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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 01-02-2017, 01:44 AM   #1
belouder
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Seattle
Posts: 5
My Ride: 2005 325xiT
Clunking sound in front-please diagnose

2005 325 xiT with 120K:

Several weeks ago I started hearing (and feeling) a clunking sound coming from somewhere up front-possibly on the left hand side-feels or sounds low down. It happens when going over road bumps (pavement cracks, manhole covers) but not regularly and occasionally clunks when just driving along-usually only at lower speeds 15-30 mph. I don't hear or feel it while driving freeway speeds. A stop at our local indie BMW repair shop told me front lower arm ball joints were failing along with the bushings. I ordered parts and just finished replacing control arms, ball joints and bushings. When I removed old arms-although I tore up the ball joint boots getting them to release-the ball joints felt solid and tight. But all the new parts are in.

Unfortunately, the sound (and feeling) continue with no change. When the car is parked, I can't create the sound when bouncing the car suspension or puling and twisting wheels. Years ago I had a car with front strut suspension and remember a similar sound when one of the struts had failed.

Does anyone have any recommendations on where I can look on the car and/or methods to create road simulation to diagnose what the problem could be?

Some more notes: Steering seems to feel solid and responsive-no slop or sounds related to steering. The sound doesn't happen when accelerating or stopping (engine mounts or brake components?) and doesn't appear to happen when driving above 40 mph (maybe I just cant hear it). Nothing in the engine compartment is obviously loose and flopping about. 6 months ago one of the idler pulleys on the serpentine belt failed and a shop replaced it and the fan pulley along with the belt. Not sure if this issue could be related to that repair-it happens when going over road bumps and not related to engine speed.

Also, a friend drove the car for several weeks and I believe caught the front valence on a parking curb and flexed it quite a bit. I've just discovered the front right inside wheel well cover (protects the headlight cluster) is missing-it could possibly have been dislodged when the valance was tweaked. Not sure if this damage could be a contributor to the noise (loose body part or bumper?) but pushing and pulling on panels and bumper reveal nothing loose.

Thoughts?

Thanks,
Bri
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Old 01-02-2017, 07:40 AM   #2
GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: NE PA
Posts: 26
My Ride: LR Disco2
I had an almost identical sound coming from my wife's Subaru Forester. Turned out to be the front sway bar end links and sway bar bushings.

Might start there. If not, you still might look at the strut. You can't always simulate road bumps just by bouncing the front end up and down while parked.

Last edited by GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY; 01-02-2017 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 01-04-2017, 09:40 PM   #3
Dustman999
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Texas
Posts: 2
My Ride: 2002 325xi
Check your tie rods. Are they rusted or anything? My car does the same thing in the front right tire, and I am assuming it is the tie rods because mine are quite rusted and need to be replaced (can't even align the wheels because of the rust).

Good luck!
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Old 01-07-2017, 04:42 AM   #4
Dreamliner330
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 2,918
My Ride: 330xi
My car has a bit of that low level sounding clunk when hitting bumps. My CV boots are torn and click when turning. I'm trying to figure out what to check to replace while I'm in there for that.
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Old 01-08-2017, 12:30 PM   #5
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 44
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
On mine it was ball joints. Jack it up and take off the front wheels. Once mine were off it was trivial to find the issue.
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Old 01-09-2017, 12:24 PM   #6
belouder
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Seattle
Posts: 5
My Ride: 2005 325xiT
More notes: I've replaced both axle within 15K miles. Regarding ball joints-do you mean those associated with lower control arms? If so-I've replaced both arms, bushings and all four ball joints.

I'm going to get the front end off the ground tonight and see if sway bar bushings or links are gone.

Question: I've heard that around 120K miles just about all suspension parts will need to be replaced. Is this generally the case?

And thanks for the input!!

Bri
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Old 01-10-2017, 05:17 PM   #7
Mariner05
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Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: MN
Posts: 56
My Ride: 2005 325xi
You already said you were checking the swaybar links and bushings - that's good. Did you replace struts ? Those are one of the "it depends" things. Some get 160 K miles on a set and some get 50K. If the noise is only on sharp impact and not at highway speeds AND you have checked all else, then suspect struts. You will not be able to assess them by a bounce test.

Good luck on trouble shooting.

Mariner05
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Old 01-11-2017, 03:21 PM   #8
dutchhome
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Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: USA
Posts: 25
My Ride: 2004 330xi
For what it's worth I had a similar problem in my rear suspension. It turned out my rear spring had partially broken and I heard the broken off piece moving around when I would hit a speed bump. :-)

Sadly I still haven't replaced it.

Sent from my Nexus 5X using E46Fanatics mobile app
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Old 01-13-2017, 03:07 PM   #9
squirrelhill
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Northern VA
Posts: 144
My Ride: 330cic, 325xit, e34
Quote:
Originally Posted by GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY View Post
I had an almost identical sound coming from my wife's Subaru Forester. Turned out to be the front sway bar end links and sway bar bushings.

Might start there. If not, you still might look at the strut. You can't always simulate road bumps just by bouncing the front end up and down while parked.
+1 I had a similar clunk and it was the front sway bar end links. Remember to torque them down while the car is loaded.
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