2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test


2002 BMW M3: Door Plate Bonanza!

January 17, 2008

A plethora of labels containing fine and not-so-fine print awaits drivers of our BMW M3.

I drove our 2002 BMW M3 home during the middle of the week - big mistake. Don't get me wrong; the car is fine. But on this particular day, traffic choked my route more than usual. Let's just say I didn't get to savor any of the M3's finer points.

So I'm going to talk about door stickers instead. I can tell by your sharp intake of breath that you can hardly wait for this one.

Our M3 sure has a lot of them - door placards and warning labels, I mean. The most prominent one is the dire warning about the side airbag and what it can do to children. But immediately below that disturbing nugget of information there sits a bright orange sticker that demands attention:

Whew, that's a relief. We sure dodged a bullet there. But seriously, why bother at all with a lawyer-excreted warning label if it's to be followed by a "Ha ha! Just kidding!"? Did the previous owner have them disconnected? The sticker does look a little like it was added later.

One theory around the office was that perhaps the M3's sport seats don't allow for airbags. But according to our site and other sources, the 2002 M3 is supposed to have side airbags and, from what I can tell, they are door-mounted anyway. If that theory were true, how hard would it be to synchronize the label with the seat, both of which are installed at the same factory? I can't find any documentation or web forum posts to explain this. Any BMW fans or E46 M3 owners have the answer?

And then there's this tire pressure placard. It might be hard to read, but that's the point. You're looking at a matrix with three tire sizes (M3 sizes differ from front to rear), two load conditions, two pressure units and two languages. One load condition and tire pressure set point exists for 4 or fewer persons, another is for "Max Vehicle Weight" (which could be just 3 or 4 persons if they happen to live a sedentary lifestyle of video games, pizza and 6-packs.)

But who has a set of vehicle scales at home? "Wait, guys. Before we go to the bowling alley, let's all stop by the truck scales and air-up." Yeah, right.

According to the chart and the key in the upper left corner, our M3 has triangles up front (225/45 ZR 18) and circles in back (255/40 ZR 18). So our tire pressures, with four or less aboard, are 33 psi front and 35 psi rear. Above the 4 person limit (whatever weight that actually is), the requirement jumps to 41/48, but that's for max vehicle weight (aka GVWR). It's unclear what the pressures should be in the range between 4 persons and GVWR.

Of course this is insanely complicated. Because tire pressure has been a hot topic since the Ford Explorer / Firestone debacle led to the TREAD act, the government has taken steps to clarify this situation. For one, a single tire pressure placard is longer allowed to serve a range of optional tire sizes. The placard on a new M3 (and any other car) must now relate to the specific tires fitted on that individual car. The font size and layout is standardized so that tire pressure placards are recognizable as such and are easy to read. And they added-in the spare tire's pressure for good measure.

Enough with the engineer-excreted material. I've got to make sure I drive the M3 on the weekend next time and steer clear of traffic. I know this was exhilarating, but I hear the steering and handling are worth blogging about, too.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 51,080 miles

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