Helpful Tips for '02 Owners

These tips come largely from articles that appeared in the BMW Car Club of America "Roundel" magazine in Sep93 (by Scott Chamberlain) and Oct 94 (by Michael Self). I have edited the list somewhat for brevity and expanded on a couple of tips where I have first-hand experience. I am sure there will be a tip here that is immediately useful to any '02 owner. So here they are in no particular order. Ususal disclaimers apply.


Bosch rebuilds are the only ones to consider.

Reversing wires on front turn signals can result in working turn indicators but no dash indicators.

Erratic gauges can often be traced to a bad ground, either on the instrument cluster itself or on the engine to chassis strap. (Check also the plug on the alternator - zh)

Belts tightened too much destroy the water pump. Tighten only enough to run the alternator.

If you run a 32/36 Weber conversion, using the stock air cleaner with an adapter can result in increased drivability.

Replacing the front lower door moulding plastic clip with the metal retainer used on the other end of the moulding helps prevent the door trim from falling off when opening the door.

Never install driving lights without using a relay. Wiring damage and fires can often result.

Increased offset wheels are hard on bearings. Service them more often.

E30 325 (14x6") alloys are a good bet for a cheap "+1" conversion (195/60-14 tires will fit - zh).

A 320i radiator is as good or better than the 2002 part, is lighter and the conversion may cost less than the 2002 radiator alone. (you need the 320i hoses and have to fabricate some mounting brackets - zh)

If your 2002 runs hot, and the radiator is more than 2 years old, replace it.

Never ignore a bad driveshaft coupling (Guibo). To do so can destroy the transmission case.

320i rear drum brakes will bolt onto a 2002 for much improved braking.

Old rubber brake line often clog internally and act as one-way pressure valves - they are often the cause of brake dragging and pulling. (been there - zh)

Braided metal brake lines are more durable and perform better (check out the DOT approved kevlar ones - zh).

Do not resurface a bad brake disc. Replace it.

Use of non-original rear brake linings may result in a parking brake which cannot be adjusted.

Check exhaust manifold studs regularly. The front stud seals an oil passage and its loss can cause fires and sudden engine failure.

When buying a 2002, check for excess engine movement. More than mild vibration may indicate a broken frame mount. It can be fixed, but is quite a job. (yup! - zh)

Check the rear subframe regularly. They have been known to rust through even on otherwise rust-free cars. This can lead to a big, dirty job and parts are getting hard to find. (box section trailing arms on Tiis are especially susceptable to rust - zh)

BMW OEM exhaust systems are the longest lasting and the most quiet you will find.

Do not discard the plastic cover when making door repairs. Its job is to keep water out of the car.

To restore smooth acceleration action, clean grit from under the pedals, lube the ball mounts and replace the nylon bushing on the accelerator rod.

Check shifter mount bolts regularly. Loose bolts can cause noise and difficult shifting.

Rebuilding a shifter with new springs and bushings results in much better shifting.

Using headers without a rear mount usually results in premature flange failure.

Tailpipe smoke on deceleration usually means valve guide seal problems.

Drain your speedo cable. It collects water.

To prevent rust, clear grit from under the front fenders, especially on top of the turn indicators and from the trailing edge.

Aluminium trim can sometimes be revived with polishing paper and a buffer with a wool pad.

Use BMW filters.

Change brake fluid at least annually.

Use BMW anti-freeze; use distilled water for batteries and cooling systems.

Use tool handle dip on metal moulding clips to prevent rust.

Use compressed air to blow moisture from behind trim.

Change rubber fuel lines at the first sign of aging.

Use the Bosch blue coil. (bypassing the ballast resistor or use the "red" coil - zh)

Consider changing to an electronic ignition (Pertronix Ignitors are good, simple, and cheap - zh).

The adapter kit for a late Chrysler New Yorker will allow the mounting of a DIN-style radio in a 2002 console.

If a lock must be replaced, a locksmith can re-key it to match the others.

If radio reception is poor, try replacing the antenna. They deteriorate with age.

Remove the bumpers and clean behind them annually.

Repco Metal Master brake pads work well. (I disagree - Textar pads are OE and are much better all around, though quite dusty - zh)

Grilles are easier to clean when they are off the car.

A smaller diameter steering wheel gives a quicker steering feel (but higher effort - zh).

On long trips, carry a ``road kit'' including the following: oil sender; fuel hose; assorted clamps; fuel filter(s); fuses and bulbs; thermostat; oil and water; water pump; alternator; starter; belts and hoses; gaffer tape; wire; gasket in a tube; coat hanger; distributor tune-up parts. Even without a ``road kit'', at least carry fuel filters.

An in-line fuel filter can be spliced into a broken fuel line to limp home.

Don't slam doors. It's hard on door checks and windows.

Broken rivets cause most window mechanism failures. Mercedes sells a repair rivet.

Not replacing broken door checks can cause jammed or broken windows.

A 530i (or equivalent) starter will give you a lot more starting torque.

530i master cylinders give better stopping.

Check floor pans carefully. BMW undercoating can hide a lot of rust.

Tail light gaskets are a frequent cause of water leaks into the trunk.

Check the air pressure in your spare. Top it well up.

Original bellows-style shift boots last longer than the fake leather type.

Clean out the pedal box. Check for rust and debris and enjoy smoother pedal action.

If the transmission must be removed, put in a new clutch disc - it's cheap insurance.

A good tight four speed can use ATF for easier shifting (or Redline MTL works great - zh.)

Use genuine BMW Guibo couplings.

Buy 2002 parts you may need now. Some parts may be NLA by the time you need them.

Use automotive grade hardware. You'll be thankful later.

Black spark-plug wire can replace discoloured "chrome" window beading.

Do not substitute anything else for fuel line. Keep some BMW fuel line in stock at all times.

Use DOT 4 brake fluid. (apparently, Ford HD truck fluid has the same high boiling point and is cheap - zh)

Before considering expensive suspension work, consider a full stock rebuild. It's amazing how well a perfectly stock 2002 will handle. (amen! - though mine ain't exactly stock, now. - zh)

An upholstery shop can replace the rotted cardboard on otherwise good door panels.

Dim taillights can be caused by corroded reflectors. (yup, see here - zh)

If used hard, 10,000 miles (16,000 km) is not too often to adjust valves.

Short springs seriously compromise the streetability of a 2002.

Not driving a 2002 is the worst thing you can do to it.

Use WD40 to displace water in hood, door and trunk lid egde seams.

Always wave to other 2002 owners.

The little plastic cap on the end of the door latch (on the door) is what makes the door close easily. If yours is missing, replace it with a short length of plastic or rubber tubing. (fuel line works well - zh)

If you have a sunroof, reroute the drain hoses. The factory may have routed them into the rocker panels.

Early 2002s with 6-position fuse boxes have unfused headlights. Using the wiring diagram in the owners manual, interpose a fused relay in both the low beam and high beam, circuits. It will save molten wires, and make the lights brighter. Until 1974, even the 12-fuse cars didn't have a fuse for high beam. See above. (your old hi-lo switch on the column will thank you - mine burned out one day... zh)

If brake fluid is disappearing from the reservoir and you can't find a leak, check the pedal bucket. A leaking clutch master cylinder will fill it up with fluid, with no exterior leaks. And it holds nearly a pint.

Use household carpet padding under carpets and under and behind the back seat to lessen road noise. Filling the space under the back seat with foam rubber packing helps too.

Use anti-sieze paste on any threaded fitting exposed to weather or heat.

'72 and later cars with a stalk-mounted wiper switch can be retrofitted with interval wiper controls from a 320i. (Or just use the interval wiper relay from a 75-76 '02 and connect the extra terminal to +12V via a switch - zh)

Pre-'72 cars have a flimsy right-hand engine mount. Inspect it now and replace it with the later style having a welded cross brace.

Any time you have the interior upholstery panels off the doors, clean out the insides, inspect for rust and spray with rustproofing. Do the same for the quarter panels.

If you have a '76, inspect the front floors carefully for rust. For some reason, the '76 cars are more prone to rust than other years.

Testors makes a blue model aircraft paint that's perfect for repainting weathered metal BMW roundels.

A good upholstery shop can use the material from the (usually) unworn rear seat of a parts car to repair the worn/torn centre section of the driver's seat in your car.

Same goes for carpeting - use the unworn back seat carpet from a parts car to repair the front.

Krylon ``dull aluminium'' spray paint is a great match for the silver paint used on both steel and factory alloy 2002 wheels. On the alloy wheels, spray clear urethane over the silver paint.

When draining your cooling system, don't forget to remove the block drain bolt (under the exhaust manifold) and set the heater temperature control to ``hot''.

Lubricate your speedo cable periodically. They're a nuisance to replace. Disconnect at both ends, and squirt lubricant into the speedo end until it runs out the transmission end.

A leaking master cylinder can cause the driver's side frame rail to rust out under the driver's seat.

The next time your fuel tank is nearly empty, unbolt it and remove it from the car to check the tank-to-body seal for deterioration and rust.

Replace the original seal with closed cell weatherproofing foam (better to use autobody "dum-dum" - zh).

There are several different seemingly identical bulbs which will fit 2002 taillights. Make sure you use the correct ones to avoid melting the lens (too big) and for best visibility (not too small).

Clean out the heater plenum chamber drain hoses regularly (below the base of the windshield, where the wiper motor lives). Prevents rust and water entry.

A baulky heater temperature control lever is often caused by a sticking valve. It can be reomved (but leave the lever attached to the cable), dismantled, cleaned and lubricated. (generic hardware-store o-rings can be used to replace the two seals - zh)

A scissor-type jack is far more efficient and safer than the one-legged unit supplied by BMW. Don't ever lift or jack a 2002 by the rocker panel jacking points. They're probably rusted and weak by now - use the subframes.

You can retrofit inertia reel seat belts to pre-'73 2002s.

Make your stock driver's seat more comfortable by: raising the front end of the seat track with 6-8mm thick washers and by installing extra padding in the seat back to give your lower back more support.

If the turn signal flasher bulb on the dashboard flashes intermittently but both front and rear turn signals are OK and flash properly, clean or replace the fuse and all grounds before suspecting the flasher unit itself.

Any reluctant or non-working electrical item should have its fuse checked first. The German cartridge fuses wear out and should be replaced every few years. (use a wire brush on a dremel to clean the contacts in the fusebox and the ends of the fuses - works much better and faster than sandpaper - be sure to remove any loose wire from the brush afterwards! zh)

Periodically lubricate the slides and pivot points of the heater control cables under the dash. You don't want to have to replace a broken cable!

If you normally park your car on an incline, make sure the door drain holes are clear.

If your rocker arm shafts have worn so that you can no longer adjust the valves to the proper clearance, any good machine shop can make oversized (0.5-1.0 mm is fine), case-hardened adjusters for a lot less money than the cost of removing the head and replacing the shafts. Take an old one along for use as a pattern.

A constantly-varying idle (both speed and smoothness) points to a vacuum leak. Check to ensure the vacuum advance/retard diaphragm in the distributor doesn't have a leak.

A sloppy shift lever can be rebuilt for about $40 worth of parts and a few hours time. (on the pre '75 cars, worn dowel pins in the slector shaft knuckle joint cause a lot of the play - zh)

A driveline vibration occurring in a specific speed range can be caused by a worn or broken rear transmission mount and/or a broken or cracked Guibo. Check them before suspecting a bad driveshaft, centre bearing or rear universal joint.

Periodically peel back the carpets covering the front wheel wells (under the dash, ahead of the doors) down at the bottom to check for rust.

A piece of ribbed, rubber-backed carpet cut to fit the boot will help prevent things from sliding around under vigorous cornering (and that's all you do in an '02, isn't it?) It's also a good idea to pad the sides and back of the boot (pre-'73 models) to prevent migrating objects from denting the quarter and rear panels.

With a little patience, you can remove the lenses from a round taillight housing (note: real 02s only) if you need to replate the chrome rim. Look for a small set screw on the inside of the chrome rib that divides the lens segment. The set screw and sealer hold the lens in place.

Periodically inspect the rubber boots on your rear axle CV joints, particularly if you drive on gravel roads a lot. Temporarily patch a torn or leaking boot with layers of kitchen food wrap secured with tape.

A group 26R battery fits a 2002 just fine and usually has a higher CCA rating than an equivalent group 42 battery.

Erratic electrical accessory problems can be caused by a deteriorated or broken battery-to-body strap. (On pre '74 cars, the bolted-in battery tray that the chassis ground strap is connected to may no-longer be making a good connection to the rest of the body. Move the original or add another chassis ground strap to an upper strut mount bolt for a much more reliable connection. This cured my jumpy gauges for good - zh)

Once a year, take the battery out, clean the tray with baking soda to neutralise acid, touch up rust spots and replace the battery. There should be an acid-resistive paint available. Pre-74 battery boxes unbolt from the body; later ones are welded in.

A door that is difficult to close properly that isn't missing the little plastic latchbolt cap may have a loose latchplate (the plate bolted to the door frame).

A door lock that's sluggish in cold weather can be lubricated by removing one or both screws that hold the rubber guide wedge on the door. Poke the extension wand of a can of WD-40 through the screw holes and squirt. This saves taking the upholstery panels off just to lubricate the lock.

A dead windshield washer pump can often be resurrected by a careful dismantling, cleaning and lubricating of the motor. And failing that, the washer pump from an older VW or Audi is a perfect replacement.

Periodically check the tightness of your tailight lenses where they meet the bodywork. Loose lens assemblies are prime culprits for water leaks into the boot which will rust out the spare tire well and/or the fuel tank mounting.

A thumping or soft banging sound coming from the rear of the car may be loose or worn upper rear shock absorber mounts.

The early and late style fuel pumps are interchangeable on all non-tii 2002s; however, they use different thickness insulator blocks and different length pushrods.

If you are fortunate enough to have 2002 factory alloy wheels, coat the mating surfaces of the stainless steel centre caps with anti-sieze compound before installing them. Otherwise, they'll sieze to the aluminium wheels and be damaged when you try to remove them.

If you have alloy 2002 road wheels and a steel spare, be sure to carry a set of steel wheel lug nuts. They don't interchange.

Pre-'74 2002s have very weak rear bumper mounting points. They can be considerably reinforced by cutting two 100x150 mm plates out of 6mm steel and drilling to match the bumper bolt holes. Install between the bumper mounts and the body. Be sure to seal the plates to the body with caulking to prevent rust or leaks.

A failed cold-start relay on tiis can be expensive to replace. Wiring the cold start injector to a small push-button switch on the dashboard can overcome the problem. The injector Must operate for at least a second during cranking, and holding the switch for a second or two when starting works every time. It can be an anti-theft trick for those who don't know the switch is there.

Wear sunscreen.


Got some more tips? Let me know and I'll add them.


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