Piston Slap: LeMons, Anyone?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Oren writes:

Recently bought a 1995 BMW 318ti Active in beautiful condition for about $500. I was wondering if the car is worth spending money on to upkeep, the car has about 90,000 miles.

Sajeev answers:

Yeah, there’s no way I can answer a question so light on details. So indulge me: does this BMW have a service history? Do you know how to work on cars, or do you have a shop? Is the shop reasonable?

Oren replies:

Hi Sajeev, I do have a BMW shop locally run by a distant cousin and he seems decent enough but you know how things get when we’re talking about 16 yr old German engineering.

The car history is clean, I have minimal car knowledge that I’m looking to expand on through countless YouTube and book tutorials. Besides that … well … I just don’t know.

Sajeev answers:

This BMW sounds like a mistake. But it’s one of mistakes you’ll learn from and probably never regret, even if the end result is you selling the thing for scrap.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Join the conversation
7 of 20 comments
  • Rmwill Rmwill on Jun 21, 2011

    The ti is a keeper. Parts are abundant, and the vehicle is easy to work on. Rock Auto is your friend.

  • Zykotec Zykotec on Jun 21, 2011

    They were some of the last fun RWD car. And with the 4 cylinder they are usually lighter than the faster ones, so can be quite fun on a winding road. But, the 4 cylinders require more upkeep (cam belt every other year etc.) Worth keeping driveable, and worth puttting some konis and grippy (not too big, remember unsprung weight)tires and a noisy exhaust and airfilter on. Strip everything that's not necessary off it and sell. Have fun.

    • See 1 previous
    • Zykotec Zykotec on Jun 21, 2011

      @CJinSD the m40 had one, but it may only have been in the 318 models, up until 1995. The 'i' and 'is' models may have used the m42 and/or m43 with the decent cam drive. which more or less means as much trouble free motoring as a BMW can deliver :) edit: (according to Wikipedia the m40 wasn't available in the US, you lucky ba**ards ;)

  • CJinSD CJinSD on Jun 21, 2011

    A friend of mine paid about $500 for a 318ti automatic with laundry list of problems and crummy cosmetics. Its a great car now that he has fitted an M50 variant and a manual transmission. If this 318ti is really in beautiful condition, it is well bought and would be easy to flip for a 200% profit. 90K miles is nothing, unless it has an automatic. Our E36 automatic received its third GM transmission at 60K miles, and we retired it from daily use at 90K miles so avoid buying a forth.

  • Tedward Tedward on Jun 21, 2011

    Great buy! I'd pay more than that for a 318, no question. So long as it has a manual transmission you shouldn't be afraid to spend money on the thing IMO, this isn't a German car that is going to punish you with ridiculously complex maintenance tasks. Definitely read up on suspension builds on the forums (this takes 20 minutes), get some great tires with a reasonable sidewall, and enjoy the hell out of it until it's totaled. Just be thankful you didn't end up with an impulse buy 7-series.

    • Ellomdian Ellomdian on Jun 21, 2011

      First e38 was impulse. 2nd was habit. 3rd was a mistake :p The 318ti's are fun, relatively cheap in the BMW world, and honest fun, as long as you don't pretend you have a baby M3. One of the last, if not the last stripper BMW's imported to the US. I know of one that is in good shape running pizzas to the campus by my apartment, and college pizza delivery is hell on the wheels. Check the brakes, replace the fluids (pay mind to the oil, good $$$ synthetic on high-milage engines and a new filter can be an overhaul in a can) and check the wear parts on the front and rear suspension.