Fact: When BMW's inline 6 cylinder S54 was first released it was the highest output naturally aspirated engine per liter of anything on the market.
The E46 M3 produced 333 HP from it's 3.2 liter power plant, which was incredible for the times. In order to achieve these levels of power with the 6 cylinder engine, the internal components were subjected to more stress than the average engine. This shouldn’t scare you away from wanting to own one, but should inform you that in order to keep your BMW E46 M3 running at peak performance you must stay on top of your recommended maintenance intervals.
On this BMW platform that means doing an air filter and oil change on the regular. Our Service Team recommends changing the oil at shorter intervals, somewhere between 5-7.500 miles rather than the factory BMW recommendation of every 15,000. Now this can and will vary dependent on the specific uses of the M3 (Daily Driven / Street Performance / Track HPDE / Race).
BMW suggests an Inspection 1 Service every 30,000 miles, this service includes:
- Oil filter
- Engine oil
- Cabin Filters
- Valve Adjustment
The advised valve adjustment is not a particularly difficult task, however it is time consuming. When completing a Valve Adjustment Service; you are checking the tolerances between the valve to the camshaft, and BMW specifies a very specific measurement for clearance. After measuring the tolerances the technician will leaves it as is, or change the shim thickness to bring the tolerances back into specification.
Preforming this work is not akin to rocket science, but precision adjustments are required to have a properly performing engine. Although this inspection/adjustment is recommended every 30,000 miles our Service Team has found that the S54 engine generally will not need complete adjustment until reaching higher in mileages.
BMW suggest it to be completed every 60,000 miles, the service includes the replacement of:
- Air Filter
- Cabin Filters
- Spark Plugs
- Gearbox Fluid
- Differential Oil
- Spark Plugs
This service is inherently a bit more involved than the 30,000 mile Inspection 1 by adding the required drivetrain services as well. Over the years our Team has seen a multitude of manufacturers that will even explain that the fluids in a vehicles transmission / differentials are good for the lifetime of the vehicle but those same manufacturers offer all the parts required for the services they are saying you do not need.
Maybe for the average owner that is solely using the vehicle for transportation and nothing else that may work, but from a performance aspect this is not the case! Whether SMG or Manual at this interval BMW recommends draining and refilling the transmission and rear differential assembly.
100,000 Mile Service, the service includes the replacement of:
- Oxygen Sensor
- Fuel Filter
- Water pump / Thermostat
- Drive Belt
Even though an engineer will design a platform to the highest of their abilities, the best way to stay ahead of a costly repair is to replace things preventatively whilst still working.
At 100,000 miles regardless of condition, BMW recommends replacing the oxygen sensor, fuel filter, water pump and alternator belt. Failing or faulty oxygen sensors can cause the vehicle to not perform at its' best, either adding or removing fuel based off incorrect readings. You may not even notice anything is wrong, but fuel economy and performance can both be hurt by these failing sensors.
The M3's fuel filter is obviously just a wear item and after processing X number of gallons of fuel they will get backed up. A lower rate of flow through the fuel filter will hinder performance as it makes the fuel pump work harder.
If you own an E46 M3 with higher miles don’t be scared of driving it, just maintain it! Remember proper maintenance = happy ownership!
We have left the specific fluids out of these lists as what you can use (brand wise) will vary depending on your local shop, but we prefer and recommend using Liqui Moly Gt1 10w60. The Castrol engine oil BMW suggests works, but over the years our Service Team has found better feedback / results via Blackstone Oil Testing using the Liqui Moly formulation.
If you have any questions regarding the services mentioned here-in, or the parts/ labor required please feel free to contact us directly, whether it by via email, social media, or call us directly at phone.