BMW E30 1984-1991 3-series 318, 325, 325e, 325i Hood Strut

The hood strut on the 1984 to 1991 3-series BMW (a.k.a. the E30) is an affordable item that’s easy to install even if you know very little about cars.

And yet, this part can make a big difference. If this part is defective, then the hood doesn’t stay open.

Scenario: You open the hood to check the oil, and the hood falls on your head. This can’t be a good thing.

On the passenger side of the engine compartment is a small black part that looks like a miniature bicycle pump. It is a foot in length or so. Internal pressure in this part keeps the hood in position, when it’s open.

As the years go by, some of these units start to leak and the internal pressure decreases. A good informal test that I use is to hold one of these in my hand and press the other end on a table, sort of like I’m ceremonially about to fall down on my sword. If my upper body weight is enough to compress the part then it doesn’t have enough internal pressure. If I have to use my ab muscles to push forward and down onto the part so as to have it collapse, then it has enough internal pressure.

I’d guess that (on average) three out of four parts that I personally come across in E30 cars are iffy or worse.

To remove the part, open the hood and prop it open with a stick or have someone hold it open for you. Use a flat-head screwdriver to slide the retaining clip off each of the two ends, and then at each end, pull the strut off its mounting rod.

The main things I can think of that might go wrong are:

  • You stab yourself with the screwdriver
  • You stab the car with the screwdriver
  • The clip flies into your eye
  • The clip flies away so that it’s hard to find
  • You bend the clip and make it unusable

Installation is simply the reverse of the removal process, but before you remove your part, remember which side of the strut points forward.

We sell these parts (with original BMW quality) at $15 each. I like to individually test each one with my ab-muscle test. Regardless, when you get the part, it’s guaranteed to be good enough. If by your standards, it’s not good enough, then you get a full refund and I’ll pay for shipping in both directions.

When I have the clips in stock, I also like to include two used OK-condition clips for free. That way, if you break or lose yours, you’re still OK. As far as I can tell, both clips are identical.

At $15, this might be an example where the used parts is not price-competitive, or might be but it doesn’t look like it. New prices for this part average about $20.  $19 one place, $28 at another, $17 at another.  At the time of this writing, Gutenparts has them for $12, Pelican Parts for $11.  The buying decision becomes whether a used  original BMW quality part is a better deal than a new not-made-by-BMW part.  I can see merit to either approach.



Fuel Hose Rupture Escapade

While driving my 1987 BMW 325, I noticed a smell of gasoline.  I figured it was a leak, but I had no tools with me, so I planned to keep going and fix it when I got to my destination.

When I could see the fuel gauge descend, I became very worried.  The car had been parked for two years, and rubber tends to not age gracefully.  I pulled into a gas station, peeked underneath and saw fuel dripping onto the concrete — not good.  I opened the hood and saw fuel spraying from the high-pressure hose that connects the “T” to the fuel rail.

I limped the car to a nearby O’Reilly auto parts store, where a friendly salesperson lent me a screwdriver which I used to remove the bad fuel line, and for good measure also the similar one that led from the “T” to the cold start injector.  I showed them both to the salesperson, who sold me two replacement hoses, cut to the right length. The relevant size is 7.9 mm, which I assume refers to the inside diameter.

I also bought a thin-bladed screwdriver able to undo the small screws in small hose clamps, and a set of four replacement small hose clamps — all for less than $20.  I replaced the fuel hoses, noticing that the ones I’d just bought were marked for use in fuel-injected cars, and the ones I’d just replaced were marked as NOT for use in fuel-injected cars.  I don’t know who had installed them, but I don’t have many kind thoughts about their professionalism.

With the leak fixed, I was on my way again, but it occurred to me that a nice addition to my emergency roadside kit would be the sort of sharp knife that can slice through this sort of fuel hose.

It also seems like a good idea to have the correct lengths of hose as needed for the various parts that can rupture at some point.   I count four in the engine compartment:

  • From the metal inbound fuel line near the bottom of the driver’s side firewall area to the “T” atop the valve cover
  • From the “T” atop the valve cover to the cold start injector
  • From the “T” atop the valve cover to the fuel rail
  • From the fuel pressure regulator to the metal outbound fuel line near the bottom of the driver’s side firewall area

Probably, the fuel pump and fuel filter area have some more hoses.

I’d make a point of keeping the thin-bladed flat-blade screwdriver in the car, to undo the small hose clamps that go around the fuel hoses.

It seems like a good idea to have a couple of spare small hose clamps handy, in case one or two are destroyed in the process of being removed.

This was a time when I regretted not having a fuel extinguisher handy; the fuel was spraying very close to the exhaust manifold and I consider myself lucky that the car didn’t catch fire.  I trunk-mounted unit would be a good idea.

My hands were soaked with gasoline by the time the work was done, and a pair of vinyl gloves would have prevented much or all of that.

Had the longer fuel lines ruptured, I’d have been lying on the ground, peering up at the place where the rubber fuel lines attach to the metal fuel lines.  So, a large towel to lie on would have been nice.  Also, safety glasses and a flashlight could have been helpful.  I’ve seen someone experience gasoline being sprayed into their eyes, and it’s not something I plan to experience myself.

Sometimes rubber can be very stubborn to remove, and hot water poured over it can change all that.  Today, while struggling to free the ruptured hose, I seriously considered going to a nearby pub and ordering a hot tea to go, without any sugar, milk or tea in it.  The hot water would have made the rubber much more cooperative.

If I’d had a sharp knife handy, I could have had cut open the old hose at the point where it it’s stuck, thus making it easier to yank off.

Some spare hose clamps and additional fuel hose would be a good addition to my workshop inventory.

As a preventative maintenance item, it seems wise to replace these fuel lines every few years.