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E46 Xi Forum
The E46 XI was produced from 01-05 in sedan and touring body styles. Powered by either a 2.5L inline 6 in the 325xi or a 3.0L inline 6 330xi. Discuss all thing about BMW AWD E46 'Xi' here.

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Old 09-21-2010, 08:02 PM   #1
wat3rbug
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Xi front axle change questions

Well my xi went under the knife, in my case the butter knife. I ordered a shaft months ago because of the shake in the wheel, and I saw the boot torn. Finally I went through it and I had many reservations before doing it. My truck is getting ready to be sold because it is no longer reliable for me. It breaks every time it is driven so it fails the test and after 257k I've taken it as far as I can with my skills. I didn't have a backup vehicle which means I would be pressed for time and resources.

As luck would have it, I ordered the wrong axle, but not before I tore the car apart and had to old axle out. I found out the parts do not interchange. The cups are different sizes so they don't mix on the inner joints as well as the shaft lengths being different. So I'm down for 2 weeks. I worked 2 weeks straight and have a full time class load so it was a miserably long time to get rides with my wife to work. I'm still spoiled on the BMW experience. Finally I get the time to to work on it Saturday and get it finished. A test drive around the block, and I pop a sway bar link. No surprise that I can't get one anywhere for the weekend so I order one and installed it today and skipped class in order to do it. It drives and no more shimmy.

Here are my questions. I jacked the front end up to do all this work and never got any fluid out during that time. Is that normal, for those who have done this job? I've asked around a bit and got that there generally isn't that much fluid in a diff. This is my first time with the drive train, clutches excluded. Also, for the 14mm allen, did you use a socket or a key to open the diff. Did you have to use any special tricks because the space is so tight? Where do you recommend getting the 14mm allen/key or socket? I couldn't find this anywhere and it appears to be a special order item.
My thinking is that because no fluid came out that either I've been driving with it low a long time (doubtful but possible), or that because of the angle, I didn't lose any. At any rate I'm trying to get that socket as quick as I can in order to make sure in order to reduce drive time until I can replace the fluids. Does anyone know how a diff sounds before it goes out, or what kind of symptoms to listen, smell or look for? What do you guys think? I know I'll probably get the occasional safety nazi that says to park your car before it is perfect, but that is not really a realistic possibility unless you can justify it with realistic results instead of fear-mongering.

I hesitate to even post this but I am curious from the few that have done this job what they think.
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Old 09-21-2010, 08:08 PM   #2
xixixi
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how many miles on the car? have you ever changed the diff fluid? if the answer is no change it... drive it to a local oil change shop they will have the allen you need. If you have metal shavings in the fluid... get a new diff. If that diff is low on fluid and you pop that diff your pan is most likely gonna go too. IMO though i might be a safety nazi... safer is better than sorry GL OP
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Old 09-21-2010, 08:16 PM   #3
wat3rbug
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I don't know why I didn't think about a lube place doing. I've changed my oil myself. It has 95k and I have a change of fluid here and a pump if it helps. Just no socket.
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Old 09-21-2010, 08:27 PM   #4
xixixi
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bring the fluid ask to watch. have them collect the fluid... look for shavings
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Old 09-21-2010, 10:32 PM   #5
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Sears, autozone, and harbor freight all have 14mm hex sockets available as a kit. If the front is higher than the back, or the side you are replacing is higher, very little to zero diff fluid will be lost. Change the fluid anyway, it's easy with a half inch drive ratchet and the socket. Do it yourself. Those bottles of motul with the built in spout make it super easy. Then do the TC fluid and rear diff. If you can do those jobs, then you can do almost anything.

Last edited by Kubica; 09-21-2010 at 10:33 PM.
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Old 09-22-2010, 07:02 AM   #6
wat3rbug
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I guess the issue really boils down to whether I need a 14mm key or 14mm socket because of the lack of room. Since Sears was the only place I found it (part of a kit), $40 is a bit to spend only to find out it won't do the job. I have the fluid and a pump because I expected I would be changing the fluid.

The other is that I'm generally paranoid after I do any work and like to know what to look, and listen for to see if anything is wrong. I thought maybe some whining or something if the diff was starved.

I'm going to be back under the car this weekend because I have to change the oil filter housing casket (the one at the block).
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:11 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by wat3rbug View Post
I guess the issue really boils down to whether I need a 14mm key or 14mm socket because of the lack of room. Since Sears was the only place I found it (part of a kit), $40 is a bit to spend only to find out it won't do the job. I have the fluid and a pump because I expected I would be changing the fluid.

The other is that I'm generally paranoid after I do any work and like to know what to look, and listen for to see if anything is wrong. I thought maybe some whining or something if the diff was starved.

I'm going to be back under the car this weekend because I have to change the oil filter housing casket (the one at the block).
I got a 12mm, 14mm, and 17mm male hex key set (1/2" drive) from autozone a few years back for around $10.

You should be looking for leaks around the input seal of the diff. If that is dry, and you still have about 3/4 of a liter of fluid in there, I wouldn't worry about your diff.

I would be more worried about your TC fluid.
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Old 10-11-2010, 12:44 AM   #8
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did you guys replace the diff seals/gasket when you swapped out your axles? I just did mine and I think it's leaking a little... such a pain if I have to take everything out again.
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Old 10-11-2010, 09:35 AM   #9
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did you guys replace the diff seals/gasket when you swapped out your axles? I just did mine and I think it's leaking a little... such a pain if I have to take everything out again.
I've been a big advocate on this, I've been telling people to do the seals at the same time. I learned it the hard way too, but such is life. Added to the insult my front diff main rear seal leaked a few months later, I since had it fixed though, I can't stand and don't allow this to happen in any of my cars.
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Old 10-11-2010, 09:38 AM   #10
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I've been a big advocate on this, I've been telling people to do the seals at the same time. I learned it the hard way too, but such is life. Added to the insult my front diff main rear seal leaked a few months later, I since had it fixed though, I can't stand and don't allow this to happen in any of my cars.
Thanks, I'm gonna grab the seals from the diff from the dealer tomorrow. Are they easy to swap out? I dont see any DIY on it...
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Old 10-11-2010, 09:40 AM   #11
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I've been a big advocate on this, I've been telling people to do the seals at the same time. I learned it the hard way too, but such is life. Added to the insult my front diff main rear seal leaked a few months later, I since had it fixed though, I can't stand and don't allow this to happen in any of my cars.
What did they charge you to fix the front diff rear seal? and where did you go?
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Old 10-11-2010, 09:44 AM   #12
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What did they charge you to fix the front diff rear seal? and where did you go?
I did it myself. Search for my user id and you'll find my thread. Not a hard job, just make sure remember to mark the pinion nut and count how many revolutions, so you can put it back the same as it was.
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Old 10-11-2010, 09:48 AM   #13
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Thanks, I'm gonna grab the seals from the diff from the dealer tomorrow. Are they easy to swap out? I dont see any DIY on it...

If you know how to replace the front axle boots then you will know how to replace the axial seals. It's not that difficult to remove the seals, I used a seal removal tool that you can buy at any auto stores, or you can even use a big flat screw driver, just make sure you don't score the wall while doing it.
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Old 10-11-2010, 09:52 AM   #14
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If you know how to replace the front axle boots then you will know how to replace the axial seals. It's not that difficult to remove the seals, I used a seal removal tool that you can buy at any auto stores, or you can even use a big flat screw driver, just make sure you don't score the wall while doing it.
thanks I'll give it a try tomorrow
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