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General E46 Forum
This is the place to get answers, opinions and everything you need related to your E46 (sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon) BMW!

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Old 12-16-2012, 10:00 AM   #1
CORVAIRWILD
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BMW's... Unreliable/Pricey To Fix???

I have decided to replace my '93 Hyundai Excel with something a little fancier. I use the Hyundai as a commuter car and as a spare car in case my DD breaks down or is in for repairs.

I had decided on a Subaru LL Bean H6 wagon, and all Subbys have been AWD for years...

A friend suggested I look at the xi wagon, as they come 5 speed, and he has an older 5 series, and likes it alot...

On the other hand, I posted this similar issue at a different forum, and the guys are laffing at me for going for an exotic car. There's lots of Subbys in the local junkyards, and no Bimmer dealer, so few of those around.

I do ALL of my own repairs, but have next to zero knowledge of electronic engine controls, so stayed away from it, but the time is coming. I recently had trouble with a '94 Suburban diesel I bot in Phoenix, and the 1st place I went to was close to clueless about how to diagnose what should have been obvious.

The next fellow I went to knew exactly where and what to fix, and I wonder if I'll have the same experience locally.

Keep in mind it's a backup car, so if it's off line, like my current DD, (getting a new water pump), I can just use my wife's Suburban, as she works from home. I also have a K5 Blazer plow truck I can use.

So... back the the topic... Is an E46(xi) a reliable car? Or am I looking for trouble? I'm also near fanatical about maintenance, and pretty much open the hood EVERY day just for a peek. I was an ASE mechanic many years ago, so the peek is not just to admire the Teutonic engineering...
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:02 AM   #2
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Plenty reliable. Just like anything they need regular maintenance. They have very few issues as long as you don't track it on a regular basis.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:09 AM   #3
CORVAIRWILD
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My Hyundai is my 10th one or so, and they are really reliable, albeit FAR simpler. I've put 15k on is 5 years, with not much more than new rear hatch struts. I paid $250 for it in Phoenix w a pissing water pump, cracked windshield, siezed A/C compressor and bald tires. Cost $1500 for all repairs and delivered to the local (150 miles away) shipping yard, and I'll prolly get $2000 for it. The tranny needs sychros, it's crunchy when cold, but has ZERO rust, and I Fluid Film rustproof everything I bring back from out west
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:14 AM   #4
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You don't buy a XI e46.
Find yourself a nice manual 2001-2005 e46
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:37 AM   #5
CORVAIRWILD
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So the xi adds to the complications? I really want AWD, like the Subby. Is BMW more complicated than a Subby or what?
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:52 AM   #6
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The XI is pretty simple. I have one with 145,000 miles and it's great.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:53 AM   #7
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Yes, quite a bit more complicated espcially in xi trim. Normal, manual rwd models are pretty solid, but someone used to Japanese cars or American trucks probably wouldn't think so.

If you want AWD, buy the Subaru.
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Old 12-16-2012, 12:12 PM   #8
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If you're not familiar with electronic diagnosis, it can be a bit tricky. These bimmers are very temperamental with their electronics. A Subaru just works and works well. IMO they are both just as difficult to work on mechanically. Parts are not that expensive but sometimes you HAVE to go with OEM or the car goes wacky.

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Old 12-16-2012, 12:17 PM   #9
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BMWs are very electronically integrated.
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Old 12-16-2012, 12:22 PM   #10
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start with something simpler.
Like a e30 or e36
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Old 12-16-2012, 12:23 PM   #11
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for e46, you gotta have a BMW code reader, INPA and all that sh1t to properly diagnosis all problems. Like ABS, airbag, various sensors...

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Old 12-16-2012, 12:29 PM   #12
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127k on my 325xi great car. Awesome in the snow
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Old 12-16-2012, 01:14 PM   #13
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I was on the same boat about a week ago. My daily flooded in the previous hurricane and I was stuck between a subaru forester and a 325ci.

You can probably guess which one I went with because I'm making a post on this forum.

So far its been a blast to drive, great daily, and most of the maintenance seems pretty straight forward. I do live in Jersey so we'll see how she acts in the snow, but she gives me no trouble in the rain or anything.
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Old 12-16-2012, 01:35 PM   #14
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325xi sport with 235k miles here and no complaints. Absolutely love the Xi, this is my third.
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Old 12-16-2012, 01:45 PM   #15
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325xi sport with 235k miles here and no complaints. Absolutely love the Xi, this is my third.
You had 3 e46xi cars?

How come?

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Old 12-16-2012, 04:16 PM   #16
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first one was a 02 325xi bought it super cheap and turned it around for a profit, bought another from an auction fixed/cleaned and sold it, i do this to a few cars on the side, but my current 325xi is mine to keep, ive also had a few 330i and RWD 325i's and coupes that were flipped along with a 530i sport 5 speed, but i absolutely love the XI over Quattro too, had a few of those too.
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Old 12-16-2012, 06:12 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by CORVAIRWILD View Post
So the xi adds to the complications? I really want AWD, like the Subby. Is BMW more complicated than a Subby or what?
If you want AWD, know that the Subie will just run rings around the xi. e46 is more refined interior and general driving dynamics in good weather. If there is more Subaru expertise nearby, it could be less inconvenient owning it than the xi.
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Old 12-16-2012, 09:32 PM   #18
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if you do the work they are fun to work on. between realoem.com and several online bmm dealer and pelicanparts.com it is easy to find good parts at decent prices. and the diy support here makes a manual almost obselete.

that being said bmw require much more maintenance that your average honda. If you buy a car with 100K it will need more than $1000 worth of parts if the previous owner did not do the maintenance. Just a lot of dumb stuff breaks that you rarely replace on other cars. Expect to rebuild the complete cooling system and suspension and you will have a good baseline to start with.

I expect you can still find good clean e46's that have been adult owned for a decent price.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:45 PM   #19
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Based on the work I've done on my girlfriend's '07 Accent I would never even consider buying a hyundai. Simple crap like changing a license plate bulb on that car is a total chore. BMW's are some of the easiest cars to work on imo as long as you're patient and do your research. That said, yes, they didn't require a bit more money and a bit more regular upkeep than your average economy sedan.

(Please pardon my auto-correct)
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:54 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by CORVAIRWILD View Post
A friend suggested I look at the xi wagon, as they come 5 speed
Forgot to add: while they do exist, you will see dozens of Subaru wagons with manual trannies before you locate a single xi wagon with 3 pedals on the floor. This is for 3 reasons:
  • Not too many wagons sold in the US (maybe ~3000/yr?).
  • Smaller percentage were xi (of the wagons, many were RWD)
  • And a minority of those had a manual (the majority of cars were automatics)
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