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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 10-13-2012, 08:45 AM   #1
330xigraham
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Hit pothole

Hello all. First BMW. First post. I wish it were under better circumstances.

I bought the car a little over a month ago, a 2004 330xi with 90,000 miles. Absolutely love it. Changed the ATF, transfer case and front and rear diff oils per the suggestions of this site. All was well, and I was ready for 200,000 miles.

Then I hit a pothole several days ago. I immediately felt a change in steering dynamic. While the vehicle will track straight, the wheel is slightly off center, to the right. Also the steering gives slightly more resistance when turning left than when turning right.

I brought it to the dealer to inspect, they said they saw nothing. I had them perform a full weighted laser alignment, and the car still drives exactly the same.

I'm somewhat familiar with suspensions generally, but not BMW specifically. If the tech inspected the control arms, strut mounts, etc., and the car is now aligned, is the issue related to the steering gear? Or possibly the drivetrain?

This car is flawless otherwise, and this is really nagging me.
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Old 10-13-2012, 10:20 AM   #2
Kubica
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They didn't lock the steering wheel at top dead center when they did the alignment.

So the one wheel was knocked out of alignment, and should have been put back in spec. What happened is they adjusted the other front corner instead.

You need to take it back and have it aligned properly. Ask the service writer who their best tech is, and have that person re-align it.
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Old 10-13-2012, 01:15 PM   #3
White_Knuckles
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I don't like the left turning, resistance thing. Revisiting the shop may at least get the wheel dead center but stress the new symptom. Something is loading the pump effort if it conducts back to the steering wheel. Like a bind or bent arm tracking wrong.You don't indicate which wheel struck the pothole? I'm guessing left.

Sometimes, we become hyper-sensitive after an incident like this. The shop may believe you just "think" this issue is new. Support your statement describing why you know it's post service. Make sure you're satisfied they serviced and inspected it properly. Sometimes you're getting boldly lied to or they're idiots and really believe "it checks out fine". That's where you seek a good independent shop and get a second opinion.

Laws of physics are pretty clear. When you have a smack down with a pothole that lends you desperately weaving about to see if all wheels are still intact while glancing in the mirror checking for suspension parts rolling around. Yeah, something may have tweaked, deflected or otherwise changed mechanical properties? I have to add that living in pothole town myself, these babies are tough. No major problems in three years of crater exploration and nose dives.
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Last edited by White_Knuckles; 10-13-2012 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:40 AM   #4
330xigraham
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I am not entirely sure the alignment is the issue? The car feels the same after they performed the alignment, i.e. the alignment did not correct whatever damage was done by the pothole. It had no affect. The car still feels wonky from the pothole.

After they performed the alignment, I did notice the front right tire pressure was 5 psi too low. I corrected this, but it still had no impact on my steering issues.

The impact was on the right side.

When they performed the alignment, they said the "lights" indicated the front was dead on. The only adjustments they made was to the rear.

I checked for mushrooming of the tower, and it checks out ok.

(I apologize for posting this twice, not sure what happened)

Last edited by 330xigraham; 10-15-2012 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 10-15-2012, 12:43 PM   #5
Kubica
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The impact toed-in the right front.

Total toe may have been in spec still after the pothole, but the front wheels are no longer aligned to the steering rack.

They changed the rear alignment by toe-ing both rears to the right. This is wrong and needs to be fixed.

Take it back and tell them to put the rears back where they were, lock the steering wheel to TDC, and align the fronts to match the rears.

Plus they screwed you by not setting tire pressures before the alignment. This is unacceptable and I would get a refund and find a better shop.

Last edited by Kubica; 10-15-2012 at 11:12 PM. Reason: right/left
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Old 10-15-2012, 01:05 PM   #6
330xigraham
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Kubica, thank you.

I'm going to tell them this. Are you a tech or something? I want to print something out that shows them what they did wrong, and more importantly how to correct it.

The dealer is New Country BMW in Hartford, CT.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:30 PM   #7
redbull 325is
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 330xigraham View Post
Kubica, thank you.

I'm going to tell them this. Are you a tech or something? I want to print something out that shows them what they did wrong, and more importantly how to correct it.

The dealer is New Country BMW in Hartford, CT.
That won't get you much of anywhere with a dealership, what traditionally works is mentioning the poor work that was done and the low tire pressure when you picked up the car (setting tire pressure is step 1 of any alignment job)
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Old 10-16-2012, 10:29 AM   #8
Big Rick
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 330xigraham View Post
Kubica, thank you.

I'm going to tell them this. Are you a tech or something? I want to print something out that shows them what they did wrong, and more importantly how to correct it.

The dealer is New Country BMW in Hartford, CT.
Personally I would take it to a different shop after they have demonstrated they do not know what they are doing based up on what you have told them... Twice!

You'll find that Kubica is THE Xi and overall BMW guru here... Take whatever he says to the bank!
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Last edited by Big Rick; 10-16-2012 at 10:30 AM.
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Old 10-24-2012, 07:19 PM   #9
330xigraham
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So brought it back for free. I noticed that the impact tire/wheel is leaking at about a psi a day, and told them to check that out. They claim that some road rash on the edge of the rim is "burping" air when I hit bumps, and otherwis is not leaking air. The fix is a new rim. Are they full of it?
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Old 10-24-2012, 09:09 PM   #10
redbull 325is
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 330xigraham View Post
So brought it back for free. I noticed that the impact tire/wheel is leaking at about a psi a day, and told them to check that out. They claim that some road rash on the edge of the rim is "burping" air when I hit bumps, and otherwis is not leaking air. The fix is a new rim. Are they full of it?
Hard to tell without looking at it, can you snap a pic of the damage? It would be more believable that a belt in the tire got mangled after hitting the pothole, which would cause it not to seal properly to the wheel.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:01 PM   #11
330xigraham
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Update**

Tire has been slowly leaking air for the past 3 months. Took it into Townfair tire. Towfair said one tire was destroyed on inside. Now I have 4 new ExtremeContact DWS. They also did a free alignment, and said the dealers alignment was out of wack. (pic attached) Changed alignment to their own setting, but could not get rear camber in check. Suggested possibly damage to rear "steering knucke."

Car. Drives. Exactly. The. Same. Wheel tilted to the right while going straight. At this point, alignment (nor new tires) seems to be affecting the steering wheel position at all. Question now is: what is bent that is causing my steering wheel to be off center? Rear control arms? Front control arms?
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:05 PM   #12
330xigraham
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Pic of alignment readout
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:20 PM   #13
Kubica
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Yeah rear control arm is most likely bent. That's not the cause of your steering wheel issue though.

They need to align it with the wheel at top dead center. In this case that means toe-ing all four wheels to the right to fix.

Your wheels are aligned but steering rack is not at TDC.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:31 PM   #14
Kubica
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Originally Posted by 330xigraham View Post
Pic of alignment readout
This looks good though. If the rear arms are bent, it's not much.

If you toe all four wheels to the right, and can then get these specs back you will be good.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:56 PM   #15
330xigraham
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The note says "the camber adjuster is maxed out, steering knuckle possibly bent." So likely RCA bent enough to limit camber adjustment.

As for toeing all four to the right; makes sense to me. But when I tell a shop/dealer this, they look at me like I'm crazy. And in theory, the pothole hole impact must have bent something regarding the incorrect toe, right? Something has to give to change the toe.
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:25 PM   #16
IxIFelIxI
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subscribed. have the same issue. no one can figure it out.
also did the alignment - did not help.

Last edited by IxIFelIxI; 02-02-2013 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 02-03-2013, 12:23 PM   #17
Kubica
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Originally Posted by 330xigraham View Post
The note says "the camber adjuster is maxed out, steering knuckle possibly bent." So likely RCA bent enough to limit camber adjustment.

As for toeing all four to the right; makes sense to me. But when I tell a shop/dealer this, they look at me like I'm crazy. And in theory, the pothole hole impact must have bent something regarding the incorrect toe, right? Something has to give to change the toe.
When the control arm bends, it effectively shortens the arm. The arm attaches to the knuckle at the bottom of the knuckle. So bending the rear control arm will cause a loss of negative camber. I believe the tech when he says camber adjustment is maxed out. It's due to bent rear arms most likely.

It's easy to inspect- if the plastic guards don't fit on the arms well anymore, they are most likely bent.

For the alignment- they are driving the car into the rack and leaving the wheel cocked to the right. Tell them to drive in and park. Then turn the wheel to left so it's centered. Both fronts will now be pointed left slightly. Straighten the front toe then make the rears point the same way as the fronts. Simple. All four wheels need the same exact toe adjustment. How much toe adjustment is a function of how much you need to turn the steering wheel to get it at TDC.
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Old 02-14-2013, 02:17 PM   #18
raydio
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Angry

Could have been worse. I just hit one on Monday and this happened..

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Old 02-14-2013, 03:01 PM   #19
SamDoe1
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Daaayum..... Those wheels are notorious for being super easy to bend though.
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Old 02-23-2013, 07:50 PM   #20
330xigraham
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FYI: problem solved. Rear lower control arm was replaced, along with a proper (third time the charm) alignment. Performed by a local indy/BMW specialty shop with motorsport experience. Wheel balance was also re-done, which corrected a pulsation during braking that I was convinced was pad deposits. Just goes to show how critical alignment/wheel balance is on these cars.

They (and I) still notice a bit of play/improper resistance in the steering. We both suspect steering rack. It's annoying, but at this point the price does not justify the tick. Also with the new continental extremecontact DWSs, the steering is so imprecise now anyway, its much less noticeable.

I may at some point try and replace the so called steering "guibo" to see if that corrects the steering issue, but for now I just want to drive the car.

Thank you all.
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