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Choosing a BMW to Buy

ASKED BY:

Tim Bromley

FSC MEMBER:

Yes

CATEGORY:

Maintenance

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Question

Hey Gil , Been a while my friend, hope this email finds you well. So I sold my 435 and now I’m looking at buying one of two cars. I’ve found a 43k mile 2006 e 46 and it’s been taken very good care of but hasn’t been driven but 700 miles since it was purchased by the current owner 4 years ago. Cosmetically it is very nice. Has 18 pages of records, new Firestone tires and regular service. I’m aware of the usual issues: frame cracking where the frame attaches to the sheet metal in the trunk area, the Vanos possible problem but the rod bearings should not be an issue I wouldn’t think. What else is there to be concerned about and how do you see the other issues I mention surfacing. He’s asking 35k which I think is high butt it hasn’t been modified, wrecked, all original equipment and paint and 19” wheels . Don’t know much before this owner but the records are there. Manual 6 spd.

The other car I’m thinking about is waiting a bit for the 2018 M240i to come down to around 30k – will take another year maybe but it’ll have a new car warranty and the nav I liked so much about my 435 and the HK sound system and I would also buy at the appropriate time the extended BMW Warranty you feel is so important even though I put only put 3 to 4K miles on it per year. I also will get a manual. Technology marches on and one review I saw was thes two cars in comparison and they tied lap times. Amazingly right.

I like warranties but I also think the e 46 may even appreciate but the M240 i priced in a build came to 52k and I e seen them with 4K miles for sale as low 39500. So I’ll wait longer for more depreciation cause I have all the time in the world to buy . But the E46’probably won’t last that long. So my question to you is how do you see future ownership Of these cars going maintenance wise. Now that wearables are no longer included in the maintenance warranty on new bmws. What do you see in the En46? I like natural aspiration but I’m concerned about long term issues wok the e46. Thanks pal and if you would rather call me you can at 352-430-5067. I really appreciate your advice and I also enjoyed very much meeting you at Sebring. You’re a great we’ll of knowledge, thanks again and all the best!
Tim

Answer

Hello Mr. Bromley, thank you for the kind words. All is well hope the same goes for you. As far as the car choice goes I think it is going to be mostly subjective. Here is what I can tell you: The E46 is going to be more reliable due to the fact that it is a simpler car and therefore there are less things to go wrong. When it comes to a car that is older but does not get driven much like the E46, the issue becomes oil leaks, if you do decide to buy either, but specially the E46 have a thorough inspection done, paying special attention to possible oil leaks.

The rear subframe issue has not been much of a problem on the later model E46s, it tends to happen in the early production run, but there are reinforcement kits available. Other common issues include the VANON as you mention, mostly when the oil changes have been neglected, another oil neglect issue is the valve stem seals leaking, usually shows up around 70000 to 90000 miles, the correct oil change interval should be 6 months or 5000 miles when using synthetic. The window regulator fail fairly often, especially when the windows are not used much, what happens is the glass gets stuck on the window seal and puts undue stress on the regulator when moving down, the regulators have a steel cable running on nylon pulleys, the pulleys will usually break.

Without knowing the engine or model, another common issue is the crankcase vent valve leaking vacuum. The ZF transmissions have almost no issues with the exception of a torque converter issue which is not very common and usually happens at higher mileage. The GM transmissions do have their fair share of issues. These transmissions have no maintenance schedule, therefore most people do not replace the fluid, that exacerbates the issues on the GM transmissions especially. Depending on the model the ABS control unit can be an issue, but that is just about every model from that era and again more common with higher mileage cars.

As far as the M240 they will feel faster and handle better, there is a LOT more technology in these cars which make the reliability not as good as the E46, but they are great cars.

With the possibility of the value going up on the E46 that will only really matter if you plan to keep the car for a longer period, the model/options and if you do not plan to drive it much. The way the prices are right now I don’t see them appreciating a whole lot in the next 5 years. The E30s are really hot now, the E36 are in the early stages of prices climbing, that leaves some time before most E46s will climb. That does not take into account the model/options, M3s, special editions and the right optioned car will climb faster. I would not be concerned with the turbo versus the naturally aspirated engines, turbos have come a very long way and so have the computer system that control the engines. The key on both is maintenance, as long as it has been done properly it should not be an issue.

The rest of it is going to be subjective, which car you like to drive and look at the most. Thank you for the question. Hope to see you again soon.

Gil Neves

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Thanks a bunch for your very detailed reply. You’re such a great resource for our chapter, it is greatly appreciated.

    To follow up, it has come to my attention that another issue can come up at some point: rod bearing replacement. How real or exagerated is this for the e46 M3? Also how will I know if the manual transmission in the M3 is a GM? And how about the plastics shifter bushing which I understand is a major pain to replace requiring the removal of the exhaust and drive shaft to get to it- is that correct?

    The fellow that owns this car has only driven it 700 miles in 4 years – sounds like oil leaks are a possibility which you mention as a good reason to have it inspected. Th.e other thing is that his son told me he cranked it and let it run without driving it. That is not how a car should be maintained when not being driven is it? Your thoughts – this is the kind of use that preserves the appearance but not the cars general proper running condition – right. I’m still thinking this car is a nice example but it also sounds like if I get serious about it, I would not be doing my die diligence without a PPI . One of the leak issues could affect the Vanos module – right?

    On the other hand, all the reviews of the M235 or M240 mention little difference between the two – do you have any thoughts on that. Having driven both the e46 M3 and the M240 – I have to agree with your statement as to technology improvements and the general feel of the two. However I have not driven this M3 I’m interested in – spiritedly. Or the other 95k M3 of my friends. I’m sure the e46 is a more pure and “raw” experience because of the high reving nature of the normally aspirated engine. But as you say the turbos have been developed to a very high standard and I’m not sure I follow your logic with repairs and expense of maintenance but you’re the man that sees the problems. So I have to ask what kind of issues would I expect to see over time with the M240 ? Since in my case considering I will put about 3500 miles per year – so in 10 years that would be about 35k and add that to a purchase mileage of around 10k or so in a year I would still be around 50k miles or so. What might be maintenance issues I’d expect other than the usually scheduled maintenance you recommend on fluid changes, oil, brake, rear diff, and transmission. Since I will be getting a manual six speed? Plus I will buy the extended warranty to 75k and 2 or more additional years of coverage which you recommend. Maybe the valve job you mention related to DFI (how much is that btw).

    I’m glad you spoke to this idea of appreciation and I am in agreement but it’s good to hear your thoughts on a timeline. That’s why if I go the M240 route which in many ways appeals to me I will buy a 2 year old car at around 30k to avoid the massive depreciation I just suffered when selling my 2015 435i !

    Thanks again for your highly skilled insight. You’re a pal to be so helpful. Plus you can call me Tim if you like- Mr. Bromley makes me feel old. Thanks Gil

    1. Hello Tim, I did not know which model E46 or the transmission details, the V8 engine on the M3 does have a rod bearing issue, it does not seem to be an issue with the oil but rather with the material the bearings are made of. As far as the transmission, if it is a manual you should not worry, the GM and ZF are automatic. The shifter bushing replacement is the same on every BMW basically, the only thing that changes is the layout of the chassis, exhaust, etc…

      The fact that he ran the car is good, the leaks happen when the oil seals get dry from the engine not running and condensation build up in the oil among other factors, as long as he ran it until the engine reached operating temperature it should be fine. The oil leak will not affect the VANOS unless the oil level was low.

      I would drive an M3 before making a decision, the car is very different. As with most BMWs the issues are usually oil leaks, electronic issues aside from maintenance, however, if you are only driving abut 3500 miles a year, most of them are really not going to be much of an issue. Expect higher repair/maintenance costs with the newer cars, as with all cars they usually have less room under the hood which increases labor times and the parts are usually higher cost as well. Any head work in any car you are looking at thousands, same with the V8 M3 rod bearings, which is why it is so important to get service records. The main thing after you buy the car is to follow the Old School Maintenance schedule and you will be fine. See it below:

      https://www.dslreports.com/r0/download/2294029~a7ccced57c514756e4c445baa2542b06/Lifetime%20Maintenance%20Schedule%20v03.13.pdf

      Once again, thank you for the kind words. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions.

      Gil Neves

      1. Thanks Gil – man what great info in the link. Bed time reading for a good while it looks! I’ve always suspected that the maintenance schedule was affected by “free maintenance” plans! This doesn’t surprise me and that’s what makes the old schedules so valuable! I hope our club readers appreciate this link as much as I do – much needed info on what really needs to be done and how often. I’m going to need some tools…:-). I thought brake flushes every two years was the norm and the link says every year? Do you recommend that Gil? I’m going to need a power bleeder and some DIY YouTube videos. What transmission fluid and rear end fluid do you use? Thanks so much for your time Gil, greatly appreciated! Tim now back to my reading

        1. Hello Tim, the brake fluid should be done every year, use DOT 4 fluid or DOT 5.1, the 5.1 fluid has the specs of silicone based fluid but not silicone based, I do not like silicone based brake fluid because silicone has 15% aeration rate, which means that it has 15% of air in it that you cannot get out. As far as the transmission fluid it depends on the transmission but Redline makes great fluids if you want aftermarket or stick with the factory fluid.

  2. I own an E46 and would love the M240i. The E46 I have is a 330i and is a great car. I do my own maintenance. I know it is easier than the M 240i, but the high price on the E46 is too much. You will be better off with the M240i due to the amount of mileage you plan to put on the car. I have changed out 4 window regulators and now have another to do. The radiator needs replaced. I have kept up with regular oil changes and minor repairs. The lifetime fluid in ZF automatic transmissions is a joke as ZF says change the fluid and filter. I would definitely go with the M240i.
    Just my opinion.

    Regards,

    Emmanuel

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