Question Of The Day: Should I Blow My Tax Refund On This

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I did almost exactly this–mine’s a sedan and not a wagon and not AWD–and am in a similar situation vis a vis parking and time.

The car itself isn’t hard to work on at all (except the starter, that was a bugger) but if you lack space to keep it, it’s another issue altogether. Without a garage, you’re humping tools and parts up and down stairs, and annoying your neighbours and possibly interesting the local bylaw-enforcement officers. You can’t just leave the car on jackstands all day, and anything big requires you to book some time in advance to work on it, which you may not have.

But it’s rewarding as all-hell when it’s done and running. I have a Frankenstein’ed 325i that I built from parts and donor cars and, well, it’s mine in a way any car I’ve owned previously wasn’t. If you can spare the time looking for parts and doing your own work, this isn’t too expensive and is very rewarding.

If I were you, I’d take a look at the car in advance.

Some notes from my misadventures:

* E46s few big-money issues, but the hardest of those is a propensity to rust. Pull the rocker covers off, inspect the fenders, especially at the rear. That trunk lid isn’t a big deal, but rust on the rear rocker panels or subframe will be a bugger to fix.

* Check to see if the battery leaked and rusted out the battery bay.

* Check the trunk for cracks due to subframe failure. Plan to replace the subframe bushings and, since you’re in the salt belt, plan for rustproofing the body perhaps even power-coating the subframe.

* Check the water pump. Replace it and the coolant expansion tank anyway.

* See if you can find out about excessive oil consumption.

* Check the windows. Get a couple of regulators in advance.

* Get a cheap ODB2 scanner and read any codes it throws. Most of what I’ve done has been with the help of a $5 adapter and Torque Pro for Android. You could, if you wanted, spend the money on a Peak reader.

* Inspect the headlamp clips to see if they’ve broken. Telltale of an accident and they’re finicky to replace.

* Check the heater/AC. The final stage resistor will go, if it hasn’t already.

* Find a copy of the Bentley manual.

* Trawl Kijiji for tools. A good metric socket set, a light-duty low-profile jack and some jackstands should be all you’ll really need. Kneepads and a creeper are nice, too.

* Make friends with the dude on Kijiji who owns Bimmer Heaven (a junkyard out in Milton).

* If you can find one, a place that will rent you time on a hoist is so, so nice.

Finally, you could also bank your refund for a bit and look for a rear-drive 325iT. AWD adds some extra complexity you may not want to bother with.

The mileage gives me pause, though. That’s a lot of distance, and unless someone already did it all already, you are looking at some serious suspension work, which is not a fun prospect if you’re working in a shared parking situation. This thing had better be super-duper cheap.

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