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Unread 08-31-2015, 06:50 PM
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Default Re: 2002 BMW E46 325Ci - Daily/Track Car - Project Jack Daniels

continued from above

BRIEF HISTORY OF BMW E46 3-SERIES

The Wikipedia entry for the E46 is rather lacking in production numbers, but if you dig a little there were almost 4 million of this 4th generation of the 3 series built in the 1999-2006 model years, with about 800K making it to the USA. So these cars are abundant and are becoming VERY affordable. They came in many forms, ranging from the 4-door sedan (the most common), a 2 door coupe (my favorite), a 3 door hatch back (which we never got in the USA), and the 5 door estate wagon (rare here). There were convertibles, an M3 model (coupe and convertible only), and engines were 1.8L inline fours to 3.2L straight sixes, with all U.S. spec E46s cars getting a straight six (2.5L, 2.8L, 3.0L or 3.2L in the M3). I'm ignoring the E46 M3 from here on out, as it is very different and shares little with the non-M E46.


The Achilles heal of the E46 M54 motors are the exhaust manifolds (left), but the mid-length tube headers (right) always throw CELs

I've owned several E46 models, coupes and sedans, and generally liked them - even if I didn't particular care for the M54/M52tu six cylinder engines used in the 323/325/328/330 "non-M" E46 models. There are some quirks to these power plants, like the chain driven oil pump drive that is fairly unreliable in racing without some upgrades. The engine balancer is known to slip or fail, which can cause big problems, and this limits engine revs. The exhaust manifolds are terribly inefficient and place the catalyst very near the cylinder head - and tampering with the location of the cats for performance upgrades in the exhaust always throws CEL codes.


These are the "non-M" E46 six cylinders we got in the USA, and I have highlighted the engine in our 325Ci project car in yellow

Not to mention the power output of the M54 is fairly mundane, making from 172 to 225 hp on the E46. The US-spec cars (323, 328, 325 and 330) got engines from 2.5L (323 and 325), 2.8L (328 model) and 3.0L (330). The power outputs are shown above. The chassis itself is more rigid than the E36 3-series it replaced, but it gained a tick of weight so the BMW engineers put a lot more aluminum in this one: the front control arms, rear upper arms, and engine block are aluminum.


Left: Our flared 2001 E46 330 Coupe on 18x10s and 285/30/18 tires. Right: Our 1997 E36 M3 on 18x10s and 265/35/18s

The weights we've seen for E46 sedans and Coupes that we've owned were all around 3150 pounds, with low fuel and the spare tire + other "trunk junk" removed. That's how people race them so that's how we weigh them. That number isn't that much heavier (100-50 pounds) than an E36 of the same flavor, and the E46 is bigger in every dimension (wheelbase, length and width). The E46 has a more modern look than the E36 2-series, but I have to admit the E36 has a somewhat timeless look.

This 325Ci will get new wheels pretty soon to replace the chrome Foose wheels it came with. When buying a pre-owned car we often have to look past the "initial ugly" or weird mods done by previous owners, and this car had some really ugly wheels on it. They won't be here for long - we're testing some new fitments now and will post the results in the next post to this thread.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A USED E46

Some of what we're sharing in this thread is How To Buy An E46 (non-M). There are a lot of things to look for, and some things you just expect to have to fix unless the car has a really good set of maintenance documents. Cooling systems, leak repairs, suspension clunks, worn brakes, and the "old car stuff" that happens over 10-17+ years of use in all elements.


Trust me on this one - stick with the stick! The interior shot and the transmission above were from our 2001 330Ci

Obviously if you want to have fun you should AVOID the automatic transmission cars. The slushbox saps a lot of power and ALL the fun out of an E46, but there are a lot of them out there. Don't think "well I will just swap it to a 5-speed later", because that's a giant pain in the ass to do correctly. Just buy the right car, one already equipped with the manual transmission.



The 5-speed manual (some later 330's got a 6-speed, but don't pay a premium for that box) is pretty dang good, and generally reliable. The clutches have a finite life, as do all of the myriad bushings in the linkages and shifter. I already know we need to refresh all of the shifter parts on this car, but if you go with a solid metal shift handle and especially a lighter flywheel, be ready for some added "buzz" audible in the interior. We'll use some of our Vorshlag competition motor and transmission mounts on this one, too, to really up the NVH factor.



If you can even find a sub-100K mile E46 325/328/330, that has been taken care of, expect to pay some $ for these nowadays. There are going to be plenty of examples of 200K mile cars, and those will very likely have the same of maladies of this coupe. But we're not going to let this one go to the crusher just yet - I think we can fix all that ails this car.

COMMON REPAIR ITEMS ON E46 BMW

One of the first things you will see on high mileage BMWs is engine oil leaks. They will leak from all sorts of places, but almost always the oil pan and valve cover.


Left: Jack Daniels has a lot of leaks, so we have some work to do. Right: The valve cover gasket repair is pretty straightforward ('01 330Ci)

The gaskets get hard and brittle over time, then start to leak. The gasket parts aren't expensive to buy, and the valve cover gasket service on the top end is fairly easy to do at home with basic tools. Order spark plugs at the same time, as these have to come off to do the valve cover work. And make sure to get all 15 seals for every valve cover bolt. The oil pan gasket service is a REAL pain, though, and I'll show what it takes to do in a future installment on this 325Ci. When you do the oil pan gasket repair, you might want to think about: welding the oil pump driveshaft nut, replacing the oil pump/driveshaft/sprocket, and maybe even adding an oil pan baffle kit - if you plan on tracking the car, like we will.


We swapped in new seals for the dual VANOS on the 2001 330Ci (above) and it fixed some issues on that car

The VANOS units on the camshafts (variable valve timing controllers) tend to be "done" after 100-150K miles. There are seal kits (above right) and they are serviceable, but be careful. Don't forget that the VANOS bolts are LEFT hand thread. Swapping in rebuilt VANOS units is much trickier, and requires special tools and fixtures. Look for DIY write-ups online for this. There are several suppliers for seal kits and rebuilt VANOS units (Dr. Vanos is the more famous option). When the VANOS units are bad the variable cam timing doesn't work, and the motor feels more sluggish than normal.

Power steering lines also leak. Radiator necks crack and leak. Water pumps leak. Coolant overflow tanks crack and leak. We tend to see these parts fail regularly at 80-100K intervals. Plus all of the bushings, and the shocks are usually shot. There are underlying reasons why all of these things fail and why they are linked together, which we will cover in a future installment. If you continue reading below you will see that we already tackled some of these "common repairs" in the first week of ownership, but others repairs will be addressed in future posts.

FIRST REPAIRS - COOLING SYSTEM REPLACEMENT + ENGINE BAY CLEAN

When I test drove this car it was leaking coolant from more than one spot, and the electric cooling fan wasn't working. They had the radiator cap loose and told me to keep the test drive short. It was at a dealership who had a mechanic on staff, but it looked like they threw their hands up and just wanted to dump the car. I drove it around for a couple of minutes and it felt "OK" to me. No working cooling fan means no Air Conditioning and no chance I could drive it home in traffic. It didn't look like it had a blown head gasket so I took a gamble, bought the car, and towed it to the shop with our enclosed trailer...



I was nervous about the AC and cooling system - would this be an easy fix or not?? So the day I bought the car I had Olof do an typical "track inspection" to the car and make a list of visible issues. It was a long list.

- Thoroughly inspect car (top to bottom, front to back)
- Diagnose fan problem; won't run with direct power
- Lubed upper radiator hose; now system will pressurize but leak slowly
- Can hear audible sound engine bay (exhaust leak? air pump bad?)
- Perform compression test. Looks good.
- Scanned CEL : Cyl 3 misfire. Cleared code.
- New code appeared. P0365: Camshaft Position Sensor B Circuit (Bank 1)


Pressure testing the cooling system showed a myriad of leaks (above)

It took 2.08 hours to do the inspections, fan test, cooling system pressure check (leaks everywhere!), and engine compression test - all of the work listed above. The compression test was good, which let me know we probably did NOT have a bad head gasket. The coolant system had leaks from the water pump, upper hose junction at the radiator neck, and the coolant reservoir, but the radiator hoses themselves looked new.

The radiator hoses are normally an instant repair item, as the "quick connect" ends on the E46 get stuck over time and can easily break trying to disconnect them. Olof soaked the junctions with WD40 before taking them off and they popped free easily, and looked perfect inside and at the ends (O-ring). No massive corrosion or deposits. The electric cooling fan was tested off the car; even though it looked pretty new, when fed 12V power at the right ports it wouldn't work. So maybe all of the cooling/AC issues really were just a bad fan and a couple of leaks? Could we get that lucky???



We ordered a new OEM radiator (which might be replaced later with a larger capacity all-aluminum unit), coolant reservoir/cap/sensor, electric fan, water pump, and plastic thermostat housing + thermostat. Shopped around a bit, so it took a couple of days to get the parts in. It was around $400 retail in parts. When they had all arrived, Olof drained the coolant, quickly removed the old parts, cleaned up the mounting surface on the block for the pump, and swapped in the new bits. It was exactly 7 days after buying the car when he did the work, and it took him an additional 2.52 hours to replace the entire cooling system, start to finish. And luckily these parts fixed ALL of the cooling issues, and the AC now worked perfectly. So my gamble paid off.

- R&R radiator, expansion tank, water pump, thermostat, and coolant (mostly water)
- All old gaskets are damaged from corrosion of aluminum and coolant
- Add coolant and water mix
- Pressure test cooling system (no leaks)
- Test drive and verify fan turns on, AC works, engine runs fine



While he was removing the parts and before the new bits went in I sprayed the entire engine bay down with WD40. We let it soak while at lunch and Olof wiped all the surfaces down when we got back. This stuff is harmless to almost every material and will loosen gunk and grime, and it worked like a charm. Normally I'd pressure wash the engine bay but this car didn't need it - the dealership had done that, apparently (not the previous owner, who had really let a lot of things go). Just had some old gunk stuck to an otherwise clean-ish engine bay. The WD40 + wipe down made it look pretty darned good...


Engine bay now looks good, but did you notice the wires holding the headlights in place? And the cloudy lenses?

Now the 325 has a brand new cooling system (doesn't leak a drop of coolant) and the engine bay is pretty darned clean - doesn't look like it has 197K miles now. I love clean engine bays, and we will get the car up on all fours and power wash underneath the entire chassis soon. A clean chassis shows any leaks perfectly, and I'm sure there are plenty left to track down (engine oil, etc). But the emergency stuff - a bum cooling system - was fixed, which was a good first step.

continued below

Last edited by Fair!; 09-10-2015 at 09:07 AM.
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