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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 04-29-2013, 11:39 AM   #1
GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY
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Join Date: Apr 2013
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Wife wants an Xi. Questions.

My wife is looking at a '01 to '05 3 series sedan. I have been lurking on a few sites to get somewhat familiar with what I might be up against. We currently have LR Discovery 2's which I do ALL the work on so I am not intimidated by DIY maint. and am familiar with the proper care that European autos require.
As I would be new to this make, I am planning to have any prospective purchase gone over from head to toe by a reputable BMW Indy shop. Should I have a compression and leak-down test performed as well?
Is one engine preferred over the other for any major reasons other than better power?
Lastly (for now), she is seeing a lot of '03's over the other years. Any problems with this particuar year or is it just coincidence?
Thanks in advance for all the help.
- Bill
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Old 04-29-2013, 12:30 PM   #2
DavidDee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY View Post
My wife is looking at a '01 to '05 3 series sedan. I have been lurking on a few sites to get somewhat familiar with what I might be up against. We currently have LR Discovery 2's which I do ALL the work on so I am not intimidated by DIY maint. and am familiar with the proper care that European autos require.
As I would be new to this make, I am planning to have any prospective purchase gone over from head to toe by a reputable BMW Indy shop. Should I have a compression and leak-down test performed as well?
Is one engine preferred over the other for any major reasons other than better power?
Lastly (for now), she is seeing a lot of '03's over the other years. Any problems with this particuar year or is it just coincidence?
Thanks in advance for all the help.
- Bill
There were only two engines used in the XI, the 2.5 liter and the 3.0 liter variant of the M54. Both are pretty much bomb proof IF proper maintenance is done. The main problem with all E46's is the cooling system and with XI's specifically it is the CV axles. The boots are known to tear and cause the axle to fail.
As far as only seeing 2003's, it must be a coincidence.
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Old 04-29-2013, 12:47 PM   #3
SamDoe1
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^ +1 to everything he said. Other bit is that the manual trans cars came with an electric fan and the auto cars came with a clutch fan. The electric is obviously easier to deal with.

Also, there were two different kinds of auto trans units put into the E46, the GM and the ZF. The GM box is what is in the Xi models and those tend to be a lot more reliable than the ZF ones but both require you to stay up to date on the fluid changes (no flushes). If you go into the RWD models, they came with both the ZF and GM so you might be rolling the dice on that.

Other than that, nothing is overly bad to work on. Front suspension bushings and control arms tend to wear but aren't too bad to replace.

Only downside I can see for you is I'm not sure if you'll have enough time to keep the E46 going with all the time I'm sure you're spending underneath the Land Rover...

Last edited by SamDoe1; 04-29-2013 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:33 PM   #4
GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY
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Originally Posted by DavidDee View Post
There were only two engines used in the XI, the 2.5 liter and the 3.0 liter variant of the M54. Both are pretty much bomb proof IF proper maintenance is done. The main problem with all E46's is the cooling system and with XI's specifically it is the CV axles. The boots are known to tear and cause the axle to fail.
As far as only seeing 2003's, it must be a coincidence.
Read about the CV axles. What's the deal with the cooling system? Any warning signs to look for?
Thanks - Bill
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:40 PM   #5
chilone
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As far as the axles are concerned, the boots/axles are really no more of a concern that on front wheel drive vehicles. Same basic animal. Just keep an eye on them and replace boots immediately when they tear. Do this and you won't have to replace expensive axles :]
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:41 PM   #6
GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY
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Originally Posted by SamDoe1 View Post
^ +1 to everything he said. Other bit is that the manual trans cars came with an electric fan and the auto cars came with a clutch fan. The electric is obviously easier to deal with.

Also, there were two different kinds of auto trans units put into the E46, the GM and the ZF. The GM box is what is in the Xi models and those tend to be a lot more reliable than the ZF ones but both require you to stay up to date on the fluid changes (no flushes). If you go into the RWD models, they came with both the ZF and GM so you might be rolling the dice on that.

Other than that, nothing is overly bad to work on. Front suspension bushings and control arms tend to wear but aren't too bad to replace.

Only downside I can see for you is I'm not sure if you'll have enough time to keep the E46 going with all the time I'm sure you're spending underneath the Land Rover...
Hear that. But I'm a glutton for punishment. Sounds like BMW's are a lot like the LR's. Neglect them and they'll punish you hard. Pamper them a little bit and your a lot better off. Kind of like the wife.
- Bill
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:43 PM   #7
GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY
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As far as the axles are concerned, the boots/axles are really no more of a concern that on front wheel drive vehicles. Same basic animal. Just keep an eye on them and replace boots immediately when they tear. Do this and you won't have to replace expensive axles :]
Yea, the axles don't scare me as much as the "cooling system". Need to get a little clarification on that one.
Thanks - Bill
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:48 PM   #8
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Plastic pieces in the cooling system can crack and leak. Just need to do some preventive maintenance and replace these parts before they break. Expansion tank, thermostat housing, and parts of the radiator are plastic. I replaced all mine and hoses at 100k miles or so and now have 140k. I have had my car for the past 8 years and no plans on replacing it anytime soon.
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:51 PM   #9
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Plastic pieces in the cooling system can crack and leak. Just need to do some preventive maintenance and replace these parts before they break. Expansion tank, thermostat housing, and parts of the radiator are plastic. I replaced all mine and hoses at 100k miles or so and now have 140k. I have had my car for the past 8 years and no plans on replacing it anytime soon.
They must use the same stuff from LR. Exactly the same parts and issues.
Thanks - Bill
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:53 PM   #10
GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY
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Any thoughts on the compression and leak-down tests?
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:01 PM   #11
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Any thoughts on the compression and leak-down tests?
Can't hurt but probably not necessary.

Cooling system is just like the one on any other car. The only weak point is the expansion tank which can get brittle over time and break. Other than that, it's all good. Most cars need new water pumps at 100k for one reason or another (usually because they need a new timing belt), and thermostats tend to give up at around 100k anyway.

There's nothing overly special, you should be fine as long as you do the PPI.
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:48 PM   #12
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My radiator leaked before the plastic expansion tank and hoses after 12 years so go figure. However, the car is not parked out in the sun. Typical issues are GM auto tranny, CV boots, Fuel filter, fuel pump, water pump, vanos seal and cooling system parts. Find one from a private seller with records and avoid 15K mile oil change sludged engines. They are great cars. I still love mine after 12 years and have a hard time getting rid of it.
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:49 PM   #13
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Thanks all for the great info. Anyone know of any good indy shops in the Allentown PA region?
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:52 PM   #14
Iggy27
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Wife wants an Xi. Questions.

Yea I have a 330xi. Amazing all around car. You treat it right and it will treat you right. When you first get the car it might all seem expensive but after its all done your set for life.


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Old 04-29-2013, 03:18 PM   #15
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Coming from a Land Rover an e46 will feel amazingly reliable I am sure (depending on how many miles your disco's have). Cooling system I would plan on doing as soon as you buy the car no matter how many miles it has. You can get kits for around $300 from the sponsors (I got a kit from ECS Tuning).

Like others said, these engines will go forever as long as you don't overheat them or otherwise abuse them too terribly. My car has 250k miles. That being said, the automatic transmissions are not known as being particularly reliable. If your wife doesn't mind a stick shift, I'd recommend going that route.

CV boots on the XI's. If you keep an eye on them then you won't have to replace the axles.

Subframe issues are worrisome on earlier model RWD's, but I think the XI's are pretty much immune.

Bushings will wear out, which can lead to crappy handling and tire wear. Rear trailing arm bushings (RTAB) and front control arms and bushings (FCAB) should probably be replaced.

Otherwise, I've had just the usual issues with a high mileage car. Bad coil packs (easy to replace). Fuel pump (easy, just under the rear seat. I did it in a parking lot in vegas). Previous owner did the radiator. Thermostat (usually fails open so don't have to worry about a failure causing overheating). Occasional electrical gremlins, although these are pretty well discussed and so its usually easy to pinpoint and replace the correct module on the first try (final stage resistor = weird fan speeds. Relays in the body control module result in locking and unlocking failures.)

Don't be scared by my long list, my car has been around the block a few times so I have experienced nearly every issue that can pop up on these models.

Oh, and whoever said timing belt. I think you were referring to other cars, but just to be clear, the e46 has a timing chain which doesn't require maintenance.
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:45 PM   #16
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Oh, and whoever said timing belt. I think you were referring to other cars, but just to be clear, the e46 has a timing chain which doesn't require maintenance.
That was me, and yes referring to other cars. Sorry if it came off a different way.
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:46 PM   #17
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Get her a ZCP M3 and call it a day. Problem solved.
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:55 PM   #18
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The 330 engines do tend to injest a lot of oil. I'd get a compression test done on a car over 70k miles.
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Old 04-30-2013, 01:31 AM   #19
White_Knuckles
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The engines seem to be very good where I agree, a compression test under 100K would not be a must do.

Beware of any "SULEV", super low emission engines. Mainly found on the West coast ( California CARB spec.) but one could have snuck over your way. These are reported to be a bugger and a different engine - M56. All other 325XI's have the M54.
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Old 04-30-2013, 07:03 AM   #20
GROUNDSKEEPERWILLY
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The 330 engines do tend to injest a lot of oil. I'd get a compression test done on a car over 70k miles.
Yea, we're a little gun-shy on oil consumption. My mother-in-law doesn't drive anymore and gave us her '04 Subaru Forester. We must have gotten a dud, because that thing uses oil faster than gas. I think that most or all of the oil control rings have collapsed.
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