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E46 General discussion and technical help for 1999-2004 3 series cars.

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Old 01-25-2012, 07:45 PM   #1
crowtheartist

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Lightbulb Diag scrutiny. (pull out your calculators)

So, I took my beemer to the shop today to diag a Check Engine Light. I either thought it wouldn't be a big issue, or it would be something big because I just bought the car about 6 months, and from the history, it doesn't look like the owners were beemer enthusiasts at all, so, they didn't take care of the car as a beemer, they took care of it as a 'car'.
So, here's what the mechanic gave me.
Let me know:
- How much in YOUR expert opinion, this all should cost me
- If there's anything that's not too terribly important to do at this time. (since I'm low on cash)
- If there's an easier fix (maybe a DIY) to any of these that should not require a trip to the shop, and for me to tell them not to do it.
- Any other suggestions. Anything comments welcome, good or bad.

As I said, I just got this car, and I want to have it running up to standard.
(by the way, I know that the 100k tune hasn't been done on it, car's got 105k...I'll probably take care of it after this debacle)

Thanks.

- Rony.

FAULT CODES
41 Signal, inlet cam shaft sensor
92 Minor Leak .5mm; Fuel cap possibly not secured
A8 Thermostat, map cooling, mechanical, stuck open
F6 Flow rate, sec.-air system, too low, bank 2
F5 Flow rate, sec.-air system, too low, bank 1
2D Multifunction steering wheel, monitoring, interface
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Old 01-25-2012, 11:19 PM   #2
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Welcome to United Bimmer. Glad to hear your excited about yor new ride.

I know that the thermostat and coolant system are easy to do yourself. Their should be a DIY in our Knowlege base for the E46. The E36 had several coolant system issues do replacing the thermostat housing and radiator with aluminum ones usually helped solve any problems.
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Old 01-26-2012, 07:54 AM   #3
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Thanks man. Thing is, those are just the codes, and I don't know exactly what they mean. Mech said he'd call me today and give me an estimate, and tell me the details.
Thanks for your comment.
I'll take the thermostat thing into account, maybe I can do it myself.
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Old 01-29-2012, 11:23 PM   #4
Manolito

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'99 323 is e46, correct?

If e46. I don't think there is an aluminum thermostat housing for this car. On an e46, the primary coolant thermostat is permanently stuck in the plastic housing so you buy a new housing. I am puzzled by the "map cooling, mechancal" part of that message though. I don't know what that means.

On a 13 year old BMW that has not had rigorous maintenance, you definitely want to buy a Bentley manual and some tools and get used to buying parts on line and spending your Saturdays in the garage for a while. If not, you will soon learn why many folks say that BMW stands for "bring my wallet".

First, the BAD news. If your cooling system is all original, you are due for a complete replacements of all the plastic and rubber parts in the cooling system, which is around $700 worth of parts.

The GOOD news is that nothing on your list is something that you cannot do yourself, and nothing on the list is anything that is going to leave you stranded on the side of the road. In fact, all of those things could be phantom codes set by a voltage glitch due to an old battery. I would clean the battery terminals and get the battery checked, then reset the codes and see if the codes return.

Remember that a code in the computer is not proof of a mechanical failure. It is simply evidence that the computer at some point received a signal that was outside normal parameters. Also remember that although OBD II is pretty darn good compared to earlier on-board diagnostics, it does not always point to the actual problem. Classic example is the "Catalyst efficiency below minumums" code. That code does NOT mean that you need a new catalyst. It normally means that you need new oxygen sensors. The sensor outputs are within voltage specifications so the computer thinks they are OK, but they are old and responding too slowly.

If Camshaft Sensor code returns: This is odd, I tried to look up the price and two sites don't show a camshaft sensor for your car. It has VANOS so it must have a sensor. Anyway, when you find one it won't be too expensive and these are generally not difficult to install.

If fuel vapor leak code returns. You may need a new gas cap. Unlikely to be anything else unless the car has been wrecked.

If thermostat code returns: As I mentioned, the reference to MAP cooling puzzles me. I am not sure what is going on with this code. If you really need a new coolant thermostat, I would urge you to seriously consider replacing everything in sight in your cooling system if you plan to keep this car a while.

If secondary air code returns: This won't affect the car, but you cannot pass emissions inspection with this code stored. There is a blower like a vacuum cleaner motor and fan on the passenger side of the engine. It costs about $230. First check to make sure that it is getting 12V from its relay right after a cold start. It should run for a minute or two after a cold start. If it has failed, it is usually because the check valve on the exhaust manifold has failed and has been blowing exhaust backwards through the fan. Remove the fan and start the engine. If exhaust leaks back through the hose toward the fan, replace the check valve. If you find water in the fan, replace the check valve. The check valve costs about $100. There used to be someone on EBay advertising that they would rebuild Volvo air blowers for half the cost of a new blower. BMW blowers are similar to Volvo. They rebuilt the blower on one of my '97 328s for $110. Seems fine. Replacing the blower and check valve is easy with basic tools. The check valve cannot be repaired. You have to buy a new one.

If the steering wheel code returns: If the stereo has been replaced, that is probably the source of that code. If not, I personally would not bother chasing that ghost.

Last edited by Manolito; 01-29-2012 at 11:27 PM..
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Old 01-30-2012, 08:20 AM   #5
crowtheartist

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Thanks Man,
That was awesome info, you're a god-send.
I read somewhere that, two things:
The Multifunction Steering Wheel" code has to do with the Cruise Control, which would make some sense since I use it ALL THE TIME. So, I'm guessing a quick reset would do the trick, since I haven't had ANY problems at all with it. (and the stereo is stock)

Two: The Sec Air System codes, have to do with the O2 sensors, and I've had a strong suspicion that my 02 sensors are bad since, one: the 100k wasn't done on this car. and two: I've been getting lower gas mileage as of lately, and I'm thinking it's the mixture.

correct if I'm off, or wrong on these.

As far as the Cooling system, yeah, I'll probably end up doing the whole thing. I've read about changing the entire system at 100k, for E46s, so, it doesn't sound like a bad idea. Especially since I'm having to buy antifreeze almost like gas.

This was the second Diag, and the camshaft sensor came on both. I don't even know what a camshaft sensor is or does. ??

The gas cap thing. That came up twice too. Are we talking about the actual gas cap, where I go and pump some gas? That little thing that I could get for like 10 dollars? The mech told me, and I was surprised, because he made it sound worse than it was. I'll just get a new one then, and put it on, but I don't see anything wrong with it? Any way I could fix it, or do something about it?

So, as far as I can see, nothing was replaced in this car. Which is a good thing in that everything is original. But it's bad in that for beemers, lack of maintenance like this is not necessarily a good thing as we all know.
This is my second beemer, my first was a E36, 92, 5sp. This is all too reminiscent of those times, but I bought that car the same way.

This has taught me a VERY valuable and general lesson. DO NOT BUY BEEMERS from dealerships, since these cars are usually not maintained like a Beemer enthusiast would. Next beemer I buy, which I plan on making it an E46 M series, will be a private owner...and I'll make sure to check that he has treated it like it was an offspring.
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Old 01-31-2012, 12:10 AM   #6
Manolito

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If the oxygen sensors have not been replaced, they are due.

I would be surprised if the secondary air code was related to oxygen sensors. These are heated sensors but I would expect that the secondary air pump does most of its duty before the oxygen sensors get fired up. I have, however, been wrong before. Can you hear the secondary air blower after a cold start? You may have to be outside the car to hear it.

Inlet camshaft sensor attaches to the driver side of the head, close to the front. It costs about $110 and has a six inch wire lead on it. I have not done one on an e46 so I don't know what you might have to move out of the way to get to it, but it should not be too hard. The car has dual VANOS which adjusts the valve timing based on hydraulic actuators. It needs a cam position sensor to get feedback on the valve timing so it knows where it is. On an e36, you may first notice the idle getting lumpy before the computer realizes that the cam position sensor is not reliable. I have not yet had any trouble with these sensors on the e46s. My usual parts supplier does not carry it and the only ones I found on-line were BMW branded.

If you are leaking coolant, you want to get to the bottom of that problem pretty quick. These engines are not forgiving if you let them overheat. If the top hose nipple on the radiator is leaking, it could snap off at any moment and spray coolant all over the place, emptying your cooling system in seconds.

The other thing I would suggest to you next time around is to avoid any car in its first production year after a major design change. Give them a few years to work the bugs out. For e36s, I suggest '97-'98 and for e46s I suggest '04-'05. On the other hand, the 323 has an advantage over a 325 because it has more torque and it is geared to use it.

The perfect car would be my '04 325 wagon with the engine out of a 330zhp and a limited slip differential. Trouble is, if the local BMW junkyard ever got a 330zhp engine, they would want more than my car is worth for it

Last edited by Manolito; 01-31-2012 at 12:21 AM..
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:05 PM   #7
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So, here's what I am thinking of doing, for now:
02 sensor replacement.
Spark Plug replacement.
Cooling System replacement.

Anything else I should not neglect?
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:56 PM   #8
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I would look into doing all 3. If the spark plugs have never been changed now is a good time to do them. What on the cooling system has been replaced in the past, and when?
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Old 01-31-2012, 06:19 PM   #9
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LOL, no, I meant I'm going to DO all 3. But is there anything else aside from those 3 that I should take care of and not neglect.
Anything that you think is important to do at this moment.

Nothing in the cooling system has been replaced so far. I'm going to buy the Expansion pack, which is cracked on the top (where the "top" meets the body). But I don't know if I have enough to replace the Radiator.
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Old 01-31-2012, 06:39 PM   #10
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Well if you have needed cleaned your MAF or throttle body I would do those. Power steering flush if that's never been done. Its a little bit more difficult but trannsmission fluid and differential fluid should be changed. Make sure you inspect all your bushing and steering components for wear. Rear Shock Moints (RSMs) are prone to eventual failure. If you hear a clunk in the rear that's usually a good sign their bad.
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Old 02-01-2012, 09:18 AM   #11
Manolito

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02 sensor replacement.
Spark Plug replacement.
Cooling System replacement

- and you may need that inlet cam position sensor, right?

For oxygen sensors, I have switched to NTK. Bosch may be fine, but I have been cautious about Bosch since the company was sold and the new owners started sourcing a lot of their parts out of China and India.

For spark plugs, I use NGK BKR6EQUP ($8.50 ea). The e46 came with four electrode plugs so that is what I use in the e46s (but not in the e36s).
Because the threads on the plugs will be nickel plated, you don't have to put anti-seize on the threads, but these plugs will be in that aluminum head for a very long time, so I use anti-seize anyway. Remember that when you lube the threads with anti-seize, the specification for torque is no longer valid (it will be too tight), so be careful not to over-tighten the plugs. Don't try to save time by changing the plugs without first removing the air tray from the firewall. It is easy to cross-thread that #6 plug if you try to work beneath the air tray, and you don't want to do that.

For parts, you just about cannot go wrong on line these days. There are many excellent vendors. Just look for someone who carries original equipment manufacturer parts and tells you the brand name of every part they sell. My first choice is generally Autohaus Arizona, but if my order includes stuff they don't carry, like little plastic snaps and fasteners, my first choice is ECS Tuning. For brakes, watch for a good sale at BuyBrakes.com. These are my first choices, but I have had nothing but positive experiences with on-line vendors for the past 15 years, and a lot of different vendors are using the same supply network, so you pretty much cannot go wrong.

For jobs where you want to buy a kit and replace everything that ought to be replaced while you are in there so you don't have to repeat the job a year or two later to replace the part you missed, I like Pelican Parts. They have put together a lot of "kits" of quality parts so you don't forget anything that you ought to replace. Seems like I am always running to the BMW dealer for that one part that I should have thought to order. As I recall, Pelican does not always tell you the name brand of every part, but I trust them to sell good stuff.

Last edited by Manolito; 02-01-2012 at 09:25 AM..
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Old 02-09-2012, 02:57 PM   #12
crowtheartist

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Unhappy

Well, I changed the Spark Plugs successfully, but the inevitable has happened: I'm getting TERRIBLE gas mileage, which from what I've been researching, it sounds like the O2 sensors.
But this was dramatic. Just 3 months ago, this car was giving me 30mpg on freeway, and about 24 city. Right now, I put about 13 gallons last week, and it looks as if I'm going to get about 270 miles out of this. So, 20 MPG city/highway. I'd say about 2/3 is city, though.
But still, this decrease was very sudden. Just before the Eng Light came on, the car was fine. And then, light comes on, and all of a sudden, car's like it's going to die.

So, I'm holding off on the Coolant System to take care of the O2 sensors, if that's what you guys think I should do to fix the gas mileage (and eng light) issue.

Any suggestions?
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Old 02-09-2012, 03:05 PM   #13
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Well the O2 sensors tell the computer what's coming out in your exhaust so the computer can adjust the air fuel mixture accordingly. If a sensor is bad the computer doesn't know how to properly adjust the mixture so the can can run rich or other problems can occur. Replacing them is definitely a good start. I would also reckoned getting the cars OBD system scanned again because sometimes several faults can save in the system before triggering a warning light
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Old 02-09-2012, 03:39 PM   #14
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Gotcha. Well, I'm doing the 02 sensors anyway. I'm learning how to do it myself, and so far I don't see a problem doing it myself. Would you suggest to this? (remember I did the spark plugs myself)

If I can save 200-300 dollars, I will.
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Old 02-09-2012, 04:04 PM   #15
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They should be fairly easy to do. I've never had I change mine so I'm not familiar with the procedure but I don't see it being very difficult. I would do it myself. I don't see the point in paying $100/hr for labour when I can do pretty much all basic mainentance myself. The cost of tools is offset by the savings from not paying for labour. The only things I don't do myself is stuff that requires the car to be on a lift.
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