Buying - Look Out!

Quick-Links: Mileage & Owners   First Impression   Full Service History   Walk away

The above car may be an excellent car in fine condition. I don’t know since I don’t know the car or has even seen it “live”. The picture is just a random example of an advert – here in AutoScout.

Strange advert by the way: I speak some German, but I have no idea what “Handbag” may mean. Perhaps it’s “Handbuch” (Users Manual) just misspelled.

Below I plan to bring some various examples of what to look out for when you are looking for your coming E46 M3.

More will come in time.

Mileage & Owners

Mileage is often the first aspect to look at. It will most likely be informed in the sales advert. It’s up to you what mileage is in your interest span. All other aspects even the low mileage car is less worn in all respects than a high mileage car, but all other aspects are not even.

Be aware, that the BMW instrument cluster has a so called
“tamper indicator”. The tamper indicator (a red spot just under
the “miles”/”km” text and a little to the right) is activated if
someone has tampered with the mileage.
Such tampering may be done to show lower mileage and
increase the car’s “value”. It may, however, too be active
because someone has changed the cluster, the light module
or the computer module.

There are two considerations to be done if the tamper indicator
is on. The first is your own judgement. If you consider the
seller’s explanations credible (example: due to change to LED
lights he had to change the light module) and you feel confident
that there is no foul play due to other information (example
service history record) you may choose to accept the indicator
as not problematic. The other consideration is about the situation
if you at some time wish to sell the car again: It’s possible that
the future buyer is more suspicious than you and walks away.

All other aspects even few precious owners are better than many. Again: All other aspects are not even. It only takes one careless or “wild” owner to cause problems. Here the statistics come in: If there have been many owners, chances are bigger that one (or more) of them has been less careful.  Short time ownership may also be good reason to be careful / observant.
It’s a good idea to study the service record – and perhaps even plot mileage against time in a graph. In this way you may see changes in usage and use of service-shops which can indicate owner changes etc. It is not necessarily cause for alarm if the service record is “empty” in one of the owner’s ownership. It may be a more hard core M3 enthusiast who made the services (oil/filter changes etc) himself. 

Top of Page

First impression is not enough!

Let me start by stressing that the following in no way as much as imply that WeldTech is to blame for this sad story. WeldTech has only received the car for some work and has no share whatsoever in its state.

My motive for bringing this “case story” is to show that an E46 M3 may look “good” or decent at first glance however in reality be quite “sick”. The lesson to draw from this is: Never buy an E46 M3 before you have thoroughly inspected the underside. The car may have “Full Documentation” or “Complete Service History” however it’s no guarantee that the underside isn’t "rotten".

Looks pretty OK - from here.

Coming closer there are some issues

Getting under reveals the truth

This car is definitely not in a good condition.
Changing oil and filter every 5.000 km doesn’t
help here.

The car may be salvaged – and that may be the reason for coming to WeldTech. I have no knowledge of the further story.

Top of Page

"Full Service History"

When I was looking for my own M3, I looked at several potential cars. One in particular I remember in this context:

The description included “full service history” and stated that a named big BMW dealer stood for the maintenance of the car the last several years.

When talking to the seller (a normally well reputed classic car seller) I asked specifically to RACP issues. He didn’t know but promised to check with the man in charge of the workshop at the big BMW dealer mentioned. I couple of days later I received an e-mail from the seller quoting the manager from the BMW dealer, that there were no RACP issues at all and that they knew because the car was regularly serviced at their shop.

When I went to the seller to inspect the car I noticed that it was fitted with “street-slicks” – an OBS point! When I got the car on a lift it took me less than 30 seconds to spot an actual RACP crack.

So much for authorized service and “full service history”.

Conclusion: Look carefully yourself or have a trustworthy independent third party to do the inspection.

“Documentation” does not constitute the full truth. 

Top of Page

Walk away

Open the trunk/boot, get the carpet out and look at the front left boot

If you see some buckling of the sheet metal walk away.

Buckling here is a sure sign of serious RACP issues.
It may be repairable, but it will cost money and grief.

Top of Page