Anyone who has owned a 2002 for more than a few weeks has been introduced to the car’s inscrutable nature. Once upon a time, the Club (BMW CCA) and the Roundel were full of 2002 advice. Many new 2002 owners today have never had access to this “wisdom” gained through the years. As our chapter librarian, I have read the back issues, and that priceless reference “Tech Tips.” Much of this advice is the result of expensive lessons many learned late at night while contemplating a resolutely immobile 2002. Consider then the following one hundred and one tips; I personally guarantee that at least one will be useful to an ’02 owner in the next twelve months.
101 Essential BMW 2002 Technical Tips
1. Replacing all fuses is cheap insurance against electrical failure.
2. Bosch rebuilds are the only one to consider.
3. BMW dealers often have the best prices under their factory rebuilt program.
4. Reversing wires on front turn signals can result in working signals but no dash indicators.
5. Erratic gauges can often be traced to a bad ground, either on the instrument cluster itself, or engine to frame.
6. Too tight belts destroy water pumps; tighten only enough to run the alternator.
7. If you run 32/36 Weber conversion, using the stock air cleaner with an adapter can result in increased drivability.
8. Replacing the front lower door molding plastic clip with the metal retainer used on the other end of the molding helps prevent the door trim from falling off when opening the door.
9. Never install driving lights without using a relay; wiring damage and fires often result.
10. Increased offset wheels are hard on bearings. Service them more often.
11. For better handling cheap 320i rims can be used, 325 alloys are a good bet for a cheap +1 conversion.
12. A 320i radiator is as good or better than the 2002 part it is lighter, and the whole conversion costs $50.00 less than the 2002 radiator alone.
13. If your 2002 runs hot, and the radiator is more than 2 years old, replace it.
14. Never ignore a bad drive shaft coupling (Guibo). To do so can destroy the transmission case.
15. 320i rear drum brakes will bolt onto a 2002 for much improved braking.
16. Braided metal brake lines are more durable and perform better, and cost little more than stock parts.
17. Do not resurface a bad brake disc, replace it.
18. Use of non-original rear brake linings may result in a parking brake which cannot be adjusted.
19. Check exhaust manifold studs regularly; the front stud seals an oil passage and its loss can cause fires and sudden engine failure.
20. When buying a 2002, check for excess engine movement; more than mild vibration may indicate a broken frame mount it can be fixed but it is quite a job.
21. Check the rear sub-frame 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.
22. To get drag-race-style acceleration from a 2002, use the gears from a 1976, but be prepared for lots of noise at cruising speeds.
23. BMW O.E. exhaust systems are the longest lasting and most quiet you will find.
24. Do not discard the plastic cover when making door repairs; its job is to keep water out of the car.
25. To restore smooth acceleration action, clean grit from under the pedals, lube the ball mounts and replace the nylon bushing on the accelerator rod.
26. Check shifter mount bolts regularly; loose bolts can cause noise and difficult shifting.
27. Rebuilding a shifter with new springs and bushings job results in much better shifting.
28. Re-using gaskets is false economy.
29. Using headers without a rear mount usually results in premature flange failure.
30. Rebuilding a brake caliper without sleeving is a waste of time; buying new units is a better bet.
31. Try changing brands of oil if your 2002 is using oil.
32. Tailpipe smoke on deceleration usually means valve seal problems.
33. The 320i can be a cheap source of Recaro seats for your 2002.
34. Drain your speedometer cable; it collects water.
35. The factory made the best shop manual; it is bi-lingual and has lots of pictures.
36. To prevent rust, clear grit from under front fenders, especially on top of signal lights and at the trailing edge brace.
37. 2002s run fine on unleaded fuel.
38. 2002 aluminum bumpers are expensive, but may be refinished fairly inexpensively.
39. Use BMW filters.
40. Change brake fluid at least annually. More often if you do driver schools.
41. Use BMW anti-freeze, use distilled water for batteries and cooling systems.
42. BMW no longer makes a 2002 battery that fits, Sears does, and it is cheaper.
43. Use tool handle dip on metal moulding clips to prevent rust.
44. Use compressed air to blow moisture from behind trim.
45. Change rubber fuel lines at the first sign of aging.
46. Use the Bosch blue coil.
47. Consider changing to an electronic ignition.
48. The adapter kit for a late Chrysler New Yorker will allow the mounting of a din style radio in a 2002 console.
49. Use the metal or nylon shift boot retainer; the styrene plastic style breaks.
50. There is a lot of room for stereo gear under the back seat.
51. If a lock must be replaced, a locksmith can re-key it to match the others.
52. Shift levers are available in black or chrome and will interchange.
53. If radio reception is poor, try replacing the antenna. They deteriorate with age.
54. When an electric switch fails, try cleaning the contacts before replacing.
55. Remove bumpers and clean behind them annually.
56. Repco Metal Master brake pads work well.
57. Aluminum bumpers can sometimes be revived with steel wool and a buffer with a wool pad.
58. Grills are easier to clean when off the car.
59. Flush European turn signals are available for a sleeker look.
60. A smaller steering wheel gives a quicker steering feel.
61. On long trips, carry a “road kit” including:
— Oil sender
— Fuel line
— Assorted clamps
— Fuel filter
— Fuses and bulbs
— Oil and water
— Water pump
— Fuel pump
— Belts and hoses
— Duct tape
— Gasket in a tube
— Coat hanger
— Distributor tune up parts. (It may be overkill, but then I’ve never been stuck, either.)
62. A fuel filter can be spliced into a broken fuel line to limp home.
63. Even without a road kit, at least carry a fuel filter.
64. Don’t slam doors; it is hard on door checks and windows.
65. Broken rivets cause most window mechanism failures; Mercedes sells a repair rivet.
66. Not replacing broken door checks can cause jammed or broken windows.
67. A 530i starter will give you a lot more starting torque.
68. 530i master cylinders give better stopping.
69. Check floor pans carefully; BMW undercoating hides a lot of rust.
70. Tail light gaskets are a frequent cause of trunk leaks.
71. Check the air pressure in your spare.
72. Bellows style shift boots last longer than the fake leather type.
73. Clean out the pedal box, check for rust and debris and enjoy smoother pedal action.
74. If the transmission must be removed, put in a new clutch disc as cheap insurance.
75. A good tight four speed can use ATF for easier shifting.
76. Use genuine BMW Guibo couplings.
77. Shop prices; even dealer prices vary widely.
78. Buy 2002 parts you may need now; many parts go NLA (no longer available) monthly.
79. Use automotive grade hardware; you’ll be thankful
80. 2002s have little tire clearance: 185/70 x 13, 205/60×13 and 195/50×15 are about as far as you can go, but there is much variance between individual cars and brands of tires.
81. Rotary compressors give much improved air conditioner performance.
82. New Roundel badges are a cheap way to spruce up the appearance of your 2002.
83. Black spark plug wire can replace discolored “chrome” window trim.
84. The fuel injection system for a 318i can be adapted to a 2002, giving better reliability and economy than carburetors, and less trouble and expense than the tii system.
85. Do not substitute anything else for fuel line.
86. Use Dot 4 brake fluid.
87. Before doing expensive suspension work, consider a full stock rebuild; it is amazing how well a perfect stock 2002 will handle.
88. Adjust your steering box to eliminate “play”; the factory manual shows you how.
89. An upholstery shop can replace the rotted cardboard on otherwise good door panels.
90. Quartz stop light bulbs can prevent rear end collisions.
91. Dim taillights can be caused by corroded reflectors.
92. If used hard, 10,000 miles is not too often to adjust valves.
93. You don’t want dual carburetors on your street car, trust me.
94. If your 2002 wears a bra, put soft cloth scraps under the hooks to prevent scratching.
95. For best stereo performance, use large wire; many systems are compromised with small, cheap wire.
96. Short springs seriously compromise the street-ability of a 2002.
97. A 320i differential can be adapted to a 2002 to get access to the much more prevalent limited slip differentials.
98. Not driving a 2002 is the worst thing you can do to it.
99. Remove battery for winter storage.
100. Use WD-40 to displace moisture in hood, door and trunk edge seams.
101. Always wave to other 2002 owners.
Author: Scott Chamberlain
BMW CCA’s Roundel September 1993