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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So I've gone and bought a 16 year old German luxury sports coupé (mileage unknown) for 5% of her original price. No way she wasn't going to need some TLC...

We failed inspection on the following points:
  1. battery not securely fastened
  2. excessive play left front ball joint
  3. worn tire left rear
  4. brake lines all round
  5. side indicators wrong colour (white)
  6. headlights too dim
There are a few other things that are either broken or need attention
  • speedometer
  • outside temp gauge
  • some warning lights (airbag, brakes..!)
  • evil hidden by the broken warning lights
  • old expansion tank
  • electric windows
  • saggy seat belts
  • shiny (filthy) steering wheel
  • nasty wood trim
  • grey interior
  • blistering paint on the wheels
  • rusty brake calipers
  • lack of spare wheel, jack and some tools
  • lack of double din android head unit
  • lack of roll cage and short ratio LSD

Before I get carried away, I've got to get the car road legal. My main issue is lack of a workplace, preferably with a roof, electricity and a lift. Or at least a level surface. I don't have jacks either. I do have most of the tools I need, including a bit of cash and free time. And while it would be nice to have the car available, I don't need it to get to work.

The only inspection points I really worry about are numbers 2 and 4. I'd really want those jacks and the flat surface for both jobs. Apparently reaching the right rear brake line demands the gas tank to be (re)moved. So I'd need something to hold 3/4 of a tank as well... At this point I should also mention that an experienced BMW indie, located 150m from my house, performed the inspection and quoted me "around a thousand" euro to get the car legal. Writing this, I'm beginning to suspect that the smart move might just be to let my indie do the suspension and brakes (especially since I'm planning to engage in "free driving" at Zandvoort circuit) while I fix the easy stuff...

I should probably overhaul the cooling system before thinking about Zandvoort. One last list of things I need to get sorted ASAP:
  1. Battery holder bolts?
  2. Control arms: Meyle HD €350
  3. 225/45-17's for road and track?
  4. Stainless brakes lines €170
  5. Amber indicator lenses (secondhand, front and rear)?
  6. Headlight bulbs (or secondhand OEM headlamps)?

Plus a workshop manual, workplace, torque wrench, torx bits, trolley jacks.. or an appointment with the indie? I need to make up my mind. Lastly I should contact the road authority to try and figure out the car's true mileage.

She is pretty though :drool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thanks for the comments guys!

@brickhaus The cooling system is high on the list(s), just behind getting it road legal. The reason being that I can continue working in a much nicer environment once we're on the road!
@BKMrSteel Triple?!? :facepalm: I'll keep track
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Last night me and my FIL went to meet the owner of the work space. He turned out to be a very cool character, a retired 60-something building contractor with decades of wrenching experience. Just back from two months of traveling the Sahara, he didn't waste any time replacing torn drive-shaft boots on his 4x4 :bow: He will let me use his workshop including tools (whenever it is free) for 10 euros per hour, 20 per hour if he does the work. I can also leave the car there in between wrenching sessions. What a break!

Now I just need to source the parts and we're off. Sadly though I won't have anything before this coming weekend, so I have the time to do some research and pick the collective genius of my fellow E46Fanatics :D
  • I've found a 2006 DIY thread for replacing the control arms: DIY: Meyle Control Arms w/replaceable balljoints. Or would you recommend another?
  • RTFM: From this thread I gather that the Bentley manual is more suitable to an amateur as myself (in addition to the BMW TIS)
  • Ordering the Meyle HD control arm set off eBay.de saves me 100euro! I have the option of a package including sway bar links for an extra ***8364;26. Worth doing?
  • Any suggestions for a (European) supplier of quality stainless brake lines?
Are there anything that I should check or replace "while I'm in there"? I'm thinking of suspension and sway bar bushings, fuel lines, that kind of thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
The list shrinks slightly, before expanding significantly

Yesterday I actually picked up a spanner and sorted out inspection failure point numero uno:

For 20 cents I bought an M8x25 bolt and matching washer from my local hardware store. This still left a gap between the adjustable part of the "battery hold down" and the battery, which I filled with some high density rubber, cut to shape. Judging by the lack of an original spacer on realOEM I guess this means my battery is smaller than stock. Not shown is the stock outer battery cover, which I refitted. The battery box is a bit rusty though, leading to a new entry on the list. One step forwards, one step back.

Next up I had a closer look at my too-dim headlights. Rather than the useless knock-offs I feared, decoding my VIN through http://www.bimmer.work/ indicated factory option xenon lights (option 522) :woot:
.

Taking a look under the bonnet betrayed some bodging by a previous owner (PO). For some reason the outer xenon bulbs were replaced with H7 55w halogens :facepalm:

This could be down to one of three reasons (in order of likelihood):
  1. Issues with expensive xenon components
  2. Too cheap to buy xenon bulbs, but not too lazy to wire in extra halogen sockets
  3. Pure idiocy

From what I can gather online, my simple multi-meter is not suitable to test the high-voltage (and eye-wateringly expensive) xenon controller and ignitor. Sit down before having a look at parts 15 and 16 on realOEM.

Logically it seems rather unlikely that I simply replace the bulbs and everything turns out OK. But being an E46Fanatic I'm physically unable to resist the lure of FACTORY XENON :excited:

Reading Solidjake's ***Official E46 Bulb Guide*** I learnt that Holland's own Philips makes an acceptable bulb for under 50 euros. The plan is to check that both controllers and ignitors are actually still present. If so, I'm willing to gamble 50 euros on a single D2S bulb to test both sides.

While I had the bonnet open, I found some more items for the list.


Hopefully I can identify all my leaks with the help of **The E46 common oil/coolant/fluid leaks w/ pics and part numbers thread**. The power-steering reservoir o-ring is a no-brainer. And I'm quite certain that my head-gasket is due for replacement.

And I was totally unshocked to find my serpentine belts dried and cracked. Roll on the cooling system overhaul!

And finally a word on my general plan and (financial) expectations for this project. My current estimate is that passing inspection will cost me around 1,000 euros. Getting the maintenance up to date should cost another 2,000 bringing the total up to 6,000 euros, or 14% of the base price for a new 2016 420i (135kW). While not dirt cheap like a Miata, IMO this is the best possible value for money trackable daily out there. We'll see how it goes.
 

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What leads you to think the head gasket needs replacement? That could really kill your budget value. Unless it was overheated, I think the square 2.8l M52 is more resistant then the 3.0/2.5 M54 but don't quote me.

I managed to get my front end rebuild kit from amazon for just under $300 shipped. Front lower arms, bushings, tie rods, and swap links (new OE parts). I checked the pricing again for you, and it had gone up to over $600, so not knowing what happened, happy I got a deal.

Retrofit your headlights! I would guess someone didn't want to spend the extra money on a proper bulb. What a lazy yabo.

For $20 an hour, I would have that man do a lot of work on my car I don't feel like (presuming quality is up to expectation). Congrats, sweet find there.

I think the retrofit source sells replacement parts for your hedlights. You might be able to just swap FX-R projectors with some slight modification. Another member just posted this last week or two. This would be a lot cheaper then the kit, but you may spend a few days finding the rights parts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Leaks

NO! Please no :eeps:

I should have typed "valve cover gasket". And thanks for the tip regarding the lights! Did you have something like this in mind? I'd really appreciate a link to the thread you mentioned ;)

This is the leak I was complaining about


The other side of the motor


I suspect that this is the VANOS line...


And of course we have the ever-present leaky power-steering reservoir
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Quick update

Today I ordered the first wave of parts, with the aim of getting the car on the road ASAP.



Add another 400 for tyres and around 300 for garage time and labor and I should be legal for 4,300 (euro). Oh, let's not forget the headlights. I'm too cheap to gamble 50 bucks, so I found a D2S bulb for under 17 euro with which to test the xenon ignitors and controllers. While two sets of those run something like $1,800 (according to realOEM) I've found the parts significantly cheaper on German eBay. We'll see how it goes... While I'm itching to get behind the wheel, there's no real hurry.

Once the car is legal, I need to tackle overdue maintenance... First up is the cooling system (or I'll never hear the end of it). Second priority is to get the cluster working and fix and clear the inevitable warnings. Then I'm fixing the electric windows before plugging the various leaks. Then it is just a set of new struts and dampers and we'll be ready for the track! :blah:

Any suggestions for affordable sporty tires? Daily with occasional (light) track use. I'm currently favouring GoodYear F1 Eagles @ 96 euro per tyre. While I'm looking for grip, the tyres can't suck in the rain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Good news everyone! All my shiny new parts have arrived from Germany and I've booked garage time, starting tomorrow morning at nine sharp. Sadly my Bentley Manual won't be in on time, so I'll have to do it with the TIS. Wish me luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Preparing for the job, I did as BKMrSteel suggested and re-read my favourite control arm thread (DIY: Meyle Control Arms w/replaceable balljoints). Since I'm still waiting on my Bentley manual, I checked out the BMW TIS (after installing Virtual PC and "XP mode" on my Windows 7 machine). The information was a bit sparse, obviously aimed at experienced professionals, but certainly worth reading.

On Youtube I stumbled across a DIY video that helped immensely:
https://youtu.be/5cZ5B3b2ir8

I felt well prepared, until the morning when I discovered that my battery was dead :ben:

With a rest voltage of 10.5V, the writing was on the wall. Calling around resulted in a "Berga" 80Ah battery for 80 bucks. Upon my return I realised that I unthinkingly shut the boot (AKA trunk) with the battery disconnected and the rear seats locked upright... I hear you thinking "use the key" but unfortunately my lock is broken :facepalm: A couple of ten-counts later, Google revealed the positive pole under the hood, which allowed me to use the new battery to power the car :craig:

Finally, four hours later than planned, lift-off was achieved.


Another five hours later, my bimmer sported shiny new control arms and sway bar links.


The job was really not that tough. Trickiest part was getting the ball-joints to let go. Worst of them were the hub joints. It took a combination of heat, leverage and violent hammering to dislodge those (the remainder didn't require heating). I was really glad to have the support of an experienced wrench at this stage. Oh yeah, and the inboard nuts took for-freakin'-ever to loosen, one quarter turn at a time.

While disassembling, my mechanical mentor found that the old arms and joints were fine. Not perfect by any means, but certainly not bad enough to fail inspection. The "rusted" brake lines also turned out to be OK, as were the rubber brake hoses. In short, the garage that performed the inspection were trying to pull a fast one, something for which they apparently have a reputation. I will go and complain (using swear words) but the problem is that the inspection guidelines leave a lot of room for interpretation. For example: ball-joints are allowed some play, but not so much that the vehicle's stability is compromised. Oil leaks are allowed, if not excessive, etc, etc. The next inspection will definitely be at another garage.

While I'm at it, you might have noticed that the underside of the car is coated in oil. I was not happy about that. Perhaps it is simply the consequence of the leaks I already noted? I'll clean up and try to identify the source(s). Adding insult to injury, both front skid guards were MIA and the radiator "secured" with cable ties... :banghead:

... but all my complaints fade to nothing compared to the BRILLIANT sense of accomplishment I got from installing the control arms :pimpin:

Tomorrow I'm tackling the brakes. Please keep your fingers crossed!
 

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Good job, and write up! Tanks for taking the time to share. One tip, don't get stuck kicking yourself for replacing such things that could have lasted a little longer. It still needed to be done, and having done it your self you have not only gained new skills (invaluable), you still saved money by not going to a shop.
 
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