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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 02-22-2012, 06:33 PM   #1
LarsS
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Another reason not to buy cheap axles

I had posted previously about the leaking shaft seal I had on my passenger side front axle. After replacing the seal twice, I finally brought it to the dealership, thinking that I might be butchering the seal when I installed it, but also thinking I probably needed a new axle. They determined it was the aftermarket axle that was causing the leak. I bought the car used, and suspected that the driver side front axle was an aftermarket axle as well, and knew that I'd probably be replacing that before too long. As luck would have it, the outer boot on the drivers side axle got a tear in it (less than 5000 miles after I replaced the boot with an OEM boot). So, being the expert I've become at pulling front axles, I tore into things to replace the boot. I decided to replace the inner boot as well, so I just cut the old boots off. Unfortunately, the OEM inner boot didn't fit the aftermarket axle I had. So, that brought me to the inevitable purchase of an OEM axle. So, in addition to the aftermarket axles not having the right diameter shafts, which lead to leaking shaft seals, good luck finding boots that fit them. I bought a new GKN Loebro (OEM) axle from Pelican Parts for about $277.00, and got free 3 day shipping. At that price, it most certainly is not worth buying the crappy aftermarket axles, particularly in light of the multitude of problems you'll sooner or later (more likely sooner) have with the aftermarket ones. If you're selling your car, and don't mind dumping a problem onto a buyer, maybe it's okay to use an aftermarket axle. Otherwise, you're just guaranteeing yourself a headache and a lot of wasted money by buying the cheap crap.

Just thought I'd pass that on for anyone who's facing an axle replacement.
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Old 02-22-2012, 07:59 PM   #2
Rickna
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LarsS, You are 110% correct!
The 1st axle (pass side) I replaced with a DSS (Chinese), it caused too much vibration, however it didn't leak. The 2nd one was a reman A1CarDone, after replacing 2 seals it still leaked. BTW the gear oil in the diff smells horrible! Now I have a GKN Loebro (OEM supplier). Verdict-I saved no $$ going with cheap parts.
I am going to mic up both axles once I pull the old one out, I'm curious to see the difference.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:18 AM   #3
Dreamliner330
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Cheap parts are never worth it.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:44 AM   #4
jasonbimmer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rickna View Post
LarsS, You are 110% correct!
The 1st axle (pass side) I replaced with a DSS (Chinese), it caused too much vibration, however it didn't leak. The 2nd one was a reman A1CarDone, after replacing 2 seals it still leaked. BTW the gear oil in the diff smells horrible! Now I have a GKN Loebro (OEM supplier). Verdict-I saved no $$ going with cheap parts.
I am going to mic up both axles once I pull the old one out, I'm curious to see the difference.
I am probably gonna do the same. the cardone axle is just leaking from the diff seals. horrible smell when diff oil gets onto the exhaust manifold.
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Old 02-23-2012, 11:37 AM   #5
latitude39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rickna View Post
... Verdict-I saved no $$ going with cheap parts.
I am going to mic up both axles once I pull the old one out, I'm curious to see the difference.
Rickna,
I look forward to seeing your measurements. Please, do post them!

Being an OEM snob, I've used a reman'd GKN axle too, also from Pelican, with good results. Others have had good results with A1 Cardone but I'll be sticking with GKN just in case.

I do worry about "remanufactured" items, especially with something like an axle where a small amount of metal is removed (using a lathe) in order to remove the shiney line where the radial seal contacted it. There's no way to "put back" material to make the axle the same diameter as new.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LarsS View Post
... I bought a new GKN Loebro (OEM) axle from Pelican Parts ...
LarsS,
My Pelican GKN axle was missing the metal shield that protects the grease seal ("radial seal" in BMW language). I contacted Pelican about this and they, in turn, contacted their supplier who "confirmed" that GKN axles were now being shipped without the metallic shield. I've included side-by-side photos.

Was your GKN axle also missing the shield?

P.S. I have had no trouble with the GKN axle, even without the shield.
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Old 02-23-2012, 12:31 PM   #6
latitude39
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Radial seal dry-fit test

Regarding leaking seals, did anyone slide the seal onto the replacement axle to see how well it fit?

I think you could get a pretty good idea if the thing was going to seal or not just from a test fit. If you can see daylight around the edges you know it's going to leak. But these types of seals normally give a pretty grippy fit without feeling too loose or too tight.

Anybody have experience with a bad test fit, followed by a leaky seal?
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Old 02-23-2012, 12:38 PM   #7
LarsS
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I think mine has the shield, but I just got it delivered yesterday, and opened the box only to look at it briefly. Thanks for pointing it out, though, and confirming you've had no problems without the shield. I would have freaked out wondering if I failed to order a part or something!

My "BMW" axle on my passenger side was also reman'ed, and it cost almost three times as much (I guess the axle cost about $250, and the BMW sticker with the BMW part number cost $500). And that included them keeping my old axle (which probably wasn't worth much, but I'm a junk collector and would have liked to keep it).

Assuming I get my last part today (the shaft seal), I'll be getting real greasy tonight putting it all back together again!
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Old 02-23-2012, 09:12 PM   #8
latitude39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LarsS View Post
Assuming I get my last part today (the shaft seal), I'll be getting real greasy tonight putting it all back together again!
Good luck putting your axle together. Let us know how things go.

The missing shield hasn't been an issue because of 2 reasons I can think of:
1) The belly pan "splash shield" protects it from dirt, debris, rocks,
2) The clearance in the joint (between the stationary axle mount and the spinning axle) is only 1 or 2mm--not much room to attack the seal.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:04 PM   #9
bimrdreamr
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I went with axles from NAPA and have had no issues.
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Old 03-20-2012, 03:36 PM   #10
luskombi
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I installed a $68 reman from NAPA on the passenger side front which leaked and vibrated. It did solve clunky shifting though. Tried 3 seals before I lost patience and spent $448.28 on a BMW reman. But not before we drove on a 1600 mile trip smelling and breathing burnt gear oil...yuck. BMW didn't want my core but NAPA was happy to refund my money. No leak, smooth running and smooth shifts. i've read here that some have had success returning and trying a different axle. But like I said I ran out of patience.

BTW the NAPA axle where the seal rests was 1.731" in diameter.

The BMW axle measured 1.730". That seemed odd. All I can come up with is the NAPA axle must be bent, providing just enough run-out to let the oil leak...that could explain the vibration too.

Food for thought. A lesson I learned in the aviation business a hundred years ago, if it's cheap, it's a piece of sh#*! 9 times out of 10 there's a reason the correct part costs more.
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Old 03-20-2012, 05:20 PM   #11
jasonbimmer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luskombi View Post
I installed a $68 reman from NAPA on the passenger side front which leaked and vibrated. It did solve clunky shifting though. Tried 3 seals before I lost patience and spent $448.28 on a BMW reman. But not before we drove on a 1600 mile trip smelling and breathing burnt gear oil...yuck. BMW didn't want my core but NAPA was happy to refund my money. No leak, smooth running and smooth shifts. i've read here that some have had success returning and trying a different axle. But like I said I ran out of patience.

BTW the NAPA axle where the seal rests was 1.731" in diameter.

The BMW axle measured 1.730". That seemed odd. All I can come up with is the NAPA axle must be bent, providing just enough run-out to let the oil leak...that could explain the vibration too.

Food for thought. A lesson I learned in the aviation business a hundred years ago, if it's cheap, it's a piece of sh#*! 9 times out of 10 there's a reason the correct part costs more.
I have NAPA on my car and its seeping gear oil out and flinging it onto my exhaust manifold. smells prettty bad but its cheap.
I am trying to find an axle better than the NAPA reman ones.
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Old 03-20-2012, 10:11 PM   #12
Rickna
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonbimmer View Post
I have NAPA on my car and its seeping gear oil out and flinging it onto my exhaust manifold. smells prettty bad but its cheap.
I am trying to find an axle better than the NAPA reman ones.
I got the front pass side from Pelican Parts. GKN Loebro (OEM supplier) $346.75 Flawless.
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Old 10-04-2012, 01:07 AM   #13
Bwcooley
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I had same experience, replaced seals, cheap axle always leaked,very frustrating. Bought OEM gkn axle fixed it! I could not measure any difference in diameter either. These cars require oem parts. I had similar experience with a mass airflow sensor.
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Old 10-06-2012, 11:26 AM   #14
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I've run a few cheap chinese ones and they all sucked, now running reman, and they are leaking. I need oem GKN in my life :-/

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Old 10-06-2012, 11:38 AM   #15
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I'll chime in here, I will not purchase any parts for my BMWs that are not either made in Germany or the US, the Chinese will copy but many times the tolerances are not within spec and problems will arise. Many of the German parts available are of good to very good quality and some are cheaper AND the same parts as those that come in a box with BMW all over it.
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Old 10-06-2012, 04:26 PM   #16
White_Knuckles
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I've experienced boot leak issues that may help you "slingers". I had both inner boots start slinging the goo. I went lazy mode and had my Indy re-boot all four. I noticed a few weeks later it was slinging AGAIN! As under warranty, the shop had another go. The tech explained, the factory style clamps are a bugger to get tight enough and they've seen this movie before where factory clamps are notorious to loosen. The second round has been fine for months.

I wonder if clamp grip pressure is your issue not an undersized axle? I've read where DIY's have used stainless worm-screw style clamps and cranked 'em down with no balance or leak problems. Just suggesting you re-clamp before condemning the axle.
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Old 10-14-2012, 10:12 PM   #17
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Why not rebuild your existing Axles?

Reading all the posts about axle shafts that are too small for the boots, or boots not fitted correctly, or Chinese junk breaking down way too soon. Why not stick with your OEM drive axles and have them rebuilt locally?

I have used a local shop here in Daytona to rebuild drives axles for both the 325xit and my 300zx. Average cost is $75 per side. The units are disassembled, cleaned, examined for wear, worn parts replaced, new grease and new boots. The clamps are factory appearing and very tight. I've had the 300zx axles for five years now, and the BMW are going on two years without any problems from any on the rebuild units.
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