Common problems with BMW E46

BMW E46 problems

The BMW E46 may no longer be in production, but it’s still one of BMW’s most iconic cars of all time. Made between 1997 and 2006, this car looks elegant, and luxurious, and has excellent handling. However, it also has several problems that users have come across during their ownership. But what are some of the common problems with the BMW E46?

Common problems with the BMW E46 include faulty rear subframe mounts, lower control arm & bushings problems, drivetrain issues, transmission issues, Vanos problems, PCV failure, oil filter housing gasket failure, failing cooling system, electric windows problems, fuel pump issues, worn-out drives flex disc, and much more. 

What are the common problems with the BMW E46?

Lower control arms & bushings problems

This is one of the main problems that BMW E46 owners with high mileage experience. This issue normally comes up after the car hits over 80,000 miles. Some of the signs of a bad lower control arms & bushings are clunking or rattling noise from the front of the steering when riding over small bumps or gravel roads. Replace the bad or faulty lower controls and bushings.

Faulty rear subframe mounts

Another common issue with the E46 is the faulty rear subframe mounts. After covering several miles, the mounts crack or become worn out, making the car shift while on the move. This is dangerous and unsafe for the driver and occupants of the car. Replace the bad rear subframe mounts.

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PCV failure and clogging

This problem is common in the BMW E46 models with M54 and M52 6-cylinder engines. The PCV or positive crankcase ventilation becomes faulty after being clogged with leaked oil from the air vents. To avoid further serious engine problems, the PCV should be replaced regularly.

Drivetrain problems

BMW E46 models with the AWD system have lots of drivetrain problems. The most common one is a total front axle failure. Another common drivetrain issue is the torn front axle. If you notice that your AWD BMW E46 has these issues, have them fixed immediately. Besides, they are quite tricky to fix.

Vanos problems

BMW E46 models with double Vanos engines, such as 320i, 325i, and 330i have lots of Vanos issues. Most of these problems are linked to the Vanos seals, which deteriorate faster. One of the common signs of a bad Vanos is a lower RPM range and higher fuel usage. Replace the bad Vanos. 

Electric windows problems

If you frequently use the electric windows, they will fail after some time. This is because of the cheap plastic track inside the pulley that the cable runs. It will become loose and not function effectively. Replace the track to fix the problem.

Oil filter housing gasket failure

This is a common issue across BMW models. BMWs feature weak engine gaskets that crack or wear out faster and leak oil. The oil filter housing gasket is not an exception as it also fails after some time and starts leaking oil. Replace the bad oil filter housing gasket.

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Transmission issues

Transmission problems in the BMW E46 are common in the M3 models. This is because of the sequential manual gearbox that they are fitted with. The main culprit behind the transmission issues in this model is the failing pump that activates the gear changes. Fixing this problem is quite cumbersome and you will have to take the car to a professional mechanic.

Fuel pump failures

Even though this problem is not common, it still occurs in the old BMW E46. So, when your car hits over 120k miles, you should monitor the fuel pump closely. Some of the signs of a bad fuel pump are power loss, dead engine, lower fuel efficiency, and difficult starts. Fix the problem by replacing the bad fuel pump. 

Failing cooling system 

There are so many things that can go wrong with the BMW E46 cooling system. If the temperatures are extremely high, you start experiencing the same signs as a blown head gasket. Some of the common parts that fail in the cooling system are the thermostat, water pump, and expansion pump. Replace the damaged parts.


Is the BMW E46 a reliable car?

If you’re talking about reliability in terms of used BMW models, the BMW E46 is the best option. Not only is this car reliable, but it is also fun to drive and looks elegant. It is the best bet for a person looking to get started with BMW. Overall, it has average reliability, which is okay but not better than most of its competitors.

Is it expensive to maintain the BMW E46?

When you compare the cost of maintaining a BMW 46 to other used BMWs, you will find that it’s quite cheaper. But if you compare it to the market average, the BMW E46 is still pretty costly to maintain. Nonetheless, this car still performs well and will last longer if well maintained. So, you will have to spend more than average to keep this sports coupe on the road.

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After how many miles does the BMW E46 start having problems?

It depends on how well you maintain the car. You start to experience minor problems as early as 30,000 miles. But with proper maintenance, serious issues may start coming up after hitting over 100,000 miles. And with proper care and maintenance, the BMW E46 will give you more than 200,000 miles.

What are the most common problems with the BMW 3-Series?

The BMW E46 is the fourth generation of the BMW 3-Series. This series has several issues but the most common ones are oil leaks, faulty engine cooling system, tail lamp assembly problems, and steering wheel vibrations under braking. Despite having several problems, the BMW 3-Series is one of the most dependable BMW series. 


The BMW E46 is one of the most reliable and high-performance used BMW models on the market. But as expected, this car also has several problems that interested buyers should know about before investing in it. Nonetheless, most of the problems are not serious and can be easily managed or avoided through proper care and maintenance.

Note that some used BMW E46 model years are more reliable or with fewer issues than other model years. Overall, the BMW E46 is slowly becoming iconic and it still performs outstandingly.

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Edwin Odipo

Why do you love writing about cars? Cars make our lives easy. You can visit your distant friend, relative or even rush to the grocery store a few miles from your home with a lot of ease. Imagine how life was before the invention of cars?? To me, cars are a blessing that made life more convenient.

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