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E46 M3 (2001-2006)

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Old 01-27-2014, 10:49 AM
apelpapa apelpapa is offline
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Location: Denver
Join Date: May 2013
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Mein Auto: 2013 Scion FR-s
2002 M3, Is it reliable?

I'm looking at a 2002 M3 right now with 115,000 miles. Is this a reliable vehicle. I had a 2010 535i Xdrive with 86,000 miles that died on me after 6 months. Now I have a 1992 525i that has 218,000 miles that is going great (Knock on wood). So is this M3 going to be like 535i and kill my wallet, or like my 525i that I could love?
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:34 PM
chatcher chatcher is offline
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Location: pa
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 1,321
Mein Auto: e46 m3
This one has 210k on it. I would think it depends on how you take care of it.


Though every car breaks some are just more expensive to fix than others.

current rides:
09 E93 M3
03 E46 M3
08 E70 4.8i X5
03 E85 2.5 Z4
05 E83 3.0 X3
13 E88 135i
12 Lincoln Navigator
03 rc51
08 F450 Dually
99 F350 Dually
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Old 01-28-2014, 12:47 PM
BMC-M3 BMC-M3 is offline
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Mein Auto: E46 M3
It is a fun car to drive. It has high mileage things might break more often. I have been reading on this sight for the last few months and they seem good cars. Two things that they keep talking about are VONS & MSG transmission. The pump might need to be replacing around 100K.
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Old 01-28-2014, 01:44 PM
apelpapa apelpapa is offline
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Location: Denver
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Thank you guys for the answers, I am yet undecided on whether or not I'm getting one, mainly because I still have yet to get rid of my 535i, but hopefully soon I will figure it out.
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Old 01-28-2014, 02:21 PM
BMC-M3 BMC-M3 is offline
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Good luck
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Old 01-29-2014, 11:04 AM
estyles estyles is offline
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Mein Auto: 2000 528i
i echo what chatcher said it all comes down to maintenance
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Old 03-20-2014, 08:39 PM
Autoputzer Autoputzer is offline
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That's freaky. I just sold a 2002 M3 with 115k miles on it,,. and too damn cheap. Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com) underestimates the value of these cars. Edmunds.com was $2k higher. I placed my ad on bmwcca.org two days after your post. Cult members will pay over book value. These cars are quickly becoming neo-classics if they haven't been messed with.

The big issue are VANOS, cat' converters, ignition coils, and exploding engines.

The 2002's had their oil pumps and connecting rods bearings replaced, and then their connecting rods replaced again. Before these recalls, they were blowing up left and right. Early 2002's were the epicenter of the explosions.

Oil consumption is random on these cars, but goes up with time.

If one coil's been replaced, they all should have been replaced. They're about $60 each, and there are six of them.

Make sure it had the valve adjustments during inspections (about every 24-28k miles). If not, there's a risk of burned exhaust valves (to little cam-tappet clearance) or scored camshaft (too much clearance).

BMW claimed 12-15k mile oil changes. But, back in the day of exploding engines a lot of people were getting their oil tested. The additives in Castrol TWS 10W-60 was dangerously low after 7-8k miles. Look for in-between-scheduled-oil-changes oil changes.

The self-diming rear view mirrors have a limited lifespan, 4-7 years. They can leak and melt your console. They're $500, but can be repaired by a company in Michigan for about $100 if/when they have the parts.

Early E46's have a module that controls the AC/heater fan that goes bad. The replacement part is better.

The AC belts go after about 50k miles (in Florida, anyway).

The wipers blow a relay. Crooked BMW dealers will sell you a $500 module. The BMW diagnostic equipment says "$500 module bad" instead of "$2 relay bad." (My honest BMW dealer, Sansing BMW in Pensacola, installed the part per the BMW diagnostics, then manually diagnosed the relay, and only charged me $90 for the hour labor. That incident is why I bought a 535i instead of a 911.)

I had two differential leaks, and a leak on the timing chain cover (inspection plug popped out). Other than a few bulbs, that was it for mechanical and electrical.

The interior trim, especially the plastic "argent" or "titanium" stuff in the early cars will self destruct in heat and sunlight. My headliner lasted 12 years, but then fell apart. Check the part that holds the rear tag lights and trunk switch. The early ones break off. Don't lift the trunk lid by that part.

Nobody I talked to liked the SMG II, and the pump is an issue eventually. The manual can be notchy. Check for fluid changes during Inspection II (~50-60k miles).

Here's a good one. The front turn signals can pop out, dangle by the wiring harness, and tear the paint off the fender and bumper as your driving down the road. The replacement turn signal has a metal bracket to prevent the dangling/paint tearing thing, cheap insurance at $45/each side. Sell the old ones on e-Bay to some non-M twerp who must have the clear M ones for his non-M car, and the insurance is even cheaper.

The original door weather stripping would come loose in hot weather. Florida dealers would stock up on them in the spring. The replacement ones have better glue.

As 12 year old German cars go, mine was pretty reliable. Reliable, but not cheap. I ended up on the flatbed twice: 71k miles for the timing cover plug, and at 110k miles for an ignition coil.

The AC/heater fan module went out and I had to go to my 103 year old uncle's funeral (in September, in Florida) in my Cobalt. I normally have the coolest cars at family funerals, but not that time. My family is from the mountains, so family funerals and reunions are an acceptable place to look for hot chicks, and an M3 is a chick magnet. But, I digress.
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