Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Top 10 BMW E46 Misconceptions

Top 10 E46 Misconceptions  

1) CCV will stop your oil consumption, bro.  

No it won't.  Unless your car is billowing clouds of smoke out the back when you start it up, that quart of oil you're using every 500 miles is not being caused by your CCV.  BMW engines are notorious for burning oil, even brand new from the factory. My 2006 did.  And even new ones today!  BMW says 1 quart every 1000 miles is acceptable. Porsche says it too.  Obviously, it's not acceptable to most of us, but just realize an engine that many times burned oil when new will no doubt be tired 12 years+, 100k+ miles later.  Your options are this: keep adding oil or rebuild the engine with new piston rings and valve stem seals. Or get a new car.  

2) Put "anneeseeze" (anti-seize) on your spark plug threads, bro.  

No.  Don't.  As Jason Statham once said, "Whatever you're thinking--unthink it. Not only does the manufacturer of the OEM spark plugs say not to, most manufacturers of most modern plugs (ones that would apply to the E46 anyway) say not to.  Your torque will be way off due to the junk you've just brushed onto the threads and now you've just muckered up any solid connection. Besides the plugs come with factory's own special recipe of anti-size on the threads--just not in auto parts store paste form.    

3) Put anneeseeze on your hub faces, bro!  

No.  Don't do it, Elmer. This can result in extreme injury or death.  Here's why:    So... Elmer.  Look.  Your wheels are held on to your car by clamping force at the wheel-to-hub interface as a result of your properly torqued fasteners.  Not your luggo nuts, your lug nuts, your lug bolts, your wheel bolts or your hub-centric ring/lip.  So by slippering up your  hub/wheel interface with anti-seize, you're preventing the wheel from reaching proper and  consistent clamp force.  The surfaces need to bite into eachother and clamp down hard and you can't do that properly when you've lubed it up. This is why you should also super-clean/grind down that interface as to 1)achieve superior clamping surfaces and 2) to prevent debris from crushing, effectively reducing clamping force as time progresses.So yeah don't lube up your hub faces-- You better hope your fasteners can take the extra load when your wheel is fidgeting around. ONLY use anti-seize on the hub lip to prevent sticking later but--NOWHERE else in or around the wheel. And CERTAINLY not on the bolts.  

4) My Kukebono pads dust less and brake just as good as stock!  

Nope. They don't.  There are no free rides when it comes to brakes. If you dust less, your performance suffers.  Go ahead and use them to get less dust, but don't expect them to perform just as well as stock--especially cold bite/feel.  That full sized Ford Expedition unexpectedly pulls out of the driveway while you're barreling down the road first thing in the morning should make you think twice before not going with stock. Some of those low-dust alternative pads are shown to increase your stopping distance anywhere from 8 to 20 ft.    Go OEM. 

5) ZHP or M3, bro? Can't decide? I need ZHP cuz has special rack and ZHP has unique suspension/control arm geometry.  

No you didn't and no it doesn't and no you don't. And no it doesn't.  And stop calling me bro, bro.  I've pummeled this rack topic years back and secured internal BMW docs supporting my research.  I posted those docs online and I alone can solve this rack mystery! And have, bigly!  Anyway long story short, you don't have a ZHP rack.  You have a 4/01+ 330 rack, which just so happens to be installed on the ZHP. Your ZHP's rack is not unique to the ZHP is what I'm saying.  Great rack, though. No denying.  My 02 330 had the same 'ZHP" yellow tag rack before the ZHP even existed.  And a huge no to special geometry on the control arms as someone once tried to claim.  I, along with someone else, smashed that theory some years ago, including in the thread w/ someone who did measurements. Your ZHP has cool trim/diff and other options, but it's primarily, today, a looks better package. That extra 10hp and more aggressive diff should account for the heavier, larger (better looking) wheel and tire combo.  Assuming that 10 hp isn't not 8hp over the years.  Definitely get a ZHP if you can find one in good condition, superb looking cars especially in convertible form, but don't think at all that it's in a similar category as M3 or some other upper echelon sports car category. It's a 330 with a body kit at 10 hp.  Whatever E46 you get will have a suspension that ends up in the trash anyway and a 3.38 diff from a 330 auto is just $100 and a craigslist ad away.  

6) Change your guibo (steering coupler) if your steering wheel shakes when braking!  

No, ding dong! That has nothing to do with steering wheel vibrations.  You should always change your coupler so you have new stuff and for maximum road feel/feedback/performance but the coupler has nothing to do with vibration or brake shakes. A new coupler would only make vibration worse as the rubber would be firmer.  A typically worn coupler will not cause added vibration.  It will simply dull response time from when the driver turns the wheel and when the front wheels actually turn.  A worn coupler causes and adds to sloppy handling but does not in itself cause vibrations.  If your wheel shakes when brakes, I wrote a whole 'nother article for that.  

7) You don't need no euro or BMW oil--your car will be fine if you use regular ol' oil.

Short answer is this: BMW requires euro-spec oil for use in its gasoline engines.  It meets BMW's standards for sheer/temp stability, wear, solubility, etc. under high loads, under extreme conditions, for extended periods of time--think autobahn.  By definition (not opinion) these oils are superior to non-spec oils.  And they cost the same or cheaper than your granpappy oil.  So why not.  Especially important for enthusiast driven cars who tend to rev longer, harder.   

8) I blacked to backed all my trim to make it look new again. 

You're adding liquid/oil/paste/cream to your trim so inherently it will become darker just due to physics.  But all you're doing is adding stuff.  And once that oil dries out or gets washed away, your faded old trim will just reappear again. So you'll spend $20 a month on cream for your trim to make it appear black for a week. You need to remove stuff, haze, oxidation, contaminants, etc. And the way you do that is through abrasive sponge such as Magic Eraser. You (gently) sand it away using this sponge. You just soak the magic eraser in water and scrub plastic trim away--never scrub painted surfaces as it can scratch.  Make sure you tape adjacent painted areas before using the sponge! Remove the top layer of filth on anything black and plastic and maintain with water after that.  This usually goes for your body/bumper trim, black areas around the mirrors, etc. No need to smear grease over your car to give you the impression you've just corrected your trim.   You can just reach in your pantry and use vegetable oil for that!

9) You has to use special tool to align RTAB! 

If you happen to have the tool, use it. But not necessary to stress over this and spend $300.  Simply install the RTAB bracket the same way it came out--use a pen to mark the angle.  For me, the bushing bracket has always been naturally lined up with a cast line in the trailing arm. Perhaps BMW did this on purpose.   

10) You need PPI before getting E46!  

No you don't, bucko.  If you are already a fanatic, know a thing or two about cars, you may be able to skip that PPI and save you $300.   All a PPI on an E46 is going to do is tell you things I could've told you about your E46 to begin with.  It's going to need a new suspension, a new cooling system, etc.  Other things like brakes, leaks, you can see with your eyes. You have eyes, don't you?  All these things needing replacement should be assumed with a new-to-you 13 year old E46. What else would you expect? The most useful thing on a PPI can, perhaps, be a compression and leak-down test.  However, there are other ways to tell if your car has compression--like driving it.  See further. (Your results may vary.)    

The Mango Method
The alternative way to PPI
The Patriot as seen in the Santa Monica Mountain Range

1) Know who you're buying from
In the transporter, the quote goes "the way a man cares for his car is the way he cares for himself." Are they dirty in appearance? Stained clothes, bad odors, ketchup-covered shoes, etc. Talk to the owner too. Ask about the car's history.  How does he carry his/herself?  Do they talk with a lot of slang? Are you referred to as "Dawg" or "Homie"? Does the car smell like drugs? If so, run.  That's all fine for a used XBOX or something, but not a used BMW. Turn on the radio and see what music they were listening to also works. That in and of itself is not a true factor but combined w/ the smell of drugs or stack of unpaid parking tickets, it may be.  Point is buy from someone who has something to lose. Someone responsible. Also look out for horrible mods with poor taste. Intakez and the likes. Pass the test? Proceed to step 2.  

2) Drive the car. Long. Hot. Hard. With A/C on
Does the car pull strong? Superb. You've typically ruled out any compression problems.  Use the OBC trick to monitor coolant temps (google search how to access this). Has the temps stayed between 96-99c during your extended hot test drive? No overheating? Superb.  You can rule out any present cooling leaks/HG problems. Ask if the car has ever overheated.  If no, ask what cooling service (request specifics) has been done.  Ensure no check engine lights. Passes these tests? Proceed to step 3.  

3) Pop the hood. Look around with a flashlight  
Ensure no coolant stains, excessive oil stains (it's an E46, there's likely to be SOME oil stains).  Look to see everything is in the right place.  Reference my engine bay pictures and compare.  Anything missing or out of place? This may be reflected in the practices of whoever touched the car.  Is the car dirty but engine bay super clean? He could be trying to cover something up.  Also check all fluids and look for signs of abuse.  The coolant should be CLEAR blue or close to it. The oil is fine, if dirty, but ask the owner about specifics of the oil he used and how often changed. It should be BMW oil or an approved euro-spec oil.   I use this beast of a LED flashlight.  I do mean beast. 

4) Walk around the car. Look at the exterior
Are their excessive/abnormal amount of door dings? Not only can this indicate an irresponsible owner, but consider this as an added repair cost once you buy the car. Use it to negotiate a price.  Also look at the paint and clear coat, signs of prior repair.  Panels should have some orange peel to it from the factory.  Look for signs of repair such as tape lines, mismatched colors, smooth glassy paint next to a panel with orange peel factory paint.  Repairs in and of itself are of little concern as long as done correctly per BMW, but it could reveal a bigger problem or a lying seller. Look at the interior, too.  To me, a sign of abuse is an overly shredded/ripped apart worn driver's bolster.  A true E46 fanatic gets in and out of their E46 carefully and respectfully.  If they do that, you bet they treated the rest of the car that way.  

5) Records check
Do your diligence.  Ask a dealer nicely for a record history based on the vin.  Run a car fox or equivalent.  Google the vin # and look for anything.


The above has been my personal way of looking at potential cars to buy and it's never disappointed me.   Your results may vary and I recommend doing what you feel is best for you. However it is my opinion that PPIs aren't a good use of money so long as the car looks good, drives good, doesn't overheat after a long drive, and accelerates strongly with no check engine lights or other glaring open and obvious problems.  Most of us fanatics here are more knowledgeable on these cars than your average mechanic and already know what to expect based on the massive knowledgebase established for over a decade.  Be savvy, be informed, be safe!

Happy motoring,

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