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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-20-2006, 11:00 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Please help...!

Hey guys, wanted to first take a second to introduce myself. My name is Ian, I'm from NY. I've had my E46 for almost a year now and have 72,800 miles on it.

I'm having a lot of issues with my car. First, I am experiencing some crazy ticking sound. It sounds like its coming from the front-passanger wheel, but I cannot isolate it. When I sit in the front-passanger seat it sounds like it's coming from the center console or the glove box area. Sometimes it's a ticking noise (when at high speeds, 45 mph+) and other times it sounds like metal grinding against metal (5-15mph). I notice it more when I am turning left or right, rather than going straight. I had the rotors and pads changed, at Firestone (to save $$, bad move?), thinking this was the problem, because they were very rusted. Firestone also did some 'caliper pin adjustment service', which I am not familiar with. It appears the previous owner neglected to give the car the TLC it needed. The noise went down for a while and now it's coming back louder than ever. The other bizzarre thing, possibly related, is that the steering wheel violently shakes (left, right, up, down, and turns itself all over the place) when i'm cruising above 45mph. Everything rattles inside the car and the stick shakes also. It almost felt like the wheel was going to fall off. When it is happening, I have to fight the car to stay in my lane-it tries going everywhere but straight. It only does this occasionally. At other times the car performs excellent with no ticking and no vibrations at all! Most often there is a slight ticking sound present. What could this be? A caliper issue, ball joint, IDK?

My second issue is a horrid smell coming from the front-drivers wheel. It smells like break pad burning up and when I drive for 20 minutes the wheel (brakes) starts to smoke pretty badly. On short drives the smell isn't so bad but definately present. I don't know what is going on with this vehicle and I am taking the car back to firestone. The car drives as if the e-brake is on, low gas mileage and loss of power. Before looking at the car firestone noted that I would probably need new calipers, does this seem accurate? It seems to me that the calipers on a car like this should last longer than 72,000 miles.

Third, I have taken multiple trips to the dealer for the airbag dummy-light. They replace something different every time (seatbelt latch, wiring harness, etc.). At a price of almost $400 every repair, I need to get this issue fixed properly and stop trying to guess what is wrong. The organization who calls customers after they have a repair done at the dealer called me, I told them my issue, and they said sorry we can't do anything! LOL! What is the point of them calling??? :lol: :lol:

Fourth, my car stalls out in the mornings, sometimes, when I first start it up. I put only premium fuel in the car and it is about 55 degrees (F) when I do it. What could this be?

Fifth, for the first five minutes of my morning commute the check radiator fluid light dummy light is on. It goes on after the car warms up. It seems to stay on longer when I have the heat/AC/defrost on. Is this normal?

I also have electrical problems with my right blinkers. The right blinker in the back may be loose or something. Occasionally, the rear blinker will stop working and cause the right-blinker in the front and side to blink rapidly. In order to fix this I get out and tap on the rear-right light and it comes back. I tried messing with the bulb,but any position I put it in seems to have the same issues. Could something be wrong with the socket?

Lastly, the passanger window seems to have some sort of issue. Again, SOMETIMES when I roll the window up or down there is an awful ticking noise as if the motor is dieing. Sometimes it works perfectly. Recently, I rolled it down and it sounded like glass scraping on glass. I haven't touched it since. I have an appointment at the dealership to get this looked at.

I'm not too car-tech-savvy and would really appreciate any advice you can give me! Should I give up on this car?? I love the performance and styling of the car but I can't afford to keep fixing it. I purchased the extended warranty (3rd party) which, to-date, still hasn't covered one single item... Since buying the car I have already done over 2k in repair work, and I'm still at square-one. Am I experiencing a normal number of problems? What would you guys recommend?

Last edited by ia20; 05-20-2006 at 11:07 AM.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-21-2006, 12:53 PM
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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.


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Last edited by 441tech; 05-21-2006 at 12:55 PM.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-22-2006, 07:55 AM
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It's like a one-stop shop thread for advice. Did we miss any topics here?

Are you sure it's the brakes that are smoking and smell bad? From the advice of the Bentley Manual and others on this forum, I'd wonder if you don't have a bad wheel bearing. Constant ticking (assume increases with RPM?), louder on turns, always present. You would think someone even at Firestone would have noticed a seized caliper when they were working on the guide pins. You know what you could do is jack the car up on some stands, take the wheel off and spin the hub. See if it sticks or makes a popping sound.

When refilling the coolant, make sure to bleed air out of the system, or you might find your temperature gauge increasing.

Take 441's advice and find a competent mechanic or dealership. I currently use my local dealership to do my diagnostics for me, then I do the work. It's like slipping them a Benjamin to tell me what's wrong. Post your zip and maybe someone here can recommend their mechanic.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-22-2006, 08:21 AM
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after the book written by 441tech (impressive), only a few things to add (all hypotheses at this point):

1. wheel balance. cheapest to check.
2. water in gas. use isopropanol-based additive, 3 bottles per tank, once.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-22-2006, 01:08 PM Thread Starter
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Red face RE: Please help...!

Thanks for the great advice. Firestone did, in-fact, need to replace two of the calipers. Apparently, they were siezed and were causing my pads to burn like hell, more-so on the front drivers side. They also replaced the pads at no cost to me. After replacing both front calipers and pads I am still experiencing the ticking/grinding noises. Yes, it does increase at higher speeds. As far as I know they are the original struts. I have an appointment at the "stealership" (lol) on Jun 2nd. I'll keep you guys posted. I am in the 12065 area code, or around Albany, NY. I would very much appreciate it if anyone could point me to a good mechanic. I'll do the coolant this weekend, and yes I did mean the light goes out when the car warms up. Apparently the stalling in the morning issue had something to do with high-octane fuel. When putting mid-grade fuel in, I have experienced no problems on cold start-ups. I did not get the check engine light, and after one stall the engine runs beautifully. Again, thanks !
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-23-2006, 12:09 AM
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Im sure the $tealership, although everyone calls them thieves would not have replaced 2 calipers on your car (which i can almost guarantee there was absolutely nothing wrong with) and then replace your nice quiet BMW brake pads with $5 square bricks disguised as brake pads which im sure sound excellent when you come to a stop. IMO opinion the only $tealers are places like Firestone where every brake job gets at least a couple calipers and a nice "pin adjustment"

No offense Ian, just remember sometimes you get what you pay for. Try to avoid places who are not experts in BMW and although it may seem more expensive.. in the long run itwill save you $$$
Good luck and welcome to the forum.


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