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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 05-08-2013, 08:45 AM
Augster Augster is offline
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Exclamation SULEV and Fuel Tank Replacement

So my California '03 325i plain jane failed smog and has the "Service Engine Soon" light on (equivalent to the "Check Engine" light on most other makes) with several error codes and lean running condition in a cylinder or two. The smog shop informed me that the vehicle was a Super Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) and could be eligible for a factory warranty covered repair.

My local dealers' service tech had no knowledge of such a thing, but he took the smog results and the printed message about a possible factory warranty repair and would need my car for a couple days.

Yesterday I was notified that they are replacing the entire fuel tank under warranty. I was curious as to why the dealer is replacing the entire fuel tank assembly so I Googled (couldn't find anything here on the forums): the 3-Series SULEV's use a fully sealed fuel tank/fuel filter/fuel pump assembly in which the individual components cannot be serviced individually; that is, the entire fuel tank must be replaced if any of its components within fail. The average cost of this fuel tank R&R is a whopping $6,000-$8,000!!! Fortunately, SULEV vehicles come with a government mandated 15 year/150,000 mile warranty on emissions controls.

Here's more info on the SULEV: BMW Owners with Super Low Emission Vehicles – SULEVs

If my fuel pump and/or fuel filter were to need service, I could understand why the engine would be running lean and result in the "Service Engine Soon" light and thus failing smog. Luckily, my car has only 95k on the odometer, but I'm now concerned for the future if something in the fuel tank were to fail after the warranty expires.

Has anyone else experienced a need to have their fuel tank assembly replaced on a SULEV? I'm trying to determine how common the problem is...
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  #2  
Old 05-08-2013, 08:54 AM
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Fast Bob Fast Bob is offline
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No, this problem is not exactly unheard of in the BMW community, and on this Forum in particular. Most here are aware of these problems, and try to avoid SULEVs at all cost, even though most problems *are* covered by warranty.

Good luck with yours !
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:59 AM
Augster Augster is offline
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Tough to avoid a SULEV here in Cali, unless I buy an out-of-state or am lucky enough to find a used non-California/Maine/Massachusetts/Vermont already here in the state.

But it certainly will play a significant role in any future BMW I purchase...
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augster View Post
Tough to avoid a SULEV here in Cali, unless I buy an out-of-state or am lucky enough to find a used non-California/Maine/Massachusetts/Vermont already here in the state.

But it certainly will play a significant role in any future BMW I purchase...
You would think that the great state of California had better things to do than to force SULEV vehicles on the public....
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:20 AM
GoForthFast GoForthFast is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob View Post
You would think that the great state of California had better things to do than to force SULEV vehicles on the public....
Oh, no they don't. This is their primary task to avoid getting their budget in order.

Easy to avoid a SULEV. Just buy a glorious 330 as not a one was the dreaded SULEV.


OP----the fuel tank is fine, but the pump and filter are sealed inside and the tank cannot be opened for service. Hence, whole new tank installed.
And yes, be very wary of keeping a SULEV past warranty. Cost of a tank would 'Total' your car.

Last edited by GoForthFast; 05-08-2013 at 09:24 AM.
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Old 05-08-2013, 04:41 PM
Augster Augster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoForthFast View Post
Easy to avoid a SULEV. Just buy a glorious 330 as not a one was the dreaded SULEV.


OP----the fuel tank is fine, but the pump and filter are sealed inside and the tank cannot be opened for service. Hence, whole new tank installed.
And yes, be very wary of keeping a SULEV past warranty. Cost of a tank would 'Total' your car.
This is my second BMW, but if I ever decide on another one, it will definitely be a 330 or better! Thanks for the advice.

But yea, I figured that it would have been the fuel pump and/or fuel filter that was problematic but due to the design of the SULEV BMW's, the entire fuel tank would have to be replaced as an assembly since the fuel pump and filter are not replaceable individually.
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  #7  
Old 05-08-2013, 05:16 PM
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I'm so glad I don't have a SULEV bmw.
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  #8  
Old 05-08-2013, 05:32 PM
alpinweiss alpinweiss is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augster View Post
This is my second BMW, but if I ever decide on another one, it will definitely be a 330 or better! Thanks for the advice.

But yea, I figured that it would have been the fuel pump and/or fuel filter that was problematic but due to the design of the SULEV BMW's, the entire fuel tank would have to be replaced as an assembly since the fuel pump and filter are not replaceable individually.
The completely sealed fuel system was only for the E46 SULEV cars. On the E90 SULEV cars, the fuel system components are replaceable individually (fuel pump, fuel filter, etc.). This is in case you wish to buy a newer model 3-Series someday.

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  #9  
Old 05-09-2013, 06:40 AM
Augster Augster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alpinweiss View Post
The completely sealed fuel system was only for the E46 SULEV cars. On the E90 SULEV cars, the fuel system components are replaceable individually (fuel pump, fuel filter, etc.). This is in case you wish to buy a newer model 3-Series someday.

Even BETTER music to my ears!
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  #10  
Old 03-18-2014, 03:23 PM
Bim & Mini 03 Bim & Mini 03 is offline
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Exclamation 2006 BMW 325 Ci SULEV

So I gather from this thread, there has not been a work around for the SULEV gas tank issues?
I acquired this most recent coupe and it is great on gas, averaging 30+ mpg hwy! which is good as I drive for work over 20k/yr. my car had 163k when I traded for it. Since then, transmission failed had to be replaced. Found one used with warranty for $2500 r&r.
Now I'm concerned I may be looking at gas tank.
I always run 91-93 octane and haven't noticed any issues. Car now has 166k.

Last edited by Bim & Mini 03; 03-18-2014 at 03:25 PM. Reason: Misspelling
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  #11  
Old 03-18-2014, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bim & Mini 03 View Post
So I gather from this thread, there has not been a work around for the SULEV gas tank issues?
I acquired this most recent coupe and it is great on gas, averaging 30+ mpg hwy! which is good as I drive for work over 20k/yr. my car had 163k when I traded for it. Since then, transmission failed had to be replaced. Found one used with warranty for $2500 r&r.
Now I'm concerned I may be looking at gas tank.
I always run 91-93 octane and haven't noticed any issues. Car now has 166k.
Get rid of it !!! Sooner, not later....
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  #12  
Old 07-23-2015, 10:10 AM
Ikinduit Ikinduit is offline
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Watch me resurrect...

Don't listen to that guy. Watch me resurrect this thread and a 2003 SULEV 325 wagon! Well, no pics, but I'll run you through it. These are good cars.

It's not too bad to swap the tanks: you'll need a regular E46 fuel tank, an E46 M3 fuel pump (which runs at 5 Bar), the hose which goes from the pump to the hard line, the hard line and fuel filter from an E36 (this has one inlet and one outlet) and the bracket for the fuel pump (junkyard E46). You'll need to cut the fuel line at the same place where the fuel filter on the the regular E46 sits, the chassis mount for the bracket is there so you just fit the filter in place and you'll know where to cut the line. You'll need to connect wires but it's just color to color. There is no fuel return in this system so you'll run a loop of fuel line from the return nipple to the vent nipple on the fuel tank. Then there's the evap and fuel filler system..... Some head scratching involved here... You'll need to cut all of those beautiful (and thick) stainless lines: fuel filler, fuel filler return vent, evap. You'll need to get fuel-proof hoses in the correct sizes (big) and lay them out with the tank in place to estimate length then test fit a few times, tank in, tank out, etc. If anyone has questions I'm happy to answer, the whole job took about two solid days because I had to run around finding hoses for the evap system, pulling a bracket for the fuel filter at the junkyard, etc. Cost about $650, that's $400 for the M3 fuel pump, $150 for a used E46 gas tank with sending unit, $100 for the hoses and fuel filter. The car runs great, no codes or lights being thrown, Cheers!

Last edited by Ikinduit; 07-23-2015 at 10:29 AM. Reason: Misspellings
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  #13  
Old 07-23-2015, 11:20 AM
Dave1027 Dave1027 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ikinduit View Post
Cost about $650, that's $400 for the M3 fuel pump, $150 for a used E46 gas tank with sending unit, $100 for the hoses and fuel filter.
Tank with sending unit? Isn't the sending unit part of the fuel pump?
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  #14  
Old 07-23-2015, 11:52 AM
Ikinduit Ikinduit is offline
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It's on the driver's side, there are 2 sending units on these cars as far as I can tell, the obd uses both AFAIK
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Old 07-23-2015, 11:32 PM
GoForthFast GoForthFast is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ikinduit View Post
Don't listen to that guy. Watch me resurrect this thread and a 2003 SULEV 325 wagon! Well, no pics, but I'll run you through it. These are good cars.
We've been looking for you!!
Thanks for the knowledge and creativity.
Would love to have more specifics posted for the poor folks who acquired a SULEV without knowing what potential hassle awaits them.
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  #16  
Old 07-24-2015, 06:43 AM
Statik330 Statik330 is offline
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Out of mere curiosity, why use the M3 pump? If you're converting it to a normal E46 design, couldn't you use the basic E46 pump for ~$130?

Either way, this is huge for high mileage SULEV owners who experience a failure.
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  #17  
Old 07-24-2015, 05:06 PM
Ikinduit Ikinduit is offline
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Apparently the M3 pump
can handle more pressure
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  #18  
Old 07-24-2015, 07:44 PM
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Is it known if there are any legal repercussions (especially in Nazified Collie-Fawnia) for modifying a SULEV vehicle ?
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Old 07-24-2015, 10:38 PM
GoForthFast GoForthFast is offline
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They probably have a line to cover everything!
But will they catch you? Probably would not come up.

In my section of the state (different inspection rules for different counties) they stick nothing up the tail pipe. Only visually check if all the emission parts are still installed on my car!
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Old 07-25-2015, 05:52 AM
FredoinSF FredoinSF is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob View Post
Is it known if there are any legal repercussions (especially in Nazified Collie-Fawnia) for modifying a SULEV vehicle ?

SULEV is not mandated for that year vehicle so don't see how, although anything is possible.
The only way this would come up is during smog test. It's been greatly simplified. On newer cars they don't even measure tailpipe emissions, they just connect to the OBD connector for a minute, take your $70 and voila.
On older cars they measure tailpipe emissions on Dino, but this would not affect tailpipe emissions and so long as no codes or CEL, the car will pass smog.

Don't own a SULEV but great solution for those who do. Not as easy as replacing pump on other cars, but there is hope.
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Old 07-25-2015, 10:36 PM
GoForthFast GoForthFast is offline
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SULEV is not mandated for that year vehicle so don't see how, although anything is possible.
Here's how the lawyers got you covered on this one:
"Any original equipment that came from the manufacturer on a car must be maintained to perform its proper functioning, and not be deactivated or modified in any way"
Get out of that one! They don't want you to breathe without permission.
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  #22  
Old 07-26-2015, 02:26 AM
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ahull ahull is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ikinduit View Post
Don't listen to that guy. Watch me resurrect this thread and a 2003 SULEV 325 wagon! Well, no pics, but I'll run you through it. These are good cars.

It's not too bad to swap the tanks: you'll need a regular E46 fuel tank, an E46 M3 fuel pump (which runs at 5 Bar), the hose which goes from the pump to the hard line, the hard line and fuel filter from an E36 (this has one inlet and one outlet) and the bracket for the fuel pump (junkyard E46). You'll need to cut the fuel line at the same place where the fuel filter on the the regular E46 sits, the chassis mount for the bracket is there so you just fit the filter in place and you'll know where to cut the line. You'll need to connect wires but it's just color to color. There is no fuel return in this system so you'll run a loop of fuel line from the return nipple to the vent nipple on the fuel tank. Then there's the evap and fuel filler system..... Some head scratching involved here... You'll need to cut all of those beautiful (and thick) stainless lines: fuel filler, fuel filler return vent, evap. You'll need to get fuel-proof hoses in the correct sizes (big) and lay them out with the tank in place to estimate length then test fit a few times, tank in, tank out, etc. If anyone has questions I'm happy to answer, the whole job took about two solid days because I had to run around finding hoses for the evap system, pulling a bracket for the fuel filter at the junkyard, etc. Cost about $650, that's $400 for the M3 fuel pump, $150 for a used E46 gas tank with sending unit, $100 for the hoses and fuel filter. The car runs great, no codes or lights being thrown, Cheers!
So what's the labor estimate for this? Sounds like a real beatch to put all together. Heck, just finding the used parts could take a day. Better than no car I suppose, or several grand out of pocket.
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Old 07-26-2015, 04:12 PM
FredoinSF FredoinSF is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoForthFast View Post
Here's how the lawyers got you covered on this one:

"Any original equipment that came from the manufacturer on a car must be maintained to perform its proper functioning, and not be deactivated or modified in any way"

Get out of that one! They don't want you to breathe without permission.

Hopefully the lawyers have better fish to fry than pursuing some poor guy who got suckered into a SULEV car and tried to save 5 grand to keep it rolling. CA's motto / tag line is the Golden State, and this is why I refer to CA - a place that I happen to love - as the Golden Cage.

Anything is possible, but if it were my car I'd still take the risk. Smog is every few years, they don't look under the car, chances are the guy at the smog only place is a flunky who's high on medical marijuana, and he wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between original and not.
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