Discussion in 'Other Vehicle Discussions' started by invisibledemon, Nov 19, 2013.
might be looking at one of these for the wife.
anybody know what i should be looking for?
The biggest problem those things have is the headgasket - but they don't fail on their own. The cooling systems can be somewhat wonky on these, there are a lot of plastic bits that like to crack and crumble, and when these things overheat and pop the headgasket they typically pull the head studs. This is because the studs expand at a different rate than the cylinder head and engine block, and what happens is the threads get pulled out of the block. You can heli-coil them with the right equipment, but it usually doesn't last more than a year or so; don't get me wrong, occasionally when you pop a headgasket it won't pull the studs, but it happens more often than not. So that's the biggest thing to be aware of.
Check the cooling system out, all the hoses and elbows, for leaks or spots that have dryrotted/cracked/deteriorated. The most common leaks on those are from the coolant expansion tank itself, which usually cracks. Pop the expansion tank cap and check the coolant level - it shouldn't be all the way to the top of the tank, but you should be able to see it. There's a little red rod that sticks up out of the tank to tell you the level, for the most part it should shoot all the way up - there's a little diagram showing you the level the rod should sit at to show you the level.
Also on top of the coolant tank is a coolant bleeder screw, that's used for bleeding the coolant. Make sure that isn't leaking or cracked.
Another big thing on these is people improperly bleeding the coolant - there are a few nifty steps you need to take to properly bleed it. Improper bleeding can cause air pockets and overheating, but the most easily noticeable thing is that the heater won't work. My usual first step in looking one of these cars over is, after I've verified coolant level, to start the car and turn on the heater, and let the car run while I'm looking everything over. If the coolant level is proper and the car starts/runs well and the heater works, the majority of the 'major' problems those cars typically run into are probably nonexistent.
Beyond that, the power steering system is prone to leaking - there's an o-ring on top of the power steering reservoir that ALWAYS leaks, and costs only a few dollars; the hose clamps on the power steering lines tend to leak as well, but if that's the case the fix is simply to put new screw-type hose clamps on. Occasionally the hose that clips onto the power steering cooler leaks, and if that happens the hose just has to be replaced; most common thing is the hose clamps though.
Valve covers, front seals, oil pan gaskets, and rear main seals all like to leak on these; the rear main requires pulling the transmission, and the oil pan requires a decent bit of work, but these are typically good bargaining chips on a used BMW. More often than not, they're going to at least seep.
You've got basic maintenance items like spark plugs, air filter, engine oil, etc that all need to be in good shape. Castrol synthetic 5w30 is what these things require, when I don't use Castrol or Mobil 1 (which, I don't usually use Mobil 1 in BMW's), I use Oreilly auto parts house brand synthetic 5w30. The stuff is great. For engine coolant, ONLY USE OEM BMW COOLANT. Blue stuff. Don't use anything in the cooling system EVER other than OEM BMW or Pentofrost (which, you probably have never heard of and don't know where to get);
There are a few vacuum lines that like to dryrot and fall apart on these, one comes all the way around the valve cover along the passenger side up to the secondary air injection valve - make sure that line isn't broken or falling apart. There are a few other lines on the intake manifold side, check those as well. The secondary air injection pump bushings on these usually break, so the pump is probably flopping around; when you first turn the vehicle on, you should hear the pump come on loud as shit for a few seconds when the engine is first running; it's not uncommon for the pumps to eventually fail after flopping around on broken bushings though. If the pump fails though, it'll throw a check engine light.
That's another thing, be sure and get a handheld generic code reader - even a cheap one from AutoZone. You NEED to check the codes on this thing, whether or not the engine light is on. Any codes it has, just ask and I'll address those as necessary.
Those have one of two transmissions, either a ZF or a GM. Both transmissions are 'fill from the bottom' style, as most BMW's are. If/when it comes time for you to DIY a transmission flush, I'll walk you through that. There's not really an easy way to check the fluid in the transmission on those, so just make sure there aren't any leaks and that it runs and shifts properly. Those transmissions are pretty robust and don't have many problems, and when they do it's because of low fluid or poor fluid quality. FYI, it's very uncommon to rebuild those transmissions, as the parts necessary to rebuild cost just as much as another transmission. Unless it's a manual transmission, which means that the person who bought it new must have thought that it was 1980.
Suspension bushings on these in the front wear out pretty regularly; the rear isn't anything that I've ever seen any major issues with other than sway bar end links. RockAuto is going to be your best bet on getting replacement suspension parts - there's a triangular shaped lower control arm with two ball-type joints built in, and both of those wear out over time; the bushing that the rear of the control arm mounts in is also notorious for wearing out. Inner and outer tie rods are another big suspension wear item - however all of these parts are relatively inexpensive from places like eBay or RockAuto, and not too terribly complicated to swap out yourself. For suspension components, I have not seen a noticeable difference in wear and usable life from the eBay/RockAuto cheap brands versus OEM or Meyle stuff (I think you may be able to get Meyle from RockAuto, actually)...Dorman makes good quality suspension components for these, as well.
Window regulators on these are junk, as well. If you use your windows a lot, expect to replace at least one regulator a year. You can get cheap window regulators or you can get ridiculously expensive ones from the dealer, and both of them are going to last the same amount of time. They'll start going out and popping or being slow to roll up or down, or they just won't - completely normal, the regulator design on these is junk.
Back to the engine, another common maintenance item I forgot to mention earlier is the crankcase ventilation control valve, which people call all sorts of weird things (CVCC, CCCV, PCV, Swirl valve, cyclone valve, etc). These have a diaphragm in them that likes to tear, and/or they'll leak oil. It's under the intake manifold, and is a hundred bucks or so with all the necessary hoses to replace it; not too terribly much trouble to replace, although if you have to do one and you've never done it before it's best to remove the entire intake manifold so that you have a better view of what's going on.
Off the top of my head at 5:30am, that's the majority of the problems those cars have...the E46's don't tend to have too many electrical problems, they're really damn reliable cars overall. They have maintenance reminders build in - when you first turn the key on, the little green/yellow/red bars on the instrument cluster that probably say "Inspection" show the oil life, and the time left until you need an Inspectin 1 or Inspection 2 - these are the two BMW services. These don't take 'regular oil changes', and you shouldn't just change the oil every X amount of miles and put a sticker on the windshield. Inspection 1 is basically an oil change, Inspection 2 is an oil change/diff service/all air filters/spark plugs/fuel filter deal. Hopefully the person selling it doesn't have a burger rack sticker on the windshield, and hopefully they were smart enough to at least reset the maintenance indicator - it's reset via the buttons on the cluster, I can talk you through that if you're too lazy to Google. Also, the brakes have wear indicators, and throw a brake lining warning light on the cluster when they're low. A common thing though is for people to replace the pads and sensors (you HAVE to replace the sensors when you replace the pads, or the light won't reset) and not properly reset the warning indicator - so it's very common for a car with new brake pads and sensors to still have the warning light on. If that's the case, to turn that off you need to turn the ignition key all the way on without starting the car and walk away for 30 seconds or so. That's all it takes to reset the brake wear sensors, yet there doesn't seem to be a fucking shop in Texas that knows that. Harumph.
Uhh....yeah man, that's pretty much all I can think of. Obviously look out for shit like body damage, rust, obviously broken shit, etc...but, remember oil leaks are common (if not normal), and are inexpensive to fix (but not necessarily easy), and ultimately make great bargaining chips for negotiating down the price on these cars. Can't think of anything else off the top of my head, I'll revisit this later and see if I can think of anything else.
Oh, also, the headlight lenses are probably all clouded up - you can get replacement lenses pretty cheap, and they're wicked easy to swap out.
God Wil is a fuckin' wealth of knowledge.
It was sorta his job for awhile and still is lol.
here is a link to the listing.
2000 bmw e46 323i wagon
text the guy and he said it didn't overheat, and oem coolant was used.
thanks for all the info wil, def glad you are a part of this community.
Looking at that for-sale ad, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. That's a smokin' cheap price for one, too - the last 323 I sold was a 99, was in really damn good shape but not quite that clean, and I got $6k for it.
Reading the ad over, I'd guess they've already addressed a good chunk of the issues that I mentioned earlier. Blue coolant and new p/s hoses & reservoir are excellent indicators that someone who knows what the F they're doing has been working on the vehicle.
Buy that shit before somebody else does.
Also, for future reference if you DO buy the car, Oreilly Auto Parts' "Global Multi-Vehicle ATF" will work in either of the transmissions available for that car, and works quite well might I add.
sweet. i used to work at oreilly so i know about the pentofrost, we didnt keep it in stock at our store, but had it in the nashville warehouse. i think i had 2 maybe 3 people in the two years i was there actually ask for that stuff. that shits not cheap. lol.
i sent him a text about all the coolant work and if it was done because it overheated, he replied "no no no, heat is super bad for e46's, i know way better."
we just sold the wifes mazda3 today to get rid of the car payment, and she really likes hatches/wagons, so im looking for a reliable replacement for her to last a couple of years.
waiting for the guy to let me know about coming to look at it.
Whoa if this was nearby I'd probably try and snipe it out from under you
I want a 3 series wagon with a bad engine...
I'm glad I read this. I created this list of stuff from a few sources - But Rockauto is rocking the prices. I have an Excel spreadsheet with some price comparos on bushings and pulleys.
The idea is simple : BMWs are perfected science. When the schedule says "replace the belts at 120k miles" and there is a BMW belt on there - It's gonna need replaced then. And when they tell you to replace the pulleys, do that. With BMW stuff. And the costs of maintenance are balanced out by the fact that BMW was nice enough to warn you with PLENTY of time to save up for the repair.
Wil just saved me about $150. I'll remember this come Chrimmus.
And BTW, my bushings just went last week. Comes quick. But I've put 35k on mine since I got it.. In, April I think ? Damned car gets 34mpg. A city bus can beat it off the line, but it doesn't care if you want to do 60 or 130. It just doesn't care.
It is my sincere professional opinion, based on the last several years of firsthand experience in and around automobiles, that the E46 BMW is one of the greatest and best vehicles ever built.
Except for those garbage-ass window regulators.
This is an xlsx doc... just change the suffix and you're good to go.
I haven't added the Rockauto lines yet.
That settles it. The gfs next car will be an E46 of some flavor.
Speaking of BMWs, how do you feel about their awd system Wil?
Just to chime in, my BMW guys in PA say "I wouldn't get the X3, I would get the X5. The other x-drive cars always come in leaking"
I looked into it no further than that, but I wonder if Wil could confirm something.
The only issue I had with my m3 was the alternator. it died at about 50k. I think that's a more M-specific issue though due to the high redline.
I'd buy another one. But I don't want to pay for it.
door seals like to fail/leak. I always double and triple checked the window to make sure it was up on test rides of used 3 series back in the day.
Not a big issue but annoying.
Wil, what years had the frame issues? Didn't some years have frames that would crack?
Nah, alternators tank on occasion on all of the BMW's. No rhyme or reason, just a maintenance item. Same thing with the starters. One in every ten cars or so will need a starter or an alternator every 50-60k or so.
I've heard of 99-06 having major issues with the subframes cracking; I believe there was a class-action lawsuit as well, but I've never seen one firsthand - and I've worked on a TON of E46's. Another issue is the rear subframe mounting points tearing out of the unibody, but there are reinforcement plates you can buy and weld in place of those (and M3's after 96 came with them from the factory).
There was a recall from bmw for the tear out. If it hasn't teared yet, it probably won't.... or it was fixed.
well, the guy told me yesterday that he wouldnt have time to meet up to show it til this weekend. text him today to figure out where he wanted to meet, and he said he sold it.
oh well. the hunt continues.
a buddy of mine bought a nice 01 (i think) coupe a few years back.
the rear subframe was about to fall out. he never got to actually enjoy the car bc of various problems, but mainly the frame.
the recall only lasted a certain amount of time, if after whatever date you didnt take it in, you didnt get it done for free. and its not cheap. he ended up trading it in.
If I had to do it again, I would go with the higher BMW certified used program.
Mine was from an Audi dealer, who tried to replicate the Audi certification program - so it was better than usual - But a real BMW recertification ? Yeah. Do that.
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