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E46 3 Series BMW Wear Items List

It seems like it was just yesterday that we waited with baited breath for the succeessor the wildly popular E36 3 series to be unveiled. The 1999 model year brought North America the E46 series coupes, convertibles, and sedans. The E46 M3 did not arrive stateside until 2001. The leap from E36 to E46 was an evolutionary one, and not the wholesale chassis redesign that marked the arrival of the E36. As such, those familiar with the E36's underpinnings will not have a hard time making the transition to do-it-yourself maintenance and repair on the E46 3 sereis. On a less positive note, many of the minor issues found with used E36 models also ring true for the E46 cars, as the engine, chassis, and suspension designs are similar. Here are a few common E46 BMW 323ci, 323i, 325ci, 325i, 328ci, 328i, 330ci, 330i wear items.

Lower Control Arm Bushings Typical symptoms for torn or cracked lower control arm bushings are front toe changes during cornering, vague or rubbery steering, and vibration felt through the steering when braking from speeds of 60 mph or more. The best fix for this is to upgrade to M3 lower control arm bushings, which do not significantly compromise ride quality while lasting longer and giving better steering feel plus eliminating these symptoms.

Tie Rods If your E46 BMW is exhibiting steering shimmy (geez- who would have thought BMW's would STILL do this...those of you who have ever owned E24 or E28 cars know what I mean!), clunking during steering input and inability to hold proper alignment, your tie rods are probably worn out. Replace the ball joint boots at the same time for peace of mind. Again- check Ebay for complete inner and outer tie rod assemblies. Cheaper for the whole thing from independent parts sellers than for just one componenet at the dealership!

Worn out Shocks and StrutsAn E46 BMW 3 series with 40k on it could probably use a fresh set of shocks and struts, and the stock factory BMW dampers are junk by 60k. A lot of people who bought the car new or close to new don't notice the difference since the deterioration is gradual. Worn shocks and struts exhibit symptoms like diving under braking and acceleration, excessive lean, and suspension compression during cornering, and a bouncy and uncomfortable ride. If your shocks are leaking oil externally, there's a major clue. I recommend going with either Bilstein or Koni brand components when replacement times comes. You can do this repair yourself with the aid of a spring compressor tool, which can be rented from most large auto parts stores. Be careful and follow instruction carefully! This is a good time to replace oem springs with something a bit more sporting, especially if your E46 3 series does not have the factory sport suspension package.

Worn Swaybar Links If the swaybar endlinks are fatigued, handling is comrpomised. A telltale sign is a mettallic click sound. Sloppy handling as a result of this, albeit less than composed feeling, is not inherently dangerous.

Torn Rear Trailing Arm Bushings aka RTABs Just like the E36, E46 BMW 3 series cars are susceptible to the rear trailing arm, or RTAB, failure. Even worse, since E46 cars are heavier, the RTABs tend to wear faster on the E46. Excessive tire wear and or strangle cornering behavior from the rear end indicates worn bushings, and this can happen within the 45k mark. Don't put off replacing them as neglect could lead to a torn rear subframe and ugly repair bills. There are a number of companies selling limiting shims to be used in conjunction with new stock bushings. This seems to be the most effective repair and guard against further damage.

Torn Rear Shock Mounts Torn or destroyed rear shock mounts, or RSMs will cause an audible clunk during any sort of suspension movement. Worst case scenario is tearing right through the trunk carpeting into the passenger cabin! Keep your eyes peeled for sloppy handling and rear suspension play that indicates rear shock mount issues.

Torn Subframe and Subframe Bushings are another item that could lead to subframe failure. Listen for strange clunks and other noises emanating from the bakc of the car. You must catch this in time lest it lead to big repair bills for subframe repair and welding. Now to be fair, subframe and subframe bushing problems most commonly manifest themselves in higher mileage and autocross or tracked cars.

Torn or Cracked Transmission Mounts If your E46's transmission mounts are cracked, torn, or worn, you could accidentally downshift into the wrong gear and cause an overrev that seriously damages your BMW's engine! Worn transmission mounts allow excess transmission movement. Look for hard shifting, notchy shifty, or forced shifting when cornering, and or muddy shifter feel. This is an inexpensive preventative maintenance repair that will make your car shift better than ever if you do it before it causes a real problem.

Ripped or Failed Guibo or Flex Disc is something that happens to high mileage or hard-driven BMWs of just about all generations, not just the E46. How do you know when your Guido (also called the flex disc) is shot? Step on the gas, and if aceleration will be preceded with a loud clunk as the guibo bolts bind together, yep you need to replace this item!

Dirty Automatic Transmission Fluid or Clogged Filter can cause upshift and downshift hesitation as well as hard shifting. Make sure your E46 has been maintained according to the Factory recommendations outlined in the car's owners manual.

Water Pump Failure caused by bearing or impeller failure disables the cooling system and can destroy your E46's engine. Unlike the E36, this generation does not seem susceptible to the impeller shattering, but all cars water pumps eventually wear out. A good rule of thumb is to replace the water pump every 75k. Shut the car off if the temperature gauge needle ever climbs above the 3/4 mark. This is the only sure way to prevent extensive and expensive engine damage. Unless of course, you want to see what a warped or cracked head looks like!

Cracked Radiator Necks still happen to 3 series BMW models because BMW still uses plastic radiator tanks. The radiator neck plastic turns brittle and cracks with age. By 100k, your E46 should have had its cooling system inspected and the tank should be replaced.

Leaky valve cover gaskets cause a burning oil smell that could indicate a leaky valve cover gasket. If the condition continues unchecked, oil can seep into the spark plug holes and damage the ignition coils, resulting in costly replacement. Replacement of this inexpensive gasket is a good idea when changing sparkplugs as the coilpacks will already be out.

O2 Sensor failure means poor mileage, poor idle and flat spots in the power curve. Even if your car isn't throwing a check engine light, they may not be performing optimally. BMW recommends replacing the O2 sensors every 100k miles. Have you chipped your E46? (rather, 'Sharked' it)? Expect a shorter lifetime for your new oxygen sensor.

Oil Seperator Failure seems to occur with Non M cars. If you have a poor idle and periodic Check Engine lights, you may have a bad oil seperator. This valve tends to go bad and introduce a vacuum leak which produces the problem.

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