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    Posted: 26 Mar 2013 at 12:14pm

BUYING A Z3 

Engine Capacity:

In spite of the comments of most journalists and other entertainers that the 1.9 is grossly underpowered, it is a very nice car. It must however be judged as a 1.9 litre 140 bhp car; it is fruitless to compare it to an M Roadster, for example. In terms of performance and fuel consumption the engine is streets ahead of the VW 1.8 16 valve equivalent, as was used in the Golf GTI or Corrado.  In terms of performance it goes like most modern 140 bhp cars, and up to 100 mph will probably leave a lot of them, thanks to sensible gearing, as it has a non-overdrive fifth gear and fairly low final drive ratio. It also handles really well, and has good brakes.  Similar comments apply to the later 1.8 litre cars.

In terms of performance the later 2 litre model is very similar to the 1.9, although it must be said that like all the six-cylinder cars, with another 50 pounds of engine weight in front of the axle line it does not handle quite as well.

The 2.2 litre model is a very good all-rounder, with about 15% more power, and a good blend of performance and economy.  The 2.8 and 3 litre cars add to this be having more power, an incredible level of torque, and surprisingly good fuel consumption.

The 192 bhp of the 2.8 can be easily raised to about the 230 bhp of the 3 litre engine by fitting a larger-bore inlet manifold, as the 2.8 was de-rated to meet a target set by marketing and insurance limitations.  The manifold from the older 2.5 litre engine will fit the single-VANOS M52 engine, while that frm the M54 3 litre engine fits the later M52TU 2.8 litre engine.  In either case an adaptor plate is necessary to fit the 2.8 throttle body, Turner Motorsport being a good source.

Twin-VANOS six cylinder engine

Equipment:
The larger-engined cars have a high level of standard equipment, including a power hood, leather seats and door trim, and a trip computer. Other ‘essentials’ are often fitted, such as such as air conditioning, passenger air bag (yes- it was an extra!) roll-over bars, seventeen-inch wheels etc.  All 2.8 models have 2.5 inches more rear track, the pre-2000 models having the rear wings ‘stretched’ downwards and outwards and downwards across the tyres.

The post-2000 models (1.8, 2, 2.2 and 3 litre) belong to the post-2000 'Facelifted' range, which can be readily identified by their rear wings, which have a bulge on top, and various minor cosmetic changes, particularly to the interior.

All Z3 models are equipped with power steering, power seat adjustment, power windows, power mirrors, a good alarm system,  ABS, and traction control.  The 3 litre is also equipped with dynamic stability control, which - like traction control - is only necessary for those owners who treat their car as a weapon! Most UK models also have a limited slip differential- a Torsen (TORque SEnsing) type being fitted from September 1998.

Being very well-equipped as standard, the only really useful Z3 options are air conditioning, power hood, leather interior (easy to keep clean, and if wet it is easy to dry off!) roll-over bars with the rear wind blocker,and seventeen-inch wheels - although with the current condition of many UK roads there is a good argument for the standard sixteen-inch alloy wheels, with their slightly higher tyre profile! 

The 2.8 and  3 litre models were equipped as standard with a power hood, roll-over bars, leather seats and door trim. 

Some 2.2 and 3 litre cars are labelled as 'Sports' models (most of the UK-market cars) with slightly lower M Sport springs and dampers,  BBS multi-spoke 17 inch alloy wheels, and a small spoiler added  below the front splitter.  They have 'Sports' seats, which appear to offer a lot of lateral support, but are no really better than the standard seats - unless you are an obese American!  They are otherwise identical to the other models of the same period, and do not have any additional power to justify their labelling.  Some authors (who have not done their research!) claim that the 'Sports' package includes a limited slip differential, but this was standard equipment for the UK market in any case.

Engine Types:

The later six-cylinder engines (built from Sept 98) have the double-VANOS engine – meaning automatic timing adjustment of both camshafts, whereas the earlier engines had VANOS on the inlet cam only.  In 2.8 guise they can quickly be identified by the use of smaller tail pipes with circular black trims – the later engine has larger slightly ‘squashed’ chrome tailpipes.  These engines not suffer from regular VANOS failures of the older M3 and M Roadster – which usually cost about £2000 per 40,000 miles – or more frequently if you are unlucky!

BMW had a lot of problems with their Nicasil and Galnickel-plated cylinder bores due to the use of high-sulphur fuels, but these engines were never fitted for the US market – which includes all Z3 production, where engines with cast-iron cylinder liners were always fitted.

Performance and Handling:

The 2.8 will be just out-accelerated by the 2.5 litre Boxster of the period, when run to peak revs, but will easily leave the Porsche when accelerating in any given gear.  For example, even Autocar (notorious Porsche lovers!) found that when using fifth gear the 2.8 would go from 20-40 mph in 8.8 seconds, relative to the Boxster (12.2) with a similar edge up to 80-100 mph in 9.9 seconds (Boxster 13.4).

Handling is good, but is compromised for grip rather than comfort, as a penalty for using the old semi-trailing arm rear suspension from the E30 M3.  It works well, however, and suits the car.  The general handling characteristic is slight understeer, which is cancelled as power is applied – the ordinary Z3 is not a tail-happy car, which is why journalists hate it!  They love to show how – being real men(?) – they can control a tail slide, or at least provoke one.

In the real world it is better to have a car with bags of grip, which simply goes where the driver points it, does not argue, and gives lots of warning to lift off before gently breaking away.  You could happily send your wife or daughter etc off on a long run on a wet day, knowing that the car will be with them all the way.

Suspension Problems:

One handling problem which the Z3 definitely shows, however, is that when running on 17 inch wheels it has a habit of suddenly pulling sideways over seams and ruts in the road surface. This 'tramlining' is passed off by BMW to customers who complained as an incurable  'Characteristic' of the car, while the pseudo-technical BMW-haters in the media claim it to be 'Scuttle Shake,' a sign of an insufficiently rigid bodyshell!  Going from my Mk.2 Golf GTI the Z3 felt as if it had been carved from a solid block of steel . . .

Assuming that everything at the front end is in good condition, and  the tyres are not badly worn on their shoulders etc, this problem is due to the  fitting of rubber bushes at the back of the front wishbones.  These are of a type which is unsuitable for use with the relatively inflexible sidewalls of 45 and 40-series tyres, which impart high lateral loadings to the suspension. 

Original Equipment wishbone bush - note the gaps at each side

These loads move the rear ends of the wishbones within the bushes, which being purposefully designed to permit such movement then impart unwanted steering impulses to the car. Why BMW ever fitted such unsuitable bushes to a sports car, particuarly with the factory-fitted 17 inch wheels, is a mystery, but the problem can easily and cheaply be cured by fitting either the M3/M Roadster bushes, which are almost solid rubber, or solid polyurethane bushes from PowerFlex etc.  Naturally, everything else must be on top line, particularly avoiding uneven front tyre wear.

PowerFlex solid polyurethane bush

Another suspension-reated problem is the tendency on the pre-2001 cars for one of the rear anti roll bar drop links to work its way off the end of the bar.  The answer is to fit the later type of link (marked 'Boge') which will stay in position.  The drop links of the front anti roll bar also give problems, in that their rubber bushes tend to deteriorate badly after about 6 years or so.  Replacement of either link is inexpensive and easy - but a good vice is necessary to press the rears into place.

Practicality and Comfort:

Reversing is an acquired skill, as with the roll-over bars and mesh wind deflector rear three-quarter vision is not as good as one would expect in a small sports car, but the rear window is a decent size. Generally speaking, rear vision (roof up) is far better than the Audi TT in  convertible form.  While the plastic rear window may not be fashionable, and is not heated, it can be quickly demisted by the centre dashboard vents, and is of a decent size, due to its ability to fold when the hood is lowered.

Practicality is also fine – we have regularly gone for a two-month European tour every summer, mostly camping, and found that we could fit everything (tent, table, chairs, stove, laptop, DVD movies etc) into the car – but we are experts!

The driving position is fine for me – about six feet tall – and the seats are OK for up to 200 miles at a time.  We have done 500/600 mile days, and once 850 miles - we could still walk afterwards, so the ergonomics cannot be that bad.

The heating and ventilation system is powerful and easily controlled, while air conditioning is a worthwhile option even in the UK, as it provides instant demisting without turning the car into a mobile sauna!  It is one of the few really valuable extras, along with a leather interior - have you ever had to sit on a wet fabric seat . . .

Running Costs:

In terms of running costs, my 2.8 double VANOS model is the cheapest car I have ever owned, the only really necessary replacements in 120,000 miles being a clutch switch (under guarantee) a thermostat (£50) a washer pump (£20) and a viscous fan coupling (£70) and after 12 years a new battery (£81) all of which I replaced myself.  The hood was replaced after  13 years by Car Hood Warehouse (£585) and even after standing outside in almost continuous rain for six weeks remained totally waterproof.

I have owned my car since 13,000 miles, and used to get around 30-32 mpg, with up to 38 on holiday – usually 32 to 36.  Since having the engine remapped (by Superchips) both mid-range torque and fuel consumption have improved markedly, with up to 30% better mpg at 55/65 mph.  (Chipped UK is the current favoured company for remapping, being effective and cheap)

Dampers and Tyres:

Expect dampers to last for at least 80,000 miles (my choice of replacements were Bilstein Sprintline dampers with Eibach front springs and the standard rears) clutches for ever, and thermostats (that is, the original item on pre-April 2000 double-VANOS engines) about 60,000 miles and viscous fan couplings 85,000.

General front lower view

Tyres are an emotive subject, many owners claiming that the Goodyear Eagle F1 or Michelin Pilot Sport are the only tyres to have, but at £150 for a 245-40X17 rear they are expensive.  I have used Falken FK-451 and now FK-452 for thirteen years, which many people have now changed to, and find that they are a really good choice.  Toyo Proxies and also widely used.  Maybe the F1 is better, but on this side of a race track I doubt if anyone would really know the difference, and at £85 for the above rear size it helps to keep running costs at a sensible level. If running on sixteen-inch wheels the cost difference is slightly less. I generally get a life of at least 20,000 miles from the rear tyres, and 30,000  from the fronts, and find a pressure of 2.4 bars front and rear to give the best all-round handling and grip.

I use Ultraseal in all our cars, which permanently seals any hole made by an object up to 6 mm in diameter.  In the Z3 it also prevents my wife from giving me a bad time as she would otherwise have to carry the ‘dead’ tyre on her lap!  Even if the boot were empty, neither wheel would fit into it, and while the narrow ‘emergency’ spare works well (I drove from Boulogne to the Dordogne - 520 miles - without problem.

Lights:

Although many owners fit after-market headlamps, often with HID projector dip units, I feel that the real attraction is that they are fitted with ‘Angel Eye’ parking lights!  Given good modern bulbs, with a decent battery and alternator, the standard Z3 lights are excellent, with a good spread and adequate range for safe driving at up to 70mph in total darkness. 

Remember that halogen bulbs lose their focus after about five years, and that the original fitments are ‘Longlife’ types, which compromise output for lifespan.  Modern bulbs from Philips or Osram  will transform tired headlamps – but beware of other even apparently reputable makes, and study the ‘Auto Express test articles.  BMW headlamp wiring is excellent, and does not suffer from the voltage drops which are endemic in other makes, so relays etc are not necessary.  Avoid high-wattage bulbs, as they are  illegal, and ineffective due to low standards of manufacture and the problem of focussing their larger filaments.

Engine Noises:

The engines are usually mechanically quiet, the six-cylinder engines being more so than the ‘fours,’ but sometimes a hydraulic tappet can make a low-frequency tapping noise just after start-up.  This can often be a sign of extended oil change intervals, resulting in sludge formation, and can usually be cured by changing the engine oil (while hot) to a high-detergent oil (ie: suitable for diesels) a couple of times at about 2,000 miles or so.  Any high-frequency tapping or rattling noise is often due to the bearings of either the water pump or the rollers on the drive belt tensioners.  If fitted, always engage the air conditioning to check for noises from the compressor and its clutch.

Lower rear view - stainlesss steel exhaust system by MIJ Exhausts

Transmission:

Gearboxes usually last for ever, but in the case of the ZF gearbox used with the larger engines (2.8 and above) the action is not as good as the ‘Hot knife through butter’ feel of the Getrag box fitted to the smaller engines.  Again, this can be improved markedly by ignoring the BMW claim that oil changes are unnecessary,

Regular oil changes often also reduce the occasional tendency for the lever to stick on downshifts, below the fifth gear position at the end of the neutral plane.  The official remedy is to strip the gearbox and replace the bushes carrying the detent plungers, but once you have developed a suitable downchange action you will unconsciously compensate for it. Suitable gearbox and final drive oils are available at sensible prices from opieoils.com

Clutches also last for ever – given sympathetic use – but expect a refusal to engage first gear, usually from standstill after prolonged idleness in damp weather.  This is caused by clutch drag, due to the steel plates having rusted, and the friction plate having absorbed moisture and swelled slightly .  Start up in first gear and drive away, with a little more clutch slipping than usual, to help remove any rust and also heat the friction plate to drive out moisture.  Modern replacement clutches are reported to be free of this problem - perhaps the friction compound used in the USA-made clutch plate was to blame.

If caught out at traffic lights in these conditions, engage fifth gear and then first.  Many owners swear that fitting a braided hose to the clutch slave cylinder eliminated a tendency for clutch drag in hot weather traffic jams, forgetting that fitting a new hose required that the clutch fluid therefore had to be bled – an operation which is usually ignored during a service, even if the brake fluid has (allegedly) been changed.

Problems:

Being designed around well-established parts from the E30 and E36 parts bins, with the E46 double-VANOS engine, 'built in' faults are few, being confined to the rear anti-roll bar drop links falling off (pre-2001cars) a unreliable fuel gauge (refuel every 250 miles for safety) thermostat failures (Oct 1998 to April 2000) and a habit of water leaking from the top corners of the windscreen-to-hood seal.

As with most vehicles, the Z3 likes to be used regularly, but many cars are seldom driven, this inaction killing the battery due to sulphation of the plates.  It is cheaper and more convenient to buy a good automatic charger, and use it regularly – or continuously if the car is not used.

Odd noises from the rear are often caused by tools rattling in the tool tray, a handbrake cable popping out of its clip and tapping against the fuel tank, the rubber fuel tank support pads falling off their steel straps, or the rear damper top mounts needing replacement - all easy and cheap DIY jobs.

Maintenance:

Servicing costs depend on whether you do it yourself (my choice) which is easy and cheap, use a BMW specialist, or a BMW dealer.  Many Z3 owners are terrified of losing the string of dealer stamps in their service record, and so pay £600 or more for an Inspection 2 (little more than an oil change, as are all the services) which discourages them from using the car too much.

BMW's extended warranty used to be popular, which forced owners to use BMW dealers for servicing, so adding mightily to  running costs and  discouraging use still further, many owners now favouring independent warranty providers. The mileage limitation on the usual 'Classic' insurance also reduces the annual mileage, these factors combining to make a used Z3 one of the best buys.

Whatever servicing mode you choose, ignore the Service Indicator lights and change the engine oil at least once a year or 8000 miles (forget about extended oil change intervals) with power steering, gearbox, and final drive oil changes every 3 to five years.  Always replace the small ‘O’ rings inside the filter housing, for if they fail the engine will be starved of oil. The Service Indicator can be easily reset with a piece of wire, used to earth one of the pins of the Data Link socket in a simple procedure.

Oil filter internals - always replace the small 'O' rings.

Make sure that the brake and clutch fluid is bled once a year, and replaced every two years.  Check to see if the bleed nipples show signs of fluid, as too many dealers simply suck out the fluid in the reservoir, rather than bleeding it through.  Also remove the brake pads, and ensure that their sliding paths on the brackets are clean and lightly lubricated with Copa-Slip etc.  Remember that a sticky pad will cost fuel consumption, and also cause heating, eventually damaging the calliper seal.

Front brake with Zimmermann drilled disc and EBC Redstuff pads - keep them clean!


Waterproofing:

The soft top is truly excellent, being easyand quick to erect and collapse (10 seconds, in both manual or power operated forms) and is totally waterproof – but should never be simply folded and forgotten!  Always cover the top and window with a home-made piece of blanket before folding, to prevent the folds of the hood from becoming polished by rubbing against each other, and to prevent a line being made along the centre line of the window by the top rear hood seam. Even without a roof blanket, it is wise to fit a large piece of foam pipe lagging into the window as it is folded, to prevent it from kinking as it is folded down.

Home-made roof blanket with pipe lagging window protector

Wear in the hood latching mechanism can result in small gaps between the top of the windscreen and the front of the window seals, the best answer being to fit suitably-shaped pieces of rubber sheet to the ends of the seals, using silicone instant gasket as an adhesive.  Always carry a small tube for an instant repair – but place a piece of polythene over the silicone while it cures, to prevent the hood being stuck down!

Do not attempt to raise of lower the roof during cold weather without first using the heater to make sure the window is warm, as folding a cold window can often result in it splitting.  The original rear window can be unzipped and replaced for about £200, but it is a job best left to someone who has done it before!  A split can be repaired easily (and semi-permanently) with clear silicone rubber on both sides, after roughing up the adjacent area with fine wet and dry paper.

A new soft top is expensive (£1200) but they can be obtained for under £600 from specialist companies such as Car Hood Warehouse.  I would guess at a life of around 10 years if lowered and raised a lot, but as too many Z3 owners never lower their roofs, they should usually last longer.  

Power-operated hoods are a boon, the only problem with them is an occasional failure of the wiring or microswitch which provides a safety interlock.  In such cases it is easy to temporarily by-pass the hydraulic pump and revert to manual operation.

Backdraughts:

With the roof lowered, expect strong backdraughts unless you have a wind deflector - the best are the BMW mesh items, particularly those which mount over the roll over bars, but retrofitting them can be difficult and expensive - look for a car already fitted with them.  They were not always fitted, as the primary roll over protection of a Z3 is in the strength of the forged steel windscreen frame. 

The mesh deflector also helps to reduce headlamp glare from following traffic, and traps a surprising amount of dirt, which would otherwise coat the occupants of the car!

After-market deflectors are also often mounted on the rollover bars, invariably taking the form of clear plastic sheet, but these prevent the storage compartment lid being opened.  Others incorporate tubular stainlesss steel bars with varying degrees of strength.  Unlike the mesh deflectors, the clear plastic type do not 'bleed' a small amount of air through into the cockpit area, so they generate a little more turbulence.  They also prevent jackets etc from being easily stowed behind them when the hood is raised.

Hardtops are sometimes available via Ebay etc, but are often without the necessary fitting kit, which can add £200 to the cost.  With a heated rear window and reduced sound levels they transform the car, but on removal must be handled and stored correctly.

Luggage Space:

The boot is a decent size, and as it does not have to accommodate the spare wheel is very useful.  Unless you are addicted to CDs, remove the hump at the front of the boot intended for the CD autochanger, and fit the standard front boot liner.  This simple modification will increase useful boot space well beyond the increase in volume it provides. 

Just some of what can be stowed inside a Z3

By using the very generous volume available in the Z3 we used to regularly go for eight-week camping trips around Europe, amazing other campers by the seemingly-endless stream of equipment which came out of the car - and we did not need a boot rack!  Even the front bumper can easily hold seven individually-wrapped loo rolls, while wet towels were stowed inside the mesh windbreak over the rollover bars, where they dried over a day's motoring. (See my article in the 'Foreign Touring' forum for details of how we did it!)

Regular Problems:

One of the few things which wear out (remember - the newest Z3 was made in 2001) are the bushes which locate the power-operated seats, resulting in a fore-and-aft rocking action.  These can easily be replaced by improved versions made by Whelan Engineering.  Afer 120,000 miles wear in mine are minimal, probably due to the minimum amount of regular seat adjustment they experience, and the usual rearwards position of the seats.

A poor idle can be due to a defective cam sensor (usually that on the inlet side) but mine remain in good condition, probably due to regular cleaning and frequent oil changes, which reduce any accumulation of metallic debris from their magnetic face.  Other causes can range from an idle control valve in need of cleaning, or air leaks in the rubber inlet ducts between the throttle body and the air flow sensor.  Air leaks often give a fault code for the Lambda sensors, but a £14 piece of rubber will effect a cure.

About the only really serious thing which can happen to a Z3 - an unusual problem, which is usually confined to the 3.2 litre M Roadster, and those who are brutal with the throttle and clutch in low gears - is splitting of the boot floor and spot welds in the vicinity of the final drive torque stay.  The official BMW answer is to replace the boot floor, but a decent welder can effect a repair, and also add reinforcement in the form of doubling plates at the same time.  The best answer is to fit the Randy Forbes bracing kit, which includes with two torque stays and suitable final drive cover plate  - although the spare wheel then has to be dumped or carried in the boot.  Post-2000 'facelift' cars have more spot welds in this area, and do not appear to suffer from the problem.

Door mirrors can be a problem, particularly in the salt-laden UK.  Early (pre-1998) cars suffer from corrosion of the mirror base, which simply requires normal priming and painting after removal.  Cars of any year can, however, have siezed pivots, due to the action of salt and the usual lack of lubrication.  The mirror body must be pivoted to expose the fixing screws before removal, so a corroded mirror can be a problem.  Careful use of WD-40 or diesel oil can eventually free the pivot, and should be followed by regular applications of oil and movement of the mirror through its full range.   Mirrors are expensive, and are in short supply from breakers due to this problem.

The original exhaust system will last for about 15 years or so, but after about ten years the internals of the  front silencer tend to break up and rattle at idle, then become very noisy on bumpy roads.  It also gives an unpleasant drone at speed, so after 13 years  I  replaced mine with a custom-made system by MIJ Exhausts of Walsall, who provided a truly quiet cat-back system for £385.  Many owners enjoy (?) noise, but it is not a sign of power . . .

Bodywork:

As with any other car, the Z3 has its share of ‘enthusiastic’ drivers, so check for signs of damage and hasty repairs, poor panel alignment (although this is usually a problem between the bonnet and front apron) and mis-matched paintwork.

Do not be discouraged if the paintwork under the bonnet and inside the boot has a matte finish, or is even a different colour from the body exterior.  A dark blue car, for example, will have an almost-silver finish in these 'hidden' areas.  Likewise, certain nuts under the bonnet are painted over, but this is normal BMW practice

Rust does not – after fifteen years so far – seem to be a problem, but watch for rusting on the sills, as these can be filled with mud from the wheel arches.  In the worst case, the sills are easy to replace, being bolted on.

Criticism:

My criticism of the Z3? Only the usual BMW problems – the steering wheel is too large and has a hard rim of odd shape (I replaced it by a RAID airbag wheel) the mirror is too large and too low, obscuring vision to the left (mine is now raised to the screen rail) the gear lever is too long, and has a rubbery feel (I shortened mine, and replaced the rubber filling with body filler) while the basic secondary insturments (fuel and temperature gauges only) are devoid of proper calibrations.  Nothing shocking.


RAID steering wheel and shortened gear lever

The larger engines such as the 2.8 have lots of torque, but really too much at very low speeds, betraying their pedigree as being intended to lug a ‘Seven’ series saloon around while driven by a lazy driver in fifth gear all the time, or with an automatic box.  I would trade some of the 800 rpm torque for a real kick in the back at about 3,000 rpm.

Conclusions:

My advice?  If you can afford insurance at a reasonable rate, go for a 2.8 or 3 litre model, as they are now a very good buy, but otherwise you will be equally happy with a 1.9, 2, or 2.2  litre.  Try hard to find a well looked-after car with leather interior, air conditioning, power roof, and roll over bars (as they mount the mesh wind deflector).  Wheel styles and sizes are unimportant, as they can easily be bought later.  Service it yourself, and keep it for a long time.  After fourteen  years I don’t have any thoughts of replacing mine, and there is nothing even slightly unaffordable which would tempt me, when compared with the Z3’s combination of performance, handling, build quality, spare parts backup, low running costs, relative simplicity, and practicality.

LIVING WITH A Z3 - a Personal Long-Term View:

 I have now (2014) owned my 2.8 for fourteen years, and have no intention of selling it. Perhaps it lacks 'character,' which usually seems to mean that it does not have a Hood From Hell, does not try to spin on any wet bend, and fails to lend itself to power slides or  similar infantile tricks, which means that it is a car one can live with under all conditions.  Two friends of mine own Morgans, and after a long run in one I am always glad to get back tothe Z3!

I hadn’t really thought about owning a Z3 – or any BMW car at all – until, as a member of the BMW Club (motorcycles) I was invited to attend the BMW Car Club’s first Oktoberfest at Silverstone.

So it was that I drove a 1.9 litre Z3, finding that it was a car I liked, being small, with roller-skate type handling, good performance, and an excellent driving position, combined with an attractive blend of practicality, build quality and equipment levels. My wife liked the local dealer's Z3 demonstrator  immensely – at one stage I thought I would have to break her fingers in order to get her out of the car!

After a little research it was clear that the 1999-on 2.8 litre M52TU engine offered several advantages over its predecessor. It also offers slightly improved power, torque and fuel consumption – by courtesy of its double-VANOS camshaft control, DISA variable-configuration inlet manifold with small-bore idle air inlet passages. Like all Z3 engines, the aluminium block is fitted with dry liners rather than the sometimes problematical Nicasil plated  bores.

I had also developed a marked preference for the shape of the original (pre-2000 model) rear wings, which appear to have been dragged outwards over the tyres, as on the Porsche 911.

I would clearly have to look for a good 1999-model car at the right price, fitted with air conditioning and seventeen-inch wheels, eventually finding one at a local BMW dealer, which had covered 13,000 miles in eighteen months.

The Red Zed and I have since covered a further 120,000 miles, the only real problems being confined to a new clutch switch, a thermostat, and a viscous cooling fan coupling.  The usual water leak at the top of the screen pillar was dismissed by BMW as being something “One should expect on a convertible, Sir!”  I soon made up some rubber packing pieces, but such an attitude does BMW no good at all.

Since the end of its warranty period I have carried out all servicing myself, requiring little more than normal tools, a Gunsons pressure bleeder, and a home-made holding tool for the water pump pulley.

The lack of a BMW Service History is not a cause of any anxiety, as I have no intention of ever selling the car, and even if I did, on a car of this age the general condition tells one far more than a string of rubber stamps signifying nothing but expensive oil changes. If you want stamps, go to a post office!

Although it may seem curious, the use of air conditioning in an open car is a real boon, providing instant demisting without turning the car into a mobile sauna, and enabling us to travel within a ‘bubble’ of cool air even when the ambient temperature is around 40 degrees C.  I would place air conditioning as an ‘essential’ extra.

The Z3 is a really practical everyday car, and has been used for several six-week camping trips around Europe, where the amount of (carefully-packed!) equipment which can be stowed in the boot and around the car never failed to amaze other campers.

Tyres are an emotive subject for some Z3 owners, my preference being Falken FK-453, having used the previous FK-451 and 452 since the original Pilot Sports wore out at about 20,000 miles.  They wear well, grip tenaciously in all conditions, and only cost about £350 for  a set.

Contrary to the comments of many owners I have never found the Z3 to be at all tail-happy, unless the driver really provokes it in a low gear on a greasy roundabout, or other unsuitable place.  Even then, the breakaway is always gentle and predictable.  The traction control is virtually redundant, particularly when the wider (8½”) rear wheels with 245-40 X17 tyres are fitted.

My only real criticism was the unsettling ‘tram lining’ effect on poor road surfaces, which had been evident since I bought the car at 13,000 miles.  I eventually replaced the soft rubber bushes at the rear of the front wishbones by Powerflex polyurethane types  with the result that the steering now ignores road irregularities.

Other suspension modifications include Bilstien Sprintline dampers, with Eibach front springs (20 mm shorter) and standard rear springs to maintain adequate ground clearance.  This factor is of greater importance than on a standard car, due to my use of a Butt Strut and a Body Brace, massive devices manufactured by Strong-Strut of Arizona to maintain the ideal relationship of the rear suspension cross-member, which is flexibly mounted on two long studs and a pair of small metal plates.  The result has to be experienced to be believed, particularly on rough roads.

Other associated modifications include a Hamann strut brace, hard PVC stiffening pieces inside the rear suspension cross-member bushes, and a smaller (340 mm) RAID airbag steering wheel.

The brakes may not be huge (288 mm) but are suitable for just about anything, the front discs replaced by the Black Diamond drilled and slotted type, with the very satisfactory EBC Greenstuff pads.  These have now been replaced by their latest Redstuff items, which are even better.

I had the management system remapped by our Superchips dealer, a process which only increases peak power and torque by about 10 horsepower and 10 pounds-feet, but provides proportionately greater gains in the mid-range, and improves fuel consumption.  French autoroute use now returns an easy 32-34 mpg, while cross-country runs on Routes Nationales at about 60 mph gives 36-38 mpg, with occasional days of 38-40 mpg.  Believe it or not, my best figure, over 220 miles from the French Alps to Clermont-Ferrand, was 43 mpg!

Do I like the Z3?  After fourteen years of ownership I cannot think of any other even almost-affordable car I would prefer, and did not even have think about it before taking the Z3 to France, when we decided to move to the Dordogne ten years ago.  The average Top Gear viewer may think that a Z3 is only fit to be driven by hairdressers and footballers’ wives etc, but in the real world it would be difficult to find a car which combines the many qualities of a Z3 – and particularly those of the 2.8.

It's a good all-rounder, and is equally at home cruising the autobahnen at 120 mph (130 comes up quickly) or slogging through rush hour traffic, where it will happily  pull top gear from 1000 rpm, yet if you drive it sensibly is capable of surprising economy from its very torquey engine.  Unless you drive it hard on a cold engine, or cover a lot of short, slow, cold runs, it is difficult to return less than 30-32 mpg.  I am able to avoid such treatment, and find 34-36 mpg to be the norm.  On UK motorways at 70 mph up to 38 mpg is possible - given good 97 octane fuel, which can now be difficult to find.  Esso Supreme 97 is the best UK fuel I have found, in terms of fuel consumption at a steady speed.

Yes - when compared to an E36 or E46 Coupe it feels less sophisticated, but smaller and more nimble, this being part of the charm.    For those who have been raised on what are now thought to be 'Classic' cars, the Z3 in 2.8 or 3 litre form equates to an MGC, while the 1.9 and 2 litre models are cast in the MGB mould - good practical all-rounders with safe and predictable handling.

After all these years the Z3 still strikes me as being a very well made car, and is the cheapest car to own which I have ever had.


Z3 at home - still happy after sixteen years.

In its 130,000 miles and sixteen year life, necessary replacements have been a thermostat, clutch switch, washer pump, viscous fan coupling, anti-roll bar drop links, and a battery.  Of course, as an 'Enthusiast Car' other parts have been replaced for prevention, such as a later water pump with stainless impeller, front brake calipers, stainless exhaust system, Bilstien dampers and polyurethane bushes - but the total is still far less than a year's depreciation on an average family hatchback.  It is far cheaper - and more rewarding - to keep a good car for ever, rather than keep changing.

Of course, people love to criticise BMW's baby sports car, but most of the critics have never driven a Z3, and absorb the biased rubbish spouted by media hacks of all kinds.  Perhaps the most balanced opinon was expressed by ex-racer Tiff Needell, who on the launch in Madiera enthused over its handling, and has since stated that the M Roadster is the best-handling car in the world!  No mean comment from a man of wide experience who can really drive, and makes up his own mind rather than repeating the comments of others.

Reactions of other road users in the UK traffic conditions can be entertaining, from people telling me that I am 'too old for that' to a truck passenger who hung upside-down from the cab to inform me that 'You lot are all f-ing knobheads' . . .  Driving a Z3 is never dull!

The trouble is that the Brits have a weird hang-up about small sports cars, and feel a deep-seated psychological need to rubbish them! In terms of BMWs. the rear suspension is not as sophisticated as that of an E36, for example, but it works well in a car such as the Z3 which has a high level of roll stiffness. Remember that the suspension is basically the same as the E30 M3, which all the detractors of the Z3 claim to be wonderful - enough said?




Edited by Mike Fishwick - 16 Oct 2014 at 12:48pm
A Z3 is not just for Christmas - it's for life!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dteagles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Mar 2013 at 12:33pm
Fantastic  buyers guide Mike, I now want to go and buy one even though I wasn't even remotely tempted before I read this!

Think about what you can do for the club, not what it can do for you...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Mar 2013 at 12:42pm
Everyone should have a Z3!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DParker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Mar 2013 at 12:43pm
Originally posted by Mike Fishwick Mike Fishwick wrote:

Everyone should have a Z3!

Or  Two LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steveH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2013 at 12:02am
Very good Mike, Thanks.
It justifies having bought one, just need the spring sun to get it out :-)
You keep the underside mint, obviously the well kept French roads.
 
One point is the sliding seats which can be annoying if not disconcerting during heavy braking.
I believe John Crapper did a write up in March 2012 on the remedies.
 
Happy Zedding
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DParker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2013 at 8:57am
Originally posted by steveH steveH wrote:

One point is the sliding seats which can be annoying if not disconcerting during heavy braking.
I believe John Crapper did a write up in March 2012 on the remedies.
 
Happy Zedding

I think these and the Information here might help. I have recently noticed my Black with what they call rocking seat syndrome It has probably been like it for ages but I have only just started to notice it under breaking and acceleration. I will have a look for Johns write up so I can see how it is done!


By the way I agree about needing decent weather! However we have managed a 20 cars Cruise in the West Country 16th and 17th March (to tell the truth we had 20 "attendees" on the saturday and 15 on the Sunday) and although we did get the top down Saturday the weather was not the best. Sunday however was a cracker with everyone except The Z3M Coupe having top down Motoring.




Edited by DParker - 27 Mar 2013 at 9:10am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2013 at 9:37am
My car has a little moevment in the seats, but not enoughto worry me - one day I'll do something about it.

I'll add a note about that to the article - thanks.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Alexmsk77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jun 2013 at 9:01am
recommend that you read the information about the repair kits for BMW vanos online 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2013 at 7:41pm
Missing my 3 series looking to buy a Z3 as a second car just to enjoy driving again. Great buyers guide
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2013 at 5:32pm
Can not decide between the 1.9 and the 2.8 seen two for sale locally only £400 more to buy the 2.8 same spec and only £29 more a year to insure so cost not really a deciding factor.
I hear the gearbox is better on the 1.9 and not really sure I would use the extra power of the 2.8. Any advice would be helpful
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2013 at 6:01pm
The 2.8 has about the same performance as a 1.9 turbo diesel.  The 1.9 has about the same fuel consumption, but sharper steering.

It's up to you, and your insurance costs!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote DParker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2013 at 6:25pm
I have never driven the 1.9 but the logic of better handling because of better distribution of weight makes sense. I have driven the six pot 2.0 and both versions of the 2.8 (single and twin Vanos, I own one of each) and the smiles per £ are for the 2.8. 

As i say though I have not driven the 1.9. 

I would recommend take them both out for a drive and use the smile factor to make your decision because as you say the costs are negligible between the two.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2013 at 6:41pm
Insurance Quote for the 2.8 on classic £349 1.9 £320
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2013 at 11:52am
The 2.8 is a good car - I have owned mine for 13 years, and cannot think of any almost-affordable car I would prefer.  It will do just about anything, is cheap to run, and easy to work on.

The only thing wrong is the level of insurance premium - here in rural France I am currently paying 1200 Euros a year with full NCB . . .
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DParker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2013 at 12:03pm
Ouch! And we think we have insane insurance premiums I am paying £253.40 (limited to 6,000 miles) on one and the other one is £318.52 (limited to 8000 miles) both include 5 track day days and both are for modified cars as both have been lowered and one has a strut brace fitted. Valuations are set at £3,500 and £4,000 respectively  and I up the excess to £750 with Windscreen excess at £75.

I know I am on old guy with loads of NCB but that is cheeper for me that Mikes single policy!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2013 at 12:25pm
Very reasonable insurance, I have 60% no claims on a previous 2nd car so better shop around hopefully get my premiums down.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2013 at 12:21am
Looked at several Z3 over the last few days roofs and interiors the main let down/ one very nice black 2.8 got me very interested with its exterior condition and new stainless steel exhaust a big plus but the interior door cards seats etc including roof needing replacing put me off. So I have put my hat in the ring for a low mileage 15 year old 1.9 in dark blue metallic / blue roof with the usual leather, only known fault an intermittent ABS light coming on could this be just the Brake pad wire or something more sinister?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2013 at 8:26am
You have to remember that most of these cars are about 15 years old, but are lucky to heve found a 1.9 with leather!

The ABS light is most likely due to a dirty wheel sensor - they have probably never been cleaned - but the system is also sensitive to battery voltage.  The light should go out after the car is moved.

The brake pad weardown sensor operates the brake warning lamp.


Edited by Mike Fishwick - 15 Aug 2013 at 8:28am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote DParker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2013 at 10:50am
"IF" you are talking about the ABS light and the traction control light together, I have a couple of experiences of that symptom! Both times when eventually I got the "error codes" read the ABS pump was on it's way out (well strictly buy the time I got the codes read it had gone, and I should have got the codes read sooner). I talked to BMW and there are two parts (the electronics module and the mechanical module) and the cheapest from them, no matter what the part number is and there are many, is four figures so I used a place in Bournemouth to get it refurbished. 

I recommend splitting the unit when you get it off as the electronics could well be OK! Both times because I did not know how easy the electronics came off (4 very small bolts and the electronics slide off) I sent the whole thing and they claimed a board had been damaged! (I am pretty sure on the second one that information was certainly not correct as they tested it to the wrong specification and the initial replacement had the wrong wiring) they have since supplied the correct electronics unit.

Important thing though is to get the ABS error codes read it is false economy to guess that it is the wheel sensors. I think it is an urban myth that they cause the problem "IF" both the lights are coming on! I have only heard of people saying a mate had the problem and fixed it by cleaning the wheel sensors. It is a different matter "IF" it is ONLY the ABS light. 

I have never managed to get all four sensors out without at least one breaking. 

It is also worth noting that from elsewhere on Roadster.org there is a thread on a race car that they removed the ABS unit and "discovered that the Rear offside sensor acts as a speed sensor to the ECU and limits revs if it does not send the correct signals which it gets from the ABS unit. (that is a different problem but it does appear to support the argument that the intermittent ABS and Traction control lights warning being a sensor is urban myth.) It would also imply that if you have an ABS only light but no impact on performance the it is unlikely to be the offside rear speed sensor.

The company I used advertise that they will refurbish your own unit but for speed they sometimes use a replacement scheme and do not tell you but if you specifically say you would rather wait for your own part back I think they would oblige.

Even though I am in dispute with the company I would use them again. they are called AutoTek their support was brilliant although I had to get codes read and an auto-electrician out due to the fact that I did not know the unit supplied was the wrong one. (they have claimed that Bosch have the same part number with two different wiring pinouts and that Hazel's was the first one that they have discovered like that. I however suspect someone misread the part number when they received the part from us.)

Please be clear I am not differing with Mike Fishwick in any way the main question is when you are referring to the ABS light are you referring to ONLY the ABS light.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote DParker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2013 at 11:03am
On the Softtop replacement side of things! I have just had Blue's softtop changed. I got in touch with they guy in Swansea and he fits a softtop that is a budget replacement. The Rear window is sewn in and my old one was truthfully removed because the rear window had shattered. However when the top was removed a lot of the webbing etc was well past it's prime in fact some had disintegrated in situ but I had not seen it.

I first thought of replacing the Window but heard so many horror stories of purchases off Ebay and the zips being too long, and of people spending hours and hours fitting them that when Jack quoted me £260 for a Blue hood (mine had been black and I fancied Blue) fitted for the same price I was being Quoted for a Zipped rear screen to be fitted I decided that the hood could be changed and I would put up with a sewn in hood. 

Jack takes the approach that he is supplying a perfectly good hood which will not leak and if your a concours "type" then you should not go to him, If however you want to fix your hood because it is worn out and you need a new one that is perfectly serviceable at a budget price he will supply. I had to wait three months for a appointment he is that busy. on August the 4th he was booking in for the end of September! He is a little guy working out of a garage he does the soft tops and another guy who works in the same garage does seat repairs.

I will be at Gaydon but as I have had a crash with Blue and the bonnet is damaged, bent and dented, hence I will not be showing Blue. However I will be at Santapod with Blue and Black on September 15th so if anyone wants to see the quality of his work just roll up, and have a look Blue will be the dented Z3. (winter project to do the repairs).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2013 at 4:12pm
Hopefully by this time tomorrow I will be the proud owner of the Z and be able to look at the faults in more detail. the car I am getting for the price is streets ahead of others the roof and window are good the interior as new and all but the sensor problem mechanically sound new full exhaust inc cat, just had MOT and 30k less miles than the others I have looked at. Sorted the insurance though Adrian Flux top company staff the best I have come across £199 3k per year with £100 excess well pleased. will know more hopefully tommorow
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2013 at 5:24pm
As we are talking about a 1.9, does it have traction control (ASC)?  I would still clean the wheel sensors anyway, simply as a routine procedure every year - it's amazing how dirty they can become. Cleaning them may not be the answer, but it does no harm.

Yes - getting them out may be a problem, but until you try you don't know.  I pulled mine out for the first time when the car had only done 15000 miles, and lightly coated their outsides with silicone grease, so have never had problems since.

Yes, I have had the ABS and ASC lights come on together, but after a decent run they both reset after switching off the ignition, so would not suggest that such a problem necessarily indicates electronic disaster.  Always try the simple things first.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Aug 2013 at 9:34am
Picked the car up yesterday, home on the busy M1 very busy stop start but car performed great not missing a beat. ASC light permanently on previous owner said by continuingly pressing ASC switch, light would go out so far this isn't happening. Could it be the switch?
Well first impressions are very positive indeed car needs a bit of fettling. mechanically seems very sound at 83k with a full service history that side looks good. Bodywork mainly chips can sought that. rear aerial seems to be totally disconnected this seems to be a non standard part will try to fit electric one. Interior very good Black leather looks superb blue roof has a couple of small blemishes but nothing to worry about. Will post some pictures when I can. thanks for the advice so far well pleased with purchase. Went out for a drive last night just for the hell of it long time since I did that,top down smelling the country air. Perfect!   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Aug 2013 at 11:39am
Moderator Comment:

It would be a good idea to open a new post for your ASC problem, rather than use this one, which is supposed to be about buying!

Thanks,  Mike F

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Rice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Aug 2013 at 12:33pm
Don't want to dwell on the ASC problem was posting as a buyers experience
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote isittc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2014 at 4:37pm
Hi, I've just joined the forum and have been the owner of a 1999 Z3 1.9 for just over a week and am looking for help, advice, inspiration. First of all I love the Z3 it is a great roadster and I'm looking to keep it for ever (or until I go gaga). 
I have several problems or issues with my car.
- it pulls left or right without warning on 'repaired' roads. Tracking was out and has been rectified but problem still persists, although nowhere near as severe. 
- the body on my car is excellent (my opinion and that of my BMW specialist) but there are early signs of rust a the front of the sill section where dirt collects, trapped between the front of the sill from and the front wheel liner. I guess I need to take the sill of and inspect it etc., and treat it but wondered generally about the availability of replacement panels for the Z3. 
- I'm tempted to have the car professional waxoyl'd and wondered if someone could point me in the direction of the rust problem areas should I decided to do it myself.
Thanks
Chris

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2014 at 6:29pm
It really depends on where the car has been driven, and how thoroughly it has been cleaned, but you are on the right path - the body sill covers are the first place to check, but other places such as the front chassis rails are worth looking at, along with any other box section. 

'Professional' Waxoyling?  It is easy enough to do it yourself, and you can do it better as you are not charging for labour. 

Take the front apron off and remove the bumber shock absorbers to get intothe chassis rails, the wheel arch liners to gt at the inside of the body sills, the door cards to get intothe doors, etc.

If you want to keep your Z3 in top condition for ever, you have to spend more time cleaning the underside than the bodywork!  So many owners will buy a pot of super wax for £100, yet ignore the underside, which in many cases is a mass of rust and corruption.

Sudden pulling to either side on poor road surfaces ('Tramlining') means that something is wrong at the front end.  If your tyres are not badly worn, and therer is no apparent play in the front wheels, look hard at the rubber bushes on the rear ends of the wishbones, as these are the usual culprit - see my bit in the 'How to' forum area about this, and you will see why a sudden load on the front wheels can inpart a spurious steerng input, so making the car suddenly pull to one side.  This is what the motoring hacks refer to as 'Scuttle Shake' which they claim is a sign of the body flexing . . . if ony these peple knew what they are talking about, and did not have private agendas!


Edited by Mike Fishwick - 11 Jul 2014 at 12:45pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mscotgrove Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2014 at 12:10pm

I've had my 1.9 Z3 (auto) new since 1998.  62K.

Yesterday I had a new exhaust (first one) and new bushes on the front control arms.  I think the tramlining has been reduced very considerably.  It is still my fun car.  I enjoyed the article

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AndrewE Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2014 at 4:56pm
Just to add from my experiences of Z3's.

The 1.9 M44 twin cam is a much better engine than the M43 1.9 (often called 1.8 by BMW - it isn't). Given oil changes etc it's just about unbreakable. The M43 though does like a head gasket. There is a plastic coolant elbow at the very back of the head and this over time will go brittle and start to leak, resulting in low coolant and overheating. There is another one on both engines that runs under the inlet manifold and they are a cow to change. (tip - remove the plastic pipe with the rubber coolant hose still fitted and remove/refit the whole lot in one go).

The 2.8's are okay but for some reason the radiator is unique to the six cylinder versions. They have a separate header tank (expansion bottle) rather than the E36 all in one design. Only BMW supply the Z3 2.8 rad in the UK and they're about £250. Double Vanos engines have the older type rad but with hoses that clip on at the engine end but use a jubilee clip the other. Z3's were very much cobbled together from what bits were vailable from the 3 Series and others - the front foglights are in fact pre 2001 E39 units.

With regard to Nikasil/Alusil; Alusil was never used on the six cylinder, just the V8 and V12 units. Nikasil was used on the M52 until March 1998 after which steel liners were fitted. Nikasil is a coating on the bores but Alusil is impregnated into the block itself. Engines were all built in Germany and shipped to the US. American market versions of cars like the E36 328i and 528i (single vanos) used an iron block that is basically the M50 type but with the crank sensor fitting into the rear of the block and not running off the crank pulley. An E36 328i engine is a straight swap but good ones are starting to get rare. US market 2.8's may well have the iron block engine. When the double Vanos units arrived in 1998, BMW went to alloy blocks with steel liners for all markets.

ABS: The four cylinder ones have the ASC+T system with the all in one ABS block and ECU - these are the 896/897 units. The ECU doesn't often fail but the valves can stick in the alloy ABS block. They are the same as used on late E36 4 cyls and pre 2001 E46 316i/318i cars. Some even have the '047' units but this is rare. There is another ABS ECU with a number that escapes me but it interchanges fine with the 896/897.
The 2.8's (well the earlier ones) use a different type of ASC+T and these have a seperate ABS ECU , the 1164 094. These are alloy bodied and are about the size of a VHS video cassette and the main problem is water ingress from a small screen leak - same problem in the E36 323i and 328i.
On both cars, a failed ABS sensor can bring on the traction control light so it's important to have the fault codes read and replace any identified sensors first. These are not easy to do - they are plastic sensors that fit into a cast iron hub and they can be very difficult to remove unlike the older type stainless steel bodied units on E30's etc. This is because the iron hub rusts and griops the plastic sensor. Fitting a new one can be even worse and you may find it won't fit. This is when you just remove the complete hub, remove the disc etc and mount it in a vice so that you can clean up the hole with a dremmel until the new sensor is a snug fit. A bonus is that with a new sensor, the ABS light will go out by itself without resetting. Or it should do!

Rust is becoming a problem now, particularly on pre facelift cars that are getting on. The outer sill panels rust at both ends and so do the bolt on front wings at the base where the outer skin wraps over the mounting frame. Rear wings rot in the same sort of fashion. I've not seen one yet with structural rust. Exhausts (even 1.9's) are expensive from BMW and aftermarket systems can be very hard to source. The fabled Z3 steering rack is also unique to the car and expensive - but I have fitted a standard E36 rack to one and it still drives okay.


Edited by AndrewE - 05 Dec 2014 at 5:02pm
Pending Approval.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote thepits Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2014 at 5:55pm

Originally posted by Mike Fishwick Mike Fishwick wrote:

Everyone should have a Z3!

Or,

Better still,

a,



 Z4 Wink



Edited by thepits - 05 Dec 2014 at 5:56pm
Cats know your every thought.

But don't care.
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