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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 09-14-2008, 08:11 AM
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I Literally Want to Cry....

Okay, I'm pissed. I went about changing my oil which I've done a million times on various vehicles. Drained the oil from the pan. Put the new crush washer on the drain plug. Set my my torque wrench to 18 lb-ft/25nM. Started tightening the drain plug when suddenly.....swoosh - the plug started to spin almost freely in the drain pan. Every rotation, however, there would be one point where it would "tighten" up. So I took a small, thin flat bladed screwdriver and wedged it in between the crush washer and the oil pan. Then, while pushing outward on the plug I slowly tried to unscrew the drain plug. Now it spins completely freely.

So, now I've got no oil in the car and a stripped drain plug. What are my options? Can I fill it w/ oil and then drive it to a nearby indy tomorrow? Do I have to have it towed?

AARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Last edited by colnago1331; 09-14-2008 at 08:15 AM.
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  #2  
Old 09-14-2008, 08:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colnago1331 View Post
Okay, I'm pissed. I went about changing my oil which I've done a million times on various vehicles. Drained the oil from the pan. Put the new crush washer on the drain plug. Set my my torque wrench to 18 lb-ft/25nM. Started tightening the drain plug when suddenly.....swoosh - the plug started to spin freely in the drain pan.

So, now I've got no oil in the car and a stripped drain plug. What are my options? Can I fill it w/ oil and then drive it to a nearby indy tomorrow? Do I have to have it towed?

AARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
Did you just spin the head off? I think the drain bolt is hollow for just such emergencies. Go to the Home Depot and buy a screw extractor, easy to do if thats the case.
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  #3  
Old 09-14-2008, 08:16 AM
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No - right now the bolt head is still attached to the plug. I was a bit afraid to shear it off. You're saying I should shear it off and then get a tap and die set?
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  #4  
Old 09-14-2008, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by smolck View Post
Did you just spin the head off? I think the drain bolt is hollow for just such emergencies. Go to the Home Depot and buy a screw extractor, easy to do if thats the case.
I'd edited my post to ad this while you were replying, btw.

Quote:
Every rotation, however, there would be one point where it would "tighten" up. So I took a small, thin flat bladed screwdriver and wedged it in between the crush washer and the oil pan. Then, while pushing outward on the plug I slowly tried to unscrew the drain plug. Now it spins completely freely.
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  #5  
Old 09-14-2008, 08:43 AM
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There are a couple of possible solutions to this....one is to use a Heli-Coil insert (like an oversized plugs with threads on both the inside and outside), the other is to take the pan off and have someone heliarc the plug hole, then drill & rethread the hole. Either one is a lot cheaper than buying a new pan. Good luck.

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Old 09-14-2008, 08:50 AM
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Very unlikely anything is wrong with the oil pan. Oil pan threads are hardened and are intended to be much stronger than the drain plug. Factory plug is hollow and unusually snap before it strips. Aftermarket plugs are not hollow and will strip.

Need to get the plug out any way you can and there is a very good chance the oil pan is fine. Had the exact same thing happen on a BMW V8. As I was tightening the plug, the torque as going down. New plug solved the problem. Try with vice grips unscrewing while pulling out on the plug.
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Old 09-14-2008, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smolck View Post
Did you just spin the head off? I think the drain bolt is hollow for just such emergencies. Go to the Home Depot and buy a screw extractor, easy to do if thats the case.
Okay, the head of the bolt is now off.

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Old 09-14-2008, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colnago1331 View Post
Okay, the head of the bolt is now off.

So what's still left in the bung on the pan? Anything?

I've been wrenching on cars for 30 years and have never encountered a stripped drain plug. I can only assume this is the result of Quickylube type oil change places.

My guess is that it was either crossthreaded or installed with an impact wrench.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:33 AM
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I've done this before. You don't need a tap & dye set, you simply need a bolt removal drill bit. $5 or so and it'll get the rest of the hollow bolt out in 2 seconds.

I believe the drain bolt specs is M12x1.5.. you can find one at any Autozone for about $2.

Then you can buy a Mityvac so you never have to pull the drain plug out again!
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:36 AM
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Anyone have any idea what size screw extractor and/or bolt removal bit I need?

And yes, my next mod will be an oil extractor.
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  #11  
Old 09-14-2008, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott ZHP View Post
So what's still left in the bung on the pan? Anything?

I've been wrenching on cars for 30 years and have never encountered a stripped drain plug. I can only assume this is the result of Quickylube type oil change places.

My guess is that it was either crossthreaded or installed with an impact wrench.
Right now the threaded part is still in the threads in the drain pan. I think what happened is I didn't strip the bolt so much as I started to shear of the bolt head. Now I've just taken the whole damn bolt head completely off.
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  #12  
Old 09-14-2008, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colnago1331 View Post
Anyone have any idea what size screw extractor and/or bolt removal bit I need?

And yes, my next mod will be an oil extractor.

It's pretty easy to eyeball which size will work. I just bought a small kit like this:
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:44 AM
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Off to Sears and/or Home Depot I go!
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Old 09-14-2008, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by colnago1331 View Post
Off to Sears and/or Home Depot I go!
Make sure you understand how to remove it before you go screwing on this thing. I'd hate to see you spin what's left all the way into the pan.
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Old 09-14-2008, 11:21 AM
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Make sure you understand how to remove it before you go screwing on this thing. I'd hate to see you spin what's left all the way into the pan.
I don't think it'd be possible to put it into the pan. The bolt removal bits are reverse threaded, so by screwing the bits into the bolt, you remove the bolt.
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Old 09-14-2008, 11:45 AM
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Well, big thanks to EVERYONE. I have finally removed the threaded part of the bolt from the oil pan. As I eventually suspected, neither the pan nor the bolt were stripped. Rather, the head was just shearing off.

Now I'm off to AutoZone to get a new drain plug and crush washer.

THANKS AGAIN, EVERYONE!!!!!
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Old 09-14-2008, 01:26 PM
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Had the same thing happen when I tried to use an aftermarket plug with a magnet.

Good think the guy I was doing it with had a remover handy.

Been meaning to post the story for a while but never got to writing it up.
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Old 09-14-2008, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colnago1331 View Post
Well, big thanks to EVERYONE. I have finally removed the threaded part of the bolt from the oil pan. As I eventually suspected, neither the pan nor the bolt were stripped. Rather, the head was just shearing off.

Now I'm off to AutoZone to get a new drain plug and crush washer.

THANKS AGAIN, EVERYONE!!!!!
The Autozone plug will work in a pinch but is unlikely to be hollow like the factory plug. You will need to get that at the dealer. I always keep extras around.
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Old 09-14-2008, 04:20 PM
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The Autozone plug will work in a pinch but is unlikely to be hollow like the factory plug. You will need to get that at the dealer. I always keep extras around.
My dealer charges $12 for the drain pan bolt (but you get 2 brass collars so that makes it a deal!)
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Old 09-14-2008, 04:25 PM
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My dealer charges $12 for the drain pan bolt (but you get 2 brass collars so that makes it a deal!)
Hmm, I do not remember paying anywhere near that amount. Just checked Pelican parts, OEM drain plug is $2.25
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Old 09-14-2008, 05:02 PM
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Hmm, I do not remember paying anywhere near that amount. Just checked Pelican parts, OEM drain plug is $2.25
Yes, my stealer is good at extorsion/prostate exam.....
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Old 09-14-2008, 06:20 PM
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Glad to see it all worked out.

Here's a tip... it's an oil drain plug, not a main bearing cap There's no need to torque the living daylights out of it.
It has a copper crush washer to help seal it... 12 ft/lb is fine, especially if you have a cheap torque wrench.
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JUST...LOOK...UNDER...THE...CAR....for Chrissakes....it`s like checking to see if a dog is male or female....
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  #23  
Old 09-14-2008, 06:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott ZHP View Post
Glad to see it all worked out.

Here's a tip... it's an oil drain plug, not a main bearing cap There's no need to torque the living daylights out of it.
It has a copper crush washer to help seal it... 12 ft/lb is fine, especially if you have a cheap torque wrench.
+1.

To the OP - Glad everything worked out fine. DIY can have some hair-raising moments...but you kept your cool and made use of the best E46 board on the planet.
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Old 09-14-2008, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott ZHP View Post
Glad to see it all worked out.

Here's a tip... it's an oil drain plug, not a main bearing cap There's no need to torque the living daylights out of it.
It has a copper crush washer to help seal it... 12 ft/lb is fine, especially if you have a cheap torque wrench.
+1.

I have NEVER used a torque wrench for an oil change (or spark plugs for that matter). Tight is tight is my motto. On the oil pan bolt I use my hand to turn the socket and get it tight then hit it with my socket about 1/4-1/2 turn more, thats all it needs.
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Old 09-15-2008, 08:03 AM
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I'd never used a torque wrench either...at least not on the oil change. 18 lb-ft/25nM is the spec I found searching over at E46 fanatics so that's what I went with. The wrench itself is ~$120 new and was brand new so I can't imagine it was off by all that much. Very odd indeed. I'm definitely going back to doing the drain plug by feel from now on.

Thanks again, everyone!
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