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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Introduction to Inspections

What are BMW inspections?

If you're new to BMWs, you'll hear a bunch about "Inspection I" and "Inspection II". These are essentially the same thing except the latter incorporates some more-costly items. Inspections and other services are performed when all five green LEDs of the service indicator have extinguished, or (roughly) every 18000 miles (for the E36 vintage car -- newer cars typically have longer service intervals).

Inspection I and II alternate (e.g. the first inspection is an Inspection I and occurs around 18K miles, the second inspection is an Inspection II and occurs at roughly 36K miles, the third inspection is an inspection I and occurs at 48K miles, etc.).

The interval between inspections is particularly relevant when BMW is paying for the inspection. The reason? They're a company focused on P&L and want to make sure you don't do Inspection I too early because then they might have to pay for Inspection II if it occurs under the 36K miles scheduled maintenance (recall that I said the inspections occur at roughly18K mile intervals). Therefore, the only thing you really get for "scheduled maintenance" is a few oil changes and an Inspection (about $600 worth of work at 2001 rates, provided your car has no major maintenance problems that aren't covered under warranty).

Here is an outline of what's covered in the inspections.

Inspection I (~$470 in 2003 dollars)


  • Change engine oil and filter
  • Check tranmission for leaks
  • Check rear axle for leaks
  • Check fuel tank, lines, and connections for leaks
  • Checking exhaust system, examine for leaks
  • Check power steering system for leaks; fluid level
  • Check brakes and replace if necessary; clean brake pad contact points in calipers, grease wheel centering hubs
  • Check steering for absence of play, condition of suspension track rods, front axle joints, steering linkage and joint disc
  • Check front control arm bushings
  • Check brake and clutch system connections and lines for leaks, damage, and incorrect positioning
  • Check for free movement parking brake cables; adjust if necessary
  • Check all tire pressures including spare; wear pattern; alignment if requested

Engine Compartment

  • Read out diagnostic system
  • Check cooling system/heater host connections for leaks; coolant level and protection level, add if necessary. Coolant must be replaced every three years starting from manufacturing date.
  • Check brake and clutch fluid reservoir; add fluid if necessary. Brake fluid must be replaced every two years starting from manufacturing date.
  • Check windshield waster fluid level and antifreeze protection; add if necessary
  • Check air conditioner for operation
  • Reset Service Indicator

Body/Electrical Equipment

  • Check battery electrolyte level and add distilled water if required
  • Perform battery load test.
  • Check listing system (headlights, foglights, parking, back-up, license plate, interior (including map reading lights), glove box, flashlight, illuminated mirrors, luggage compartment lights)
  • Check instrument panel and dashboard illumination
  • Check all warning/indicator lights, check control
  • Check turn signals, hazard warning flashers, brake lights, horns, headlight dimmer/flasher switch
  • Check wipers and washer system; wiper blades, washer jet positions
  • Check condition and function of safety belts
  • Oil hood, trunk/tailgate and door hinges. Grease hood, trunk and door latches. Check operation of all latches.
  • Check central locking/double lock.
  • Replace batteries for alarm remote controls in all vehicle master keys.
  • Replace microfilter
  • Check heater/air condition blower, rear window defogger.
  • Check rear view mirrors
  • Visual examine the SRS airbag units for torn cover, obvious damage or attachment of decals, decorations or accessories.
  • Activate automatic roll-over protection system (if equipped) via diagnostic link.

Inspection II (~$700 in 2003 dollars)

Includes all items of Inspection I, plus the following:

Engine Compartment

  • Replace spark plugs
  • Replace intake air cleaner element


  • Check thickness of parking brake linings
  • Check half-shafts for leaks at boots
  • Inspection body according to terms of rust-perforation warranty (must be performed at least every two years).
  • At every second Inspection II, check clutch disc for wear.