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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 05-23-2020, 08:54 PM   #1
ziazhp
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Transfercase Function/jack test?

Hi Guys,
Trying to help my brother who has an '01 330xi diagnose if his transfercase is done or not. I'm very familiar with transfercases for E30, having replaced mine before, but unsure how the E46 works. He's been having problems with a noise coming from the front end, has had all the suspension redone but the noise is still there. Took it to a BMW specialist shop the other day, they put it in the air and in drive and only the rear wheels moved. Is this a sign of a bad transfercase? In an E30 all four wheels move, albeit with the distribution ratio slightly higher to the rear, but nonetheless, they all move. I don't think the E46 has xDrive like newer AWD BMWs, right? Just looking for some insight, is there a jack test to see if his transfercase is working? Thanks
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:10 PM   #2
77'911
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Yep, it's a permanent AWD system, 38% front, 62% rear. You might pull the drain plug for the transfer case and see what the fluid looks like. Even if it's shot, used low mile/km units are not too bad if you go that route(IE not factory reman or rebuilt).
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:17 PM   #3
ziazhp
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We did change the fluid in January. Is there a jack test like what is used on the E30?
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:50 PM   #4
77'911
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How did the fluid look? Any metal debris? I never like to recommend raising a car on all fours with stands due to liability. ; ) If you can get it up on a lift and see if all 4 wheels move in drive or 1st gear. This way, you can also have another person listening to the transfer case, or where the noise is coming from. If the transfer case is shot, the noise "should" be obvious.
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Old 05-25-2020, 10:22 AM   #5
ziazhp
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 77'911 View Post
How did the fluid look? Any metal debris? I never like to recommend raising a car on all fours with stands due to liability. ; ) If you can get it up on a lift and see if all 4 wheels move in drive or 1st gear. This way, you can also have another person listening to the transfer case, or where the noise is coming from. If the transfer case is shot, the noise "should" be obvious.
Fluid was fine and we replaced. Is there a standard test to see if the transfercase works on these cars? Any iX experts out there?
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Old 05-25-2020, 01:54 PM   #6
jfman
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The front diff is the first component to give upo the ghost on mine.

The pinion bearing gave out.

It sounded like driving on a bad brake pads, metal on metal noises.

It was metal soup when I took it apart.

If this is the problem, be careful replacing it because theres 3 different ratios avail on these cars.
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Last edited by jfman; 05-25-2020 at 01:58 PM.
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Old 05-25-2020, 10:03 PM   #7
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disconnect one drive shaft, your choice. Jack up the opposite end. Keep the car in gear. Rotate the disco'd shaft end. Power will only go out the other end and you'll get to feel the full gear rotation. It should be smooth.

There's not really a 'going out' state with these. You've either got massive wear on the gears, or broken a gear tooth, or it's just fine.

The assumption above is that your clutch is solid and not slipping - assuming manual.
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Old Yesterday, 11:08 AM   #8
TobyB
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Yes, the standard test of a broken transfer case is that the car doesn't move.
If he can drive it, the transfer case is working, as any driveshaft failure disables the car.
Most common is a CV joint pops out of the front diff.

It's just a gear driven offset case, with a planetary gearset
to split torque front to rear. No clutches, no viscous diff.

Not spinning the front wheels is usually just dragging front brakes.
The ABS/traction control should go nuts, though, and try to get all 4 to turn-
because there's no rolling inertia from the road, it usually starts grabbing spinning
wheels at random.

The transfer case is pretty durable- its Achilles heel seems to be lube, of which it takes only a cup.
And you can only drain about 2/3rds of it on the car.
I change ours every other oil change, as it holds so little, and is so easy to do.

I agree with the others that the front diff's working harder, and 'from the front' supports that...

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