My $700 V-12 8-Series Project Is Already a Nightmare

Broken bolts and lots of spilled brake fluid occupied most of my weekend.

image
Brian Silvestro

I found a non-running BMW 8-Series for sale while browsing Craigslist a few months ago. I bought it. The goal? Take it ice racing this winter. It took a bit of time and a good amount of cash to get the BMW started, but seeing that it had a V-12 and a manual transmission, it was worth the effort. The car now starts, but it desperately needed an oil change, and the brakes were toast. Simple, right? Not so much. I spent my entire weekend attempting to remedy those issues.

Things got... interesting.

A Simple Oil Change Turned Into a Nightmare

I figured I'd start off with the oil change. It's just a straightforward maintenance item I've done dozens of times before. Surely it would go off without a hitch.

I drained the used oil from the pan (it was definitely dirty, but free of any metal shavings, thankfully), but when I went to reinstall the drain plug, the head snapped off, leaving the rest of the bolt stuck inside the pan. That's what I get for reusing an old drain plug. (Top tip: don't do this.)

image
Brian Silvestro

After a bit of panic, I was able to push the remainder of the broken bolt into the pan, then fish it out with a magnet through the oil level sensor hole. The drain plug threads on the pan were stripped, but friend of R&T Mathias Rios had the bright idea to re-tap the hole so I could install a new bolt without worry. Crisis averted.

Brakes, Brakes, Brakes

When I drove the BMW around for the first time, the most worrying thing I noticed was the terrible brake pedal feel. It was spongey, and didn't actually produce any braking until right at the bottom of its travel. It was a combination of things: the pads and rotors were crusted together, and the fluid had some significant air pockets.

I replaced the pads and rotors first. Thankfully, I didn't break any retainer clips or caliper bolts, but getting everything loose took a lot of muscle (and some big hammers). The pads grew especially attached to their mounting points while this car was sitting, but eventually everything came apart. I'm pretty sure the calipers are still in working order, which is good. I'm not in the mood to find out how expensive 850i calipers are to rebuild or replace.

image
I forgot to take pictures of the old brakes coming off so here’s a photo of the newly installed rotor on the front left corner.
Brian Silvestro

The brake fluid bleed proved equally difficult, as the bleeder bolts needed a bunch of hard turning to get any fluid out—not fun considering how tightly packed the wheel wells are. I spilled a lot of fluid in the process, both in the engine bay and on my pants. Sidenote: I can't tell you how many nice articles of clothing I've destroyed working on cars.

A bunch of air bubbles came out of every corner, and by the time the fluid was bleeding clear, the pedal felt normal. Another thing crossed off the list.

The clutch pedal had a dead spot on the top of its travel, so I took the time to bleed the fluid out of that as well, which revealed even more bubbles in the system. Now the clutch has a full range of travel, and catches in a normal spot rather than right at the bottom. It's almost as if this 850i is a real, running vehicle.

So What Else Needs Doing?

A whole lot. The car is still sitting on 20-year old mismatched tires, so I'll have to source a set that can get me to and from ice races without trouble. Additionally, I have to get a set of studded tires to compete. There's also some sort of knocking sound whenever I move the car from a stop—I think it's just something near the wheels making contact with something else, but I haven't been able to figure that out yet.

The rear right window doesn't go down, and I'm not sure where to find a replacement motor. The interior still smells like bad gas because, well, I spilled a bunch of bad gas in it. Not sure what to do about that short of replacing the whole interior. There's a small coolant leak somewhere in front of the engine, but there's a sea of fan shroud plastic in the way of me identifying its source. Also, the rear-view mirror fell off the windshield. Need to glue that back on.

image
Fuel gauge now reads correctly. Nice!
Brian Silvestro

Some good news, though: The check engine light has gone away, and the fuel gauge now works. Not sure what I did to fix those, but they work now. I'll take it.

Next Steps

I'm probably going to register the car this week and drive it around to see how many more things go wrong. I'm sure there's still a bunch of stuff that needs fixing, and a proper on-road drive will reveal any major items that need addressing.

Stay tuned.