BMW E46 (1999-2005)


The BMW E46 has a lot of parts that tend to degrade and break over time. For those older E46’s (practically all of them at the time of this writing) will have some common problems on a majority of all E46’s. Some examples of this include a cracked windshield cowl, pixelated and/or volume button breaking on the stock radio, faded emblems, and the one that we will be addressing in this post: loose or broken kidney grilles.

One of the things I noticed when I first bought my BMW E46 was that the area behind the rear seats (the rear shelf) had a purplish color to it, which was very noticeable when I looked through the rear windshield. This is an extremely common issue on the E46 and is essentially caused from the fabric being constantly being exposed to sunlight. Over time, the rear shelf fabric will fade until it changes color from it’s original color of black to a lightened hue of purple.

One of the things that bothered me aesthetically on my BMW E46 was that the insulation that was breaking apart under the hood. Whenever I’d prop open the hood, the ugly, damaged hood insulation pad would be starting me right in the face. Due to many years of heat exposure from the engine bay, the insulation material becomes brittle and as a result any contact with the insulation would cause it to crumble apart.

If there is one thing that is guaranteed to be broken on almost every single BMW E46 out there, it has got to be the windshield cowl. This is the rubber molding that sits at the base of the windshield. This rubber molding will get brittle from sun exposure over time and will eventually crack and break apart. If your E46 doesn’t have this problem, it has either been replaced recently, or it is only a matter of time before it happens.

The BMW E46 utilizes a coil-over configuration, with each ignition coil matched to one spark plug. In total, that comes out to (6 qty) ignition coils and (6 qty) spark plugs on this inline six engine. I’ve written this DIY tutorial to replacing the spark plugs for the E46, which will cover all 323i, 325i, 328i, and 330i models.

When I purchased my second-hand BMW 330XI, I found that both of the mid-range speaker trim on the front doors were broken. From my research online, it doesn’t appear to be a very common issue, but I wanted to share my experience on how to replace these in case someone else has the same problem on their BMW E46.

There will be times when you may be required to remove your door panel on your BMW E46. Some common reasons for doing so are to replace the speakers, change out the speaker trim, and to gain access to the tweeter and power mirrors. It’s not very difficult to remove the door panels of the E46, but it does help to know exactly what you need to do to separate the door panel from the door.

The BMW E46 (3-series models) are well known to leak fluids due to parts that tend to fail over time. When we talk about power steering fluid, it can commonly leak where the power steering fluid reservoir resides. In the engine bay, you may notice power steering fluid leaking at the reservoir or at the hoses connected to it. I’ve personally experienced this myself, as have many other E46 owners. On this post, I wanted to run through the process of identifying and replacing some common sources of power steering fluid leaks.