BMW M3 Maintenance and Repair

Karen_SKaren_S Member Posts: 5,092
Talk about any M3 problems and share solutions here.


  • bmwnabmwna Member Posts: 32
    I'm with BMW of North America, LLC (BMW NA). BMW NA is conducting a service action for S54 engines in E46 M3 Coupe/Convertible produced from February 12, 2001 and May 22, 2003. We are in the process of mailing notification letters to affected customers.

    Our ongoing quality testing revealed that the connecting rod bearings installed in certain M3 Coupe/Convertible with S54 engines were not manufactured to BMW quality standards. As a result, the connecting rod bearings are susceptible to overheating and subsequent premature failure if the vehicle is operated at higher engine speeds over an extended timeframe.

    BMW conducted a service action in March 2003 involving S54 engines in M3 Coupe/Convertible. At that time BMW found certain engines experienced premature failure due to contamination of the engine lubricating system during assembly in combination with unfavorable tolerances in the engine oil pump. In addition to the service action, BMW extended the warranty for all internal mechanical engine components that are lubricated by engine oil for a period of 6 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first for all model year 2001, 2002, and 2003 BMW’s equipped with S54 engines.

    We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this issue has caused affected customers. If you have any questions, please contact your authorized BMW center, BMW NA Customer Relations, (800)-831-1117 or send us an email through our website at
  • hpesqhpesq Member Posts: 1
    My 2004 M3 SMG convertible is doing this thing where (usually) in 2nd gear it starts jumping/ bucking/ hopping. It is NOT the shifting of the transmission. It is totally bizarre and the dealership keeps lecturing me on the SMG and cannot get it thru their thick heads that it is not the shifting. Has anyone else had this problem????
  • dietcoke1dietcoke1 Member Posts: 4
    i have the same situation. so, basically it's the SMG A-mode. the only way to avoid bucking is to train yourself to keep constant pressure on the gas while it's reving up from low gears. typically, your foot will natually lift off the gas pedal when:
    1. make a turn
    2. on a bumpy road and you want to slowly pass the bumps.

    the traditional automatic car will simply slow down _smoothly_ after your foot is lift off the gas gradually, but the SMG won't; you will feel like it's shutting down its power all together and immediately a noticeable deacceleration occurs. then, what happens next is that you will hastely put back pressure back on the gas pedal because you think the car is slowing down too much and too unexpectedly and then the car jerks..., which i don't know exactly mechanically why. but all i know is that it's not a unique experience to just me and my M3.

    but over time, i learned to drive smoothly (in A mode) in low gear and be more assertive on my pressure against the gas.
  • antreyantrey Member Posts: 2
    The SMG is actually a manual transmission and the behavior you describe is common in a manual car. The engine braking you describe after lifting off of the accelerator is actually considered a positive trait of manuals. I don't remember if the M3 is offered with a true automatic but is seems you would have been happier with a true auto.
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Member Posts: 1
    Clearly, people who have never driven a manual should not be driving an SMG either. Manual transmissions (and I believe the SMG is no different in this respect) do have what's called engine braking as antrey stated. This is a useful feature for those times when you need to slow down slightly, but not enough to apply the brakes. This is great for poor weather driving as a moderate amount of engine braking can assist you in stopping when the roads are slippery. The engine "bucking" and "out of control" aspects occur in all manuals when the engine RPMs are too low. So when you take your foot off the gas, what you should expect is a moderate amount of deceleration followed by 'bucking' if you fail to downshift/apply more gas before you reach the bottom end of the RPM range. ( In my car, a classic manual, this happens around 500-700 RPM )

  • jkaytorjkaytor Member Posts: 2
    I read all the responces to "hpesq's" complaint, and agree in your assessment of a manual gear box and how it responds. However, I know that if you have a clutch to work with, you can eliminate a lot of the bucking and smoothly switch between gears... with the SMG, you don't have a clutch, and therefore might not have that ability for smoother transitions between gears, howbeit the characteristics will be the same if the clutch is left out....I do not own a M3 yet, but have one on order, with SMG...I am not sure now if I am going to like it better, or a strait manual gear box with clutch? Some more feedback on this issue would help me make a more informed decision. Thank You.
  • 95m3a95m3a Member Posts: 1
    They roll down just fine. When I press the button up (hold the button or 1 push to close all the way) they go up about 5 inches, stop, and go back down about 1 inch. It doesn't matter how low the window was when I first hit the button, if it has to go mere than 5 inches, it stops and reverses. If I try it again it just goes up about an inch and then reverses back down an inch.
    To close it :
    -I pull the window up with you hand and press the button up and it don't stop.
    -I click the button in short bursts, it moves in 1/2 inch increments and it goes all the way up.
    It's a 95 M3 coupe and both windows do it.
    Anybody ever hear of a problem like this?
  • simple2simple2 Member Posts: 16
    Had the same problem with my 325 cupe.
    I belive this is due to the wear of the power window mechanism.
    I didnot get the chanse to fix it, traded BMW for AUDI.
    After driving A4 for a few years, feel like going back to BMW. I think BMW build bit more solid. Just need to keep it under 10 years old as they start to fail after this age....
  • jkaytorjkaytor Member Posts: 2
    OK, picked up my new M3 with SMG....
    I can now speak from experience, this vehicle is like a dream come true.
    I haven't owned a manual for about 20 years or so. Everything come back a far as what a manual gear box does. You can not stall the SMG. If you don't gear down, it automaticlly switches down to 1st upon stopping. Starting up from stop is a little heasatant, but once the gear clickes in, you take off like a bat-out-of-HELL ! I LOVE this Car !
  • dzhdzh Member Posts: 3
    I have a problem with my M3 that has only 24,000 miles. "Service engine soon" indicator came on and the dealer proceeded to fix a part in the gas tank. This was a solution that worked only fro a one week. Once I was on the open read and rev-ed up the engine to the higher RMPs the problem repeated itself...

    Any thoughts on this?
    Thanks in advance.

  • div2div2 Member Posts: 2,580
    The light indicates that the on-board diagnostic system-OBDII-has detected and stored a fault. A competent dealer will pull the code and correct the problem. In your case, there may be more than one fault, or perhaps the original problem wasn't properly repaired. In any case, a good dealer or indie shop should be able to solve the problem.
  • dzhdzh Member Posts: 3
    Thanks... it is fixed but I am not sure if it will hold... you were correct, there was a dual fault. I am hoping they got it right this time.

    Much appreciated.
  • jgoldstonejgoldstone Member Posts: 1
    On my SMG 04 M3, after pressing pedal to kickdown button, engine wouldn't go above 4000 RPM. SMG would not shift in Auto, when car is turned off, and restarted, its o.k. until next flooring of the pedal.

    Anyone have this problem ?
  • martymanmartyman Member Posts: 1
    Can anyone give me some info on BMW's rollover protection system? I'm about ten weeks away from buying a 98-99 M3 convertible and I've been doing quite a bit of homework. One of the questions I can't answer is what exactly does the system consist of? I've been all over the internet and can't find it. Is it an option?...What does it do?... Is it effective?... I would also appreciate any insight regarding what to look out for and options I need to find (or should stay away from). I'm a huge BMW lover and my last was a 1984 318, so to me this will be a big step. Thanks to anybody who'll take a minute to respond.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 216,199
    martyman.. You might have better luck posting your question on the BMW 3-series board.. Since the convertible aspects of your car are the same, whether M3 or not, you'll have a wider readership there, and may get an answer to your question..

    I think the rollover protection consists entirely of hoops that spring out (up) from the rear headrests, and reinforced A-pillars and windshield frame, giving the car a solid frame to keep from crushing the occupants in case of a rollover..


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  • mredwardaamredwardaa Member Posts: 7
    I will be looking at a 95 M3 . is there anything I should look for before I have a
    mechanic look at it? He charges $100.. Is this resonable?
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 216,199
    $100 sounds reasonable, but might be wasted, if he doesn't specialize in BMWs..

    This thread doesn't get a very wide readership... You might try posting here:

    BMW 3-series

    Plenty of people that have E36 BMWs there... that might give you some things to look out for..


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  • div2div2 Member Posts: 2,580
    If you've never owned a BMW before you MUST have a qualified BMW tech perform the inspection. Next, I'd want to see a full service history. Was the brake fluid changed at least every two years using DOT 4 fluid? Coolant every three-BMW coolant ONLY? Smooth idle? A mechanical over-rev can bend valves. If you don't know, don't go...
  • daler2daler2 Member Posts: 2
    I have a 2001 M3 coupe with 25,000 miles and it is time to replace the rear Continental ContiSportContact rear tires (255/40ZR18). The fronts look like they will last a couple thousand more miles. Tire Rack has them at an attractive price - $139 each - at least compared to the Michelins and Bridgestones. The wear specs shown for the Contis are the lowest at 160 AA for the rear, while most of the others are 220 AA. These tires have produced substantial road noise. I'd like to find tires with better wear and that are quieter, and I realize specs don't always give the best indication of how it will be to live with these tires. I have owned a '95 M3 and a Turbo944 in the past. The 944 had Dunlop D40 M2s that handled well, wore well (>30K miles) and were quiet, but I don't think these aren't made anymore. Does anyone have any recommendations about tires for the M3 coupe?
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 216,199
    You got 25K out of the rear tires on an M3? Wow.. that is fantastic..

    On another note... You can't compare wear ratings across brands... 160 for Continental may be the same as 400 for Michelin (not likely, exaggeration to make a point). I know that is counter-intuitive and illogical, but is fact, nonetheless...

    If you call, ask for Gary... He owns an E36 M3, and really is their resident expert on BMWs...

    I really don't have any suggestions for tires that wear well on an M3... most people are looking for maximum handling on those cars.. I think you did pretty darn well with the Contis....


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  • daler2daler2 Member Posts: 2
    I talked to Gary (I had also seen his name mentioned on the TireRack site as well). He said essentially all the tires in this category tend to become more and more noisy as they wear. He also said the Contis were clearly the best value (they had gotten a great price from Conti) and that the performance and wear of the others tires listed on TireRack for my car were not much better (if at all) for the added cost. He also said if I could get 25K out of the Contis there was little to gain from switching. So I guess I'll order the Contis. At least I know how they will handle and wear (and make noise). Besides, at the price I can almost by two of the Contis for the price of one of the Michelins.
  • upononeuponone Member Posts: 4
    I'm looking at a couple of 2001 M3s being sold in MN, NY, and NJ. I'm concerned that I will have rust problems later down the road. Should I steer away from buying a car from a rust-prone state, or am I just being paranoid?
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 216,199
    Unless you are buying a car that was manufactured in the '80s, then you have nothing to worry about... New cars that are washed at least monthly just don't rust anymore, unless they have had body damage and a poor repair/paint job.

    If the car looks to be well taken care of, rust should never be an issue, no matter where it comes from... especially a BMW..


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  • coryfurstcoryfurst Member Posts: 1
    Hi definetley go for it man. My father got the 1999 bmw m3 convertible green with tan interior 5spd manual when it first came out now the scoop with the roll bars are there is a system in the car that will deploy the roll bars that are located behind the passengers headrest it will punch out the plastic window when the systems reaches a certant angle like a pengelum and it will deploy quikly and this saves lifes its amazeing it comes standard on m3's
  • m3owner2004m3owner2004 Member Posts: 1
    Well this message is about a year old but I have to say I think I have the same problem with my M3. The people who responded are on the wrong track I think because the problem does not occur when you decelerate but actually happens when you accelerate, it does in my case anyways.

    My problem started a few months after I got my M3 Nov 2004. It was happening almost exclusively in 1st gear, usually on a cold start but not always and very intermitently. It would start bucking wildly as I accelerated usually from a stand still position until I geared up which I would have to do quickly to cancel the bucking action. The more you accelerate the rougher the jerking. The dealer had a problem identifying it and the 3rd time it was in they had it for over a week had some german bmw guy look at it did some minor work and when I got it back it started bucking in 2nd gear mostly instead of first. Lately it has been running fairly smooth but with the cold weather I think it might become more frequent. If the problem persists I think I need to take it back to the dealer.

    I went to another dealer recently but they could not identify the problem. The mechanic said he has encountered similar problems with other customers and said in sport mode this is not uncommon as you need to apply constant and heavier acceleration as it was meant to be driven in sport mode. I told him I have the problem in any mode and the more acceleration the more it bucks; he didnt seem to believe me.

  • fixitvixfixitvix Member Posts: 2
    Was over at a friends house looking at his BMW M3 series. Not quite sure on the year. I thinks its a 95. Anyways, the dashboard indicator light is on referring to a problem with the electronic shift. The car is an automatic, and when you drive it, it has no power when the accelerator is pushed down. In the owners manual, it states that this condition is due to the car stuck in 4th gear. Is there some kind of sensor I can check? Or any type of "transmission control module" I should be looking for? I'm not a mechanic, just a DIY type person who likes to tinker with cars. :confuse:
  • irockdiesel7irockdiesel7 Member Posts: 1
    I havnt bought a bmw yet but im looking to buy my first car within the next 2 months. ive always wanted an M3 and now that i have the money to buy one I have a dilemma, I cant decide what color I want it in. id like to hear peoples opinions. p.s it would be a 02' 0r 03' model
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I like mystic blue. The new reds are awful IMO. Anthracite metallic is kind of nice but a bit understated. I don't think the green fits an M3. Silver is nice but very common.
  • drw1926drw1926 Member Posts: 1

    You will find that a large majority of folks will get a Bimmer in some version of grey, silver, or black. Some (like me) feel that a BMW just "looks right" i.e., looks like a BMW should, in one of those colours. Also, some prefer a traditional colour like that so as not to affect "resale value" come trade-in time.

    On the other hand, I personally believe in some individuality, especially if you are buying an M3. In that case, one of the M-specific colours, e.g., Imola Red, Carbon Black, and Laguna Seca Blue, among others, will definitely enhance the attention-grabbing aspect of an M3. I was sure I wanted Imola Red for my new M3, then I changed to Silver. Changed for a third time when I saw Interlagos Blue (only available on '05 and '06 M3s with the ZCP/Competition Pkg) and it took my breath away! :surprise: As soon as I saw it, I knew that was my colour.

    So, to answer your question...if you prefer conservative/traditional, I would recommend Carbon Black or Titanium Silver. Want to turn some heads? Laguna Seca Blue or Phoenix Yellow (which is actually more of a gold) will definitely accomplish that!

    Hope that helps. :)
  • beemer_girl_70beemer_girl_70 Member Posts: 1
    My sweetie and I are co-owners of a used auto Dealership.We both love BMW's and we specialize in BMW's and their restoration. We have approximately 25 BMW's ranging from a 1970 model 2002 up to a 1995 740i, 2-1991 M5's, a 1997 M-3, 2-1990 525i's, a 1998 528i, and a 1989 730i. So we are familar with BMW's. We are looking at a 1997 BMW that is being advertized as an M3, But it says that there is an automatic transmission in it. I could see on the pictures that it only has a Single Exhaust. I was under the impression that the M-Class cars only came w/a manual trani and I have never seen one w/single exhaust. :confuse: I think they are wrong and they have a 330i w/ a M3 emblem. What do you all think? I love the 330i but not if I am paying for a M3. :cry:
    Thanks a bunch for any insight at all!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Don't mess around, check the VIN # and do a CARFAX if you are suspicious of any modern car.
  • e85fane85fan Member Posts: 9
    I have listed a Chrysler Master Engine Rebuild Kit and some reconditioned parts on E-Bay and I am getting very few lookers. Is there an auction site where I would get a better response?
  • phatcat1phatcat1 Member Posts: 5
    Hey Frank, I have a 2005 smg model coupe and I have had the same problem. I asked the dealer about it and we took a test drive. Basically he said that in sport mode that will happen and that it was a driver issue in terms of throttle control. Anyway as the car has aged it has gotten a little better but a cold start will make it jerk that way and the only way I get around it is by accelerating fully, which makes me look like a n jerk. I wonder if anyone else has this problem in 1st gear and how they get around it?
  • emkeeperemkeeper Member Posts: 1
    is it accurate to say the 06 M3 gets 16mpg city / 23mpg highway?
  • disbemickeydisbemickey Member Posts: 1
    hey phatcat1!

    im not sure if i know exactly what you are talking about, but if you're talking aobut the jerking that occurs when driving slowly in 1st gear its because you need to switch into 2nd gear. if in manual mode thats easy to do, but in automatic, to switch, release the gas for about a second and press on it again this should allow the SMG transmission to switch to 2nd gear on its own.

    This happens because the car starts at an aggressive gear ratio, you can lower it by pressing on the down button of the button below the stick. When the gear ratio isn't at an aggressive setting it shouldn't ever jerk because you won't need to go up to high RPM's just for the car to switch.

    i just got an 03 M3 and noticed that same problem and thats how i got around it.

    if you dont understand something because i do realize that what i typed is kind of confusing so yeah, just e-mail me at [email protected]

    bye, hope i was helpfup
  • tiananmentiananmen Member Posts: 1
    I am currently looking for a used M3 and found a 2003/SMG with ~37k miles. The production date is Feb/03 so it averages about 12k/year. My concern:

    - is the mileage high?
    - anything else you can think of that I should look out? Such as timing belt, brakes, etc. that may need significant repairs/replacement for a M3 with 37k miles?

    I don't have a user's manual so really don't know the maintenance schedule in terms of mileage.

  • asdftgyhasdftgyh Member Posts: 1
    I too am a novice to the M3 scene, but have been researching the cars for a few months now. I am interested in purchasing a 97-99 M3 in the near future. Are there any common problems, specific to M3s of those years, that I should look out for when inspecting a possible purchase? Thanks for the help.
  • stereolofistereolofi Member Posts: 1
    Phatcat1, I have a 02 M3 with SMG and have the same problem. Whenever first starting the car in the morning if is jumpy in first gear, with or without Sport mode on. I usually just drive in manual mode and from a stop, start out in 2nd gear. This works well while the car warms up. Hope that helps.

  • phatcat1phatcat1 Member Posts: 5
    Hey, thanks for the tip. I am getting this less and less as I drive the car more. I have had my car for almost a year now and Im not sure if its bc Ive broken the car/engine in or I'm learning how to drive it better! Enjoy those revs! ;)
  • red4manred4man Member Posts: 1

    My name is Clinton Redman and I have a 2001 E46 M3. I have had the car for 4 yrs from 28000km to 131 000km. I was away for 6 weeks on business. The car was parked at the airport, undercover. When I returned and floored it after 20 minutes, the problem first occurred. The car has been back to BMW 3 times and numerous tuning guys have looked at it, no solution. Various faults have shown up, but resetting them has not solved it. The added disadvantage of this problem is that the car feels extremely underpowered from 4000rpm when reset.

    Have you found a solution?
  • jjohnjohnjjohnjohn Member Posts: 24
    Hello All! I recently purchased a 2004 M3 with the SMG package. So far, so GREAT!... Sweet Ride!

    1.However, the previous owner barely drove this car and when I went to go purchase it, the battery was dead. We had to jump it! I was kind of hesitant about the condition of the battery, fearing it would stall on me in the future. After the purchase, I took it for a long drive, hoping it would kick some life back into the battery. I started it up the next day without a problem. Does anyone know if the condition of the battery has already been compromised since it was not driven so often - sitting for weeks straight in a garage. Would it be 'ok', or do I live with fear it will not start one day. Or just get a new battery??
    2. Does anyone have problems with radio reception? I am so disappointed the radio does not easily pick up radio stations compared to my 1998 528. I know a popular station in my area but the dang car does not pick it up! And I cannot tune the radio by each channel, because it surfs automatically to the strongest station. Very frustrating. Am I doing something wrong? Also, does anyone experience a delay when changing channels/stations when it is pre-set? There seems to be a half to one second delay when changing stations. My 528 is instant, no delay. Pretty disappointed. Any problems with my radio?
    3. How does the SPORT mode seem to provide more power when it is the same horses under the hood? Weird.
    4. For the life in me, I cannot program the garage door opener in the M3 to my garage. Can anyone help?

    Thanks all! I just got the car, so I just wanted to know everything about it. Thanks for any answers in advance.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I can give you one tip. Never, ever charge up a completely dead battery by using only the alternator. I think you're fine, but if you did this a few times in the future and had early alternator failure, you'd know why.

    If a battery is completely, totally, utterly dead, then yes, it may have a shorter life span IMO.

    Next time this happens (hopefully never), get the battery charged and then have it properly load-tested for endurance.
  • jjohnjohnjjohnjohn Member Posts: 24
    Does anyone know how to install after market alarm? I bought a LOADED used M3, but found out later, it does NOT have a factory alarm in it! Recomm. installing myself or at the dealers? Where would I order the part if I did install myself? Thanks
  • phatcat1phatcat1 Member Posts: 5
    hi guys. This may seem like a basic question but I'm new to "performance" cars. I have an 2005 smg m3 and I was wondering what u guys would do to squeeze the best acceleration out of it from a 1) stand still, 2) already moving ie 20 mph. what shift points would u aim for? And is it hard on the tranny and engine? would you downshift into a turn etc. ?
  • rprrpr Member Posts: 2
    Last summer I installed Kumho ECSTA MX's on my 1998 M3 front and back. It has 65K miles and I put them on about at 37K. I started hearing rumbling noises when the car was rolling a slow speeds about a month ago and the noise recently started getting louder. I put the car on a lift and notices that the inside of the rear and front tires are worn unevenly. Almost chunked up. They have lost of tread left except for the chunked up insides. What has caused the chunking. Is there and alignment problem front and back. The back tires are much worse then the front. Is there something wrong with my suspension? Any suggestions?
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 216,199
    I don't have an M3, but 28K miles on the Kumhos signifies that they are just plain worn out..

    When you started hearing that noise about a month ago... they were probably down to the wear bars.. Now, you are pushing them past their useful life..

    The Ecstas are a budget summer performance tire.. You actually exceeded the mileage that most people get out of them.

    As far as the wear patterns? Rear tires on BMWs typically wear faster than the fronts, especially on the inside of the tires. The right rear is probably worn more than the left, as that is the default drive wheel. The front tires usually wear more on the outside, but if your fronts are worn unevenly (between left and right), then you may indeed have some alignment problems.

    I'd get new tires ASAP along with an alignment.

    Nice car!!


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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Optimum performance is all about watching your tachometer. There is a "sweet spot" in the tach range that is different for every car, but as a general rule you don't want to "short-shift" (shift before the engine revs have reached the power range), nor do you want to be running up to red line all the time, where you usually don't find the maximum power either.

    As for downshifting, a good rule is "don't select a lower gear unless you are going to use it for something". Just to power downshift into a stoplight is kinda silly.

    As for wear and tear, the M3 is a driver's car and unless you are reckless or very sloppy in your shifting, you can't hurt it. Probably the worst things you could do are 'clutch-dumping' (revving the car while stopped and just popping your foot off the clutch in first gear) or "compression-braking", where you downshift without matching the engine revs to the speed of the car...this gives you an abrupt braking action and jars the driveline badly (as well as possibly causing your car to go out of control if it is unbalanced in a turn).

    With such a great car, you're the kind of owner who would really enjoy, and benefit from, a one-day (or longer) driving course. A few days of training from experts will give you as much performance enhancement as $1,000 worth of equipment!!
  • phatcat1phatcat1 Member Posts: 5
    Thanks for a great answer to such a general question. I'd love to know if anyone has taken any good courses besides the ones offered by BMW. I chose to go for the smg version of the car which makes some things easier, but transitioning in 1st and 2nd are hell for some of my passengers. One of my friends, an S4 driver, says he gets nausea (hahaha!) I still love it though!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Lessee...don't you have an automatic mode on that transmission? Maybe you could switch to that to spare your passengers. Could be this is more BMWs fault than yours if the shifts are so rough.
  • cd5818cd5818 Member Posts: 1
    I just bought a 1998 BMW M3 that has a factory alarm system. Every once and a while I will lock the car with the alarm, and when I go to discharge the alarm by pressing on the key fob, the alarm will not disarm. When I unlock the door with the key manually, and open the door, the alarm goes off. I thought it might have been the battery on the fob so I changed it, and I am still having that problem. Is there some trick to this that I don't know about? I can't find any information on it in the manual. Any help would be appreciated. This is becoming very annoying, especially when I can't get into the car. Thanks!
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