2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test - Maintenance

2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

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2002 BMW M3: Loose Weatherstripping Trim

May 06, 2009

02 M3 stripping before.jpg

Our old M3 was looking a little down recently. Specifically, the flocked (velour-like-covered) rubber trim strip that covers the inside edge of the driver's door weatherstripping was down and out. Armed with a tube of Permatex Super Weatherstrip Adhesive (under $3), I got to work.

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2002 BMW M3: Dirty Even When It's Clean

March 16, 2009


What the paint on our 2002 BMW M3 looks like with the odometer close to 70K miles, said without judgment. This is a picture of the passenger side front end, missing fog light courtesy of an errant cone during an autocross. I noticed the faux dirtiness when I had just gotten the keys back from the car washer. "Did they not clean the car?" I wondered looking at what appeared to be dried mud spatters on the front end. But when I touched it it was just worn. I wonder how much a paint job would cost?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 69,190 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Missing Red Clown Nose

February 27, 2009


I was driving our 2002 BMW M3 around last night when I noticed that that red clown nose dimmer switch was missing from the rearview mirror. So, yeah, couldn't dim the headlights of all those motorists I left behind in the dust. Heh.

The mirror looks so sad without that red button that I did a quick search online just to see how much it would be to replace an E46 rearview mirror with dimmer. There seemed to be a wide range of choices with a wide range of prices, from the 99-cent one (opening bid) I found on eBay to the $50 defective leaky one (also on eBay) to a $300 oval mirror found on an M3 forum.

Haven't brought this up with the key keepers yet but in all honesty none of the other editors even noticed the dimmer was missing.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 68,308 miles

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2002 BMW M3: False Positive

February 02, 2009


I was enjoying a carefree weekend with our long-term 2002 BMW M3 -- nothing demanding, really, I was just keeping an easy pace and taking care to baby the aging six-speed Getrag gearbox . And that's about when the amber "low oil" light came on two miles from my apartment. It stayed on until I shut the car off.

There was a quart of the M3's preferred 10W60 synthetic in the backseat, but when I picked up the bottle, less than a half-pint was left. It was 6 p.m. on Sunday and I had evening plans, so I rushed to the nearest auto parts store. They didn't have 10W60, so I was forced to buy one of the two allowed alternatives per the owner's manual: 10W40.

Meanwhile, the low oil light had extinguished in the M3. I let the car sit for 40 minutes after returning home, and when I pulled the dipstick, the oil level was perfectly fine -- smack in the middle. Thanks, car.

So what we did learn here? Not a lot, but if I owned an E46 BMW M3, I'd keep a case of 10W60 on hand just to avoid running around on Sunday nights.

P.S. Ignore the brake wear warning light on the right side of the cluster. The brakes work extremely well, but the stock brake pad wear sensor has never been quite pleased since the installation of our Stoptech big brake kit.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 67,063 miles

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2002 BMW M3: New Tires Finally for Our German Mustang

January 18, 2009


After a week or so of waiting, our long-term 2002 BMW M3 is back on the road and rolling on a new pair of shoes.

Faithful readers will remember that we had beaten the E46's set of Yokohama Advans into submission and were in desperate need of replacements. As always, to www.tirerack.com we went, credit card in hand.

But a new set of Advans seemed boring. As much as we were impressed with the tire, we wanted to try something new, but what? We knew we still wanted a Max Performance Tire because the M3 rarely leaves L.A.and Spring is closer than we think, but beyond that we were open to anything.

Well, we ended up with a set of Sumitomos. Yes, Sumitomos. The company's max performance model is called the HTR ZIII and we figured they were worth a shot for two reasons.

1) They are dirt cheap. In fact, they are the cheapest max performance tire that comes in the M3's required sizes. And at $132 for each front and $153 for each rear they cost about half as much as a set of Advans or a set of Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s.

2) We thought it would be fun to see what you get for that low price. Are they a steal or is this an example of half price/half performance?

We decided it would be fun to find out. Soon we will retest the car at our test track to sample the ultimate grip and extreme handling characteristics of the Sumitomos, and we'll surely report on their ride quailty and overall durability in the coming weeks.

As usual, www.tirerack.com and the crew at The Tire Rack made everything easy. The tires were shipped quickly and showed up as promised. We then zipped over to our favorite local tire installer, Stokes Tire in Santa Monica, and had them installed. They charged us $109. That's $100 for install / balance and $9 for hazardous waste disposal.

And so far so good. The Sumitomo name might not impress your buddies at the local hangout, but the tires look good, and they feel great. They've been on the car for about a week now and we have no complaints.

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2002 BMW M3: Down With A Bum Leg

January 02, 2009


As you can see our beloved M3 is down with a flat Yokohama. We already pumped it up once, only to have it flatten again. Usually we would just get it patched, but all four Advans on the car are so worn (there are cords showing on one) that fixing it doesn't make much sense. And so the car sits waiting for some new shoes.

Anybody got any tires they'd like to recommend? As much as we liked the Yoks, we thought we would try something new. What tires should we get for the M3?

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2002 BMW M3: For Once...

December 09, 2008


...I had nothing to do with missing tread on rear tires.

Above, is what remains of the tread on one of the rear tires on our 2002 BMW M3. No doubt these tires fell victim to gratuitous powerslides and general hooliganism brought about by our crack staff. I'm sure Ms. Riches' excellent adventure had a little something to do with it too.

While these tires would be perfectly safe for most of the year here in Southern California, the rainy season (read month) is fast approaching. Despite the fact that all California drivers are idiots, the roads and freeways here are notoriously bad in the rain. Improper drainage, poor lane markings along with massive hidden oil deposits that seep to the surface conspire to send everyone, even cars with fully treaded tires, careening into the wall when it's raining.

As much as I hate to err on the side of safety, it might be a good idea to buy some new tires.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 62,550 miles

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2002 BMW M3: What an Elegant Solution

December 01, 2008


I needed to check our long-term 2002 BMW M3's oil level and tire pressures in preparation for a weekend autocrossing school (photos of that coming tomorrow). I'd guess I've never checked the oil in our M3 before, because I was surprised when this little finger extended out after I yanked the hood release in the footwell.

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2002 BMW M3: Coming Apart At The Seams

November 20, 2008

M3 busted blog 1.jpg

I'm not really bothered by the interior wear issues in our long-term 2002 M3 that the other Josh highlighted recently. Considering that it's six to seven years old and hasn't exactly received meticulous care, this cabin is looking pretty good.

But I'm not so high on the busted trunk piece shown above, the thing you grasp whenever you open or close the trunk. I remember thinking it felt pretty flimsy when last I grabbed it (while loading CDs for my S.F. trip), but at least it was still kind of attached. Seems a clip or two has given way since Jay first pointed this out back in May -- when I opened the trunk to get our trusty roll of paper towels for oil-checking purposes yesterday, it nearly came off in my hand.

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2002 BMW M3: Screwed

November 14, 2008

M3 screwed 1.jpg

The usual amount of drool was dripping onto my "I <3 M3" T-shirt when I scored the keys to our 2002 long-termer the other night. That is, until I noticed the screw embedded in the driver-side rear tire. Zoinks! A visit to our friends at Stokes Tire Pros was clearly in order.

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2002 BMW M3: For A Few Dollars More

October 03, 2008


If you've been following the progress of our long-term 2002 BMW M3 the past 10 months, you know that the sublime driving experience has been tempered with some maintenance and upgrade expenditures. Here's the fistful of dollars tally so far:

$1,173 -- alignment and new rear control arm bushings. $1,273 -- Yokohama tires and install. $1,532 -- door lock and power steering hose repair. $3,140 for the Stoptech brakes and install. $870 -- 60,000-mile service. $1,900 -- Alternator and FSU repair.

Obviously, we didn't have to go with the M3's upgraded tires and brakes ("We could have gone cheaper with factory replacement brakes and rock hard Pep Boys specials, but what fun would that have been?" quipped Oldham earlier.) Or we could have tried to use independent shops or our own wrenches more often. But it is what it is. Which is, erm, a grand total of $9,888, or about $1,000 a month since we've owned it.

For reference, the now departed 1983 Ferrari 308 cost us $4,625 in total maintenance.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2002 BMW M3: There's a Hole in the Headliner

September 25, 2008


That's a bummer. Don't worry, like everything else on this car, it'll only cost $3,465,765 to fix. Well, that's if we use the dealer. At an independent shop it'll only be $1,987,976.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 62,361 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Alternator replacement

September 19, 2008

bmw M3 Service Alt.jpg

Two days ago Erin Riches alerted you to a warning lamp that's activated on our Long Term 2002 BMW M3. You had your own thoughts and guesses on the cause. At last count you were split, 4 / 3 for battery and alternator. There were also a few write-in votes: Bad connection, voltage regulator and something about an Eagle Talon (Which hits a bit of a personal soft spot; my first car was a turbo AWD DSM.) and a wholesaler. Good guesses all, but we had a bit of information that you didn't. A bit of information that our guys over at Summit Automotive relayed in passing, "Might want to keep an eye on the alternator. They tend to go on these cars around 50. Maybe 60 [ thousand miles]." So we knew what we were getting into.

While we certainly had a good experience at Summit, independent shops do have drawbacks: time constraints and parts availability are the major ones. Keeping that in mind we decided to use our local BMW dealership, BMW of Santa Monica for the repair. Not only did they have the parts in stock, but they could see us that very same day. Besides, we hadn't used them in a couple of years and this blog is as much about the service shop as it is the car. And so, at 1:23pm on Wednesday, I dropped off our M3 at Santa Monica BMW.

There were a few good signs right off the bat arriving at BMW SM. First was the presentation. While I won't knock a good dealership for not offering state of the art aesthetics, I certainly appreciate the good dealerships that go the extra mile. (Unlike Lexus of Santa Monica that offers the high gloss, but none of the good service.) Next was the wait time, I had barely had time to peek around the bays before my service advisor bounded over. Turns out he's an E46 M3 owner as well, so perhaps our experience was a little better based on that alone. I told him about the battery light and he said the techs would be able to look at it immediately. Then I mentioned the fan failure. The one that prompted Riswick's "It does not blow" blog. Less than a second passed before he said the cause was most likely -- as we already knew-- the final stage unit and they were in stock.

When he called back with an estimate, $1500 for the alternator replacement and $600 for the FSU replacement I stalled and said I'd call back. Then I called Loren, AKA: Subytrojan. He's a solid resource on BMW maintenance and a nice guy to boot. I think he cried a little when I told him the price for the final stage unit. Doing it ourselves, he said, would be a few hours work. Not hard, but time intensive. A lot of M3 owners I'm sure are in the same boat regarding free time: there's simply not enough of it. Schmidt and I conferred and settled on paying for the repair. Budgeted BMW owners can spend a pleasant afternoon in the driveway with a set of Torx drivers replacing this and save a few bucks. Everyone else, be prepared to pay. The part alone lists at $137.40.

I called back intending to authorize the complete repair when our guy surprised me. "We want to be your BMW service shop." He started, "I can do the alternator for $1350 and the final stage unit for $500." It wasn't a huge savings but it was appreciated none the less.

At 1:40pm Thursday, just over 24 hours from the time I dropped the car off, it was complete. The total bill was lower than the estimate but still a whopping $1,899.88. $1,058 was labor. $777.71 was parts ($640.31 for an alternator w/core exchange) and $64.17 went to the Governator's office.

For the geeks out there, our alternator was charging at 11.4 volts, the replaced unit was pushing the recommended 14.2V.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 62,189 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Time for a New Alternator?

September 17, 2008


The alternator warning light (shaped like a battery and illuminated in red, in case you can't tell from this phone camera capture) started coming on last night in our 2002 BMW M3. At first, it only stayed on a for a few seconds, but now it stays on for a good minute before it extinguishes.

Most likely, we will be paying another visit to our indie shop, Summit Automotive. We'll let you know what happens.

Erin Riches, Inside Line Senior Editor @ 62,186 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Indie Service Center Success!

September 02, 2008


Within minutes of setting foot in Summit Automotive in Marina Del Rey, two things were apparent: The first is that these guys are real mechanics. From the dot-matrix printer to the yellowing CRT computer monitor to the desk-pad, covered in scribbles that, once examined, turned out to be fairly complex diagrams of automotive components, everything in the office was functional on a fundamental level. These guys are not salesmen and they certainly aren't showman. Nobody was wearing a suit and, even at the early hour we retrieved our M3, everyone had a little grease on their hands.

The second thing we realized was that, for the past two days, our M3 was in excellent hands and we wouldn't have to ban Desmolicious for his suggestion.

Follow the jump for the full results

Without question our M3 was the newest vehicle in their shop. By a decade. But our computers and fuel injection didn't scare them one bit. Our request that the car be back same-day also didn't bother them-- all of the parts and fluids were in stock and the day belonged to our M3.

If you'll remember from my previous post the list of things to be adressed in this service are are oil change, diff-fluid change, plugs, and a valve job.

The bad news came early: The shim set they thought they had for ann E46 M3 was no longer in stock. Like I said before, these guys aren't salesmen. It would take about a week to get their hands on a set and they could take care of that anytime in the future. The rest of the service would continue on as planned.

Our M3 was ready in the late afternoon that day. We opted to pick it up the following day to avoid the horrible rush hour traffic that defines Southern california.

The bill? $869.83 It's an M3 not a Camry, there has to be ONE downside to this car.

Parts came to $452.50. The highlights were $123 for spark plugs, $101 in specially formulated (83-22-2-282-583) gear oil, and $72 in engine oil. Filters and wipers made up the rest. Shop labor was a reasonable $380. The state of California made up the rest of the tab-- $37.33 in taxes.

We're still waiting on the valve job and we'll let you know how that goes. For now, though, we're happy with the service we recieved from Summit and wouldn't hesitate to recommend their shop.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 60,613 miles.

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2002 BMW M3: 60K Service

August 29, 2008


Just about a week ago Inside line Editor-in-Chief Scott Oldham alerted you to the fact that our 2002 BMW M3 was due for an oil service. And as this blog is for you guys, he opened the door for you to determine our course of action: Do it ourselves? Take it to a BMW dealer? Or go local?

We read the responses and weighed our options carefully. We were all set, Dickies coveralls laid out nicely, to do the job ourselves when we looked into our BMW's history. Turns out the M3 is a hair more complicated than the bitchin' Camaro we learned to turn a wrench on. M3's, we found out ( SubyTrojan gets some serious credit here), require some major services to be performed during their normal life cycle (Inspections I and II in BMW-speak). The first one should happen after the 1,200 mile service, the first oil service-- figure at about the 30K mile marker-- and includes a myriad of checks, changes, adjustments and alignments. The first owner of the car had this service performed under warranty at the required time. Their record keeping and watchmaker precision with services is one of the highlights of this used car. The second service -- one that includes new plugs, a change of transmission fluid, diff fluid, engine oil, air filter and microfilter along with a valve adjustment-- had not been done. This interval happened at some point between the original owner selling the car and us buying it. What luck.

I called BMW of Beverly Hills to see what this service would run. North of 2-grand somewhere. I blacked out after I heard "two-thou...". After hearing the first portion of the price, Oldham made the executive decision "Let's go local." And so we did.

In a response to the original thread frequent rabble rouser chimed in, "

Go to Summit Automotive - they are an indie BMW/Alfa shop in Marina Del Rey. I have been happy with their service.

721 Washington Blvd

Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 "

So that's what we did. If this goes wrong, Desmo, it's on you...

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 60,200 miles

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2002 BMW M3: 11,000 and in Need of Service

August 20, 2008



Tomorrow we will have owned our long-term 2002 BMW M3 exactly 9 months. In that time we've driven it a few clicks past 11,000 miles and I think everyone here will tell you it has been a positive experience. Even with 60,000 miles on its odometer the M3 feels new.

Sure we've just put some new, larger Stoptech brakes on it (which feel great by the way), and we splurged for some sticky Yokohama tires from www.tirerack.com, but those were both purchased because of want not need. We could have gone cheaper with factory replacement brakes and rock hard Pep Boys specials, but what fun would that have been?

None is the answer for all you haters out there.

When we bought the car it had just been serviced and its engine freshly lubricated, so we knew it was going to be a while before we'd have to pay for an oil change. Well the time is creaping up. Car says it will want fresh oil in 850 miles everytime you fire it up.

Meanwhile, the low oil light is on again, so we're just going to kill two birds with one stone. But where should we get the oil changed? The local BMW dealer? An independent shop? Jiffylube? Our own driveway?

You tell us. We might even listen.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 60,158 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Fill 'er Up

August 04, 2008

I drove the M3 this past weekend and it wasn't until I was about the leave the office when I read Riswicks' blog about the failed A/C fan. CRAP! This thing has a dark leather interior, it gets hot quick and retains the heat. It was going to be an oven on wheels!

Not being completely aware of the afore mentioned problem I was cursing myself for picking the M3. Thankfully, as I left the garage, the fan sputtered back to life. Good thing too since it was fairly hot around town. It wasn't blowing super cold, but what I got out of it I was mighty thankful for.


But later that night the oil light came on. The tank was nearly empty anyways so I checked the the levels I filled up. The dip stick registered in the lower quarter of the normal range. I didn't add anything and the light was off as I drove away from the station.

But on Sunday it came back on. This light was getting annoying, but I'd rather resolve it than ignore it. I figured the level was getting low anyways and the sensor was probably picking up under spec levels as the oil sloshed about. A little top off wouldn't hurt, right?

A quarter quart did the trick. No light, plenty of cool air and I was a happy driver.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2002 BMW M3: It Does Not Blow

August 01, 2008

Oh, it says it's blowing at max, but it's not

No seriously, our M3 literally does not blow. As I typically do when driving the M3, I immediately shut off the A/C, put back the sunroof, rolled down the windows and popped open the rear vents -- perfect nice-weather motoring. When the stereo started being drowned out by a nearby truck in traffic, I rolled everything back up and hit the "Auto" button to bring the HVAC system to life. Nothing happened. I overrode Auto by turning up the fan to max. Nothing. I turned off and on the A/C button. Nothing. I pressed the airflow direction button and felt around for air. Nothing. The BMW HVAC controls aren't the simplest in the world, but I knew I wasn't screwing it up. Also, it was working the night before.

When I drove in this morning, it still wasn't working. I think it's just the fan, however, as I could feel A/C coming out of the vents when I was driving at high enough speeds for the natural air flow to come through. I hope nobody's planning a Death Valley adventure in the M3 this weekend.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 59,450 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Testing the Big Brakes

July 28, 2008


As I mentioned in an earlier post, the strengths of a big brake kit like this one lie not in its ability to reduce a car's single-stop distance from 60 miles per hour, but rather in its ability to endure sustained high-temperature operation by adding thermal capacity and maintaining consistent pedal feel.

Stoptech's brakes do exactly that. Even so, 60-to-0 stopping tests are a standard around here and both our previous M3 brake tests we performed from this speed. So, if for no other reason than to have an apples-to-apples comparison, we repeated this test with the new brakes.

And, what do you know, there wasn't a huge improvement. The M3 stopped from 60 mph in a previous test on these tires (Yokohama Advan Neova AD07s) in 109 ft. Last week it recorded a best stop of 107.6 feet and settled consistently at 108 feet. More importantly it could have repeated this test all day. Repeated stops from 60 mph don't approach overheating the system. In fact, it takes a few runs to get the pads up to temperature so the first few stops were longer than stock -- a compromise made by high-temperature pad material.

This result does speak to the fact that Stoptech's brakes maintain the M3's stock front-to-rear brake proportioning -- something which is commonly overlooked in many aftermarket kits. This balancing act is crucial to proper brake performance.

The real test will be during aggressive street driving which is what the Axxis Ultimate pads we're using were designed for. Look for further updates after we've had the M3 in the mountains.

Also, the M3's brake pad wear warning light is still on because the installer thought the aftermarket pads wouldn't work with the stock sensor. We've since been told that it will and are planning to reinstall the sensor later this week. Check back here for updates.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 59,202 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Breaking in the New Brakes

July 25, 2008

Before hammering on our new brake set up, Stoptech requires a relatively simple bed-in procedure. Pad-bedding demands a minimum of two series of ten partial braking events from 60 to 10 miles per hour. Each series is performed without letting the brakes cool between braking events. Then, after ten partial stops, the system is cooled to ambient temperature. After cooling another series is repeated. We performed two series of braking events.

This achieves two goals. First, it conditions the pad material by driving manufacturing resins out of the pads. Second, it creates material transfer to the rotor, which is essential in achieving proper friction characteristics for optimal performance.

In practice, this is a smelly, but necessary, procedure. About half-way through the first series of stops the pads begin to smoke something awful. Here's what they look like:


After ten stops we drove the car at high speed without applying the brakes until the system cooled down. Then we parked it for about 30 minutes before repeating another series of partial stops. This time there was no smoke. Pedal response and effort remained consistent throughout thanks to high-temperature fluid and stiffer-than-stock calipers. However, the heat shield on the right front began to rub when the system was hot. After removing the wheel, caliper and rotor we found this witness mark on the heat shield:

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2002 BMW M3: Installing the Big Brakes

July 24, 2008

A more accurate title for this blog is: Having the Big Brakes Installed. We hired Lucent Motors to do this job for us. This West L.A. shop specializes in high-end German hardware. In fact, while on site, our M3 kept some excellent company:


Our friend Tom Chan at Lucent explained that installing performance hardware on Porsches, Mercedes, BMWs and several other luxury marques is the company's bread and butter.

Lucent charges $500 for a job like ours which required installing new front rotors and calipers, installing new rear rotors and pads and swapping all four stock brake lines for the stainless steel lines from Stoptech. They bleed the system and test drive the car. Making our 332mm Stoptech system fit under the stock 18-inch wheels required use of these 10mm spacers. This will marginally compromise the M3's steering geometry, but it's the only way to make the brakes fit under the stock wheels.

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2002 BMW M3: Big Brakes Have Arrived

July 23, 2008

Stoptech big brakes.jpg

Here are most of the Stoptech parts needed for the brake upgrade we've got planned. Not pictured are the stainless steel lines for all four corners. The rotors on the left are the company's patented Aerorotors(TM) which use an aluminum hat and are part of the front big brake kit. The stiff four-piston calipers and steel lines should reduce compliance and improve pedal feel. The rotors on the right are Stoptech's slotted Sportstop(TM) rotors (purchased individually with lines). Motul Racing Brake fluid will further the system's heat tolerance. Grand total: $2,640.

As I mentioned last time, we'll be using Axxis Ultimate pads which Stoptech recommends for "aggressive street" use. If we plan extensive track time for the car, we'll likely need pads designed for higher temperatures. Still, this system will substantially increase our brake system's total heat capacity over stock and should be more than capable of handling any hard street driving the car will see. In other words, this should solve our fade problem.

As several readers already mentioned, we aren't anticipating a substantial decrease in single-stop distance from 60 mph (our usual brake test). Distance reduction in single-stop tests from this speed is more likely achieved through stickier tires or weight reduction.

Look for details on installation tomorrow.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 58,933 miles.

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2002 BMW M3: Here Come the Big Brakes

July 21, 2008


You might remember Chris Walton's post early last month about our M3's brake pad wear warning lamp appearing on the instrument panel. Turns out, this problem hasn't fixed itself. In fact, we knew long before the lamp came on that the M3's pads (and probably rotors) were on their last legs. The first signs of wear began to show when we compared the M3 to its newer cousins at a racetrack earlier this year. As the day progressed and the laps piled up, the M3's middle pedal became less and less confidence inspiring. But driving the car on the street doesn't seem to create any drama. Still, the light has been on for too long and we've decided to act.

We're getting nuts. Ok, maybe not nuts, but we're going to install big brakes on our M3. After visiting a local dealer for unrelated service several months ago, we know that simply replacing the M3's front pads and rotors is a $1,041 job. Stoptech's 332mm four-piston brake kit for the E46 M3 cost $2,195 and comes with bitchin' red calipers and two-piece rotors which use aluminum hats. Also included in the kit are Axxis Ultimate pads, stainless steel lines and fluid. It's an investment, but the more capable brake system should keep us from having to worry about brakes at the track (or anywhere else) again.

Look for a test of the Stoptech system in this space later this week or early next week.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

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2002 BMW M3 Brake Wear Warning

June 04, 2008

Al forgot to mention in his M3 post which is totally misguided an interesting difference of opinion, that a little warning lamp appeared on the dashboard yesterday. I couldn't get a decent photo of it, but it looks something like (O) that. The owner's manual says only to have the brake pads checked out, but we've suspected the brakes have been close to the end of their useful life since we drove the tar out of it in Josh's brilliant comparison test against a current 135i and 335i.

It turns out it's the brake pad wear warning lamp that is connected at the other end to that little sensor you see pictured above...

I didn't take that photo either (I pulled it from the Interwebs), and it's apparently from an E36 M3, but they all have similar systems in place to keep you from marring otherwise smooth rotors. According to our own Maintenance Guide, "Inspection II" doesn't require a pad replacement, but only an inspection of the brake system.

We'll hope for the best but suspect this may cost a few dollars. According to several BMW enthusiast sites, there's a chance we'll need to replace the sensor(s) as well as the pads, depending on how much wear has occurred to the sensor(s).

We'll keep you informed.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 56,770 miles

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2002 BMW M3: A New Door Lock Motor and a Leaky Hose

May 29, 2008

We’re well aware of the fact that dealer service isn’t cheap, but getting our BMW M3 fixed was still a shocker. We took it in for a sticking door lock on the driver’s side door and after a once over by the dealer we got the bad news.

The door lock actuator motor needed to be replaced. It was going to be roughly $300 for the motor and $400 for labor. Apparently BMW’s technicians were going to use chopsticks to disassemble the door panel before replacing the world’s most complex door lock motors... That wasn’t the end of our problems though as the technician also noted that we also had a leaking power steering hose. A broken door lock was a nuisance, but a loss of power steering? Now that would be bothersome. Cost for the hose? A mere $310. Yes, like the lock actuator, this hose was crafted from a solid hunk of titanium and shipped from Germany via Gulfstream jet. Getting to the hose must have required pulling the engine too as the labor charge was another $400.

We picked it up yesterday and everything works great including our AmEx as the final tally was a staggering $1,532. Needless to say, the next time something goes wrong with our M3 an independent BMW specialist will get the first phone call.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 56,542 miles

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2002 BMW M3: A Sticky Lock and Another Quart of Oil

May 27, 2008

We expected a few problems when we bought our used BMW M3. Not major issues, but the kind of little things that wear out, break off or otherwise stop working from normal wear and tear. This weekend the driver’s side door lock started to stick, a situation which required the indignity of having to reach in and open the door from the passenger side. I made sure to do this out of sight from any bystanders in order to maintain the M3’s reputation, but by the end of the weekend I was leaving it unlocked to save the trouble... I gave the lock a shot of graphite powder to see if it would looses things up a little, but it didn't work. A trip to the dealer is in our future.

On another note, our M3 continues to consume oil at a measured pace. A quick check of the dipstick showed the level down to the first mark, so I added the better part of a quart. I never saw any warning lights, so I’ll assume it was never in any danger of running dry. We’ll keep an eye on the level in the next few weeks to see how quickly it gulps that quart.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 56,534

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2002 BMW M3: Broken Trunk Handle

May 02, 2008

When I opened our long-term 2002 BMW M3's trunk to fetch my man-purse gym bag filled with chainsaws, the handy handle decided to come with. Repeated use has apparently taken its toll. Squint at the little image above and you can see the floppy result of a retaining screw which has pulled through the plastic.

Here's how that piece of plastic should fit:

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2002 BMW M3: Engine Failure Imminent! Or maybe not...

April 09, 2008

So the long-term BMW M3 scared the hell out of me this morning. But it's supposed to be a "thrilling" car, so maybe I'm just an old stick in the mud. Regardless, when I looked down and saw the oil light on next to the speedo my blood pressure shot up considerably. My first instinct was to reach up and turn off the key, but at 40 mph on the heavily-trafficked, narrow and twisting Malibu Canyon Road -- with no pull off space in sight -- I didn't see that as my best immediate option. Instead I quickly lifted off the throttle and pushed in the clutch pedal. As luck would have it I'd just passed the highest point on this route through the Santa Monica Mountains, which meant I could realistically coast for the next 3-5 minutes (depending on traffic speed).

During that time I scanned the oil temperature gauge and the engine temperature gauge. I also turned off the audio system and listened intently for troubling noises/vibrations. All appeared fine, and upon further reflection I realized the light was yellow, not the traditional red I normally associate with "Turn Off The Engine Now!!" By the time I hit PCH I decided to keep the tachometer below 2,500, keep the radio off and my ears open, and keep my eyes on the engine/oil temp gauges.

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2002 BMW M3: Has a refined Palate.

March 13, 2008

Driving our Long Term BMW M3 the other night, a warning flashed across the pixelated display. It was the M3 after all, so naturally my brain assumed it was the traction control giving me a stern warning. It wasn't, low oil -- not low traction-- was the culprit.

M3's are known to burn a little oil, especially if you really drive 'em so it was no real surprise... I manually checked the fluid and it was low. Driveable, sure, but the full potential of our 8,000rpm inline-6 would have to be saved for another day.

The plan was to hit Kragen, buy oil, refill and then play. I'd be back on the road to funsville in no time.

Except that Kragen didn't have the Castrol TWS 10w-60 in stock. Neither did Autozone or the other Kragen. As the big-name retailers weren't going to have such a rare vintage, my only option was to go home and sleep until I could find a BMW dealership. (Truthfully, here in SoCal, I'm surprised a 24-hour BMW parts department doesn't exist.)

The next day, with time to kill, I stopped by BMW of Bakersfield to check their inventory. I bought four-liters (crazy brand, not using the traditional quart) at $10.25 per. Our M3 took 3/4 of a liter before the level was acceptable. A reserve bottle is now netted safely in the trunk to prevent future lack of fun.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 53,000 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Our Sticky New Tires Are In

February 19, 2008

Last week we ordered a new set of tires for our 2002 BMW M3 on Tire Rack. The plan was to buy the stickiest set of tires we could get in the original equipment 225/45R18 front and 255/40R18 rear sizes. We thought about going with R-compound tires, but Yokohama Advan Neova AD07 "extreme performance summer" tires were the best we could do in our size. These Yokohamas sell for $263 per front tire and $321 per rear tire.

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2002 BMW M3: Lighter Wallet

February 13, 2008

Here's the bill for our recent M3 repairs. Look closely and you'll find a grand total of $1,173 for a four wheel alignment and replacement of rear control arm busings. Several of you have suggested that those bushings crack prematurely and our Long Beach BMW tech confirmed this adding "it's especially true on cars that are driven hard." Guilty as charged.

The good news? I'm about $1,200 closer to getting a free flight on Jet Blue thanks to the BMW's hefty bill and my American Express card...

We opted not to do the suggested brake rotor and pad replacement as even our tech said they were not down to the wear indicator yet. Now that the suspension is back to spec, we're looking for new tires to replace the current ContiSport Contacts that are on the M3. Editor in Chief Scott Oldham simply said "I want something stickier." I'm not going to get to cozy with those new tires, I don't think they'll be around long.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor

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2002 BMW M3: Pit Stop

February 12, 2008

Our M3 has been making an odd noise - a thump, thump, thump sound at very low speed. The tires also seem to be wearing unevenly - chunking on one rear tire too.

This morning we dropped it off at Long Beach BMW. About an hour later, our service advisor Anthony called us and recommended the following:

Replace front pads and rotors - $1,041

Replace rear control arm bushings - $800

Four wheel alignment - $280

4 new OE spec tires - $1,331

We believe the thumping noise is tire related and the dealership all but confirmed this. Therefore, we're going to replace the bushings, get the alignment and hold off on the brakes... Recent track testing confirmed the M3's stopping prowess so we think there's a little life left in the binders.

As for the tires, we'll get our own from Tire Rack and have a local shop install them.

Other than these minor problems, the M3 continues to run strong and provide more fun than pretty much any other car in the long term fleet.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 52,094 miles

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BMW M3: Connecting rod TSB, "could puke bottom end out"

January 09, 2008

I received an e-mail this morning in regards to a TSB ( Service Information B11 02 03 ) for our new used Long-Term M3, and to all M cars with early-- produced between October, 2001 and February, 2002-- S54 engines. The oil-pump and connecting rod bearings need to be replaced or, as was so delicately put in the message, the car could "puke its bottom end out."
Some sleuthing from an eager staff member (SubyTrojan) with connections at BMW, confirmed that our M3 was one of 4,000 cars involved, and was repaired in the summer of 2004, just over a year after the introduction of said TSB. The mileage was 23,361. We don't know if the car exhibited the tell-tale knocking that precedes puking.

With that out of the way, we're free and clear to continue driving this car the way BMW intended.

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