I bought a 1997 BMW 318i about two months ago for a grand total of $5,000. The car only had a few small problems when I bought it and I had planned to fix them in January after the holiday spending had ceased.
The only problems the car had were the drivers side window not rolling up in line (easily fixable, I already bought the plastic pieces, just haven't put them in yet). The brake discs and pads also needed to be changed as I was getting a steering wheel jerk when braking at above 40 miles per hour.
The body of the car is in great condition, and the only real problem with the interior is the headliner is falling down (I was told the previous owner smoked in the car, and that smoke contains chemicals which can loosen the glue.. plus I live on an island and it's usually above 90° every day so I'm sure the heat didn't help either).
Everything was going great, and then on the eve of New Years eve (yah, the day before the day before) as I was pulling in to pick up my laundry before they closed for the weekend I noticed steam coming up from under the hood. Now, I'm not a mechanic by any stretch of the word. I know how to drive them, not how to fix them. So, I pulled over and called my girlfriends uncle and he came to the rescue. He recommended that I fill the car up with water and then head over to my girlfriends house about 3 miles away. I let the car cool down, filled it up with water and then drove on over. There wasn't anything I could do but wait until Tuesday when the mechanic could come check it out.
I decided to buy two cans of "Radiator Flush" from the local grocery store and give it a shot. I easily figured out how to flush the radiator, followed the instructions on the bottle and cleaned it out. I turned the car on and let it idle for a bit and after about 10 minutes the overheating warning light came on. So, I waited.
On Tuesday the mechanic came by and did a radiator flush again, this time without using the junk I bought to clean it. Keep in mind the mechanic speaks only Spanish and my girlfriend who doesn't speak the greatest of English had to do the translation for me into a language called Papiamentu (which luckily I've picked up over the past few years). Anyways, as best I can tell, one of the hoses coming out of the engine (the one that comes out of the temperature gauge housing and goes towards the passenger side of the car) didn't have any pressure.. if you pinched the hose it would squeeze in. The mechanic did something (not exactly sure what) to restore pressure to that hose.
Then he took it for a spin around the block. When he pulled back in it was still overheating. So, he took out the radiator. I took it to a place to have them check it and they said it was fine.
Then I decided to read the forums and found a few posts about other people having a similar problem.
Today I waited for about 4 hours for the mechanic to come by and he didn't show up. Bastard. So after waiting for him and figuring he wasn't going to show, I decided to do the test to see if the heater would blow hot air or not. I turned the car on and let it idle for a few minutes, turned on the heater and it was blowing cold air. If I gather correctly, this means that the water pump is bad?
Also, the last time I saw the guy drive around the block with the car I saw white smoke coming out the back. Which leads me to believe that I now have a blown head gasket. Car parts are.. incredibly expensive here on the island, so I'm going to order them from bimmerparts.com and have them shipped here. The thing is, after reading some of the tutorials I really think I can do the work with the supervision of a friend of mine who knows cars really well. (I would have had him check the car to begin with but he was on vacation in the U.S.).
Here is the parts I'm looking at getting. I'm not really sure if I need to replace the radiator just yet or not. Like I said I recently had it checked out and they said it was in good condition. Would it be ok to wait off a month or two to replace it or is it really necessary to get the car back in good working order?
G2000-66467 - Radiator Hose - $7.28
G2000-66466 - Radiator Hose - $11.73
G2022-226149 - Cooling Hose Connector - $7.12
G4030-66803 - Thermostat O-Ring - Goetze - $6.50
G4010-103029 - Thermostat Housing - Behr - $43.36
A8010-72178 - Cylinder Head Gasket Set - Goetze - $156.93
G1000-53043 - Radiator - Behr - $219.67
G3000-30966 - Water Pump - Laso - $58.02
SubTotal: - $510.61 ($290.94 w/o radiator)
N1000-117895 - Brake Disc X-drilled - Zimmermann Cross Drilled - $62.53
N1000-84366 - Brake Disc X-drilled - Zimmermann Cross Drilled - $77.31
N1010-125854 - Brake Pad Set Pro-ACT Ceramic w/Shims - Akebono - $76.67
Total: $727.15 ($507.48 w/o radiator)
(Note: I added in the brake pads and discs, as I need to change them as well.)
If you can provide any other ideas on what may be wrong with the car or if you have any comments or suggestions regarding the parts I need to get, please let me know. Thanks in advance.