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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So, I joined this site a LONG time ago with the intention of buying a BMW, but for a variety of reasons, never got around to it until very recently. I now live in the UK but still come back to Ireland a lot, and I'm certainly bringing my recent acquisition back to Ireland next summer for a holiday:).

I occasionally got brought to school in a friend's E34 520i (and later, an E39 520i). I knew very little about cars back then, my family have no interest in cars whatsoever, but my friend's Dad was a mechanic and they piqued my interest in cars. What I did know was they were expensive and a lot nicer than the Corollas and Carina Es we had! Even at five and six years of age, I knew the 520is didn't sound like your average (four cylinder) car, but it was only when I got older and got into cars that I realised that's why it sounded and drove the way it did. Ever since I knew what a six cylinder engine was it's been my ambition to own a BMW with a six cylinder petrol engine. But not just any old six pot BMW - it had to be one that reminded me of my childhood days.

And so, after many years telling people I was going to buy a BMW, I finally started my search in earnest all the way back in August. I've lived in the UK for the past four years, but I've never had a car, I don't really need a car so I didn't want to waste my money on some cheap runaround. Since I don't really need a car and I have zero mechanical skills, I was prepared to play the long game, although I did think I'd find the right car sooner. I wanted a car that basically only needed preventative maintenance and simple and cheap cosmetic jobs. I was quite happy to pay more for a car that had clear evidence of being looked after, a car that would be worth spending money on preventative maintenance and other bits and bobs. What I was not prepared to do was spend money on a car that needed lots of work and had clearly not been looked after.

My first decision was the easiest: I was only interested in cars with the M54 engine. I want to get a few years out of it, but I also wanted a car with an engine that links back to my childhood, so that made it the M54, since obviously that's derived from the M50 and M52 engines that powered some of my childhood. I don't do the miles for a diesel in any event.

The next decision was spec: I knew I wanted a Sport. I wanted it to have the handling that lives up to the 'Ultimate Driving Machine' marketing slogan. I've been in E39 Sports and I found them more than comfortable enough and they look so much nicer, so it had to be a late E39 Sport, again to link back to happy childhood memories.

The problem with this plan was that E39 Sports are incredibly rare in the UK, even going 100 miles from where I live would only net a handful of cars, which I didn't like for a variety of reasons. It would frankly be easier to find one in Ireland. The ones that were clearly looked after would be sold in a matter of days and were a bit more than I really wanted to pay for something that at best was 13-14 years old.

I therefore changed my plan and decided that I would look for an E46, I don't need four doors and parking can be a bit tight where I live so going for the E46 meant it would be easier to park and I could choose either a saloon or a Coupé and just go for whichever was in the best condition. I'd regularly see six cylinder Coupés going around the place, so I figured this was the best chance of getting most of what I wanted. Going for an E46 also meant I could get something a bit newer as of course the Coupes didn't switch over to the E90 until 2006. Once I'd decided on the E46 I knew I wanted an LCI as I prefer the look of them, I think the MV2s look a lot nicer than MV1s.

Although there is no tax difference in the UK, I nevertheless wanted a 325 instead of a 330; if I ever decided to move back to Ireland and bring the car with me there was no way I was prepared to pay the amount of tax a 330 costs, if I was going to that level frankly I'd want an M3 and although I love cars frankly I'm not prepared to spend the amount of money one of those costs to run. I wasn't originally going to look at 320s but when I started my search for an E46 I found that there was very few 325s in Sport spec that were in good enough condition. I always thought UK cars were much better kept than Irish ones but I saw a lot of tatty examples on Auto Trader, the only real advantage is the spec as obviously most of them were from the era before BMW took over importing the cars directly and giving Irish cars the same spec as the UK ones bar the kph clocks. I was surprised at the number of cars which had rusty arches for example.

I therefore widened my search to include 320is, and I drove a few of them. I decided I'd rather sacrifice a bit of power for a car that was otherwise good - I figured a good 320i would be a much better car for me to own than a bad 325i. I originally had no preference for gearbox, I was more interested in the rest of the car's spec and condition. Anyway, the first one I drove was a manual 320i Sport saloon with the alcantara seats. It was like new inside and out, and drove really well, and I would have bought it there and then, except for the fact that I was unhappy with the engine. It sounded perfect and having looked at its MOT history it passed first go every time so it had clearly been looked after but it just didn't feel all that fast - certainly not as fast as I was expecting a car with 168 bhp to be. I was really disappointed and I actually thought there must be something wrong with it until I messaged a friend of mine who has an E46 M3 and he told me they're just like that. I was very relieved in one sense to hear that but I decided to look at another one the following day, this time an automatic 320Ci Sport Coupé. That was an absolute heap of the brown stuff, it was nothing like as good as the photos (only reason I went to see it, that and the manual one the previous day were the only two cars on my initial search that I thought were worth viewing), rusty arches, engine light on, fumes pouring out of the exhaust. Out of politeness to the dealer, I took it for a quick drive but I didn't even bother doing simple stuff like checking the oil or the legs of the chassis, I knew once I saw it I was never going to buy it. Granted there was an engine light on but I was so disappointed by the performance, it made the manual 320i I drove the previous day seem like a rocket by comparison, and I instantly decided that I was no longer interested in an automatic - even if the engine light wasn't on, it clearly wasn't going to be a fast car.

It was only then that I realised how good the first one was and the chances of finding such a good car again would be very rare so, the following day I went back and enquired about the first car but it had been sold. It didn't surprise me as I knew it was a good car but I was so annoyed with myself for not only going to see a complete heap of rubbish, but missing out on such a nice car on top of that, especially as it had alcantara seats and I really wanted a car with alcantara seats instead of leather. It was in Orientblau as well and I think stronger colours suit the E46s better. On the other hand I would never have been completely happy owning a 320i because it just wasn't fast enough for me, so even if it took me another three months to find a car I was completely happy with, it was a blessing in disguise. I then decided I would only look at manual 325 sports but even widening my search to within 100 miles of where I live was producing next to nothing, even though I wanted to a good one and I was prepared to pay extra, the good cars were going for what I felt was far too much money compared to the lovely 320i I missed out on, which was very well priced. I kept looking every day on Autotrader and I was starting to get a little disheartened until three weeks ago, and saw what is now my car. It was even for sale only a few miles up the road from me as an added bonus. It wasn't a colour I originally wanted, and it didn't have the alcantara seats, but I just knew looking at the photos it was the car for me, everything else about the car was perfect and what I wanted. I had waited so long for a car in such good condition to be up for sale and I was not missing out on a decent car again. Actually, a few manual 325Ci Sports in similar condition came up for sale at the same time, but this was the nearest one to me, and the cheapest. The car was advertised for sale on last Tuesday fortnight, I drove it last Saturday fortnight and I was smitten. It looked as good in reality as it did in the photos, and although it didn't have a great service history record, I checked the MOT logs and it was passing them first time every with only the odd minor advisory. The car had clearly been looked after and drove really well, the 2.5 litre engine had the power I was after, it's much stronger than the 320i. Needless to say, I bought it there and then, and I picked it up last Saturday week.

Hope you've enjoyed reading this, and I will keep you updated on how I'm getting on with it. I'll post the spec list and my plans for it shortly. Apologies that these are just screengrabs of the photos the dealer put up when he was selling it (and for my terrible attempt to obscure the number plate, I don't have photoshop to do it properly), I will upload some of my own in time once I've improved its appearance:).
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Picking up from my OP, I'm absolutely thrilled with my car, I love that engine, it pulls so well and sounds fantastic. I've been taking it out for drives just because I can:D. It's not perfect and needs a bit of work - but it's a car well worth spending some money on, and the first few jobs are being done to it tomorrow. Overall, it doesn't look and feel like a 2003 car with 111,000 miles on the clock.

The only things that are actually wrong with it are the parking brake (feels like the shoes are only engaging on the driver's side, and not that well either) and the oil level sensor (the yellow oil light came on while driving it over the weekend and has been intermittently been coming on when I turn it off but there's plenty of oil in it), so they're being fixed tomorrow. The mirrors didn't work before I bought the car but the dealer fixed them before I collected it - it was only a blown fuse.

Otherwise, the car is spot on, the main things I want to do to it are preventative maintenance in order to fix the weaknesses of the M54 engines, these are things that are being done to it tomorrow or else early in the New Year.

- Parking brake (as mentioned above), kind of important that works:D, being done tomorrow
- Cooling system, I'm getting it inspected and replaced tomorrow (rad, thermostat, expansion tank, expansion bottle and the hoses if they're perished)
- Fog light, passenger's side one is cracked, that's also being done tomorrow
- Oil sensor, wasn't on my to do list but since it seems to be faulty I want it replaced
- Inspection I, although there is over 7,500 miles to the next service, the last time it was serviced was well over a year ago, doing that early in the New Year
- CCV, was originally going to get it done next year with Inspection I, now I'm thinking I might as well get them to replace it tomorrow - if they've got to change the oil level sensor it will surely be cheaper to do them both together
- Bonnet badge, it's tatty (doesn't look like it in the photos, but up close it's not up to my standards) and I've got a new one to fit
- Centre caps for the alloys, they're also tatty and will be replaced in the new year
- Gear lever, as bad as it looks in the photos, but that's already been replaced with a brand new one, that was the first thing I did to it

Longer term, my plans for the car are to debadge it and to put angel eyes into it, and of course get it detailed every few months. Otherwise, I'm going to leave it completely standard.

The day I collected the car I drove about 150 miles in it on mostly country roads but a bit of motorway as well, and the more I drove it the more I realised that the looks of it and the sound of the engine had warped my judgement of the how sorted the car was. Although it handled well enough, the ride was atrocious and at one point I even wondered if I should have bought an SE, which was never on my agenda. I thought it might be because I'm not used to a car with sports suspension but when I checked the tyre pressures, the drivers' side front had 50 psi:eek: and the other tyres were about 7 psi short of what they should have been, which made the ride atrocious. I knew the front of the car felt funny over bumps, there was a distinct thud from the front on the driver's side every time it went over a bump and that was the reason why. Now that I'm using BMW's recommended tyre pressures the ride is much better and the handling is better as well, it's never going to be an especially comfortable car but I'm happy with it now.

Now onto the goodies:), the spec list! This is the spec list as per bmwvin.com.

Vehicle options
S226 Sports suspension settings
S249 Multifunction f steering wheel
S302 Alarm system
S313 Fold-in outside mirror
S338 M Sports package II
S428 Warning triangle and first aid kit
S431 Interior mirror with automatic-dip
S441 Smoker package
S459 Seat adjuster, electric, with memory
S473 Armrest front
S481 Sports seat
S495 3-point belt and headrest, centre rear
S508 Park Distance Control (PDC)
S534 Automatic air conditioning
S644 Preparation f mobile phone w Bluetooth
S650 CD player
S661 Radio BMW Business (C43)
S692 Preparation, BMW 6-CD changer I-bus
S710 M sports steering wheel, multifunction
S716 Aerodynamics package
S760 High gloss shadow line
S772 Interior mouldings Alu Black Cube
S775 Headlining anthracite
S785 White direction indicator lights
S787 BMW alloy wheel, M double spoke 135
L812 National version Great Britain
S850 Dummy-SALAPA
S863 Retailer Directory Europe
S877 Delete cross-pattern operation
S880 On-board vehicle literature English
S210 Dynamic stability control
S520 Fog lights
S550 On-board computer
S832 Battery in luggage compartment
S853 Language version English

On top of that, the car has uprated discs, I don't know what kind of discs they are but the front ones are cross drilled so I'm guessing they're M tech brakes. What I do know is they work very well:D. Otherwise, the car is completely standard. The electric seats and folding mirrors are nice options to have, although I would have liked lumbar support, but you can't have everything. Here's some more photos, you can see the cracked foglight I was on about earlier:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So I brought the car into a BMW specialist in Sheffield on Monday, and picked it up this evening (Tuesday).

Unfortunately, whoever decided to modify the brakes decided to use non OEM shoes for the parking brake, but worse than that, when the back plates were replaced (as part of the brake mods), they decided to do some cutting and welding, so the parking brake can't be fixed properly and the only solution is to get new pads, discs and OEM shoes:frown:. Not very happy with that, but it's less expensive to overhaul the braking system than I thought it would be (been quoted £280 sterling to get the job done properly and get the parking brake properly resolved).

As the discs and pads have plenty of life left in them, there is no point in ditching those, but I've been told the parking brake will constantly need adjusting in the meantime, so once the discs and pads are getting worn I will get the problem properly fixed. The handbrake works well enough now anyway, although it still needs a good pull on steep hills so I will fix it properly at the right time.

On the plus side, that's the only thing wrong with the car, they checked the car over from top to bottom and they said it was a very good car otherwise, it drives 'very well' and whoever had it before me clearly looked after it :D. That's a standard I will be maintaining as I love it so much:).

I mentioned the oil level sensor being faulty, well it turned out that the car was actually a bit low on oil to the tune of 1.5 litres (it seemed fine to me when I checked it and I could have sworn it was between the marks on the dipstick, but there you go), and that was the reason for the oil level light coming on.

I haven't had it long enough to establish whether it's an oil burner (the emissions were squeaky clean at its last MOT a few months ago and it's never had an advisory for an oil leak or anything like that), the previous owner had the car for two years and I only have the receipts that owner has, but I don't see anything for oil. The car was last serviced over 8,000 miles ago, so if it's really only using a litre of oil every 5,000 miles or thereabouts that's more than acceptable to me and I won't bother doing the CCV. I'll probably only do that much every year and I'll service it annually so hopefully I won't need to buy oil for it. What I do know is the garage checked for oil leaks and found none, also the CCV was tested and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. My gut instinct is the car is not an oil burner (since it's an M54B25 not an M54B22 I certainly hope not as I know the 2.2 is the most likely of the M54s to be an oil burner), but it's going back to them in the New Year for a service and we'll monitor the oil consumption then and do something about it if necessary!

They also told me there was no need to do the cooling system for now, but I can get it done in time if needed. They checked the rad and thermostat and told me there's plenty of life left in them, and there's no funny noises from the water pump either. The hoses are in good nick as well.

I had a good technical conversation with some of the mechanics when I picked up the car this evening and I'm reassured that a) they know what they're doing, so I'll be going back to them in the New Year to get Inspection I done and b) I can relax and enjoy my E46!

The foglight has also been fixed, the BMW Specialist I took the car to is a breakers as well, so they just put a used one in but it looks like new and is much better than the old one, so it's great that the two things which annoyed me the most about the car's appearance (foglight and gear knob) have been sorted :).

I'm taking it for a drive to Leicester on Saturday to see Munster vs Tigers, I'm more excited about taking the car for a good blast than I am about the match even though I'm hoping we'll manage to beat them as well as we did last weekend!
 

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Well wear with the car. Its a very similar spec to my 330 and that has been a pretty easy car to own. I also had an auto 325Ci Sport very briefly.

A couple of observations from my time with this car. The handbrake will always been a PITA, not sure I've ever had a 3 that hasn't needed adjustment, etc. as basically a standard service item. Not sure what mileage you have on the car, but you are right to be conscious of the cooling system. I had a few bits replaced on mine at around 70k when the rad started to blow a little coolant. Otherwise they really should be pretty tight, so if you get to having to top up the coolant its worth looking deeper and doing a bit of overhaul.

The e46 isn't the most resistant to tin worm. Early cars seemed to get crusty around the front wings but later cars seem better in that regard. Around the rear arches is vulnerable, not just the lips but also the surface of the arches externally. I've also seen a good few with a bit of crust on the rear panel between the bumper and bootlid edge. Mine is showing some there and most I've seen with it have it a little left of centre of the panel. I'm guessing there's a specific weak point there, kind of like the bulkheads on e30's. If yours is clear in these areas I'd recommend having it undersealed.

For some reason this one seems to have gone through quite a few brake discs. I've rarely had to replace them on a long line of BMW's but have been through a few sets in under 50k miles, usually because of warping and hence vibration under braking.

Rear springs are also something to keep a check on. Same as the e36 did, these have a habit of snapping near the bottom of the spring and this can make the car feel pretty ropey and sometimes a handful. That was the first thing I thought of when you mentioned the ride quality. If you need to replace, do them in pairs. There are a lot of different specifications for the factory springs, depending on spec, options, etc. Even just a slightly mismatched pair can make them feel like crap to drive.

Other than that its been a good companion. Well wear with yours!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Well wear with the car. Its a very similar spec to my 330 and that has been a pretty easy car to own. I also had an auto 325Ci Sport very briefly.

A couple of observations from my time with this car. The handbrake will always been a PITA, not sure I've ever had a 3 that hasn't needed adjustment, etc. as basically a standard service item. Not sure what mileage you have on the car, but you are right to be conscious of the cooling system. I had a few bits replaced on mine at around 70k when the rad started to blow a little coolant. Otherwise they really should be pretty tight, so if you get to having to top up the coolant its worth looking deeper and doing a bit of overhaul.

The e46 isn't the most resistant to tin worm. Early cars seemed to get crusty around the front wings but later cars seem better in that regard. Around the rear arches is vulnerable, not just the lips but also the surface of the arches externally. I've also seen a good few with a bit of crust on the rear panel between the bumper and bootlid edge. Mine is showing some there and most I've seen with it have it a little left of centre of the panel. I'm guessing there's a specific weak point there, kind of like the bulkheads on e30's. If yours is clear in these areas I'd recommend having it undersealed.

For some reason this one seems to have gone through quite a few brake discs. I've rarely had to replace them on a long line of BMW's but have been through a few sets in under 50k miles, usually because of warping and hence vibration under braking.

Rear springs are also something to keep a check on. Same as the e36 did, these have a habit of snapping near the bottom of the spring and this can make the car feel pretty ropey and sometimes a handful. That was the first thing I thought of when you mentioned the ride quality. If you need to replace, do them in pairs. There are a lot of different specifications for the factory springs, depending on spec, options, etc. Even just a slightly mismatched pair can make them feel like crap to drive.

Other than that its been a good companion. Well wear with yours!
Thanks a million!

Regarding the rust, yeah the arches are pretty spotless in mine, it's one of the reasons I bought it. Seen way too many with clearly visible signs of rust on the arches and front wings as well, seems to be mostly pre LCIs that suffer, although the heap of shit of a 320Ci I saw in my OP was an LCI and was Titan Silver like my car.

The ride was down to the tyre pressures (I can't get over the fact that someone inflated the driver's side front to over 50 psi, there was a thump over every bump!), fortunately the tyres don't look like they've worn unevenly. The car got a proper 4 wheel alignment in July so I'd say the chances are it's been running on the wrong pressures for a few months. I was (and still am) worried that that won't have done the suspension any favours, and Sheffield's roads are atrocious, so I guess I will have suspension problems with the car at some point anyway, but for now everything feels tickety boo on the ride and handling side. I know a lot of members on this site seem to like lowering their cars, I certainly won't be doing that to mine, it's low enough as it is for the potholes we have around here.

Your comments about the cooling system reminded me of something I meant to say yesterday. The car needed 2 litres of coolant. I can't actually remember if they checked the expansion bottle and cap (they told me the thermostat, rad and water pump are working exactly as they should), but I'm beginning to wonder if maybe there is a hairline crack in it. I guess when the car goes back in for its inspection they can look at it then, I must remember to tell them actually.

Inspired by Reubens' 320d project car, I've now decided to add to my list of things I want to do to mine.

The car has electric seats, so I'm wondering just how complicated it would be to retrofit lumbar support? My back can get stiff at times so I'd like lumbar support to force it into the correct shape when I'm driving.

It doesn't have rain sensing wipers, although I find them to either be useless or a nuisance. What I would like to do though is to retrofit automatic headlights, they're a great invention and half the time I'm still searching for the light switch as I'm used to driving Toyotas so I still try to twist the indicator stalk:eek: every time it's dark, and I believe I need to have rain sensing wipers to have automatic lights?

On the subject of lighting, angel eyes are definitely on my to do list, but I've decided I want to add Xenons and I'm going to do it properly, so I'm getting headlamp washers as well and I will use OEM parts.

Anyone know how expensive these jobs would be to do? I think the automatic headlights might be more hassle than it's worth, as I've read it requires a windscreen change and would be the guts of a grand to do and I've read something about modifying an LCM or something like that? I think the other ones are possible though and shouldn't be too expensive.

Lastly, is the rear window demister crap in these cars, or is there just something wrong with mine? I've noticed it takes the screen ages to clear away any frost or any sort of condensation. I think the heated mirrors are a bit on the slow side as well but they do eventually work.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
So I was back in Ireland over Christmas, which was great, apart from the fact that I flew meaning I was over two weeks without my baby.

Unfortunately, the two weeks away didn't do the car any good, I parked it in a friend's over Christmas and came back to it, all excited to drive it only to go out his drive, drive about 50 yards and hear a bang, my driver's side front tyre burst:(. No bad thing since the car has some cheap ass tyres I've never heard of on it. There's a Good Year Efficient Grip on the driver's front now, I know it's good practice to change tyres in pairs but all tyres have plenty of life left in them so I'll change the others when they need to be done and I will go for decent quality tyres. I wanted the Eagle Asymmetric tyre for as I'd read they're very well suited to the E46 without paying the astronomical price for the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tyre that I believe the car would have come with originally, I'm not going to be thrashing the car to within an inch of its life so I don't need that extra last bit of grip that that tyre probably offers). I've already noticed an improvement in the way the car drives and it's a bit quieter as well. I'm looking forward to getting the rest of them done when the time comes although the bank balance is a bit worse for wear after getting the wheels balanced as well as the tracking done. Hopefully the much better tyres will improve the mpg as well, I wasn't expecting fantastic fuel consumption but I thought I'd get more than the 25 mpg I'm currently getting from it bearing in mind I did a motorway blast from Sheffield to Leicester and drove over 100 miles in England's Peak District the day I bought it! The trip computer told me I was getting 27.4 mpg, so it was disappointing for it to be out by over 10%. But on the other hand when that engine is fully warmed up and sounds as sweet as it does I tend to stop worrying about the odd 1 or 2 mpg and enjoy winding that engine up instead :D. It really sounds so sweet and smooth when warmed up and it pulls hard and linearly all the way to the red line, it's the kind of engine you'd go around a roundabout slowly on purpose and then as you're ready to take your chosen exit put the boot down just so you can hear all the different whines, howls, snarls and roars the engine and gearbox make as you run it all the way up to the red line!

Plus, there is an Inspection I coming for it on Wednesday, the display says it doesn't need an Oil Service for over 7,000 miles but it last got serviced in May 2015 (although that was only 8,000 miles ago) so it's high time it got serviced. Strictly speaking it probably only needs an oil service (that's what comes up on the dash) because I know the spark plugs were changed at that time, but because it's been so long since it got a service, I don't want to take short cuts with the car so I'm getting Inspection I done and at least then I know everything's been looked at. It's started running a bit funny when cold anyway, I thought it might be VANOS seals or the ICV but now I'm thinking it's something to do with the fanbelt and a/c, because I started it today without the a/c or fan on and it sounded like it does when it's warmed up, although it still bogs down a bit when you pull away and needs a bit of welly when cold. When it's warmed up it sounds so smooth and creamy, and pulls so well, it will pull away just using the clutch and even on hills it rarely needs more than 1,500 rpm to make a smooth getaway without stalling. Anyway, it's a job for them to do at Inspection I. The car bogs down too easily when cold, it's much easier to drive when it's warmed up any bit at all. Hopefully the mpg will improve after that, it's going to Glasgow and back next weekend so fingers crossed I'll get around 35 mpg on a 520 mile round trip on mostly motorways!

On a happier note, I've done some more work improving its appearance. This evening I got around to fitting a new bonnet badge, and I put new centre caps on it as well. Looking at the photos below you can see why those jobs were badly needed. You can also see the new (secondhand) crack free o/s front fog light and the brand new gear lever. I'm getting it washed and valeted next week as well so then I'll be able to put up some more of my own photos of the car when it properly looks the part inside and out:).
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Got the car in for an Inspection I a few weeks ago, sorted out a few little niggly bits (although I still need to overhaul the cooling system:eek:), and got them to code in the auto electric folding mirrors option as well as making the indicators flashing when I lock/unlock it, it now beeps when I press the keys on the remote.

It turns out that the poor mpg and rough running when cold is down to a faulty MAF (but the engine light isn't on) and in truth it's not quite as fast as I expected it to be, so I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like when that part is working correctly. They said an OEM one from BMW was over £350 but they told me that I could look online and I could get one for a lot less and they'll fit it once I've got it. So, after some investigation and looking at Google reviews, I bought a Loewe MAF from www.maf-shop.com for €96, which I hope is a decent brand (there is a 2 year warranty on it anyway so I will be sending it back if the car still doesn't run right), so just over a quarter of the price of an OEM one seemed like a decent deal to me. I also discovered a niggly little problem, there is a tiny rip in the rubber around the driver's door mirror, once you go at motorway speeds there is a whistling sound which annoys me and will have to be sorted.

Also got it washed last weekend, and I must say it looks so well with the fixed fog light, centre caps and bonnet badge. Photos below are my own ones last weekend and how it looks now.

I have to say, I'm impressed with the seats, especially considering that the car doesn't have lumbar support. Drove from Sheffield to Glasgow for the Munster vs Glasgow Warriors match a few weeks ago, did 4 1/2 hours non-stop in the car and my back wasn't stiff or anything after such a long drive! They're certainly not Volvo comfortable and I still wish it had lumbar support, but they're more than good enough. Got 32.3 mpg on the way up to Glasgow, and 34 mpg on the way back (I stopped off in Edinburgh on the return journey), not bad for a car with a faulty MAF and I wasn't driving especially slowly either! The MAF is definitely starting to get worse, though, the car is definitely becoming more of a pain to drive when cold, it's more of a 320 than a 325 for performance these days even when warmed up and the throttle response is gone to ***** now.
 

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Chuck Norris's Nemesis
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Poor running when cold & sluggishness off the line quite often can be down to the vanos seals which more than likely would need replacing at that age/mileage for optimum performance - seal kits are cheap, but quite a few hours to complete.

Plenty of online guides out there if you are anyway mechanically minded.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Got the new MAF and handbrake fitted a few weeks ago, and what a difference it makes, the performance is much improved and the throttle response has improved as well. It seems less prone to stalling as well. The fuel consumption has improved, when I got the MAF changed it had done 41 miles on a tank and was showing 17.4 mpg (which from my own calculations is 12% too optimistic - so 15.5 mpg really), I filled up the tank this evening after 200 miles and I got 21 mpg, so that's a big improvement. OK, about 50 miles of that was out of town driving, so that partly explains the improvement, but I've been driving the car harder since the MAF was changed and I reckon when you take out the out of town driving, it's doing about 10-15% more mpg. The improved performance has led to a new problem, the day I picked it up after the MAF change, I was naturally keen to see what the car was really capable of, so I found a quiet road and floored it, and I discovered that the car is a bit skittish and the back end feels very light under hard acceleration on take off (not a problem I had before!), so I reckon it's time to change the trailing arm bushings. I'm going to London at the weekend, so I look forward to seeing what mpg I get on a return journey there, bearing in mind I got just over 32 mpg on a trip to Glasgow before the MAF was changed I'm hoping I'll see at least 35 mpg over the weekend.

It's also nice that the car holds on a hill with just one or two clicks of the handbrake, transforms the driving experience and of course I'm saving engine and clutch wear as well.

In saying all that, I still don't think the car is fully right; while it's undoubtedly much better than before, it still doesn't go like a 325 should in my opinion. I reckon the VANOS seals are on the way out. Simply put, sometimes it feels like a turbo off boost and there's no oomph at low revs (certainly not as much as the power curves would suggest) but a noticeable surge in power at about 3,000 rpm. Other times it pulls cleanly and strongly at any point on the rev range and the traction control light can be provoked into coming on. There are no warning lights or codes being logged in the ECU (I have the torque pro app on my phone and a bluetooth scanner). I reckon there's an air leak somewhere as well, it's still a bit too easy to stall when pulling away, and it can be a bit hard to determine just how much revs it needs on take off sometimes, although 99% of the time it will go from 1300-1400 rpm, even on hills), a few times it's kangarooed pulling away and it's starting to sound a bit throatier than it used to. I've decided that I'm going to get the car booked into the well known (in the UK at least) BMW Specialist Darren Wood in a few months time and he can fix my VANOS seals, trailing arm bushings and finally, I'll get around to doing the cooling system!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Well I was definitely onto something with the air leak, the engine light came on yesterday (the one that pretty much every other car has, not the EML one), fault codes P0171 and P0174, so at least the fault codes are related to what I thought was wrong with the car. Fingers crossed it's not too expensive to put right, I guess I will find out soon enough as I'll obviously be ringing to get my car seen to first thing in the morning. I doubt it's the CCV that's causing the problems - I've done over 1300 miles since the car was last serviced and the yellow oil light hasn't come on, in fact when I checked the oil last night it's barely moved from the max marker on the dipstick. I drove from Sheffield to Luton and back yesterday and got 30.7 mpg, the engine light came on just as I left Luton so there was nothing I could do except keep driving, I just drove a bit more gently than usual as I know that an engine running lean for too long is not good news for the catalytic converter! Oddly enough I couldn't hear anything inside the car, but there is a slight hiss coming from somewhere when you open the driver's door, and under hard acceleration I can hear a hissing sound as well, in general the car sounds more rorty than it used to so at least I know it's not something like the MAF that's gone wrong (I hope!). I'm beginning to wonder if the lack of ommph that I've complained about could be down to the vacuum leak as well, I guess the only way to know for sure is when it's fixed. Seeing as the car is going to the garage to fix the vacuum leak, I'm going to bring forward my plans to get the suspension looked at and get the RTABs sorted at the same time as well!
 

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Check the air bellows (rubber hoses) on the intake side of the engine (on either side of the air filter) for any splits or holes and that any clips or clamps are tight.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Check the air bellows (rubber hoses) on the intake side of the engine (on either side of the air filter) for any splits or holes and that any clips or clamps are tight.
Thanks, forgot to say when I got the MAF replaced the air bellows were changed as well (I was told that that was on the way out at the time), so I guess that won't be at fault. I guess the DISA could be gone as well, although it still runs well enough, there's definitely no misfires or anything like that, although I have noticed since the engine light came on it's a bit more prone to kangarooing when I'm pulling away (mind you, it would do it before the engine light came on), it stuttered twice last night when I was trying to accelerate from low enough revs.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The vacuum leak was down to a blocked CCV, definitely not good for the bank balance but on the other hand I'm glad it's done as it was one of the things I expected to go on the car eventually! All the hoses etc have been changed as well as the breather itself. The car drives much better now, performance is much improved and it's much better behaved when cold, I no longer need to give it plenty of welly to pull away and it's not stalling or anything like that either. The engine is much quieter as well, especially when being revved. Unsurprisingly the blocked CCV ended up putting the yellow oil light on, although I'd done nearly 1500 miles since it got serviced, so that wasn't too bad. Needless to say, it's been topped up, so we'll see how it gets on from hereon.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Well I haven't had too much luck with my car since the CCV was replaced!

I managed about 500 miles with the car driving lovely, pulling well and sounding lovely and having a bit of fun with it on twisty roads, and even decent mpg for a 2.5 six pot petrol, I did a round 180 mile trip in it and got 33 mpg, so that was a noticeable improvement on previous long distance journeys.

Then I noticed that a vacuum leak started to reappear and the stalling and poor running when cold had recurred. It started bunny hopping or jolting if I wasn't careful pulling away. I'm suspecting I've got an ICV problem since I can't hear anything from the DISA valve.

I had already arranged to get the car booked into the well known and highly regarded (in the UK) BMW specialist Darren Wood to get this looked at (and to get the brake fluid and suspension looked at, as well as the fuel system and I've asked them to check if I need to get the VANOS seals done as well), it's going into them on Monday 8th May (four week waiting list to get the car into them when I rang:eek:) and what a fortunate decision that's proven to be.

I drove from Sheffield to Luton and back over Easter, and the damn MIL came on again:rolleyes:. What has confused me though is the fault codes. It could be my lack of mechanical knowledge talking here, but does anyone know what sort of a vacuum leak would cause a 'system too lean' fault code on one bank only? I've got a P0174 and a pending P0171? I drove around Sheffield on Easter Monday and I logged some data, and I found that the LTFT for bank 1 is -4%, whereas for bank 2 it was varying between -25 and 20%! The STFT was -4% for bank 1 and between 0 and 1% for bank 2. At least I got a bit better fuel economy, 30.7 mpg when the CCV was blocked, 32 mpg this time.

The other weird thing about this vacuum leak is that when the engine is cold it can't be heard at all, and it purrs like a kitten (after the misfiring of course) and sounds like it should but as it warms up you can hear the sound of the engine changing (it starts sounding throatier and deeper) and the vacuum leak can easily be heard once it's fully warmed up - especially if it goes on a motorway blast.

To top off my tale of woe, over the past week I've noticed a burning oil smell and the low oil level light came on the other night after I turned the car off:mad:. Since the CCV was done I've covered about 750 miles, for the first 700 of those it used virtually no oil, so I'm convinced that there is a good (non oil burning) engine buried underneath the oil and vacuum leaks :rolleyes::D! Fortunately I don't need the car for work and I'm away the following weekend so the next time the car is being moved is to go to the garage in just over a week's time - I certainly hope it will be worth the wait and they are as good as their reputation on the various UK BMW forums suggests!

Another thing I forgot to mention is that I've had this issue with it misfiring when cold. If I don't make an attempt to move the car straight away from a cold start, it happens but it never lasts more than 30 seconds, and it never sets the any fault codes and the engine light doesn't come on. Even trying to move the car out of a parking space is enough for it to not misfire, it's done this all the time since I've had the car and I've had the MAF, air bellows and CCV replaced and they still haven't cured it. It doesn't really bother me too much (and seemingly this is a fairly common problem with these engines) but I'd still prefer if it didn't happen! It's not the fuel pump that's causing it because I tried turning it on and turning it off before starting it and it still does the shaking if no attempt is made to move it. Another job for Darren Wood's to sort out!
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
So I had a poke around under the bonnet of the car yesterday and I discovered one part of the problem... there is a tear on the air bellow on one side near where it joins the MAF.

The BMW 'specialist' (a fairly well known one as it happens, without wishing to name names they are well known for breaking older BMWs) I was using did put in a used set of air bellows when I got them changed as they didn't have any in stock even I had asked them to change the air bellows before it went in:rolleyes:, at least the used air bellows only cost me €5. So, at least that wasn't the car's fault!

In fairness when I spoke to my friend Dave (aka Smokey Bear on this site) over Christmas he did say things that clearly indicated that they weren't that good (or any good come to think of it). Dave and his Dad are the only two people I know who make me feel like a complete noob about cars, they know everything that's worth knowing about cars and so much more besides!

I'm sorry I didn't bring the car somewhere else much sooner (it's not like there a shortage of places in Sheffield claiming to be BMW specialists), but they were only a couple of miles up the road from me and I felt like they knew what they were talking about the first time, I'm stubborn at times and the google reviews said they were good (although upon further investigation, all the positive ones were for the breakers side of things not the garage side of things) so I said I'd stick it out for a bit and I didn't fancy giving up days of work just to get a car serviced, but this now is proof that I really should have gone elsewhere a lot sooner. Also even though the handbrake was done by them only a couple of months ago I can feel that it's only holding the car on one side (although it's still infinitely better than it was when I got the car originally).

When I bring it to Darren Woods they're also going to check out some suspension issues I've been having, the handling is pants on a motorway at the moment (it blows all over the place) and I can hear knocking sounds coming from the front suspension so I reckon it's time to do the ball joints.

I also discovered that the engine cover feels quite greasy around the timing chain and at the back of the engine close to the bulkhead, which suggests to me the rocker cover gasket is at fault, but I shall leave that in Darren Wood's capable hands to find out exactly where I've got an oil leak! It's also quite greasy around the oil filter and power steering fluid, but that could have been there all the time and I never noticed.

I must have contacted Darren Wood's about three times since I arranged to book the car as I try to narrow down what I think is wrong with it and they've been nothing but helpful thus far, so fingers crossed all will be well in my world after it's been into see them this day week!
 

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Glad to hear that you have tracked down a couple of your issues. Both the split bellows and the weepy rocker cover gasket are common issues. The oil weep from the rocker cover often drips on to the exhaust manifold on the LHS of the engine looking in to the bay. When the manifold gets hot then oil burns off and hence your smell. The M54 often uses a little oil anyway and its no harm to get a handle on the volume of consumption and keep on top of the top ups.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
So as planned, I had the car into Darren Wood's on Monday. To say I was impressed was an understatement - I'm really happy I took the car there and they were as good as their reputation on UK BMW forums had led me to believe. I dealt with Darren himself. He's friendly, accessible, professional and unlike many garages, is not out to try out and make a quick buck. He answered the long list of queries I had with the car and nothing's a bother to him. Fortunately, a lot of the things I was worried about I didn't need to be worried about, reading what's on the internet is a bad idea as I must have asked him about every possible thing that can go wrong with an E46!

He had a thorough look over the car and emailed me an admittedly rather long list of advisories, although most of them strictly speaking don't need doing for now at least. My biggest worry with the car was the cooling system but actually it is fine. Nonetheless I'm going to get it done for my own peace of mind given that it's nearly 14 years old and has 114k miles on the clock. I will skip changing the radiator as it costs an arm and a leg and Darren showed me it and said there's nothing wrong with it.

I also wondered about getting the VANOS seals done and he took it for a drive and said they're fine, actually he reset the throttle adaptation and it's performing a good bit better and feels rather more like a car with 189 bhp under the bonnet and the throttle response is better as well. Why BMW thought fitting such a thing was a good idea I do not know.

Best of all is the communication, despite the fact that I constantly emailed them beforehand to add things to look at and work through the problems I had, they still did everything I wanted. Darren brought me out to the car while he was working on it to show me the various bits and address the problems I had complained about and I then had another 10-15 minute chat with him when I went to pay and look at things that are worth doing, so at least I could see exactly what suspension bits need doing.

The fuel filter had been changed but for a non OEM one. A loose connector was causing me to get a bonnet rocket on the drivers side (for the parking light). The misfire when cold is because of the tappets, actually most of the time it doesn't make a tappety sound on start up when cold just the odd time, it's not a misfire anyway as the MIL never comes on.

It turned out I was wrong about the air leak, the tear I saw on the air bellows is nothing to be worried about, it's only on the outer surface and is not affecting the car at all (spraying carb cleaner didn't change the idle), the actual cause of the air leak is the exhaust downpipe gaskets gaskets, one is going and the other is gone. Fortunately he said it wasn't running lean at all, it just happened to run too lean once or twice which caused the engine light to come on (and stay on). All he did was reset the MIL and the light's been off for the past 100 miles or thereabouts.

The rocker cover gasket is OK but could do with changing eventually and the real cause of the oil burning smell I complained about was the oil filter housing gasket.

I got the brake fluid changed and he even threw in a clutch delay valve removal for free, and that's made a smooth take off much, much easier and first to second is a lot nicer as well. I was never completely happy with the way the car took off as I was never fully sure when the clutch would bite before I got the CDV removed.

I was even offered tea and coffee and it was fun to ponder through the Straight Six magazine (BMW HQ please take note - less of this three and four cylinder rubbish please).

There's only three mechanics but they're all highly experienced and if Darren is anything to go by, massive BMW enthusiasts as well, it is so reassuring going somewhere where you're guaranteed the car will be looked after highly competent and experienced technicians and they are less expensive than the place I was using to boot.

He actually said there wasn't that much wrong with mine apart from the suspension bits but they will make a whole heap of difference to the handling and will improve the fuel consumption as well.

The car's going back next month to get the exhaust downpipe gaskets, nuts and bolts, oil filter housing gasket, rocker cover gasket, RTABs, camber bolts, anti roll bar d bushes, offside front anti roll bar drop link, rear lower ball joints (both sides), steering knuckle joints and track rod (both sides), water pump, thermostat, expansion tank and bottle replaced. It's getting the more durable powerflex RTABs and anti roll bar d bushes. I checked about the water pump and they'll be putting one with a metal impeller in as well.

I've also asked them to clean the ICV, I figure it's no harm to get that done and do some preventative maintenance plus it's still a bit prone to stalling and jolting on takeoff and they're going to refit the front bumper as it's starting to drop on one side and it's annoying me as it takes away from the look of the car.

Some rust has started to appear on one of the rear arches so it's also going to a bodyshop next month to get both rear arches painted and undersealed, the front arches are fine but I'm going to get them undersealed as well and it's going to get some paint correction plus an interior valet, so I will be broke by the end of June but it will all be worth it hopefully as I'm bringing it back to Cork for a few weeks in July and I'm hoping it will do all that driving without an ounce of bother after all the TLC it's getting from me:D.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Got the interior detailed yesterday, very happy with the results. I've even managed a whole five weeks without any warning lights of any description coming on, I don't know myself. They used Gtechniq L1 leather guard on the seats and they came up quite nicely although the keen observer will note there is still wear on the driver's side seat bolster but short of getting a new seat there is nothing I can do. I will investigate getting a second hand steering wheel (eventually), it still looks a bit grotty because the leather is worn in places so I would like that to be right. They also used Gtechnique I1 on all the carpets (including the boot) and I'm told both products will stop any water or liquids soaking through either - not that I plan on putting it to the test as there is no eating or drinking allowed in my car:D!

Tomorrow it's back to Darren Wood's to get all the jobs I previously mentioned done so I'm hoping my five week warning light free streak continues for quite a while longer:D.
 

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