was allright. The next day I left the car with the local BMW folks for a four wheel alignment. That was when it all came together. The mechanic advised me the only out of spec parameter he found was the right front had too much toe in. He was able to adjust it into spec. So I figure somewhere in the last 30k miles we bounced the right front wheel off something, bending the rim and knocking the toe in out of alignment, subsequently accelerating uneven wear on the right front tire.
"As a point of interest, the mechanic at the local BMW dealer told me they stop head gasket oil leaks in these M20 motors by retorquing the headbolts. His proceedure is to break the bolt loose by backing it off a quarter turn or less, then bring it in to 65 ft/lbs. Do this, following the sequence on a COLD engine (let it sit overnight), and the oil leak will stop. He adds if that does not do it, break and take to 70 ft/lbs."
Michael Watson of Mechanicsville, MD, shares some iXperiences:
"Got the new iXchange, thanks...too bad it didn't come a couple of weeks earlier, my mechanic just replaced the right outer ball joint, and we didn't know where to find ball joints sans control arm. Ended up getting the package from BMW. Plus a new radiator. And a new A/C compressor and dryer, no retrofit. About $1500 for a $2.25 freeze plug, which is was got the car into the shop (on a flatbed) in the first place.
"You asked about fuel pumps. Mine went out (this was not a bad fuel problem, been there, know the symptoms) three weeks after a timing belt replacement at exactly 60K miles. That was in January of '93. The paperwork is buried somewhere, but since I had asked for a 60K inspection, assume the fuel filter was changed. Though the car went back to the same shop (non-dealer, but BMW specialists) for that, it was the last time they got my business. It had a good reputation, but the prices seemed no better than the dealer, and it was very hard to get to, since I live out in the country.
"While my (local, and more recently acquired) mechanic's reasonably good, and I've no reason to doubt his honesty, he runs a shop single-handedly and doesn't have all the knowledge of BMW connections I'd prefer (he worked on Volvos for a dealership for many years). Or the time to search out the best part prices."
Dick Hecox of Richardson, TX, sends us, "Just a quick update. Recently installed new Pirelli P4000 all-season tires. Shopped all over and ended up buying from Tire Rack same as last time. These replaced another set of P4000 Pirellis with almost exactly 40,000 miles.
"This weekend I adjusted valves and while the cover was off I replaced head bolts as per the recommendations in the iXchange, etc. The job took about two hours and I was in no big hurry. The most difficult part was finding a socket to install the new TORX bolts. I couldn't seem to find one with a 1/2" drive to fit my torque wrench. Finally ordered one at Grainger, the tool company. It was a Proto 7416TX, size E16, Grainger part number 1FL28. It has 1/2" drive and cost $8.41. Hopefully that is the last job it will ever have to do."
Phil Keener of Manitowoc, WI, says, "Love my car. Let me share my ABS brake experience. The ABS would pulse under light braking, not hard, and caused the car to act as if the wheels were slipping. As it progressively got worse, I found my braking distances were increasing! Very dangerous. My dealer followed BMW procedures and replaced the hydrulic actuator after testing the sensors and computer. This did not solve the problem. They then rigged a voltmeter between each sensor and the computer and drove the car. It was determined that a sensor sent a faulty signal. Success!
I would like to ask if anyone has successfully had the heated leather seats repaired and what to watch for. I have a wear hole in mine.
THANKS, CONTRIBUTORS !!