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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
Talk about the E83 BMW X3 in this forum!

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Old 02-25-2015, 10:03 AM
D888spo D888spo is offline
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Location: Virginia
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 2
Mein Auto: X3
Transfer Case sound...Or is it?

I brought my X3 in for a very quiet sound coming from the front end, I suspected a wheel bearing as we'd had one go bad before. But the noise was very soft/quiet and not grinding as before. It was also rotational, meaning only heard when moving and changing in relation to what I figured would be a single wheel rotation.

Tech called and said "aftermarket brake pads were marginally too large and it was causing the noise." He also said "..we should replace the disks as they are generally replaced when pads are changed also." That's a first for me and I was dubious but said to make the repair.

Imagine my surprise when reading the bill he'd written that the "..pads and rotors out of specifications", something he never mentioned on the phone call. I also disagree with that anyway as I myself had replaced the rotors and pads with genuine BMW parts just last summer. Worse still, the noise was still there. The brakes had nothing to do with the sound.

When I asked the service representative, she said she spoke with the tech and that he'd told her: "There was a grinding noise, so the brakes were going bad." This was never mentioned before and we heard zero noises other than the very quiet noise initially reported which still exists.

The noise I reported was so quiet if there had been any other noise it would have covered it up. It's a very subtle almost gurgling which is noticeable only when the vehicle is moving very slowly while coasting. Having your foot on the accelerator would create enough engine noise to mask the offending noise. Presumably the technician had driven the car after repair of the brakes yet he made no mention of hearing the reported noise. Even the service representative drove the car into the garage when retrieving it for me and she reported not hearing it. I had to drive it around the parking lot for her and then it became obvious.
While quiet, it is easy to hear when you actually try.

So now we get a call that the noise I reported is the transfer case and will take $4400 to fix.

So, has anyone heard of such a problem with the transfer case? The temptation is to drive it for a while to see if it gets worse or changes. I'm still leaning on it being a bearing issue. The transfer case problems I;ve been reading about on this forum all relate different sounds than I am hearing and mostly include error indicators illuminated. It also doesn't sound like an actuator related issue based on reading here.

Aside from a feeling the tech is giving me the bums rush, any ideas? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 02-26-2015, 04:59 AM
timarnold timarnold is offline
Location: Maryland
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 614
Mein Auto: 2003 bmw 525i
The transfer case would be the last place I would look for this noise. If the transfer case itself was failing, the typical sound you hear is the drive chain slapping the side of the transfer case housing. There is nothing subtle about it. There are a multitude of possible causes for a rotational noise, really any rotating member of the driveline can be at fault. I believe the most common causes of noises in the driveline are the Guibo disk, the center support bearing on the rear driveshaft and siezed U-joints on the front driveshaft. The good news is that the likelyhood of actual failure is proportional to the amount of noise being generated. If you continue to drive it, the noise will get worse to the point where it is a bit more obvious.

The only difficulty is that the Guibo & center support bearing are hidden behind heat shielding, so direct inspection from a labor standpoint is pretty much equal to the cost of replacement. You can put it on a rack with the engine running & transmission engaged and could probably hear generally where the noise is coming from.
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Old 02-26-2015, 06:24 AM
mtbrdad mtbrdad is offline
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Location: Elmhurst, IL
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 277
Mein Auto: 2007 X3.0si
What year X3 and how many miles?
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Old 02-26-2015, 12:52 PM
x3brian x3brian is offline
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Location: Sacramento CA
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Posts: 1,033
Mein Auto: X3
I would suspect front differential before anything else.
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Old 02-26-2015, 06:21 PM
timgray timgray is offline
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Location: Michigan
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 225
Mein Auto: 2007 X3
That is a good point, when was the last time the differential fluids were changed. If you cant remember, then change them or have them changed. my rear Diff was underfilled, when they changed the fluid the noise I thought was normal from the rear went completely away.

An honest shop will do them for $70-$100 each. you can do it for a lot less if you have the tools and are willing to learn.

Last edited by timgray; 02-26-2015 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 02-26-2015, 06:50 PM
D888spo D888spo is offline
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Location: Virginia
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 2
Mein Auto: X3
Thanks for all the comprehensive responses.

The X3 is a 2005 with 149k miles. The vehicle still looks new and the wife loves it. It's primary transportation for her commuting into DC so mostly highway. There's no hard noises at all. When I say it's a very quiet noise, almost like a rubbing against plastic for example, say like when you turn the steering wheel and it rubs against the housing. My truck does that, not her car. Breath hard and you won't hear it. But it's there and it's new.

I don't recall when diff fluids were changed or TC but I've never faltered at changing fluids when the shop said to, or any service for that matter. Like I said, primary transportation for my wife. She's what I call a "Competent driver" but not a "Confidant driver" so I make sure every little thing is good for her on the car. I'll have to check records to see when last services of diff and TC were done.

I hadn't considered the guibo joint so thanks for that insight and the U-joint also. Something to look into.

At this point I'm thinking changing the TC fluid and driving it for a while and see what develops. There's no other indications that would normally be associated with a TC problem, warning indicator lights, firm noises, etc. I usually only drive it every week or so on the weekends and take notice of anything that needs attending to. Paying attention to any increased noise or other indications of something going south.

Thanks again, W
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