Buying Advice BMW Z3 (E36/7-E36/8) 1996 – 2002 Common Issues Engines Inspection


Dear subscribers and viewers today we got the perfect car for the summer, it has style, it is becoming a young classic and still relatively easy to work on. We talk about the BMW Z3 that was built between 1996 and 2002, this was the first generation. This Z3 has the chassis of the 3th generation 3-series, the E36.

As always we will discuss some of the common issues that you might face during the ownership of the Z3, discuss some of the engines and do an overall inspection, ready? Let’s go.

First of all you buy a BMW for its driving dynamics, with the 3-series as a chassis, the foundation is good. On top of that the Z3 is lighter then the E36 3-series. This generation had a few 3 liter six inline engines to choose from, the engine that is loved by all bmw fans. If you want a more frugal engine there was also a 2 liter 4 cylinder, that is still much fun to drive, as always, the six inline fits the best when it comes to the Z3.

Parts are still available, there are z3 or BMW fanclubs and this car is somewhat of a modern classic.

Engine wise there was the 1.8 liter 4 cylinder, the entry level engine that produced 116 HP and was underpowered to deliver any sportscar feeling, a bit more powerful was the 1.9 4 cylinder that offered 140HP. The to go to engine would be the 3.0i inline six, the M54B30 engine for the fans, this engine offered a healthy 228 HP.

Reliability wise, the four-cylinder engines are very much the sensible and reliable choice. The most common problem is generally a failing oxygen sensor, which will throw up an engine warning light or fail an MoT emissions test. Also listen out for a noisy timing chain. Not saying the six cylinders are not reliable, but the six inline needs good maintenance to stay reliable and the 4 cylinders are just a bit more durable in that sense.

Moving on to the weaker points of the Z3, unfortunately this being an older car, corrosion can be an issue. It is not like these cars are known for their inferior paint or quality, but over time corrosion can become an issue.

Check all the seals of the car, especially around the doors and the roof. They become brittle over time and this can cause water to leak into the car and with it damaging the interior.

There are also a few M engines for sale, but when we specifically talk about the non M engines, these have a few issues you should now off, for the record these are the six cylinders. One of the issues has to do with the nakasil coating of the cylinder liners, the origin of the problem lays in the fact that in the 1990’s there was still many high sulphur fuel available. Many of the engines were fixed under warranty, so check if this is the case for the car you are willing to buy. In the US the Z3 was were fitted with a cast iron block engine, which doesn’t have the same problem.

Moving on, the waterpump can overheat and cause problems, check the headgaskets regularly and replace the waterpump with a different unit if the part is still original.

Vanos, a term that gives BMW fans nightmare, vanos is a system that is know for its weakness. It enables the car to have variable valve timing, if you hear a grumbling sound while accelerating then you might want to inspect your engine, you can feel it in the power delivery as well, if the cars starts to hold in, vanos is likely on the way out. It is expensive to replace, especially at the BMW dealer, but since it is a well know problem, many specialists can help you with it for far less than the dealer.

The flywheel or dual mass flywheel is a weaker part, original BMW parts tend to be expensive, you can cut costs by buying aftermarket parts instead.

The steering system is speed-sensitive, which is the PAS system, which is trouble free. Watch out for fluid leaks and torn gaiters. Track rod ends wear out regularly especially when having a more dynamic driving style and this car is used for track days on the circuit.

Then, often the Z3 is fitted with bigger wheels, they look good on the car but negatively impact the driving dynamics of the car, keep that in mind. Try different Z3’s with various tires sizes to see what I am on about.

Last but not least, keys. Make sure the car comes with a spare key and check if this key works. It is expensive to get a new key since it needs to be programmed to be able to work with your car. Plus you need a whole set of documentation and prove that you are the rightful owner of the car, which makes sense.

Thanks for watching the buyers review of the BMW Z3, I hope it was useful and if so, subscribe to my channel to stay updated with the latest videos.

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