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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.

View Poll Results: Have you had to have your transfer case or differentials replaced?
Yes - Transfer case/differential had to be replaced 1 5.26%
No - I have not had any issues 18 94.74%
Voters: 19. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-21-2014, 02:28 PM   #1
Bit Flip
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Question Poll: How many of you have had transfer cases/differentials that needed replaced?

So after taking my wagon in to the shop and going over some preliminary stuff they are saying that they thing it is something in the drivetrain (Transfer case, front diff, rear diff) but likely not the driveshaft with this particular symptom of vibration under load (see previous thread here - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthr...1023140&page=1). I started perusing used transfer cases and diffs, but first I wanted to ask you guys about your experience with your XI/XIT.

If answered yes to the poll please also post up the mileage of the work (if you have records/remember) and any other helpful info you may have in advance!

Last edited by Bit Flip; 04-21-2014 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 04-21-2014, 02:48 PM   #2
SamDoe1
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Is there an option for "I don't have a BMW anymore so my car has no problems whatsoever and never has other than a loose piece of trim"?

Last edited by SamDoe1; 04-21-2014 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 04-23-2014, 12:21 PM   #3
phildobaggins
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whats your symptoms?

I have 131k on my xit and nary a sound or complaint from the original fluid xfer case. I changed the fluid out at 130k when I was done with my clutch replacement. Seems like under normal engine power and operation you couldn't damage one of these things.
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Old 04-23-2014, 12:55 PM   #4
Bit Flip
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What did your fluid look like when you changed it?

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Old 04-23-2014, 01:32 PM   #5
Bit Flip
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Symptoms -
heavy vibration under load only after reaching highway speeds for a duration of 5+ minutes. If I don't drive on the highway I do not experience significant vibration, only very faint hints of it, but you can still feel it creeping up.
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Old 04-23-2014, 04:37 PM   #6
phildobaggins
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I'd be willing to bet that a mount or support is causing it more then the transfer case. Put it on jack stands, disable traction control, bring it up to 30mph and hit cruise control, then take a scope to the tcase body and see if you can hear something slapping around. I would image its either gear or chain driven and not some sort of unicorn rainbow in there.

NOTE: if you do put it in drive on stands DO NOT start or stop the wheels quickly. In fact if you have never done this before I dont even suggest it. Its pretty unsafe lol.

If its causing vibration to the gearshift it can be way more items than a bad tcase, if its vibrating the car it can be even more. What specifically about the vibration makes you think its the transfercase?

Last edited by phildobaggins; 04-23-2014 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 04-23-2014, 04:38 PM   #7
phildobaggins
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bit Flip View Post
What did your fluid look like when you changed it?

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mine was burnt black and thick. its was toast and probably had been for some time. Pumped new redline d4 atf in there and drives fine. Then again, i have new motor mounts, bushing etc.. all done at the same time. Is your car a 5spd or automatic?
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Old 04-23-2014, 04:47 PM   #8
Bit Flip
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5 speed
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Old 04-23-2014, 06:48 PM   #9
Bit Flip
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phildobaggins View Post
I'd be willing to bet that a mount or support is causing it more then the transfer case. Put it on jack stands, disable traction control, bring it up to 30mph and hit cruise control, then take a scope to the tcase body and see if you can hear something slapping around. I would image its either gear or chain driven and not some sort of unicorn rainbow in there.

NOTE: if you do put it in drive on stands DO NOT start or stop the wheels quickly. In fact if you have never done this before I dont even suggest it. Its pretty unsafe lol.

If its causing vibration to the gearshift it can be way more items than a bad tcase, if its vibrating the car it can be even more. What specifically about the vibration makes you think its the transfercase?
----
#1
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Well first thanks for being on top of this troubleshooting man - definitely not doing the jack stand biz because I don't have a flat spot to work on it, it only goes 2 wheels up at a time. That and it is absolutely, highly unsafe. If I had a swing arm lift I'd do it, but I don't have access to one, only a drive on.
----
#2
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I don't think it's the transfer case necessarily - this is just what the dude at the shop said, and honestly, I was almost as good at deducing the problem as he was. His reasoning was that the fluid was so black and gross Basically they had no clue so they literally said "Well it's still drivable so drive it til it breaks and then we'll fix the issue.
----
#3
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I agree with the stethoscope being a legitimate way of troubleshooting these weird vibrations. I'm a little shitty that they didn't do anything beyond a basic inference. I don't have any vibrations in the shift knob. It's most felt in the floorboards/pedals. I have a transfer case mount + parts to do the driveshaft and flex disc since that was my original inkling but the mechanic said it didn't feel like a driveshaft at all. He mentioned that you would feel the driveshaft/center bearing most when under load and you would feel it in the center console area bigtime.

So far I have only replaced the front passenger side axle since it was throwing grease, but that definitely wasn't it. The strange part of it is that the problem doesn't happen until A - some warm up period or B - highway driving. I haven't driven it for a long time around town but as soon as I get on the highway for a couple minutes it starts up. It's due to the temperature of some fluid/lubricant/part I don't know. I really doubt the gearbox has any issues since it happens in multiple gears.

----
A thought I just had - what about the driveshaft that goes to the front diff? I noticed a flex disc on there as well. Has anyone experienced issues with the front disc?
----

Lastly - sweet link that explains the XI AWD system - http://www.xiftw.com/?page_id=16
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Old 04-23-2014, 07:05 PM   #10
phildobaggins
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if it was a rotating issue in the drivetrain it would probably be apparent all the time or either under accelleration or decelleration only. With our cars, open front center and rear diffs it would be all the time.

I would get some compatible ATF and swap it out of the tcase. Take the shift knob and boot off, take out the sound deadening foam, take out the rubber weather boot and go for a drive. You will gear the gearbox and transfer case pretty good.

since its a vibration at a certain speed then I would really start with balanced rotating assembly's, WHEEELELELELELELSSSSs and TIRREEESSS is the first start.

Now I know you dont have a balancer, so I would swap wheels front to back and then check if the vibration moved in the feel of the car or if it moved at the speed it comes on.

Others i hope will chime in, i'm not qualified to give advice lol. But I would start the 1st layer, wheels, move to axels, then diffs, then move inward from there.
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Old 04-23-2014, 07:46 PM   #11
Bit Flip
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So I'm driving right now and the tire change made the vibration change. I feel so dumb for not swapping out the tires as a test before. I'm going to go get my wheels balanced tomorrow and see if this crap goes away thank you for your help sincerely, a dumb guy.

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Old 04-23-2014, 08:52 PM   #12
phildobaggins
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Your not dumb. Your a car guy. You freak out when the car does something unexpected. Its normal. Write yourself an email tonight "When I see a problem I will start fresh, I will pretend its not my car", read it tomorrow, then delete it.

Next time you may remember to take the emotion out of the troubleshooting.
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Old 04-24-2014, 11:10 PM   #13
Bit Flip
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Well, no such luck with balancing - still there :\

I do actually feel it in the gearshift as well...pretty faint there, dominantly in the pedals/floorboards.
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Old 04-24-2014, 11:35 PM   #14
phildobaggins
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if your feeling it in the pedals/floorboard i very much doubt its the trans mount or trans/transfer case. Put the front end up on jack stands, take off the wheels and start tugging on the end links, control arms. Also give the wheel a good tug and kick before you take them off. Do the same for the rear.

if you feel it in the pedal and floor board that really sounds like suspension. I suppose it could be your motor mounts, i just replaced mine, they were original with 130k on them and no vibes.

The vibration your describing, is it thumpy and thick sounding like someone is hitting your unibody with a rubber mallet or is it like someone shoved a vibrating dildo on your foot?
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Old 04-25-2014, 12:33 AM   #15
dwtaylorpdx
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The Tcase is a NV product, all the bearings etc soudl be available through a bearing specialty shop they are not hard to tear apart and put back togther. If he worst should happen.

The symptoms you describe definitely point to power train but I would not be too worried about the tcase, they typically fail BADLY as in expensive sounding noise, grinding/whining bearing fail noises. .. they are simple, I'd start the search from the outer end of each axle and work towards the clutch.. You will likely find a worn mount, CV joint, bad bushing, something is not rotating smoothly, You can test a transfer case by unhooking the drive lines putting the car in neutral and turning the front and rear outputs with your hands there should be no noise, grating, it should turn smooth with just a bit of available play if you turn the outputs opposite and back.
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Old 04-26-2014, 12:01 AM   #16
Bit Flip
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phildobaggins View Post
if your feeling it in the pedals/floorboard i very much doubt its the trans mount or trans/transfer case. Put the front end up on jack stands, take off the wheels and start tugging on the end links, control arms. Also give the wheel a good tug and kick before you take them off. Do the same for the rear.

if you feel it in the pedal and floor board that really sounds like suspension. I suppose it could be your motor mounts, i just replaced mine, they were original with 130k on them and no vibes.

The vibration your describing, is it thumpy and thick sounding like someone is hitting your unibody with a rubber mallet or is it like someone shoved a vibrating dildo on your foot?
More of a thumpy/thick vibration. It's not low amplitude high speed it's high amplitude low speed aka more mallet than dildo lol

My wife has been using it for the last couple weeks, so my sensing vibrations more towards the rear when i moved the wheels around could have been in my head.

Last edited by Bit Flip; 04-26-2014 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 04-26-2014, 12:07 AM   #17
Bit Flip
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwtaylorpdx View Post
The Tcase is a NV product, all the bearings etc soudl be available through a bearing specialty shop they are not hard to tear apart and put back togther. If he worst should happen.

The symptoms you describe definitely point to power train but I would not be too worried about the tcase, they typically fail BADLY as in expensive sounding noise, grinding/whining bearing fail noises. .. they are simple, I'd start the search from the outer end of each axle and work towards the clutch.. You will likely find a worn mount, CV joint, bad bushing, something is not rotating smoothly, You can test a transfer case by unhooking the drive lines putting the car in neutral and turning the front and rear outputs with your hands there should be no noise, grating, it should turn smooth with just a bit of available play if you turn the outputs opposite and back.
Thanks for replying to this thread - I looked at the tcase and the gearing doesn't look complex at all but realistically, it's easier for me to snatch up one with 40k miles than to pull it and do it. I know I could, but it's more of a timing thing since both my wife and I need a car for work. I could potentially do it in a weekend, but I always find myself running to sears or somewhere for additional tools and burning up all my time.

That being said I'm getting a more versatile toolbox with every job haha

I did the passenger side axle already on the front - it was obviously throwing greas, drivers side is not throwing grease but I don't really feel it in the steering wheel whatsoever so that's what makes me think it is more towards the rear of the vehicle.

I can feel it in the shifter as well.
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Old 05-29-2014, 07:14 PM   #18
Ryane46bmw
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You said that the mounts and bushings were just replaced. If this was not happening before the replacement then I would double check all work done. Could be some thing as simple as a loose or improperly torqued bolt or nut. Has the clutch been replaced?


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