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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 11-01-2005, 09:33 PM
bmw325 bmw325 is online now
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Which E46 problems would you deal with, and which would be grounds for "termination"

So, I often read about people souring on their cars due to "high maintenance costs", or " lots of problems". Like many of you, its rare that I read about a problem that I'm not already aware of. Since I know all the things that could go wrong, I continue my ownership with that knowledge. But, still, I wonder-- which problems would cause me to think "to hell with this, I've had enough". So, here's a list of common problems or atleast "accelerated wear" items that we often hear about (or have maybe experienced). Which, if any, would really get under your skin?

here are mine, and my feelings on each:

1. Control Arms (ball joints): No, I'd do the work myself and replace w/ higher quality MEyle units w/ replaceable joints. Anyway, I've known about control arms problems since before I bought my car, so this one doesn't really bug me.
2. Final stage resistor: No. I'd do the work myself, and again, this problem has been known for years
3. Rear shock mounts: No-- again, known for years
4. Coupe door seals falling down: This one would probaby get under my skin if it kept happening-- but I don'thave a coupe.
5. Water pump and Thermostat: No, I'm planning to replace mine at 60k. I shouldn't have to, but the parts aren't that expensive-- so not really worth getting upset about
6. Rotors/Pads every 30k: No, I know they tend to wear faster on BMWs. I can do the work myself
7. Vanos replacement at 90-120k: No, but I probablky won't have the car by then anyway.

I think these are the most common issues-and I don't really have a big issue with any of them. These are the things tath WOULD bug me:
7. Rear floor tear; Yes, I'm aware that it can happen. If I could get it repaired/reinforced for under $1500 I'd do it. But still, it would upset me.
8. Funky wiring harness issue: I've heard of engine wiring harnesses having strange corrosion issues (Very rare). THis would really bother me- and it would be quite expensive to fix. I wouldn't do the work myself
9. Engine or drivetrain issue: Yes, this would bother me


What are your thoughts? Any others to add?

I'm asking as part of my ongong realization that I'm going to be living w/ the e46 for quite a while given the current automotive landscape.
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Last edited by bmw325; 11-01-2005 at 09:35 PM.
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  #2  
Old 11-02-2005, 10:10 AM
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hawk2100n hawk2100n is offline
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It is interesting to see the grounds on which someone will get rid of a car. If you try to sell a car with a major defect though, say goodbye to any reasonable price. I will usually try to fix most problems with the cars. Things like robg mentioned like ball joints and rotor and pads are to be expected and dealt with on a higher mileage car. As cars advance though, I wonder what it will be like to keep a higher mileage or older classic ones running. A 20 year old car today is usually fairly simple to work on. What would a 20 year old e90 or similar with valvetronic or other complex things of this nature be like to work on. I'd say hell.
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  #3  
Old 11-02-2005, 10:13 AM
99flhr 99flhr is offline
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#1 is really poor design and irks me even though I do my own repairs
#7 is an inexcusably poor design and will be cause for "termination"

Worst problem is as you state, " been known for years" yet they continued to produce the same short lived, sub standard, components. I suppose that any 2 (excepting #7) of these issues would be acceptable but when they all exist in the same product....??

Last edited by 99flhr; 11-02-2005 at 10:18 AM.
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  #4  
Old 11-02-2005, 10:34 AM
bmw325 bmw325 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 99flhr
#1 is really poor design and irks me even though I do my own repairs
#7 is an inexcusably poor design and will be cause for "termination"

Worst problem is as you state, " been known for years" yet they continued to produce the same short lived, sub standard, components. I suppose that any 2 (excepting #7) of these issues would be acceptable but when they all exist in the same product....??
I agree. I'm interested in how everyone here who still owns an e46 has come to terms with the likely defects. My guess is that if you're on this board, you know about most of them. If so, they don't bother you enough to make you get rid of the car, or else, you're just denying that you'll ever have the problems.

Despite how stupid some of these problems are, there's something comforting (atleast to me) about knowing what they are. And, because I know them, they bother me much less. At the same time, they're generall ridiculous and inexcusable.
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  #5  
Old 11-02-2005, 10:47 AM
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I didn't know VANOS was prone to wearing out. Do you mean the VANOS internals in the cylinder head? All that stuff in the cylinder head is lubed and pressurized with engine oil. I can't imagine that would be problematic. Yeah, the VANOS sensors and the solenoids might go at some point, but the other stuff?

And what is with the rear shock mounts? My understanding is that they're just rubber (no bearings). I'm surprised that these have been/would be an issue.

As for my grounds for termination: anything major with the engine internals, like excessive oil consumption. Fortunately, for DIY'ers, they've made it reasonably easy for self-service, and that's a big plus for me (kudos to BMW ) . Though, there are annoyances, too, like having to replace the blower motor already due to squeaky bearings!
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  #6  
Old 11-02-2005, 10:59 AM
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Nick325xiT 5spd Nick325xiT 5spd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hmr
I didn't know VANOS was prone to wearing out. Do you mean the VANOS internals in the cylinder head? All that stuff in the cylinder head is lubed and pressurized with engine oil. I can't imagine that would be problematic. Yeah, the VANOS sensors and the solenoids might go at some point, but the other stuff?

And what is with the rear shock mounts? My understanding is that they're just rubber (no bearings). I'm surprised that these have been/would be an issue.

As for my grounds for termination: anything major with the engine internals, like excessive oil consumption. Fortunately, for DIY'ers, they've made it reasonably easy for self-service, and that's a big plus for me (kudos to BMW ) . Though, there are annoyances, too, like having to replace the blower motor already due to squeaky bearings!
VANOS is known and not uncommon failure point.

What's scary is how often they're wearing out in the M3s. Occasionally, the VANOS units are failing pretty spectacularly.
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  #7  
Old 11-02-2005, 12:07 PM
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milobloom242 milobloom242 is offline
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This is a great question - with 65k on my 325 i've been chewing on this for a few months. I've been hit with #8 and #2 in that order about a month apart. The EDK had to be replaced along with the wiring harness too. I feel lucky to have "invested" in the extended warranty which covered #2 fully (outside deductible) but with #8 only the EDK was covered and not the wiring harness since that's been redesigned. With a family and long work hours I'm not really inclined to do all of this myself

Nothing else major or minor has happened (pounding on wood here) so I'm willing to accept everything on this list at this point except #7. Not sure with my driving style (infant car seat in back) that would happen, or if it affects my model/year, but I would get it repaired, drive it for a bit longer, sell it and never come back to BMW. If this doesn't happen, I might just trade up for a bigger, better BMW in the future.
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  #8  
Old 11-02-2005, 02:13 PM
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I have mixed emotions about all this. On one hand, the most interesting cars I`ve owned (which is just about *all* of them :-) have had a few quirky problems, but I`ve pulled my own wrenches since I was about 13, so fixing them has become pretty routine....I tend to chalk this up as part of the car`s charm, as the pleasure derived from driving it more than offsets any minor inconvenience caused by it`s quirkiness.
OTOH, a new E-46 is a $40,000 automobile, in the last year of it`s lifecycle, and it`s *still* got a whole bunch of issues which the factory MUST be aware of by now, but chooses to ignore. Most of this crap should have been sorted out by now....the fact that it has`nt does`nt foster much confidence in their R&D department, and puts serious doubt in the minds of even true believers (like us).
25 years ago, I had a `76 530i.... I totally rebuilt the engine, trans,& new suspension.... after that, I put 90,000 trouble-free miles on it....the thing was built like a tank....wish I still had it....

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  #9  
Old 11-02-2005, 04:36 PM
jexner325 jexner325 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robg
1. Control Arms (ball joints): No, I'd do the work myself and replace w/ higher quality MEyle units w/ replaceable joints. Anyway, I've known about control arms problems since before I bought my car, so this one doesn't really bug me.
Have this problem; sucks, but I figure I have the problem maybe once two or three years which equates to $250 a year if you figure $500-$750 fix. I doubt I would give up a BMW because of that...

Quote:
Originally Posted by robg
7. Vanos replacement at 90-120k: No, but I probablky won't have the car by then anyway.
I didn't even know this was a problem until I saw this post? How can you tell when this is about to fail? At least with the control arms you have some time and can still drive your car; this sounds like something that would cause a phone call to the local towing service .

Ultimately every car will have it's nicks and nacks, but I would rather poor my money into a BMW than anything else. I will have to say that some things are annoying, but I have had cars where the problems are worse and more repetetive. I would like to point out that not EVERY car has EVERY single problem that was mentioned or addressed in this forum. While some of these are maintenence items, I have yet to run into anything but control arm wear and window regulators and I have 80K on mine. However, maybe when I hit 100K i will see more problems?
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  #10  
Old 11-02-2005, 05:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robg
1. Control Arms (ball joints): No, I'd do the work myself and replace w/ higher quality MEyle units w/ replaceable joints. Anyway, I've known about control arms problems since before I bought my car, so this one doesn't really bug me.
My car was actually diagnosed yesterday with the dreaded "loose control arm ball joints"
. So far, the lowest quote I have gotten is $925 parts and labor.

How difficult of a job is it? What special tool does one need? Any DIY out there? Also, you mention using Meyle parts instead of OEM. Why and where would you buy them?

Thanks,
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  #11  
Old 11-02-2005, 06:15 PM
bmw325 bmw325 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrenchBoy
My car was actually diagnosed yesterday with the dreaded "loose control arm ball joints"
. So far, the lowest quote I have gotten is $925 parts and labor.

How difficult of a job is it? What special tool does one need? Any DIY out there? Also, you mention using Meyle parts instead of OEM. Why and where would you buy them?

Thanks,
Not sure how difficult it is-- but I don't think you need any special tools. I'd look into it since 925 is way too steep. I think you could probably do it for about $300 in parts. I'd get the Meyle ones because they feature a replaceable ball joint (the part that goes bad), adn the ball joint design is heavy duty. And besides, why give BMW any money for a shoddy part? I'm not sure where you can buy the e46 version yet, although bavarian auto sells them for the e36, so it might be worth contacting them.

Here's the info on the e46 version:
http://www.wulfgaertner.com/html/upl...6_18.04_en.pdf
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  #12  
Old 11-02-2005, 07:13 PM
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KrisL KrisL is offline
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Rob and others that have had the problems listed above:

Now that no new E46s are being produced (right?), I'd like to make a sticky post detailing the differences between each year and such.

I'd also like to make a sticky of common problems - including symptoms of the problems, years/models affected, and solutions (if they exist). Could anyone do this with the problems listed above?

If anyone reading could assist, I'd appreciate it .
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  #13  
Old 11-02-2005, 07:50 PM
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Terry Kennedy Terry Kennedy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hmr
And what is with the rear shock mounts? My understanding is that they're just rubber (no bearings). I'm surprised that these have been/would be an issue.
Aside from being a wear item, they're just bolted to the body metal, so there can be sheet metal tears or deformation. Most of the aftermarket kits I've seen feature some sort of reinforcing plate.

Also, they are a royal PITA to change on the wagon - you have to pretty much remove everything from the rear seat on back to to get to them, and even then they're under sound-deadening material. Again, many of the aftermarket kits install the new mount "bolts down" so you never have to do this again.
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  #14  
Old 11-02-2005, 11:04 PM
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I'd like to add...

1) Intake camshaft position sensor
2) Exhaust camshaft position sensor
3) Moonroof visor clips
4) Window regulators

Personally, I have had my final stage resistor, both intake and exhaust cam sensors, gauge cluster, and HK subwoofer replace under warranty. At my Inspection 1, they noted that my front control arm bushings are cracked. And I only have 25K miles!
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  #15  
Old 11-03-2005, 08:29 AM
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norihaga norihaga is offline
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The door trim isn't even a pain. You just have to catch it when it starts with the first 15cm or so, not wait till it completely falls off. You get a tube of epoxy resin and some masking tape, apply the resin and use the masking tape to secure the trim. Then it stays on .

Easier than removing dog hair from the headliner, let me tell you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by robg
So, I often read about people souring on their cars due to "high maintenance costs", or " lots of problems". Like many of you, its rare that I read about a problem that I'm not already aware of. Since I know all the things that could go wrong, I continue my ownership with that knowledge. But, still, I wonder-- which problems would cause me to think "to hell with this, I've had enough". So, here's a list of common problems or atleast "accelerated wear" items that we often hear about (or have maybe experienced). Which, if any, would really get under your skin?

here are mine, and my feelings on each:

1. Control Arms (ball joints): No, I'd do the work myself and replace w/ higher quality MEyle units w/ replaceable joints. Anyway, I've known about control arms problems since before I bought my car, so this one doesn't really bug me.
2. Final stage resistor: No. I'd do the work myself, and again, this problem has been known for years
3. Rear shock mounts: No-- again, known for years
4. Coupe door seals falling down: This one would probaby get under my skin if it kept happening-- but I don'thave a coupe.
5. Water pump and Thermostat: No, I'm planning to replace mine at 60k. I shouldn't have to, but the parts aren't that expensive-- so not really worth getting upset about
6. Rotors/Pads every 30k: No, I know they tend to wear faster on BMWs. I can do the work myself
7. Vanos replacement at 90-120k: No, but I probablky won't have the car by then anyway.

I think these are the most common issues-and I don't really have a big issue with any of them. These are the things tath WOULD bug me:
7. Rear floor tear; Yes, I'm aware that it can happen. If I could get it repaired/reinforced for under $1500 I'd do it. But still, it would upset me.
8. Funky wiring harness issue: I've heard of engine wiring harnesses having strange corrosion issues (Very rare). THis would really bother me- and it would be quite expensive to fix. I wouldn't do the work myself
9. Engine or drivetrain issue: Yes, this would bother me


What are your thoughts? Any others to add?

I'm asking as part of my ongong realization that I'm going to be living w/ the e46 for quite a while given the current automotive landscape.
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  #16  
Old 11-03-2005, 08:35 AM
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norihaga norihaga is offline
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Try a search - question addressed many times.

Simplest answer is that you can get a complete set of new control arms plus the bushings already in their carriers for under $300 on e-bay. These are from a German OEM supplier. Take to your local independent BMW mechanic and pay him a couple hours' labor. You should be able to get all done for under half what you quoted.

Meyle sound like a better long term answer, but not sure where you can get arms with the meyle ball joints pressed in. I'm not clear that they have a US distributor, at least not for those parts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrenchBoy
My car was actually diagnosed yesterday with the dreaded "loose control arm ball joints"
. So far, the lowest quote I have gotten is $925 parts and labor.

How difficult of a job is it? What special tool does one need? Any DIY out there? Also, you mention using Meyle parts instead of OEM. Why and where would you buy them?

Thanks,
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  #17  
Old 11-03-2005, 09:27 AM
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Thanks robg and norihaga for the replies. Not sure what I'll do yet. I may buy them on ebay and have some local shop install them.
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  #18  
Old 11-03-2005, 11:29 AM
99flhr 99flhr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackChrome
I'd like to add...

1) Intake camshaft position sensor
2) Exhaust camshaft position sensor
3) Moonroof visor clips
4) Window regulators

Personally, I have had my final stage resistor, both intake and exhaust cam sensors, gauge cluster, and HK subwoofer replace under warranty. At my Inspection 1, they noted that my front control arm bushings are cracked. And I only have 25K miles!
8 "issues" in 25K, It`s unfortunate that the "engineers" who design/spec these cars aren`t as smart as the employees in "marketing" who have managed to create a perception of "fine german engineering"
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Old 11-03-2005, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by norihaga
Try a search - question addressed many times.

Simplest answer is that you can get a complete set of new control arms plus the bushings already in their carriers for under $300 on e-bay. These are from a German OEM supplier. Take to your local independent BMW mechanic and pay him a couple hours' labor. You should be able to get all done for under half what you quoted.

Meyle sound like a better long term answer, but not sure where you can get arms with the meyle ball joints pressed in. I'm not clear that they have a US distributor, at least not for those parts.
If I decide to do the job myself, I am assuming that a 4-wheel alignment is required afterwards. Is this correct?

Thanks,
Nicolas
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  #20  
Old 11-03-2005, 06:32 PM
bmw325 bmw325 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrenchBoy
If I decide to do the job myself, I am assuming that a 4-wheel alignment is required afterwards. Is this correct?

Thanks,
Nicolas
That's the generally accepted wisdom. Personally, I'm not sure why its so important-- because all they usually do in an alignment is set the front toe. Changing the control arms isn't going to lower or raise the car (which would affect the toe) and its not like you'll be loosening the toe adjustment nut on the steering rack when you change the arms either. So, I know this isthe "right" answer,but I'm really not sure why its so important. I guess it might slightly change the camber or caster due to new bushings-- but it would just be bringing ti back into spec-- and the e46 camber is pretty much locked in as is the caster. ONly thing I can think of is that maybe slight manufacturing variances between the 2 arms could somehow change the toe and it needs to be compensated for. But, that sounds pretty far-fetched.

IF you want to be totally correct, do it-- it'll cost about $100.
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  #21  
Old 11-03-2005, 06:55 PM
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Maximus57 Maximus57 is offline
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I'm a new E46 owner. Are the new E90 owners ready for similar problems or a whole new crop of them for the next 5 or more years? With a $40,000+ automobile, I think it's outrageous that major problems mentioned still exist!
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  #22  
Old 11-03-2005, 07:16 PM
alpinewhite325i alpinewhite325i is offline
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There are only two things that would cause me to get rid of my e46:

1. Major accident

2. Electical Gremlins (something more serious than window regulaters)
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  #23  
Old 11-03-2005, 09:06 PM
bmw325 bmw325 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maximus57
I'm a new E46 owner. Are the new E90 owners ready for similar problems or a whole new crop of them for the next 5 or more years? With a $40,000+ automobile, I think it's outrageous that major problems mentioned still exist!

Shock, denial, anger, acceptance...

Yeah, it is ridiculous. I've accepted the fact that BMW can be quite poor in a lot of ways. You either choose to accept it, or run away. For now, I've chosen to accept it because overall I just really like the e46.
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  #24  
Old 11-03-2005, 09:19 PM
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KrisL KrisL is offline
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I'd just like to comment in this thread..

..that I love my car.
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  #25  
Old 11-04-2005, 08:10 AM
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jvr826 jvr826 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robg
Shock, denial, anger, acceptance...

I went thru this with my E36, my first BMW. I had the thing at the dealer too many times to remember for little things and I didn't fully enjoy the car as a result. I was driving Acuras before that and had to re-train myself a little, but once that was complete, I started to figure it all out.

It's interesting how marketing/price affects your expectation level. Back then I thought "$36k for a car, this thing is gonna be bullet proof!" Nah, more like "What an engineering marvel! Screw the sqeaks, rattles, sucky stereo, lack of tilt steering, harsh seats, cupped tires, dead catalytic converters, busted windshield, and crappy service. This thing is a gas to drive!"

I think the only thing that would sour me on my E46 enough to ditch it would be electrical gremlins or major engine/tranny problem. Most everything else can be handled by turning up the stereo, as my Grandfather used to say: "Turn up the radio, it will go away!" He also used to say: "The ash tray is full, I need to get a new car..." and half the time he wasn't kidding.
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