Ok, first of all Ian, it sounds like the 'stealership' your going to may not have the best mechanics in the industry. With that it mind, read on.
First of all, the ticking sound could be a couple of different things. After reading your symptoms, let's start with the bad smell from the driver's wheel. The "caliper pin adjustment service" Firestone did was nothing more than removing the pins that the caliper "floats" on and probably cleaning and lubing them. There is no pre-set adjusment for the calipers. However, it sounds like you have a caliper either intermittently hanging up and/or siezed, which would for sure cause the brakes to get hot and smell. Or, Firestone screwed up their "caliper pin adjustment service," and the float pins are jambed or siezed up from them making an error on installation possibly. Other than a collapsed flexible brake hose, these would be pretty much the only options of a smokey brake, outside of highly uncommon problems. The question is, did it do this before you took it to Firestone? If the answer is no, it's an installation error by Firestone. If the answer is yes, then you may have an issue such as a caliper, etc. My advice is to stay away from those places. They often hire mechanics in which their experience is helping their dad shove a 350 small block in an S10 pickup. You won't find too many good troubleshooters in there. But, you need to fix this problem first, so it will eliminate possibilities for your other issues.
Second, it sounds like you need some suspension/wheel work. When your car is in the shop on a lift, it's very simple for a mechanic to isolate bad suspension, wheel, and steering components. Since it sounds like your symptoms can be pretty bad, there is in fact a strong possibility of one or more worn ball joints. These would include either or both lower control arm ball joints, or a steering tie rod end. It could possibly be an inner tie rod as well, which is available for replacement from the dealer without having to replace the entire rack and pinion steering unit. The ticking sound could be a braking component which again, is easily spotted on a lift with an experienced mechanic. However, as I said earlier, take care of all your brake issues first, then find someone who can isolate your bad suspension components. Although a little less frequent, there a other things to consider such as worn strut tower pivot bearings, worn out struts (are they the origanl struts?), and lower control arm/stabilizer bar bushings. Again, these are all easily troubleshot by some prying, wiggling, pounding, etc. on the hot spots while the car is in the air. This will be hard for someone to pinpoint online without seeing the car, but at least now you can ask if all this was checked properly.
The airbag light is usually troubleshot with a diagnostic scan tool at the stealership. As long as it is not a wiring problem, and it USUALLY isn't, there is no excuse for them not to nail this one right the first time. Someone doesn't know what their doing, or doesn't understand completely how the system works--Period.
The stalling-at-start-up issue could also be a couple of different things. Are you getting a check engine light? If not, it may be a cold-related issue with the idle control valve, or a vacuum leak in the intake system. Although it may take a couple hours, a good mechanic that understands the BMW DME engine management system can troubleshoot this--especially if they can pull a data stream with a scanner during "open loop" mode. Even so, it's amazing what you can do with a factory Bently service manual and wiring diagrams.
I'm assuming you meant that your "check radiator fluid" light goes OUT after it warms up. Simple enough. If you don't smell antifreeze, or see puddles on the ground, it's probably just low. The level of fluid that the sensor sees goes higher when the car warms up, thus making it go out. Also, when you have the heat on, this allows coolant to flow through the heater core, via the heater control valve, lowering the fluid level further according to the level sensor, making the light stay on longer. When the car is completely cool, add some fluid in the reservoir until the top of the red stick is level with the filler neck on the tank. See if this cures the ailment.
The rear light socket is obviously worn out, or a bad connection is present. Sometimes you can fool with these and get them to work all the time, and sometimes they require replacement. before you go replaceing this assembly, get access to the wiring, turn on the blinker, and wiggle/pull on the wiring, just to make sure it is not in fact a wiring issue.
The passenger window issue is the regulator--99.99% guaranteed. Run a search in the E46 section for "window regulator." You will see that many of us have had this same issue. Have the window regulator replaced.
My recommendation? As long as your not going to be upside down in the thing after the repairs, I would definitely keep it. Once you solve your issues, it sounds like it would be a fantastic car. But remember the most important thing to do:
TAKE IT TO SOMEONE TRUSTWORTHY AND KNOWS WHAT THE HELL THEY ARE DOING. This will make the difference between making or breaking your wallet, and worth your while. It's too bad you don't live anywhere near Toledo, OH, otherwise I would be happy to offer my services for repairs. But I know there are many exceptional mechanics out there, so I'm sure you'll be fine.
I'm also sure there are many more good thoughts and opinions from others to help, so stay tuned to your post.
Good Luck, and let us know what happens. Welcome to the forum.
Officer: "I see you set the table for four." Groucho Marx: "That's nothing--I set my alarm clock for eight."
Last edited by 441tech; 05-21-2006 at 12:55 PM.