Jeremy,Hey thanks for the help, and especially so for this DIY! So far the oil pan gasket change is a success, nice and dry.
I did figure out the play in the steering. When reinserting the steering column into the steering coupler I did not insert it far enough. The column has a groove that the bolt needs to sit in. I ended up replacing the coupler with a new on as well. $80 for the part from BMW, but only takes 10 minutes plus time to jack up the car and my steering is noticeably stiffer at 100,000 miles.
Thanks for posting the root cause of the steering wheel play and I'm glad to hear that the coupler didn't disengage while you were driving!!!
I was actually hoping to add your point re: ensuring that the steering coupler is inserted all the way onto the steering column connector, as a reassembly note at the end of the DIY. From memory, it's a stiff connection and required a fair bit of force to engage properly. Unfortunately it looks like after a certain amount of time the post gets locked and you can't make any more edits...
My E46 had a fairly loose steering wheel since I bought it, even after I fitted polyurethane bushings. Even though it only has 120,000 km's on the clock, I suspect it was used as a city driver by its former owner, so the uni-joints would have gotten a fair workout. The next time I do a bulk order of BMW parts from the USA, I'll also replace the steering couplers to see if that improves steering wheel feel...
Saturn,Mine is leaking and I am putting up with it at 175k. My concern is to pull the engine, how can I make sure all cables and gearbox engagement is not going to be affected as I am not a mechanic and just learning. Its scary . Also, if I am down there, what else to change as maintenance. Need to do the homework I guess.
Can I assume that your concern is in relation to the pull on the cables attached to the engine, the transmission and mounts, when you lift the engine using the support bar? If this is the case, then I'm pretty comfortable in saying that it won't be an issue. The procedure requires lifting the front of the engine by 10-15mm, which is just enough to transfer the weight off the engine mounts and onto the support bar, allowing you to disconnect the engine mounts and remove the brace underneath. I would even go so far as to say that lifting the engine by 10-15mm would be well in the normal range of movement of the engine (in relation to freedom of movement within the mounts, between acceleration and deceleration) and wouldn't result in any measurable additional stress on the transmission mounts or cables connected between the chassis and engine.
I note that your profile on the LHS banner states that you own a 525i. While there should be some similarity in the procedure, I would strongly suggest obtaining a Bentley manual for your particular model (if you haven't already done so), before attempting this DIY on your car. Make sure you get the correct part numbers from the RealOEM website too.
In terms of other related maintenance jobs that you can undertake while changing the sump gasket, the E46 has particular weaknesses with:
1. Oil filter housing gasket (which will almost always leak before the sump gasket fails);
2. Front control arm bushings; and
3. Engine mounts (refer to notes in this DIY).
As you've correctly already noted, you'll need to do some research to the specific weaknesses of your model.
P.S. Not sure where you're based in Australia, but if you're in ADL and you decide to go through with this DIY; you're welcome to have a loan of my engine support bar.