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BMW 7-Series (1986 - 1994)

Last updated 11 April 2013

 
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Buying Guide

Good

  • Big BMW 16' 1" long by 6' 1" wide, weighing 1,570kg to 1,610kg.
  • Engines: chain-cam 197bhp M30 2,986cc six; 220bhp M30 3,430cc six; 300bhp M70 4,988cc V12. Then, from September 1992, 218bhp M60 2,997cc V8 and 286bhp M60 3,982cc V8.
  • High-mileage six-cylinder 730i and 735iSE can be real bargains.
  • Parts prices quite reasonable.
  • Very luxurious. BMW, Toyota and Ford jointly suffered the fewest breakdowns attended by German ADAC during 2001. BMW had sixth lowest average cost in warranty claims for cars up to 10 years old in 2002 Warranty Direct index.

Bad

  • V12 750 guzzles fuel. V8s may suffer bore liner degradation and use oil.
  • From April 2002 BMW started to phase out production of official replacement parts for cars over 10 years old.
  • High 7 point death rate in Government accident stats in this model.

Watch

Avoid lower spec trim unless you like cloth interiors. Aircon system problems. Bore liner degradation in aluminium V8s. Electrical glitches. Check the on-board computer carefully (see 5-Series). Make sure the heater fan works on all speeds because replacing the resistors involved removing the dash which is a TWO DAY job. Suspension sags eventually. Make sure the ABS light goes on, then off, at the right time. Try to find one with BMW service history; if not consistent specialist history.

THANKS TO APRILIA FOR THIS CHECK LIST:

  • 1. Banjo bolts in cam spray bar come lose - cam doesn't get oil - lobes wear. Treat any top-end noise with great suspicion. They ALL seem to suffer this unless modified bolts fitted. Head has to be removed to replace cam and followers - £500 parts + labour??
  • 2. Ridiculously small bore venting pipe from radiator to header tank gets blocked. Can lead to air locks and overheating.
  • 3. Viscous cooling fan fails - overheating at low speeds.
  • 4. Lower front control arm bushes wear - best to fit complete new arm.
  • 5. Heater fan control amplifier (known as 'Sword') fails. I have fixed a few of these and its not difficult if you know what you are doing. New unit from BMW is expensive.
  • 6. Climate control ECU packs up. S/hand units go for about £80 - but probably in short supply now.
  • 7. Instrument cluster electrolytic capacitors dry out - again, you can fix for about £5 if you have a bit of electronics experience - 'specialist' will charge £70.
  • 8. Electrical wiring is VERY complex - various faults with 'check control unit', body control ECU etc. (there are about 9 ECU's on the car). Diagnosis can be very difficult. I have a full wiring diagram in PDF, should you decide to buy the car.
  • In my view one of the worst aspects of the car is the ZF 4HP22E electronically controlled autobox. If you get the dreaded 'TRANS PROG' message displayed on the instrument cluster then it could well mean a £2k+ rebuild. Getting the box out requires a good set of half-inch drive extensions and lots of patience.
  • I would suggest that anyone thinking of buying one of these cars has is checked over VERY thoroughly by a trusted specialist. It is likely to be money well spent.

Recalls

  • 1998: 7s built 1988-Nov '94 recalled to fit new radiator cap.
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