Project 535i update: The many gifts of previous owners

When I went to pick up the 535i from Indianapolis, I knew it was going to need a significant amount of work. Any car that has sat outside for 2+ years will, especially when they are old and German, and with something like 340,000 miles (seriously!) I knew that I was going to find some interesting handiwork. I immediately began tearing into the car in late September with the hope of completing a solid chunk of maintenance before winter gets here; and indeed, it didn’t take long for the issues to come out of the woodwork.



One of the first things I noticed when I began poking around the car was that there were extraneous wires EVERYWHERE. Many of them appeared to be sloppily cut, and none of them tied into the vehicle electrical system in any meaningful way. So, I began following them and tearing them out one-by-one. Soon enough I had a massive rat’s nest of wires on the ground next to the car, and isolated everything to two massive cables running to the rear seat area. I pulled out the rear seat, and found the remnants of a 1990’s Motorola car phone setup. It’s unsurprising that a BMW like this would have had a car phone installed when it was less than ten years old, but it is a bit surprising that someone would just cut all the wires and hack it out without any finesse. Even more surprising is the Lynyrd Skynyrd sticker I found under the seat with the car phone parts…

Mechanically, the car started and ran well enough, but the brakes sounded awful, the shifter was sloppy and vague, there were numerous odd vibrations and noises, and overall the car seemed like it needed help. So I put it up on jack stands and started poking around. I replaced both rear brake rotors and greased the caliper slides there and on the front as well. Then, I completed the tedious procedure of rebuilding BMW’s notoriously complex shift linkage, which helped improve the shift feel quite a bit. I changed the engine oil, manual transmission oil, and differential oil; bizarrely the differential oil looked almost new, while the engine and transmission looked like they hadn’t been changed in ages.

During this process, I noticed that the mounts for the engine and transmission looked pretty bad, as well as the driveshaft flex disc, so I replaced all of those too. The engine mounts had lost their original cylindrical shape and looked more like biscuit dough, one of the transmission mounts came out in two pieces, and the flex disc had a scary number of cracks that were allowing its core fibers to protrude through the surface! Or in layman’s terms, all of these parts were an accident waiting to happen.


I also completed a few other various tasks; replaced the smashed-up center console plastic with a nicer used set from eBay, installed a new radio and wired it correctly with nice connectors and heat-shrink, changed all the drive belts, replaced the cracked taillights, adjusted the hood release, and likely a few other things that I’m forgetting. Next up is a thorough suspension refresh; not sure if I’ll get to it before winter. I’m quite happy with what I’ve accomplished so far, at least!


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