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Obi's M3F E46 M3 Maintenance Thread

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  • Obi's M3F E46 M3 Maintenance Thread

    DIY guides for pretty much everything on the car

    Torque specs for every bolt on the car in picture by car section format

    Note: the e46 M3 has TWO weak points, both of which can be locked down for less than <$1000 combined if you DIY. Those are the subframe (foam and epoxied on plates) and VANOS system (beisan). See end of this post for links. IMO, these should almost be considered maintenance items as the cost of failure on them is HIGH.

    Part 1: What you should do to keep the car running as cheaply as possible in the long term. AKA maintenance requirements.

    First, an explanation of the service interval counter on the e46 M3: Every time you turn on the car the cluster will say either "Inspection" or "Oil Service", followed by a number (a negative number if you've gone over). As you drive, and based on how hard you drive, the number will count down to zero. When it reaches zero you need to do the service requested (oil service or inspection) and reset the service interval. The car will alternate: oil service, inspection, oil service, inspection, every time you reset it. The car is not capable of displaying if you are do for inspection 1 or 2, so that is up to you to determine.

    If you follow this thread, you should basically do the following:
    new car with 0 miles

    oil service at 7750 OBC service interval miles (not odometer miles!)
    oil service at 15,500 OBC service interval miles (not odometer miles!), reset counter
    oil service at 7750 OBC service interval miles (not odometer miles!)
    inspection 1 at 15,500 miles
    oil service at 7750 OBC service interval miles (not odometer miles!)
    oil service at 15,500 OBC service interval miles (not odometer miles!), reset counter
    oil service at 7750 OBC service interval miles (not odometer miles!)
    inspection 2 at 15,500 miles

    and then start the entire loop again

    On my car I do oil analysis on the OBC dictated oil changes/inspections, and run a fuel system cleaner through before the non OBC dictated oil changes. You don't want to run fuel system cleaner before an oil analysis as it gets into the oil and can skew the results (which is also why I do it right before the oil change-- so it's not in there for the duration of the oil cycle). This means I get one fuel system cleaner cycle every 15,500 miles and one oil analysis every 15,000 miles, which is a good balance for me.

    Resetting the service interval procedure (the free way):
    -Ignition key must be off
    -Press and hold the trip odometer reset button in the instrument cluster (left button), and turn the ignition key to the first position.
    -Keep the button pressed for approx. 5 seconds until one of the following words appear in the display: "Oil Service" or "Inspection", with "Reset".
    -The service due is shown with "reset" if the coded minimum consumption limit has been reached and resetting is possible. If "reset" is not shown, the minimum limit has not been reached and resetting is not possible.
    -Press and hold the reset button again until the word "Reset" begins to flash.
    -While the display is flashing, press the left button briefly to reset the service interval. After the display has shown the new interval the following will appear: "End SIA".
    -The system can only be reset again after 2.5 gal (10 liters) of fuel have been consumed.

    Oil Service:

    -twice as often as the OBC (on board computer, the count down that appears on the odometer when you turn the car on) calls for. AKA, replace the oil when the service interval says 7750 or 0. Do not skip changing the filter. In fact, it is much more important that you change the filter than the oil (not that I'm promoting that either, but if you feel the need to skimp... just change the filter.) I Use Castrol 10W-60 ONLY-- it's certainly the safe bet, but if you feel the need to save a couple dollars, nobody can stop you. Pictures as to why you want to do them more often than BMW recommends here. Reasons to stick to Castrol TWS 10W-60 here. Note that by doing it twice as often as the service interval counter asks for, you'd actually doing it around every 6000 miles (varied by how hard you drive the car).

    -Oil change DIY here

    Inspection 1

    -oil change (see above)
    -Oil change DIY here

    -diff fluid:
    OEM fluid Castrol SAF-XJ + FM booster
    BMW part# PN 83-22-2-282-583
    diff fluid swap diy here

    -tranny fluid:
    OEM Fluid (6mt & SMG) MTF-LT-2 (NOT LT-3) fluid
    BMW part# 83 22 0 309 031

    -Engine air filter

    -cabin air filter

    -valve adjustment
    valve adjustment DIY here

    -chevron techron fuel system cleaner (bottle that treats up to 20 gallons). Try to do this and have it out of the system before your oil change.

    -If using turkey baster method, do power steering fluid every inspection. If doing full power steering fluid flushes, you can wait till inspection 2. Use ATF. Brand doesn't matter that much, I use Mobil 1 multi ATF.

    Inspection 2

    -oil change (see above)
    -Oil change DIY here

    -diff fluid:
    OEM fluid Castrol SAF-XJ + FM booster
    BMW part# PN 83-22-2-282-583
    diff fluid sway diy here

    -tranny fluid:
    OEM Fluid (6mt & SMG) Castrol MTF-LT-2 (NOT LT-3) fluid
    BMW part# 83 22 0 309 031

    -Engine air filter

    -cabin air filter

    -valve adjustment
    valve adjustment DIY here

    -chevron techron fuel system cleaner (bottle that treats up to 20 gallons). Try to do this and have it out of the system before your oil change.

    -coolant flush (50/50 distilled water and BMW coolant)
    DIY here
    BMW Antifreeze/Coolant - 1 gallon jug
    OEM Part #: 82 14 1 467 704

    -Power steering fluid flush. If you do turkey bastering every inspection (1 and 2), you can just baster here. If you are only doing inspection 2 power steering fluid service, do a full flush. Brand doesn't particularly matter here, any ATF will work. I use Mobil 1 multi ATF. Flush DIY here.

    -fuel filter DIY

    -spark plugs
    spark plug DIY here

    -RSMs and RTABs (if you have the stockers)
    video diy here


    -tranny mounts
    tranny mount DIY here

    Yearly (every spring works well for me):

    -brake fluid flush
    DIY here

    -general inspection-- eg cracks in suspension mounts, subframe, check belts for cracks, bent control arms, brake pads and rotor thickness (obviously continue to monitor more regularly if low), etc

    -wiper blades

    100,000 Miles

    -fuel injectors cleaned (you can get all 6 cleaned to new spec here for less than the price of buying one new injector)

    -I would do a belt swap at this point, even if they aren't visibly cracking



    -engine mounts

    -upper timing chain tensioner guide and tensioner

    -cooling system: At this point you might want to consider replacing the entire cooling system. If you want to car to be bulletproof, this is the route to take. That said, they are fairly pricey components so some could wait for them to fail and get a few extra value miles out of them. IF YOU MISS THE SYMPTOMS OF THEM FAILING, OVERHEATING CAN QUICKLY TAKE OUT YOUR ENGINE (as well as leaving you stranded). At 100,000 miles, I replaced:
    water pump
    fan clutch
    coolant piping

    -Other items to consider every 100,000 miles if you true want the car to be 100% reliable (no chance of breaking down):
    alternator (least critical as you get a warning period of the battery light blinking before it completely bites the dust)
    fuel pump
    coil packs
    CPV (constant pressure valve)-- you can replace just the o-ring with the one linked below and never have to deal with this again
    tensioners, pulleys, idlers
    Upper chain guide/tensioner


    The clutch is entirely driver (and mod) dependent. ArtM3 replaced his at 100,000k plus and it was only 1/3 used up, so don't assume it's going and replace preventatively-- wait till you feel it start to slip.
    Update: replaced my highly abused clutch at ~100,000 miles (see below) and it still had at least 50% life left!

    Suggested replacement items when doing the clutch (because they're easy when you're in there and a PITA when you're not): clutch, pressure plate, pilot bearing, throw out bearing, rear main seal, guibo, tranny mounts, center support bearing, and check the drive shaft joint for play. I would highly recommend doing every item listed there, as they will fail before your next clutch replacement and labor will be EXPENSIVE on them with the trans out of the car. Right now the labor is all buy free and the parts are cheap.

    Note: Assuming you don't let the clutch slip before you replace it (scoring the flywheel), there is NO reason to replace or resurface the flywheel when replacing the clutch. The stock flywheel is good for at least 2-3 clutches. This is an expensive part that you don't need to replace IF and only if you replace the clutch as soon as it begins to let go. Clutches are cheap! flywheels are expensive! Don't let your clutch slip!


    replace every 5 years or after a complete drain (unless it's an optima, which you can recharge after a complete drain)

    Part 2: Things to keep the car driving like new or better:
    (some repeat from above because they do both)


    Shocks can last anywhere from 30,000 to 80,000 miles, depending on how the roads are where you live. Pothole and the like determine shock life, track use is not particularly hard on them. Lowering springs will also drastically lower their life (the lower the springs the faster they age).

    video DIY here

    -RSMs (rear shock mounts)-- with shocks

    Every 50,000 miles: RTABs, guibo, tranny mounts

    Every 100,000 miles:
    pre cat 02s
    tie rods
    front sway bar end links
    front sway bar bushings
    front control arms (ball joints not replaceable alone)
    steering guibo
    driveshaft guibo
    engine mounts
    trans mounts
    diff mounts (x3)
    exhaust hangers (3 on muffler, two on mids)
    upper inner rear control arm bushings
    lower inner rear control arm bushings
    upper rear ball joints
    lower rear ball joints
    rear sway bar bushings
    rear sway bar end links
    subframe bushings

    front wheel bearings
    rear wheel bearings

    Part 3: Permanent fixes for e46 common failure items

    Difficulty scale: 1 is a cabin air filter, 10 is a complete engine rebuild.

    Problem: O-ring degrades with time
    Solution: high temp dupont o-ring:
    Price: $5 for parts
    Labor: 1-2 hours
    DIY difficultly: 2

    Problem: wears out every ~40,000 miles causing handling, tire wear, and alignment issues
    Solution: Polyurethane or monoball RTABs. Stock OEM rubber stiffness from AKG or stiffer from PowerFlex for poly, Syncro Design Works RTABs for monoball.
    Price: ~$100-300 for parts
    Labor: 2-4 hours
    DIY difficulty: 3

    Problem: subframe tears out of car after repeated sudden acceleration
    Solution: Turner subframe kit. Can be welded in or epoxied in.
    Alternate/additional: Structural foam (note: no more welding can be done once the structural foam is installed-- repairs or TMS plates!):
    DIY for epoxying the plates in and injecting the foam
    Alternate/additional: VinceBar style mount point reinforcement, which ties the loading to stronger/wider points on the chassis. This is the strongest solution for non caged cars. The benefit is that instead of moving the failure point, it creates a stronger complete structure. That said, it should be used with plates as well, and as of yet we have not seen a failure on a foamed car.

    Problem: The radiator is made of plastic and aluminum, which expand and contract at different rates. Over time, this results in cracking
    Solution: all aluminum radiator. Turner sells a good midrange unit made by fluidyne that's plug and play, or Zionville sells a top of the line unit.
    Price: $400-1000 for parts
    Labor: 3-4 hours
    DIY difficulty: 4

    Coolant Piping
    Problem: Over time and heat cycles the coolant pipes get brittle and crack
    Solution: silicone pipes. Don't get brittle over time.
    Price: $ for parts
    Labor: 4-5 hours
    DIY difficulty: 4

    Differential Mount Bolts
    Problem: the stock bolts sometimes snap over time
    Solution: BMW updated the part at some point in the M3 production cycle. The new bolts are stronger, and I haven't yet seen anybody snap any. Thread here:
    Price: ~$10 for parts
    Labor: 2-3 hours
    DIY difficulty: 3

    Rear Shock Mounts
    BMW's rear shock mounts tend to fail some time after 50,000 miles, and when they do they can do a LOT of damage on their way out.
    Solution: Aftermarket RSM with reinforcement plate. Rouge makes a nice set.
    Price: $100 for parts
    Labor: 1-2 hours
    DIY difficulty: 3

    Problem: Stock shocks wear out some time between 40,000 and 80,000 miles (depending on the quality of your roads)
    Solution: Koni Yellows. These aren't truly a permanent fix like the others above, but they last 2-3 times as long AND they're rebuildable when they need it, so you don't have to replace them. They also have a lifetime (for the first owner) warranty against failure, unlike the stock units. So they're pseudo lifetime parts
    Price: $600-1000 for parts (depending on compress to adjust or top adjustable)
    Labor: 4-5 hours
    DIY difficulty: 4

    VANOS lockdown (see below)
    Problem: Solenoid solder breaks down, cam bolts sheer, hub tabs crack, slop develops, seals wear out
    Solution: Beisan systems VANOS solutions
    Price: $450 (after core return)
    Labor: 8-12 hours
    DIY difficulty: 7

    VANOS high pressure oil line
    Problem: Over time and heat cycles the high pressure oil line (#2 on this diagram, part number 11367837614) that goes into the top of the vanos unit cracks and leaks oil (sometimes profusely).
    Solution: BMW has updated the part. The updated part adds an additional mounting point that solves the weakness of the original design.
    Price: $60
    Labor: 30 min
    DIY difficulty: 3

    If you haven't already done it, and are at or near 100,000 miles, I'd suggest replacing the upper timing chain tensioner guide and tensioner while you're doing the VANOS lockdown. It's easy now, and probably due.

    Originally posted by Rajaie
    Beisan has launched three new products for the S54 vanos. They are a seals kit, a rattle kit with tools, and an oil pump disk with new small holes to prevent the exhaust hub tabs from breaking. There are associate repair procedures that document the repairs. These procedures also document replacing the sprocket sleeve bolts that can come loose on the intake side, the exhaust sprocket hub that can have broken tabs, and the sprocket hub diaphragm springs that have been redesigned to be thicker and function better and last longer.

    There are three major S54 failures associated with the vanos. The solenoid coil pack failure, exhaust hub tabs breakings, and loosening intake sprocket sleeve bolts.

    Beisan had previously launched a rebuilt solenoid coil pack product to address the solenoid coil pack failure. The failure is due to breaking connector pin solder joints at the PC board. This is caused by a vibrating PC board that’s not well mounted. Beisan solves this by introducing a new PC board mounting bolt close to the solder joints to better mount the PC board. Beisan also injects potting epoxy in the pins housing cavity to better mount the pins and prevent pin vibration. The rebuilt coil pack was also accompanied by an S54 vanos sealing plate repair kit product. The sealing plate between the vanos solenoid and vanos body has Buna rubber rings that fail. The sealing plate repair kit provides Viton O-rings of the same size as new sealing plate rubber rings. The old failing rings are cut out of the sealing plate and the new O-rings are mounted in their place.
    The Beisan S54 vanos solenoid procedure and S54 vanos procedure both document these repairs.

    The Beisan S54 vanos oil pump disk product addresses the exhaust hub tabs breaking problem. This failure is most likely due to excess play between the hub tabs and oil pump holes. This design was first utilized on the Euro S50 engine. This is the predecessor engine to the S54 and was not available in the US due to high emissions. With the Euro S50 there is .4mm play between the tabs and hole sides. Unfortunately this play was increased to 1.0mm on the S54 by making the pump holes wider. This increase was likely made to help with the insertion of the hub tabs into the oil pump holes during vanos installation onto the engine head. The S54 hub tabs were also lengthened by 3mm and 2.5mm length champers were added to the end. The tab extra length with chamfers design change is also meant to help with insertion of the hub tabs into the oil pump holes. The Euro S50 rarely experiences breaking hub tabs, but this is an epidemic problem on the S54 and can in some cases cause significant damage. The tab breaking could either be caused by a large press force produced in rotating the oil pump disk, or a striking force produced by the tab hitting against the side of the oil pump hole. Inspection of the oil pump holes shows tab indentation in the rotational and counter rotational sides of the holes. The counter rotational indentation indicates tab hitting as the oil pump disk does not rotate in this direction and thus the indentation could not be due to rotational press force. The hub tabs have a 40 RC (Rockwell C scale) hardness, while the oil pump disk has a softer 35 RC hardness. This hardness variation explains, and indicates a design intention, to facilitate tab indentation into the hole sides. The tab and hole sides do not have the same curvature and thus at initial contact only an edge of the tab engages the hole side. With use the tab indents into the hole side and the full tab side contacts the hole side. This indentation technique also overcomes any tab or hole position deviation. On Euro S50 engines the indentation is slight and is considered optimal. Normally running S54 engines also have this slight indentation or a little more. On S54 engines with broken tabs this indentation is usually much larger. This fact is further indication that the tab breaking is caused by hitting. As the tab hits, the indentation is increased. This indentation increase allows longer tab travel facilitating larger hitting forces which further increases the indentation. This scenario perpetuates to the point that the tab encounters large enough hitting forces to weaken and break it. Beisan’s solution is to drill new holes in the disk that reduce the tab to hole side play to .1mm. This is a significant reduction in play and should prevent the large indentations that allow the large hitting forces that likely cause the tab breakage. Some tab to hole play is necessary. This is needed to address any part and assembly variations which cause hub tab to pump disk hole misalignment. Further, some play is likely needed to facilitate the initial tab indentation needed to fully embed the tab into the pump disk hole side and allow full tab side engagement. Current testing of the new disk small holes shows slight indentation of the tab into the hole side until full contact is achieved. This is an optimal result.
    The Beisan S54 vanos procedure documents this repair.

    The S54 vanos seals are made of the correct materials and are not failing. The internal piston seals are the usual design of Teflon ring backed with an O-ring. The Teflon filler material is a high grade bronze which is appropriate for this application and the O-rings are Viton which can withstand the engine synthetic oil and high temperature.
    Even though the OEM seals materials are correct the seals will lose some function over long term use. The primary degradation is due to O-ring compression set (flattening). The piston seal O-rings are under constant compression and over time and heat exposure take on the new flat shape and degrade in their energizing function to the Teflon rings. The Teflon rings will also from long term use experience some material loss. This seals degradation will cause some oil leakage and degradation in vanos function which in turn will cause some loss in engine performance. It is still being determined at what miles and age a seals replacement is beneficial. From initial testing it seems engines with less than 100k miles will not likely receive notable performance improvements from replacing the seals.
    The Beisan S54 vanos procedure documents this repair.

    There are many components that can cause vanos related rattling.
    Loose tolerance valve offsets are known to cause an engine rattle. This is addressed with a valve adjustment.
    Loosening intake sprocket sleeve bolts is one of the major vanos related failures and causes a rattle. This is addressed by replacing the bolts with new bolts and applying medium strength thread locker to the threads. The Beisan S54 vanos rattle procedure documents this repair.
    Sprocket rotational looseness facilitates parts chatter and rattle. The camshaft sprocket is mounted on a sleeve which is mounted to the camshaft. This sprocket sleeve mounting facilitates the rotation of the camshaft independent of the sprocket to allow timing adjustment for variable camshaft/valve timing. To prevent sprocket chatter and rattling BMW incorporates a diaphragm spring that presses against the sprocket. This dampens the sprocket chatter movements to resolve the rattle while still allowing rotation of the camshaft on the sprocket. The S54 diaphragm spring and associate pressure plate is the same part used on the Euro S50 and S62 engines. This spring was deemed too weak by BMW and redesigned to be thicker for the S62 engine. From experience, utilizing this new thicker spring design on the Euro S50 and S54 engines has resolved rattling. The Beisan S54 vanos rattle procedure documents this repair.
    The loose fit of the exhaust hub oil pump driver tabs to the vanos oil pump disk holes facilitates a rattle. Reducing this play resolves the rattle. The Beisan S54 vanos oil pump disk has new smaller holes to achieve this. The Beisan S54 vanos procedure documents this repair.
    Splined shaft bearing axial play facilitates a rattle. The splined shaft is located at the intake and exhaust camshaft and sprocket. It connects the camshaft and sprocket and has helical gears that facilitate camshaft relative rotation to the sprocket. The splined shaft incorporates a bearing at its center which allows mounting of the vanos piston to the splined shaft while not rotating with the splined shaft and camshaft and sprocket. The splined shaft bearing has axial play that allows the camshaft to engage this play axially back and forth. These movements can resonate at certain RPMs and cause a rattle. The solution is to remove the bearing axial play. Further, the OEM bearing ring in the splined shaft is made from non-bearing annealed steel. Its inner diameter is experiencing scoring from the rotating bearing components. The Beisan S54 rattle repair kit includes bearing rings that are shorter to remove the axial play and prevent rattling. The rings are made from bearing steel that is hardened and ground to bearing standards. This prevents the scoring. Replacement bearing washers are also included in the kit as they affect the bearing axial fit and need to be provided with tight tolerance thickness to achieve the bearing tight tolerance axial fit. Beisan also provides S54 rattle tools which are custom designed and manufactured and facilitate the opening and closing of the splined shafts to perform the bearing modification. The Beisan S54 vanos rattle procedure documents this repair.

    Here are the costs of all the Beisan S54 vanos products.
    S54 vanos rebuilt solenoid coil pack, $150 plus $150 refundable core charge
    S54 vanos sealing plate repair kit, $10
    S54 vanos oil pump disk, $150 plus $150 refundable core charge
    S54 vanos seals repair kit, $60
    S54 vanos rattler repair kit, $80
    S54 vanos rattle tools, $20

    Please consult the two new repair procedures for more detail.
    If you run aftermarket camber plates:
    Front shock tower reinforcement plate
    Problem: Some camber plates do not distribute the load of the shock evenly across the shock tower, which over time can lead to the shock tower cracking.
    Solution: OEM BMW shock tower reinforcement plates. These come from BMW Africa, where they put them on cars that have to frequently drive on unpaved roads.
    Price: $23
    Labor: 1 hour
    DIY difficulty: 2

    If you run aftermarket rear ride height adjustors:
    Rear control arm reinforcement plate
    Problem: the ride height adjustor focuses the weight of the car on a smaller area than the stock spring does
    Solution: Rear spring perch reinforcement plate
    Price: $55
    Labor: 1 hour
    DIY difficulty: 2
    Last edited by Dewstain; 04-17-2020, 05:55 AM.

  • #2
    Tried to correct the links for anything not M3F linked. Some aren't working, I'll look into it.


    • #3
      Good stuff - thanks!