iXchange Issue #9

December 1995

A newsletter for BMW 325 iX Enthusiasts.



Member's iXperiences

Tim Supler of Charlottesville, VA (800/277-3033)would like some help or recommendations regarding the metric computer on his "88 4-door Canadian iX:

The on-board computer reads in metric and I'd like to set it or change it out with a U.S. version if necessary so that it reads in "gallons, mph, etc." rather than in metric units. The computer can be set to either military time or to am/pm time, but there appears to be no way to set it to read in U.S. units. Does anyone know how to set it or convert it?

Here is a Follow up from
Dan Guliano
of Nashua, NH:
Last year I discussed the first 100,000 miles in our iX. The pain, the fun, the repairs, the expense...Since then, we added another 40,000 miles...

1. Major Stuff

a. At just over 100k, replaced the brake rotors and pads. Look out, the rear rotors are iX specific and somewhat more expensive than standard. Stops better than ever and 100k on the FIRST SET is nothing to worry about.
b. At 107k, replaced the front lower control arms. Sit down, place your head between your legs, get the air sick bag ready. These lower control arms, complete with ball joints, are priced at over $300 PER SIDE (parts alone). Unless you buy the off-brand, genuine, imported, cast instead of forged, no ball joints included, southeast Asian version. Which saves maybe $75 per side but lasts half as long. Handling and tracking is better than new, but it hurts to sit down.
c. Tires went away at 123k. Thought they were just replaced until we looked at the mileage. This set was put on at 80k. Over 40k on a set of Dunlop D40M2's driven at excessive speed at least five days per week. Got another set (the iX's THIRD) of D40M2's.
d. 129k, bad streak here, transfer case is leaking badly. Can't risk seizing the tranny on an iX, so the transfer case is dropped and all the seals are replaced. Labor costs are extensive, however -- an excellent reason to see: Good Stuff, below.
e. Had to replace the timing belt at 90k. Add 50 and you get 140k, so replaced timing belt before catastrophic failure. While we were in there, water pump was weeping, so replaced that as well.

2. Minor Stuff
a. Fuel Line recall performed by a local dealer. Remember, service on your BMW NEED NOT be done by the dealer to preserve your warranty. As long as you can prove the work was done.
b. Replaced the O2 sensor, no big deal, seemed to run a little better.
c. Parking brake was acting up, turns out the shoes had self-destructed and were replaced.
d. Light bulb on the speedo burned out. Hardly looked at the thing anyway, but how do you explain that to the officer? Replaced bulb, under $2.
e. 126k, ANOTHER antenna mast is replaced. They seem to average one per 18 months.
f. The dumb little bulb that illuminates the clock burned out. Actually there are two and they went TANGO UNIFORM simultaneously at once. 52 cents each.
g. Another little bulb. This time the one in the ignition key breaks. Another under $2 bulb.
h. A/C running at stop, engine temp rises, need to replace resistor for the auxiliary fan, a little over $20 for the part.

3. Good Stuff

a. Had to drop the transfer case anyway, so let's install a Metric Mechanic SHORT SHIFT KIT. Outstanding!!!!, they all should come like this!! Positive engagement, shorter throws, feels great -- can't speak highly enough about this modification. Too bad the labor costs to drop the case to install the kit alone are so high.

Altogether, not a bad 40,000 miles. The iX runs strongly to over 130 mph, compression within 5 psi across all cylinders, still goes sideways fast enough to tick off the Massachusetts State Police...

Eric Gratz of Hanover NH tells of his iXperiences:

I've had my iX for a year now, and although it hasn't exactly been trouble free, I haven't been disappointed. I bought my 88 iX with 106k on the "clock" from an independent BMW shop last October after looking around for a couple of months. The Cinnebarot showed that the car had experienced some collision damage in its past but it certainly had the "feel good" factor the other cars had lacked.

I prepared it for a New Hampshire winter with Pirelli 190P's on 14 inch rims and never lacked for traction through the spring. Strange electrical gremlins popped up occasionally such as reluctant starting, intermittent stalling at speed, door locks which ignored my keys for a day, and a couple random-belching-odoriferous-check-engine-light occurrences. However I followed the not-so-wise maxim, "don't fix anything that fixes itself," since I could always manage to start the car by tapping on the idle control valve.

My luck ran out in the spring as my car started having wild idle oscillations and stalling episodes of extended duration. The Motronic was replaced and the wild oscillations ceased. The stalling persisted until the main (Motronic) relay was replaced. Coincidence or not, another 88 iX, which I considered buying earlier, had its Motronic replaced shortly thereafter. This iX was off the road for quite some time, and I was told by the shop owner that rebuilt Motronic units were on national backorder.

I have a Motronic adapter on order that should solveproblems with the ABS. Thanks to the info regarding this fix, and the publication of the service bulletin. I just replaced the exhaust, cursing the rusted-solid flange bolts all day. It was necessary to cut the bolts between the muffler and the catalytic converter. One pipe on the converter was flared, which didn't allow removal of the flange to drill out the bolts. A spit flange from a local parts store saved the day. That will be the last exhaust I tackle from on my back.


Roburt Waldow of Westfield, NJ tells of his new iX:

I really love our new iX. Although the paint could be in better condition, everything else seems to be in good shape (after some repairs and a major tune up I had done) I found an independent shop to do the work. It still cost a small fortune, but compared to what the dealership would've charged, it was quite a good deal. I had the head gasket, cam seal, timing belt, tensioner pulley, and fan belts replaced. After taking a look at the car, they told me the car was "virgin": The previous owner had never had the car serviced, although the oil had at least been changed (Given the previous owner's attention to the service interval indicator, I dread to think how seldom it may have been done). At 50,000 miles, everything was original, including the fuel filter. Despite this, the shop mechanics said the car looked like it was in great shape (although it was a good thing someone like me got to it when I did).

I couldn't handle looking at the scuffed wheels, so I purchased 15" BBS RN wheels and Dunlop SP8000 205/55 tires from the Tire Rack. I have to send two wheels back because one had a chip on the lip of the rim and the wheel paint used on the other rim was bumpy in some places. So far, the Tire Rack has been very good about taking care of this. I should receive the replacement wheels and tires early next week. I can't wait to try the iX out with proper rubber. I plan to use the stock wheels with the Pirelli 210 tires during the winter. I know that the mesh is not well suited for the snow and ice, but I'll just have to deal with it. At least I won't worry too much about the wheels since they are scraped up anyway.

I also had a DINAN chip and K&N canister air filter installed. I like to think it made a noticeable difference in performance, although I ran no tests to confirm this. The K&N air filter does make it sound great though.

Oh, by the way, I contacted John Walsh (of Oktoberfest '95 Zymol fame) re: the small rust spots all over the car. He asked me where I bought the car. After telling him I purchased the car in Pittsburgh, PA, he told me (and later confirmed) that the spots were actually deposits of "railhead" dust. Apparently, where there are a lot of trains (e.g. Pittsburgh), the air is filled with tiny iron flakes (caused by the friction generated when trains stop) that ultimately come to rest on top of things like hoods, roofs and trunks. He explained that these deposits (having accumulated over 5 years) would not come off with HD-Cleanse, but that he would give it a try with a "clay" he uses to remove paint over spray. He came down from his home in Connecticut (over 3 hours away) and did an exterior detail using Zymol Atlantique glaze (Wow! What a difference it made).

Virtually all of the rust spots came off! The one problem with the detail, however, is that it really showed how poor the paint condition was. At ten feet away, the iX looks superb. At five feet away, it still looks super. Up close, however, it becomes quite obvious this paint is not concours material. There are several small chips (each apparently touched up with an airbrush that covered an area far larger than the actual chip) and re the repaint on the right side (apparently the prior owner sideswiped something) looks horrendous. I decided to put off painting anything till next summer, but I am seriously considering doing a full paint job.


Paul Reitz of Palmyra, PA, posted this on the BMW-digest on the internet in response to some questions asked about the iX and winter driving:

First, just to let you know my bias, I own a '91 iX along with several other older Bimmers. Bought it 2/94, mainly for my wife, but her needs get subordinated when the weather gets really bad. Second, the traction and *poise* of this car in bad weather is nothing short of incredible. The AWD aids both delivery of power and balance, because of engine braking on all four wheels when getting off the gas. ABS adds to its poise. It's truly *difficult* to get this car out of control.

The combination of these characteristics is such that, in weather where our 528e (with 50 kg weight in trunk) is right at the scary lower limit of its ability to be driven, the iX feels like you're driving in light rain.

Limitations: stopping distance, which is just physics, and steering (directional) control. About the only thing that can improve braking in bad weather on any vehicle is to use good tires. Fortunately, a set of inexpensive steel wheels and microcellular rubber snow tires work very well in the winter - on dry roads, snow and ice - such that studs become an unnecessary compromise for street driving. The steering limitation I "ixperienced" is that the 37/63 nominal front/rear torque split doesn't provide quite enough pull for best steering directionality when the tires are riding on ice or ice-covered snow unless the torque split gets modified by rear wheel slippage. Translated, this means that you have to get on the gas reasonably hard to get the front end to go where you're pointing the wheels, on some surfaces.

Although I have not personally tried ASC+T, I'm sure it improves the utility of RWD vehicles but it's not as effective as AWD. I've had to push a neighbor with a 525i with ASC+T in snow that, with the 'iX (had we had it at the time) would have been no problem. BMW discontinued it when the E36 chassis debuted here in model year '92. Perhaps it was the cost or other compromises of designing AWD into the new chassis; there are a number of important differences between the iX and the other E30s that escape the eye.

FWIW, when I was in Davos Switzerland this summer (a mountain resort) the majority of BMWs were E30 'iX's. It's particularly telling, given Europe's tendency toward late model vehicles, that I didn't see a single 5-er iX despite the upscale locale. A guy at the local BMW garage said it's "too
expensive". I personally think BMW lost an opportunity here, and ceded the market to Audi and Subaru.

As for cost, it appears that the 'iX still commands maybe a $2-3k premium over other E30s; not quite as much as the 'iC. There are still good, low mileage 'iX's available. '88s were loaded - Recaros, electric windows & sunroof, but 2 door only; '89s were more basic; '91s, at least, were again
loaded - heated leather seats & mirrors, electric everything, driver's side airbag. I needed 4 doors and liked the idea of the airbag (it may also have been on the '90s). iX's are sufficiently rare around central PA that when a clean, 35k mile 4 door stick with 1 yr factory warranty remaining
popped up at just the right time, I took it for $18.5k.


Dave Ritter of Marquette, MI reminds us to check our head bolts:

In two previous issues of the newsletter you have had writeups about the problems the old (89 and 88) head bolts. One of the local IX's in Marquette has had major damage due to these old bolts. It seems that the top hex head separated and found its way between the camshaft lobe and the head. This resulted in a hole in the coolant passage, a real mess. A few of us found these old bolts in our engines and are making plans for immediate replacement before we too are victims.

(Note: some cars produced before April '89 had the old style hex head bolts that are prone to failure rather than the newer torx-stlye bolts. (See Tips & Tidbits in issue 3 of the iXchange).


Greg Bergey of Baltimore, MD wrote to BMW NA to ask how many iX's were sold in the US and found:

Approximately 5600 iX's were sold from 1988 through 1991. This four year run compares with 6447 Tii's over three years and about 2000-2500 per year of the U.S. 6 series. While the M series were lower production models of a series, the iX is still an uncommon variant. Of course I'd prefer that they were still in production. (Imagine as AWD E36 M3!)


Tony Miele of Deerfield, WI writes:

I purchased our iX last November from Patrick BMW in Schaumburg, IL. The car had one owner, who bought it and had it serviced (by the book) at Patrick BMW. The car is clean inside and out. It just turned 100K the day I picked it up. It has a little rust on the inside bottoms of the front doors. It was noted on the body inspections for the two previous years. I just had the BMW rep look at it last week and BMW is going to pay $300 to clean this up.

Before reading your newsletters, I purchased 4 Pirelli W190 tires in the 205-55-15 size and mounted them on the stock wheels. While now I wish I bought steel wheels and the 14" tires, the iX handled great in the snow. It drove straight and true in deep and not so deep snow.
We traded in a 1989 Audi 90 Quattro last winter on a 1994 325is with AST. While this car really surprised me how well it drove in the snow, I did miss the little extra security of all-wheel-drive. Last October my wife and I drove a 1990 90 Quattro, and a 1991 ix. We both like the iX over the Quattro. After 3 months and 7500 miles, we both think the ix handles winter weather better than the Quattro ever did. We also own a Jeep Grand Cherokee with Quadra-Trac and still prefer to drive the iX in the bad weather.

Looking through the service records at the dealer, I did see service repairs for windows lifts not working, and leaking transfer seals. The dealer put in new seals again, as part of the my purchase deal.


Paul Fishbein of Chicago, IL writes of his first iXperience:

I have had lower back surgery and found the sport seats in my 1988 325iX to have great holding ability in the comers but the lumbar support of the seats were excessive and very uncomfortable for me. I discovered that after removing the back cover of the seat that the lumbar section can be adjusted by removing the green multi "S" curve spring from the seat. This did not effect the overall support of the seat, but did minimize the excessive curve of the lumbar support. Since this change the seat is now incredibly comfortable and supportive on long trips.


Stephen Gardos of Ardsley, NY tells of his iX and would like some help from other Registry members:

I am the original owner of a 1988 Red iX with over 143K miles. The car has been a near perfect car offering all around features that I can't replace (though I recently added a M3 because I am sick of waiting for the elusive 5 series ix). I can go on and on about the numerous snowstorms driving in Vermont that the car has gotten me through. I shouldn't admit how great I feel while passing sliding Blazers and Broncos as they wonder how in the world a BMW can get up that hill.

Unfortunately the car is only near perfect. About 2 years ago I started to get an intermittent vibration that would have the whole car shaking pretty good for up to a minute or so. As mysteriously as the vibration started it would disappear. Sometimes I can go for months without a sign of the demon and just as strangely it will come back and haunt me for several weeks. The problem does not appear to be speed or weather related, though it always disappears if I come to a stop and then start up again (this can be difficult to do at 60 MPH). All the normal possibilities have been checked out by "expert" BMW mechanics; front end, tires, brakes, etc. The conclusion is that it is probably the transfer case but I am unwilling to spend $2500 for a "possible" fix.

I have learned to live with the demon as it is not getting any worse but I would love a solution. I wonder if any other iX owners have had a similar problem or perhaps can recommend a good mechanic familiar with the iX in the NY metro area.


Nick Yotz of Enumclaw, WA shares another iXperience with us:

You may recall that I called you, back in August, about replacing the front shocks on our iX, the right front of which had totally failed. What happened was that I did read your write up in the Registry as well as that in the Chilton manual. However, the press of work and nearness of the departure for our month in Germany required me to send the car to the only facility in Seattle to be trusted (Strictly BMW Independent Svc. Inc.) and that was fortunate that I did. The retaining hubs for the shock tubes (both sides) were totally rusted to the point of requiring them to be chiseled out and off. A much bigger/harder job that I would have been prepared for in my limited time. Whether this is a generic problem or not neither I nor the shop knows as this was their first time to do the job on an iX. The original plan was to use Boge's but none to fit could be found so Bilsteins were used and seem quite satisfactory. The total cost was $540 plus tax--$230 less than quoted by two local dealers just out of my own curiosity for comparison. Better work--less cost.

Just as a note of interest, during our month in Germany I saw exactly one iX, one 6er, two 8ers, one beautifully restored 1602, one Z1, and almost no older style (1980's) 7 series. I suspect that the older (ie., cheaper) cars have all gone to Eastern Europe now. The Z1 driver, a friend of a friend tells me that used ones are quite inexpensive on the used market. I would bring one home in a minute if I could! (Nick recommends making prior arrangements for a rental car with Budget before making any travel to the Continent.)

On another subject: I was led "down the garden path" by an article in the Roundel --Technical Correspondence, Feb '91 about "air temp probe problems. The clock/temp indicator, when the problem first started gave wildly swinging outside temperature readings, chiming every time it went below 36F. Eventually it always read -22F but the chime went off every time the ignition was turned on. Asking the maddening device for the time didn't help as the temp reading returned (to -22F along with the chime) immediately. According to the article, a classic case of failed temp probe, confirmed both by the test suggested in the article, a confirming phone call to Ken Inn, the Rounde l parts guru ("they fail ALL the time."), and a call to Bavarian Auto Parts. About $80. BUT with the new temp probe there was no change to the problem! I told my self that we REALLY don't NEED a temp reading but the device still went to -22 and chimed with the new probe disconnected entirely and continued the wild fluctuations and chiming every 3 or 4 minutes. Very aggravating.

But my wife did want her clock, if not the temp reading; but without all those chimes all the time. After actually taking the clock apart and finding nothing apparently wrong I got a guaranteed used one for $75, half of the dealer's price for a new one. Problem solved. Moral of the story--the temp probes may fail often but it is just as likely to be the 6 button clock mechanism itself. My original temp probe is just fine, despite the test outlined in the Roundel article and I'm out the $80 for the newer one. The used clock came from "Bavarian Auto Recycling" (a Roundel advertiser) at 1-800-726-4269. Free shipping for BMW CCA members and same day shipping--it was excellent service.

Now that the clock/temp problem is solved, I've got to thinking that it probably doesn't really use all those wires (about 10, I think) in the wiring bundle. Does anyone know if the wiring bundle to the 'regular' clock also contains all the wiring connections needed for the "On-board Computer" and is it possible to simply install one for the other and have the computer work as it should? Incidentally, Bob Mitchell's write up is right on. The wiring bundle is nearly impossibly short. I cut a wire tie in order to get another tiny bit of maneuvering room to disassemble the wiring connector itself during my diagnosing-the-problem exercise.


Thanks to Tim Parker of Wtillwater, MN for the following info and the great photo:
Traveling back from Chicago on interstate 94 mid-summer the traffic stopped for about an hour to clear a crashed truck which blocked both lanes (some crash, unfortunately, with two truck drivers crashed I subsequently learned): I took this photo of my '88 iX to pass the time. My camera is a Nikon T35, a tiny, titanium bodied "instant" 3Smm but with the world's best lens. For what that's worth!
'88 iX

Tim's Beautiful "88 iX

You can see my Revolution wheels and 1" to 1.5" lowered stance suit the car well. I have ignored the center caps which came with the wheels because they are plastic, ugly and out of keeping. I have a non-retracting Bosch "short" flexible antenna which is a ricambi original in the UK.

Now at 106,000 miles it is wearing pretty well. I have just replaced all headlamps and fog lamps. And in an emergency had to have one of the front drive shaft inner boots replaced. I can highly recommend the services of Auto Edge of Mahtomedi, near St Paul, MN; call Bob Viau on (612) 777 6924. 1 wouldn't hesitate to recommend Will Sawyer at Eurotech in Roseville, near Minneapolis on (612) 639 0579 also. I switched because Auto Edge is much nearer to my house and they have loaner cars, too.

Next is to replace the right, front, lower suspension arm and ball joint. The engine seems to continue to run well in spite of my ignoring the scored #5 cylinder I wrote about nearly a year ago. My oil consumption is about a quart of Mobil 1 in 3,000 miles. Starting is not always "super instant" but warm idle is always good.

Two questions: I am still on the original clutch but it "rattles" at idle when warm, in neutral with the clutch "out". I'm told its the clutch release arm. Does anyone know exactly what's rattling and can it be eliminated without replacing clutch components?
(Tim, this is likely the release bearing. Although the noise is annoying, it will probably last a long time.)

My tachometer is misbehaving. Sometimes it is accompanied by the "Mpg meter" beneath it - usually, actually. Occasionally the green service lights have a life of their own and the temperature gauge dances about. But it's the tachometer that's important. Does anyone have similar experience and a fix?

Winter will be here within a month so it's going to be back to the snow tires and surprise for other road users. I removed the 325iX badge from the trunk lid so to everyone it's just one of those "scary in snow" BMWs.

Debbie McGuinness of Stevensville, MT thanks her iX for saving her life as you will appreciate in the following article. And she would like some suggestions from those in the Registry who are familiar with SCCA autocross rules:

I think if was fate that brought this car and me together. Her in Montana, I drive 70 miles a day for work and I needed a good reliable 4WD. Nothing seemed to appeal to us -- no airbag, no ABS, not sporty enough, too small -- until we came across the '91 iX. At first we joked about it, but one drive and ohhhhhhh!. It's the first BMW we've ever driven and we're sold. No Chris dreams of his own iX (...or maybe an M3, sigh.)
But fate came three weeks later when this car saved my life! I was traveling on a slick overpass in Idaho when the semi I had begun to pass swerved unexpectedly into my lane. I owe it to this car that I did not slide right under that trailer, for I know that's what my previous car would have done. Unfortunately the ford truck following me was not able to stop as quickly and encountered the rear end of my iX. Although the damages were expensive, I was completely uninjured and the car still drives perfectly.

Thus began our love affair. This is the most incredible car on slick roads we have ever driven. It far outperforms our old Subaru and Pathfinder! And for the amount of miles we have poured on, repairs have been minimal.

This summer we began participating in the local SCCA Autocross which has been a ball! At the same time we are concerned about wear and tear on the car. Any info regarding precautions, risk areas, possible upgrades would be appreciated. What changes can be made to help the car handle more neutrally without moving out of the stock class? What changes are best to move into the prepared classes? Would a new performance chip improve the power band or be detrimental to the engine? Can we use 225x50 R15 tires for autocrossing?


Here is some info from Mark Hanley of Grayslake, IL:
Here's a brief review on the latest sets of tires that I have mounted on the iX. Last winter I purchased a set of Pirelli 210P snow tires. Overall, my impression of these tires has been very good. They provide plenty of accelerating, cornering, and braking grip in the worst of the Winter yuk without being overly noisy; even at highway speeds. My only complaint is that they tend to collect rocks in the hundreds of slits that soften the treadblocks. Occasionally, the rock collection will grow to a point where some vibration is felt at speed, and a little rock purging is required to restore balance. In the spring, I purchased a set of COMP T/A 3s. These are by far the best summer tires that 1 have ever purchased, and at about $100 each, they're not a bad deal either. These tires are extremely responsive on dry pavement, and will hold around corners like you sold your soul for friction (for a street tire anyway). These tires really liven up the handling on the iX! In the wet, changes in grip are progressive and very predictable. While these tires pushed the right buttons for me, others may not be so amused with the increased noise and ride harshness that they bring. Anyone thinking about these should keep in mind that they are significantly nosier and ride substantially harder than the stock P600s.

One last thing. Anybody out there interested in a set of four 1993
325is alloys with mounted Pirelli 210P snows
. Only 3k miles on the tires. Wheels and tires in great shape. I'm asking $700 for the set. Call me at 708-548-7703.