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11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
2004 BMW E46 320D F/L 6SP
195 000km

Bought from a local wholesaler with two owners. Most recent owner had it since 2008.

First owner from Cape Town and second owner from Cape Town, nice clean service history.

The oil cap reveals a motor so clean its ridiculous. The front bumper has never been off, paintwork is 100% original, the interior has fine wood trim and besides a small tear in the drivers side bolster, the interior is a detail away from being two to three years old in condition.

Tyres fitted in 2019 look brand new still, original BMW Battery and all the tools in the boot. It has PDC, Shuttle, Towbar, Cruise Control, Climate control and every little thing works 100%. Control arms were done about 20 000km ago.

It's a late December 2003 build so no auto lights or wipers or Bluetooth which is a pity but considering the variety and extent of cars I viewed and the rubbish out there it's not even an issue.

It drives without rattles, creaks or suspension noises and its fairly nippy for the 110kw it had new.

Some Photos:

Please excuse the next few posts, I am posting the thread to get it up to date.


11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Okay, what a week.

So cosmetics side:
I had the E90 Wheels stripped of their f*cked tyres and weights and valves (and spun them to check they not bent).
I removed the trim around the windows (currently matte black).
I popped out the kidney grilles (currently chrome)

The above was dropped at the panelshop and is all going gloss black. Originally I was quite sold on the idea of a satin chrome (as Walt suggested) but was then advised the paint cost for that finish alone would cost more than the entire job to make everything black. As the king of over-capitalising on cars that burn me I went ahead with gloss black as A) I am keeping the original wheels for if I ever sell B) A set of used kidneys is not difficult to come by C) Gloss black window trim trumps aged matte black.

Reality check, its a R55k car, it needs to be anything that stops me from dying of sheer boredom. Its just paint, it can be changed if I feel the car is worth the spend.

I also gave her a solid wash and got the interior looking a lot fresher - Fucking wood trim is growing on me. :lol:


The turbo is fairly vocal, like ambulance vocal and dumps into the exhaust vocal. Shot down to Powerflow and had the exhaust inspected and conveniently its been decatted and quite nicely too. Both cats emptied out with a few signs of maintenance on the exhaust. With there being some cracking on the pipework where it squeezes through the middle of the car (and considering the emptied cat was just screwing up airflow) we went ahead and ran a new pipe run. Good to know the turbo is loud because its decatted and not because I bought a problem.

Cat 1 – Very nicely welded back up.

Cat 2 – Equally nicely hollow.

I also took some photos of the underside and checked for wear and tear on bushes and suspension, its clean, like damn clean.

Front Side:

If I get a moment I may even go ahead with a chassis clean, very likely to get it spotless.

I then went and got a few bits and bobs to get it 110% up to date to my standard:

Air Filter
Diesel Fuel Filter
Oil Filter
Pollen Filter
Serpentine Belt Tensioner (its toast)
PCV Repair Kit
Thermostat (incl. Housing)
Brake Fluid
Coolant + Deionised Water
Engine Oil
Sump Plug & Washer

The car already has brand new Gates Belts on the Aircon Run and Serpentine Belt.

This is booked to be done tomorrow - I am not sure we will get through all of it as the Tensioner is a crap job but overall, it will bring it up to date and next month I will do the Manual Box Oil and Diff Oil.

Total spend so far for everything - R8688.90 and with everything I have planned (for now) we should cap this at about R15k.

Fuel Consumption has become more realistic as its not done much freeway trips - A decent 6.6L/100km.

How she currently stands, just did a minor polish and wax on the paint, it will get more once the trim is back on. Interior cleaned with my own leather cleaner blend and vacuumed.

And that is how it stands at present.

Items I still wish to address in the next few weeks:

New BMW Emblem (OEM)
Leather 6 Speed Gearknob (the wood feels awful)
Re-Trim Wood Trim in Alcantara with Blue / White Stitch
Tail Gate Shocks
Front Wipers (I cleaned them today will see if they okay still)

Thanks for reading.

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Alrighty! Servicing time.

The vehicle has quite a solid history in the book up until 2019 where the service history just vanished. Looking at the last service mileage, the balance on the trip computer I realized it didn’t exist because despite 3 years it was not due.

When I viewed the vehicle I noted it had new belts on it but a bit of a thumping reverb at idle – But I assumed it was exhaust related and since the car was good and drove good and smooth I figured it would be something minor.

It also smoked white, a lot. Quite happy there was no way the turbo was the issue and advised it would be the PCV I trusted the gods of E46 (hi Walt) and bought it regardless.

So lets start at the reason it stood at We Buys Cars and nobody wanted it – Full blown turbo white smoking. This turned out to be the PCV system. This system had been revised from a foam / cotton filter (which was a serviceable item) to a vortex chamber design.

Here you can see the old filter (which I actually soaked and washed the day I got the car as it was rock hard) and the new PCV insert in the background, super easy and quick to swap out and cost very little.

The next issue was the reverb at idle which turned out to be a poked Serpentine Belt Tensioner. Not an expensive part but certainly a part designed and implemented by an Engineer who hated mechanics. To access the tensioner the power steering pump must be removed and moved aside, the starter removed and then the pulley arm loosened from behind the tensioner. From there the pulley comes out the front of the timing cover and you can access the two bolts that hold on the tensioner.

Not wanting to repeat this exercise I bought the pulley wheel / arm and tensioner.

Circled is the tensioner in the bowels of the engine bay:

New wheel / arm:

I went ahead and replaced the Idler Pulley as well – I am thankful I did, it was in an absolute state:

Fresh set of pulleys on fresh belts, much better!

Next up was the pollen filter which was in a righteous state:

And then the Air Filter which was not terrible, the white padding section gets a lot of soot on it, my X1 did the same to its filter:

One of the other issues was that the car refused to get to temp unless you particularly laboured it up a hill or sat in traffic for very long. BMW Thermostats are designed to fail open…. Well that’s not what happened here.

Please keep in mind, everything removed off the car up until this point has all been OEM parts. OEM Tensioners, Wheels, thermostat, PCV etc. So these parts are 18 years old with ease.

On the thermostat housing there are two tabs that hold the thermostat in the housing – these tabs had completely broken off. This left the thermostat to just float around in the housing doing nothing. The tabs were not found so we assume they in the radiator?

Old broken housing:

New housing with new thermostat:

We then went ahead with an oil change and filter change:

I went with 5.5L of Liqui Moly 10W40 Molygen. I went with this for a few reasons – One because Liqui Moly is a German brand and anyone that knows me knows I played a fundamental role in setting up Liqui Moly in the Western Cape so it’s a brand I know inside out. I also went with this oil because I had no prior knowledge of what lubricants had been used in the motor. The motor presented as spotless through the oil cap – No staining or sludge or signs of carbon buildup which is astonishing. I felt a Fully Synthetic (which generally has the ability to clean motors out) would be a risk if there was hidden build up and carbon on valve guides and rings etc.

The 10W40 molygen is a hydrocracked semi synthetic oil and I intentionally went with a 10w as the older diesels are known to smoke a bit of white on startup and my OCD cannot take that. I went with a w40 for the shear stability and to quieten the motor down a bit. Its not as effective as a w30 in terms of fuel economy but I am not chasing 2-3% efficiency here.

I was planning on just going with BMW’s OEM (produced by Shell) Twin Power 5W30 but the Molygen was on special and I was curious about the Molygen concept. Firstly, its lumo green, its like pouring the by product of something from eskom into the engine, it caught me by surprise, it looks awesome.

To explain the green and my curiosity – “The green colour is related to the special wear protection technology of Molygen motor oils. Special “friction modifiers” are used. These are chemical ingredients that smooth the metal surfaces in the motor and even out microscopically small bumps.”

All of this sounds like the good old TWS 10W60 with its high zinc content and special additive package and what better could you want for an 18-year-old diesel with a fragile turbo system. So far, cold starts are seeing nearly instant circulation with minimal clatter and no smoke, at all.

Another issue on the M47N is the EGR Valve, so off this came:

This was miff and caked up to shit. Out with the oven cleaner and yeah, I may have underestimated the sheer amount of crap inside that little valve, I was filthy after!

We tested the valve with a vacuum pump and it is still working beautifully.

Moving forward, brake fluid – BMW has for ages now run a 2 year brake flush service requirement which once out of plan is mostly ignored. The reason you should be changing your brake fluid every 2 years is because Brake Fluid is hydroscopic meaning it regains moisture and when this occurs under heavy use the moisture in the fluid reduces the boiling point of the brake fluid causing a spongey pedal and eventually, complete brake fade and brake pressure loss.

The other reason you change it is because brake fluid lubricates the rubbers and seals in the braking system. Thankfully, unlike coolant brake fluid has an international standard but since BMW brake fluid was on the shelf and it happened to be the cheapest, we got BMW brake fluid and did a full bleed and flush.

As you can see, the fluid was nasty, probably not changed since the last service at BMW in 2008:

Angry German Brake Fluid.

In closing, we did a full coolant drain and fill with fresh coolant and de-ionised water with a quick bleed to check the thermostat was functioning.

We also used a new sump plug and washer.

I still have to do the diesel filter but that will be done by BMW when they complete the recall on my Drivers Side Airbag, the passenger side is already done.

The vehicle has been transformed – Really, it was pretty good off the bat but this has been money so well spent to get it 100% up to date. I am beyond satisfied with the car and it has been absolutely perfect in every way, it drives like a 3 year old BMW.

Goodies still to do!

Mount Wheels & Tyres (they are done and in the car now)
Refit Window Trim and Kidneys (in Gloss black)
Paint and fit thin boot spoiler (ordered)
Drivers Side Airbag Recall
Diesel Filter (Must just be fitted)
Buy 2x New keys and cut and code them
New Nose Roundal (must just fit it)
Leather 6 Speed Gearknob
Tail Gate Shocks

I also fitted a set of Hella wipers to it today – I wanted Bosch Aero’s but they were not in stock and the wipers were driving me mad.

Next post will be the wheels fitted which I was hoping to do tomorrow but I will have to deal with a wheel bearing on a Hyundai i10 instead….. Shoot me.

Thanks for reading!

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Cosmetic Update!

I had considered a few options for the wheels, a set of used BMW E90 16s which I picked up for a steal. I was keen to go with a satin chrome but after hearing the paint cost decided it was overkill. I wanted gloss black around the windows and kidneys and I worried anthracite would make an executive sedan look even more executive.

Disclaimer – It is not that I don’t feel this vehicle is anything but an executive sedan, it is, but it belongs to a 31 year old who has had an Abarth with custom painted wheels, scorpions and special roof vinyl, a dude who had a MINI Cooper S with Jack Sunroof, Mirrors, interior bits and more. Cars need to be unique and there is a fine line when dealing with an executive saloon like the E46.

Too much of the boy racer antics and the car looks low class. Too much and you make a dull car look even more dull. In short, this is my car and my choices and everything is reversible. I am winging this as I go along. If the wheels look rubbish I send them to be done in anthracite or silver. If I hate the kidneys I get another used set – For now this is where I am at.

I got the wheels from the panelshop on Friday but only got my car back from a client on Saturday so I set to work with:

A rinse and wash in the bath
Quick dry down
Hand application of Autoglym Ultra Deep Shine
One layer of Gyeon MOHS Ceramic Coating
One layer of Gyeon Cure Top Sealant

And here are the results:

Will get them mounted at lunchtime today. My hubby took the car to work this morning (he works for BMW / MINI Claremont) and is having it washed as she is FILTHY from the drive to Saldanha yesterday to watch stock cars.

How’s that consumption though on a 300km round trip with 4 of us in the car.

Hoping the new wheels don’t ruin the look of the car. Thanks for reading!

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Finally, my wheels are fitted.

First thing to keep in mind these E90 wheels are much lighter than the old E46 wheels, and the boot is filled with the E46 wheels in these pics so she is sagging a little bit.

Overall I am happy, its given it a nice sporty look without making it look cheap - I think with the gloss back window beadings and kidneys and a painted thin lip spoiler it will be spot on. The only thing I may still change long term is to go clear indicators and tails.

I dont even think it needs a drop, the arches fill out just fine.

So happy with this car, its the king of consistency and its simply over-engineered in every way - I also love that people stop and stare at it all the time. I often see people hanging around it as well which just goes to show that even at 3 generations old, the E46 is still a solid, sought after car.

We are now, up to date!

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
E46 M3 Spoiler arrived this morning so I dropped that along with new tow hook covers (mine are missing) from BMW at the panelshop to be sprayed in Alpine White.

While there, the window beadings, in gloss black were fitted along with the black kidneys. So, as she stands, tape holding the rear beadings on included:

One of the main reasons I did the beadings was because the first time I opened the back door the beading just fell off. Both sides the clips had broken off entirely so since I was halfway there why not just get it done. Besides the spoiler and tow hook covers I am calling it a day on the exterior styling - Its plenty sporty enough. Will just fit a new BMW Roundal tomorrow so the bonnet is complete.

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Took Thomas on his first Road Trip - had to shoot through to Pezula Private Estate, 4 up with luggage for the night for a client.

Filled the tank, set the cruise and managed Claremont to Knysna and back on one tank arriving home with 85km of range - Keep in mind we also used the car to drive to Dana Bay twice and did some running around in Knysna with it not to mention driving on the estate.

1052km from 1 Full Tank
4.6L per 100km.
R1200 in total.

If you look closely you will see the paint boot spoiler and tow hook covers are on as well. Besides a loose screw in the Passenger Rear Door which I fixed on route it was absolutely effortless. Good little tractor.

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Some photo's from Friday before the trip. I wish I could get the upload quality to be higher.

I gave it a light hand polish, then a glaze with Wolfgang Sealant Topped up with some Autoglym Ultra High Gloss and a layer of Rapid Detailer.

The interior continues to take shape, wanted it spotless for my passengers:

And just something small, thats probably been stolen off the car already, some black wheel valve caps.

I think the exterior is just right, the clear lights would totally suit it but its already a bit too storm trooper so I do like that the orange breaks it a bit.

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Update - Officially 200km from 200 000km and about 5000km in two months of ownership.

As an everyday car, I cannot fault the E46. The 16 inch wheels and lack of runflats means it soaks up bumps, the suspension is compliant and easy and as I have grown used to the car I am learning that even without the M Sport goodies and solid sidewalls this car is very comfortable being thrown around - Its no Abarth or MINI but the compromise in a corner with the E46 vs that of living with an Abarth or Cooper S everyday everywhere else is worlds apart and more than reasonable.

Economy has settled at 4.8L per 100km overall and that includes extensive freeway and town driving combined. Routinely see 1000km from a tank with ease and to be honest it is refreshing to "enjoy" the car rather than granny it everywhere for that economy - In other words, it could do better but I am happy with it and I like how I drive it. I have found a petrol station for a good price for diesel too which helps.

There are a few issues to deal with though. I do have a vibration that is an engine mount shitting, but the full set including gearbox is R1500 so that will be dealt with. I do think it needs a new set of shocks, thats about R5k fitted so very reasonable and I am still waiting for my Drivers Airbag recall to be completed as the bag is still on order. I have a flashing battery light but ONLY on very cold (under 8 degrees) mornings and only for the first few blocks so I need to check the earth straps, terminals and from there the voltage regulator and I have a brake pad indicator but the pads are still perfect so will swap those out, its R95 for the sensor.

I think I am likely to change the OEM Headunit to something with a screen soon as ergonomically its the only thing that really dates the driving experience.

That said, its still a R80k car once I have everything done and its an absolutely brilliant car for that value proposition.

11 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quick update on the 320d, it’s been a fairly busy time and I have not had time to action anything on it.

Issue 1:
Vibration, since I got it under load and at idle it has had a very rough vibration. This started getting quite a bit worse recently.

Issue 2:
Flashing battery light – Particularly on cold starts until she got to temp, I would get a flashing battery light if I loaded the motor (torque wise). I noticed on a recent trip that when there was extended periods of load (like 6th up a hill) the light would also flash. Bar the flashing light there was no other issues.

Issue 3:
The aircon was making darth vader noises – And on the long road it was irritating the shit out of me. The AC was functioning 100% but the broken walkie talkie noises were irritating me immensely.

Issue 4:
I am a child.

Issue 5:
The car said baaayyyeee Felicia to me.

So lets start with Issue 1. I had suspected the Harmonic Balancer may we stuffed (as it’s the only thing I didn’t change on the front of the motor) but after doing a few video’s of balancer I noticed the passenger side of the motor was lifting about 3-5cm if you rode the clutch in 1st with the brakes on.

Popped in at Powerflow Salt River (my mechanic works there now):

Cover plates off…. Sooo shiny still?? Tell me they still make em like this hey?

I grabbed a set of Left and Right Mounts for the engine and two new mounts for the gearbox from Goldwagen – R1500 which is very reasonable.

Here you can see the Passenger side had collapsed, hydraulic fluid everywhere, a leaky boy.

And removed…. Uhhhhh yup – farking mint.

The gearbox mounts were pretty good still but for the price they cost a no brainer to just replace them too.

New mounts in, everything settled and while its still a 18 year agricultural machine it’s a very smooth and sexy tractor. Wayyyy happy. DONE!

So issue 2 – I had suspected maybe a toasted voltage regulator or something but since the mounts have been done its stopped flashing. Going back to some video’s of the motor movement I realized that the motor has been lifting so heavily it must have been pulling on the earth and alternator straps in that area causing the battery to pick up a voltage issue.

So, Issue 2 is fixed thanks to Issue 1 being fixed. Not had a battery light since – But I think I should pop in at an Auto Elec and just get those cables checked in case I did some damage to them.

Issue 3:

This is quite straight forward, just regas the aircon. I have used a company called A1 Aircons in Goodwood for years, they charge R250 and its in an out.

Note that the left gauge should be at 100 and the right where his finger is… She was a bit low on refrigerant.


Issue 4:

The car had a decat when I bought it. I then furthered that by replacing the mid section (and taking the box out) as the pipe had cracked where it squeezes through the supports and body. I had my X1 straight piped and loved it….. So child mode, activated!




Those with the keen eyes will notice I have an E90 Exhaust down-turn tip. I got the car like that and I quite like it, so I kept it.

Lets talk about straight piping your diesel saloon car – Would recommend 10/10.

The car dumps like an absolute beast, to such an extent I am quite certain it may even have a map on it. It spools beautifully, its honest quitter everywhere except wide open throttle and even that is a superb noice for a 4 cylinder dinosaur.


Best money spent! Add in the mounts also being done at the same time and I am blown away by the difference. The exhaust was very chunky and rough with the OEM box on still, straight pipe its like honey. I had already booked a spot to bring it back for a box the next day but it does not drone at all.

One of my favourite things is that when you start it you get a few seconds before the turbo spools – Its like starting up a Boeing 747, its perfect.


Issue 5:

So this was a bit of a fuckup and entirely because I knew it was going to happen, I had done the research and needed to just action it and did not get to it.

I got the car with one key. Red Flag 1.
They key did not operate the central locking. Red Flag 2.
The key locked and unlocked the car only via the door barrel. Red Flag 3.

Aware you could get uncut keys that just needed coding for like R400 it was never a thought that the door barrel would break. Until it did, with no warning what so ever.

With no way to access the vehicle I had to find a way without breaking a window. Using the key I opened the boot manually, removed the carpet covering the panel between the boot and back seats revealing the ski hatch. BMW has a retrofit for this which allows you to fit a ski back in that space….. So of we go, kick that bitch out.

We then (and by we I mean my mate Luc), I was no use at all, I just laughed the whole way through. We then tried to open the doors from the inside but found they were dead locked. Using a rake to reach the unlock button was equally futile, it did nothing.

Alright, so locked out, doors don’t open, buttons don’t respond and neither of us could fit through the ski hatch….. The solution? Borrow a little person.

Called up a client of mine in Clifton and asked if I could borrow her 8 years old daughter (wont be posting a video of her 007 espionage efforts getting in mostly because its hilariouis and not appropriate) to pop the ignition and unlock the car. She was rewarded with the biggest slab of chocolate I could find.

Ski hatch looking like a hooker on Claremont Main Road…

The next morning I popped in at Bruce Craig Spares and dealt with Nate, who was absolutely brilliant who then proceeded to repair my broken door barrel in all of 6 minutes and then cut my key open, soldered in a new battery and repaired my central locking – I think you can hear my excitement and happiness. Massive shout out to Nate, he was excellent.

So, overall a very productive pampering session for the old gal. Very happy with it still. 
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