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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys,

Sorry if this sort of problem has been addressed before but I haven't managed to find much information that's useful for me from searches.

I've got what I feel like is a lot of radial play in the driveline of my e46 320i.
Along with this, I've got quite a clunk from the rear of my car when going from rolling forward in first to rolling backward in reverse, as well as the car has a tendency to lurch under no/low throttle in low gears (although I think this may be another issue entirely).

I've replaced the diff bushings, flex plate and centre support bearing in the hopes that this would cure the clunk (they were all pretty worn/cracked so needed to be done anyway), but unfortunately it's still there so I'm thinking it must be because of this play?

Heres a link to a video of the play in my driveshaft

I had the handbrake on and, if I remember correctly, the car in gear in this video. The drive shaft is the type with 2 universal joins (not the CV one that I understand came with the larger engines?) and has no play in the u-joints/is generally in great condition.

I suppose a follow up to this is, assuming this is too much play, which part would you guys say is the worn part, the gearbox or the differential? The gearbox syncros are a bit worn so it can be a bit clunky to get in gear but otherwise I don't feel any issues driving it. I haven't really paid much attention to the differential apart from when I pulled it out for the bushings where when I turned it by hand it wasn't exactly silky smooth (although I expect that it's not really meant to be).

Thanks for any help!

Premium Member
4,175 Posts
You say synchros, so I assume manual gearbox (3 pedals, not 2)

Here's my guess: IF all that play includes the diff, the halfshafts and the parking brake
slop, then no, that's pretty normal. What you'll need to do is check to make sure that each
CV joint is adding its little bit of play, the diff's adding just a little, and the parking brake shoes
are moving a bit.

The transmission in gear can certainly move that much in a low gear. Put it in 5th and try that, just for giggles.

But all in all, that's pretty darned normal for a car with 250+k kms on it.
As long as it's cumulative, and not, say, all in one outer CV joint.

To preserve your trans, bring the car to a complete stop before engaging first from reverse, and likewise, reverse from first.

And check your engine mounts. They age out, and especially on 4 cylinder cars, can do odd things at low speeds
when they start to fail. I don't know if they're hydraulic or not (www.realoem.com) but when one of those
loses its goo, things get odd.

hope this helps,

Premium Member
E30M3 Race F10 535 R1150Rt M Coupe
11,300 Posts
Unfortunately what you posted (it's not here in my shop and I'm not personally evaluating) seems fairly normal.
It's called "Stacked Tolerances" in engineering terms.

A little bit of play in all 4 C.V. joints on the axles, some more with the differential ring/pinion, the driveshaft U joints and the output shaft of the transmission.
Individually each one isn't that bad. However add them all up and it's more slop than one wants.

If it's eating the s#!t outta' you. Try to diagnose where the greatest play is and attack from greatest to least incrementally.

Place one rear tire on the ground, the other side off. Wiggle the 1/2 shaft (rotational axis and NOT side/side) and note the play of the outer then inner C.V. joints. Jack the car the other way (One tire MUST be on the ground, we need to eliminate the effect of the parking brake shoes rocking on their pins) and repeat.
Then both rear tires on the ground and nose of the car up. Wiggle the driveshaft and see mow much play there is BEFORE the output flanges/halfshafts move.
Go from there.

How are the differential mounts BTW? Play/wear with those will exacerbate any play with the driving shafts.
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