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Thread: 2002 M3 - advice needed - does this car look good?

  1. #1
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    2002 M3 - advice needed - does this car look good?

    Hi...I am thinking of buying this E46 M3 for $11500 with 122K miles. From past experience, I thought "it'll be a total basket case for that price, but I might as well have a quick look", but when I went to have a look, it was surprisingly nice. I drove it and I thought it was fine. It's also very clean for a 2002 BMW. In contrast I looked at a 2003 the other day which the owner insisted was in typical condition, and it was a mess compared to this one. I couldn't find any rust. The underneath was clean. I have a spring-loaded paint meter that I bring when I look at cars - it's not precise, but it did indicate that all panels are in the normal paint thickness range. No anomalies.

    It's in dark blue (called Carbonschwartz Metallic or something). There are no receipts with it, but the dealer service book is still there. Carfax has some maintenance records, and the original dealer who sold it was kind enough to send me all their records too. There was a second owner from 2013 until now but I haven't tracked down those records yet.

    The thing is, I have never driven an E46 before, let alone an M3, so I wasn't really able to evaluate it properly. The engine felt great except for a few issues which I'll detail below. Chassis was solid with no clunks or anything. Brakes were excellent. I could not really test the handling, but it was sharper than any 5 series I've driven, including an E39 M5. I am fairly mechanically handy, but I will need a PPI on this one. Still, I have a few concerns and I'd really appreciate any input on these questions. I took pics of the main areas for concern.


    Firstly, this is how clean the interior is - not show car clean, but everything is in good shape:

    Screenshot from 2017-04-19 18:44:16.png

    The worst problems I could find cosmetically were things like this - totally shot weather stripping, and weirdly discoloured mirrors. Pretty much everything else was clean. The lining material on the A pillars was loose near the dash, but I know that's common.
    Screenshot from 2017-04-19 18:45:15.jpg
    Screenshot from 2017-04-19 18:44:40.png

    I didn't see the CEL while driving, but I wanted to check if all warning lights were really present and working. This is what the dash displayed with the key in the first position, after a minute or so (I think there was a "service soon" light that went out by itself). Is this everything? I was expecting a traditional engine-shaped CEL light, but I don't see it here...

    Screenshot from 2017-04-19 18:44:52.png

    This one was my biggest worry - this panel at the front is obviously not body color. Is it supposed to be? I looked for more M3 engine bay pics but couldn't tell for sure. The carfax has accident damage listed for July 2003 ("natural disaster" apparently, location was PA - possibly a hurricane-related thing). But the original owner kept the car for another 10 years and put many miles on it, so I'm not too worried about the carfax incident. Could this odd colored panel be connected with that somehow? Everything else seemed spot on.
    Screenshot from 2017-04-19 18:39:06.png

    A couple of other things stood out:
    * the idle was very stable, *but* if left idling for a while, it would stumble every 3 minutes or so. It usually caught itself but it did die once. I tried turning the A/C off and that didn't fix it.
    * there was a very minor stumble in the engine under part throttle, around mid range rpms. I think it only happened once and it could have been me being unfamiliar with the car.
    * the rev limiter lights never fully went out, even after 20 minutes of driving. A few of them went out, but I think it was still somewhere between 7 and 8K. Is that normal? It's pretty hot here today and I drove the car enough to warm it up a bit.

    Overall I feel like it's an incredible bargain, given what I've seen in my area up until now - assuming a PPI doesn't turn up any red flags. The dealer is very encouraging about the PPI which is also rare in my experience. They indicated that they might be willing to "take care" of some issues after the PPI.

    Thanks for reading if you got this far, and if you can offer any input on the issues I'm concerned about (or any random advice) I'd really appreciate it!

    -John

  2. #2
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    Stop focusing on the cosmetics. The cosmetics won't break your wallet. The mechanical condition will.

    Get a PPI.

    Make sure you understand what is required to own/maintain this car.
    Its not a Honda that you can wait for something to break. It needs regular proactive maintenance. Tires, brakes, oil and gas cost more. Parts cost more. Its not a 330.

    Never
    get a PPI from a seller or a BMW dealer.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the tips.

    The dealer can also give me an aftermarket warranty - 2 years/24K miles for $2500. I'm giving that serious consideration. I'm guessing it wouldn't take much to exceed that in random issues like VANOS etc.

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    PPI arranged for Monday! Fingers crossed...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by divil View Post
    Thanks for the tips.

    The dealer can also give me an aftermarket warranty - 2 years/24K miles for $2500. I'm giving that serious consideration. I'm guessing it wouldn't take much to exceed that in random issues like VANOS etc.
    Make sure you know the specifics of the warranty - what it specifically covers - and especially what it doesn't cover. Plenty of people have had big claims that were denied...especially VANOS.

  6. #6
    dworthy's Avatar
    dworthy is offline Wagon meister :) BMW Tech Expert
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    The yellow circle with the broken lines is a pad thickness warning light on the dash.

    All E-46's will have that black support bracket, at they didn't paint it in body color, so don't worry about that.

    The biggest issues with the S-54 is VANOS seals and Rod/Con bearings. Also check to see if the Airbags have been replaced, as this is an on-going active recall at the moment.

    Lastly a PPI is well worth the 120 bucks you will spend, as it will find the other stuff that you won't find.
    Darin
    Current:
    05 325it Electric Red(438)/Gray(N6TT) ZCW, ZSP 5sp Manual Back set cover, trunk mat, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield, and mud flaps! Mr. Wagon (Original Owner)
    05 M3 Imolarot II(405)/Gray(N5TT) ZCW, ZPP 6sp Manual C.F. Lip, CSL diffuser, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield and a trunkliner! Mr. Go_Fast (Stored for the Winter, 2nd Owner)
    95 318is Montreal Blue Met (297)/Beige(K1SN) a work in progress - Winter Car! (10th Owner; That is what happens when it gets passed around by Soldiers!)
    Past:
    84 M535i gray market Burgandy Rot Met/Black Leather Lowered by Intrax on bilies, poly everywhere, B&B cat back system, K&N, and a hitch! Da Beast - Still running w/375k+! (2nd Owner)
    91 316i euro Tizianrot/Gray cloth - E-36 w/M-40 motor, such a beater, but great on gas! Best was 38 MPG (2nd Owner)
    82 528i euro Saphire Blue Met/Blue Leather RIP
    79 525 euro Green/Green RIP
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  7. #7
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    Thanks for the info guys.

    Yeah I wasn't too worried about the brake pad light - I was more concerned with making sure no one had pulled any bulbs to hide warning lights. I thought all the warning lights would show up with the key in position 1, but maybe not all cars do that. I later found this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twM7NchxjXI) which shows a cool diagnostic check you can do...that is what I really needed, but hopefully the PPI guy will know what to look for.

    Good to know about the odd coloured panel! That was definitely a concern.

    My biggest regret about the test drive was that I completely forgot about the sport button lol! I remember thinking, the power is good, but maybe a little more docile than I was expecting. Maybe that was the reason.

    The guy doing my PPI is a long time BMW specialist. I specifically asked him about checking for subframe/body cracks also, and he said that will definitely be part of the inspection.

    Edit...also the airbag recall is actually still open so I will have to get that taken care of. Is it done under warranty regardless of the car's age?
    Last edited by divil; 04-21-2017 at 09:22 AM.

  8. #8
    dworthy's Avatar
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    Yeah the sports button is nice, but it can make the car a bit tail happy as it "adjusts" the way you would press the gas in a way. What it does is actually converts the pedal signal to the stepper motor as 1:1 like it was a old school cable driven throttle.

    Just call a local dealership, and let them know that you are buying the car and let them do the rest, and if you are interested, punch in the vin here.

    The other thing is the VANOS, as I just sent mine out for a rebuild, and the car does feel livier at the upper RPM range. At 122k, it's a good chance that the seals are worn and leaking.
    Darin
    Current:
    05 325it Electric Red(438)/Gray(N6TT) ZCW, ZSP 5sp Manual Back set cover, trunk mat, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield, and mud flaps! Mr. Wagon (Original Owner)
    05 M3 Imolarot II(405)/Gray(N5TT) ZCW, ZPP 6sp Manual C.F. Lip, CSL diffuser, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield and a trunkliner! Mr. Go_Fast (Stored for the Winter, 2nd Owner)
    95 318is Montreal Blue Met (297)/Beige(K1SN) a work in progress - Winter Car! (10th Owner; That is what happens when it gets passed around by Soldiers!)
    Past:
    84 M535i gray market Burgandy Rot Met/Black Leather Lowered by Intrax on bilies, poly everywhere, B&B cat back system, K&N, and a hitch! Da Beast - Still running w/375k+! (2nd Owner)
    91 316i euro Tizianrot/Gray cloth - E-36 w/M-40 motor, such a beater, but great on gas! Best was 38 MPG (2nd Owner)
    82 528i euro Saphire Blue Met/Blue Leather RIP
    79 525 euro Green/Green RIP
    79 318 Silver/Black - The first one that got it all started
    M-Flight Member

  9. #9
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    PPI results came in. There were a few non critical items, but a few things that have to be taken care of.

    * one turn signal assembly has water in it and needs to be replaced
    * rear shock mounts are torn
    * brake pads are new but rotors are below minimums.
    * needs a few filters (fuel, air, HVAC )

    He pointed out a few issues that he said are not too bad and he wouldn't worry about fixing:
    * tiny PS leak
    * pinion seal on rear, small leak,

    I will probably fix the PS leak at least though - definitely will if I do a track event or two, which I'd like to.

    No subframe cracks though, which was my biggest fear. The shocking thing was his quote for the brake rotors - 777 for the fronts, 714 for the rears! Needless to say I'll probably do it myself.

    There were some obvious things I missed in my inspection: the windshield is aftermarket, and the front/rear tires don't match (kicking myself on that one!). A few other little things here and there, mostly cosmetic.

  10. #10
    dworthy's Avatar
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    That's not too bad for a car of that age.

    When my front/back brakes wore out, I went with ECS Tuning slotted rotors, and OEM pads with Stainless Steel brake lines. Just remember if the anti-rattle clip looks old, just replace it. I would also recommend replacing the rubber boots for the slide pins, as they are 6ish bucks for a pair. This helps keep the caliper from twisting on the rotors during heavy braking like the track. I think in the end it was around 800 bucks for it all.
    Darin
    Current:
    05 325it Electric Red(438)/Gray(N6TT) ZCW, ZSP 5sp Manual Back set cover, trunk mat, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield, and mud flaps! Mr. Wagon (Original Owner)
    05 M3 Imolarot II(405)/Gray(N5TT) ZCW, ZPP 6sp Manual C.F. Lip, CSL diffuser, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield and a trunkliner! Mr. Go_Fast (Stored for the Winter, 2nd Owner)
    95 318is Montreal Blue Met (297)/Beige(K1SN) a work in progress - Winter Car! (10th Owner; That is what happens when it gets passed around by Soldiers!)
    Past:
    84 M535i gray market Burgandy Rot Met/Black Leather Lowered by Intrax on bilies, poly everywhere, B&B cat back system, K&N, and a hitch! Da Beast - Still running w/375k+! (2nd Owner)
    91 316i euro Tizianrot/Gray cloth - E-36 w/M-40 motor, such a beater, but great on gas! Best was 38 MPG (2nd Owner)
    82 528i euro Saphire Blue Met/Blue Leather RIP
    79 525 euro Green/Green RIP
    79 318 Silver/Black - The first one that got it all started
    M-Flight Member

  11. #11
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    I got a more detailed breakdown of the brake quote - apparently the it included pads and wear sensors. But still, the rotor costs were 180 each for the fronts and 153 each for the rears, for Zimmerman rotors. The seller ended up agreeing to replace the rotors, although I imagine they'll use the cheapest they can find.

  12. #12
    dworthy's Avatar
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    Of course they will, as the car is going out the door. What you do is say: "Hey, the brakes will run $xxx, how about we cut $xxx off the price of the car and call it even?"

    Use the PPI as a bargaining tool to bring the price down, general rule of thumb would be 50% or so of the repairs, or the cost of the parts.
    Darin
    Current:
    05 325it Electric Red(438)/Gray(N6TT) ZCW, ZSP 5sp Manual Back set cover, trunk mat, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield, and mud flaps! Mr. Wagon (Original Owner)
    05 M3 Imolarot II(405)/Gray(N5TT) ZCW, ZPP 6sp Manual C.F. Lip, CSL diffuser, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield and a trunkliner! Mr. Go_Fast (Stored for the Winter, 2nd Owner)
    95 318is Montreal Blue Met (297)/Beige(K1SN) a work in progress - Winter Car! (10th Owner; That is what happens when it gets passed around by Soldiers!)
    Past:
    84 M535i gray market Burgandy Rot Met/Black Leather Lowered by Intrax on bilies, poly everywhere, B&B cat back system, K&N, and a hitch! Da Beast - Still running w/375k+! (2nd Owner)
    91 316i euro Tizianrot/Gray cloth - E-36 w/M-40 motor, such a beater, but great on gas! Best was 38 MPG (2nd Owner)
    82 528i euro Saphire Blue Met/Blue Leather RIP
    79 525 euro Green/Green RIP
    79 318 Silver/Black - The first one that got it all started
    M-Flight Member

  13. #13
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    I'd get dollar concessions on the brakes and do them myself. Thats better than driving with Acme brand brakes - with Acme brand braking performance.

    Brakes are not a place to cut corners.

  14. #14
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    Well the car is mine now - picked it up this afternoon. You are right, I should have pushed for the discount instead of the brakes, but by the time I called them again it was too late. I dropped the ball on that one! To make matters worse, like an idiot I only checked the fronts before I drove off. When I got home I discovered they did not replace the rears. The hustle never ends with used car dealers! They have agreed to take care of it though - this time I told them I'll just take the parts and do it myself.

    Still, the drive home was awesome. That engine is a masterpiece! It's like there's no such thing as the wrong gear.

    Now I've got a long list of little things to take care of from fluids, filters and belts to weather seals and A pillar trim.

    Thanks for the advice guys

  15. #15
    dworthy's Avatar
    dworthy is offline Wagon meister :) BMW Tech Expert
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    Happy to help, come back anytime and let us know how things turn out!
    Darin
    Current:
    05 325it Electric Red(438)/Gray(N6TT) ZCW, ZSP 5sp Manual Back set cover, trunk mat, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield, and mud flaps! Mr. Wagon (Original Owner)
    05 M3 Imolarot II(405)/Gray(N5TT) ZCW, ZPP 6sp Manual C.F. Lip, CSL diffuser, Euro Infra-Rot front windshield and a trunkliner! Mr. Go_Fast (Stored for the Winter, 2nd Owner)
    95 318is Montreal Blue Met (297)/Beige(K1SN) a work in progress - Winter Car! (10th Owner; That is what happens when it gets passed around by Soldiers!)
    Past:
    84 M535i gray market Burgandy Rot Met/Black Leather Lowered by Intrax on bilies, poly everywhere, B&B cat back system, K&N, and a hitch! Da Beast - Still running w/375k+! (2nd Owner)
    91 316i euro Tizianrot/Gray cloth - E-36 w/M-40 motor, such a beater, but great on gas! Best was 38 MPG (2nd Owner)
    82 528i euro Saphire Blue Met/Blue Leather RIP
    79 525 euro Green/Green RIP
    79 318 Silver/Black - The first one that got it all started
    M-Flight Member

  16. #16
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    You are looking to find answers here...Many will have opinion...Do not rely on anyone here other than yourself. RESEARCH this car...there are many observations made...learn what you want to buy...then look at the current market value is...IE overall Milage, service records, .etc...

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eaglesail View Post
    You are looking to find answers here...Many will have opinion...Do not rely on anyone here other than yourself. RESEARCH this car...there are many observations made...learn what you want to buy...then look at the current market value is...IE overall Milage, service records, .etc...
    Thanks...but I already bought the car

    I did research the car as thoroughly as I could. But that only gets you so far. I find it's always helpful to post pics and other details of a car - owners can spot things that wouldn't be obvious to a new comer. Like the mis-coloured bracket on the radiator support for example. I could not find that info anywhere else.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by divil View Post
    Thanks...but I already bought the car

    I did research the car as thoroughly as I could. But that only gets you so far. I find it's always helpful to post pics and other details of a car - owners can spot things that wouldn't be obvious to a new comer. Like the mis-coloured bracket on the radiator support for example. I could not find that info anywhere else.
    Did you ever find out why the car wants to die (and does die) after idling for a few minutes? That sounds like more than a little issue.......

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by IQRaceworks View Post
    Did you ever find out why the car wants to die (and does die) after idling for a few minutes? That sounds like more than a little issue.......
    Not exactly no. The dealer promised they'd fix it, but then they told me it didn't happen for them. I have seen it happen a few times since, but only when I have the AC on, so it does seem to be related to that. It has never actually died though, just stumbles a bit. I'll get to it eventually, but it doesn't seem to be a big deal.

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