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May purchase an E46. Thoughts?

Posted by Earendil 
November 03, 2010 02:26PM
I know a few members here have E46 bodies sitting near their E30.
Michiel 318iS for example, and it seems there is another one but I can't remember who.

Anyway, a friend may be trying to unload a 2000 328i. I'll reserve miles and price until a time when I know both, but I'm not so much looking for a buy/nobuy as much as some very general info on the E46. I may ask for buying advice later smiling smiley

Most of the material out there on the E46 is either from when the car was released, or people trying to fix broken stuff after the fact. Could someone with a little knowledge and/or experience pen down a paragraph or two relating their experience with the car, reliability, faults, how "expensive" it is to own compared to the E30. Be as vague as you want, I'm looking for a very general idea, because I don't have one.

I know nothing matches the E30 online community. But is there a respectable one for the E46? Or is it not old enough yet for the DIY adults to care? I wouldn't be looking for a "mod the crap out of it" or "I found $1000 in my pocket, how should I blow it on my car?" sort of a community, but a fix it community smiling smiley

I also went looking for a common failures at different odometer ages, but couldn't find one. Perhaps one of the E46 owners has found this and has it stowed away in a file someplace that they could share smiling smiley

To everyone without direct experience, feel free to mention rumor and other musings, just use appropriate surrounding language so I know it's not first hand knowledge smiling smiley

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 03, 2010 03:54PM
Have had my E46 320d for 4 months / 20.000 km now and I'm pretty happy with it. Drives well, silent, good seats, good comfort - even with the M pack (seats, suspension, 18" wheels).
Cheap to run, long maintenance intervals, good mileage (diesel). Common failure (diesel again) is the 2nd catalyst, had to replace it already.
It feels as a good replacement for the E30, bit more comfortable (especially quieter).

Xenon headlights could have been a bit more powerful (wasn't happy with the E30's either), high beams are good. Fogs are good as well (was good on the E30 as well), unlike Ford vehicles sold around here.
Steering is noticeably better (better ratio), instrument cluster is same apart from digital odometer, CD player (business) has failed on mine since I bought it. I hardly ever use A/C but works OK to me (moderate climate around here), auto setting does most of the job.
Seating is good, same amount of storage space as in E30, non folding rear seats on mine (actually I assumed folding seats would have been standard, which is why I'm looking to install a tow hook now).
Trunk access is better, but is less spacious compared to the E30. Mini spare will do for emergencies.

Don't regret buying this one but haven't had major costs yet. Around here, even used parts are quite expensive for this model (eg €150 for used radio/CD combo, €300 for used tow hook)
November 03, 2010 03:55PM
Oh, and isn't it Cab who's having the 325Xi Touring?
November 03, 2010 04:33PM
Don't have much time here, but wanted to add addition info.

105K miles, would sell to me for 6K. He also adds this for flaws.

Minor issues?
1. brake fluid needs flushing. forgot to do it while changing the brakes.
2. one of the bushings on the (right?) control arm might be needing some work soon. it hasn't been complaining, but the mechanic mentioned it. apparently i've been taking some hard turns smiling smiley
3. cold weather starts have a little idle issue where the idle dips down a few times. once it warms up it's fine, i have an e46fanatics link to what i've diagnosed the issue to be. It's just more work than I have the tools/space/time to work on now. Not a major issue, as far as I know, just a complaint.


Major issues that you're aware of?
1. body. damn car swiped me while parked. you heard the story. I'm going to take it apart to try to iron out some of the kinks, buff off the other car's paint, and see if i can't fix some of the clear coat.



his sales pitch:
-Fresh brakes (discs, pads, e-brake shoes) all oem supplier
-New rear passenger window regulator in a few dayssmiling smiley
-Harmon Kardon speakers (not stock) and (aftermarket) Dice ipod interface (I don't own an ipod, so i never screwed around with it)
-Newer all season tires, recently rotated (~$600 and a good 40k left on them if babied)


Thanks for the reply Michiel, I'll read it again later and respond! And I think you're right about cab, but I didn't hink (or know) that it was a touring...

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 04, 2010 12:03AM
Now I'll add my own personal reasons for purchasing it.

I love my E30. I want to keep it until the day I die, or until the day it goes into a barricade at the end of the straight away at PIR. I also love tinkering and learning about cars through my E30.
I hate spending an entire weekend in the rain working on it because it has to be fixed by Monday. I hate working 4 hours on Friday night, because I promised the girlfriend I'd drive up to see her. Working in the dark on a Friday, followed by 4 hours of driving is not cool. I don't mind my car breaking down and walking. I don't like being late to work. I don't think people asking for a ride and wondering if we'll make it.

Basically, I want a nice reliable car that isn't a complete bore to drive, can merge onto freeways without me feeling like I'm asking it for a special favor, and is less likely to break down with some weird ghost of a problem. I want the ability to shelve one of the cars and say "Hey, I don't have to work on you in the rain, I have another mode of transportation!".

Financially, I'll be taking out a car loan no matter what. This is quite against how I saw my future going, where I could save up and buy my never-brand-new cars with cash. But I'm already forking out a lot for my E30, and I somehow doubt that it'll make it until I have the cash saved for a decent car.
So that all said, I'm not looking for an E30 replacement. I'm looking for a deal, a good community, something somewhat familiar, and a good investment. I just know nothing about E46 quirks. I know, I know, I'm asking on the wrong forum. But I respect the opinions here, and it helps to get my thoughts out of my head smiling smiley

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 04, 2010 06:30AM
You just outlined the reasons I got my Mazda 4 years ago. As much as I love my E30, I was tired of "having" to spend all weekend fixing the E30 to get to work on Monday, although that didn't happen all that often. But when it did happen, it was almost guaranteed that I'd find some part that I needed, and it would be late Saturday afternoon or on Sunday, after all the parts suppliers were closed, so then I'd have to take Monday off and leave my wife stranded while I ran off to get the parts... The E30 has sat, neglected and sad, in the garage since August of 2006. Someday I plan to strip it down, put an S52 in there, and build myself an autocross/weekend/fun car. Someday...

About the E46, yes, that's me. Yes, it is a touring, and yes, it is AWD. It's a 2004 325XiT, manual, "sport" and premium packages, with something around 82k miles. I put sport in quotes b/c on the Xi cars, sport really just means larger (17") wheels and the sport seats/steering wheel. The suspension is not any different from the non-sport Xi. So whatever. It has almost all the options except the nav system, and I'm glad it doesn't have that. I drove one with that once, and I was not a fan of the big screen, and I could barely even figure out how to get the radio to come on.

As usual, I got wordy writing this, so the short version is that after my experience with the E46, I can say that the car is holding up quite well. It has all the normal issues that any car has after many years on the road, mostly replacement of wear items, and like any other car, to keep it long term you should properly care for it. But I would not warn against buying it, because I think it's a solid car. Just check up on all the normal things, and you should be fine, assuming the car has been properly cared for by its previous owners.

The long version follows:

It's primarily my wife's car, and we love it. Since we've had the kids, it is the kid car, so whichever of us parents has the kid(s) drives the E46. So most of the time that's my wife during the week and it's the family car on the weekends. We bought it when it was just under 1 year old, in February of 2005. It was CPO. I really wanted a RWD touring, but that proved impossible to find. Having a manual and a touring body was more important to me than RWD/AWD, and especially here in the land of winter, just about every touring I found was AWD, and almost all were automatic. So while I would have preferred a 5-spd 325iT, we got the 325XiT. Well, I really would have preferred a 6-spd 330iT ZHP, but well, not available... I guess the AWD is kind of useful sometimes, although I run winter tires on the car, despite all my non-car-savvy friends wondering why I would bother when I have "magical" AWD and "all-season" tires...

I did read an article once where an enterprising (and quite wealthy) guy gutted a touring body and installed all the mechanical bits from an E46 M3, which let him have the room inside to carry around his track tires and all the other things he'd need for a weekend on the track, but I figured a project like that wasn't really necessary for the family car.

Problems we've had with it in the last five years have been relatively minimal, and all covered by CPO warranty, although that is now expired and we're on our own.

1) Both rear springs cracked and had to be replaced. Apparently that is pretty common here where it snows and they salt the roads. I actually never even noticed when the first one went, but I heard some funny noises when the second side had failed and did some investigation. I found a new (bright, shiny metal) crack on the right rear, and the spring was riding on what should have been the second coil. I checked the left side, and that one had failed some point in the past, as that break was all rusted over. Both springs replaced under warranty.

2) Both front axle/CV joints have had to be replaced. Obviously with a RWD E46 you won't have this issue. I noticed some grease on the RF side one day when changing over to the snow tires, and had it checked out. They replaced the half-shaft. Then a couple of years later I was under the car doing an oil change and noticed the inside of the LF wheel was absolutely covered in grease. That CV joint had cracked and all the lube had spun out on to the inside of that wheel. However, we never heard a single complaint from the car. No squeaks, groans, clicking, nothing... I have no idea how long it had been lubeless. Anyway, they replaced that one under CPO as well. Actually, I think that time they replaced both sides, "just in case."

3) I was getting lousy AM radio reception (I listen to baseball games and sports talk radio), so I mentioned it, and I think they replaced some part of the sound system (maybe the antenna amplifier?). It didn't really help, though, and I just never mentioned it again. It's not that important, most of the time we listen to FM or CDs.

That's pretty much it as far as "major" issues requiring dealer service. I have done the "in between" oil changes, since the maintenance plan goes by the service indicator and doesn't light up until 15k miles or so. I did the tranny and rear end lube (and they're due for another replacement), but I couldn't get to the center diff, so that lube is still original. BMW calls all of these fluids "lifetime," so they wouldn't do it under warranty. As to your friend's brake fluid comment, I think I've only replaced the fluid in our car once, and that was when I did a brake job a couple of years back. I should flush it again, as well as do all the lubes.

Overall it has been a fantastic car, very sound, relatively fun to drive (RWD would be much more fun - the AWD touring is quite a heavy car), and we're very happy with it. We've commented to each other recently that it really doesn't feel any different than when we got it, and it's been almost 6 years.

Another thing we've noticed is that it is not at all a large car. This won't apply to you unless you want to keep the car for quite a while, but with two car seats in the back, especially with our son in a rear-facing seat behind the passenger seat, the car is adequate but quite cramped. I cannot fit in the passenger seat with it as far forward as it must be, and my wife barely fits. Then again, I'm 6'5" and she's 5'11", so I admit we're not "average" sized people. My daughter's seat used to be behind the passenger seat, but now with our son we moved her over behind the driver. Even though she's front-facing, when I'm driving she doesn't have much leg room and sometimes her feet actually get stuck in the gap behind the driver's seat and the rear seats. And even though I'm tall, I drive with the seat relatively close to the steering wheel as I'm more comfortable with the controls close to me. When my wife drives, my daughter has more room. Anyway, just saying that while it's a bunch bigger than an E30, it's still a 3er and is not a huge car. When my son hits 1 year old and turns around front-facing, and my daughter moves into a less substantial booster seat as opposed to her current big seat, it will be better, but for now it is small. I wouldn't expect to carry 4 or 5 adults in an E46 for really long periods of time. It's perfect for two adults, maybe a child or two who are old enough to not be in car seats, or a dog in the back seat. Our next vehicle will be a minivan. hot smiley

I know that I need to get under it and check some things. I'm sure the rubber bushings, end links, etc, are most likely getting to the end of their lives. I should probably do the shocks/struts in the near future, but there has not been any significant performance dropoff. I need to flush and replace the coolant (that is still original at 82k and almost 7 years old - yikes). I have topped off the coolant, but not often. In fact, that leads me to the current situation with the car...

A few weeks ago, my wife noticed a "burning/melting plastic" kind of smell after she'd been out driving for a while. I came home to find the garage door open and the hood on the car up; very unusual. I inspected and didn't find anything obvious, no signs of melted wires or any of the visible plastic components. I took the car out to warm it up and when I returned I also smelled something, but very faint. This was late at night and I didn't jack up the car and do a really thorough inspection, but my guess was that she had run over a plastic bag or something on the road and it had melted on the cat or something like that. We didn't smell anything else for a while, but recently the smell has popped up again intermittently. I definitely need to get under the car and do a more in depth inspection. However, during this process I did check on the coolant, and found it to be disturbingly low. I was worried that we may have a failed gasket and the coolant was getting into the engine and burning off, since we had not seen any signs of leaks. But I topped it off and it's been fine since. I've learned from other E46 owners that this is somewhat common, it's not a totally closed system and can run low under normal circumstances. At the car's age and mileage I should really inspect all the hoses and cooling system components, flush the system and check the pump, etc. I'll add that to my list...

That does remind me of a point that annoys me about the E46. As opposed to the temp gauge on the E30, the E46 is really just a 3-position indicator. It'll tell you if you're cold, overheated, or "okay." It does not fluctuate at all as the engine temp varies. If the temp is anywhere in its acceptable range, the gauge will point dead straight up in the middle. So you have no way of telling how your engine is actually running. I've heard rumors that change was made b/c BMW got complaints of temp gauges running slightly above or below the middle (which is normal depending on conditions), and they got tired of dealing with that, so they just made the gauge less useful.

So anyway, is that kind of what you were looking for from an owner? spinning smiley sticking its tongue out

By the way, my E46 online presence is on Roadfly, but honestly I stay away from the Technical side, (pretty much just as I do here). I have several friends on their version of the "E46 Community" forum, but I think the technical side is pretty good there, too. I just haven't really needed a whole lot of help. I have taken advantage of BMW CCA's Tech Talk guy Mike Miller on a few occasions, but for the most part our E46 has been reliable and the curveballs it's thrown me haven't been beyond my level of understanding and/or competence.

Good luck!

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
November 04, 2010 01:00PM
Michiel, Cab, thank you both for the information! It sounds like the E46 was not a consumer dud or nightmare, that's good.

a 325XiT... If I buy the 328i manual, I'll trade you ;-)

I've always tried to keep the E30 in a state that I can safely throw it around. If I got a second car, a daily driver, I would hold no such requirements for it. So I could live with dead shocks for a while, or worn bushings as long as there wasn't any danger. In mountains and snow, I feel the E46 would handle better. I know yours is an AWD, but what do you think of its slick surface handling? The Columbia Gorge and I-84 see at least a week of ice a year where they shut down the entire freeway. That means that a point just before they shut it down, traffic is doing 70mph through an ice rink gorge smiling smiley
I think I could breath easier with people in my car if I had the benefit of ABS and airbags.

What about experience working on the E46 vs the E30. Just looking at the two, it looks like the E46 is more difficult. But did BMW go out of their way to make it hard to work on? I know a number of new cars really persuade non mechanics from touching anything but the dip stick. I realize you may not be in a position to compare them, but you've at least looked at both engine compartments and contemplated it.

Michiel, Your car is still so young I don't know if you have a feel for any of this, but I don't want you to feel like I'm leaving you out of the questions by addressing Cab.
I'll keep browsing craigslist and other places, try and get a feel for what the going price for E46 cars are, including the iX. I wouldn't mind having a heavier car, as long as my E30 loses some more weight and stays nimble smiling smiley
A couple grand more and I could end up with a manual 325iX...

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 04, 2010 01:55PM
Quote
Earendil
I'll keep browsing craigslist and other places, try and get a feel for what the going price for E46 cars are, including the iX. I wouldn't mind having a heavier car, as long as my E30 loses some more weight and stays nimble smiling smiley
A couple grand more and I could end up with a manual 325iX...
A minor point but a significant one: don't confuse the E46 Xi with the E30 iX -- they are very different technologies. They are both AWD, but that's about all they have in common. The older, primitive E30 iX system is mostly mechanical, and uses viscous couplings in the center and rear LSD diffs. The E46 Xi system is computer controlled, has open diffs all around, and uses ABS to control wheel slip. (Cab, please correct me if I've got that wrong.)

The Xi system is good for staying on the road when things get slippery, but it's not much of a performance technology. (Look up Cab's old posts about running his E46 Xi on frozen lakes.) In contrast, my old iX is usually good for fast time of the day or close to it when I take it to ice time trials.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
November 04, 2010 02:58PM
Quote
Dave_G
Quote
Earendil
I'll keep browsing craigslist and other places, try and get a feel for what the going price for E46 cars are, including the iX. I wouldn't mind having a heavier car, as long as my E30 loses some more weight and stays nimble smiling smiley
A couple grand more and I could end up with a manual 325iX...
A minor point but a significant one: don't confuse the E46 Xi with the E30 iX -- they are very different technologies. They are both AWD, but that's about all they have in common. The older, primitive E30 iX system is mostly mechanical, and uses viscous couplings in the center and rear LSD diffs. The E46 Xi system is computer controlled, has open diffs all around, and uses ABS to control wheel slip. (Cab, please correct me if I've got that wrong.)

The Xi system is good for staying on the road when things get slippery, but it's not much of a performance technology. (Look up Cab's old posts about running his E46 Xi on frozen lakes.) In contrast, my old iX is usually good for fast time of the day or close to it when I take it to ice time trials.

That is a very good point, and I remember being surprised when I learned this the first time around. Thanks for the reminder!
I think though, that AWD would be a bonus to a reliable car. I'm not looking for awd with reliability as a bonus, so I don't think an E30 ix would serve my needs smiling smiley
That said, a buddy of mine has an E30 ix, and may try and sell it soon. But I'm trying to lower my need for mechanical work, not raise it!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 04, 2010 03:10PM
Quote
Dave_G
A minor point but a significant one: don't confuse the E46 Xi with the E30 iX -- they are very different technologies. They are both AWD, but that's about all they have in common. The older, primitive E30 iX system is mostly mechanical, and uses viscous couplings in the center and rear LSD diffs. The E46 Xi system is computer controlled, has open diffs all around, and uses ABS to control wheel slip. (Cab, please correct me if I've got that wrong.)

The Xi system is good for staying on the road when things get slippery, but it's not much of a performance technology. (Look up Cab's old posts about running his E46 Xi on frozen lakes.) In contrast,
my old iX is usually good for fast time of the day or close to it when I take it to ice time trials.

I believe you are exactly correct. There are no mechanical LSDs involved, although the E46 system is somewhere between the E30 and the current xDrive, which can send various torque splits front and rear. The center differential is a fixed ratio, but it does use braking as faux-LSD. And yes, the one time I had it on Newfound Lake, it suck-diddily-ucked. Granted, the conditions that day were not good for anything that didn't have spiked tires, but still, it was not fun.

I have found the DSC system to step in prematurely, and taking away the engine power is always troubling. However, with snow tires on, and not trying to be a hero going out in a blizzard, the car is very sure-footed. But, my FWD Mazda3 is also very sure-footed with snow tires. I would much rather have the lighter weight, thus better mileage and power/weight ratio in a RWD touring and use snow tires. But marketing does what it must, Audi sells well with AWD, so BMW gave up on their insistence that snow tires were the way to go (b/c they knew today's customers aren't interested in switching tires) and started putting AWD in everything.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
November 04, 2010 03:23PM
Quote
Earendil
Michiel, Cab, thank you both for the information! It sounds like the E46 was not a consumer dud or nightmare, that's good.

a 325XiT... If I buy the 328i manual, I'll trade you ;-)

Nope, not unless you get a 328iT. I am not interested in a sedan or coupe. Tourings are where it's at.

Quote

I've always tried to keep the E30 in a state that I can safely throw it around. If I got a second car, a daily driver, I would hold no such requirements for it. So I could live with dead shocks for a while, or worn bushings as long as there wasn't any danger. In mountains and snow, I feel the E46 would handle better. I know yours is an AWD, but what do you think of its slick surface handling? The Columbia Gorge and I-84 see at least a week of ice a year where they shut down the entire freeway. That means that a point just before they shut it down, traffic is doing 70mph through an ice rink gorge smiling smiley
I think I could breath easier with people in my car if I had the benefit of ABS and airbags.

That's contradictory. You want good, safe handling in adverse conditions, yet say you could live with dead shocks and/or worn bushings. It doesn't generally work that way.

The handling of the E46 is very good, the brakes are strong, the car does what you'd expect. But if you want handling on ice, it doesn't matter at all what you're driving, you need winter tires. Since I run snow/winter tires in the cold, ice and snow and summer tires the rest of the year, I find the handling of all my cars to be good. Much better than the hordes of AWD Subarus, Audis, and SUVs that run all-season tires around here because they think they don't need proper tires.

Quote

What about experience working on the E46 vs the E30. Just looking at the two, it looks like the E46 is more difficult. But did BMW go out of their way to make it hard to work on? I know a number of new cars really persuade non mechanics from touching anything but the dip stick. I realize you may not be in a position to compare them, but you've at least looked at both engine compartments and contemplated it.

I have not done surgery on the E46 to the extent I have on the E30, but I wouldn't say it was designed to discourage DIYers. There are a number of things that the more modern cars are equipped with that simply are out of the scope of most tinkerers, even the very good ones. I don't have the facilities to handle the computer controlled stuff that runs rampant in this car, but the mechanical stuff is doable. As usual, Bentley has a very good manual, and the only reason I had dealerships do most of the service on this car was because it was covered by warranty. "Free" is much better than taking up my entire weekend.

I've done brakes, I would do suspension, bushings, muffler, serpentine belt, all that type of stuff without a second thought. The engine bay is more crowded than that of the E30, but I think it's not bad. Like any I6 in a longitudinal configuration, the rearmost cylinders are jammed up close to/under the firewall, so engine surgery might be a little tricky, especially since the hood opens the "wrong" way. But overall, I think anything you consider yourself to possess the technical ability to tackle would be doable on an E46. I certainly have little to no fear getting my fingernails dirty working on this car, I just haven't really had a lot of reason yet to do so. I'm sure my time will come. I foresee some of it coming relatively soon, as I try and diagnose this burning plastic smell issue.

Don't let fear of DIY concern you with an E46. It's still a car, and most of the same principles apply now as they did to the E30.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
November 04, 2010 03:45PM
Quote
Cab Treadway

That's contradictory. You want good, safe handling in adverse conditions, yet say you could live with dead shocks and/or worn bushings. It doesn't generally work that way.

Not usually, but it does when I confusingly mangle two ideas into one paragraph. The first bit was about dry roads and sunny days, and how I wouldn't have a desire to drive the E46 like I do my E30. The second bit was questioning each cars ability to handle adverse conditions.

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The handling of the E46 is very good, the brakes are strong, the car does what you'd expect. But if you want handling on ice, it doesn't matter at all what you're driving, you need winter tires. Since I run snow/winter tires in the cold, ice and snow and summer tires the rest of the year, I find the handling of all my cars to be good. Much better than the hordes of AWD Subarus, Audis, and SUVs that run all-season tires around here because they think they don't need proper tires.

In my mind, winter/studded tires are a requirement. When I talk about the difference in car performance, I'm assuming they have the same tire setup.

With regards to snow and ice, my style of driving almost completely removes the effect of old shocks and worn bushings. Steering on snow generally feels like a worn bushing, and I never experience rapid body roll when driving on ice. What bugs me in my E30 with worn shocks, sloppy left turn to right turn body rock, does not concern me in snow. I do not pull maneuvers in snow that go beyond a couple percentage points of a G.

Plus, I put in the clause about "as long as it's not dangerous" in there. If the shocks were bad, and were having a seriously adverse effect on my ability to stay safe in the snow, I would change them. I just drive my E30 far closer to "the limits" (on dry roads) than I would have a desire to push an E46. The E30 is my fun car, that serves as a daily driver. If I had a dedicated daily driver, a Point A to point B car, I wouldn't need it to be fun. Though I do hate feeling like I need to apologize to an engine after accelerating. I borrowed a friends Subaru Legacy once. I have a lot of respect for that vehicle, but I felt like I was hurting it when the RPMs went near 3000. I know a lot of that is the difference between a 4 banger boxer engine, and an I6, but still.

Quote

I have not done surgery on the E46 to the extent I have on the E30, but I wouldn't say it was designed to discourage DIYers. There are a number of things that the more modern cars are equipped with that simply are out of the scope of most tinkerers, even the very good ones. I don't have the facilities to handle the computer controlled stuff that runs rampant in this car, but the mechanical stuff is doable. As usual, Bentley has a very good manual, and the only reason I had dealerships do most of the service on this car was because it was covered by warranty. "Free" is much better than taking up my entire weekend.

I've done brakes, I would do suspension, bushings, muffler, serpentine belt, all that type of stuff without a second thought. The engine bay is more crowded than that of the E30, but I think it's not bad. Like any I6 in a longitudinal configuration, the rearmost cylinders are jammed up close to/under the firewall, so engine surgery might be a little tricky, especially since the hood opens the "wrong" way. But overall, I think anything you consider yourself to possess the technical ability to tackle would be doable on an E46. I certainly have little to no fear getting my fingernails dirty working on this car, I just haven't really had a lot of reason yet to do so. I'm sure my time will come. I foresee some of it coming relatively soon, as I try and diagnose this burning plastic smell issue.

Don't let fear of DIY concern you with an E46. It's still a car, and most of the same principles apply now as they did to the E30.

That is all very good to hear! I would hope to not have to do surgery for some time to come. But I'd like to be able to fix minor things when/if the need arises.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/04/2010 03:47PM by Earendil.
November 04, 2010 03:59PM
My car isn't young, it's even older than Cab's, but I haven't had it as long as he has his. Bought it at 120.000 km, now has 140.000. Have done oil change on it and got to have a closer look to the metal bits.
Expect a lot more covers! At least on my diesel engine, there's a large cover, hiding all you would like to see when you open up the hood. The air filter is half an hour away, as you need to take apart a couple of things before you can pop it out. The HVAC filter on the other hand is one of the easiest I've seen around (on a European Ford it takes 2 hours to replace, on the E46 2 minutes). Apart from that, it's nuts and bolts. Very handy oil drain bolt access panel but again, sump is covered in case you want to check for leakage.
Interior wise, more stuff will be clipped on instead of screwed, some care is advised but that's not different in any other modern car.

As Cab I'm not scared of doing some work and you aren't either, so I wouldn't bother about that. On the electronics: only time can tell. I'm having one E46 related failure I haven't mentioned yet, the airbag telltale is on due to a bad passenger seat occupancy recognition wire. I'm planning on buying an OBDII reader to cope with this kind of things.
November 04, 2010 04:04PM
Quote
Michiel 318iS
My car isn't young, it's even older than Cab's, but I haven't had it as long as he has his. Bought it at 120.000 km, now has 140.000. Have done oil change on it and got to have a closer look to the metal bits.
Expect a lot more covers! At least on my diesel engine, there's a large cover, hiding all you would like to see when you open up the hood. The air filter is half an hour away, as you need to take apart a couple of things before you can pop it out. The HVAC filter on the other hand is one of the easiest I've seen around (on a European Ford it takes 2 hours to replace, on the E46 2 minutes). Apart from that, it's nuts and bolts. Very handy oil drain bolt access panel but again, sump is covered in case you want to check for leakage.
Interior wise, more stuff will be clipped on instead of screwed, some care is advised but that's not different in any other modern car.

As Cab I'm not scared of doing some work and you aren't either, so I wouldn't bother about that. On the electronics: only time can tell. I'm having one E46 related failure I haven't mentioned yet, the airbag telltale is on due to a bad passenger seat occupancy recognition wire. I'm planning on buying an OBDII reader to cope with this kind of things.

Oh! Gotcha! I thought you were saying that your car currently had 20,000km on it, not that you had personally put that many miles on it. Here I thought it was a hardly used driving machine that sat in a garage or under a tree most of the time smiling smiley

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 04, 2010 04:11PM
Oh no, it isn't a collectors car, like an M3, it's a workhorse!
November 04, 2010 05:24PM
We've got an '02 325xi with sport and premium packages. It's my wife's car. It's got 115k on it. I've put oil in it. I changed the tranny and T case fluid and put brake pads on.

Only "repair" was the driver's window regulator. Otherwise the car has been STUPID reliable and just amazing. We put a 10 ft christmas tree on the roof and 300 lbs of firewood in the trunk and I drove like an idiot on a canyon road to get home like that. We've hauled a king size bed on it. I currently will ride the governor from time to time at 130 mph (stupid US spec car) on the autobahn. It gets right around 30 mpg at 70+ on the freeway AND IT'S AWD!!!!!!!

I am truly ecstatic with her car- so much so that we've decided not to get a new one. The original plan was to get a new M3 when we got here for her. We've decided to keep her car since it's so good.

Now on the one you are looking at: Personally, I think that is a bit much. I'd pay a touch more and get a touch newer car as I think the early versions of the E46 has its share of issues.
November 04, 2010 05:52PM
Quote
Earendil
Michiel, Cab, thank you both for the information! It sounds like the E46 was not a consumer dud or nightmare, that's good.

a 325XiT... If I buy the 328i manual, I'll trade you ;-)

I've always tried to keep the E30 in a state that I can safely throw it around. If I got a second car, a daily driver, I would hold no such requirements for it. So I could live with dead shocks for a while, or worn bushings as long as there wasn't any danger. In mountains and snow, I feel the E46 would handle better. I know yours is an AWD, but what do you think of its slick surface handling? The Columbia Gorge and I-84 see at least a week of ice a year where they shut down the entire freeway. That means that a point just before they shut it down, traffic is doing 70mph through an ice rink gorge smiling smiley
I think I could breath easier with people in my car if I had the benefit of ABS and airbags.

What about experience working on the E46 vs the E30. Just looking at the two, it looks like the E46 is more difficult. But did BMW go out of their way to make it hard to work on? I know a number of new cars really persuade non mechanics from touching anything but the dip stick. I realize you may not be in a position to compare them, but you've at least looked at both engine compartments and contemplated it.

Michiel, Your car is still so young I don't know if you have a feel for any of this, but I don't want you to feel like I'm leaving you out of the questions by addressing Cab.
I'll keep browsing craigslist and other places, try and get a feel for what the going price for E46 cars are, including the iX. I wouldn't mind having a heavier car, as long as my E30 loses some more weight and stays nimble smiling smiley
A couple grand more and I could end up with a manual 325iX...

Now don't be getting the iX confused with the Xi...they are totally different animals smiling smiley

The iX is totally mechanical controlled and as such leaves the driver in complete control of the car.
The Xi has a lot of electronic interference that precludes driver control...Cab can expand on this, as he has direct experience with the E46 Xi.

If you want to control the car, you want the iX but if you want the car to control itself, go for the Xi smiling smiley
November 04, 2010 06:05PM
Peter, you took the words right out of my mouth. winking smiley

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
November 04, 2010 06:21PM
And if I want to control my cRs schedule, and not have the car control my schedule, which do I go for? winking smiley

As I said, I'm going for a car I don't have to think about, but that will get me from point A to point B. If I want control I'll hop in my no ABS no power steering no AC no real sound insulation road hugger. If I want to take the girl out in a suit, and be on time, I'd like a point a to point b car smiling smiley

All wheel drive is just a bonus, even if it's not the best implementation of that bonus.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 04, 2010 07:48PM
Quote
Earendil
And if I want to control my cRs schedule, and not have the car control my schedule, which do I go for? winking smiley

As I said, I'm going for a car I don't have to think about, but that will get me from point A to point B. If I want control I'll hop in my no ABS no power steering no AC no real sound insulation road hugger. If I want to take the girl out in a suit, and be on time, I'd like a point a to point b car smiling smiley

All wheel drive is just a bonus, even if it's not the best implementation of that bonus.

You really want a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic then. Those are no worry, cheap to own and so darn reliable they are boring...wish I still had mine sad smiley

Newer BMWs are not good choices when it comes to economy, reliability and resale value...they don't really handle all that much better than some of the domestic models now being designed and tested in Europe.
Sadly, the day of the production road warrior cars has long since passed. We have to rely on our E30s or other like vintage machines for that visceral driver control and tossability the E30 gives us.

If you want to drive to the wet coast; I'm going to sell my iX...I have to make a living somehow and the iX isn't really that good as a tradesman's hauler sad smiley
rkj
November 04, 2010 11:37PM
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
Quote
Earendil
And if I want to control my cRs schedule, and not have the car control my schedule, which do I go for? winking smiley

As I said, I'm going for a car I don't have to think about, but that will get me from point A to point B. If I want control I'll hop in my no ABS no power steering no AC no real sound insulation road hugger. If I want to take the girl out in a suit, and be on time, I'd like a point a to point b car smiling smiley

All wheel drive is just a bonus, even if it's not the best implementation of that bonus.

You really want a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic then. Those are no worry, cheap to own and so darn reliable they are boring...wish I still had mine sad smiley

Newer BMWs are not good choices when it comes to economy, reliability and resale value...they don't really handle all that much better than some of the domestic models now being designed and tested in Europe.
Sadly, the day of the production road warrior cars has long since passed. We have to rely on our E30s or other like vintage machines for that visceral driver control and tossability the E30 gives us.

If you want to drive to the wet coast; I'm going to sell my iX...I have to make a living somehow and the iX isn't really that good as a tradesman's hauler sad smiley

So I guess the trailer idea isn't on the table tongue sticking out smiley
November 04, 2010 11:46PM
Quote
rkj
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
Quote
Earendil
And if I want to control my cRs schedule, and not have the car control my schedule, which do I go for? winking smiley

As I said, I'm going for a car I don't have to think about, but that will get me from point A to point B. If I want control I'll hop in my no ABS no power steering no AC no real sound insulation road hugger. If I want to take the girl out in a suit, and be on time, I'd like a point a to point b car smiling smiley

All wheel drive is just a bonus, even if it's not the best implementation of that bonus.

You really want a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic then. Those are no worry, cheap to own and so darn reliable they are boring...wish I still had mine sad smiley

Newer BMWs are not good choices when it comes to economy, reliability and resale value...they don't really handle all that much better than some of the domestic models now being designed and tested in Europe.
Sadly, the day of the production road warrior cars has long since passed. We have to rely on our E30s or other like vintage machines for that visceral driver control and tossability the E30 gives us.

If you want to drive to the wet coast; I'm going to sell my iX...I have to make a living somehow and the iX isn't really that good as a tradesman's hauler sad smiley

So I guess the trailer idea isn't on the table tongue sticking out smiley

Unfortunately, the trailer idea won't work with my current parking area. My side yard has not access to take a trailer through and I can't just leave it in the driveway.
I'll need to sell the iX for funds to bring the truck up to snuff. Either that or I sell them both for something a little newer.

I wish I didn't have to work any more but the cash flow has gone so negative, I have no choice. Since there isn't a big market for older guys in just about any market here, I've got to do whatever I can to bring in the bacon sad smiley
November 05, 2010 11:43AM
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
You really want a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic then.
...snip...
If you want to drive to the wet coast; I'm going to sell my iX...

Peter, just don't go into sales smiling smiley

I might seriously consider your iX if you weren't so far away. Unfortunately I may spend half again the cost of the car just getting me there, and the car back. It would fit my criteria of a car in which my current small tool set will still work smiling smiley

Quote
Archeo-peteriX
I have to make a living somehow and the iX isn't really that good as a tradesman's hauler sad smiley

And there goes any chance of me making a ridiculous low ball figure so that you can keep it in the benn family. Practicality is a sad way to see a car go, but the iX should sell for a pretty penny over there. You should make out okay.

Have you thought about opening a "Specialty" E30 shop and charging ridiculous amounts of money to fix them? In the rare chance you get stuck, you can just ask us! I'm sure our fee will be small winking smiley

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/05/2010 11:44AM by Earendil.
November 05, 2010 06:34PM
Quote
Earendil
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
You really want a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic then.
...snip...
If you want to drive to the wet coast; I'm going to sell my iX...

Peter, just don't go into sales smiling smiley

I might seriously consider your iX if you weren't so far away. Unfortunately I may spend half again the cost of the car just getting me there, and the car back. It would fit my criteria of a car in which my current small tool set will still work smiling smiley

Quote
Archeo-peteriX
I have to make a living somehow and the iX isn't really that good as a tradesman's hauler sad smiley

And there goes any chance of me making a ridiculous low ball figure so that you can keep it in the benn family. Practicality is a sad way to see a car go, but the iX should sell for a pretty penny over there. You should make out okay.

Have you thought about opening a "Specialty" E30 shop and charging ridiculous amounts of money to fix them? In the rare chance you get stuck, you can just ask us! I'm sure our fee will be small winking smiley

Actually, I did think about an 'E30 Shop' but when I realised that most E30 owners are either kids with no money or older folks who do all their own repairs; it kind of didn't make a lot of business sense sad smiley
rkj
November 05, 2010 08:32PM
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
Quote
rkj
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
Quote
Earendil
And if I want to control my cRs schedule, and not have the car control my schedule, which do I go for? winking smiley

As I said, I'm going for a car I don't have to think about, but that will get me from point A to point B. If I want control I'll hop in my no ABS no power steering no AC no real sound insulation road hugger. If I want to take the girl out in a suit, and be on time, I'd like a point a to point b car smiling smiley

All wheel drive is just a bonus, even if it's not the best implementation of that bonus.

You really want a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic then. Those are no worry, cheap to own and so darn reliable they are boring...wish I still had mine sad smiley

Newer BMWs are not good choices when it comes to economy, reliability and resale value...they don't really handle all that much better than some of the domestic models now being designed and tested in Europe.
Sadly, the day of the production road warrior cars has long since passed. We have to rely on our E30s or other like vintage machines for that visceral driver control and tossability the E30 gives us.

If you want to drive to the wet coast; I'm going to sell my iX...I have to make a living somehow and the iX isn't really that good as a tradesman's hauler sad smiley

So I guess the trailer idea isn't on the table tongue sticking out smiley

Unfortunately, the trailer idea won't work with my current parking area. My side yard has not access to take a trailer through and I can't just leave it in the driveway.
I'll need to sell the iX for funds to bring the truck up to snuff. Either that or I sell them both for something a little newer.

I wish I didn't have to work any more but the cash flow has gone so negative, I have no choice. Since there isn't a big market for older guys in just about any market here, I've got to do whatever I can to bring in the bacon sad smiley

Work!, really takes the fun out of things sometimes sad smiley
November 15, 2010 05:11PM
Well, I believe I am just about set on it. I'll be sure to add pictures if I do.

Don't fear! My E30 will stay with me, but since it doesn't need to be used as a daily driver or a date night car, it's few remaining comforts and practical features may be ripped out. I'd like to have a fun little track car, and this seems like a good direction for my E30 to go in.

And really, who needs back seats in an "Ultimate Driving Machine" ? smiling smiley

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

November 16, 2010 05:42AM
Congrats! New toys, even ones purchased for practical reasons, are always fun.

Quote
Earendil
And really, who needs back seats in an "Ultimate Driving Machine" ? smiling smiley

Well, that all depends on what you're driving, I suppose...

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
December 29, 2010 04:07PM
It's going to be a done deal soon. I'm on a one way trip to Seattle, should return with an E46! It's not perfect, but it's a smidge better than my E30 winking smiley
Pictures to follow when I return home.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

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