Project BMW update: I fought the car…

…and the car won. Some time ago, actually. It was mid-September when I finally said “enough is enough” with this rare BMW touring. In my case, realizing I’d be lucky to get $3500 out of a car I had nearly $10k dumped into incentivized me to walk away the next time something went wrong. I continues losing the faith when it was discovered that the behemoth was loo long to fit in the garage of our rented urban cottage…and then stuff happened.


After the previous rounds of maintenance, the car seemed like it was finally at a point where I could relax. Yeah, the gas gauge didn’t work, and the exhaust manifold gasket leak was kind of annoying, but I could live with that. The 18MPG on premium…well, I was willing to live with it. Then, the car started developing a mysterious vibration under left hand turns. This progressed into a vibration under braking, and I decided it was time to tackle the notorious E39 front suspension.

I started by replacing both thrust arms (with upgraded solid rubber bushings, because fluid-filled bushings are for chumps) and the sway bar endlinks. The general consensus is that the thrust arms carry most of the front suspension load on E39s and are typically responsible for front end vibrations, so I was hopeful. I got some improvement, but not as much as I wanted, so I moved onto the lower control arms. I went to pop the ball joint on the passenger’s side, and then…CATASTROPHE!


My old, well-used Harbor Freight ball joint tool broke right in half! I borrowed my dad’s truck and ran to the store to buy another, knowing that mine was probably done for going into the job (you know, being a Harbor Freight tool that was used more than twice and all), and then the second one broke! At this point I was spent, and reassembled the car to continue this battle another day.

I ordered a non-shitty version of the tool on Amazon for $60 (considerably more expensive than the $20 Harbor Freight unit), had a gas torch ready, and attempted the job again a week later. Long story short, when the significantly higher-quality ball joint press was flexing at roughly a 30-degree angle, I knew I was defeated. Someone did this job once before, and torqued it the ball joint far too tight…so I decided to sell the car.

Somehow, the BMW must have figured this out, as it decided to throw a check engine light the next day, for some sort of cryptic emissions-related fault of course. At this point, I was done. I had always wanted a manual 5-series touring, and I had put incredible amounts of effort into building this one the way I wanted with the E38 Sport interior, Style 66 wheels, etc, but enough was enough. I slashed the price to $3200 and sold the car to the first guy that came to look at it.

It was a beautiful car, and I wish it hadn’t worked out the way it did in the end. At the end of it all, I ended up probably $5000 in the red for a car I owned no more than nine months. I try not to think about that, as it’s one of the bigger losses I’ve ever had.

I think my next project car is going to be Japanese. Yeah, that’s a good idea.

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