buzzboy SuperDork
4/30/22 12:29 p.m.

I want to sell my E36 M3ti and it has a (mildly) blown headgasket(i think). Figure it's worth more and easier to sell fixed, than broken. I don't trust myself to do it. At all. Especially if it needs machine work(overheated straight 6, never!) I would love to throw money at the problem. 

How does one go about picking a shop to do this kind of work? I'm kind of in BFE so I'd be traveling. Not really the kind of thing where I want to go down to the corner gas station. 

MrFancypants HalfDork
4/30/22 12:50 p.m.

I like to look for independent shops that specialize in and employ one or more master technicians for the specific make of the vehicle that needs work. Every job I've had done with these shops have turned out great and not needed any follow up work on my part. With my Volkswagen every time any other type of shop has touched it, including dealerships, I've had to dig back in and fix something they messed up.

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
4/30/22 12:54 p.m.

I know that there are some well loved bmw shops around Charlotte 

I see the scca guys talking about them sometimes. 


Id ask your local club and see who they would use.

pointofdeparture UltimaDork
4/30/22 1:12 p.m.

Already some good advice from the others. Definitely look for marque specialist indies (this is huge, I have never been burned by a reputable indie, but I sure have been burned by "general auto repair" shops) and ask your fellow local auto enthusiasts who is good in the area.

Thanks to the Internet we also have tools like Yelp and Google Reviews that can be helpful. You can assume that some person will get a bug up their ass and leave a one star review for just about anything so you're not looking for a perfect five stars, but definitely skim the reviews and get a sense of how average people are treated by a given shop.

Also, and this must be said, be willing to pay for good work. I'm currently following a thread on another forum by a guy who tried to save $800 on an engine build/swap by taking it to a general "tuner shop" instead of a marque specialist. The tuner shop screwed up the engine build (improper oil pickup installation) and it threw a rod out of the side of the block during its first track day. Now they're not standing behind the work because "we did everything the swap guide said we were supposed to do." Obviously, the $800 saved is now a drop in the bucket compared to the time, money, and stress of doing it all over again.

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 UltraDork
4/30/22 6:07 p.m.

Yeah I'll third making sure you get a shop familiar with bmw inline 6. Unless I'm misreading and you have the four cylinder in the ti. I'm reading that you swapped for an s52 and pulling cams is something of an art form as I understand so you don't break them. Good luck- this is why I do my own work generally, it's not that I don't want to pay, it is finding someone who won't screw it up or screw me. Yes it is exhausting being me. 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/1/22 12:24 a.m.

BMW (at least of the E36 vintage) is one of the ones that I actually don't think you need a specialty garage.  Before I bought my E30 I just knew I was in for years of paying through the nose for premium stuff, but I didn't find that to be the case at all.  They're just cars.  You'll get all the shops trying to charge you $100 for an oil change "because BMW," but they aren't anything voodoo or crazy.  They don't take specialty fluids, specialty tools, or any special training.  If a tech can do a head gasket on a small block chevy, they can do an E36. They're chunks of cast metal.  They're just as easy as a VW or a Toyota.

Finding a shop is tough if you don't have a lot of GRM-types around.  You can ask friends, but if they don't know cars you have no idea if they're just happy or if they're getting screwed and don't know it.  I asked around when I moved here and got three recommendations.  I used them all for little things here and there.  Stuff that I could do myself easily, but wanted to feel them out.  Things like oil changes, alignments, brake jobs, inspections, etc.  One of them was constantly trying to sell me more stuff that I knew it didn't need.  One was fantastic, and owned/operated by a woman (which I love to support) but she is bloody expensive.  The third one was just right like Momma bear's porridge.  When I take him something, he respects the fact that I actually know what I'm talking about, and I know that if he suggests something it actually needs to be done.  I had it in for inspection in Feb and he called to tell me my rear brakes are passable, but they won't last much longer.  He left the door open for me to say no thanks, which is why I didn't hesitate to spend money and I told him to do it.  He even asked me about towing and driving style so he could get the pads I would prefer.  Great shop.

Word of mouth, narrow it down to a few, get estimates from all of them.  You'll be able to feel them out.  One will say "$1800, and you have to use [insert expensive parts]."  One will say all the right BMW things as if they actually know what they're talking about.  

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
5/1/22 11:01 a.m.

I would look into what local shops work with the club racers in whatever area you're looking at.  Lots of folks race in BMWs in BMWCCA and NASA, see what shops are involved in that.  Maybe they run a car of their own, maybe they're on the list of approved shops for tech inspections, or maybe they just have word of mouth with the racers.  Some of the race shops are race cars only, but a lot of them pay the bills by servicing street cars.


stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
5/1/22 4:07 p.m.

Find the local chapter of the BMW CCA, or if there's some informal BMW group that is on Bimmerforums or even Facebook, and ask other BMW owners in your area.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/1/22 10:14 p.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

I believe you CAN diy the head r&r on an s50/52 (the E36 M3 motor), but because the cams are hollow and long - 6 cylinders - you have to be really careful to hold the cams in a very specific position while you slowly loosen the bearing caps. I believe there are flats on the cams as well as a specific BMW tool for this.

Maybe you can leave the cams in and remove the head if you use the tool? I'm not exactly sure on the procedure.

Slippery UberDork
5/1/22 11:46 p.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

Cams need to come out. 

You need to be careful when removing the cams, but its not rocket science. 

Source: I just did this a few months ago. 

The most difficult part of the whole process was placing the head in the block. Its heavy and given the angle of the engine its hard to hold and install. It feels like you are going to scratch the hell out of it if not careful. 

ddavidv UltimaDork
5/2/22 7:13 a.m.

When I sold my M3, a PPI supposedly caught a weeping head gasket. I saw no evidence but...

Looked into doing it myself. Geez, if the Germans can make something over-complicated they never miss an opportunity. Sold it as-was. Have also sworn off BMWs newer than E30s.

That job I would not entrust to a shop that doesn't specialize in BMWs.

buzzboy SuperDork
5/2/22 8:10 a.m.

I sent off a few emails to the closest recommended BMW shops in NC, 4 hours away.

I'm a little scared about the cams, little scared about the potential machine work, and aggravated by the idea that cylinder 6 sits under the cowl. Were it my VWBenz or my Jeep, I'd be doing this job myself.

I did explore selling with the blown HG. The car still runs and drives but drinks about a gallon of coolant per tank.

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners