3-Series (E46) – MY1998-2006

BMW M3 (E46)
BMW M3 (E46) – photo by Alexandre Prévot

BMW 3-Series (E46)


Click the links below to see common problems specific to the engines available on this vehicle.


All Vehicles

  • Subframe cracking:
    • The body has a tendency to crack around the mounts for the rear subframe. It does not seem to be dependent on miles but rather age. Most if not all E46’s have started to crack. Repairs involve removing the entire rear subframe and welding reinforcement panels onto the body.
    • Customers filed a class action lawsuit, and BMW’s settlement repaired many vehicles. However, most cars out there have not been repaired.
  • Automatic transmissions can fail if fluid is not changed every 60k miles (despite BMW’s claim that they have “lifetime” transmission fluid)
  • Window regulators (easy to replace)
  • Cooling system in general (especially if fluid is not changed every two years), but specifically:
    • Radiator
    • Coolant expansion reservoir
  • Front ball joints
  • Dead pixels on gauge cluster, radio, and climate control displays
  • Avoid cars with the “SMG” automated manual transmission (available on 330i and M3), as they shift very rough and have mechanical issues

Certain Vehicles

  • MY02-03: Vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions may experience a delay of 2-30 seconds in shifting out of park (subject to TSB) – simply requires reprogramming of Electronic Gearbox Control module using the “manual entry” method
  • MY03 and earlier 328i and 330i with manual transmissions: Transmission may stick in 5th gear or reverse and/or may have a lack of shifter feel (subject to TSB) – attributed to gear selector shaft pins sticking due to a defective bushing