If you own, or are thinking about buying an E46 3 series that were manufactured from 1999-2006 there are some things to look out for or keep an eye on. These cars are a favorite among BMW aficionados and were consistently named to Car & Driver’s Top Ten list. These cars can be a long lasting vehicle if maintained properly.
Valve Cover Gasket Leaks
These leaks are common after about 60,000 miles. Symptoms will include oil drips under the car and/or a burning oil smell from the engine compartment. It is important after the leak is repaired to pressure wash the engine so the mechanic can verify there are no additional oil leaks.
Rear Window Regulator Failure
The rear window regulators can fail causing the window to stop working, and in some cases cause the window to fall into the door. The regulators are built with plastic pulleys and thin cables so even with diligent maintenance they can fail. Replacement of the regulator is required to correct this problem.
Coolant Expansion Tank Leaks
An engine coolant leak may develop from the expansion tank. These tanks are made of plastic and over time may leak causing the engine to overheat. When a component in the cooling system fails it is important to inspect the entire cooling system. It is not uncommon to find additional leaks. The radiator and water pumps are also common problems. It is important if your vehicle overheats that you pull over as soon as possible and have your vehicle towed to a qualified BMW repair shop. Overheating can cause severe engine damage!
Power Steering Pump Failure
This is a common concern on the E46, when the power steering pump starts to fail it may emit a growling noise and there may be increased steering effort. There a few reasons the pump can fail. The most common reason the pump fails is due to low fluid, caused by a leak somewhere in the power steering system. There is also a filter in the bottom of the power steering fluid reservoir that gets plugged over time and can restrict fluid flow to pump. The filter is not serviceable separately and will require the reservoir to be replaced if you have this problem. It is important to check the fluid regularly, if it is low you most likely have a leak somewhere in the system.
Rear Sub-frame Tearing
There was a class action lawsuit brought against BMW in 2009 for this problem. It was not uncommon for the rear sub-frame to tear of crack. Owners should be aware of any loud or abnormal noises coming from the rear of the vehicle when traveling on bumpy roads and contact your mechanic for inspection as soon as you hear the noise.
Faulty Tail Lamp Wiring
The tail lamp wiring was the subject of a recall a few years ago. The affected models were the 2002-2005 3 series sedans, model numbers 325i, 325Xi, 330i, and 330Xi. If you own or are thinking about purchasing one of these contact BMW and verify that the recall has been done, or if it applies to your vehicle.
These are just a few things to look out for on these models, but there are more. It is always advised you have a pre-purchase inspection done by a qualified BMW mechanic before buying a used vehicle. Having an inspection done will keep you from buying a vehicle that that may need thousands of dollars worth of repairs.
At The Haus we perform FREE pre-purchase inspections for all of our customers.