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Sam555 12-02-2012 09:49 PM

Preventive maintenance tips/questions
Hi everyone:

I have a 2001 330i with 115K miles on it. The car runs great, but I would like to do some preventive maintenance on it to ensure everything stays fine.

I plan to take the car out to an Indy in the next few days to have him take a look over and see what he finds. But I would also like to suggest some things for him to do. Hereís the history of the car:

Left control arm, front control bushings and bearings changed at 65,000

After belts etc broke and a general catastrophic failure (!) at 80,200 miles, the following were changed- Fan, water pump, 2 V belts, belt tensioner, deflector roller, washer pump.

Brake pads and rotors changed twice, the second change recently at 95000 miles

Valve cover gasket, 6 spark plugs changed at 102,000 miles.

After doing research here, hereís what I am going to ask the Indy for:

1.Oil, oil filter change
2.Brake fluid flush, change
3. Coolant flush, add
4. Transmission fluid flush, change
5. Differential fluid flush, change
6. Power steering hose kit replaced- I know this is leaking
7. In addition to these items, I looked at the 3 excellent write ups by Bav auto. So I will be asking the Indy to do items listed over there- inspect control arms, bushings, valve stems, hoses, exhaust. Based on my limited understanding, these are the items to check.

Here are my questions

a.What would be a reasonable price for items 1-5?

b.Previously I received an estimate of $180 for the steering hose kit with 1hr of labor? Does that sound reasonable?

c.My understanding is the cooling system is generally prone to failure- since I replaced the water pump and belts at 80,000 I guess I donít need those?

d.Is there anything else that is prone to failure (e.g. other plastic items?). I know the list of items is endless. My plan is to see what all need to be replaced in item 7 above, then if I have any budget left move on to others. My understanding is the other critical items are: thermostat housing, radiator, expansion tank. Also water pulley?

e.Is VANOS something I should replace too?

f.Any other critical items/suggestions?

I know this is a lot, but any help, advice would be appreciated.


heztheone 12-02-2012 11:01 PM

a. check with our sponsors, you can do those yourself easily and save some $$
c. cooling system is the most PITA for BMW owners, check all the hoses and plastic items for leakage, and thermostat (basically what u mentioned in point d.)
e. if you're experiencing the VANOS symptoms then yes by all means, check this website for all the details.
f. read the wiki
good luck :thumbup:

GoForthFast 12-03-2012 09:18 PM

Hate to waste bytes, but this is useful for you:

Vulnerable e46 points
Pulled this out of my file and good to review from time to time.
Or for new owners who ask what to look for.

Getting EDGEucated: the "75k mile list"
The E46 3-Series (1999-2005, including M) Edition

After years of working on BMW's, we have begun to see common problems and maintenance concerns that need to be addressed on nearly every middle-aged BMW. E46 3-series cars, like all BMWs, they have certain areas that need to be inspected regularly, and prospective owners should always have a pre-purchase inspection done to verify the condition of these items.

In this list, you will find items that should have been replaced or at least inspected by 75k-100k miles. Some are model specific, and will be noted as such.

If you suspect you may have some of these issues, or just want us to take a look for your peace of mind, print out your free inspection coupon (located here), and call us at 925.479.0797 to schedule an appointment!

Areas of Concern:

Broken window regulators: Leaves you stuck with your inoperative window in the down position.
Warning signs sometimes are a noisy crunchy sound a few times before you lose control of your window.
DIY's abound on various sites, and pay particular attention to your door seal when backing out of that area if you want to avoid rain soaked floors in your car.

Lower Control Arm Bushing Failure

Common symptoms for torn or cracked lower control arm bushings are undesired front toe changes during cornering, vague and rubbery feel in the steering, and vibration experienced while braking at freeway speeds. Non-M bushings are commonly replaced with M3 bushings to increase performance with little to no change in comfort.

Tie Rod Wear

Symtoms include: steering shimmy, clunking during steering input and inability to hold proper alignment. If any of the ball joint boots is cracked (you'll see grease coming out) then expect that component to need replacement. All components should also be checked for excessive play, and replaced if out of BMW spec.

Worn or Blown Shocks and Struts
Factory BMW shocks work great for about 30k. By 60k they are completely shot. Most folks who have been driving their cars since new hardly notice the deterioration as it is gradual. Symptoms includeiving under braking and acceleration, excessive lean and suspension compression during cornering. Bouncy and uncomfortable ride. Shocks and struts may visibly leak shock oil. EDGE generally recommends replacing the factory units with quality shocks from Koni whenever possible. When replacing shocks and struts, keep in mind it is a great time to install lowering springs or freshen up other areas of the suspension. You will be amazed at the difference a good set of shocks can make in both comfort and performance!

Worn or Failed Swaybar Endlinks
Worn swaybar endlinks can compromise handling. A worn swaybar can sound like a metallic clicking noise. There is no critical danger in a failed swaybar endlink, but the handling of the car is severely compromised.

Torn Rear Trailing Arm Bushings (RTABs)
E46's are prone to the same RTAB failure as the E36. In fact, since they are heavier cars, they tend to wear faster on the E46. If the rear of the car feels strange during cornering or you have excessive rear tire wear, expect that your RTABs are shot. Typical mileage for the E46 is around 35-45k. Failure to replace could lead to torn subframe and costly repairs. EDGE recommends replacement with factory units and RTAB limiting shims. The shims prevent excessive movement and can double the life of the bushing.

Torn Rear Shock Mounts
Torn or destroyed rear shock mounts will produce a very pronounced clunk during any sort of suspension movement, and could possibly just tear right through the trunk carpeting into the passenger cabin. Sloppy and erratic handling and excessive rear suspension play are common symptoms of a RSM failure.

Torn Subframe and Subframe Bushings
Torn subframe bushings could lead to subframe failure. Common symptoms of subframe failure are erratic handling and unidentified clunks and bangs from the rear of the car. Early detection of a torn or cracked subframe bushing can prevent costly subframe repair and welding. We see subframe issues mainly appearing in tracked and autocrossed E46's, but we have swapped out cracked bushings in higher mileage E46's as well.

Torn or Cracked Transmission Mounts
Torn transmission mounts could lead to the dreaded 'money shift,' or mechanical overrev and the possible (and likely) destruction of the car's motor. Worn transmission mounts allow for an excess amount of transmission movement. Symptoms can be hard, notchy and forced shifting during cornering, excessive shifter jerk during hard acceleration and braking, and muddy shifter feel.

Ripped or Failed Guibo
A torn guibo (Flex Disc) will result in a perceivable 'drivetrain elasticity.' Acceleration will be preceded with a loud clunk as the guibo bolts bind together.

Dirty Automatic Transmission Fluid or Clogged Filter
Hesitation and/or hard shifting could be the result of dirty and old automatic transmission fluid or clogged transmission filter.

Water Pump Failure-----extremely common & tragic

Water pump failure is without a doubt the easiest way to cause extensive and expensive damage to your BMW. The main symptom will be a rapidly overheating motor. What occurs is that the bearing or impeller on the stock pump breaks, completely disabling the cooling system. If you ever see the temperature gauge on your BMW climb above the 3/4 mark,...


We can't stress this enough. Failure to catch the overheating motor in time can result in a warped head or even more severe engine damage. We recommend changing out the water pump in these six cylinder cars every 60-80k.

Cracked Radiator Necks
BMW loves their plastic radiator tanks....Unfortunately...The plastic around the radiator necks become brittle and crack with age, often without warning (see warning above.) Radiators should be thought of as 80-100k mile wear items. Trust us, this is cheap insurance!

Fan Clutch Failure
Most fan clutches fail between 80 and 100k miles. They provide the primary cooling for your car, and are easy for us to diagnose.

Accessory Belt and Tensioner Failure
Worn tensioners and idler pullies will sound like a squealing noise from the engine bay. Belts should be inspected for cracks regularly. If a belt happens to snap, the cooling system will fail as the water pump will cease to operate. Power steering and the alternator will also fail to work. Again, pull over and shut the car off immediately should you suspect a belt failure or see the temperature gauge rise past the 3/4 mark.

Leaky valve cover gasket
Prevalent on all BMWs, a burning oil smell 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.

Vanos seals. See for details for explanation, symptoms and upgraded parts.

Oil Filter Housing Gasket leaks. $6 part requires removal of the housing for replacement.

DISA is pretty high up on the list of high fail rate components.

Tail light ground circuit fix (recall on this).

Sunroof - what a disaster that design is with leaks and jams and broken clips. Labor on this one is torture.

Door locks can break. If your locks unlock and windows all roll completlely down by themselves spontaneously, replace the driver's door lock mechanism.

O2 Sensor Failure
Poor mileage, poor idle and flat spots in the power curve could be caused by bad O2 sensors. 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. Extended high-RPM running/racing and high-performance chips may shorten the replacement cycle.

Oil Separator
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 above symptoms and will eventually strand you somewhere. We started seeing these a year ago and we are now repairing more and more cars with this problem. Typical mileage seems to be around 80k. The good news is that the part is only around $75..the bad news is that the labor runs about 4 hours, depending on the year of the car.

Clogged and dirty pollen filter
If the flow of air out of the air conditioning and heater system is not as strong as it used to be, it strongly suggests the pollen microfilter of your car has become dirty and clogged over time. A damp and musky smell can also indicate a dirty filter. This is a service II replacement item.

bimcwe 12-03-2012 10:20 PM

Not sure how good of an idea a transmission flush is with that many miles on your tranny. It could be more detrimental to the transmission than helpful. Buying some replacement intake boots just so that you can have them on hand when one of them does tear, would probably be a good idea because they will tear and/or rip eventually. Be sure to check your valve cover gaskets. Purchasing a replacement for that is something I would recommend as well. Fuel filter if it hasn't been mentioned already.

Sam555 12-04-2012 03:21 PM

Firstly, big thanks to bimcwe, goforth, and he's the one. Appreciate it.

I went to a local Indy to have him take a look at the car. Since I'm paranoid about getting under the car, I asked for estimates on various fluid changes as wel, in addition to his taking a general look to see whats wrong.

Indy hiked up car and found major greasy oily stuff below on the under carriage. I sort of knew this, and expected it. In the past I have been told that I needed a power steering hose kit, since there was a leak in the power steering fluid.I have in fact been regularly topping up power steering, way more than I should. And also topping up on oil, more than I should.

So the guy at the Indy said something about the rack and pinion being out, along with the power steering pump, and the oil cooler...these terms were brought up often. Estimate given as follows:

Oil change- $95, Brake fluid flush- $ 125, Check differential oil- $50...these figures straight away seem to suggest hes trying to screw me over...Indy mentioned I wont need transmission fluid change...

Power steering pump- $450

Oil Cooler- $ 200

Steering gear- $ 825

Labor- 5hours (including 1.2 hours for wheel alignment)

Total damages- $ 2300!!

Bear in mind, I have been driving the car quite happily..yes power steering leak was definitely something I was aware of, and like I said, I was told it could be fixed for $ 180 in the past! Two questions:

1. Does this sound credible- or does he seeem like a total rip off?I respect good Indy's, and would happily transact with an honest person at fair be clear. So I'm not looking to screw him...
2. I would like to look up the prices of these parts- any leads?

I will of course search the thread too, for other past views on this, but thought I would quickly post what the indy said. Many thanks for any advise/insights.

GoForthFast 12-04-2012 09:38 PM

These prices are just like my Stealer prices! Not the best find you could come up with.

Look up part numbers on and then go to to use these guys to price compare.

If only you could DIY, it helps to know about places like this:

bimcwe 12-04-2012 10:17 PM


Originally Posted by Sam555 (Post 7231002)
Oil change- $95, Brake fluid flush- $ 125, Check differential oil- $50...these figures straight away seem to suggest hes trying to screw me over...Indy mentioned I wont need transmission fluid change...

Power steering pump- $450

Oil Cooler- $ 200

Steering gear- $ 825

Labor- 5hours (including 1.2 hours for wheel alignment)

Total damages- $ 2300!!

Bear in mind, I have been driving the car quite happily..yes power steering leak was definitely something I was aware of, and like I said, I was told it could be fixed for $ 180 in the past! Two questions:

1. Does this sound credible- or does he seeem like a total rip off?I respect good Indy's, and would happily transact with an honest person at fair be clear. So I'm not looking to screw him...
2. I would like to look up the prices of these parts- any leads?

I will of course search the thread too, for other past views on this, but thought I would quickly post what the indy said. Many thanks for any advise/insights.

No problem, just giving you what information I can.
I personally don't take my car to my Indy for alignment or oil changes. I typically do the changes myself or I take them to mobil1 which does a good job where I'm at though I've heard bad reviews elsewhere so be careful. That's with regard to oil changes. Alignment I usually get at the same place I buy the tires from.. firestone in my last case. Whether or not you take it somewhere, a $95 oil change is a bit much. About 20% more than what I pay if I don't do it personally. AAP (Advanced Auto Parts) had a deal on oil change kits so that saved me a good amount of money on the last few changes. Power steering pump doesn't seem like too bad of a DIY, so for $450 I would definitely look into doing it myself.

Sam555 12-04-2012 10:47 PM

Thanks for the responses.

The rack and pinion are priced at $ 170 on the rackdoctor site....thats one fifth the price. Turner Motorsport lists pump at $390. I am going to start with the basics- I was told last time the hoses below the oil carrier may be leaking. So I'm going to start there. I'm having trouble figuring out where to buy the hoses though....any leads will be appreciated.

I do feel I'm getting screwed. If it were the pump and rack/pinion shouldnt the car be showing some signs?- it drives absolutely fine. I checked the PS level today- I filled it at least a month back. Its fine.

I wanted to get preventive maintenance done...with a good mechanic to help....this is nuts. I'm stuck trying to figure out if this first problem is legitimate...

bluebee 12-05-2012 12:04 AM


Originally Posted by Sam555 (Post 7231735)
I wanted to get preventive maintenance done......

Did BMW engineers learn from previous model mistakes in designing the E46 platform?

Gareth@GarthVadarMotorsports 12-05-2012 10:59 AM

First off, thanks GoForthFast and bimcwe for pitching in some great info.

I understand the frustration with the cost of maintenance and parts. I do want to offer my experience and caution however. Being an independent mechanic myself, the biggest thing is trade off of between quality and cost. It is sometimes beneficial to buy the OEM or OEM supplier part and pay a little extra money to make sure you get a part that lasts (for example water pumps or any other critical engine part). In my early days, I tested some lower cost parts to try and save a dime for my personal cars, but most needed replacement far sooner than the OEM part, causing increased labor costs if they were to be used on customer cars.

I wish I was located in NY so I could provide you with more affordable mechanic services.

My tips are..

Shop around. Also, don't be afraid to ask what their labor rates / hr are. Sometimes you can ever call the stealer service department and ask them how many hours (a.k.a. "shop hours") a particular job will take so you can see if the indy shops are being fair.

Sam555 12-05-2012 01:02 PM

Thanks gareth, bimcwe, and bluebee for the post on a philosophical note.

So today, I got the car washed so the undercarriage is cleaner and everything is more visible. Then on an impulse, I took it to Midas. The guy there was much more patient, much more willing to go over the car slowly with me than the Indy. We visually inspected a whole bunch of things. Getting the car washed made it clearer that much of the PS fluid leak was happening from the intake hose. So the MIDAS guy basically recommended I replace that first, and see if the leak continues. This is was exactly the diagnosis I received earlier as well.

We also went over various things visually- shocks looked good, control arms were fine, bushings were fine, all links looked good, plastic pulleys including water pulley looked fine. No cracks etc.

The belts were fine, but the AC belt had many small cracks. So I decided to replace that.

There were two clamps on the of which was surprisingly halfway torn, altho it still loked very strong. So decided to postpone that for now...

Bottom line, car looked quite fine...which was a relief. So here is what I decided with the Midas guy:

Differential flush- $45
Oil change- $80
Power steering feed hose replaced with labor- $150
AC serpentine belt replaced with labor- $110

The idea once again is to see if the PS leak persists simply after replacing the hose. This is a world of a difference from what the indy quoted. I will be getting this done on Friday.

The other good news- the Midas guy generally seemed cooperative, and willing to work with me to preventively change other parts. His level of expertise is of course the unknown...a big one...will take it a step at a time and get this done for now.

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