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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 2001 e46 needs to pass a state safety and emissions inspection before I can get new tags. But the power steering pump (I assume) went out a month ago. It has the normal failure symptoms: fine one minute, then without warning, super hard to turn at low speeds. Like every BMW I've ever owned, it leaked power steering fluid. I tried some Bars Leaks two-part power steering fluid & stop leak (guaranteed to work, of course) and a couple of weeks later my pump failed. I can live with the tight steering, which feels fine above 15 mph, but when I went for the safety inspection it failed. The shop said my steering rack needs to be replaced. While on the lift, they grabbed each front tire at the 3 and 9 position and rocked it back and forth. There seemed to be play near the inner tie rod ends. The rack boots are ripped open. They also said the power steering pump may be an issue "possibly". I haven't noticed any steering problems other than the tightness after the pump failed. I've turned the steering wheel with the car on the ground and the tires moved right in sync with no apparent play.

In my state, the inspection guidelines say the p/s pump can't be leaking, but there is no mention that the pump actually has to be working. Every shop I've called said the pump may or may not have to be working to pass inspection. They say it's a "gray area".

So, the car is worth maybe $2000 at the moment but I depend on it as my only transportation. I can't put a ton of money in it just to get my license tag renewed. I need to get it legal (and safe) as cheaply as possible right now.

My questions:
Is the rack likely needing to be replaced? I'm thinking the inner tie rod ends are probably shot thanks to the rack boots being torn. But i don't want to replace the tie rod ends and then find out I still need a rack.

Can I just delete the power steering pump using one of those machined aluminum delete kits I've seen on tuner websites? If the pump isn't there at all, it can't fail the inspection. There's nothing in the rules that says you have to have power steering...only that if you do, it can't be leaky.

Yes, if the car was newer and I had $1000 laying around, or at least a nice lift so i could work on it more easily than lying in the street in front of my house, I would replace the pump and the rack and all would be well. But that's not my situation. I need to get this car legal and back on the road before I lose my source of income and everything else in my life. But this is a 19 year old car that at best will only be on the road another 2 or 3 years without some major repairs. Body is straight, no rust, interior ok for its age. Engine seems fine but it does have 208,000 miles on it. 5 speed manual seems to be in good condition. New brakes all around. Steering system is the only big concern at the moment. (But surprises are always a possibility!)

Any suggestions, other than selling it cheap and buying a Toyota?
 

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Ironman
01 330iT 6MT, 98 M Roadster
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First, I'd go to a different inspection station.

Second, IIRC, the boots are there to protect the rack seals, not so much the tie-rods, but busted seals could certainly cause wear to the ball and socket of the tie-rod.

Third, from your description it's not possible to ascertain what is causing the play. It could be rack, tie-rods, or tie-rod ends.

As for driving around with a busted PS pump... My first E46 went through PS pumps like candy after the original one went (until I upgraded the pump and high pressure hose). I drove around a lot with a busted pump - right up until the busted shaft froze and threw the belts. That is the risk of driving with a busted PS pump.

I totally understand about not wanting to throw money at a car worth $2k. But, it needs what it needs. BMWs are not low maintenance cars typically. Toyotas typically are. Not trying to be a smart @$$, but simply stating facts. You're definitely going to need a PS pump. If you have play in your steering system, you have other parts to replace as well, but just what isn't clear yet.

Greensboro is a beautiful place. I spent 4 months there 25 years ago.
 

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E30M3 Race F10 535 R1150Rt M Coupe
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A few thoughts & ramblings:

Power steering pump working or not: "Grey Area". Last time I checked there was no verbiage anywhere in inspection documents and requirements that allowed for a judgement call on any part being functioning or not. Yes the state allows for Expert Opinion" on the part of the inspector given their training, knowledge etc. however that's black or white, period. Go to another station....

I surmise that the real reason for a "fail" is the play they noted with the inner tie rods. You should just fix that anyway, with new boots to protect them from road debris and to keep the inner parts of the rack clean.
If you're on a budget, try to tackle the job yourself to save $$$ and then get a quality wheel alignment.

Pouring in any sort of stop leak into a P/S system was not a good idea. I've done forensic analysis on failed P/S systems that had that nasty gooey sh!t distributed throughout and it parks itself all over the nooks & crannies of the system. Not to mention it will also inhibit the filter inside the reservoir.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
p/s pump and inspections

I agree with you that the inspection of the power steering pump shouldn't be a gray area. I've read the official manual for state inspections and there is no mention of the power steering pump except that it can't be leaking and the belts must be tight. Yet when I called 3 different shops to ask if the pump has to be functioning, one said they couldn't tell me because that's considered a "pre-inspection", whatever that is, the second said they didn't know because it's "sort of a gray area", and the third, a shop that only works on imports, said the pump might or might not be a factor because, wait for it, "it's a gray area and up to the technician's discretion". So it looks like the inspection stations can fail you and put you into the position of having to buy a new pump even though the state doesn't specifically say that they can. In North Carolina once you officially fail the safety or emissions part of the inspection, it's in the computer statewide so going to another shop won't help. Luckily in my case I didn't get an official fail...the only thing tied to my car's VIN is that the emissions system wasn't ready to test. (I'd reset the check engine light 60 miles prior to the test, which for most cars is long enough but I guess BMW's need 100 miles to go through the "drive cycle".
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
And this is my 4th BMW, by the way, and it the e46 has definitely been the one that has needed the most work. And it's the hardest to work on when you don't have a proper shop and a lift. But still I think it's been remarkably trouble free compared to what friends have spent on their Fords, and the parts are cheap if you stay out of the dealership. I once got charged $600 by the dealership to replace the coolant overflow tank and one hose. It was a Friday and I had to get the car back for my work so I was sort of stuck. It was either pay them, or have it towed home, order parts, wait for parts, then do the repairs, which since it was Friday, would have put me out of work for up to 4 days. But I never went back there for anything!
 

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E30M3 Race F10 535 R1150Rt M Coupe
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In North Carolina once you officially fail the safety or emissions part of the inspection, it's in the computer statewide so going to another shop won't help.
Yes in most states it's that way, in one form or another. Here in NJ it's even nuttier; As a repair shop I must attend classes and get a ERF (Emissions Repair Facility) label from the state. Technically any non ERF cannot repair a car with a smog fail. Furthermore we only have two chances to get it right.
Hang on here comes the [email protected]*d up part.
As an owner, you can stroll up to Pep Boys get a scan and toss parts at the issue and go back for a reinspection (at the state run facility. we have both, State & Independent) as many times as you damn well please.

I have no issue with the later, but the former is stupid. Nevermind that the testing covers ALL sub 8,000 Lb. GVWR vehicles. Therefore I need to study up on everything from a Chevy Spark, all the way up to a Ford F-150 for the ERF certification...
 
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