General Question

ashxmy_lovee's avatar

Heads on a car.. How easy are they to buy & replace?

Asked by ashxmy_lovee (161points) May 9th, 2010

I found a ‘93 BMW that’s in perfect condition, being sold by owner for $1250.
The only problem is that it needs new heads.
How hard will it be to get the heads?
Where can I get them?
How much will they cost?
Would a garage be willing to replace them?
Anything else I need to know?

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17 Answers

Scooby's avatar

Try a breakers yard, they may well have them on the shelf :-/ sounds like a lot of money for a 93 BMW! ?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Um… I’m curious here. I got the first part of your Q, where you said that the ‘93 BMW is in perfect condition… so the price you’re about to pay not be too bad.

But a car in “perfect” condition wouldn’t need the engine head/s replaced. So, what else is wrong with this “perfect” car?

I’d give the same answer as @Scooby as to where to look, though.

WestRiverrat's avatar

A BMW for $1250? I would not consider buying unless a qualified BMW Mechanic looked it over first. Even if you have to pay for the inspection, it will save you TONS of headaches.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I’d honestly recommend getting the car checked by a mechanic before buying it (I recommend this for anyone buying a used car). If the heads need to be replaced there is a possibility that there is other damage to the engine as well.

As far as where to look, you can call around to dealerships, mechanics, and junk yards. Once you do that, you’ll have to find someone willing to do the work for you (so call around and ask how much that will cost as well).

cockswain's avatar

I would guess you could probably get the head(s) for a couple hundred bucks or so from a junkyard. You’ll need to get it planed at a machine shop, then also buy a head gasket kit from a parts store or the dealer. I’m assuming you can’t do the repair yourself, but if you called around I bet you could find a place that would do the job for you for roughly $750–1000. All told, I’d plan on it being maybe $1500 worth of work. Your call if that’s worth it.

One final point is ensure it actually needs a new head. Like @Seaofclouds suggested, have a mechanic thoroughly inspect before doing anything.

chamelopotamus's avatar

BMW parts are rare and expensive. Its a glamorous thing to brag about, like an achievement almost: having a BMW. But if its gonna cost you money you dont need to spend, its not an appreciable investment. If it’ll get you from point A to point B, then thats all you need.

ShiningToast's avatar

Replacing the heads is a major repair, and will be relatively expensive.

I wouldn’t buy it, especially if a mechanic hasn’t looked at it yet.

blueknight73's avatar

replacing the head, is a VERY expensive and time consuming job. only for the professional mechanic, not a guy just used to changing his own oil

lilikoi's avatar

When heads blow, people usually junk the car because it is an expensive, major fix. Most people would give the car away for free. Also, there has to be a reason why the head gasket blew. There could be a slew of underlying problems that caused the engine to overheat and blow the gasket that have not been fixed. On top of everything BMW parts are not cheap or easy to come by. A new BMW may be a status symbol but an old BMW is a heap of junk. Walk away!

What you should do is look for a running car with current tags (no back taxes) and clear title. Start from there. Don’t even consider buying a car with major problems like this if you don’t even know what a head is. You won’t want to fix it yourself and you won’t like having to pay extra and wait longer to get a running car. It is inconvenient.

I don’t agree that you should always take a used car to a mechanic, especially a special dealer mechanic, before buying. It depends whether or not you know what you are looking at. I bought my 1970 VW for less than what you’re about to pay around 2008 and it still runs fine. Just did a self inspection before buying. When you’re only paying a grand, you don’t stand to lose much anyway if it turns out to be a lemon.

Finally, when you call this car “perfect” it sounds like you’re referring to the aesthetic. That’s the last thing that matters when you’re trying to get from A to B. Be practical.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I have to agree; this is a major repair on a 17 year old car. Usually when heads need replacing, it means that the engine was probably not well maintained, in terms of oil changes on time, antifreeze, transmission fluid. Even though it looks nice inside, it’s likely that the person only had it serviced when something broke, and skipped the routine maintenance.

I would pass on this one; it will be nothing but a drain on your money.

Tomfafa's avatar

What can be wrong with the heads? On their own they are almost bulletproof… it can be a million other things… heads are bad, tails are worst! SKIP this one.

jerv's avatar

A full engine swap would likely be easier and cheaper. For a BMW, that might get to be more $$$ than it’s worth. Now, for a car like mine, I could get a new engine installed for well under $1000, possibly as low as $500 mostly labor but that is because Toyotas. Hondas, and old VWs are cheaper to begin with.

And I must saw that BMWs do not age well. Some cars get better with age. Many Japanese cars and pre-1980 American rigs just run and run and run and run and run and run. BMWs tend to turn into money pits.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

There you go; you have the definitive answer now. If it’s a car Q and @jerv has answered it, then no more answer is necessary. (Just don’t ask him to run an economy for you, okay? Nuff said.)

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I agree with @jerv. Except for Mercedes diesels, European cars become money-pits after about 10 years. NF

jerv's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Don’t forget the diesel VW Rabbits ;)

I forgot to mention the last jobs I got estimates for. Bear in mind that replacing the head is about the same as replacing a head gasket as far as labor costs go (it’s pretty much the same job except that you re-use the same head when you replace just the gasket) plus whatever the head costs.
Just the labor alone will generally run 8–16 hours, and at the rates many garages charge these days, that’s $500–1600 plus parts, which can vary. This place charges $650–900 for just the head, so we’re already over a grand. Then add in another few hundred for whatever else may be wrong with the engine….

Can we say, “Not happening!”?

Tomfafa's avatar

Beemers, in particular, are so finicky! To the point of being a pain. I never owned one but I know some who did.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Don’t buy this car unless you are a car/BMW hobbyist.

We could use a lot more information about the car also.

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