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E36 BMW Check Coolant Level OBC Message
E30 BMW 3 Series Pre Purchase Checklist
E36/E46 Rear Trailing Arm Bushing (RTAB) Replacement 1
E36/E46 BMW Rear Shock Mount (RSM) Replacement
BMW Control Arm Bushing Replacement Tips
E36 Exhaust Replacement and M3 Exhaust Swap Upgrade
E36 Warped Rotors, Ceramic Pads, and the Fix
E36 Warped Rotors and Brake Pad Deposits
E30 318i and 318is Suspension and Tie Rod Replacement
Replacing your BMW's fuel filter
BMW Cooling System Flush/Refill Part 2
BMW Cooling System Flush/Antifreeze/Refill I
E36 BMW Power Window Problems and Repair
BMW Headliner Repair and Replacement
M50 Intake Manifold Swap for 328i/328is and M3
E28 BMW 5 Series History and Information
More Power for BMW 2002 and 2002tii Part 2
More Power for BMW 2002 and 2002tii Part 1
Replacing E36 and E46 BMW Tie Rods
Hints and Tips for Washing and Waxing your BMW
Performance Modifications for E36 M52 328i and 328is
1991 E30 318is Performance Mods
E36 BMW 3 Series Oxygen Sensor Replacement Instructions Part 2
E36 BMW 3 Series Oxygen Sensor Replacement Instructions Part 1
E30 325i and 325is vs E30 M3: The Better Street Car
Suspension and Handling Upgrades for E34 BMW 5 Series Sedans
BMW Differential Repair, Replacement, and Upgrades Part 2
BMW Differential Repair, Replacement, and Upgrades Part 1
E46 3 Series Wear Items Checklist: What To Expect
E30 BMW 3 Series History and Performance
E34/E36/E39 M50/S50/M52/S52 BMW Engine Coil Replacement
E36 3 Series Wear Items Checklist: What To Expect
From E12 to E39: BMW M5 and M535i History and Development
My BMW Dream Garage
More BMW Radiator and Cooling System Information
BMW Radiator and Cooling System Information
How To Get More Horsepower From 2.7 ETA-engine BMWs
Performance Mods for M20 2.5 i engines
Replacing Sparkplugs and Valve Cover Gaskets
E24 BMW 6 Series History and Development: The Shark
Brief History of the M3: From E30 to E46
E36 M3 vs E36 325is and 328is: Performance Comparison
Replacing E30, E36, and E46 Ball Joints
E36 BMW Slip Ring Replacement and Why It Fails
Buying BMW Parts Online
BMW World
BMW Car Club of America
BMW Car Magazine
Rennlist BMW Site
Ben Liaw's BMW Links
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BMW E21 Info
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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.

E30 3 Series History, Specifications, Performance

The E30 3 series was a vast improvement over the E21 (sold in the US from 1977-1983)BMW 3 series. Formally unveiled in 1982 for Europe, the E30 line went through many changes during the 1984-1991 years of production for US and Canada. (European market production of the E36 3 series began in 1990.) Today, BMW car enthusiasts mostly cherish the E30 line for its incredible durability, performance and reliability for the dollar, and for it's great build quality that does not get in the way of a more raw and connected driving experience compared to E36, E46, and E90 models.

In Road & Track magazine's first test of a M10 powereds 318i hit newstands in June 1983. The 318i did not quicken the heart of performance seekers looking for a US market car to replace or join their aging 2002's (Remember, the quick 323i E21 was a grey market car never officially sold in the US). This weas the first published test of an E30" 3 Series. And it was not cheap. The window sticker on R&T's 84 318i was a steepd $18,210 - more than double the price of a 1977 320i. One other aside is that the E30 3 series (the 1984 318i) represented the first time a 3 series was available in the United States with 4 doors.

The look of the new Baby Bimmer was nothing revolutionary, and even less adventurous to the casual observer than the E21. However '1980s' these 3 series look today, they had considerable aerodynamic advantages vs the outgoing E21. The 1982 Audi 100 has ushered in an 80's focus on reducing coefficient of drag in the pursuit of cleaner styling, better stability, and better fuel economy. The E30's grille sported a less radical angle, and the headlights mounted nearly flush. The E21 and E30 have similar wheelbases, the E30's wheelbase an insignificant 0.3 inches longer from the E21 at 100.9 to 101.2 inches. The car's overall length was slightly reduced. However, the new 3 series felt considerably more 'solid' and well assembled. BMW engineers focused on build quality and dependability to fight off the upcoming Mercedes Benz 190

The first US spec E30's sported a warmed over 1.8-liter fuel injected four cylinder, the M10 engine with 101 hp. It was quickly determined that us Yanks demanded a six this time, and the Fuel-economy biased M20 121 horsepower 2.7-liter inline six-cylinder 'Baby Six' engine from larger E28 528e sedan was plopped into the new 3 series to create tyhe 325e or 325 eta. An incredibly low 4500 rpm redline and economy-minded gearing accompanied this car, which ran smoothly and torquey, but was no sports car engine (though the 325es is a really neat and fairly rare car!). the "eta" 2.7, like all BMW sixes, was smooth and elegantly torquey in the company's smallest car, but hardly sporting in character. Almost sadly in hindsight, its 121 horsepower were the most available to U.S. buyers of small BMW's since the 1974 2002tii. 325e performance was pretty good for the 1980's, actually, and not all that far off the mark of the Porsche 944 (ouch!),with 0 to 60 mph in 8.4 to 8.9 seconds (depending on who was testing) and a 16.2 to 16.6 second quarter mile time, with trap speed in the low 80 mph range, a 2-3 second improvement in each category over the four cylinder 318i.

1985 brought the first four door sedan models plus a revised four-speed automatic transmission option available with either the four or the six. 1986 saw the 318i dropped, and ABS Antilock brakes become standard equipment on all North American market 3 series. 1986 was the first year for the 325es as well, which was basically a european market 325is car saddled with the low revving ETA engine. One of these in nice shape today would make a great commuter car/daily driver, especially with a chip and fresh suspension...see my older article on hot-rodding the 325e cars for information on how to make the 325e quite fast!

The 1987 model year was milestone, for it heralded the introduction of the 325i and 325is models, as well as the 325iC Convertible, the first pure convertible offered in the 3 Series. The impact of the new M20 'i' cars cannot be stressed enough! Car and Driver wrote that "The new 325is is the first genuinely sporting BMW to reach our shores since the 2002tii went out of production in 1975," in their first test of the 325is. The 325i and 325is shared the new-for-us 2.5 liter engine, which though part of the same M20 family as the eta engine and having the same 84mm bore, had a 75mm stroke (down 6mm from the eta) to drop displacement from 2,693 to 2,494 cubic centimeters. The result, with better head, cam, and exhaust, was 168 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of peak torque. Car and Driver's 325is blasted to 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds and completing the quarter-mile in 15.6 seconds at 88 mph. So gratifying and ingratiating was the new 325i engine that most reviewers felt the car was worth its soaring price tag. In the case of Car and Driver's 325is, that tag read $27,475 — which the magazine pointed out is, taking inflation into account, double the price of the old 2002tii. I would take a clean 87-91 325i or 325is over just about any Volkswagen, Corrado VR6 or Golf R32 nonwithstanding.

BMW's Motorsport division had gotten its start in the early '70s creating high-performance street cars, as well as race cars. By 1987, the reputation of the M (Motorsports) division for building brilliant sporting machinery was well established. The M1 supercar, M535i and M5, plus M635csi and M6 models had reinvigorated the BMW performance legend in larger models, and the 1986 European M3 was their first application of M voodoo to the 3 series.

The original M3 made it over to the United States 1988. Originally built to take on Mercedes' Cosworth-tweaked 190E 2.3-16 in FIA Group A racing, the M3 employed a 2.3-liter four-cylinder capped with a twin-cam four-valve head that was essentially one of the big six four-valve heads less two cylinders. Dropped into a modified 3 Series two-door body shell (the flared fenders, more steeply raked rear window and higher trunk lid meant only the hood was left untouched from more plebian 3s), the Bosch fuel-injected "M Power" four was rated at 192 horsepower at a wailing 6,750 rpm when it finally got to North America. "This is not a car for yuppies," wrote Car and Driver on their first exposure to the U.S.-spec M3. "This is a car for us. In case you haven't noticed, BMW's U.S. lineup has blossomed to include a dazzling array of leather-lined hot rods that beg to be flogged through the twisties and hammered on the superslabs." Stirring the five-speed manual transmission, Car and Driver blasted that 2,857-pound M3 to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds, blitzed the quarter-mile in just 15.2 seconds with a 92-mph trap speed and screamed to a 141-mph top speed. With an as-tested price of $34,810, the M3 was at that time (and still in many minds) the ultimate BMW 3 Series.

BMW would build an all-wheel-drive 325ix model in 1988 as well, and the Motorsport fanatics would conjure up "Evolution" models of the M3 for those who found the wonderful original only a good starting point. But with the introduction of the M3, the possibilities of the E30 3 Series were thoroughly and gloriously exhausted as it faded out of production through 1991.

E34/E36/E39 M50/S50/M52/S52 BMW Engine Coil Replacement

In a previous article, I detailed the procedure for replacing the sparkplugs and valove cover gasket on all BMW cars powered by derivates of the M50 engine. An item not mentioned, and probably should have been, are the coils, especially on older or higher mileage cars. With age and heat, the insulation breaks down. As variants of the M50 engine are found in the E36 3 series as well as E34 and E39 5 series, this article applies to any cars with these engines, ranging from the 1991 525i to the 1999 M3.

Just like the spark plugs can be a source of intermittent hesitation or bogging, so too can the coils themselves. Do a simple search on in the appropriate forum and you will see countless tales of coil woe. In the early days of the E36, coil failure manifested itself so often that there was a push for recall by BMW. Coil problems can manifest themselves as bucking, surging, or general hesitation, often under load or part to full throttle in the 500-3000 rpm range. The dealership will tell you that the coils need to be replaced as a set, but this is not true. Many independent BMW parts retailers (like bimmerparts and bavauto) sell individual coils. Here's one way to test your cars coils if the above symptoms are indeed occurring:

Replace all the spark plugs, first off. This is eliminating a variable and doing preventative maintenance at the same time. Next, purchase 1 new coil (You might want to check the shop you are buying parts from's policy on returning electrical or ignition components, it does you no good to buy 3 coils if it turns out you only have 1 bad one and you are stuck with 2 extra ones.) and replace the coil on the first cylinder closest to the front of the car. See if this cures it. If not, put it on cylinder #2. Rotate the new coil through all six cylinders. If no single replacement cures the issue, try a second coil and rotate through. This is the least expensive way. You could alway just replace all six at once for peace of mind. Now, old coils are prone to cracking, and a cracked coil can lead to serious electrical problems and can even damage the DME unit (ECU/chip) on your car. A new DME/chip from the dealer is $1000! You can also easily check the health of your coils by checking the resistance between two terminals on the coil. This is outlined in the Chilton's manula and the factory Bentley repair manual. There were two different sources for the coils used by BMW, Bosch and Zundspule. The Zundspule coils were made by a vendor called "May und Christ". These have been the more problematic ones, with peristent tales of misfiring and rough idle.

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