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Resurrecting an old 2002 - pitfalls, tips, and helpful hints

I've searched around and haven't seen a thread dedicated to the initial steps of resurrecting a 2002 that has been sitting/abandoned/undriven/unstarted for many years. (if there is such a thread, please link it here).  There are the 100 tips which are helpful, but somewhat dated  https://www.bmw2002faq.com/forums/topic/41562-light-reading-a-few-tips-myths-lies-truths-and-other-c/#comment-668762



For years we have seen new members appear with a car they've just bought and no experience on how to or where to start.  Most times, these threads receive lots of good advice on how the newbie should proceed, but then those threads become lost and we have to start the whole conversation over again. There are basic steps a new owner can proceed with to insure his new project doesn't bog down and I'd like to see a thread that catalogs those tips; starting here.  


Please feel free to add comments and direct tips to previous threads or, of course, the Articles Section for specific procedures  https://www.bmw2002faq.com/articles.html/technical-articles/


As an example, we have a few new members with early cars in various states of condition and the questions usually start with " what should I do first?"


I usually suggest the following.


Prep yourself with the basics:

  • Learn how to search FAQ ( this Article is old, but seriously folks, figure it out)  https://www.bmw2002faq.com/articles.html/faq-use/how-to-use-search-r171/
  • Buy a Haynes Manual and spend an evening reading through it so you'll know where to find the info when you need it
  • Equip your toolbox with the best tools you can afford (proper screwdrivers, metric wrenches, flashlight, telescoping magnet, feeler gauge set, etc...)
  • Use jack stands every time you are under the car
  • Have patience and a sense of humor




You just pushed it off the trailer into the driveway and the wife is "thrilled"...now what?

  • Clean it up...nothing kills motivation faster than a car that looks like crap
  • Vacuum the inside of all the mouse droppings, dirt, leaves, pine needles, blunts, stems and seeds... Wipe down all the vinyl and glass
  • Clean the engine bay...this may take several days of concerted effort, old greasy buildup won't surrender easily, but a clean engine is sooooo much more pleasant to work on
  • Clean the outside...air up the tires, wash and wax it. Washing by hand will allow you to see loose trim, missing screws, cracked window seals, etc... 



Step back and envision what it will look like when you are done.

  • Take stock of what is on the car and what is missing.  Make a list and prioritize the project's needs. (should you buy a $500 Petri wheel when the engine doesn't even run yet?)
  • Take good pictures of the engine bay, suspension, whatever it is you are working on.  It can save you from an "oh crap" moment when you're not sure how something goes back together
  • Compartmentalize your goals to keep from being overwhelmed and know that these projects take time to complete. 
  • Expect delays when parts you need are not available locally and it'll be a week before your web order will arrive. Spend the downtime addressing some other part of the project; but always accomplish something; even if it's simply zip-tieing loose wires under the dash; or maybe you can paint those rusty steel wheels?


For a car that hasn't run in a while.... fix the brakes and steering before you go anywhere

  • Jack it up as high as you can and place it on jackstands
  • Before removing the wheels, check for excessive play in the wheel bearings
  • Remove wheels and inspect every brake component. Bleed the brake/clutch hydraulics. Any wheel that doesn't bleed easily indicates that a soft line or wheel cylinder, or caliper needs replacing. If it leaks, repair/replace
  • Learn how to adjust the rear brakes and emergency brake...so simple and so important (Haynes manual has a good instructions as does the FAQ)
  • Repack any bearing that displayed excessive free-play (just do them all for peace of mind)
  • Inspect all suspension components for worn/cracked rubber bushings.  If it's loose, plan to replace it
  • Old, cracked tires? replace them  13" Kuhmos are what.. $50/each?
  • Is the exhaust rotted out? Is it hanging loose?
  • Always change all fluids unless the PO has good records that he'd recently done it, but double check.
  • Any oil or lube that you drain that is milky or strangely discolored, may indicate water contamination... Not good in any circumstance
  • Here's a good lube link https://www.bmw2002faq.com/forums/topic/99316-lube-specifications/#comment-276758
  • Engine oil and filter - you can't go wrong with 20w-50 with ZDDP additive ( I like Valvoline Racing oil) and a Mann or Mahle filter
  • Transmission fluid - drain it and replace with Redline MTL, or 85/140 mixed 2:1 with ATF, or straight 80W dino-lube
  • Differential fluid - drain it and replace with Redline 75/90, or 85/140 dino-lube


Fuel system

  • If the car has been been sitting a very long time, unplug and remove the sending unit, drain the gas tank, and inspect the inside of the tank for rust 
  • Change the fuel filter
  • Check fuel line hose clamps and replace any rubber fuel line that shows any sign of cracking, or leaking.
  • Not entirely necessary, but you can remove the top of the carb to check for gunk/debris in the fuel bowl which may give an indication of future running problems
  • You could also remove the idle jets and blast them with carb cleaner for good measure
  • Does the car have a mechanical fuel pump or an electric fuel pump? Inspect that it is functioning properly.



  • Remove the valve cover and inspect the valve train, looking for broken valve springs, rockers, etc... Is there a lot of sludgey-oil build up?
  • If you can turn the engine over, perform a valve adjustment https://www.bmw2002faq.com/articles.html/technical-articles/engine-and-drivetrain/valve-adjustment-for-bmw-m10-motor-r27/
  • It has been recommended for engines that have sat for many years that you pull the plugs and give each cylinder a shot of lubrication... some say diesel fuel, or ATF, or engine oil.  You are basically trying to lube the cylinder walls prior to turning the old engine over. Use the FAQ search to find out what you think works best for you.
  • With the valve cover off, set the engine to TDC per the mark on the camshaft and paint your timing marks on the lower pulley and/or the flywheel (check the Haynes manual for these locations.) You WILL thank yourself later when you are setting the timing with a timing light.
  • With the engine at TDC also confirm the static timing of the distributor.( Again the Haynes manual has description and pictures in the Ignition Section). This will insure that the initial startup goes well.



  • Replace plugs with new ones... NGK BP6ES seems to be the crowd favorite, or Bosch W7DC.  Gapped accordingly... 0.025 with points, or about 0.030 with electronic ignitor like Petronix
  • Inspect distributor cap and rotor for cracks. If you have points and condensor, install new and gap/dwell accordingly.
  • Check distributor shaft for excessive axial play (up and down)...worn shaft will make for erratic timing and poor running...something to think about once you are tuning the car up.
  • Check plug and coil wires.  Replace them if cracked
  • Inspect wiring at coil.  All connections should have tight, crimped, spade connections.  If anything has loose, electric tape...inspect it and replace with proper connections. This goes for ALL wiring. Any wiring you find with wads of electric tape should be suspect.


Start the engine

  • With a fresh battery (with good cables and clean connections), fresh gasoline, fresh oil and fresh ignition components... turn the key and crank the engine. If you've done all the prep work, hopefully it fires up! if not, you can start troubleshooting more easily now that you know you have replaced, set tolerances, and checked each item ahead of time.  Is there spark?  Is there fuel?


Cooling system

  • Drain radiator and block, remember to open the heater valve (turn the dash lever to hot).  The block drain is located on the passenger side of the block, behind the exhaust manifold, below the #3 and #4 exhaust ports... if I remember it's a 17mm bolt. If you remove the bolt and nothing comes out, it's blocked by old, crystalized coolant.  Poke it with a stubby screwdriver or wire to clean it out. You must drain the block, though.
  • Refill cooling system with 50/50 antifreeze and distilled water.  
  • The 2002 is notorious for developing an air bubble in the cooling system after draining the system. When refilling, elevate the front of the car, leave the radiator cap loose and squeeze the upper radiator hose to insure there are no air bubbles.  All this while the engine is running.



This is certainly not a comprehensive list but I hope it helps those looking for a way to get started on their new projects.  There are so many topics and tips... I hope others will chime in with their favorites; like cleaning all the grounds and light bulb connections because the blinkers don't work.


Have a great weekend,

Ed Z

Cedar Park, Texas





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What a great article, wish this was around when I got my car 5 months ago.  I'll still reference and this will be useful when I pick up my next 2002 =)

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Good article concise with alot of great insight !   Did not read word for word but agree with approach.  Another key is to power wash undercarriage, sand off surface rust, seal and treat !   Nothing more of a turn off the rusty blemishes


Jack stands must do tip ! a better a lift (portable lifts not expensive)  and some good safety glasses... start with safety !!


If more then surface rust find a good body guy who can repair rust 


Then start with a plan on car that gets you to your intended goal without "redoing" efforts.   If plan is for nice drive a different approach then a near perfect car with sound deadening, new interior, updated engine, AC, 5 speed etc.


If your plan is a very impactful so much cool stuff can be done to modernize and upgrade car when it is a shell or near shell that are either expensive or impossible to do on a finished car ?   Plan your work, work your plan !







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As I though about my plan and made

a list, I found your well written article.

thanks for your hard work.

any new thoughts in the last year ?

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Nice write-up Ed.  I just did all that stuff on a Volvo 122 I resurrected for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Kickoff Rallye on July 1.   As usual there was "mission creep", but the car did well.  Did the same 4 years ago on my '75 Malaga.  I should have taken the 2002 to Pittsburgh this year, as the 2002 was the featured marque for the event, as I'm sure you are all aware.



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