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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 10-14-2011, 08:21 AM
binaryrealm binaryrealm is offline
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Mein Auto: '00 BMW e46 318i Saloon
Problem with steering, steering wheel "locks" up

Hi!

I'm having a strange problem which my mechanic and I have been unable to sort out despite considerable effort.

The problem is as follows:

When the car is stationary and the steering wheel gets turned to the right there is a point where it naturally has to stop, i.e. there is resistance and it can't be turned any further. This is perfectly normal.

However when the car is slowly driving forward you reach the same point and feel the resistance initially, but then it goes away and the steering wheel can be turned by another bit.

After doing this, it is difficult to turn it back to the left as there is quite some resistance and only after this resistance is overcome it can be turned back to the zero position. Also there is some knocking sound when overcoming the resistance.

Just to be clear on this:
  • The problem only happens when the car is driving forward.
  • It does not happen when the car is stationary or on a ramp.
  • There is no play or wear in the components involved that we could spot

Here is a list of things that we have done / changed / looked at so far without finding any problems:
  • Steering rack changed (twice)
  • New Wishbones left / right
  • New Wishbone bushings left / right
  • New Track rod ends left / right
  • New Front shocks left / right
  • New Strut mounts left / right
  • 4 Wheel alignment on laser system
  • Steering column inspection, check for play or wear

We have looked at two other cars which have the very same problem.

Any ideas as to what might cause this?
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  #2  
Old 10-14-2011, 10:41 AM
jcourcoul jcourcoul is offline
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I take it that, even if unmentioned in the list, the power steering system is ok? You know, power steering pump, deposit and hoses ok, fresh fluid up to proper level, and evidence that the pump is doing its job (fluid movement in the reservoir when turning the wheel lock-to-lock)?
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  #3  
Old 10-14-2011, 12:35 PM
binaryrealm binaryrealm is offline
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Yes, that has also been looked at, but no issues there, unfortunately.
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  #4  
Old 10-14-2011, 03:39 PM
jcourcoul jcourcoul is offline
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Just a thought: have you checked the steering column coupler or guibo?
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  #5  
Old 10-15-2011, 11:12 AM
binaryrealm binaryrealm is offline
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Hi,

yeah steering wheel column has been inspected too but again, no faults there.

Any other ideas?
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  #6  
Old 10-16-2011, 07:34 PM
Tech Savvy Tech Savvy is offline
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dude, you must have a small leak in one of your hoses. or the pump is not good. What kind of noise does the car make when you turn the wheel.
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  #7  
Old 10-17-2011, 05:52 AM
binaryrealm binaryrealm is offline
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Hey,

thanks for all the responses so far.

The power steering pump and hoses are fine also, there is no noises, no whining etc. not even when reaching the normal lockpoints. Steering itself is normal, no excessive power needed. Have compared it to other cars of the same age and it feels exactly the same.

The weird thing for me is that the problem only happens when driving forward and only under load, i.e. it doesn't happen if the car is on the lift.

I'd love to know what causes the steering to lock, there must be something catching the wheel, steering components etc. but what?
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  #8  
Old 10-17-2011, 09:17 PM
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SJBimmer SJBimmer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binaryrealm View Post
Hey,

thanks for all the responses so far.

The power steering pump and hoses are fine also, there is no noises, no whining etc. not even when reaching the normal lockpoints. Steering itself is normal, no excessive power needed. Have compared it to other cars of the same age and it feels exactly the same.

The weird thing for me is that the problem only happens when driving forward and only under load, i.e. it doesn't happen if the car is on the lift.

I'd love to know what causes the steering to lock, there must be something catching the wheel, steering components etc. but what?
Did you install and tighten suspension components while the car was on a lift? Some pieces like to be tightened when the car is on the ground, or the wheels and suspension are loaded. Varies by car, and you would have to consult the service manual to see which ones for your car.
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  #9  
Old 10-17-2011, 11:12 PM
depuepedro depuepedro is offline
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What kind of noise does the car make when you turn the wheel.

Last edited by depuepedro; 10-17-2011 at 11:16 PM.
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  #10  
Old 10-18-2011, 03:09 AM
binaryrealm binaryrealm is offline
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SJBimmer: I will look into getting the service manual for the e46 and see if, procedure-wise, this could be an issue while fitting the parts.

Is there anyone else who could confirm that suspension parts have to be tightened while under load on the e46?

depuepedro: There is no noise whatsoever when turning the wheel, i.e. NO hissing, NO whining, nothing of that sort. Fluid level in power steering system is constant.

Car is going to a "BMW genius" now, let's see what he comes up with
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  #11  
Old 10-18-2011, 03:37 AM
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jonathan2263 jonathan2263 is offline
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At least the Sway Bar End Links need to be tightened under load. Not sure about other steering components.
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  #12  
Old 01-17-2012, 12:21 PM
BMWmungry BMWmungry is offline
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I have the exact same problem BMW could not or did not know how to cure the problem.
I thought I had got very weak arms all of a sudden and catches you out!
I think it is only turning to the right and moving forward.

I was not sure if it was because the engine was only idling so the pump was not working as well, but being an auto reving or raising the revs is out of the question as it normally does it when parking so you would end up in the wall or something else!

Be interested in any ideas. No other problem found in the steering.
I had no luck with this 6 years ago and still own the car as it only happens if you are in the above conditions which I don't see often
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  #13  
Old 01-17-2012, 01:27 PM
Newbmfan Newbmfan is offline
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Does the problem still occur in reverse? The reason I ask is because although you have replaced the shock tops I wonder if there is a problem with the turrets ie elongated mounting holes. So when the problem occurs it feels like your on full lock but as the top of the shock "slips" in the turrets allowing the steering turn a little more. Is any of this likely to be the cause
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  #14  
Old 01-17-2012, 07:13 PM
binaryrealm binaryrealm is offline
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In my case the problem never occured while in reverse, only when moving forwards.

Just to give an update on the earlier posts, I also never found a solution and have since lived with the steering issues as it is apparently not impacting safety.

I'm beginning to think into the direction of this being the result of a combination of several factors, specifically:
  • Tear and wear in the involved components that haven't been changed
  • Non-OEM parts which are not 100% up to spec
  • Assembly procedure
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  #15  
Old 01-17-2012, 07:54 PM
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catso catso is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binaryrealm View Post
In my case the problem never occured while in reverse, only when moving forwards.

Just to give an update on the earlier posts, I also never found a solution and have since lived with the steering issues as it is apparently not impacting safety.

I'm beginning to think into the direction of this being the result of a combination of several factors, specifically:
  • Tear and wear in the involved components that haven't been changed
  • Non-OEM parts which are not 100% up to spec
  • Assembly procedure
When you changed the steering rack, were the tie rods also replaced?
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  #16  
Old 01-18-2012, 06:38 AM
Newbmfan Newbmfan is offline
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It could still be worn mounting holes. Have you tried to recreate the concern with the hood open and your mechanic on the engine trying to "see" the problem. I know that sounds extreme but it can be the difference between finding the culprit and it wrecking your head. There's nothing better than real life driving situation for diagnosing these kind of faults
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  #17  
Old 08-17-2012, 04:57 AM
goodpoint goodpoint is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binaryrealm View Post
Hi!

I'm having a strange problem which my mechanic and I have been unable to sort out despite considerable effort.

The problem is as follows:

When the car is stationary and the steering wheel gets turned to the right there is a point where it naturally has to stop, i.e. there is resistance and it can't be turned any further. This is perfectly normal.

However when the car is slowly driving forward you reach the same point and feel the resistance initially, but then it goes away and the steering wheel can be turned by another bit.

After doing this, it is difficult to turn it back to the left as there is quite some resistance and only after this resistance is overcome it can be turned back to the zero position. Also there is some knocking sound when overcoming the resistance.

Just to be clear on this:
  • The problem only happens when the car is driving forward.
  • It does not happen when the car is stationary or on a ramp.
  • There is no play or wear in the components involved that we could spot

Here is a list of things that we have done / changed / looked at so far without finding any problems:
  • Steering rack changed (twice)
  • New Wishbones left / right
  • New Wishbone bushings left / right
  • New Track rod ends left / right
  • New Front shocks left / right
  • New Strut mounts left / right
  • 4 Wheel alignment on laser system
  • Steering column inspection, check for play or wear

We have looked at two other cars which have the very same problem.

Any ideas as to what might cause this?

Could it be a worn out V belt or pulley, deflection tensioner?
Have the same problem on my 745i. But going to start from cheaper (DIY) options
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  #18  
Old 08-24-2012, 08:42 PM
Tech Savvy Tech Savvy is offline
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what about the Flexible coupling for steering column.
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  #19  
Old 10-03-2012, 02:54 AM
goodpoint goodpoint is offline
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Originally Posted by goodpoint View Post
Could it be a worn out V belt or pulley, deflection tensioner?
Have the same problem on my 745i. But going to start from cheaper (DIY) options
Replaced both belts, alternator pulley + def.tensioner and toped up fluid a month ago. And what do you know, it hasn't happened since.. Happy days
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  #20  
Old 10-03-2012, 01:46 PM
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catso catso is offline
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Originally Posted by goodpoint View Post
Replaced both belts, alternator pulley + def.tensioner and toped up fluid a month ago. And what do you know, it hasn't happened since.. Happy days
Do yourself a favor and change your PS reservoir and fluid (use ATF). Power steering pump failures on these cars is very common and can be hastened by contaminated fluid. Check all the connections and hoses for leaks too. You can find lots if DIY info here on fuild changing and pump and reservoir replacement.
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