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BMW 3-Series Maintenance and Repair



  • My 1996 328is has developed a strange gurgling/rattling noise that is originating from within the dashboard instrument module. Sounds like a speedometer cable but the noise occurs when the car is moving or stopped and when the engine is on or off. In fact, the car can be parked for days and the noise still continues. It began maybe 6 months ago at about 40,000 mi. and has been getting steadily worse until it is now very annoying. My local dealer claims to have not seen this before and tells me my only option is to replace the entire module, a part costing around $700.

    Has anyone experienced this problem and does any one think I might have a shot at getting BMW to take care of the expense? Otherwise its a great machine.
  • niwdeniwde Posts: 4
    Your message regarding the "clunking" noise/sensation coming from the rear of your manual tran 330ci really got my attention. I am about to order a 330ci. Have you received any other info about this problem. As you stated, you were able to duplicate this for your BMW service advisor. When it happened, were you driving the car or were they? Please don't take this as an insult, I absolutely do not mean it that way, but, could it possibly be the means with which you are operating the manual gearbox?
  • I have the same "clunk." See message #1 if you have not done so. Two or three months ago there were a couple of discussions on the "rear clunk" on E46 board, too. I wonder this clunk is the reason why E46 clutch has the CDV?
  • niwdeniwde Posts: 4
    Sorry, I did not read message #1. My message was just a thought. Besides, I felt that traumamc's service advisor, when explaining the clunking noise,(part of the "BMW experience") was either uneducated when it comes to customer service or just plain sarcastic. Both characteristics very unbecoming for a BMW representative.
  • The clunking noise occurred while I was driving, but it also occurred when the head technician got behind the wheel. No offense taken about the way I drive. This is my first manual car and I am still learning. But I have had several people drive my car, many with over 30 years experience with manuals and the problem occurred for them as well. You are the first to respond to my post, so as of yet I don't know of any solution. If you can test drive a manual, this could just be an issue with my car. Hope this helps.
  • E46 clutch is very tricky if I release the clutch pedal quickly, the clutch may slip drastically since CDV limits the movement of the disc and the pressure plate. I have been driving nothing but manual transmission cars since 1960s and E46 is NOT the one with best clutch (1988 Accord is!). When I am easy on the clutch it engages properly.

    I wonder if this "rear clunk" is generated by by some problem in the rear suspension since when one engages the clutch, rear suspension is subjected to a sudden loading.

    I have not taken the car to my dealer yet (hoping that the noise will disappear by itself!). But based on my previous experience with a local Toyota dealer I know that service advisors or managers are generally not interested in work that reqire locating noises, etc. because usually they are not reimbursed for the time they spend for locating the cause of such noises. Instead, they turn deaf and cannot hear noises or they say that such noises are "normal."
  • -My car has auto transmission, so I don't know if the clunking noise I've experienced is similar to the one you have with manual trans. A few months ago I had this rear clunking noise problem and it took me a while to finally get it fixed by the dealer shop. What they did was replace a "torn-out output flange".
    -Both of the front and rear brakes have been replaced (pads and rotors), as recommended by the dealer shop after inspection, with the odometer read at around 34K. That was unbelievable!
    -Car would not start. It started out randomly/rarely months ago and gradually became more frequently. The dealer shop replaced the "control box" in the instrument cluster and also found a "loose cable that was not making proper contact". After this fix, the car would start up all the time, but the odometer read about 8K miles less then when I brought the car into the shop. Now, the car has just been fixed. They told me that there was a bulletin from the manufacturer stating that if the battery is disconnected the odometer reading will reduce, and it will keeps on reducing each time the battery is disconnected, until it reaches 0 miles (I figured they must have disconnected the battery when they replaced the "control box"). They also told me that the bulletin does describe necessary steps to re-program the odometer (something like that) so that it won't change the next time the battery is disconnected. Seems like a power loss would cause the odometer to go beserk, on cars that have not been serviced for such a bulletin.
    Have anyone out there ever heard of such a thing? If indeed there is a bulletin, why that has not been a "recall" as it sounds like a serious defect problem? Or did the service advisor bullsh*t me? The "BMW Experience" I've had is all but wonderful.
  • I just had new front pads and rotors put on my wife's 2000 328I after 18000 miles. Unbelievable! When I asked the service rep at the dealer how this was possible I got the usual talk about driving habits and so on. I really like this car but if I have to look forward to new brakes every year or so, well maybe BMW won't be my next car.
  • I just bought my first BMW 528i 97. I really love the way the car drives.
    I am concerned about the automatic transmission though. When the car first started in
    cold weather, I typically drive with caution and keep a light touch on the gas.
    1st and 2nd gear seem to shift around 2K RPMs but when it comes time to go from
    3rd to D it won't shift until the RPM have reached about 3500. This seems really high
    Even if I let off the gas doing 35 MPH it will not shift into the higher gears.

    Is this a feature or a problem? WHen the car warms up the shifting still seems hard
    from 3rd to D but not at low speeds. I think the car is still under factory warranty.
    It's in service date in 6/97 and is has 35K miles.

    Has anyone had a similar experience with their car and what did you do?

  • jayonejayone Posts: 25
    hey Im nearing the end of my lease on my 99 323i. I wish i knew about this place sooner. Overall i would rate my experience a very pleasureable one. I even tried extending my lease for 24 additional months , however they wanted more than a new one, so i opted not to. The only problems on my car were: airbag recalls, the central locking button failed- replaced.Have 34000 miles changed braked twice at about $370 each visit. Thermostat failed causing engine light to go on-fixed.Brakes where kind of squeeqing when i first got car had them looked at, noise went away for a while, returned then eventually dissappeared-for now. Overall these were minor problems that were fixed. Braked were a bit expensive but overall rated - very good.
  • niwdeniwde Posts: 4
    Concerning all the problems people have been posting, ranging from "clunking" noises coming from the transmission to premature brake pad wear. I'm wondering, why haven't I read anything regarding these chronic problems in respectable magazines like Car & Driver or Motor Trend? It seems to me that these reviews, written about the BMW 3 series cars, could not speak more highly of this model BMW. In addition, they seem to state that all other manufacturers base their efforts on BMW's achievements with the 3 series to develop a car that can compare in the same class. Plus, the writers that test these cars put these cars through extensive evaluations to expose their weaknesses. It just seems that if there were problems that were inherent to the E46, they would have been revealed by resources in the automotive enthusiast press. I'm not saying that the E46 is suppose to be a perfect car. I would just like to read an article from a source that I "trust" to confirm the unsettling problems several people seem to be experiencing.
  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    I NEVER had a BMW need front brakes more often than every 25,000 miles- and that was on a tracked M6. Also, the rotors should last through two sets of pads. Two data points: My 1995 E36 (which sees the track a couple of times per year) just got it's first set of new front pads at 58,000 miles. My wife's 48,000 mile 1998 E36 is still on the first set. Sorry, but I must side with the dealer on this one.
  • People tend to post on these message boards when they have problems with their cars. When I owned my 2000 Celica I frequented the Celica message boards and the people who posted were the ones with the problems, and the Celica is NOT a troublesome car. If I had a problem with my car I would probably go to the message boards first to find a hopefully easy answer or to comiserate, wouldn't you. Sorry, I cannot recommend a truly subjective source. I have asked this question myself in the past. Consumer Reports (the most anal of car magazines) gives the 325 a very high reliability rating though.
  • ccotenjccotenj Posts: 610
    *somebody* is riding the brakes... 1995 e36 here with 83K and still on first set of pads/rotors...

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,609
    There are often too many variables to make an accurate assessment of whether an owner's complaint is "chronic" or not....driving habits, weather, quality of dealer service, quality of replacement parts, etc.

    For instance, in San Francisco certain Fords need new brake pads every 6 weeks....but they are taxicabs and the hills are steep and the drivers aggressive, so there you go....perfect explanation.

    Another case--some people burn out clutches, others (like me) have never burned out a clutch in their lives. How is that explained?

    This is NOT to say that BMWs don't have chronic problems...some models definitely have...but it's not something that a car magazine is likely to best, they only drive one or two cars of a certain type, and they aren't about to make a sweeping generalization based on that slim evidence.

    It would be better to look at, say, Road and Track's owner surveys....if say, 10% of the owners of 528s reported a transmission glitch, that would definitely point to something. But if 2% do, I wouldn't think that is an indication of a chronic problem.

    More like a statistical probability....on every car made by humans, some are going to screw is inevitable as death and taxes.

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  • To div2 and ccotenj,
    Would you know if there's any difference on brakes between your 95 and the new-body style (99 and later) models? If there is a difference, or if you don't know, wouldn't it be unfair to make such comparison? It seems difficult for me to be convinced that it is "driving habit" that's causing the brakes to get worn out so soon. Personally, I don't think my driving habit has really changed for the past 15+ years - if anything, I am driving much less aggressive now that I am older than years ago. My other car, a 95 Mazda Millenia S (supercharged) has more than 50K miles yet still no sign of needing new brakes. My previous cars, Nissan Maxima and Acura Legend, never needed new brakes (not even pads) before 50K.

    To rascal8,
    True. After all, this is a "BMW 3-Series (E46) Problem" forum, and so if you don't find people complain about their car's problems here I am not sure what else you would find them. However, keep in mind that not ALL people who have problems would go in here and post them up or share them with us. Statistics should not exist here. Thus, understandably, the problems I have had with my car might be one-owner specific. That's so unfortunate!

    Question for all: How do they actually survey and/or evaluate cars? Do they actually take on many different kinds of roads, under all kinds of weather, traffic, loadings, etc.? Do they actually drive stop-and-go, shift-and-park, all the stuff an ordinary driver would have to go through everyday? Do they actually do all that over and over again, racking the mileage well pass 30K or so? Lastly, can you be so sure that they are not biased, eventhough they claim that they are not? (yeah, you'd probably say that...they better not b/c their reputation is on the line!). What would be a better evaluator then yourself, the one who's actually owning and driving the car everyday?
  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    Did you happen to notice whether the magazines which published favorable revues also happened to have large color ads from the manufacturers of the same vehicles?
  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    Well, my experience with BMWs is limited, but I do know that my wife's '98 has the same front brakes as an E46. And I still think that if you wear out a set of E46 front pads and rotors in 18,000 miles, it almost certainly has to be due to driver error.
  • I do like the Edmunds long-term reviews. They performed a long-term review of my departed 2000 Celica. I sold the car within a year for basically the same reasons/problems the review indicated (noise, tricky clutch, etc). Although, there were plenty of very subjective opinions in the review. I guess you have to learn to weed out some stuff and come up with some general conclusions. As far as reported problems these reviews are of limited value; after all it is ONE car and statistics are not considered.
  • ccotenjccotenj Posts: 610
    yup, i really don't think you are qualified to be offering opinions on this subject. much less me.... :)

  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    Yeah, what do WE know???
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows....

    Surely that means something.

    If you find out what, let me know please.
  • the notorious thermostat failures,

    steering wheel shimmies,

    check engines lights coming on,

    airbag warning lights coming on,

    transmissions failing(the e36 and e46 3 series have a general motors automatic transmission),

    the e39 528i's have the gm transmission too

    numerous rattles and squeaks,

    premature brake pad wear(this has been reported numerous times before by others)

    ticking engine noise at idle(not related to oil starvation),

    engine knocking at low speeds,

    the notorious clunk(while moving forward slowly in 1st gear try turning and half thru the turn depress the clutch and one might hear the noise.. this is at parking lot speeds; a british magazine commented on this and found it to be unacceptable); seems this was a problem since the 1992-1999 e36 3 series as well

    cars stalling out in the middle of the road!

    these are just some of the problems that I have heard of.

    anyone else had other issues?
  • talk about third world countries... finland

    that's kinda like porsche manufacturing their boxsters in finland

    i remember early boxsters had their engines catching fire and seizing..

    the quality of the honda accords dropped too once they were made in ohio

    bmw should lower their price and/or increase the standard options...

    $35,000 for a 184 horsepower car is too much...

    there was an actual owner the uuc digest(a BMW forum) a while back and he wanted to sell his e46 330Ci after one year... he stated the msrp was $44.5 plus tax

    guess what he was offered? $26,000!!

    so he stands to lose almost $25,000 in one year!!

    now the car had high miles for a 2000 model (36K miles) but still that is really dismal

    i heard of another guy who wanted to sell his 1997 540i that cost well over $50,000 brand new!

    he was offered $20,000!!!

    maybe all the electrical gremlins affecting the cars take their toll after all in a bigger way

  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    I usually don't respond to trolls; particularly ones who manifest their ignorance in such an obvious manner. Nonetheless, I must correct your most hilariously inaccurate statement: E46s sold in the US are built in Germany. BMW does have a plant in South Africa- which builds BMWs for only for domestic consumption. When you eventually get to sit in a BMW(or perhaps even DRIVE one)let us know.
  • ccotenjccotenj Posts: 610
    geez. call the guys in the white coats, we got a live one here...

  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    Churchill said,

    "Democracy is the worst form of government...except for all the others"
  • and that is reality

    that is the big tamale whether you like it or not

    personally I'll pass
  • mitsugstmitsugst Posts: 41
    I personally have never owned a BMW, although I have driven many, admired them all my life, have a lot of knowledge of and experience with cars, and my next car will be a 330Ci (or maybe even a 325ti). Anyway, all the issues that are related to BMW's posted above are justifiable, and in any case who cares. Here's my reason's for the problems:

    OEM Factory Brake pads (not rotors nor calipers): manufactured for the masses by a select few companies, all having wear problems. Get over this, as a matter of fact most cars have this problem, it's just like many factory battery problems (in case you haven't heard of them).

    steering wheel shimmy: Big wheels, low profile tires, and dings caused by curves can cause this. It's called responsive steering to everything underneath (even a slight imperfection in the wheel). Get a real tire co to balance the wheel and you won't notice it unless your rim is elliptical. I also believe there is some true problems with these though (especially some of the metric sizes they like to use - mostly tastes though).

    Auto Transmission problems: All that needs to be said is "General Motors Auto Transmission?"

    rattles and squeaks: Frame-less windows are the culprits in this department, all cars with these have this problem. It's a drawback to have this problem, but the advantage is an increase in body rigidity for the great canyon carving BMW's are known for. If you like the handling, then get over the windows. You just simply need to get the dealer to readjust the windows on occasion (the internal door components tend to loosen up and the window tends to roll differently, it's a mandatory break in period).

    Thermostat failure: see brakes

    Clutch problems: The clutch is known to be one of the best in the industry, if it has some flaws, you can't expect perfection. It's another one of those you can't have everything (great performance, some drawbacks)

    Ticking Engine noise and Engine knock: Most if not all DOHC engines have these problems, DOHC creates more power although has noise drawbacks. If you like the power, get over this, it's inevitable and normal. I've had DOHC engines make noise from day 1 (actually one month old) and go 100k miles (as is reads today) and never have a problem.

    warning lights coming on, and car stalling: merely random failures, acceptable due to the amount of electronics in the car. Too few occurrences of these to mean anything.

    Take the car as a whole, compare it to others, then make a decision for yourself. BMW's don't have their reputation, and hundreds upon hundreds of awards, for not being one of the best. Pricey (for their respective classes), but one of the best.

    P.S. Anybody know any information on the new 325ti? It's specs? It's HP to weight ratio? It's expected performance? It's sounds practical and a lot of fun.
  • mitsugstmitsugst Posts: 41
    I forgot to mention that the stereos are lacking. I feel that BMW doesn't want an image of being loud and obnoxious and so the stereos reflect that. This also keeps us from ruining the stereos by playing them to loud. If what was posted previously:
    "...salesman reporting that BMW has instructed dealers to replace the amp "on customer complaint" ..."
    the stereos could have greater potential, and all that is lacking is a stronger amp to re-capture that potential.
    If this is true I am definitely set on buying a BMW as my next car, as this was my only real complaint (and what a complaint??).
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