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routine maintenance

5246 Views 20 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  RivMcLean
Hello, I am a novice DIYer but relatively handy and have a father in law who is very helpful. I am curious as to the routine maintenance I need to complete in the near future. 2004 330Ci, 54000miles, only driven after snow melts (april thru oct) about 7000miles per year. I've changed the oil yearly up to this point, and plan to change the brake fluid, manual tranny fluid, possibly fuel filter, and some cooling components. Do I need to change the whole cooling system or just a few parts that are more prone to failure? Any other thought on what else I need to do? The car runs great at this point and would like to keep it that way for another 10+ years.
thanks scott
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I did a lot of research on this for my 2004 e46, and here's what I came up with:
First, read this -- It's very helpful. As for what I did/recommend --

1) Change your oil every 6k-7500 miles, at least, not the 15k the factory recommends. Use OE Mann or Mahle filters. I've read about someone who replaces his drain plug every few years, just to be on the safe side -- for $3, it's good insurance. I've read mixed reviews about magnetic drain plugs (prone to break?), so I'd say just get a regular OEM replacement. Use your oil change as an opportunity to feel your radiator hoses, check your belts, check your bushings, etc.

2) Assume your cooling system will have a catastrophic failure of some sort by the time you hit 90k miles. It's worth while to do it yourself early as preventative maintenance to save yourself the $$$ of having to have it towed to a repair shop, as happened to a friend of mine. I did this a few months ago, when I had 93k miles (I was driving on borrowed time), and it's not hard, there are a lot of "DIYs" online for all this, but I recommend a) new water pump (get an aftermarket one with a metal impeller -- I went with Graf); b) new thermostat; c) new expansion tank; d) new pressure cap for the tank. Give your radiator hoses a squeeze, if they're still soft and pliable, then they're probably okay, if they are feeling stiff, just change them out now. This will also necessarily involve a coolant flush (so pick up a gallon of BMW coolant and some distilled water), and you can find some extras such as a brass bleeder screw -- cheap to replace and will give you some peace of mind and added reliability. Thereafter, plan to flush your coolant every 30k miles.

3) They say the spark plugs can go 100k miles, but most recommend changing them out at 60k miles. Buy NGK plugs, don't bother with advertised "high performance plugs" -- IMO you're begging for a check engine light with those. Also, when your plugs are out, get a flash light and look into the holes -- if you see oil in the holes, you probably need to replace your valve cover gasket (pretty cheap parts). These are prone to get hard and brittle with age, and there are DIYs for changing them -- seem pretty simple, although not worth changing as "preventative"; don't change if it's not leaking.

4) Fuel filter is a good idea -- buy some small hose clamps, the OE ones are loosen-only, so once they are off you can't get them back on. I think this will be a 30k-40k mile regular occurrence for me from here on out -- they're pretty cheap, quick to replace, and make a difference.

5) Air and cabin filter -- cheap and easy, might as well do it every 10-20k miles.

6) Brake fluid every 2 years or so (note: brake fluid attracts water, so even though you only drive 7k/yr, over time the brake fluid will still collect moisture, so your brake fluid with 15k miles might need to be replaced at the same time as someone who drove 30k in the same span). Buy a Motive pressure bleeder, or use the two-person bleeding technique. There are DIYs online. I fabricated a bleeding bottle out of a plastic water bottle and some clear tubing, and had my wife pump the brake pedal as I operated the bleeder screw, it was easy and didn't take long. I used Ate brake fluid, using a different color (they make a blue fluid) makes it easy to know when you're done, and it's really good quality stuff. Also, bleed your clutch, and remove your clutch delay valve while you're at it (google CDV delete). Easy job, and you'll notice a difference in clutch engagement feel, plus it'll extend the life of your clutch.

7) Good call on transmission fluid and diff fluid. As one person I saw put it, "Lifetime fluid" means it'll last for the life of the fluid. I used Redline fluids, although I must say both my tranny fluid and my diff fluid were very clean and free from metal shavings even after 93k miles. Still, makes sense to do it every 60-80k miles. For your MT, there's a lot of debate over whether to use Redline MTL or ATF or a combination of both. I drive in warm weather, so I used MTL, and it's fine. I've read for cold weather use ATF, and for intermediate, use half-and-half. You can go on the Redline website and plug in your car model and it'll tell you what fluids they recommend for tranny, diff, etc. The BMW OEM tranny fluid is ungodly expensive, so I say it's not worth it. I used Redline 75w90 gear oil in my diff, runs just fine.

8) Replace your power steering fluid. Use a fluid transfer pump, pump out all you can get from the reservoir, re-fill to the appropriate line with fresh ATF, close the lid, turn the car on, turn the steering wheel lock-to-lock four or five times, turn it off, suck out as much of the PS fluid as you can, and re-fill again, and repeat that entire process about 4-5 times. The idea is to cycle all the old fluid out of the hoses - you'll never get it 100% flushed this way, but it's pretty good and better than nothing.

9) Inspect your belts at every oil change (look for cracks in the grooves), and in any event replace your belts every 40k miles or so. They're cheap and easy to replace, might as well do it.

10) Clean your MAF sensor when you replace your engine air filter. Buy some "CRC MAF Sensor Cleaner" -- but be very very very very careful with your MAF -- NEVER touch the metal part inside the sensor with anything, it's extremely fragile and quite expensive to replace.

All the above can be done in two Saturdays. Buy some beer and pizza, and have a technically-inclined friend with a full set of torx bits and hex keys come over to help.

Other stuff to keep an eye on, not necessarily maintenance, but things that are prone to break:
11) Expect to need to replace your crankcase ventilation system in the next few years, especially if you only take short drives. It's a huge pain to do, but worth while to DIY. It's just an oil separator and four hoses, maybe $120 in parts, but it's tough to get to. Some people say this should be done as preventative maintenance, but I think you could wait until you start hearing funny noises and throwing check-engine codes before doing it. My advice, though, is to use an OEM oil separator, as the aftermarket Euro brand one I got didn't seem to fit the hoses very well. If you drive in sub-freezing temperatures, which you say you don't, then it might be worth doing as preventative.

12) Inspect your rubber air intake boots behind your MAF down to your throttle body -- if they feel hard or are cracking, replace them. Relatively easy (except for the hose clamps on the lower air intake boot) and pretty inexpensive. Makes sense to do it at the same time as your CCV (#11 above). If they still feel soft and malleable, it's probably not worth the trouble to replace them.

13) Keep an eye on your lower control arm bushings and control arms. The CABs are a consumable, and they have been known to go in as little as 40k miles, but I've heard they typically go between 60-80k. I'm fortunate that I'm at 98k now and mine still feel fine. You'll know they're starting to go when you hear a clunk when you brake. You can also get under there and inspect them -- put your car on jack stands and wiggle your tire while watching for play in the bushing -- should be firm, if there's too much play or if you notice the housing looks brown from oil dripping out of the bushing (the bushings are oil-filled), then you'll want to replace them. I have not done this on my car, but did it on my friend's 5-series, and it's pretty much a pain, we had to fabricate a pushing tool and used a huge C-clamp. I've heard you can rent a three-prong bushing pulling tool that works. If you're timid, might make sense to take it to a shop to have this done. Since I'm nearly at 100k, I'm planning on just doing my whole control arms in the next 20k miles, since you can buy the arms with the CAB's already pressed in.

14) Get an alignment every time you get new tires or do suspension work. I went way too long without having the car aligned, and I realized that's why I was chewing through tires really quickly. The stealership wanted $300-some dollars for a special BMW alignment -- I took it to a local shop and for about $90 they did it just fine.

Finally, about once a year I see a "inspection special" through a local dealership where they advertise they will inspect and wash your car for free. The idea is that they'll sell you maintenance and repair work they see on the car, although I've never actually had them do the work because it is ungodly expensive. It's worth while to go have them inspect it for an hour or so, get a free car wash, and a print-out of what needs to happen on your car. Even if there is no such special, it's worth the $100 or so a year to have a qualified mechanic, unlike you or me, crawl under and check it out.

Good luck! I, like you, plan on keeping my car for a long, long time, and with this maintenance regimen, I suspect we'll have few problems. I'm at 100k miles and the car today runs as well as the day I drove it off the lot brand new.
You're preaching heresy to a congregation of DIY worshipers.
I think I'm gonna pass on the e46's DIY and just pay someone so I don't screw something up or have the car fall on top of me. On Friday, I'm getting a shop to do the following:

Replace the water pump for $460 ($100 part plus $360 labor) - Preventative
Belts and coolant will be another $60
Differential drain and fill $90
Replace the leaky $12 oil filter housing gasket for $260

Determine the noisy power steering and probably replace that for a yet to be determined price.

So probably about $1,300 for $300 in parts

If he's supplying the parts, I suppose that's reasonable, but still more than I'd want to pay. Figure you're going to end up paying a total of $635, and the total parts bill for that project (including top-of-the-line redline diff fluid and a gallon of BMW coolant) is about $210 in parts, for a net labor charge of $425. I think you could easily do all that stuff in a day with a friend helping, and with some DIYs you can find online. It'll probably take the mechanic 4-6 hours, tops.

My big concern is him telling you not to worry about the water pump. Although you only have 54k miles and it's unlikely to go in the next 20k miles, it's certainly likely to go by 100k miles, and as long as you're taking apart the cooling system and belts, why not replace the cheap OEM water pump that uses plastic impellers with a solid metal one that you won't have to worry about? Since you only have 54k miles, your expansion tank is unlikely to go bad. I guess my thought is -- if he's telling you to worry about the plastic expansion tank cracking from heat/expansion at 54k miles, why wouldn't he be concerned about the water pump's plastic impellers cracking from heat/expansion at 54k miles?
Ok. A little change of plans.

I found a guy on Craigslist whose ad says that he used to be a Master Technician at a BMW dealership. He's going back to college for an engineering degree and does mobile mechanic work.

He said that he's replaced a thousand oil filter housing brakets. He told me that he wouldn't worry about the water pump yet, but to change out the expansion tank. With its plastic construction there is a 100% chance that it'll develop leaks. He also said that since the car will be jacked up, he can replace the bushings in 20 minutes and it'll feel like a new car afterwards.

His prices including parts and labor are $200 for the leak, $60 to change the belts, $175 to swap the tank, $75 to change the diff fluid, and $125 for the new bushings. He'll need to see what's up with the power steering.

This will be in my driveway on Sunday and I'm gonna watch what he's doing so I can learn a thing or two.

And thanks for the heads up on the tensionors. I'll get those done too.
Oh my bad, I confused you with someone else. And I also failed to see that you've got an e90 -- for some reason I was thinking e46. On the e46 cars, the water pump is arguably the weakest part. I think they upgraded it for the N52 engine -- I simply don't know enough about it. So disregard what I said.
My car has 98k miles on it - not 54. This guy said that BMWs have very strong waterpumps that will last well past 100,000 miles so we'll see.

Our 4-runner went 198,000 miles until we sold it and didn't need one. It went through 3 air conditioners, a drive shaft, 10 sets of brakepads, but never a waterpump.
I failed to see that Brentster has an e90, not an e46, so my advice was off-base, since I don't know anything about e90 cars. Still, I'm with you 100% when it comes to working on our e46 cars -- they're not as intimidating as they seemed originally. I didn't do pulleys or tensioners when I did my cooling system and belts, but they're on the short list of things to do in the next few months.
I agree with you Scott.
I guess I am also a cynic when it comes to people working on my cars and Craigslist as a Master Mechanic? I am not sure, but I can only hope for brentster that he thinks this is a good deal. There is so much information on how to do the jobs correctly here I rather buy the parts and if I require tools buy them too because next time I will have the experience and the tools to do the job and know it was done correctly. If brentster reads a bit more I am sure he will find posts about updating the cooling system here beyond just the expansion tank. Matter of fact you can find vendors selling kits to this advice like ECS who has the water pump, tank, belts and the thermostat in the aluminum housing, and new bleeder screw (brass or otherwise).
This is how I found out about the tensioners, because of someones elses post on changing the belts. When I hit 60000 miles I will overhaul the cooling system and while I have the belts off I'll change the tensioners as well because most of the work to gain access is already done.
I hope it all work out.
Cheers. :beerchug:
No apology necessary. the mechanic working on your e90 or your wife's e46? If it's your wife's e46 -- water pump. :thumbup:
Man I am so sorry guys for wrecking this thread. I was the 3rd post on here and I said that this was for my wife's 2004 330. Then, two posts later I mentioned again that it was an e46. I have an e90.

I appreciate everyones's advice. I should have just put all this non DIY elsewhere - or not at all.

The OEM has a plastic impeller. You'll be back in there in 60k swapping it out, if not digging out shattered plastic pieces from the innermost depths of your engine, having an overheated car towed home, etc., etc., etc.

Get an aftermarket one that has a metal impeller for $54. I had a BMW dealer mechanic tell me that it's a bad idea to use OEM water pumps -- that it is a much better idea to go with an aftermarket one with metal impeller. If a dealer mechanic of all people is advising against OEM, you know it's bad. I put the Graf in mine -- took 10 minutes to install once the belts were off.

You might be able to find a German auto parts place near your home that will carry the Graf water pump -- might be $60-$70, but still well worth it.
Yes. It's the e46. Thanks to you guys, I called him and said to swap out the pump. He just swung by the dealer, and with his 10% discount, bought an OEM for $115. He's going to install it for $30. $145 as opposed to the indy shop for $460.
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