How I inspect cars, particularly E38s,
as a dealer.
For those of you who know me from the
boards, you know I'm a dealer and I sell a fair amount of E38s as well
as other cars. The upside is, I play with cars that I love (I am
a hard core car freak) for a living. Downside is, sometimes I
have no more than a few minutes to look them over before spending
sometimes as much as $50,000 or more!
You can take your prospective purchase to a mechanic, I can't.
These are methods that I have sort of developed over the years.
Yup, I'm 29 but have been buying Highline cars wholesale since
1996. I just figured something out. I have bought almost
$100,000,000 worth of cars over the years. Pay attention :)
The first thing I look at on a car is the body... I'm looking for,
aside from obvious damage, paintwork. Here's a great page I threw
together on paintwork, access it by clicking here: PAINTWORK PAGE
Now I can spot paintwork oftentimes by looking, even from quite a
distance, you can't. You basically want to look for color
imbalance in the paint, and to make sure all the panels line up
right. If the carfax report shows an accident, then you might
want to have a qualified tech look the car over to check for frame
damage, if any is present. A Carfax accident report doesnt mean
the car was "hurt" or "wrecked", and lack of one on a Carfax also
doesnt mean that the car was never hurt. On a several year-old
car minor previous damage isn't of concern. On a CPO-Level car,
it sure is and hurts the car's value. Do I care if that 1997 740i
with 110K has had a fender changed? No. Not as long as the
Apron wasn't damaged. Ah-ha! What's an Apron? That's
the inner front fender and part of the car's unibody structure.
That's frame damage. If the left front fender got scraped and a
new one was bolted on with NO other damage, who cares. In reality
the car's fine. What's unibody damage is damage to the Pillars,
rear quarters, floors, rockers, roof, etc. Basically anything
that's NOT bolt-on sheetmetal. Radiator core supports, fenders,
decklids, hoods, doors, that's not unibody.
OK, so by now I have determind that the car wasn't hit as hard or as
often as Joe Louis, it's time to look at the rest of it. The next
thing I look at are the tires... this is important. I want to
see, on an E38 with stock wheels the following: Name brand tires
in a performance speed rating. A Set of Pep Boys tures is a HUGE
red flag. We all know how expensive these monsters are to
maintain, if they couldnt spring another $200 for good tires, how did
they take care of the rest of the car? Are they worn
evenly? Do they all match?
Next thing we look at is under the hood. I pull the oil cap with
the engine off and look for nastiness, I also look for crud or sludge
on the dipstick. That's a bad thing. I also stick my finger
in the expansion tank (Assuming the car is cold) and look for nasty
residue. I'm also looking for either a super clean, or super
nasty engine, I take a quick peek for leaks, things missing, or things
After that, I get in the car. First thing I do is turn the key on
but DO NOT START THE ENGINE! Make sure all the warning lights are
there and that no schmuck pulled the bulbs for the check engine light,
ABS, Airbag, etc. If a bulb is not coming on, it's because
someone pulled it. Sounds stupid but a lot of people fall for
that. This is very common with "CHECK ENGINE" lights. The
only one I see pulled a lot that I am OK with is the "SERVICE" light on
96-98 Volvos, the dealer needs to reset it and it's annoying to a lot
of people who maintain the car well anyways.
OK, now it's time to start it up, look for the obvious.. give it a
second to build oil pressure and then rev it up slowly and smoothly,
listen for noises........... then engage the tranny in drive,
make sure it engages smoothly and properly.. no delay. Then go to
Neutral, wait a second and hit reverse.
Now, back in park... Now's the time to loosen (NOT REMOVE) the oil
filler cap, a WOOSH sound indicates a bad oil separator valve (Happens
after you turn the cap and pull it up a hair). Listen for bad
OK, now back inside. Firt thing, hit the air. Then hit the
power windows, sunroof, acessories. Hit the radio, make sure it
sounds good, etc.
Turn the steering lock to lock, listen for bad noises and check for
play. A Healthy E38 has NO free play in the steering at idle.
Look at the seats, headliner... etc... check the lighters to see if it
was a smoker's car. You want to kind of get a feel for how the
car's been maintained. I want to see a nice clean car with no
paintwork, decent original floormats (Shows the PO wasnt a pig), clean
ashtrays, no evidence of orange juice or coffee near the cupholder, or
center console cubbys, etc.
By now the car should be warmed up and you can hear for bad cats, etc.
If it passes all these tests, THEN you take it to a mechanic to get
looked at AFTER you test drive it.
Feel free to post questions on Bimmerboard