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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 01-08-2017, 11:54 PM   #1
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Front End Rebuild Time

ok, so I'm looking at rebuilding the front end on my 330xi. (115k miles)

Investigation so far:
Lower outer ball joints on both sides are shot.
Upper front left strut mount is a bit dry.
Both CAs are stamped BMW, they are probably original.
Random Bilstein B8 sport strut on the right side. (all others look stock)
Strut mount on right looks new.
CV boots are cracked on both sides up front.
CABs are maybe a little soft, but ok.

Current plan:
Replace front left strut with a Bilstein B8 sport shock to match the right.
Replace right strut bearing, add new spring pads, new strut boots.
Press in new ball joints into the control arms. Current ones don't appear offset, will verify when I pull them.
Replace CABs since I'll already be there.
Pull and inspect front axles. If they are ok, new boots. If not, replace.
Pull inner ball joints and inspect. We'll see if I need to replace them or not.
Replace steering tie rods. Boot is torn on one side. Easy while I'm in there.


Then back to work that I planned before I dig into this thing...
new fluids in diffs, transfer case, transmission.
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Old 01-09-2017, 10:57 AM   #2
matt270avian
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Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Keymar
Posts: 169
My Ride: 2002 325XI
If you've got a little extra cash to spare, here's the route I would go:

New control arms (they come with the balljoints installed)
Replace all strut mounts/boots/bump stops/spring pads/bearings
Powerflex CABs (or hit up Rob43 for his super secret bushings)
Replace both axles if you're pulling them
Replace both inner ball joints
Replace tie rods but buy the BMW boots. The provided boots I got with my Moog rods didn't fit right.
Replace front struts with Konis, rears with Rob43 shocks.
Check if your rear springs are broken. If they're not it couldn't hurt to pop them out, sand them down, and hit them with some good quality paint.

Last edited by matt270avian; 01-09-2017 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 01-11-2017, 05:45 PM   #3
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Aaaaaaand there's more.

My socket come in today, so I pulled the axle nuts. Took a good look at the rotors and noted that there is plenty of meat BUT the groove on them is exceptionally deep. So new rotors, maybe some pagid reds to round them out.

Once the garage warms up a bit more, I'll go back out and see what I can get apart today.
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Old 01-13-2017, 04:53 PM   #4
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Picked up some 3.46 diffs today. Should make the take off more fun with the 6 speed.

Sent from my Nexus 5X using E46Fanatics mobile app
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Old 01-13-2017, 10:41 PM   #5
jmo69
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 1,837
My Ride: 03 325xi 98 328is
I went the same route when one of my outer ball joints failed and put the e36 non M joints in, they did change the caster so the toe was out of spec. Alignment took care of that. $100 and a 30 pack of beer covered the whole job. A lot less than replacing $380 worth of control arms and $65 bushings.
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2003 325xi StahlGrau metalic almost modless, just lots of new parts, wife's DD. 1998 328is lowered, X-brace, Sparco strut brace, HIDs, AEs, almost everything blacked out, my DD.

Last edited by jmo69; 01-13-2017 at 10:48 PM.
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Old 01-14-2017, 06:25 PM   #6
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Allrighty,
I figure an update is in order.
Work:
I pulled the brakes, strut, and spindle on the driver side today. The wheel bearing feels tight, so I'm leaving it alone for now.

Parts:
Strut reinforcement plates, diff plugs, transfer case seals and various fluids are all here. (Motul 300 for the 6 speed, redline ATF for the transfer case, mobile 1 synthetic for the diffs.)
Picked up the new diffs yesterday, so they'll get the new fluids and seals.
Ball joints: they came. One was missing a nut. ECM was awesome and is shipping me a complete replacement.

Currently in transit: new drivers side strut, sway bar links, CABs, Brake rotors, Brake pads, sensor wire,

TBD:
Still looking at the CV axles, I have splitting boots, but I may buy OE parts and reboot those rather than spend money on unknown CV axles.
Probably getting new seals for the new diffs while I've got everything pulled apart.

Last edited by WilloCO; 01-15-2017 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 01-15-2017, 03:31 PM   #7
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Working a bit more in the garage today.
So far I've pulled the left control arm and popped both axles (still need to dissasemble the right side)
Popping the axles was easy - I used a prybar and a deadblow hammer. The prybar gave me the angle and the deadblow popped the axles.
CABs are a bit soft IMO. (already have new ones coming)
The inner ball joint on the left side was a biatch to pop. Ball joint tool keep needing cranks, finally I used the dead blow to get the final release.

I wanted to note my take on the inner ball joint. It didn't have excessive play, but the ball does move around easily by hand. To me, that's a worn ball. New ones are super tight and hard to articulate by hand. I could have used them for a bit longer, but they would have contributed to premature wear on all the other new stuff I'm putting in.

I also found that my radiator is probably the cause of my slow coolant leak. The bottom is pretty wet, while the overflow tank is actually dry on the bottom. Looks like I'll be doing cooling system work sooner than later. Sigh. I appreciate the aluminum oem radiator, but I *despise* plastic radiator components.
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Old 01-15-2017, 06:10 PM   #8
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Sweet. More talking to myself.
Pulled the right spindle today. Found a bit of rust on the bilstein that I'll clean up before re-install.
I got tired of playing whack the axle and called it a day. The passenger axle is a good half inch out, but has stalled. Once it's out I'll pop the inner ball joint and pull the CAB. Pretty productive. I am not in a rush as I'll end up ordering more parts (and others are still shipping).
The wear groove on the rotors was pretty bad - I had to dissasemble the calipers on both sides to get them off the old rotors. I'm pretty happy that I've got new front brakes coming!

The sway bar links from the PO are utter crap. Glad I'm replacing those. I'm going to get axle pricing from CVJ axles this week and see where that'll put me. I also started assessing the work to pull the front diff. That looks like it'll be a fun job!
Both front springs have the same brown mark, so I believe that they match. I was a bit concerned when I found the random bilstein under there. I figure she'll be down for another month or two given all the wear and tear that I need to deal with (and parts I need to order up.)
I considered returning one of my strut bearings, but now I think I'll go ahead and replace the spring pads and bearing on the passenger side. That should put my front end at almost but not completely rebuild or replaced once I'm done. I am hoping that the rear end will hold up for now. I'd prefer to rebuild that next winter. Hopefully my diff swap doesn't uncover a bunch of issues back there...
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Old 01-19-2017, 10:42 AM   #9
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Sigh. More carnage

Parts have begun to arrive. New Brembo rotors, EBC Yellow stuff pads to start.
It's tempting to do brake hoses but I feel like that's a summer project. I have enough to do without bleeding brakes right now.

I've decided that the PO was a cheap S*B. The front axles are god knows what replacements. (axle nuts weren't replaced either). Boot is totally ripped on one, cracked on the other.

Anyhow, The right front axle is now stuck about 1 inch out. I'm pretty sure the circlip jammed. I'm hoping that pulling the Diff will let me get to that clip and remove it. (I'm pulling the diff anyway, so it's not like it's more work)

I'll be replacing these with rebuilt BMW shafts as soon as budget allows.
Meanwhile I'm making lists of various hardware bits to replace (pinch bolts, etc)

On the bright side, the wheel bearings up front feel nice and smooth.
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Old 01-20-2017, 11:10 AM   #10
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
After letting some PB blaster soak in, I disco'd the drive shaft and got all four Diff mounting bolts loose last night.
One bolt won't clear the subframe (yet) and the top two just needed some ratchet extensions and my handy ratchet universal joint.
Next part of the adventure is to break out my engine hoist to support the block while I work on dropping the front subframe.
After that I get to battle the POS front axle that's stuck and hopefully get the old diff out.
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Old 01-21-2017, 02:12 PM   #11
WilloCO
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 45
My Ride: '05 330xi 6 speed
Today was shafted work wise. The PO removed the effing front engine lift bracket. Thanks to the general forum I got a good picture and was able to find the part number. I'd hoped to work on cutting out the old ball joints too, but discoverd that I'm out of cutting discs for the grinder again.

Ordered a bunch more bits and pieces while I was gathering stuff.
Replacement engine lift bracket!!!! (Pretty annoyed on this one)
New strut mount nuts
New pinch bolts (those get pretty rusty on XIs)
Front transfer case o-ring
Front and rear output seals for the new diffs
BMW axle circlips just to be safe
And a brake caliper bushing set to replace one that's torn and missing the seal cap.

Once I get paid again, I'll be ordering axles and new inner ball joints...

Last edited by WilloCO; 01-21-2017 at 02:13 PM.
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