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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 09-03-2012, 05:05 PM
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Dave 330i Dave 330i is offline
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Vacuum Leak

How many vacuum lines are there in the 330i? SA said there is a vacuum leak and wants $150 to do a smoke test to locate the leak. Most likely, the leak is from an oxidized hose. After all, the car will be 12 years old in October. Well, if there are only a few lines, I rather pay the dealer to replace all of them instead trying to find the leak for $150. If I understand correctly, vacuum only occurs during acceleration when the engine draws extra air in the cylinder? I have not noticed any degradation in mpg. Got 29.7 mpg (OBC) during a recent 4700 mile trip, at some point I was going 125mph (GPS). I can't get the TX inspection clearance unless the leak is fixed, otherwise, I just won't get the TX inspection. F-them. Oh, in Texsuck, the registration and the inspection are two separate entity. You can get the car registered (who doesn't want money) without the inspection sticker (more money). Like everything else, I'm safe until a cop stops me. Life is full of gambles, sometimes I lose but most of the time I win.
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Last edited by Dave 330i; 09-03-2012 at 05:19 PM.
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  #2  
Old 09-03-2012, 06:51 PM
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rgk330i rgk330i is offline
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There are a seemingly endless number of places where vacuum leaks can occur. Ones that I've dealt with personally include:

- cracked air induction hoses
- leaking DISA valve gasket
- cracked vacuum hose (the 1/4" or so line that goes around the back of the valve cover to the ... umm ... aux air pump maybe? Can't remember right now.)
- cracked/crumbling oil separator valve hoses
- cracked plug on a vacuum nipple on the back of the intake manifold along the firewall

I'm sure there are more that I can't recall right now. Seems like every year or so I have to track down another one.

It can get rather expensive to replace things willy-nilly, though odds are you probably are in need of every one of these that you haven't already done. Instead of a smoke test, I set my OBD reader and laptop to show short-term fuel trim, then run an un-lit (!) propane torch at a low setting around the components on the intake side of the engine. When the fuel trim plummets, you've found your vacuum leak. Try not to blow up the garage while doing this.
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  #3  
Old 09-03-2012, 06:52 PM
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Check your intake bellows and elbow directly behind your air box (in between the air box and firewall, on the drivers side of the car). Take off your air box completely and inspect the elbow and lower bellows for any cracks that may have developed. If they are the original rubber components, I would replace them anyway because they do not last long.

There aren't a ton of vacuum lines (I am not too sure how many there are exactly), but I do know that just replacing them all will be way more expensive than the $150 smoke test. There are most likely shops around that will do it for half that price also. There is a shop around me that does them for $85.
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  #4  
Old 09-04-2012, 11:56 AM
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I think you are right. There are many places where a vacuum leak can occur, so just replacing hoses would be expensive. Yea, pay the SA the $150 and suck it up.
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  #5  
Old 09-04-2012, 02:01 PM
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Or you could check your intake elbow and bellows after the air box, and if the leaks aren't there you could do the same smoke test at an indy for half the price of the dealer...

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  #6  
Old 09-04-2012, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goosefoot33 View Post
Or you could check your intake elbow and bellows after the air box, and if the leaks aren't there you could do the same smoke test at an indy for half the price of the dealer...

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I don't think a leak coming from the air box would be considered a vacuum leak. A leak in that area means just less air going into the fuel mixture. I wonder if that dumb mpg gauge works off a vacuum, like in the older cars. If I decide to get it fix, I will probably give the job to the stealership since I have a good relationship with the SA. He charges high, gives me a discount thinking I got a good deal.
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Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Albert Einstein

Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction", Sam Walton.

Last edited by Dave 330i; 09-04-2012 at 03:49 PM.
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  #7  
Old 09-04-2012, 03:48 PM
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MalibuMafiaV MalibuMafiaV is offline
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TLDR. You can smoke test the car yourself. Do you smoke cigarettes? ( I'm not kidding ) or you can buy a little smoke machine for like 20-$60s and return it. All you have to do is blow smoke into the air box/intake when the cars on and see where the smoke might be coming out of.
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  #8  
Old 09-04-2012, 05:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave 330i View Post
I think you are right. There are many places where a vacuum leak can occur, so just replacing hoses would be expensive. Yea, pay the SA the $150 and suck it up.
150 is high for a smoke test. What codes are you throwing? Likely we can tell you what to replace based on that
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Last edited by smolck; 09-04-2012 at 05:13 PM.
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  #9  
Old 09-04-2012, 05:38 PM
tchavera tchavera is offline
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really? no one is going to mention spraying carb cleaner to find the vacuum leak yourself. also please don't blow cigarette smoke into the intake while it's running
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  #10  
Old 09-04-2012, 08:07 PM
DamienM3 DamienM3 is offline
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Originally Posted by tchavera View Post
really? no one is going to mention spraying carb cleaner to find the vacuum leak yourself. also please don't blow cigarette smoke into the intake while it's running
This usually works. Just be very careful where you spray it!
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  #11  
Old 09-06-2012, 07:08 AM
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Intake boot, 3 rubber plugs behind the manifold, if early model Sap system, fuel regulator line, DISA O-ring, CCV system and etc...

That's what I can think off the top of my head...
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  #12  
Old 09-07-2012, 07:21 AM
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Mein Auto:
I was at the Stealer yesterday and just so happened that I caught up with the SA. I asked and he confirmed that the $150 smoke test will be credited towards any repairs.

He also mentioned that the technician who replaced the valve cover gaskets a while ago said I had the cleanest engine (135K miles) he had even seen. What's the secret? Mobil 1 every 5K miles since new. But, I'm getting lazy on the 330i, so it's every 10K miles now. I'm so good at it that I can change the oil and filter in about 15 minutes. And, I can reset OBC in seconds. Thank you all for suggesting leak locations.

Edit: BTW, what kind of gasoline do I use? Some of you will refuse to hear it, but I use the cheapest premium available, even on my 911 Turbo.
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Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Albert Einstein

Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction", Sam Walton.

Last edited by Dave 330i; 09-07-2012 at 08:40 AM.
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  #13  
Old 12-07-2012, 08:17 AM
9benua 9benua is offline
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Well, what will be the result of ignoring vacuum leak?

I've had this problem for awhile now and the codes only showed up in winter. Since my inspection in summer, my car always pass them. There's no hesitation, no rough idling, mpg is still quite good (got 28+mpg on a recent roadtrip), no problem at all with my car. I've tried to get it fixed and changed couple of hoses, yet it's still there.

Recently I get a wheel alignment done by indies. He scanned it and saw the codes. He's asking for $65 to diagnose it and most likely he pointed to oil separator problem. He's asking for $500 for oil separator job. Is that reasonable?
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  #14  
Old 12-07-2012, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 9benua View Post
Well, what will be the result of ignoring vacuum leak?

I've had this problem for awhile now and the codes only showed up in winter. Since my inspection in summer, my car always pass them. There's no hesitation, no rough idling, mpg is still quite good (got 28+mpg on a recent roadtrip), no problem at all with my car. I've tried to get it fixed and changed couple of hoses, yet it's still there.

Recently I get a wheel alignment done by indies. He scanned it and saw the codes. He's asking for $65 to diagnose it and most likely he pointed to oil separator problem. He's asking for $500 for oil separator job. Is that reasonable?
Your indy scanned the codes and now is asking $65 to diagnose?? What were the codes? CVV is typically pretty simple to diagnose -- either it's covered in oil, or makes a whale mating sound. I think Blubee did a good write-up on this somewhere.

If it includes parts, $500 seems to be a reasonable price for an indy. I think book time is around 3-4 hrs. Depending on how you value your time, might be worth it to buy the parts (~$125) and DIY. Also gives you a chance to clean your ICV, MAF, TB, inspect your OFHG and DISA, and get to know your car in a more intimate and back-achy manner. First-timer, give yourself 6-7 hours.
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  #15  
Old 04-24-2013, 03:00 PM
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Hi all. I am taking the time to follow up with the dealer initial diagnostic that there is a vacuum leak, which the SA wanted $150 to do a smoke test to locate the leak, which I initially declined. It has been over 3 months now. Once I found out that the dealer would credit that amount to the repair I gave them the go ahead. The dealer instead decided to replace a leaky thermostat at a tune of some $575, a job that the tech did not fill the radiator fully, but ignored the vacuum leak issue (the check engine amber lamp went away). I had to top it off with approximately a quart of Prestone antifreeze. The "check engine" amber lamp continues to glow, off and on, and sometimes on for a longer period and finally stayed on. The car seems to run fine so I ignore doing anything until one day I finally refused to have that lamp staring at me day and night. Yea, I could have put some black electrical tape over the glaring lamp.

So, I decided to take the 330i to my local southern boy redneck mechanic. The name of the place? Good Ole Boys . What type of clients go there? Southern rednecks, types who like Harleys, older Cameros and Mustangs, trucks, and Suburbans. The owner and his mechanics held the car overnight to make sure the issue was understood. What he found was a two code issue, that the computer monitored both lean and rich conditions, which was caused by that the air filter being very dirty, and some dirt from the air filter had reached the air mass sensor. They had put in $15 Shell super because I was low on gas. They cleaned out the air filter and the mass sensor at a tone of $208, which was not bad for all the time they spent trying to figure out what was the problem. Now, the car does run better! I also replaced the air filter I keep stocked when I got home. I doubt the dealer would "fix" the problem but instead charge me for a new air mass sensor and a new air filter at a tune of another $500 or so. Guess where I am taking my 330i for service from now on? I paid the owner with a check so he doesn't get a 3% zapped from the CC company.
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Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Albert Einstein

Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction", Sam Walton.

Last edited by Dave 330i; 04-24-2013 at 03:05 PM.
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  #16  
Old 04-24-2013, 03:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave 330i View Post
Hi all. I am taking the time to follow up with the dealer initial diagnostic that there is a vacuum leak, which the SA wanted $150 to do a smoke test to locate the leak, which I initially declined. It has been over 3 months now. Once I found out that the dealer would credit that amount to the repair I gave them the go ahead. The dealer instead decided to replace a leaky thermostat at a tune of some $575, a job that the tech did not fill the radiator fully, but ignored the vacuum leak issue (the check engine amber lamp went away). I had to top it off with approximately a quart of Prestone antifreeze. The "check engine" amber lamp continues to glow, off and on, and sometimes on for a longer period and finally stayed on. The car seems to run fine so I ignore doing anything until one day I finally refused to have that lamp staring at me day and night. Yea, I could have put some black electrical tape over the glaring lamp.

So, I decided to take the 330i to my local southern boy redneck mechanic. The name of the place? Good Ole Boys . What type of clients go there? Southern rednecks, types who like Harleys, older Cameros and Mustangs, trucks, and Suburbans. The owner and his mechanics held the car overnight to make sure the issue was understood. What he found was a two code issue, that the computer monitored both lean and rich conditions, which was caused by that the air filter being very dirty, and some dirt from the air filter had reached the air mass sensor. They had put in $15 Shell super because I was low on gas. They cleaned out the air filter and the mass sensor at a tone of $208, which was not bad for all the time they spent trying to figure out what was the problem. Now, the car does run better! I also replaced the air filter I keep stocked when I got home. I doubt the dealer would "fix" the problem but instead charge me for a new air mass sensor and a new air filter at a tune of another $500 or so. Guess where I am taking my 330i for service from now on? I paid the owner with a check so he doesn't get a 3% zapped from the CC company.
$575 to replace a t-stat!?!? That's just criminal.
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  #17  
Old 04-25-2013, 06:59 AM
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I've taken my car to a similar place for things like, "my exhaust coupler is totally rusted together can you separate it and put new bolts in?" Where a dealer would probably recommend a complete exhaust system, he charged me $60, labor & parts. Plus 12 budweisers at my choice.
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