Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andy
Whilst I am only 22, I consider myself a relatively experienced driver and currently own my third car, a 1986C BMW 316.

Unlike my first two cars, a Vauxhall Cavalier followed by a Honda Integra, the BMW is rear-wheel drive.

I have driven the BMW under 1,500 miles, so am not totally used to it, but there are times on my 22 mile drive to and from work, predominantly through the countryside, when I feel as though I am losing the rear end. Please note that I do not feel this is because I am driving like a boy racer, as the symptoms occur even when I go around roundabouts at 20mph.

I think that this is caused by accelerating out of corners, which I always believed was the correct driving technique, and so, whilst the front wheels are turning slightly, the back wheels are attempting to propel the car in a different direction. Hence, the feeling that I am losing the back end.

This normally causes the car to "twitch" and, whilst at the moment I still feel in overall control of the car, I am concerned that when the weather conditions deteriorate over the coming months, I may lose control.

I would really appreciate genuine advice on whether this is "normal" with a BMW or, if not, whether there are any steps I can take to cure the problem. For example, in accordance with the handbook, the front tyres are inflated to 27psi and the rear tyres to 30 psi. Should I alter the pressures? Also, whilst the tyres are all in good condition, three are made by Michellin and one is a budget tyre, put on by a previous owner. Given that I work for the NHS, and am still riddled by student debt, is it imperative that I replace the budget tyre?

I would really not appreciate advice that I should slow down, or by a cheap foreign car which is very popular on the icy roads in Russia, or even that I should link a tracker system to my ambulance driving friends. ;-)

Thank you very much.

Yours

Andy
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Ian (cape town)
consider the fuel tank.
That tanks holds a LOT of juice (70litres, I recall), so when a half-empty tank starts sloshing about, it can have a nasty effect.
Strangely, I've just been slagging off 316's on another thread!
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - mike harvey
Andy, It sounds to me as though you may have a problem with the car. You have checked the obvious - tyre pressures, and even with a budget tyre it should not behave in that way. There may be wear in the suspension bushes, something out of line, or a worn damper or two. In any event, unless you are competent yourself, get it checked out by someone you trust. It will be cheaper and more convenient than having an accident! RWD is different to drive, but you should not notice it until pushing a bit.(Other than a lack of torque steer of course)
regards,
Mike
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Stuart B
Andy might I also suggest a session on a skid pan so you "really" know what a rwd car feels like when its on/approaching the limit.

I would agree with the above that 20 mph, unless it is a very greasy roundabout seems a bit slow for breakaway, unless of course its a case of the Needell's, ie quick steering input assoc with a handy boot of throttle. I assume by your post that this is not really it just mentioned it to cover other possibilities.
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Brian
Find a supermarket carpark on a Sunday and experiment with different power settings whilst cornering. There is no need to go mad, but some tight turns, as if for a roundabout, should establish if you really are near the breakaway point.
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andy
Thank you very much for the responses so far.

Ian, the point about the fuel tank is a good one. I think it holds 50 litres and I do wait until the tank is nearly empty before filling it right up each time. But why would the problem be specific to, firstly, a BMW and, secondly, a 316?

(Am actually coming to Cape Town in December to begin travelling around Africa. Will look out for the any other trilby wearers in the internet cafes...!)

With regard to the other responses, I am at a loss in deciding whether there is genuinely a problem with the car, which sailed through its MOT about 1,000 miles ago, for what little that is worth, or whether I am just accelerating too early when exiting corners? Waiting lists to reduce, you know.

Any other thoughts?

Thanks again

Yours

Andy

P.S. I have actually been instructed and driven on a skid pan at the Police driving school in Hendon but not in a rear wheel drive car. I was also too young and inexperienced to really gain a substantial benefit from it. But, Stuart, how does one go about booking a skid pan session privately, and what sort of costs are involved? Do you use your own car a la track days? The police car I drove was heavily modified and protected. Failing that, I'll have to wait until Rutland Water freezes over...
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Ian (cape town)
The three shape in general. Because (a) the tank (and thus the slosh) is right next to the rear wheels
and (b) when NOT full, there is no weight pushing on the driven wheels.
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Phil Goodacre
Andy, a rear wheel drive car will react differently to a front wheel drive, particularly a BMW 3 series. I have driven plenty of them over the last 8 years and they can all, to some degree, display the tendencies that you describe.
The budget tyre will make a difference and you should change it. What's the spare like? You say that it 'feels' like it is twitching at the back but do you have to correct it? The chassis is good at letting you know what is going on and in my experience, when the rear does break away, it is not a sudden snap sideways, more a gradual loss of traction that is controllable on the throttle. Try carrying a little more speed into corners with light braking to shift the weight forwards before you turn in. Stuart B and Brian are right in suggesting experimenting somewhere safe, where you can neither damage anyone else or the car if you do lose it. Also worth having the suspension checked out for worn bushes although I've never encountered any problems with cars with mileages up to 75k. I think it is a combination of the switch from front to rear wheel drive and the budget tyre. Stick with it and let us know how you get on.
Oh, and learn to live with the labels. Poser, Middle lane owners club member, hairdresser etc.
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Martyn
Actually I think that you will find that this is a trait. The old 3 series was always pretty tail happy and the 316 has skinny tyres.
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andy
Phil

Thank you very much.

Spare is a Pirelli or Good Year and in similarly good condition to the others although not new. So, I guess it would be worth changing in any case.

With regard to whether I have to correct it, this is where things become difficult to explain... This problem has so far happened under a dozen times and, usually, I realise after I have corrected the car as the weight shifts back into the centre, which suggests that my response must be a natural reaction. I am not consciously feeling that I am losing the back end and taking steps to rectify the problem. At the moment, the feeling is rather like that on a rollercoaster, whereby the sensation is actually, dare I say, fun once I realise it is over and that I am not in danger.

The main problem is simply one of confidence in the car, especially as my drive to and from work is through the country and winter is approaching.

The car has done 98k so I will have the suspension bushes checked.

Oh, and with regard to the labels, I can take flak just as well as the next man, but working for the NHS AND driving a BMW... Pass me the number of David W's therapist...

Cheers

Andy
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andy
Martyn and Ian

Thank you, this reassures me. Will find an empty car park (armed with a print-out of these threads in case the Police arrive) and really get to know the capabilities of the car. Then, in future, I will drive accordingly. At least I know it is not just me.

Yours

Andy

P.S. Do you think that BMW would like to make a television advertisement about a BMW's near perfect weight distribution and balance using my navy blue C registration instead of the currently featured silver 3 series? I am sure we could come to some arrangement.

Thanks for all of the advice. Thread terminated.
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - David W
No I'm sorry Andy you can'y just terminate the thread when I've been slaving over a response for an hour. The therapist says stresses of uncompleted tasks, and therefore posts, are very damaging.

Everyone's has got it about right, Phil G in particular I would say. My order of checking this out would be....

At the weekend jack up each corner in turn, support safely, and push/pull/twist the wheels to ensure there is no play in the suspensiom. Any amount enough to cause rear end breakaway should be noticeable.

Get the car checked on a four wheel tracking set-up, long shot but if it was out of line this could affect the handling.

Consider the tyre issue. If the tyres are 165 or smaller they will not give a great feeling of security. 185, or perhaps 175, is ideal for this car. Tyre make is important. That budget one that doesn't match needs to be junked. These cars are sensitive to the behaviour you describe and an odd tyre is asking for trouble. These Michelins, I wonder what type/age? Some old Michelins seem to harden up when down to about 3 or 4 mm, they can be skittish on a wet/greasy/diesel covered road.

I don't think anyone has mentioned shock absorbers. We now tend to think shock absorbers last the life of the car, or at least 'till they fail an MOT. The old static bump test is pathetic in replicating the behaviour of a unit with heated oil in running conditions. I bet most are going on a downward curve from 50,000mls + and any that fail an MOT have probably been dangerous for thousands of miles. Unless you can see the rears have been changed recently they could make a huge difference.

And the last point is that I would echo the points above about these cars being prone to feeling edgy whan nipping along on less than perfect surfaces, at this time of year in particular. A while back there was a thread giving the RWD vs FWD issue a real bashing. I seemed somewhat out in the cold saying, for most average on-road motoring, FWD was the choice these days. It is so fail-safe.

Look at some of those Police-Camera-Action car chase videos, change the Astras the boys pinch for your 316 and they'd be in a hedge by the second corner.

Skidpans are fine for your roundabout breakaways but if you're twitching at 60mph plus you need a day out with Tiff!

Stuart B please check above from competition driving angle.

David
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Stuart B
Andy,
I am thinking of a refresher ona skid pan too as in my snow experience thread.

Was thinking about Castle Combe but its a greasy rink which I've done before but in rwd, and now fancied trying one of those cradle affairs with fwd, funny isn't its the exact mirror image of your situation. I think they have cradles at Silverstone and I was looking for other schools.

Actually that might be a venue for a Backroomers day out to link to another thread?

I am sure Castle Combe you can book individual sessions, the last one I did was on a council one in Sheffield, don't know if it is still operational though.

Question to Carole Adams or any other steel city resident,
Is Lightwood driver training centre still going?
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andy
David

Forget the therapist, Mystic Meg could not have read my situation any better. So much of what you say rings so very true and I will certainly be following your order of checking the problem out, in conjunction with the above information.

By the way, the reason that I wrote "Thread terminated" is simply because, for me, the forum had served its intended purpose fantastically. I had, what I believe, was a genuine problem and received very useful advice as to how to solve it. The point I was subtlely trying to make was that so many threads continue aimlessly, degenerating all the while, and I simply wanted to terminate this one with its purpose duly served. Little did I know, some extra pearls of wisdom were in the pipeline... So, I have decided to allow your post but, for next time, please remember that it is my ball and I'm going home cos' it's not fair...

Thanks very much

Andy
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - David W
.........continue aimlessly, degenerating all the while, and I simply wanted to terminate this one with its purpose duly served.

Errr....by the time I've reached that stage you'll be a Consultant, go easy on me.

David
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Greaser pv
Suspension bushes and / or top shock absorber mounts but they are fairly tail happy anyway
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - John Slaughter
Andy

I ran a 1990 E30 series 318 for a number of years, which had std. 195/65 tyres, first Uniroyal and then Goodyear. Mileage on sale was 65k or so.

Now, they do feel different to a FWD, and have a reputation for being tail happy, but really that's only at the limit, when they can let go rather suddenly. The car should feel stable in normal cornering, and it shouldn't feel as if the back end is always on the point of sliding. Yes, mine would slide if provoked in the wet when the Uniroyals were well worn, but you had to try.

That said they don't feel as stable as the later E46 (I've a 323 Coupe with the M Tec suspension), and in fact the suspension on my 318 didn't feel that stiff - either springs or dampers, but it never gave cause for concern.

I believe the advice given to check the springs dampers bushes etc is sound. I believe the effects of age/mileage on the suspension is causing the problem, plus perhaps some unfamiliarity with RWD.

Regards

JS
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andrew Moorey (Tune-Up Ltd.)
But surely we cannot be talking about a BMW??? The ultimate driving machine with perfect balance????
NURSE!!!!!!
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - ACG
Knew you'd be here !!!

ACG
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - David m
mate get decent tyres all round
it sounds silly with this comparison but i drive an m5 bmw i bought it on continental sports i think they might have been old tyres that the rubber had hardened on but i had the same problem i was being outcornered by fiestas (and not even xr2s!!!!)anyway the car was just sliding everywhere i changed the tyres for goodyear eagle f1s and different car before it was lethal tyres do degrade replace them for peace of mind rmember if it makes the difference between missing a child or hitting them then they are cheap no matter what the price
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - David m
mate get decent tyres all round
it sounds silly with this comparison but i drive an m5 bmw i bought it on continental sports i think they might have been old tyres that the rubber had hardened on but i had the same problem i was being outcornered by fiestas (and not even xr2s!!!!)anyway the car was just sliding everywhere i changed the tyres for goodyear eagle f1s and different car before it was lethal tyres do degrade replace them for peace of mind rmember if it makes the difference between missing a child or hitting them then they are cheap no matter what the price
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andrew Hamilton
I remember driving a 1.8L auto marina and found the cornering at any speed stable but it just seemed to rear hop as it bounced round the corner. Guess BLs cart axle suspension had something to do with it.
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Andrew
Andrew,

Skidding is caused by one or combination of 3 factors attributed to the driver.

1. Excess speed for the prevailing conditions.
2. Excess braking.
3. Excess steering.

There are of course road surface conditions and contamination but one of the above factors will be contributory.

The application of power too early in a rear wheel car when coming off a bend can induce what is called oversteer i.e. the rear wanting to overtake the front. So its a balance of steering and light throttle at the right time.
You are obviously rightly concerned about this and the tips on tyres, bushes, and shock absorbers should be looked into.
I know this will cause some smiles but is your seat secure and supporting? If it.s loose you can get that same feel in the seat of your pants as you do when the back end is twitching!!!!!!!!( Thats the cars back end). Is the tyre pressure guage you are using accurate?

There is of course no substitute for a bit of practice in a suitable location.


Andrew
Re: Losing the rear end of a BMW? - Brian
In slippery conditions when I was doing a highish car mileage I used to keep a couple of large bundles of old newspapers in the boot to improve the traction.
 

Value my car