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1988 BMW 325iX

All-Wheel Drive
Sport Sedan

167 HP 2494cc 6-cylinder
5-Speed Manual
Top Speed - 127 mph
0-50 - 6.3 seconds
26 mpg

SOLD - March 2006 - The BMW was a reliable, fun car that I drove too fast most of the time.  I ended up with over 325,000 on the odometer, and she ran like new the whole time.  However, her New England heritage showed up in the form  of rust working its way through from the inside of the rockers and fenders.  Then the left front drive axle began to click.  A new one was only available from BMW for $650, and the replacement was an ugly job.  I repacked the CV joint, which seemed to end the clicking, but I was nervous.  Then both other old 'drivers' gave out the same week, and I decided it was time to switch to new cars as daily transportation.  So the Bimmer rolled out of my life and into someone else's.    No regrets selling her, as she went to someone who wanted to fix her back up.
February 27, 2005 - The sunroof stopped working in the middle of a cycle a week and a half ago - naturally on a cold night with a passenger along.  Happily, BMW made provisions for working the sunroof manually, and I had her closed up a in a couple of minutes.  As usual, U-Wrench-It provided a new motor and relay for pittance, and I finally got time to put them in today.  It took a little figuring, but BMW does a good job of logical construction. 
February 16, 2005 - I've been putting a lot of miles on the Bimmer, using it pretty much every day.  She's a blast to drive, and seems to get decent mileage.  The car is over 317K miles now - about 4K added since I picked it up in July.  She was due for fresh oil and filter, which I took care of tonight.  Despite the miles, she was only down a quart.  Also got the truck's oil and filter changed as well.
February 1, 2005 - From the time I picked up the car back in July to now, the right rear hub bearing has been howling in protest.  It rumbled and grumbled all the way home from Boston, and has been a constant annoyance that drowned out the radio and made conversation difficult.  However, since the bearing is pressed in and calls for 4 hours of shop time, I didn't feel like tackling the job in my driveway at 30 degrees.  So for the first time in maybe 12 years, I had someone ELSE work on one of my cars!!!  Frasier's Auto in Newport News did a bang-up (well, hopefully not) job for $150 - a true bargain.  I dropped the car off this morning, and when I picked it up at 5, it was like a different automobile!  Smooth and pretty much silent, with both the radio and the previously unheard exhaust note singing sweetly in my ears.  Can't think of anything that had me as happy in many many months.  Yeah, I'm a sick puppy.  ::grin::  Only problem is that I REALLY have to watch that speedometer...
January 20, 2005 - Had a curious situation last Thursday- as I parked the iX at the office last week, the alternator, brake, ABS, and check engine light all came on, but the car was still running. Revving the engine made the alternator light dim and the other lights go out. The best (for me) diagnosis was a bad alternator, so I went out to U-Wrench-It and snagged a used alternator Saturday ($10.99 guaranteed!).  I was in luck - there was a 325i with the tan sports seats - I was able to piece together a good driver's seat for $18!  However, the weather turned crummy Sunday and has been wet and cold since.  We had a minor break tonight - no rain or snow and 34 degrees, so I installed the alternator.  That was the problem. Best I can figure is that the alternator diode pack fried and the car was running on battery only - which fooled the dash lights into the 'start' mode. Anyway, also replaced the filthy air cleaner element and got her all back together. Running fine again, and just in time for more bad weather coming in tonight and running through the weekend!  No luck on the bearing - I did check the one in the junkyard to see how it goes together - looks easy, which means it will be ugly.
January 8, 2005 - The antenna has been bad since I got the car - would only partway up or down, and finally froze up completely.  I got a new mast assembly, only to have the old mast's retainer break off .  Part of the problem was the body seal, which had crumbled away and allowed water to get into the trunk.  I picked up a new seal from the dealer and got another antenna assembly off of eBay - came in yesterday and looks and works like new!  Yeah, it's a little thing, but it was bugging me.  Of course, I still have to get that %$#@@! rear bearing replaced.  Gonna try to do that tomorrow.  Should be interesting.
January 1, 2005 - Now have over 316K miles on the car.  I went up to Delaware a couple of weeks ago and picked up a complete set of BBS wheels (right) from a terrific guy who just wanted them out of his garage.  I paid only for the center caps and of course, had a long day of driving.  I now have a matching spare and can also replace one wheel that was a little off kilter. 

Next is the right rear wheel bearing, which is making a LOT of noise.  I have the bearing, just need the time and tools.  Though there are a lot of special tools out there, I may try making up something using sockets, washers, and bolts.  I'll post success and steadfastly forget failure.

I decided to ask the previous owner about the plugs and found out they had 80-100K on them.  The car has been running well, so I was surprised to find that the plugs were really loaded up with carbon. (left) I replaced them today with Bosch Platinum 2s, and the acceleration in high gear will now push you back in the seat - and I thought she was fast before!   I might even spring for a new cap and rotor now - though even Advance wants about $80 for the set.
November 7, 2004 - The car rolled over 315K miles today - Haven't done much to it.  Put the fog lights back in, though only the passenger side works.  I need to get a new one for the driver's side - the guts are rotten.  Today I wet-sanded the hood and used polishing glaze to smooth out the hood where I painted the front.  Still not perfect, but it looks really good.  I also installed the new hood emblem.  Oh, and I found out that you shouldn't always believe the repair manuals.  They all said you had to pull the dash pod to replace the instrument lights, so I have been in the dark, so to speak, about how fast I was going.  Today, I pulled the bottom cover and took a look - and then found i could get a couple of fingers up behind the dash.  That was enough - I now have a fully-lit dash.  And no excuse for rolling 90 at night.
October 15, 2004 - The Bimmer passed inspection!  I pulled the dead fog lights and took her in first thing this morning.  The Inspector was curious about the car, and poked and prodded more out of curiosity than concerns it needed something - I suppose all the new bits I have put on, such as the exhaust, lights, and wipers, helped convince him it was OK.  Anyway, she is legal in Virginia now, so I plan to start working on the 400K-mile mark now!
October 10, 2004 - The exhaust system took more work than expected - isn't that always the case?  The joint at the catalytic converter was jury-rigged, and the parts place sold me the wrong donut seal for the left side.  Thanks to input from the iX user's group, I was able to replace the clutter of clamps holding things together using one of the old muffler flanges. I got the Eberspacher exhaust system on their recommendation - it has a slightly deeper idle note, but is quiet at speed. Also changed oil and filter and got the rest of the headlights replaced.  I am hoping to get the car inspected this week.
September 26, 2004 - With summer already gone and rain on the way, I decided to scramble and get the trim painted up on the Bimmer.  The original body paint is still nice, but all of the plastic trim (mirrors, ground effects, spoilers) had faded to an unlovely shade of pink accented by white primer and black chips.  I attacked the hood first, which has been badly chipped for a long time.  Surprisingly, the metal sanded out smooth with no pits, and took paint well.  The trim was even easier - a light sanding smoothed out the rough spots and a light color coat got everything red and shiny again. 

It's definitely not a concours job - I have to polish out the joint of old and new paint on the hood, and there are some runs and orange peel if you look close.  But the car looks fairly spiffy, especially for a 17 year-old beast on its fourth trip around, with mostly original everything!   The interior cleaned up nicely as well, and at this point, the only thing not working is the A/C.  I plan to get a hose and recharge that soon. 

Oh, I found several sources for the exhaust system - including the Advance Auto around the corner, which has the unit in stock! Thanks, Jack!

September 25, 2004 - I finally got the car titled and licensed on Thursday and figured I had better get the timing belt done before I tried driving it.  They are supposed to be changed every 60K miles - this one probably has more than twice that.  I had bought the belt, tensioner, and water pump from the dealer more than a month ago, but just haven't had time to do the work.  I was amazed at how accessible everything was, and how easy it came apart despite 300K+ miles and 17 years.  Except for the harmonic balancer.  I had to use a hammer to beat it off the crank hub due to rust, but the outer ring came off first.  OOPS!  The ring is for the crank position sensor, and it isn't SUPPOSED to come off.  As in, the car won't run without it.  Back to U-Wrench-It, where I got a 525 harmonic balancer for $5.36!  It lined up perfect, but I went ahead and reset my original balancer ring just in case.  Good thing - I forgot to measure the pulley that is part of the balancer - it's about 2 inches wider, and wouldn't work.  So I put my original back on - it was certainly worth the $5 just to get the position reference!  Other than that, the job was pretty easy - and after charging the battery (I haven't run the car in ages, and the trunk has been open a lot), she started up and ran great!  Drove it to my parents - but had an exhaust tip fall off.  Rusted off, it seems.  So a new rear muffler is likely, unless I can get creative.

July 20, 2004 - Well, I took a deep breath tonight and attacked the windshield.  The original glass was so pitted it was like carrying your own personal fog in front of the car (see the left windshield view above).  The used glass I got in the junkyard Sunday was a fairly new replacement with a more obvious tint band.  I had the old windshield out in about ten minutes, and took time to clean and treat the dash. That made a much bigger difference in appearance than the photos show.  Then it was time to get the new glass in.  I cleaned old sealer from the windshield and the gasket, and dropped the glass into place.  In another ten minutes, it was seated and ready for the lock strip!  After putting a thin bead of sealer around the edge, I replaced the lock strip and cleaned everything up.  About 50 minutes and $30 and I have a much better view of the world!
July 19, 2004 - I decided to attack the wheels after work.  The plastic centers had lost most of their paint, only one emblem was intact, and several attempts to clean the spokes up did little to improve the dingy appearance.  I matched up paint to the silver inside the hub, cleaned up the rough spots, and painted each wheel off the car.  Then I added the new emblems and now have very presentable BBS wheels for $24 total cost!
July 18, 2004 - I've had the car for a couple of weeks now, and have been making a lot of progress fixing little things.  One huge help is a local junkyard called U-Wrench-It.  They have 5 BMW 325s and sell everything for CHEAP.  Here's the list of what I have done so far:
  • Replaced the wiper linkage assembly ($10.50)
  • Painted the front spoiler lip
  • Replaced the glove box latch ($19 from the dealer)
  • Replaced the blower fan switch and resistor board ($3) but had to troubleshoot the resistor board.  The points on the board needed cleaning - all four speeds work now!
  • Replaced the sticking trunk pushbutton ($5) and discovered that my key worked it!
  • Replaced 3 of the four Hella lights ($8 each) - mine were badly pitted.  The 4th may be cleaned up.
  • Got a good windshield and seal ($31 both) - mine is pitted very badly.  Hope it is as easy to get in as it as to get out!
  • Replaced the glove box light switch (.50)
  • Got new wheel emblems off of eBay ($20)
  • Got a new trunk emblem off eBay ($16)
  • Got a 1988 325iX dealer brochure off eBay ($17)
  • Got a BMW 325 series factory manual on CD from eBay ($8)

Cosmetically, I want to repaint all the plastic trim and the hood - that will take care of most everything the car needs to look nice.

July 9, 2004 - I have always admired BMWs, but considered them a little too rich for my blood (and pocketbook).  Parts are expensive, and the cars have complex electrical and mechanical systems.  So how come I just drove a 1988 BMW 610 miles from Massachusetts?  And not just any BMW - it's a 325IX, a limited-production all-wheel drive sport sedan so rare that many BMW enthusiasts don't know about it!  Well, the main reason is that I was pretty much given the car by friend Eric Schneider.  He just bought a new Subaru STI super-sedan and the dealer wasn't interested in a 16 year-old BMW with over 313,000 miles.  Yep, that's three times around the clock on the original drive train - including the clutch! 
It didn't help that the car had a leaky gas tank, windshield wipers that were flopping about unpredictably, and lots of large, rusting stone chips on the hood.  Sounds like something to run from - unless you know Eric.  He maintains his cars extremely well mechanically and spends a LOT of time driving to work at customer sites.  So those 313K+ miles are pretty much all highway.  When he said the dealer only offered him $600, I jokingly offered $650 - and he said "Sold!"

Ummm - OK.  I was planning a trip to visit him anyway, and a one-way airline ticket was cheaper than driving up.  So what the heck?  I packed tools and clothes and took off for Boston.  Over the next few days, I start tinkering.  The car is actually very solid - it has no real rust problems, and all the bells and whistles (there are a LOT of them on this car) work except for the A/C.  Eric has a new gas tank that he includes, along with a new front air dam  and clips, plus a set of snow tires on steel BMW wheels.  He also has all the owner's manuals, plus a couple of workshop manuals.  The car also has an Alpine stereo system worth way more than the car which he very generously leaves in, even after I suggest removing it to put in his GMC Jimmy!

I drove the car to Cape Cod to visit a friend, and had no troubles.  So at the end of my vacation I stuffed all the spare parts in and headed for Virginia.  The car is absolutely amazing - it feels as solid and tight as a new car.  There is some rear end noise, pretty normal for a 4x4.  It has the Recaro sport seats - after 13 hours, they were still comfortable. 

The only trouble came from a major thunderstorm in Delaware - the windshield wipers collided and locked up.  After rolling down the window a couple of times to pull them apart, I got off the highway and removed the right side.  Other than that, the 13-hour drive home was flawless.  The car averaged 26 mpg, and never hiccupped once.  Pretty amazing!

History of the 325IX - In the wake of the Audi Quattro and its rally success, many manufacturers adopted four-wheel drive to its models. BMW was not interested in Audiís progress in the rally scene, but when the press and the public cried out for more, BMW changed their mind.

BMW used a 4x4 system from Ferguson, which was made available for mass production through an Anglo-German motor industry cooperative.  The system BMW used included Viscous Couplings, one in the rear differential, and one in the central differential gear set. The power to the front wheels was fed forward by an external shaft from that central differential gear set. The system was a permanent 4x4 layout, rather than the then popular part time 4x4, which had to be engaged by a lever.

To maintain the rear drive handling characteristics of any BMW, the power split between front and rear was 37 % at the front, and 63 % at the rear. But in slippery conditions, as rear wheels start to spin, the Viscous Couplings start to work, and shifts power to the wheels with the best grip.  The front suspension had to be reworked to give room to the front differential and shafts. The standard anti-roll bar and power steering was repositioned. Also the aluminum sump pan was reworked. It had a passageway, to allow for the shaft feeding power to the front wheels.

Compared to the 325i, the iX has a wider track. At the front there were added 13mm, but at the rear end, only 1mm. All in all, this gives the iX a steady feel. Even though the iX rides about 20mm higher than a standard 325i, the road holding is excellent due to stiffer springs, twin tube gas dampers and of course, the added traction.

Performance wise, BMW had always been conservative with the numbers. Because of the extra weight the 4x4 system added (90kg/198lb), BMW claimed a sprint from 0-62mph (0-100km/t) in 9 seconds. But everyone who has driven a 325iX, or any other BMW for that matter, knows that BMW is rather careful. One Scandinavian magazine, named AUTOMOBILE, took the iX from the 0-62mph sprint in only 6.8 seconds! This was done rather brutally with high rpms before take off, but still. They never managed to accelerate as slow as 9seconds, to use their own words.

The BMW 325iX is a rare automobile, and perhaps it lives in the shadow of itís rarer sibling, the E30 M3. But still it deserves attention from the car-enthusiast community. They were expensive in itís time, and gives a lot of driving pleasure. Everyone who owns one should take good care of it, and keep it original. This is going to be a classic!

 

 

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