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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 09-06-2015, 10:16 PM   #1
pauly99
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Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Montgomery, IL
Posts: 170
My Ride: 2002 325i
DIY: Power Steering Line Return Hose

So I had a pretty good leak coming from the power steering return hose. I purchased a BMW Power Steering Disconnect Tool for about $16 and thought I was good to go. The deal is that within the metal piece of the return line, there are four prongs. If the plastic piece is intact, the BMW Disconnect Tool pushes on those prongs to release the power steering return line.




I thought this would be a 30 minute job but was sadly mistaken as I heard some crunching while plastic hit the ground. After the plastic piece being pushed on disintegrated, I set out to search how I was going to remove the return hose line. A dremel seemed to be the best bet until I was turned on to another method by fellow member SilberVogel.

I had to act fairly fast because the leak had gone from just a few drips on the blacktop to literally putting in a couple of ounces of ATF fluid just to make it to work the last few days.

So basically the long and short of it is without the plastic piece to use the BMW Disconnect Tool to push against, you are stuck with trying to figure out how to dremel the metal piece off or figure out an alternative way. I decided on the latter.

So I grabbed my sockets, long 1/4 inch drive extension, phillips screwdriver, flathead screwdriver, telescoping magnet, pliers, paper towels, new power steering return hose, new clamp, Dexron 3 ATF, and a few long nose needle pliers and set about getting the darn return line off. We're going to need some room to do this job so the airbox, headlight, and turn signal will have to come off (or at the least be moved). So lets start with the airbox.

Unplug the Mass Airflow Sensor. Mine didn't have a clip so it pulled straight out. Use a flathead screwdriver to remove the intake boot. Then with a socket, remove the two airbox nuts.



Remove the entire airbox.

Next we will need to remove the drivers side front turn signal. It looks like a basket with a phillips screw in it. Find this hole just a few inches away from the turn signal. Use a phillips screwdriver to completely loosen this screw.



Once loosened you should easily be able to remove the turn signal from its holding place. I kept the electrical socket in place.






Now on to the headlight. Heck.. hold on a second. With the turn signal moved out of the way, lets remove the trim. I used a flathead screwdriver (very carefully) to get this going but you may be able to coerce the trim to be removed by hand.





Ok... now on to the headlight. In order to remove the headlight we will need to remove four 8mm nuts. Three of them are easy to get to.. one not so much. For this fourth one we will need a long extension. I have a 6 inch extension 1/4 drive) as well as an 8mm socket which is about 2 inches long.

Here are the first two 8mm nuts that we will want to remove.


and now on to the third a little further back.


Finally the fourth nut which is hidden in a hole on the left hand side. You will need a long extension for this one. My 4 inch extension didn't cut it for me so I paid a visit to Menards. Oh... and I also had a small spark of genius. I decided to pick up a telescoping magnet in case I were to drop this particular nut.


Now just remove a couple of the electrical connections on the back of the headlight.





Now you should be able to pull (with some muscle) to get the headlight out of the way. Since I have small hands I didn't need to completely remove the headlight.



Now that the easy part is out of the way, grab a very small flathead screwdriver as well as some long nose pliers. Because even if you cannot see them, somewhere in this line there are four prongs which need to be bent out.



Now might be a good time to remove your power steering fluid. Actually it is ATF fluid. Dexron 3 if I'm not mistaken. I used a turkey baster and put the fluid into an old ATF container.

Once done with that, remove the hose off the reservoir. Mine was held on by a clamp which I could unscrew with a flathead screwdriver. You may have a clamp which has been crimped on. You may need some pliers, tin snips, or even a dremel to quickly get off a crimped clamp. Once the clamp is removed you will want to remove the hose. Before doing so, grab a container so you can catch the ATF fluid which will spill out everywhere. Also a handful of paper towels might come in handy too.



The reason why we removed the hose off the power steering reservoir at this time is because it will make it easier to turn the return hose as we are pulling out the prongs.



Now how this worked best for me is a combination of a couple of things. A very small flathead screwdriver was inserted and twisted around one of the prongs. Usually I was able to twist the screwdriver and then the prong would start coming out. I would then grab the prong with a needle nose plier and pull out to the side. I think you can get the idea with this picture. There are a total of 4 prongs.



Then you grab some pliers and carefully (as to not damage the expansion tank) turn the return hose little by little til you can access the next prong. Again put the flathead screwdriver in and when you feel the prong, slowly turn. Once you see the metal prong pull it out as much as you can and to the side with your needle nose pliers. Again twist the return line a little to get better access to the next prong. Same deal. Find the prong, twist a little with the screwdriver, grab grab it with the needle nose pliers and pull to the outside. If the screwdriver does not work for you initially, then try moving the prong with your needle nose pliers. I had better luck with the screwdriver but I do admit that it took me a good 30 minutes to move each of these prongs and then take the return line off. And here is what the prongs look like once removed.



From there it was just setting about putting the new connection on. I took a paper towel and cleaned up the connection area. For me the new return hose just clicked into place.



Now we need to put the other side of the hose on the reservoir. Don't forget to grab a clamp first. I lubed up the hose with ATF to make sure I wouldn't have any problem getting it on. A few dozen turns of the clamp and I had it in place. For those who are wondering why I didn't replace the power steering reservoir, I replaced that less than a year ago with a fluid swap out.



And here is how it looks just before boxing it up...



So then you just need to make sure to attach the turn signal (making sure to turn the screw to tighten it in place). The plastic piece from the turn signal goes under the basket and phillips screw.
Put the headlight back in place with the four 8mm nuts. Don't forget to hook up the electrical connections.
Grab the trim piece and carefully snap it back into place.
Put the airbox back into place. Hook up the Mass Air Flow Sensor and put the air intake on. Screw that into place as well.

I refilled the power steering reservoir about 3/4 of the way. I then started the car and moved the steering wheel from center all the way to the left and back to center. Then all the way to left once again. Then from center all the way to the right and back to center. I repeated that step again. I checked the fluid once more and needed to add a few more ounces.

Drives great with no leaks.
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Last edited by pauly99; 02-07-2017 at 06:57 PM. Reason: Added pictures
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Old 09-07-2015, 01:34 PM   #2
Stinger9
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Poetry! Thanks for taking the time and illustrating with such clear pics.
Only wish it wasn't the older e46's that were having extra problems, as my facelift plays by completely different rules. Much harder to get the headlight/turnsignal assembly out as it is one piece. Love the more evolved design, but more of a pain to work on.
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Old 09-07-2015, 02:35 PM   #3
ChuckyVee
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Great job writing up this DIY...thank you!

I know sooner or later I will have to replace this line...mine is sweating some fluid now but not enough to where it drips...yet!

And, with my luck I'm sure the plastic piece will fall apart as well so it's nice to have a plan B to put into place.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-07-2015, 03:35 PM   #4
pauly99
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Wish I knew which Bimmers/E46's my DIY applies to but as this is my first BMW and I'm not familiar with other models, just call me clueless. Hopefully there are videos out there to help with removal of your all in one headlight/turn signal assembly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stinger9 View Post
Poetry! Thanks for taking the time and illustrating with such clear pics.
Only wish it wasn't the older e46's that were having extra problems, as my facelift plays by completely different rules. Much harder to get the headlight/turnsignal assembly out as it is one piece. Love the more evolved design, but more of a pain to work on.
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Old 09-07-2015, 03:51 PM   #5
Stinger9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pauly99 View Post
Wish I knew which Bimmers/E46's my DIY applies to but as this is my first BMW
Not your job, and no one expected you to know.
But if you wanted to really flesh out your knowledge of e46's, follow the link to here: http://www.bimmerfest.com/wiki/index.php/BMW_E46

And this will include when the facelift models started.

So if you're relatively new, Welcome!
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Old 09-07-2015, 03:55 PM   #6
DEADF15H
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Excellently documented, well done.

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Old 09-07-2015, 05:45 PM   #7
pauly99
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Much appreciated for the link. I've got some reading to do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stinger9 View Post
Not your job, and no one expected you to know.
But if you wanted to really flesh out your knowledge of e46's, follow the link to here: http://www.bimmerfest.com/wiki/index.php/BMW_E46

And this will include when the facelift models started.

So if you're relatively new, Welcome!
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Old 09-07-2015, 10:29 PM   #8
SilberVogel
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Thanks for the follow-up and the excellent DIY! Glad to see so many photos and that alhayek's approach worked out well for you. I'll update some of my previous links and will start linking to this thread in the future.

Since the photos aren't hosted on E46Fanatics, I've also archived the thread on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. All too often photos are lost after a couple years when external hosting goes down. If someone's reading this in the future and photos are missing for some reason, check here: https://web.archive.org/web/20150908....php?t=1085943.

Thanks again, pauly99. Great work and glad you're back up and running.
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Old 11-10-2015, 12:14 PM   #9
MNBMW325xi
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I was able to get my line off, but do I need the special tool reattach the new line?
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Old 11-10-2015, 12:18 PM   #10
SilberVogel
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Nope, the special tool is only required for removal.
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Old 11-10-2015, 01:20 PM   #11
pauly99
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Nailed it. I was able to just click mine into place using no extra tools. My only thought is to make sure the hose is aligned straight.

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Originally Posted by SilberVogel View Post
Nope, the special tool is only required for removal.
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Old 12-02-2015, 04:12 PM   #12
DIY4ME
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I juat recently had to do the same thing. While remvoing the headlight the seal around it went kaputs so i need to but a new one, the head light was a pain in the rear end to put back in.
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Old 02-07-2017, 04:51 PM   #13
najsauto
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Quick related question to this project:
In the photos, you can see the power steering return line hose and then directly below it is the "return pipe" as per RealOEM diagram (Part #7 http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/show...diagId=32_0958)

Now my power steering return line hose is filthy and needs to be replaced. My "return pipe" right underneath it looks just as horrible but does it look horrible because it is also leaking or because the return line hose right above it drips on it constantly and so it looks dirty? Has anyone been in this situation and only replaced the TOP hose, and cleaned off the bottom hose and found that it was not leaking, or is it more likely that both hoses are leaky?
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Old 02-08-2017, 08:18 AM   #14
markusmarkus
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I just ran into this very situation. The upper hose that runs from the cooler to the reservoir leaked. I was going to replace all the hoses but decided to replace only this hose. Leaks stopped.
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