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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 03-25-2014, 07:48 AM
LaFlamingo LaFlamingo is offline
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Unhappy The Great Mystery of the Vibrating Bimmer

Good morning, folks! I currently own a 2002 325xi, manual transmission, with 144k miles on it. I got it two years ago, and I've currently put on about 50k in the last two years, due to the fact I have to drive a lot for work.

My issue, here, is the mystery of the vibrating Bimmer. I was driving up to WA last week, when about an hour into my drive, the car began to vibrate under acceleration and under load from about 40-60 mph. I initially thought that I might've lost a wheel weight, as it felt similar to a previous instance of this, and so when I got to WA, I got all the wheel weights done and was informed -- sure enough -- that they had been pretty off.

Thought the problem was solved. Hopped on the interstate for about 30min and drove the car under light and heavy acceleration, at varying speeds, to see if the vibration would come back. It didn't.

Driving back from WA a few days later, about an hour and a half into the drive, the vibration started again, at similar speeds: 30-65mph. No engine lights, although I've been informed that my camshaft intake sensor is nearing the end of its life. I pulled over to a shop and asked a mechanic to lift the car up and look at the undercarriage to see what was up. What we found was as follows:

>No boot tears on either the front passenger and driver axles.
>Some play in the front passenger wheel, but not enough to explain the vibration
>No bent/broken steering components.
>Sagging engine mounts (already knew)
>Leaking valve gasket
>Some behavior indicating engine misfire
I already had the driveshaft looked at in February, and it was given a thumb's up. The oil was also changed in the last 4k miles.

So then I wondered....engine misfire? I had no check engine lights going off, but my camshaft intake sensor is going out, so I'm curious as to if that might contribute to the vibration. It was also interesting that when I dropped of I-5 and took CA-89 as a back route, the vibration was almost non-existent at 70-75mph and even lower. However, CA89 has very few steep inclines heading south and tends to be either flat, or down a hill. So maybe that has something to do with it.

When I finally got back to my home and went to my usual mechanic, I was told that they didn't suspect it to be an engine misfire, and OF COURSE the vehicle didn't vibrate for them after driving 20min. Instead, they believed that I might have a front axle that is going out, regardless of the fact my boots aren't torn.

So...thoughts? Has anyone dealt with a situation similar to this, and what did you finally figure out was the problem?

Thanks again! I'm excited to be a part of this community.

Last edited by LaFlamingo; 03-25-2014 at 07:54 AM. Reason: More info might be necessary?
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  #2  
Old 03-25-2014, 08:12 AM
stlmethod stlmethod is offline
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Mein Auto: 2003 325xi
I had similar issues with vibration awhile ago. It could be your camshaft sensor but mine was a "sticky" brake caliper on the front drivers side. After you get out of your car just hold your hand near the wheel.....if it's pretty hot then that's your issue. Fixed by having my indy shop replace both front calipers and new front brake pads and rotors as well as brake bleed.
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  #3  
Old 03-25-2014, 05:04 PM
matthe46w matthe46w is offline
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It is supposed that failed CV joints present with clicking at low speeds around turns.

My experience with a failed CV initially anthropomorphized in mysterious, almost brutal grinding/vibration during mid-high speed acceleration (between 30 and 85), however made no other noises, and besides a light, dust-coated film of axle grease on the driver front output shaft between the boots. The fact that mine did not click or present with any discernible steering faults made me quite wary of returning to Ganley BMW down the street, fearing a $2000+ transmission or diff issue. But before all of this, I made one of many 200-mile road trips back to Johnstown, and after the extended highway speeds, I came to rest at one of many OH/PA toll booths. Before long I notice that my xi fees strange. This vibration only occurs in drive gears (R, D, S). The buzz emitted seemed to emanate deep from within the pedals, steering wheel, and the small of my back, even irritating the hair in my ears, and finding the resonant frequency of my bowels on many a cold morning. Coming from a recent brake job, and many subsequent inspections, I knew the issue did not involve a sticking caliper. In fact, I applied brakes lightly while accelerating and found no change in vibration. I checked for any leaks/bad connections, inspected VANOS, plugs, tested coil resistances, inspected for vacuum leaks (no SEL, but better safe than..), pulleys (visible), belts, both fan blades, air filter, and came to eventual conclusion that non-visible engine/trans mounts, torque converter, impaired flex disk, or CVs are all likely culprits.

For me, both CV joints on the driver front axle showed extensive wear when inspected off the vehicle sans grease. Both joints had substantial amounts of the brown stuff oozing from each boot mating surface.
Perhaps the previous owner was quite heavy.

Struts/springs intact, healthy.

For concrete diagnosis of my scenario, I placed car in gear, applied parking brake, chocked wheels, reached behind suspected wheel (so I wasn't flattened) and took a very firm grip of the axle shaft. The frequency should replicate that which you experience inside when holding the steering wheel or grasping center console. Try to grip axle and deaden it with the mass of your hand, and ask a friend to get in and find out whether it changes the feel inside the cabin when you systematically mute and let go.


Moral of the story.. I had a lot of suspicions, but in the end it was $95 and a few hours with The Captain rather than 'their' time and a glorious OEM kick in the billfold.
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-2005 BMW 325xi- 167k, Auto, Silbergrau, black leather, Autologic Stage 2 Tune, catless, DIY aux, Valentine 1, CCFL halos, 2.1" drop front, 1.8" drop rear, K&N, polished and ported head, 18" PC Black Style 135s, Blizzak 245/45/18ZR.
-2002 AUDI TT 225 Quattro- 117k, 6-spd, Unitronic Stage 2+ clamped boost (22psi), Silver, Valentine 1, 3" Turbo-back 3 B&B, Forge BOV, K&N, vent boost gauge.
-1991 BMW 325is- 196k, 5-spd, vert, RHD, Delphin, TSR mesh 16", K&N, 1.5" H&R Cup, Bilstein, A/C delete.
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  #4  
Old 03-25-2014, 05:57 PM
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It could be as simple as unevenly worn tires....
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  #5  
Old 03-26-2014, 07:59 PM
LaFlamingo LaFlamingo is offline
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Thank you so much, you guys.

@stlmethod: I putzed around for a while yesterday to check the caliper issue. Pulled over and checked the calipers, and they didn't feel hot. However, I've heard that has the potential to be an issue from more than a few people, so it's great to know that my problem might not be as serious and depressing as an axle.

I've been pretty good at rotating my tires, so I'm not too concerned about the vibration being due to uneven wear. However, I've been thinking about my CV joints and the more I think on them, the more that seems like a good component to investigate. However, I'm a little confused by the procedure outlined by matthe46w: as of now, the vibration is not occurring until I've been driving for over an hour, generally at highway speeds. Could this vibration be observed from a cold start up, or would you recommend I drive around for a while before groping at the axle?

As always, these are all great points. Your advice, anecdotes and observations are greatly, greatly appreciated.
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  #6  
Old 03-27-2014, 05:48 PM
matthe46w matthe46w is offline
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My issue with the grinding acceleration at speed first appeared intermittently, but it slowly occurred at all stops in gear. If the issue is only after hours at highway speeds, it'd be a great idea to have the boots replaced and the joints lubricated. This may buy you time and extend axle life, but will not thwart any wear which has already occurred. I left the issue persist for but a month and had to resort to axle replacement. The process of getting to the axle is the same wether you replace the unit or boots, the price is about double, and time spent is the same.
~$60 for boots/grease/bands DIY
OR
~$150 for quality axle with warranty DIY (never worry about it for another ~80k miles)

An instructor once told me that E46 axles (usually xi) are considered heavy wear parts which very nearly fall in the 'routine' maintenance category. Do what you feel mechanically comfortable accomplishing. You'll be better for the experience!
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-2005 BMW 325xi- 167k, Auto, Silbergrau, black leather, Autologic Stage 2 Tune, catless, DIY aux, Valentine 1, CCFL halos, 2.1" drop front, 1.8" drop rear, K&N, polished and ported head, 18" PC Black Style 135s, Blizzak 245/45/18ZR.
-2002 AUDI TT 225 Quattro- 117k, 6-spd, Unitronic Stage 2+ clamped boost (22psi), Silver, Valentine 1, 3" Turbo-back 3 B&B, Forge BOV, K&N, vent boost gauge.
-1991 BMW 325is- 196k, 5-spd, vert, RHD, Delphin, TSR mesh 16", K&N, 1.5" H&R Cup, Bilstein, A/C delete.
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  #7  
Old 03-29-2014, 12:57 PM
MBMer MBMer is offline
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Vibration

I'm the new owner of a 325xi, and I'm just getting up to speed on regular care and feeding of my new car, a 2005 with 84K miles. So I'm not an expert on the vehicle, but I also drive a lot of miles per year - and I want to get another 100-150K miles on this car if I can.

I have a non-BMW experience that *might* be relevant. Back in the day my winter driver was a VW Rabbit (I live in MN), and I had a vibration issue that showed up in late Winter - ONLY when driven for at least an hour. As Spring arrived, the vibration went away - and I switched to my "good car". The vibration was not there in the Fall, but it came back in early Winter. It turned out to be the INNER CV joints only, and the temperature differential between the warm engine/diff and the cold outdoor temps made them bind. Never any clicking, and no problem until about an hour of steady driving.

Let us know when you diagnose your problem. Thanks for sharing - this board has already directed me to repaired autodimming mirror, UGDO install, and preparation to do cooling and CVV system updates.

MBMer
Minnesota
2005 325xi ZSP/ZPP/ZCW
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  #8  
Old 03-30-2014, 03:58 PM
KilroyNo1 KilroyNo1 is offline
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I've had the exact same issue. It was a front axle.
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  #9  
Old 03-30-2014, 06:35 PM
Shogan Shogan is offline
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Mein Auto: '08 535xi or '02 X5
I had an intermittent vibration and hard to track down. Replaced wheel and straightened others, road force balanced tires, plus other small things. Ended up being axle. It seemed to go away after I lifted the car, which change the settling point of the joint. This was fixed months ago.


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  #10  
Old 03-30-2014, 06:47 PM
matthe46w matthe46w is offline
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CV/Axle seems to be consensus. I had a broken rear coil a while back and gave a false positive for tramlining..
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-2005 BMW 325xi- 167k, Auto, Silbergrau, black leather, Autologic Stage 2 Tune, catless, DIY aux, Valentine 1, CCFL halos, 2.1" drop front, 1.8" drop rear, K&N, polished and ported head, 18" PC Black Style 135s, Blizzak 245/45/18ZR.
-2002 AUDI TT 225 Quattro- 117k, 6-spd, Unitronic Stage 2+ clamped boost (22psi), Silver, Valentine 1, 3" Turbo-back 3 B&B, Forge BOV, K&N, vent boost gauge.
-1991 BMW 325is- 196k, 5-spd, vert, RHD, Delphin, TSR mesh 16", K&N, 1.5" H&R Cup, Bilstein, A/C delete.
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  #11  
Old 03-31-2014, 07:18 AM
bobnicholson bobnicholson is offline
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sounds crazy but check the water pump. if it has slight vibration the car thinks you have bad gas and retards the spark .............. worked on my 540i
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  #12  
Old 04-01-2014, 06:30 AM
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See also:
- The main causes front-end clunk while driving (1) & clunking while braking (1) & the generic causes of vehicle vibration while highway driving (0) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & while highway braking (1) (2) (3) & why it's not rotor "warp" (1) & severe ABS shuddering while slow speed braking on bumps (1) & how fluid-filled thrust arm bushings crack and tear causing the BMW to vibrate at speed (0) (1) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) & a comprehensive TireRack vehicle vibration diagnosis chart (1) (jpg) with wheel match mounting hints (1) & how a worn drive shaft, flex disc, center bearing, or "giunti Boschi", aka giubo (it's not spelled guibo although it sounds like it is to some) can cause the vehicle to vibrate (1) (2) (3) (4) & how to repair the rear driveshaft seal by the differential (1) & how to repair the inner constant velocity (CV) half-drive shaft (1).
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  #13  
Old 04-07-2014, 02:16 PM
LaFlamingo LaFlamingo is offline
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Update: As the general consensus has been the CV/axle, I've started going ahead researching doing my own work OR taking it to shop. Of course, the advice of this forum (and the links above) have been great in getting an idea in what I need to do.

However, I have some more questions...

Since the vehicle has 144+ on it, I'm debating just repacking the CV or simply just buying a CV axle and replacing that. If that's the case, should I just do the one that's been vibrating, or both, to cover my butt (as eventually, the passenger front will fail as well)?

Furthermore, I've been researching places to buy OEM axles from, and the reviews have appeared mixed. I had one recommendation to look at Turner Motorsports, but after reading reviews, I'm not sure I want to risk it.

Does anyone have any recommendations as to where to buy these parts?

Thanks again for all your help!
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  #14  
Old 04-07-2014, 02:22 PM
Kubica Kubica is offline
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Right front inner cv boot is most likely out of grease....usually the cause of these vibrations that start after driving for a while.
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  #15  
Old 04-07-2014, 06:23 PM
Shogan Shogan is offline
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Mein Auto: '08 535xi or '02 X5
Replaced both axles on my '02 x5 (150k miles) with OEM manufacturer after market POS. Made mechanic put old axles back on with new boots. This is one of those parts you don't go cheap on. Buy from the dealer. You'll notice the even slight noise/vibration if not the best.
What I'm trying to say is the manufacturer for BMW can sell parts themselves with whatever standard they want. I grew up working at a body shop. Even dealer would sell parts not good enough for assembly line.



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  #16  
Old 04-21-2014, 06:25 PM
matthe46w matthe46w is offline
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Motor mounts. Motor mounts. Motor mounts.

Had three e46s come into the shop just this week - all solved idle vibration symptoms. One customer was dead-set on a VANOS rebuild, another was told by Ganley that his 3er required CVV replacement, I could go on and on. Occam's Razor.

Essentially the motor mounts negate all of the torque put through the drive system over the life of the vehicle and are exposed to frequent heating and cooling cycles.

Imagine a closed system with an engine and transmission suspended in space. Motor mounting points are responsible - directly - for the mass transfer of rotational energy to the drivetrain. The free-floating engine would rotate when the transmission is taken out of neutral and placed in gear (load) for obvious physical reasons, most of which Newton babbled on about.

If vibration occurs only in gear (drive, reverse, duh) but not Park or Neutral, the mounts are the issue. When torque is applied to the engine in the form of a drive gear at idle, the harmonic balance is disrupted and often felt throughout the cabin of the vehicle and especially in steering components because of their relative vicinity to mounting points. Open your hood, apply parking brake firmly, and put car in gear - either reverse or drive. Try both. The engine will camber one direction or another if one or more mounts are suspect. If any noticeable movement is observed, it's time for new mounts.
__________________
-2005 BMW 325xi- 167k, Auto, Silbergrau, black leather, Autologic Stage 2 Tune, catless, DIY aux, Valentine 1, CCFL halos, 2.1" drop front, 1.8" drop rear, K&N, polished and ported head, 18" PC Black Style 135s, Blizzak 245/45/18ZR.
-2002 AUDI TT 225 Quattro- 117k, 6-spd, Unitronic Stage 2+ clamped boost (22psi), Silver, Valentine 1, 3" Turbo-back 3 B&B, Forge BOV, K&N, vent boost gauge.
-1991 BMW 325is- 196k, 5-spd, vert, RHD, Delphin, TSR mesh 16", K&N, 1.5" H&R Cup, Bilstein, A/C delete.
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  #17  
Old 04-22-2014, 11:29 AM
Boolala Boolala is offline
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UGH! New Bimmer to me (2001 325xi, 101,000 miles). PO replaced front axles (Front Axles: Replaced at 95,000 miles with Loebro axles. These are BRAND NEW and NOT rebuilt. Loebro is the brand of BMW OE axles) but I do have a small vibration all the time but much more notiucable at high speeds and MUCH more noticable after I have driven it for over 15 minutes and get over 70mph (something obviously get worse when warm). Bringing it into the local guys who are great with drive trains etc. I don't care what it is or what it costs, it has to go away. The howling/resignating sound drives me nuts. Local shop took it for a drive and obviously stated it could be ANYTHING (axles, wheel bearing, CV joints, carrier bearing, U-joints, Guibo, tranny, tires, rotor etc et etc etc etc etc etc). I pray for a bill under $1000.00 They will run it on their Dyno and if not found, run it in the air and see if they notice anything. They do have a tire road test machine but it has brand new Michelin's on it so I doubt thats it.

Let me guess, if they end up running it in the air, the Traction Control and ABS light will come on and my OBD2 scanner won't reset those codes and I will have to go the STEALERSHIP to have those reset--correct?
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Old 04-22-2014, 06:35 PM
Boolala Boolala is offline
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Update #2: Nope, not a bad rim, changed the rim to a perfect one and spun balanced all tires as well as road force test--all fine now and still vibration and rumbling noise on acceleration

325xi goes in tomorrow to try and diagnose the vibration most noticable at high speeds and at acceleration. Below is what I have found on multiple sites (forums) online that I will have the mechanic check. Has to be one or more than one of these. I heard the new Bimmers are coming with an ATM machine in the trunk.

***What is the point of no return on getting a tranny fluid & filter change--I heard about this on here..I have 101,000 miles***

CV joints
Wheel bearings
Front end bushings
Flex coupler (guibo)
Tires bad
Rims bent
Carrier bearing
Driveshaft
Rear axles (fronts were changed recently due to bad CV joint-clicking)
Tranny fluid change out-some people reported their vibration went away 100% after tranny fluid change
Stuck caliper


Anything I am missing here to ask him to check (not that he wouldn't anyway but just want to help him since I have read for hours online from other people with this same issue).

UPDATE: As of right now it looks like a bent right front rim. POT HOLES are hideous in Michigan and no money to fix them. It could be such a beautiful state with the Great Lakes wrapping around it but there is so much more wrong with Michigan than just the potholes all year long.
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Last edited by Boolala; 04-25-2014 at 03:11 PM.
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  #19  
Old 05-08-2014, 12:03 AM
frvega frvega is offline
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have you resolved this issue?
I had similar vibrations you describe and changed parts here and there, vibration went away by changing transmission mounts
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Old 05-10-2014, 05:44 PM
Boolala Boolala is offline
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I have not solved it yet and getting sort of pissed. Hate to be a parts changer at the price of Bimmer parts and the time. I have just been using it for a DD around town for now until found and fixed. After I get through changing my valve cover gasket, MAF boots, entire coolant system, fuel filter, DISA and more, I will dig into the vibration more. I can barely feel it whatsoever around town. It's just over 65mph and after warm. FRUSTRATING! The nice part is it starts every day, runs awesome and no codes for over 3 weeks now. (Knock on wood quickly).

I am imagining it will throw codes after I change all the parts I mentioned for several here have said their Bimmer threw codes after changing parts. It should be the other way around damn it.

I need a good mechanic from the site here with a good garage who I can pay to troubleshoot my vibration because if I take it to a stealership, I'll be on CNN for being gang raped.
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:10 PM
frvega frvega is offline
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I know the feeling, I did the same chasing the issue, for some reason when I used the OEM E46 transmission and engine mounts the vibration was still there, then some day I came across a post about the M3 engine and transmission mounts so I got them installed, the engine mounts are a bit higher and heavy duty they do not flex much, and the transmission are the same high, but they are stronger.
That fixed the vibration.
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:32 PM
Boolala Boolala is offline
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Could you please describe the vibration you had in detail? Seems like several have vibrations but there are a few differences. Did you change motor mounts too or just tranny supports?
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Old 05-10-2014, 09:18 PM
frvega frvega is offline
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The vibration was at idle or when at a stop, also at constant speeds and applying the breaks.
I didn't get the vibration under load like in your case, but I wanted to share my findings in how the same parts can render different results.

Here is a link to my transmission problem that I'm dealing with right now, I would say there is some vibration if I wanted to describe the shudder as that, currently is only happening when the transmission gets hot, perhaps you can give me your opinion.

Edit:
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=769388

Other link describing vibrations:
http://www.ehow.com/about_5611225_to...-problems.html
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Last edited by frvega; 05-11-2014 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 05-11-2014, 12:09 PM
Boolala Boolala is offline
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I don;t see the link? Mine has absolutely no vibration at idle. Car has to be moving to get it so drivetrain somewhere or front end I am assuming.
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Old 05-11-2014, 12:52 PM
frvega frvega is offline
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My transmission was over heating so I'm due for transmission oil change according to the second link.
Some times it went up to 300 F and I didn't know until I started to monitor with INPA.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=769388

Other link describing vibrations:
http://www.ehow.com/about_5611225_to...-problems.html
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Last edited by frvega; 05-11-2014 at 12:54 PM.
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