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The E46 touring forum. Talk about your sport wagon E46 here.

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Old 03-10-2020, 11:58 AM   #1
MJC12
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Wagon Specific Buying Advice

I've been lurking on this subforum and the Wagons-For-Sale thread for a while now, waiting for the right car and the right time so that I can make a move. It seems like that time has come. I'm familiar with E46's and the general list of things to look at when buying one as I've been driving my 2001 330i for some years now but I am less familiar with wagon-specific quirks.

What should I look for when buying an E46 wagon (that is above and beyond the list of general E46 considerations)?

The wagon I am immediately concerned with is a non-sport 2005 325xiT with a 5spd but advice need not be specific to that config.

Things that come to mind are...
  • Anything to do with the hatch (rear wiper, lights, etc).
  • Wagon specific interior trim.
  • Subframe? Is there anything different here?
  • Any touring specific maintenance?

I am also open to advice regarding the XI variety of E46. I can post a similar thread in the XI forum if needed but if anyone has XI advice, or even xiT specific advice, I'm all ears. From what I understand it seems that oil-pan work is much more of a pain, the front axles can tear, and there are more opportunities for driveline slop.

Thank you for any help you can give, hopefully I can find the right touring and join this subforum in earnest!
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Old 03-10-2020, 12:44 PM   #2
///Mark_D
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When I bought my wagon it was with the intention of it being a 'forever' car that I'd never sell, so my main priority was finding a rust-free car above all else. Depending on what your planned use for the car is you may not care if it has some rust. Really clean E46's are getting harder and harder to find in northern states.

With my car I'm planning an S54 swap so mechanical issues were not as big of a concern since the engine and most of the running gear will all eventually be replaced. There really aren't any major mechanical differences between an E46 sedan and wagon. The main differences are with the bodywork rear of the B pillar including the rear doors. I haven't heard of too many wagons having subframe issues but it's something to keep in mind. The rear hatch doesn't seem to have any major issues either, although if not adjusted correctly it can rattle. The trim pieces around the hatch glass can also rattle if they have ever been removed before. The little tabs break off and then don't reinstall very tight. The hatch also seems to be one of the first places that starts to rust.

Other than that, the interior kind of ends up lower on the priorities list but some of those cargo area parts are hard to find at reasonable prices and in the right color. If the cargo area is trashed it can add up pretty quickly to replace parts unless you find a donor car at a salvage yard. The folding rear seats and seat bottoms are also wagon specific, so pay attention to the condition of those as well. The rear center seat/armrest has a cup holder built into the headrest and that thing seems to be broken on a lot of cars.

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Old 03-10-2020, 01:05 PM   #3
MJC12
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Thanks for the guidance Mark. It's good to hear that the wagon is similar enough and what I've learned about sedans remains useful.

After purchasing a wagon I'll have two cars for two purposes. I plan on keeping the sedan and using it as a bit of a project car that I can use to experiment a little and expand my skills as a mechanic. It will be set up for summer performance, the occasional track day, and maybe an S54 swap down the road. It's already up around 185k but has no issues currently.

The wagon will simply be maintained as close to stock as possible and I'll use it for everything else. This includes early spring/late fall/winter driving, camp and ski trips, moving cargo, etc. Though I'd like the wagon to be as rust free as possible, as I would with any car purchase, I can live with a body that is a little rougher. I would not mind if I had to sand down a little bubbled paint and do some DIY paint work (as will likely be the case as all the cars up here have at least one small rust spot). The wagon would really be a functional piece, absolutely not a show car.
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Old 03-10-2020, 01:29 PM   #4
///Mark_D
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It doesn't sound like you should have too much trouble finding what you're looking for then. I was a lot more particular than most with the specific options and color that I wanted so it took me a while to find the right car.

If it's going to be something you daily drive then you'll probably want to find one with more creature comforts. Since the wagons only came as 323's and 325's some of them can be pretty stripped down in terms of options compared to the 330i that you're used to. If power seats matter to you then definitely find one that has those already equipped since trying to swap them in is difficult from what I understand. The 2003 and up models are also more likely to have rain sensing wipers and auto headlights, updated HVAC panel design, etc. I'm also a fan of the sport package seats and steering wheel vs. standard, but sport package wagons seem to be getting harder to find. If you're looking for a manual transmission those are even more rare, especially w/ AWD.

One other interesting thing about wagons is that (at least w/ RWD manual transmission cars) they have a higher differential gear ratio than the sedans. My 325i sedan has a 3.15 ratio and the wagon has a 3.46. It definitely makes it feel quicker off the line but I get slightly worse gas mileage cruising at 75.

For the 325xiT you are interested in it looks like it has a 3.23 ratio, while your 330i 5spd would have a 2.93 ratio.

http://www.bokchoys.com/differential/GearRatios.htm
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Old 03-10-2020, 01:48 PM   #5
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Originally my 'dream touring' had a laundry list of NEEDS but, after trying to think more realistically, most of those have become WANTS.

My unicorn is a Red 325iT, 5-spd, slick top, black sport interior with heated seats, HK Audio, xenon headlights. But if I bought that I'd never want to drive it because I'd want it to be pristine at all time.

The note about differentials is interesting. I am really excited about the possibility of owning multiple E46's because of the opportunities for 'trickle down parts'. If I treat myself to some black M3 seats for my sedan then I can take the sport seats from there and put them in the wagon. Same thought about the steering wheel although I would likely try to put a heated steering wheel from an E39. For these reasons the sport interior is not as big of a deal.

And if I S54 swap my sedan then maybe I could rebuild the old M54B30 and drop it into the wagon! And now that you've mentioned differentials there may be opportunities there, although input/output flanges need be considered.

EDIT: Seems the 5-Spd RWD Wagon gets 3.46 but the 5-Spd AWD Wagon gets 3.23 differential.
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Old 03-10-2020, 02:14 PM   #6
///Mark_D
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Nice! That is pretty damn close to what I was looking for too, minus the sunroof. I ended up finding a car with nearly everything I was looking for but with a gray interior. If you haven't seen my other build thread I'm in the middle of swapping it over to (mostly) black but keeping the gray seats.

I originally bought the wagon to replace my sedan but ended up deciding to keep the sedan as my winter car. I'm afraid that I'm creeping towards that "wanting to keep it pristine all the time" zone with the wagon, but I should still get a lot of daily use out of it when the salt is gone.

The trickle down parts opportunities have been great so far. You've got even more opportunities with your 330i sedan and your eventual S54 build plans for it. Lots of upgrades that could find their way to the wagon. I've found a few nice upgrades from parts cars in the salvage yards too.

If you want to drool your face off, check out this build from ZHP Mafia. It's pretty much my goal for my wagon but with S54 instead of M54B30

http://www.zhpmafia.com/forums/showt...ng-is-for-sale

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Old 03-10-2020, 02:32 PM   #7
MJC12
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Originally Posted by ///Mark_D View Post
If you want to drool your face off, check out this build from ZHP Mafia. It's pretty much my goal for my wagon but with S54 instead of M54B30

http://www.zhpmafia.com/forums/showt...ng-is-for-sale
Yup, that's basically my dre(46)am. I only glossed over that listing but it looks absolutely beautiful.
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Old 03-10-2020, 02:52 PM   #8
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A 3.46 ratio is lower than a 3.15, but the rest is accurate.

Ditto on making sure that the cargo are interior bits are in good shape, because they can be tricky to find replacements for. Still available at the dealer, but some can be pretty pricey. The large plastic trim piece inside the hatch is just a tick over $300 and the carpeted insert that goes inside it is over $200 for instance. Thinking to yourself "well the rest of the interior is good, it's just the hatch area so no big deal" may one day keep you from being able to finish the car.

Almost unobtanium - rear doors, hatch, hatch glass. NLA from the dealer so what's out there now is what's out there and will be declining from here on out, especially as how these cars tend to be totaled by insurance cos. for relatively minor fender benders. With most being owned by Joe Blow the car often goes straight to the crusher at $.25/lb, taking those rareish parts with it. Wagons show up in the U-pick yards every once in a while, but when looking to buy a used car with some damage to rear doors or hatch remember what I said here.

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Old 03-10-2020, 07:01 PM   #9
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When did the hatches stop being available? I had to replace mine a little over a year ago due to getting rear ended. It was available in the US & surprisingly affordable, under $400.
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Old 03-10-2020, 07:48 PM   #10
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When did the hatches stop being available? I had to replace mine a little over a year ago due to getting rear ended. It was available in the US & surprisingly affordable, under $400.
Hmm. I might have been talking out of my ass a little there. Doors are definitely NLA though.

I'm really surprised though considering how many I've seen totaled out due to rear enders.

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Old 03-10-2020, 08:09 PM   #11
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You guys have me curious to check some parts availability, now. I keep bringing the parts department lists of parts to price for me at work. Makes me glad I have a parts hatch in the basement, though I've sold some bits off it.

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Old 03-10-2020, 08:52 PM   #12
///Mark_D
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Originally Posted by VpointVick View Post
A 3.46 ratio is lower than a 3.15, but the rest is accurate.

Ditto on making sure that the cargo are interior bits are in good shape, because they can be tricky to find replacements for. Still available at the dealer, but some can be pretty pricey. The large plastic trim piece inside the hatch is just a tick over $300 and the carpeted insert that goes inside it is over $200 for instance. Thinking to yourself "well the rest of the interior is good, it's just the hatch area so no big deal" may one day keep you from being able to finish the car.

Almost unobtanium - rear doors, hatch, hatch glass. NLA from the dealer so what's out there now is what's out there and will be declining from here on out, especially as how these cars tend to be totaled by insurance cos. for relatively minor fender benders. With most being owned by Joe Blow the car often goes straight to the crusher at $.25/lb, taking those rareish parts with it. Wagons show up in the U-pick yards every once in a while, but when looking to buy a used car with some damage to rear doors or hatch remember what I said here.
LOL man, you don't miss a thing do you. Nice catch on the high/low ratio thing.

If I ever see a wagon in the salvage yard one of the first things I usually check are the doors and the hatch for rust. All the cars I've dealt with so far around here are too far gone to make it worthwhile to buy a door or hatch as spare. I've pulled a lot of other hatch related trim parts though, a couple of wiper arms and motors, but no rear glass. I just hope I never actually need a spare. Finding a replacement with intact defrost lines/antenna seems like it would be a challenge.
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Old 03-11-2020, 09:03 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by yjsaabman View Post
You guys have me curious to check some parts availability, now. I keep bringing the parts department lists of parts to price for me at work. Makes me glad I have a parts hatch in the basement, though I've sold some bits off it.

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Did BMW change the parts access for techs? I used to scroll through the parts diagrams and find random obscure parts, then slide over to dealerspeed and check the availability. That data contained the dealer cost and MSRP along with the US and Germany quantities. I bought a lot of parts I didn't "need" because they were good deals, or on the verge of being NLA lol.
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Old 03-11-2020, 09:20 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by yjsaabman View Post
You guys have me curious to check some parts availability, now. I keep bringing the parts department lists of parts to price for me at work. Makes me glad I have a parts hatch in the basement, though I've sold some bits off it.

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You know, this is something I've been thinking about for some time... Parts going NLA. It started when shortly after I bought my wagon, the mud guards became NLA (just as I was thinking of ordering them).

I fear NLA parts.

We should probably start an on-going thread (and get it pinned) to keep track of NLA parts. It's important for restoring these cars and keeping them in nice shape.

I've already bought some trim parts in fear of them becoming NLA.

The other thing that would be great to have is photos of the backs of rear trim pieces so we know ahead of time how they are attached to make removal easier and less likely to break during removal.
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Old 03-11-2020, 10:07 AM   #15
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You know, this is something I've been thinking about for some time... Parts going NLA. It started when shortly after I bought my wagon, the mud guards became NLA (just as I was thinking of ordering them).

I fear NLA parts.

We should probably start an on-going thread (and get it pinned) to keep track of NLA parts. It's important for restoring these cars and keeping them in nice shape.

I've already bought some trim parts in fear of them becoming NLA.

The other thing that would be great to have is photos of the backs of rear trim pieces so we know ahead of time how they are attached to make removal easier and less likely to break during removal.
Good idea. I invested in the Fisher Body manual for my GTO back in the day for this very kind of thing, something that a lot of muscle car guys back then didn't even know existed.

A lot of it is available in newtis for these cars.
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Old 03-11-2020, 11:47 AM   #16
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Did BMW change the parts access for techs? I used to scroll through the parts diagrams and find random obscure parts, then slide over to dealerspeed and check the availability. That data contained the dealer cost and MSRP along with the US and Germany quantities. I bought a lot of parts I didn't "need" because they were good deals, or on the verge of being NLA lol.
My DealerSpeed login is effed up and doesn't work.

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Old 03-12-2020, 04:26 AM   #17
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Keep an eye out for wire breakage within the hatch harness, inspect it well and just make sure everything back there seems to work as it should; hatch opening, glass opening, wiper, lights, defroster (might be hard to test).
One of our tourings had most of the rear defrosts fried where they rubbed on the seal, not sure if that's a common problem.
I found the plastic 'cap' over the rear seat belts breaks easily sometimes, not sure of its availability, but it has to come off to do rear shocks/mounts.
Depending on the year, look for leaks around the bee stinger antenna.
Hope some of that's helpful.
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