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|3-Series (E46, E90) Chat relating to the BMW 3-Series from 1999 to Current. Models include: BMW 316i, BMW 318i, BMW 318Ci, BMW 320i, BMW 323i, BMW 325i, BMW 330i, BMW 328 Ci, BMW 328i, BMW 325i/xi, BMW 330Ci, BMW 320d, BMW 330d, BMW 335d.|
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Ok since this topic seems to frequently come up I decided to put something together on it to help the members.
The common complaint is a shaking in either the steering wheel or just throughout the car while driving, taking off, or coming to a stop.
I think that they can all be related but also there is a few characteristics that do separate them from each other so Im going to break them up in to categories.
Category 1) Shaking or vibration when taking off from a stop.
This scenario happens when taking off from a stoplight and especially under hard acceleration. A vibration is felt in the seat of your pants along with possibly a thump thump noise coming from under the rear or center of the car. The most common cause of this is driveshaft problems. Whether it be a bad center bearing or frozen U-joints the problem most likely lies somewhere in the driveshaft. It should be mentioned that while the center bearing is replaceable usually by the time it wears the rest of the driveshat condition is questionable. Before replacing just the center bearing check the driveshaft for wear and save yourself a headache and wasted money. Nine times out of ten when you have these problems a new driveshaft is in order. There are some driveshaft rebuilding companies but my personal experience with these places has been poor. Also I should mention that the driveshafts on BMW were not meant to be serviced, the u joints unlike american cars are sealed units.
Category 2) Vibrations while driving
This is very common. The scenario is while driving at higher speeds sometimes 40-50 mph or even faster freeway speeds you feel a vibration throughout the car and/or in the steering wheel and if you take your hands off the wheel you can watch it shake.
In this case the most important and common thing to check is wheels and tires. First and foremost are they balanced correctly. Are they factory wheels or aftermarket. If they are aftermarket then are they hubcentric or not. If not then hubcentric rings are in order. Also are the wheels all straight. BMW wheels bend very easily and a bent wheel will cause a heck of a vibration. If the wheels are good hubcentric straight wheels then check the tires. Are the tires nice n smooth. Feel them, do they feel choppy? A choppy tire will cause a vibration. Ok so now you know that you have good wheels and tires. the next thing to do is check the front and rear suspension for any worn components causing play. A worn suspension component can cause a vibration on its own or it can extremely amplify a tire/wheel issue. The most common suspension issue on BMW's from the earliest models to the latest models is Thrust rod bushings. (also known as strut rod bushings or upper control arm bushings) These bushings can fail as early as 50-60k miles and they can and will cause or amplify a vibration. They are rubber bushings that crack or tear and allow play in the front end of the car. Check these 1st along with the rest of the suspension and steering components. Last but not least Alignment. While alignment normally will not cause a vibration in itself unless it is very much out of wack alignment should be checked because it can cause the tires to wear improperly resulting in a choppy tires which causes a vibration. BMW has no set interval for cheking alignment but I recommend every 30k miles or so or anytime you have a minor collision, hit a curb or notice abnormal tire wear. I could go into more detail on all of these subjects but I'd like to keep this basic as just an outline for things to check.
Category 3) Shimmeys while braking or coming to a stop
The only main difference here between it and category 2 is that under braking warped rotors can come into play. While worn suspension components can cause shimmeys while braking if you have a vibration issue while stopping you may want to check the rotors for warpage. The main reason I added category 3 is to make it clear that if you have a vibration while driving down the road and your not stepping on the brake pedal, dont replace the brake rotors, they only come into play under braking. if you think about this it makes sense, but I have seen several posts asking about this and it seems to be misunderstood by some people.
OK so thats it. Im sure I may have forgotten some things and if so I'm sure I will get spammed with email telling me how stupid I am, but I wanted to quickly put something together to help everyone out here on the board. If anyone has any questions or arguements please have at it. Im open to sugestions.
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