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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 08-14-2013, 02:19 PM   #1
BryanJoslin
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Xi-specific issues

Doing a bit of research for an article for Bimmer magazine. Curious about the reliability of the Xi models compared to rwd E46s. I know they all have issues with control arm bushings, window regs, sunroof panels as well as the usual 10-year-old German-car problems, but are the Xi models any more problematic? Any front diff issues?

Looking for feedback. Also, are you generally happy with owning an Xi, or do you feel it's unnecessary to have awd in a BMW?

Thanks much,
Bryan
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Old 08-14-2013, 03:12 PM   #2
SamDoe1
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No front diff issues but front axles are problematic. Other issues are similar to that of the RWD car. Some parts for the Xi are also more expensive which sucks.

Generally happy with my Xi but I wouldn't hesitate to off load mine for a TL at the first good opportunity. The AWD is a huge asset over the RWD cars in certain conditions in certain parts of the country.
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Old 08-14-2013, 03:16 PM   #3
Hogan773
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I've had the front CV joint boots crack and leak multiple times (just had the boots replaced which is still friggin expensive), and also had a front drive axle replaced completely once. Had the window regulators (all four windows!) once each but as you said that is not XI specific.

Have overall been happy with its performance in Chicago snow, although I can't really compare since I didn't have a RWD BMW to drive in equivalent conditions. My wife drives the car a lot and she wanted 4WD for performance and safety in snow. I myself might have been tempted to see if I could get away with a RWD.
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Old 08-14-2013, 06:11 PM   #4
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I disagree that front axles are "problematic." They just wear out like they do on all AWD cars. That just makes them higher maintenance. I literally just got done yesterday replacing an axle on an AWD toyota.

If anything, XI's may have fewer "problems" because the rear subframe failure is never an issue on XIs.

I got my XI when I was doing regular trips between Denver and Aspen on a year round basis. Dealing with a RWD car on those trips would made some of those trips more difficult and even impossible on certain trips in winter. Now that I live in Denver alone, I could probably get away with a RWD car in winter. But why would I want to? AWD is still a luxury during a storm and dealing with front axles isn't a big deal, at least if you replace them yourself.

When I picked up my M3 I had no intention of getting rid of my XI. Both are very good at what they do, but what they do is very different.

Last edited by TiAgXi; 08-14-2013 at 06:15 PM.
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Old 08-14-2013, 07:17 PM   #5
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If anything, XI's may have fewer "problems" because the rear subframe failure is never an issue on XIs.
+1. Rarely any tranny issues either.

Strut tower reinforcement, tougher tierods and ball joints, beefed up shifter mechanism, etc. Starter, clutch, wheel bearings are harder to replace on an xi.

Not driving an Audi to go skiing is priceless.
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Old 08-14-2013, 08:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by TiAgXi View Post
I disagree that front axles are "problematic." They just wear out like they do on all AWD cars. That just makes them higher maintenance. I literally just got done yesterday replacing an axle on an AWD toyota.

If anything, XI's may have fewer "problems" because the rear subframe failure is never an issue on XIs.

I got my XI when I was doing regular trips between Denver and Aspen on a year round basis. Dealing with a RWD car on those trips would made some of those trips more difficult and even impossible on certain trips in winter. Now that I live in Denver alone, I could probably get away with a RWD car in winter. But why would I want to? AWD is still a luxury during a storm and dealing with front axles isn't a big deal, at least if you replace them yourself.

When I picked up my M3 I had no intention of getting rid of my XI. Both are very good at what they do, but what they do is very different.

Well said!
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Old 08-15-2013, 10:25 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by TiAgXi View Post
I disagree that front axles are "problematic." They just wear out like they do on all AWD cars. That just makes them higher maintenance. I literally just got done yesterday replacing an axle on an AWD toyota.

If anything, XI's may have fewer "problems" because the rear subframe failure is never an issue on XIs.

I got my XI when I was doing regular trips between Denver and Aspen on a year round basis. Dealing with a RWD car on those trips would made some of those trips more difficult and even impossible on certain trips in winter. Now that I live in Denver alone, I could probably get away with a RWD car in winter. But why would I want to? AWD is still a luxury during a storm and dealing with front axles isn't a big deal, at least if you replace them yourself.

When I picked up my M3 I had no intention of getting rid of my XI. Both are very good at what they do, but what they do is very different.
The front CV boots seem to be made of a material slightly stronger than tissue paper (ok I am exaggerating but mine seem to split or leak every 3 or 4 years)
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Old 08-15-2013, 10:40 AM   #8
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Generally happy with my Xi but I wouldn't hesitate to off load mine for a TL at the first good opportunity. The AWD is a huge asset over the RWD cars in certain conditions in certain parts of the country.
I should elaborate that I'm not wanting to offload this car because it's an Xi but the general upkeep of a BMW is rather excessive for my lifestyle and I don't want to pay someone else to do it for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TiAgXi View Post
I disagree that front axles are "problematic." They just wear out like they do on all AWD cars. That just makes them higher maintenance. I literally just got done yesterday replacing an axle on an AWD toyota.
How many miles on the Toyota and how many times were the axles replaced in that time period?
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Old 08-15-2013, 12:37 PM   #9
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How many miles on the Toyota and how many times were the axles replaced in that time period?
Replaced one axle at ~127k (dunno if that was the original) and the other at ~103k and again at ~185k. I bought the car w/o records just under 100k miles so I have no idea what happened before that.

FWIW, I don't bother with replacing boots because a refurb'd axle for a toyota is ~$50. So I just wait until they're destroyed and then I replace them.

My XI presently has axles with ~65k and 45k miles respectively (no issues, no tears). I dont believe the rubber is inferior on a BMW axle.

In the last ~50k miles (about 2 years) I've done the following maintenance and repairs on my car (off the top of my head):
-exhaust side CPS (common issue for all e46s)
-replaced an axle
-changed the oil a few times
-changed brake pads, rotors and fluids multiple times (due to tracking the car)
-swapped out an air filter
-swapped out an expansion tank that prematurely exploded (also common to all e46)
-swapped out a power steering pump even though it turned out I didn't need to. the filter imploded and I thought I had a bad pump. i turned out I just needed a new p/s filter/reservoir.
that's about it. I've gone through some tires in that time too.

In that same time period I've probably done 6-7 track days. the car has taken it like a champ.

It's no toyota but that's pretty damn good for a euro car with 165k miles on the odo. And one that has been treated like a proper sports sedan, no less.

Last edited by TiAgXi; 08-15-2013 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 08-15-2013, 02:48 PM   #10
Kubica
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^I'm on my 14th and 15th axles after about a hundred autox and track days. Boots rip and cv get loose, but I've never had a failure.
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Old 08-15-2013, 05:19 PM   #11
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Track days are hard on cars. If your car has a weakness, the track will expose it.

100 autox and track days? I'm impressed and jealous.
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Old 08-15-2013, 07:58 PM   #12
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Boots be boots, the material they make them out of can vary with replacement non-OEM parts. So, the baseline shall be BMW boots to continue this observation. I have a MINI Cooper (made by BMW) which since purchased new, wears the factory boots at 70K. Okay, my non-lowered XI is on its third set. I caught rips and clamp leachings twice now on the original axles and always had OEM boots fitted. The axles lasted to 80K without failure. The boots? Not so much.

Discussing this with my Indi, he suggests it's weather related where our Pacific Northwest winters are brutal. The rubber gets whacked with packed snow, ice shards and minor glacial debris. Seems reasonable but that stupid MINI doesn't have this boot hunger? I missed a recent rip and it started the dreaded clicking deal. I started ordering up a Lemford (German) replacement knowing most of the "cost-effective" flavors are junk. I asked the Indi about installing them when he suggested EMPI that he has never had recalls and offers a three year, P&L warranty. They are seriously cheaper yet look quality. The shafts are smaller diameter because they're solid where BMW's are hollow. They drive balanced and perhaps have heavier boots? I like 'em so far.

I did both sides ($400) and bought myself three years of not messin' with boots or axles. Problem solved.
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Old 08-15-2013, 10:07 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by White_Knuckles View Post
Boots be boots, the material they make them out of can vary with replacement non-OEM parts. So, the baseline shall be BMW boots to continue this observation. I have a MINI Cooper (made by BMW) which since purchased new, wears the factory boots at 70K. Okay, my non-lowered XI is on its third set. I caught rips and clamp leachings twice now on the original axles and always had OEM boots fitted. The axles lasted to 80K without failure. The boots? Not so much.

Discussing this with my Indi, he suggests it's weather related where our Pacific Northwest winters are brutal. The rubber gets whacked with packed snow, ice shards and minor glacial debris. Seems reasonable but that stupid MINI doesn't have this boot hunger? I missed a recent rip and it started the dreaded clicking deal. I started ordering up a Lemford (German) replacement knowing most of the "cost-effective" flavors are junk. I asked the Indi about installing them when he suggested EMPI that he has never had recalls and offers a three year, P&L warranty. They are seriously cheaper yet look quality. The shafts are smaller diameter because they're solid where BMW's are hollow. They drive balanced and perhaps have heavier boots? I like 'em so far.

I did both sides ($400) and bought myself three years of not messin' with boots or axles. Problem solved.
yep this has been my experience too with the boots....every few years, getting that nice oil leak then splattttterrr, then my wallet gets $300 lighter magically....$35 "boot kit" and the rest is laborrrrrrrrrr ugh
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Old 08-16-2013, 10:08 PM   #14
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X3's of the same era do not go through cv boots like we do. I'm not sure exactly why.
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Old 08-18-2013, 10:55 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by White_Knuckles View Post
Boots be boots, the material they make them out of can vary with replacement non-OEM parts. So, the baseline shall be BMW boots to continue this observation. I have a MINI Cooper (made by BMW) which since purchased new, wears the factory boots at 70K. Okay, my non-lowered XI is on its third set. I caught rips and clamp leachings twice now on the original axles and always had OEM boots fitted. The axles lasted to 80K without failure. The boots? Not so much.

Discussing this with my Indi, he suggests it's weather related where our Pacific Northwest winters are brutal. The rubber gets whacked with packed snow, ice shards and minor glacial debris. Seems reasonable but that stupid MINI doesn't have this boot hunger? I missed a recent rip and it started the dreaded clicking deal. I started ordering up a Lemford (German) replacement knowing most of the "cost-effective" flavors are junk. I asked the Indi about installing them when he suggested EMPI that he has never had recalls and offers a three year, P&L warranty. They are seriously cheaper yet look quality. The shafts are smaller diameter because they're solid where BMW's are hollow. They drive balanced and perhaps have heavier boots? I like 'em so far.

I did both sides ($400) and bought myself three years of not messin' with boots or axles. Problem solved.
How are those EMPI's? I just found a leak on the passengers side cv joint so decided to swap out the axle I'm leaning towards the cardone select but the price difference isn't much between those and the empi
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:50 PM   #16
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I researched a little as well. Seems the Cardone's may have an issue should they be rebuilt BMW cores or the "new", China made option. The suggestions were they the remans seem to be fine where the new version had failure issues.

Th EMPI recommendation had two sides. One, I remember them as a foreign part supplier going back years. German stuff. I looked at them pre-install and they feel heavy and seem well made. Two, with a three year warr per the shop, I don't care if they shred a boot or something. The owner would not put in parts he knows he'll revisit.

They feel uber-smooth with no vibes after a months use. They're probably made somewhere scary but we see that across the board these days. Searching this site, very little is mentioned about EMPI? Will update with a follow-up thread so others find out.
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Old 08-19-2013, 10:29 AM   #17
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Thanks guys. Glad to hear front axles seem to be the only real concerns over a RWD E46. Appreciate the help.
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Old 08-19-2013, 10:40 AM   #18
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I got my 325xi manual CPO'd at 40,000. Now had 140,000. Replaced passenger side axle once at 130,000. Never had to touch driver side axle. For CV boots I've probably replaced each side 3-4 times, so expect to replace them every 20K-25K miles. My Mom's 850 Volvo from the 90s had CV boots that lasted about 25K so seems somewhat standard? Thought just an N of 2.

After living in Boston for 4 years and lots of CA ski trips (i.e., 4wd with snow tires ok otherwise must put on chains) the AWD is simply so nice to have... never gotten stuck and have driven through some serious snow in the CA Sierras...
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Old 08-19-2013, 01:35 PM   #19
SamDoe1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TiAgXi View Post
Replaced one axle at ~127k (dunno if that was the original) and the other at ~103k and again at ~185k. I bought the car w/o records just under 100k miles so I have no idea what happened before that.

FWIW, I don't bother with replacing boots because a refurb'd axle for a toyota is ~$50. So I just wait until they're destroyed and then I replace them.

My XI presently has axles with ~65k and 45k miles respectively (no issues, no tears). I dont believe the rubber is inferior on a BMW axle.

In the last ~50k miles (about 2 years) I've done the following maintenance and repairs on my car (off the top of my head):
-exhaust side CPS (common issue for all e46s)
-replaced an axle
-changed the oil a few times
-changed brake pads, rotors and fluids multiple times (due to tracking the car)
-swapped out an air filter
-swapped out an expansion tank that prematurely exploded (also common to all e46)
-swapped out a power steering pump even though it turned out I didn't need to. the filter imploded and I thought I had a bad pump. i turned out I just needed a new p/s filter/reservoir.
that's about it. I've gone through some tires in that time too.

In that same time period I've probably done 6-7 track days. the car has taken it like a champ.

It's no toyota but that's pretty damn good for a euro car with 165k miles on the odo. And one that has been treated like a proper sports sedan, no less.
Exactly, the Toyota is far more reliable and easy to maintain but not as fun to drive. That's pretty typical. A Ferrari is awesome to drive but more unreliable and difficult to fix than just about anything you can find out there.

Last edited by SamDoe1; 08-19-2013 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 08-21-2013, 06:52 AM   #20
yellowboss
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Bought an '03 325xi new in June 2003 and we are still driving it at 158,000 miles. I replaced front right axle shaft once and the center support bearing once, recently. Aside from regular maintenance (oil, flushes, brakes, tires, etc), it has never failed us. Only recently, at 150,000 miles have we spent significant money on it with replacement of O2 sensors, drive belts, coolant expansion tank (hairline crack), rad hoses, thermostat housing assy, power steering resevoir, idler pulley, tensioner pullleys, center support bearing, guibo, rear coils (both broken) and rear shocks. Although this sounds like a lot of work, after 10 years of use, I consider this to be insignificant. Great car!
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