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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 01-16-2008, 09:12 AM
permesso permesso is offline
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Tracking down squeal - tensioner/belt/pulley

Hello All, I am looking for some assistance in tracking down the cause of a squeal in my wife's 2003 325xi (2/03 prod). It is only occuring on cold starts (both engine and temp outside) and lasts only a minute. I finally was able to observe the behavior this morning. Noise is coming from the main belt area. I was able to see any direct slipping during the time but it squealed and then subsided in a minute or two. I did not drive or rev the car during this time. It went away on it's own. Before I started the car, I tried to feel the tension on the belt but couldn't really get in there. I touched it once and it did feel like it had a little give as compared to the AC belt.

My first thought was tensioner. This was confirmed by search posts here that it is a common thing. But I thought it sounded familar and I checked our records. In 5/05, the mechanical tensioner was replaced with the hydraulic one.

Given all said, what would be your next step? How do I diagnose which part in the belt system may be at fault? If it were a pulley, I wouldn't guess it would go away so quickly like this. Valid? Would it make sense to just replace the hydraulic tensioner arm (number 8 here)? Should I swap the belt too?

Any help is greatly appreciated!
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  #2  
Old 01-16-2008, 10:03 AM
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I'd start with a belt and the idler pulley. $30 in parts and 15 minutes to replace (a bit more if you have an automatic).
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  #3  
Old 01-16-2008, 11:07 AM
FSUmac FSUmac is offline
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My backyard mechanic used a stethescope to identify the noisy pulley.
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  #4  
Old 01-16-2008, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by FSUmac View Post
My backyard mechanic used a stethescope to identify the noisy pulley.
Common. I use a really long screwdriver stuffed into my ear. (seriously).
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  #5  
Old 01-16-2008, 12:54 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Thanks for the comments so far. It is an auto - my e90 330i is stick but this is the wife's car. I guess it takes more time with an auto? I was planning on ordering parts from azautohaus because I am getting brakes/rotors anyway so I would like to try and order what I need in 1 shot.

As for the stethescope/screwdriver, are you putting those things in the tight space while the engine is on? While the car is altogether or with the fan out?
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  #6  
Old 01-16-2008, 01:01 PM
325cisport 325cisport is offline
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The dealer recently replaced the belt & idler pulley on my wife's 2004 & it would occasionally make the same/similar sound. She took it back last week & they said it could not be anything else & that they thought it was the starter hanging up after it started. They just replaced that this past saturday & has been quiet ever since (fingers crossed).
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  #7  
Old 01-16-2008, 03:39 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Originally Posted by 325cisport View Post
The dealer recently replaced the belt & idler pulley on my wife's 2004 & it would occasionally make the same/similar sound. She took it back last week & they said it could not be anything else & that they thought it was the starter hanging up after it started. They just replaced that this past saturday & has been quiet ever since (fingers crossed).
Interesting. I expect in the scenario where it is the starter, the noise only happens for a matter of seconds. Is that correct?
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  #8  
Old 01-16-2008, 03:41 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Also, by idler pulley, are we talking about the "DEFLECTION PULLEY" which is number 15 in this diagram?
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  #9  
Old 01-16-2008, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by permesso View Post
Also, by idler pulley, are we talking about the "DEFLECTION PULLEY" which is number 15 in this diagram?


Yes.

The auto takes longer because it requires a special tool and very thin 32mm open ended wrench to remove the mechanical fan (ebay search for 'bmw fan tool'). The maual transmission cars have an electric fan that just pulls right out.
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  #10  
Old 01-16-2008, 04:53 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Yes.

The auto takes longer because it requires a special tool and very thin 32mm open ended wrench to remove the mechanical fan (ebay search for 'bmw fan tool'). The maual transmission cars have an electric fan that just pulls right out.
wow, glad I asked. I didn't know that. Might be worth having the local BMW shop do it then between having to buy the tools, guessing at the bad part and my cold garage. We have a good local guy, just didn't want to shell out the cash.
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  #11  
Old 01-16-2008, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by permesso View Post
wow, glad I asked. I didn't know that. Might be worth having the local BMW shop do it then between having to buy the tools, guessing at the bad part and my cold garage. We have a good local guy, just didn't want to shell out the cash.
Others have been able to do it without the tool.. putting a flat bladed screwdriver between water pump pulley bolts and wedging it against another pulley... but you do need a very thin 32mm wrench to fit in there, can't really get by without that. The tools are only $25 or so together on ebay. Probably not a bad idea to buy them if you plan on ever doing your water pump/belts/hoses/thermostat (I did them all at 60k).

The special tool just keeps the water pump shaft from spinning while you're trying to remove the reverse threaded nut holding the fan on (the fan is on the end of the water pump shaft).
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  #12  
Old 01-16-2008, 06:17 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Originally Posted by KrisL View Post
Others have been able to do it without the tool.. putting a flat bladed screwdriver between water pump pulley bolts and wedging it against another pulley... but you do need a very thin 32mm wrench to fit in there, can't really get by without that. The tools are only $25 or so together on ebay. Probably not a bad idea to buy them if you plan on ever doing your water pump/belts/hoses/thermostat (I did them all at 60k).

The special tool just keeps the water pump shaft from spinning while you're trying to remove the reverse threaded nut holding the fan on (the fan is on the end of the water pump shaft).
To tell you the truth, we are fairly close to getting rid of it. She has had it 5 years and is itching for an upgrade. Any chance the e90 requires the same tool? I know it is just $25 or whatever but it would encourage me. Is it at least easy to do once you have tool? If I understand Kris' explanation, it could be easy with the right tools.
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  #13  
Old 01-16-2008, 06:39 PM
325cisport 325cisport is offline
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Yes Permesso. Prior to the idler pulley & belts being replaced, it would only make a screech noise for a few seconds. Did not sound like a slipping belt however. Over the holiday when the car sat for a few days & weather was down in the low 30's in the am, it was still making the same/similar noise. They then replaced the starter saying it sounded like it was maybe hanging up. All under 4 year 50k warranty. Good luck !
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  #14  
Old 01-16-2008, 07:49 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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again, I appreciate the responses. One thing keeps sticking with me is that if it was the idler pulley, would it make noise for a minute or two and then stop all while at idle? I am certainly not second guessing anyone as I don't know squat about this stuff. I am just trying to think logically. Belt, I could understand if it is just stretched or worn. It get warmer and grips better so the noise stops. Tensioner (hydraulic) could warm up as well and proper tension I guess. Is it that the pulleys are packed with grease and they get going and the noise would stop?
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  #15  
Old 01-16-2008, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by permesso View Post
To tell you the truth, we are fairly close to getting rid of it. She has had it 5 years and is itching for an upgrade. Any chance the e90 requires the same tool? I know it is just $25 or whatever but it would encourage me. Is it at least easy to do once you have tool? If I understand Kris' explanation, it could be easy with the right tools.
All BMWs with a mechanical fan from the 80s onward have required this tool - I don't know for sure that the E90 does, but probably...

Quote:
Originally Posted by permesso View Post
again, I appreciate the responses. One thing keeps sticking with me is that if it was the idler pulley, would it make noise for a minute or two and then stop all while at idle? I am certainly not second guessing anyone as I don't know squat about this stuff. I am just trying to think logically. Belt, I could understand if it is just stretched or worn. It get warmer and grips better so the noise stops. Tensioner (hydraulic) could warm up as well and proper tension I guess. Is it that the pulleys are packed with grease and they get going and the noise would stop?
Yep, it doesn't take long to warm them up and get them to stop squeaking.
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  #16  
Old 01-16-2008, 10:13 PM
tamvegas tamvegas is offline
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If you loosen the fan shroud before taking off the belts you can change them without the 32mm tool. I just did it a couple weeks ago to replace the idler pulley and drive belts as well (along with coolant expansion tank and a couple hoses) Took about an extra 10 minutes without the tool. Plus loosening the shroud is easy. Plastic fasteners and a single philips screw. Just take your time weaving the main belt in and out of the fan blades. This is on a 2000 328ci Steptronic.

My idler would only squeal after it was warm. Coming off the freeway into local once the engine was down in rpms she would sing a little bit. All characteristic of bearings low on grease (in the pulley) and trying to redistribute to counter friction. "Course it doesn't get too cold here. I'm sure that in freezing or near temps the same would happen.

Got mine thru AutohausAZ also. Thanks to the folks on this forum for the advice and turning me on to AutohausAZ. Great service and less than 50% of what my dealer wanted for the parts.

Last edited by tamvegas; 01-16-2008 at 10:19 PM.
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  #17  
Old 01-17-2008, 08:44 AM
permesso permesso is offline
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If you loosen the fan shroud before taking off the belts you can change them without the 32mm tool. I just did it a couple weeks ago to replace the idler pulley and drive belts as well (along with coolant expansion tank and a couple hoses) Took about an extra 10 minutes without the tool. Plus loosening the shroud is easy. Plastic fasteners and a single philips screw. Just take your time weaving the main belt in and out of the fan blades. This is on a 2000 328ci Steptronic.

My idler would only squeal after it was warm. Coming off the freeway into local once the engine was down in rpms she would sing a little bit. All characteristic of bearings low on grease (in the pulley) and trying to redistribute to counter friction. "Course it doesn't get too cold here. I'm sure that in freezing or near temps the same would happen.

Got mine thru AutohausAZ also. Thanks to the folks on this forum for the advice and turning me on to AutohausAZ. Great service and less than 50% of what my dealer wanted for the parts.
Yeah, I love azautohaus. I ordered from them before and with this one. I decided to get a belt and both pulleys for now (tensioner and idler). I was ordering brakes/rotors also so it was free shipping. I figure if I need the tensioner, it will be free ship anyway since it is >$50. I ordered the fan tools off ebay - $30 + $9 shipping. I have confidence after reading some of the DIYs that I will be able to get these things changed. I don't have a Bentley manual on this car but the DIYs should get me though I think.
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Old 01-17-2008, 02:33 PM
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FYI myself and another member on e46fanatics have this problem and hes servicing his car this weekend. Some members there suggested it might be the secondary air pump.

I listened myself and the sound seemed to be comign from that general vicinity although I can't say for sure.

http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=538085
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Old 01-17-2008, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by permesso View Post
To tell you the truth, we are fairly close to getting rid of it. She has had it 5 years and is itching for an upgrade. Any chance the e90 requires the same tool? I know it is just $25 or whatever but it would encourage me. Is it at least easy to do once you have tool? If I understand Kris' explanation, it could be easy with the right tools.
I have the same problem. High pitched squeel for a minute or two in cold mornings, then stops.
Anyone sees a problem if I don't do anything and sell the car in the summer?
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Old 01-17-2008, 03:06 PM
jsonli jsonli is offline
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I have the same problem. High pitched squeel for a minute or two in cold mornings, then stops.
Anyone sees a problem if I don't do anything and sell the car in the summer?
see my post above.
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  #21  
Old 01-17-2008, 03:29 PM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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I have the same problem. High pitched squeel for a minute or two in cold mornings, then stops.
Anyone sees a problem if I don't do anything and sell the car in the summer?
If the culprit is your secondary air pump, the pump will ultimately fail and set off the Service Engine Soon light. Then you'll have to replace the pump and valve in order to (1) pass inspection or (2) keep a buyer at ease.

In extreme cases, a tensioner or idler pulley that has a bad bearing will seize up and cause the belt to snap, resulting in loss of coolant flow/alternator/power steering (if it's the main belt) or loss of A/C (if it's the A/C belt).
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Old 01-17-2008, 05:58 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Originally Posted by jsonli View Post
FYI myself and another member on e46fanatics have this problem and hes servicing his car this weekend. Some members there suggested it might be the secondary air pump.

I listened myself and the sound seemed to be comign from that general vicinity although I can't say for sure.

http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=538085
Thanks. I don't think this is my problem though. The noise is coming from the water pump/alt belt area. Good luck with your issue though!
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Old 01-17-2008, 06:00 PM
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Thanks. I don't think this is my problem though. The noise is coming from the water pump/alt belt area. Good luck with your issue though!
Well like I said I'm not sure if that's the exact area where it's coming from... but the conditions are very similar. Only on cold start and cold temperature... only for a minute. Does yours go away temporarily while you are revving?
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Old 01-17-2008, 06:12 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Originally Posted by G. P. Burdell View Post
If the culprit is your secondary air pump, the pump will ultimately fail and set off the Service Engine Soon light. Then you'll have to replace the pump and valve in order to (1) pass inspection or (2) keep a buyer at ease.

In extreme cases, a tensioner or idler pulley that has a bad bearing will seize up and cause the belt to snap, resulting in loss of coolant flow/alternator/power steering (if it's the main belt) or loss of A/C (if it's the A/C belt).
Yeah, I actually had my tensioner fail in a very bad way on my old Jetta VR6. I was on the way home from work and only had about 5 miles left. Since the water pump was not functional, car started to overheat and I couldn't make it back. That was bad. No real indication of failure until that day. The shop that replaced said that the tensioner was in many pieces and looks like it disintegrated. I don't want that again!
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Old 01-17-2008, 06:21 PM
permesso permesso is offline
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Well like I said I'm not sure if that's the exact area where it's coming from... but the conditions are very similar. Only on cold start and cold temperature... only for a minute. Does yours go away temporarily while you are revving?
Not sure as I don't drive the car and the wife has been starting the car about 10 min before leaving lately. I think though that before, she would put it in reverse and pull out and it would stop. It appears to be only at idle. I say that i don't think it is the secondary air pump because the other thread said it was on the "left hand side of the engine" and I heard the noise from the belt area which is slightly on the right side of the engine (assuming we are talking about facing the engine from the front).
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