E46 Control Arm Symptoms

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E46 is the internal factory designation for the fourth generation of BMW’s popular 3 Series lineup. The E46 was introduced in 1999 and proved to be one of the most popular models in the history of the 3 Series. But though the E46 is considered almost perfect by many of its owners, it does suffer from a few niggling problems. Among them are front control arms that can suffer from several issues, including torn, worn-out bushings and the fact that they are easily bent. Bad E46 control arms display a number of symptoms.

Shaking While Driving

  • If the bushings on E46 control arms are worn out, they can make the front end and the steering vibrate when the car is being driven, a symptom that will get worse as speeds increase. It may become particularly noticeable at freeway speeds. Keep in mind that this is not the only thing though that can cause the front end to vibrate and shake on an E46 3 Series. This can also be caused by unevenly worn tires and by bent or damaged wheels.

Shaking or Vibrating Under Braking

  • Worn control arms can also cause the front end to shake and the steering wheel to vibrate when the brakes are applies, particularly at freeway speeds. Again, this can also be caused by bad tires, bent wheels and warped brake rotors.

Vague Steering

  • If the bushings on the controls are, worn, cracked, dried out or torn, they will make the steering feel loose and imprecise. This is caused by the control arm bushing moving around excessively on the end of the control arm.

Excessive Movement From the Wheel.

  • Bad control arms can also cause the road wheels to move around excessively. To determine if the wheel is moving around, raise the BMW with a floor jack so that the wheel is hanging free in the air. With your hands, try to move the wheel. If there is significant play in the wheel and it moves easily, the control arms are more than likely worn.

Noise While Turning

  • Squeaking, whining or grinding noise when turning at slow speeds. Bad control arms can exhibit these noises when you turn the steering wheel at slow speeds or if you are parking.

References

  • "BMW 3 Series Service Manual 1999 to 2001"; Robert Bentley; 2002
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