BMW E46 Maintenance Costs (Calculation)

Having the best maintenance planned ahead of time for your car could save you a lot of money in the future. It’s also the first step to take to keep the car intact in case you want to sell it off at its later stages.

I have used the BMW E46 automobile for 5 years, thereby placing me in the best position to tell you everything about the cost of maintaining BMW cars and their parts.

So, you can manage the maintenance cost very effectively by yourself.

How Expensive is BMW E46 Maintenance Yearly?

The BMW E46 maintenance should cost up to $30,000 in ten years, which is $3000 as an annual cost. It will be challenging to determine the average cost since only a few things are maintained annually, which are warranty extension, insurance, inspection and many more.

  • Warranty extension: it’s optional but will cause $500 to $700.
  • Insurance: The average annual cost for insurance on BMW E46 is $1400, but you can get low rates from companies like Erie, GEICO, Progressive, State Farm, Nationwide, and USAA.
  • Inspection: car yearly inspection can be done once or twice; it could cost up to $600 once
  • Oil and oil filter changes: will cost up to $65
  • Car registration and tax: both should be at least $500 – $700
  • Gas refilling: a $1250 budget will do
  • A car wash (optional): $300

Other things like repair and replacement are not done annually; instead, by mileage or how carefully it’s been used or abused.

Also read: Are BMWs Reliable After 100k Miles? (Checked)

1. Changing Tires

Changing the tires of the car should be done if it’s been used up to 50k miles. It’s better to change all four tires at once if you purchase a used car.

The cost for 4 brand new tires ranges from $500 to $700. A Michelin pilot sports tires cost $1200 for 4, which is better.

2. Oil and Oil Filter

Firstly, you need to discard the idea of what the car manual said about 15k miles intervals changes. The oil must be changed in every 10k miles interval for safety purposes.

I have 2 choices when it comes to the engine oil for E46: the first is Castrol Edge 5w30, and it will be clearly stated in the bottle long life-0 1. You need about 7 liters of it because for that approximately what the BMW E46 can take.

The prices should be around $42 for the 4 liters of Castrol Edge so that you will be purchasing two. Another option is the Liqui Moly which costs roughly $36, and also you will need two of them.

Always change the oil filter whenever you are about to change the oil; it costs $. And replace the drain plug washer; I will recommend the ECS Tuning here. It costs $17.

The great advantage about it is that if any metal fragments are about to wash through your engine, they will stick to the magnetic drain plug. So, when you will do your oil change, you will get an excellent indication if you’ve got something more going on in your engine.

Also read: Is BMW E38 Reliable? (What to Expect?)

3. Fluids

Transmission Fluid

The transmission fluid must be changed after 75k to 100k miles. This may sound contrary to what was written in the manual, for the car manual stated that the transmission and differential fluid is a long life; in other words, it doesn’t need to be changed.

But it’s common sense to know that every oil in a vehicle must at a point suffer from some degradation, so to keep those moving parts working at their best and well lubricated, change the oil in your gearbox and your differential fluid roughly 75k to 100k miles, or if you are going to be extremely safe, then I recommend 60k intervals to be at the safer side.

Most people have the automatic transmission in the E46, so that I will discuss the automatic first, then the manual next.

So, I recommend that first-timers go for an automatic transmission kit because it has everything you need. When you start working, you won’t stop halfway through the job just for the sake of one or two missing tools.

But if you have done the job couple of times and would like to shop around and buy the tools locally rather than buying online, the things you are going to need are:

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Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) should be around $90; 7 to 10 liters will be needed.

Drain plug and fuel plugs should be $10 each

The filter and gasket are about $30 – $ also comes with automatic transmission bolts, so do yourself a favor and put the bolt. It will save you a lot of hard work next time you undergo the same process.

The Kit Is Around $150.

Take note there are two types of BMW E46 automatic, so check underneath the car to confirm the suitable kit to buy, but if it’s not there, contact your supplier, and give him your VIN.

With that, they can help you get the right transmission model in your car to avoid purchasing the wrong kit.

Now for the manual, there’s a good chance that the maintenance has never been done because BMW doesn’t recommend such. So, my recommendation for the manual gearbox oil is the Liqui Moly MTF 5200 75W – 80 gearbox oil, it costs $25 per liter, and another option you should look at is the Redline MTL NT 90, which cost $17 for a liter.

Note that you’ll need over a liter for the oil change, so that you will be getting 2 bottles of those.

Also read: Is BMW E46 Reliable? (Things you Need to Know)

Differential Fluid

It’s common to know that the oil needs to be changed at some point. I’ve got two oil choices for you to pick from: the first is the liquid Moly Hypoid GL-5, an LS SAE 75W-140, which comes in a liter, and you will need two.

But if you want something cheaper, the Redline 75W-90 will be fine, and it’s going to cost about $17 per liter. Also, get a couple of new plugs for the drain and fuel plugs for ten dollars.

Brake Fluid

Your brake fluid should be changed every 40k miles. You must get all the fluid out of the system completely, not just the reservoir but also the brake lines.

For every time you take the lid off the filter bottle to top up the brake fluid, you are going to introduce a small amount of air, and as the brake gets hot, that hot air gets cool then changes into liquid; over a period, the liquid will start causing problems in the brake system.

This is why we flush everything out to prevent such a problem in the time to come.

You can choose any brake fluid of your choice, but I recommend Pentosin Super DOT4. It costs $9.

Power Steering Fluid

By far, the best power steering fluid for E46 is the Pentosin CHF 11s, and that is the exact power steering fluid that would have come in the car out of the factory.

But the product is not an “off the shelf” product. You need to order it online or get your parts store to order it for you.

The Pentosin CHF 11s costs $19.

Also read: What is a Good Mileage for a Used BMW? (The Facts)

4. Brakes

The brake pad could last as much as 35k to 70k miles. It depends on how you drive and use it. If you get involved in heavy traffic and use the brake quite often, you will need to check it up more frequently as an accident preventive measure.

Squealing or screech when braking; pulsation, vibrating of the steering wheel or brake pedal coupled with grinding noise when the brakes are applied are a few signs that indicate the brake needs care.

An expert’s work time replacing brakes is approximately 2 hours, at $200 – $300.

5. Belts and Hoses

In E46, there is a serpentine belt that drives (often) all the engine accessories such as the alternator, the air conditioning compressor, power steering pump, water pump, and air pump. It is a long, flat, multi-ribbed belt driven by the engine’s crankshaft pulley.

You can consider replacing belts if the belt has run more than 90k miles; however, the bolt must be checked regularly for wear and tear before that high mileage.

You can also replace the belts when the engine overheats. The belt drives the water pump. As a result, if the belt breaks, the engine will overheat.

If the belt is inadequately tensioned, you will notice an abnormal engine operating temperature.

Replace the belts when squealing sounds, belt slippage, and visible damages. Should the belt fail or wear out prematurely, you may hear noises, or see visible signs of deterioration if you check, such as missing chunks of rubber, excessive cracking, or a shredded appearance on the belt edges

A loose belt caused by the tensioner may not drive the alternator at adequate speed, and thus the battery may discharge, causing the warning light to illuminate.

Replacement of the serpentine belt should cost $150 to $250, depending on the workshop charges. It shouldn’t take more than 2 hours 30 minutes to get it fixed.

After it’s done, you can examine the proper engine function and accessory operation to verify a job well done.

Also read: What’s a High Mileage for a BMW? The Truth…

Unexpected Problems

The BMW E46 cooling system is full of plastic fittings, clips, and reservoirs which have the habit of cracking, causing major problems of coolant leaks and De-pressurization.

If you purchase caused BMW E46, quickly arrange the cooling system to avoid being stranded on the way someday.

It will take 3 hours to get the work done by an expert while the charge should be $300 to $350.

The engine coolant, hoses, and radiator cost range from $110 to $150.

How To Buy A Reliable BMW E46?

Getting a durable and reliable BMW E46 might be difficult, but still possible to find one

If you want to buy one, you must inspect some features:

  • The engines
  • Transmission
  • Steering
  • Suspension
  • Brakes
  • Chassis and bodywork
  • Interior

Better still, go with an expert to help you in the inspection. Paying an expert a few bucks for that can save you a lot of trouble. Also, don’t be sentimental about the options available.


It will cost over $3000 for annual maintenance if you buy a used E46, make sure you get the cooling system changed or replaced soon.

In buying or replacement of car parts, you can pay an expert couple of bucks for assistance, rather than making mistakes and losing money