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BMW cars-recalls-faults-problems and remedies E46 E90

Updated on August 27, 2011

The E46 BMW had quite a few design faults, but many faults can be traced to bad assembly. One of the most annoying is rattles in the dashboard. Another is window regulators which seem to have as much trouble as Renault does, with constant replacements common for all four windows.

As mentioned in the hub on the E46, the ignition coils also fail. General electrical component failure is not uncommon with many having electrical and electronic problems as well.

Failure of wheel bearings, air-conditioner fan, cooling system components, cam sensor, and moon roof motor are further faults that are common.

Door handles and locking mechanism failure is a problem on some models.

I believe the E46 had a lot of problems when new, and hopefully by time you buy one second-hand, most of it will have been sorted under warranty recalls.

The E46 is a remarkably nice car to drive, very reliable as far as major components are concerned, but spoilt by build quality in some cases. Water leaks, bad door seals happen too often as well.

BMW's are no longer just made in the original factory in Germany.

They are also made in South Africa, Egypt, Russia and China. I do not know why the E46 is so patchy in quality, but am guessing they are having similar problems with outsourcing as other makers such as Toyota, who have lists of failures that make BMW look good.


I know this list is extensive, and not all E46's will have all of these problems, but they are all common enough to be seen as failure on behalf of BMW to keep quality control at the highest standard as one would expect on a car of this price. Many problems develop early enough to be caught by warranty, but some dealers make you fight for every repairs they do under that warranty.

Having said all that, I have seen and driven many well sorted E46s, and they are a delightful car when nothing goes wrong. A well sorted one gives no trouble at all in most cases.

There are no less than 11 motors available in the E46. The 16 valve motor is offered in 1.8 - 1.9 and 2 litre motors.

The 24 valve head is used on the 2 litre, 2.2, 2.5, 2.8, 3 and 3.2 motors with the V8 being a 32 valve set up.

They also offer a 14 valve turbo 1.7 diesel and a 2.5 litre 16 valve

4 transmissions were offered as well, a 4 or 5 speed auto and a five or six speed manual.

Unfortunately the choice of auto or manual transmission does not preclude trouble with either drive train choice. The manual has clutch problems as a common fault, and the electronics in the automatic give trouble as well.

There is a list of faults for all BMW models here, but they do not include all the faults I have provided from my experience and the experience of my BMW workshop owning friends provided and confirmed here.

Many will have been pleased to buy this model with side airbags for the extra safety.

Most did not expect that the air-bag would deploy when they hit a pothole! This was most common on the 2002 model in my experience.

The E90 does not have a good reputation among mechanics either. Most of its problems are with faulty sensors and electronic glitches that turn on an array of warnings.

Other problems are:

Turbo failure at low kilometres. (This has some owners hopping mad!)

Rattles! These are most annoying and seem to be related to shoddy interior assembly.

The E90 is such a nice car, once again I believe a well sorted one is a joy to drive, if not to own!

Come on BMW, we expect much better from someone who can build the ultimate drivers car!


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    • Hackslap profile image


      4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I own a 06/07 325Ci (literally one of the last models to come out of Germany) ... its fully tarted up with the M sport pack and despite the sublime engine response and driving pleasure. .I have had my problems with it. ..the lower radiator hose cracked and drained out the coolant ..luckly my warranty covered most parts to overhaul the cooling system ... my regulator on my left window failed too .. and there were leaks of transmission fluids and engine oil .(again all covered under warranty) ... Im hoping no other problems come about

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Totally disappointed with my BMW m3. Really expected better quality. Only has 52 k and already have to replace rear trailing arm bushings, seat belt light turned on, and tire pressure light won't stay off eventhough pressure is correct. I am more impressed with the build quality of my wife's Mercedes.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks for sharing - wasn't aware of this BMW model

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thanks Right On Time, I use dobs of high quality silicon gasket goo over the mount points where the screws are. Let it dry for 24 hours then do the screws up firmly but not tight enough to destroy the blobs of silicon.Let me know how you go.

    • Right On Time profile image

      Right On Time 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Great article BTW

    • Right On Time profile image

      Right On Time 

      7 years ago from Australia

      It's interesting to see that the E46 has the dash rattle thing going on too...I thought they fixed that after the E36. I've got an E36 318i and it's practically new - but the friggin glovebox rattle! Do you know how to kill that? Tried screwing, unscrewing, still rattles and - yes - I have to say bad assembly is my guess regarding cause.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      HM It sound as if you enjoyed the car, and it's always good when you can step away without losing too much money.

    • hardlymoving profile image


      7 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Owned a 00 M3 E46 for around a year. Had to go on a dealer 7 month waiting list to get the car. Fun to driver on the highway, had great acceleration, handling and looked liked it wanted to go fast; however, driving around town under 35mph was a real hassle. Had to pay a gas guzzler tax which I didn't quite understand since it got over 26 mpg on the highway. Had my 1 year of fun and sold it before it started to depreciate.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I have always known about their design faults, but this is nothing compared to some of the new Mercedes Benz problems. The thing is Ben, all the other motor vehicles have design faults too. The electronics and electricals in some of the top model Mercedes Benz cars have proved to be a nightmare for some owners recently. When all BMW manufacturing stopped being assembled in the original factory, the rattles started to appear.

      Some cars have hundreds of weaknesses even these days.

      Design faults have made me a lot of money over the years!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I cant believe this is allowed to happen. BMW are usually considered to be the master makers of cars but lets face it everyone has problems, lets just hope it was an accident and not an oversight. Beautiful car though.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you for your comment Hello, hello. I enjoyed writing this hub, although I get no pleasure from BMW mistakes and over-sites.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for an interesting hub.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you for the comment Uma, I hope BMW get the new car sorted properly.

      They are a masterpiece in many ways.

      It is a shame we are seeing faults that indicate poor assembly and quality control problems in the BMW company.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I had this craze about BMW but I didn't know the technical aspects.Thanks for providing the much required info on its drawbacks.I'm sure those opting for this one will definitely find the information useful.


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