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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 06-28-2013, 11:43 PM   #1
jwbeck17
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Villanova
Posts: 77
My Ride: 2005 330xi
330xi Suspension Refresh Planning

I have a 2005 330xi with 107K mi and would like to work with the suspension a bit. I feel that it rides too high for my liking and just needs about 1"-1.5" drop. I also would like to enhance the handling as well, although I have found no significant faults with the current suspension or handling, apart from feeling a little soft. The car will stay street bound and is a daily driver, so no track time.

I plan to to do the following for the refresh:
- Replace stock shocks & springs with coilovers
- Add wheel spacers as I hear they may be needed for the coilovers (have stock 17"s and like the stock wheel look)
- Replace the rear sway bar with the H&R bar

I'll probably do these in stages, with the coilovers and spacers first. I'm planning on getting KW V1s for the suspension but haven't decided on wheel spacers size yet.

Now my questions:
- Is the removal of the stock struts and installation of the KWs easy enough for one novice mechanic to handle? (I say novice as I haven't done a whole lot of auto work in my life, but I did perform the transmission filter replacement and coolant system replacement myself recently, so I am somewhat handy.)
- What are needed "While-you-are-at-its" when I am doing it? What tasks are not needed but nice to do?
- What additional parts do I need? I would guess in addition to the KWs I would need a strut hardware kit with perches, pads and stuff, anything else? (I don't want to get caught without something in mid repair.)
- Any special tools recommended?
- Is it best to get an alignment at a dealer or can a shop like Monroe or smaller shop handle the alignment?
- Any other tips or suggestions? I saw the install video from ECS and it didn't seem too challenging, bit I look for your expertise.

Thanks for your help in advance!


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Old 06-29-2013, 01:11 PM   #2
zoompastu
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Portland OR
Posts: 28
My Ride: 330xi
It ALL comes down to what your overall goal is. If you are happy with the current handling then ANYTHING you do to the suspension will be an improvement. We all want increased handeling and performance but we must be carefull not to overbuild are daily drivers. I have 120k on my 330xi and just installed Koni Sports (SALE ENDS TOMORROW $565 front and rear @ Tirerack.com) and the handling is VASTLY improved and body roll is decreased. The ride on the stock sport package springs is frim but not jaring paired with the koni's which I adjusted to a little firmer then full soft. I too want to decrease wheel gap and will do so with a pair of eibach springs. The KW's are a VERY good kit but are better suited for a track and will be quite a bit firmer then the koni/eibach setup. I would seriously give it some more thought before dropping big bucks on coilovers. For that money you could do Koni/Eibach's and a H&R rear swaybar with money left for beer. I guarantee you'll be happy with the end result unless you're going for a slammed look and then you will cause yourself axle and tire wear problems. Another item to look at is the condition of your front control arm bushings. If you haven't replaced them yet it's due or just around the corner... I'm waiting on my Powerflex control arm bushing to show up next week.

As far installing everything goes all I can say is be careful and take your time. Make sure you have a second person with you to help out. It is a one person job but easier your first time with 2 people. you will need spring compressors AND MUST TAKE CAUTION COMPRESSING SPRINGS!!! If you undue that nut on the strut you will launch it like a missile. People have been seriously injured or killed from not following proper procedures. We all have to learn sometime so If your up for the task then go for it. Make sure you have all the tools to do the job before you start. As a BMW tech I've done tons of these and its pretty easy to do if you know what you're doing but my first time when I was 17 was a learning process for sure.... Good Luck!
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2002 330xi ZSP, ZPP, 16:9 Nav, HK, Koni Sports, Powerflex CAB, Eagle Eyes, Recaro Child Seat

2004 X3 Hers
2006 VW GLI 2.0T Stage 2 - For Sale
1993 325is Moded Sold
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Old 06-29-2013, 04:22 PM   #3
jwbeck17
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Villanova
Posts: 77
My Ride: 2005 330xi
330xi Suspension Refresh Planning

Thank you for the thoughtful feedback. I think you nailed my description, as I don't want to slam this thing. Think of it this way; I am going for a 330xi's' model (if one was made).

The reason I leaned to the KW V1s is that they aimed for street use and not track, and I've read a lot of posts where people like them. However, the more I think about it, your combo might be better. KWs are adjustable for ride height, which can be a very particular preference. The Koni yellows are adjustable too, but by comfort. I think of the two elements, comfort is more important than ride height, since ride height I want to set and forget. Plus, the price is compelling, and I could add the sway bar for less than the KWs. Excellent point.

Interesting point about the FCABs and RTABs. Are they prone to fail at a certain mileage? Are the Powerflex ones the recommended swap? Hard to install? I don't want to replace anything unneeded, but a the ride could benefit from a good suspension refresh. I'd did the cooling refresh, gaskets refresh, transmission refresh, interior leather refresh and intake refresh (I just swapped the hood roundel for a new one, as the old one's colors were peeling off). So why not do a suspension refresh now?


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Old 06-29-2013, 05:24 PM   #4
zoompastu
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Location: Portland OR
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My Ride: 330xi
Glad I can help... Over the years I've built some decent cars (most of which are not in my sig or were customer cars) and have learned the hard way about overbuilding a daily driver.

Yes the bushings are prone to failure around 75k-100k tipically are are a normal wear item. normally you can stab the brake pedal and they'll clunk. On my XI I had a slight shimmy at highway speeds. lift both front wheels off the ground at the same time and grab the wheels at the 3 and 9 o'clock postion. shake the wheels side to side quickly like you are throwing punches straight out in front of you (not side to side like trying to move the wheel towards the front and rear of the car). If there is play have someone shake the wheel while another looks undernethe and feels the CAB, ball joint, inner tierod end (grab the rubber boot on the rack and feel the conection there), and outer tierod end for play. Replace what needs to be, its that simple. Same thing goes for the rear. lift up both wheels and shake it at the 3 and 9 as well as the 12 and 6. if there's play, check whats loose and replace as needed.

There are less options for us xi owners in the suspension world which is good and bad but from what you've told me the koni/eibach combo will get rid of the wheel gap, get rid of the body roll, put a smile on your face, give you dampening adjustability, and have a sport/comfort DD. I would wait on the H&R rear bar to see how you like things before spending more money that you may not need to.

So for the control arm bushings the xi CAB's are different then the rwd E46's. Some guys are running E36 M3 bushings, some are running OEM, some are running the Powerflex ploy bushings. It sounds like a few years back they had a minor issue on the XI but have since corrected it and you would get the updated ones if you chose to get them. They will give you the sharpest feel in the steering. they are quite responsive. I have poly bushings from Whiteline Performance in my GLI and they feel great. I didn't notice any extra vibrations on that car and there doesn't seem to be a complaint on the XI's either from what I've read, heard, ect.... I'll let you know what I think of them once I install them late next week. It sound like we are on the same page for what we want out of are XI's. A reliable, sporty, comfortable, daily driver.

By the way, H&R springs are 40% stiffer then OEM, they will be to stiff compaired to the eibachs. I know Bilstein makes good shocks and they are slightly cheaper then the Konis but take my word it's worth the extra money.... Order the konis at tire rack if you can before the sale ends June 30th.... Keep us updated
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2002 330xi ZSP, ZPP, 16:9 Nav, HK, Koni Sports, Powerflex CAB, Eagle Eyes, Recaro Child Seat

2004 X3 Hers
2006 VW GLI 2.0T Stage 2 - For Sale
1993 325is Moded Sold
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Old 06-29-2013, 06:37 PM   #5
jwbeck17
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Villanova
Posts: 77
My Ride: 2005 330xi
330xi Suspension Refresh Planning

Another great response! Love the tip on checking suspension movement. I used to do the same for my old Honda Accord and learned a lot about suspension components, how they work, and what to look for when they don't. Your explanation is the most simple logical that I've seen!

I also heard the same about the H&R springs. I've also heard Bilsteins (depending on which ones you get) are pretty stiff as well. Put those two together and you've got something good for the track, but you may not have a relaxing ride home.

And as for the sway bar, waiting makes sense. When I had the Accord I swapped the sways for Eibachs and it made a world of difference, and great bang for the buck. If ride height was not an issue, nor the struts, and the only thing a driver is interested in is better handling, the sway bar would probably be the first change. However I have some different goals as stated earlier.

I know that KW had mentioned possibly needing spacers for fit, but are they needed for the Koni/Eibach combo?

And I do plan to take my time with this over a weekend. Maybe do the front struts on a Saturday and rears on Sunday, then get an alignment on a Monday. There's no harm in driving with them on short few mile trips if needed before the alignment, right? Just thinking if I can't get the alignment scheduled right away.

I hope this will be a fun and rewarding project like the rest of them!


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Old 06-29-2013, 08:00 PM   #6
SeattleLSB
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My Ride: 2003 330XI
One Note you can order the Koni's from Bavarian Autosport for the same price as Tirerack and get Free Shipping, Just got my set and saved $25-$50 bucks by doing that! You are talking two different setups KW's will run you $1500 or so vs. $750.

Joe
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2007 TiAG/BLK 335I Sedan/6SP/Sport/Premium/Cold Weather - Sold

2003 AW/BLK 330XI/AT/Sport/Premium/Cold Weather
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Old 06-30-2013, 12:56 AM   #7
zoompastu
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Portland OR
Posts: 28
My Ride: 330xi
Quote:
Originally Posted by jwbeck17 View Post
I know that KW had mentioned possibly needing spacers for fit, but are they needed for the Koni/Eibach combo?

And I do plan to take my time with this over a weekend. Maybe do the front struts on a Saturday and rears on Sunday, then get an alignment on a Monday. There's no harm in driving with them on short few mile trips if needed before the alignment, right? Just thinking if I can't get the alignment scheduled right away.

I hope this will be a fun and rewarding project like the rest of them!
You don't need spacers. You will need to replace the bump stops, rear shock mounts/gaskets, spring pads/rubbers, and strut mounts. This is the kit minus the bump stops http://www.ecstuning.com/BMW-E46-330...cks/ES2593733/
Front Bump stops
http://www.ecstuning.com/BMW-E46-330...ont/ES2578121/
Rear bump stops changed 03/2002 so you'll need to get ones for your 2005 production vehicle.

Rears will be the easiest to do. I recommend doing them first then moving to the front. Get what you can done Saturday and make a long day out of it so you aren't rushed and frustrated Sunday. Again use caution using the spring compressors and if you have xenon headlights be careful not to break the leveling sensor.

Front DIY video

Rear DIY video skip to 2:30 unless you want to watch the guy actually buy the shocks at the store


Once its in and done drive it and make sure it seems right. you may hear some minor noise at first but it SHOULD clear up with the first few miles. You will need an alignment but if your not driving it a long distance I'ld get the alignment scheduled for friday to let the suspension settle. 100 miles won't ruin your tires.

Good luck! It's not an easy job your first go but it will be rewarding.
__________________
2002 330xi ZSP, ZPP, 16:9 Nav, HK, Koni Sports, Powerflex CAB, Eagle Eyes, Recaro Child Seat

2004 X3 Hers
2006 VW GLI 2.0T Stage 2 - For Sale
1993 325is Moded Sold
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Old 06-30-2013, 01:05 AM   #8
zoompastu
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Portland OR
Posts: 28
My Ride: 330xi
Quote:
Originally Posted by SeattleLSB View Post
One Note you can order the Koni's from Bavarian Autosport for the same price as Tirerack and get Free Shipping, Just got my set and saved $25-$50 bucks by doing that! You are talking two different setups KW's will run you $1500 or so vs. $750.

Joe
lol.. And I thought I did so good... Oh well, $607 shipped still isn't bad.
__________________
2002 330xi ZSP, ZPP, 16:9 Nav, HK, Koni Sports, Powerflex CAB, Eagle Eyes, Recaro Child Seat

2004 X3 Hers
2006 VW GLI 2.0T Stage 2 - For Sale
1993 325is Moded Sold
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:27 PM   #9
jwbeck17
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Villanova
Posts: 77
My Ride: 2005 330xi
330xi Suspension Refresh Planning

FINALLY...I received the shocks from Tire Rack (back order) and installed them on Sunday. I had built the struts over the week, so they were ready to install. The install went fairly well with only a few challenges, like stuck front shock bolts, but they loosened and the rest of the install went as expected.

The only bad news was at I noticed that the drivers side front outer CV joint boot was split open, so I have to take care of that. I may just have the shop do it when I take it in for an alignment anyway.

For those who are interested, the shocks are set to the softest setting, and I would describe them as smoother than my OE shocks and springs (which had 107K Mi. On them). The ride is more firm but not harsh. Even at the softest setting it is a very comfortable ride with more direct road feel and handling. I'm starting to up the firmness on the front shocks to see how firm to make them, then I will adjust the rears to match as you have to take those off the car to adjust. Springs seemed higher than the OE ones after install, but the they are settling now and should be better by next week.

I have to say that this is a great upgrade to make the ride feel like new again. I thought the OE springs were good until I got these!


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