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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 03-17-2020, 10:49 PM   #1
Scott Y
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Join Date: May 2015
Location: Colorado
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03 xiT drives smooth for about 10 miles, then starts to shake the steering wheel

'03 xiT 5 sp, 151K.
This happened once a week ago, and it reappeared today, twice. the car did not have time to cool down between drives today.

I'm Talking about highway speeds. All tires at 10/32 and balanced twice, the car drives great at up to and over 80mph. No noises, no fuss. After 10 miles or so....
The steering wheel starts to shake, first minor then gets worse. It feels like worn FCABs or an unbalanced wheel. Braking is straight, until the shaking happens then it tends to pull to the right. No pulsing brakes like a worn rotor otherwise. E36 FCABs installed about 15K miles ago, tie rods ends seem fine, no torn boots. No slop in steering, the axle boots are not torn, no grease anywhere.
The car was lowered for an indeterminate amount of time before my ownership on H&R springs. The car did have a shudder when accelerating at low speeds with the H&Rs, which was erased when I installed the Bilstein/Eibach combo 9K miles ago. The steering did shudder under braking, but that was fixed with the FCABs. All rear bushings (minus the subframe) replaced 15K miles ago. The CV boots aren't torn, but the outer boots are worn in a ring on the pleats where they were in constant contact when the car was riding low on the H&Rs. They are BMW axles, dated '03 and it's possible they are the originals. The car is incredibly clean, no corrosion.
The wheels are equally clean of brake, no visual suggestion of a stuck caliper.
There is no clicky-clacky worn CV noises, but both axles do have a mm or 2 of radial play if I turn the axle and hold the inner cup in place.
Driveshaft also balanced/good guibo/center bearing so it's not coming from the rear.

Since the shaking happens after 10 miles, am I right to think axles? I'm thinking that they are extra worn from the lowering and the heat of driving just does them in?

I was ready to order up some GKNs from FCP, but I thought I'd pass my thoughts to the masses in case I'm missing something obvious. Now is not the time to be wasting money and the boss doesn't like unplanned expenses.

Thank you.
Scott Y
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Old 03-17-2020, 11:19 PM   #2
jmo69
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My Ride: 03 325xi 98 328is
After I got my xi out of the body shop I had the same thing. After a few miles it would shake, if I eased back on the throttle it would smooth out. When I took the axle apart there was very little grease in it. New GKN fixed it. It shook so hard I just limped it home, trying to coast as much as possible. The body shop had to change the knuckle twice so IDK what they did with the axle in that process. They did manage to snap off one of the control arm bushing bracket bolts and put a nut and bolt in its place.
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Old 03-18-2020, 08:46 AM   #3
Bhewgs
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My Ride: 2005 325xiT
Year: 2005
Model: 325XiT
Transmission: Manual
I had the joy of going through this as well, on several occasions due to different components. Everything is fine until the moving joints start to heat up and their tolerances change. I'd say start with front axles - obviously if you're getting a pull to the right, check the right to begin with. When my axles went, the whole car would start lurching and shuddering after about 15 minutes on the road. If you're on original axles, it's absolutely time to change them. If you're on OEM axles and it's time to replace, go with GKN (sounds like you're already on this path).

Funnily enough, these are the exact symptoms I had when my front caliper seized intermittently. Go for a drive on the highway and wait for these symptoms to show up, then pull of at a rest stop using engine braking and (only if you have to, I was able to get away with just engine braking) the handbrake. Hop out of the car and put your hand on the spokes of your rim, if a caliper is sticking intermittently you'll feel the heat radiating off the rotor. My BMW OEM brake pads produce less dust than any other vehicle I've had, so visual inspection didn't do me any good. If this is the case you may be able to rebuild the caliper with new rubber. I rebuilt all four of mine with the ATE kit, and quite frankly it's a huge pain in the ass to get the piston boots seated well. I had one of the four rebuilt calipers fail again this winter and bought a new one to end the headaches.
On a different occasion my both my driveshafts started binding and produced the exact same symptoms, minus the pull in one direction. Rebuilt units went in and fixed that issue, but Guibos and the CSB were replaced at the same time, so partial benefits may have come from each of those items. I'm told a worn transmission mount will also cause these symptoms, but mine was in good shape when everything else came out so I can't comment on the effectiveness of replacing one.

The joys of living with Vermont roads...
For what it's worth, I'm another facelift xiT 5 speed. Hopefully you don't end up with the laundry list that I did!

Last edited by Bhewgs; 03-18-2020 at 08:49 AM.
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Old 04-02-2020, 04:11 PM   #4
Scott Y
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Did a brake flush and a general look-around, things seem ok except, I took a short prybar to the FCAs and there is a lot more give and movement than I would expect a 15K mile old bushing to have. These are the E36 M3 ones, not stock Xi.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kq6wtekcz...zYv_ukTca?dl=0

I've ordered powerflex FCABs.
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Old 04-07-2020, 01:48 PM   #5
Scott Y
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FIXED: Powerflex FCABs worked.

Only put 30 miles on the car so far, but the car tracks straight, stops straight, brake quake is gone.
The prybar test showed zero deflection with the new polys. Hope they last and stay quiet.
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Old 04-07-2020, 03:25 PM   #6
fanatichuman
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I have a question regarding that. My FCAB are OE and I can move them a tiny bit form side to side with a little pressure on the pry bar. They really don't move much. But, could that little movement lead to an intermittent rattle? I figured they were still fine, as I can't see cracks in the rubber or anything like that.
fana
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Old 04-07-2020, 03:45 PM   #7
Scott Y
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I'm not sure about a rattle, if the FCABs were worn enough to rattle they'd really be moving and you'd feel other things like brake shake or shuddering in the wheel, I'd think.
Occasional rattle could be loose heat shield or undertray, internal shock bushing; I suspect a loose or worn part somewhere else.
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Old 04-07-2020, 06:15 PM   #8
fanatichuman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Y View Post
I'm not sure about a rattle, if the FCABs were worn enough to rattle they'd really be moving and you'd feel other things like brake shake or shuddering in the wheel, I'd think.
Occasional rattle could be loose heat shield or undertray, internal shock bushing; I suspect a loose or worn part somewhere else.
thanks
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