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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 04-26-2015, 10:45 PM   #1
nallman
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E46 xi Axle DIY

Today I replaced both front axles in my 04 330xi. The symptoms that led me to do this project were:

1. Both front outer CV boots were completely torn in half.
2. The car would shake under acceleration after being driven long distances.
3. The car would click when making tight turns.

I chose to use Duralast remans from Autozone. They may not be the highest quality part, but they have a lifetime warranty and this is my DD.

The worst part of this project was gathering all of the right tools. To do this project I used the following common tools:

2 ton jack
2 ton jack stands
5lb rubber mallet
hammer
6" chisel
breaker bar
3ft piece of pipe (to extend your breaker bar
torque wrench (90ft/lbs)
16mm socket
17mm socket
18mm socket
t30 torx bit

and the following uncommon tools:

36mm 12 point socket (a 6 point socket WILL NOT work, you can find a 12 point at Lowes or Sears)

16mm wrench (preferably with an angled head, a 5/8" wrench will do fine here)

axle puller

slide hammer flange


This project took me 2 hours to do the passenger side, and 1 hour to do the driver side. This was because I had to figure some things out along the way. I would allot 1.5 hours per axle using this guide.

1. Jack the car up, put it on jack stands and remove the wheel. Don't remove the brake caliper or the rotor, it's unnecessary. Being able to press the brake pedal down is a great way to lock the driveshaft when you're loosening the axle nut.


2. To remove the axle nut you will have to lock the drive shaft (either jam a pry bar into the outer CV joint or, ideally, have a second person press the brake pedal). Some guides suggest you use a flat head screwdriver to bend out the tabs that "lock" the axle nut. After breaking my screwdriver I learned that step isn't necessary. With a breaker bar and a pipe you should be able to simply break the axle nut loose without bending the tabs out.



3. Next step is to press the axle out of the hub. Simply attach the slide hammer flange to the hub with the lug bolts and use the threaded punch from the axle puller to push the axle out of the hub with a 16mm socket. If you can't press it all the way out don't worry, you can punch the last bit out with a hammer after you detach the hub from the strut.


4. Detach the brake line, brake pad sensor cable and speed sensor cables from their clips on the back of the strut. When you drop the hub assembly, be sure you aren't pulling on the brake line. I rested the rotor on a block of wood to ensure I had slack in the brake line.



5. Detach the sway bar endlink from the strut. For this you will need to first break the nut loose with a 16mm socket, then hold the nut in place with a 16mm wrench and loosen it by turning the torx bolt clockwise with a t30 torx bit.




6. Remove the bolt holding the strut to the hub assembly (also called the steering assembly).



7. Use a rubber mallet to hit the hub assembly down and off of the strut. Once it is completely off of the strut, you should be able to pound the axle spindle all the way out of the hub with a chisel and hammer.


8. At this point I ripped the inner CV boot and pulled the axle apart at the inner joint. This allows you to set the big heavy part aside while you work on getting the last piece of the axle out of the differential.


9. I was so excited I forgot to take pictures for the last step. The inner portion of the axle is inserted into the differential and will need to be pounded out. You will see fins on the part of the axle just outside of the differential. Use the chisel to pound on the fin closest to you 5 or 10 times, then rotate and repeat with the next fin. Continue turning the axle and pounding on the fins until the last piece of the axle pops out. Here is a picture of my cat.


10. To insert the new axle, read this guide in reverse. I used the chisel and hammer to insert the new axle into the differential and the rubber mallet to push the hub onto the spindle. Don't forget to bend the tabs on the axle nut after torquing it to 310ft/lbs (my method of torquing it was to attach a 3 foot pipe to my breaker bar and tighten it until I couldn't go any further).

11. Open your beverage of choice (Redd's Apple Ale, for me) and pause to think about how manly you are (I actually completed this step several times throughout the process). Torque your wheels to 88.7ft/lbs and take her for a test run!


This is a rough first draft, but if you have any questions be sure to let me know! I'll try and revise this guide in the next week or so to include a bit more detail.

Last edited by nallman; 05-13-2015 at 10:37 PM.
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Old 04-26-2015, 11:03 PM   #2
Loaded325i
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Tech tip: To lock the wheel when taking off the axle bolt. Simply thread in a wheel nut and then use the appropriate socket and breaker bar. Easy and no broken tools or fiddling around.

Also if you don't have a pully puller tool you can use a cold rolled steel punch and a hammer to drive the splined shaft out.

Good job on the repair.
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Last edited by Loaded325i; 04-26-2015 at 11:06 PM.
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Old 04-27-2015, 12:11 AM   #3
KaktusJaque
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Very nice, this task scared me off, but you made it look much easier than my mind made it out to be.
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Old 04-27-2015, 08:09 AM   #4
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Congrats - I hate this F***g job. Absolutely hate it. It's never gone well for me and has been a PITA every time.

You think it would get easier each time - not so. I've replaced axles in the past on my 1989 e30 325iX (BMW's first AWD vehicle) and on two e46's. Just did the job for the last time a couple of weeks ago on my e46 330XI. This is the second time for this car. I'm giving the car to my daughters friend. Mostly for this reason - I never wanna change those axles again.

In the same time this e46 is on it's third set of front axles my daughter's a4 is still on the factory axles and it's 5 years older.

IMHO BMW do not know how to make an AWD and front axles - period. If you want proven AWD look for an Audi or Suburu.

BTW OP - congrats on your efforts - I hope they last longer than the 2-3 years I seem to see them wear out at. Loved the kitty.
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Old 04-27-2015, 09:51 AM   #5
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Hey nallman. What's the build quality like on those Duralasts? I'm sure I don't need them now, but would be curious to see if it would be an option when the time comes. Only a DD for me as well.
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Old 04-27-2015, 02:43 PM   #6
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Did this twice on my 02 325XI within 30,000 miles. First time was a complete rebuild of both axles when I bought the car since boots had failed and CVs were shot. Second time was R&R just to replace the cracked leaking boots.

The step you didn't photograph is the step that takes the most finesse. That is hammering on a chisel/pry bar at the right angle to break the axle free from the differential. There is only a single spring clip on the axle shaft that holds it in the differential and it is critical that you use the same one that comes on the original when you reassemble. I tried a new clip from the dealer and the gauge of the wire was to thick to allow it to go back in. So I had to reshape the original since it was distorted. I had one axle pop out on the highway after the first rebuild and I lost almost a quart of fluid.

I tend to agree that the BMW front halfshafts are not the best proven AWD design. I'm glad I no longer own my XI since this was the biggest PITA job I tackled on it and I didn't look forward to having to do it again.
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Old 04-27-2015, 05:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marinerd View Post
Hey nallman. What's the build quality like on those Duralasts? I'm sure I don't need them now, but would be curious to see if it would be an option when the time comes. Only a DD for me as well.
They looked good to me. Everything moved and flexed nicely, all of the edges and splines were nicely shaped.

If there's one thing I've learned from owning 12 cars, it's don't equate low price with low quality. Sometimes higher quality parts are designed to be unnecessarily strong or durable in regard to their application. For example, why buy a 6 ton jack for a 1 ton car?
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Old 07-10-2015, 11:02 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by nallman View Post
They looked good to me. Everything moved and flexed nicely, all of the edges and splines were nicely shaped.

If there's one thing I've learned from owning 12 cars, it's don't equate low price with low quality. Sometimes higher quality parts are designed to be unnecessarily strong or durable in regard to their application. For example, why buy a 6 ton jack for a 1 ton car?
Great dyi btw. Many will benefit from it. My question is in regards to your ride quality after installing these duralast cv axles. Do you have any slack or clunk in your drive line?
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Old 07-10-2015, 04:27 PM   #9
nallman
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Originally Posted by gonzales View Post
Great dyi btw. Many will benefit from it. My question is in regards to your ride quality after installing these duralast cv axles. Do you have any slack or clunk in your drive line?
Nothing that corresponds to the front axles. I've always had some perceived drive train elasticity, but I believe it has something to do with my guibo (flex disc).
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Old 07-10-2015, 05:14 PM   #10
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Nothing that corresponds to the front axles. I've always had some perceived drive train elasticity, but I believe it has something to do with my guibo (flex disc).
Ok, thanks for clearing that. I dunno but I think these duralast cv axles are producing the slack/elasticity and clunk in mine. I noticed after replacing the old oem ones i can turn the axle and front driveshaft responds with rotating after about 1/2" turn of the axle. And when driving it makes shifting and accelerating in first gear unbearable. I have new guibo, csb, engine mounts, trans mount, clutch, flywheel, rear diff mount. Ill be going back oem or gkn to see if this was the problem.
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Old 07-10-2015, 06:30 PM   #11
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Ok, thanks for clearing that. I dunno but I think these duralast cv axles are producing the slack/elasticity and clunk in mine. I noticed after replacing the old oem ones i can turn the axle and front driveshaft responds with rotating after about 1/2" turn of the axle. And when driving it makes shifting and accelerating in first gear unbearable. I have new guibo, csb, engine mounts, trans mount, clutch, flywheel, rear diff mount. Ill be going back oem or gkn to see if this was the problem.
Interesting, I don't have this problem. :/ Maybe you got a bad batch, I'm very happy with my axles.
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Old 07-14-2015, 07:47 PM   #12
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I did this job last summer and used an Empire axle from FCP, a real lifetime warranty BTW, and had the advantage of using air tools. Impact for the axle nut and air chisel with a punch to drive the axle out of the hub and a curved chisel to drive the axle out of the dif and back in. The only thing I would do differently would be to use my dead blow hammer to drive the hub onto the axle instead of a 3lb mini sledge. Mushroomed the part of the hub that locates the rim.
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Old 07-27-2015, 10:11 AM   #13
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Nice job and great writing OP. I did this last year on my XI...it was a pita!
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Old 07-27-2015, 03:23 PM   #14
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Very useful post, I will definitely follow this + the Bentley manual for technical reference. Unsure if I'll end up doing more major maintenance items like this before selling, but thank you regardless! These xi axles are notoriously prone to failure.
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Old 08-14-2015, 08:55 PM   #15
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I did both,driver side was hard getting the shaft out of the differential,On the passenger side i tried something and it worked great,and got the axle out in no time,I wish I videoed it,but didn't, so ill try and explain it the best i can.
I put a ratchet strap around it like a lasso,wrapping it around the the piece with the flange where you put the punch or screwdriver, to knock it out,(clean it off and double wrap the strap,(putting the strap through the ring,instead of using the hook) and put the other end with the ratchet on something stationary,parallel to the car,or you could put a 2x4 or 2x2 piece of pine(framing lumber),cut to fit in the wheel well,(use a short strap)and just snug the strap with the ratchet so there is tension on it,and then use a punch or long screw driver,and pop it with a 3lb or 4lb dead blow hammer, or similar. Mine popped out on the 1st blow,I couldn't believe it.The 1st one took a long time,most of it,trying to get the axle out.
Putting the tension on it stopped the clip from acting like a spring,and absorbing the blow, many times, you will see guys in the videos,pounding on it,trying to get it out. it made the job so much easier.
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new plugs-O2 sensors pre cat replaced ccv valve and 4 hoses-S.A.P.hoses and intake plug-M.A.F-intake boot oil housing gasket water pump and belts-fuel filter-fuel pump-cleaned I.C.V.-throttle body-changed front differential oil-compression test 185 psi avg-drivers side-axle-passenger side axle
passenger side wheel bearing-front lower control arms-control arm bushings-Steering Rack Boots-alternator-rt front tie rod.

Last edited by zigoapex; 08-14-2015 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 08-15-2015, 04:13 PM   #16
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zigoapex, your list of projects looks similar to mine. I haven't done a wheel bearing or control arms yet but I have done the starter and door lock actuator. Fuel pump and thermostat twice, alternator four times and drivers window regulator three times.
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Old 08-19-2015, 04:05 PM   #17
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zigoapex, your list of projects looks similar to mine. I haven't done a wheel bearing or control arms yet but I have done the starter and door lock actuator. Fuel pump and thermostat twice, alternator four times and drivers window regulator three times.

My window regulator is gone in the back passenger door ,and i think the drivers side is going also.I have been getting codes p1347,p1353
since i owned the car.I took it on a long trip,just got back yesterday,I put a can of techtron in it,ran that out,then put in a half of can of seafoam in it.It didn't throw either codes all the way home(300 miles)so i hope it finally cleaned the injectors. The wheel bearing job is a PITA,until i broke down and bought a press from harbor freight,then it wasn't bad,I have a shake in the front end,so it has to be the drivers side bearing,as their is a little movement in the driver's tire when i shake it back and forth. of all the vehicles i ever owned,this one is by far,the most plagued with maintenance issues. good luck,it sounds like you need it as much as i do
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new plugs-O2 sensors pre cat replaced ccv valve and 4 hoses-S.A.P.hoses and intake plug-M.A.F-intake boot oil housing gasket water pump and belts-fuel filter-fuel pump-cleaned I.C.V.-throttle body-changed front differential oil-compression test 185 psi avg-drivers side-axle-passenger side axle
passenger side wheel bearing-front lower control arms-control arm bushings-Steering Rack Boots-alternator-rt front tie rod.

Last edited by zigoapex; 08-19-2015 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 08-27-2015, 10:35 PM   #18
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Right now I'm halfway through an axle change on the drivers side, waiting for the parts to show up. Serious vibration after about 15 miles of highway driving. No ripped boots but the inner joint doesn't seem to have much grease in it. Went with a GKN this time, more $ and hopefully peace of mind.
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Old 08-28-2015, 10:06 PM   #19
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Installed my new drivers side GKN axle tonight, didn't go to bad. It went into the dif a little harder than the Empire on the other side but seemed like it went into the hub with less pounding. The last inch to get enough threads showing to get the nut on were the worst. Once I had a few turns I tried to draw it through with the nut. That's when I found out the new axle has a 32mm or 1" 12 point nut and the threads are different, I was going to use the old nut, but it wouldn't thread on as the new nut didn't fit the old axle. Good excuse to buy a new socket. All I have left is to top off the dif if necessary and torque the axle nut, last time was easy, I weighed 150 lbs. and just stood on a 2 ft breaker bar. I've put on about 15 lbs. so it's going to be a little trickier. I also found that the ring on the axle that covers the seal works nice for getting the seal started, you just need at least 3 hands. Once it's started a flat punch works nicely.
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Last edited by jmo69; 08-29-2015 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 08-29-2015, 02:17 PM   #20
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Went for a short test drive, about 8 miles and no vibrations, should be good to go.
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