Home BMW Repair BMW Z3 Service Manual: 1996-2002

Bimmer - November 2005
Bimmer - November 2005

Review of BMW Z3 Service Manual: 1996-2002 and BMW 5 Series Service Manual: 1997-2002 from Bimmer - November 2005

Bentley releases service manuals for Z3s, E39 5 Series

Once upon a time, BMW sold paper repair manuals that could be ordered through any dealership parts department. Charmingly characteristic of BMW in that era, they were sold under separate part numbers for the pages of text, the German-sized four-ring binder and even the plastic dividers between the parts group numbers. You had to find and order three part numbers to put one manual together. And even then, it didn't contain torque specifications, electrical troubleshooting information, operating fluid specifications or any specifications at all-you had to order a separate "Specifications Manual" to get that information. This apparently made perfect sense to the Germans. To us, it was and is more than a little infuriating.

Worse still, BMW has considered service information to be proprietary since the early 1990s, though the company has recently (and quietly) offered some electronically formatted information for current models on its technical web site (www.bmw-tis.net). But gone are the days when we could take a paper factory service manual and lay it on the work bench.

If you remember those big blue four-ring binders, you're probably well aware that Bentley Publishing (www.bentleypublishers.com, 617-547-4170) started producing BMW service manuals around the same time the factory cut off the supply. Bentley manuals have been a godsend ever since.

Two new Bentley manuals have just been released. The Bentley Z3 Service Manual, 1996-2002 covers all Z3s, M coupes and M roadsters, including S54 powered variants. The Bentley 5 Series Service Manual, 1996-2002 is so large it's in two volumes, representing an interesting study in BMW's ever-increasing complication: While the Bentley E28 manual is 30mm thick and the E34 manual is 36mm thick, the two E39 manuals, combined, measure 112mm thick!

While no service manual is perfect, the Bentley books far surpass their competitors. They have become a staple for independent BMW service professionals and owners alike: Even shops with a subscription to the BMW website often have Bentley manuals for quick reference?or when they want to lay a real book on the work bench.

Bentley manuals are broken down by vehicle system, and they contain torque specifications and electrical diagrams. Most do-it-yourselfers are looking for basic maintenance how-to instructions for tune-ups, cylinder head removal, fluid changes, water pump and fuel pump replacement, door panel removal, brakes, shocks, component locations and clutch job information. These areas are all well-covered regardless of model.

We found the E39 manual excellent for routine maintenance and repairs, and its electrical diagrams are indispensable for hardcore snooping. We were also impressed that the Z3 manual covered convertible top replacement and adjustments, though we didn't find any instructions on how to replace a convertible top's plastic window.

Neither do Bentley manuals delve into aftermarket solutions for factory problems, such as the UUC Motorwerks clutch pedal linkage bushings that cure the dreaded squeak, nor do they tell you how to get around the need for "special BMW tools." They also seem to follow the "party line" on things like lifetime-fill lubricants, which are so universally disdained by technicians that it would be nice to at least see some discussion of the dispute itself.

Unfortunately for home mechanics, no Bentley manual can really help all that much with electronic diagnosis. Unless you have BMW service equipment, some elements of this task are simply not possible on modern cars like the E39. That sort of work is increasingly becoming the exclusive domain of paid professional BMW technicians, dealer or independent. Nonetheless, if you are technically savvy and have a good tool collection, Bentley manuals can save you a lot of money on BMW maintenance and repair. And if they don't answer your questions, you can always e-mail TechQ&A!
?Mike Miller

Review of BMW Z3 Service Manual: 1998-2002 and BMW 5 Series Service Manual: 1997-2002 from Bimmer - November 2005

Review of BMW Z3 Service Manual: 1998-2002 and BMW 5 Series Service Manual: 1997-2002 from Bimmer - November 2005, pages 16, 18.