Want to Put Double-DIN Headunits into a BMW E46 3-Series? Here is Your Guide!

While I was debating over changing the big end bearings in my E46 M3 I needed to improve the audio interface. I had been full circle here like a few people. My car like a few of my age came with a tape deck and a 6 CD Autochanger. Great if you listen to both mediums. If you are like me this can get rather clumsy and limit you, especially in the days of Spotify, and MP3s being around:

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Yup, I soon realised I needed a handsfree version of Bluetooth in my life. So this happened:

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So, the Alpine worked great with the steering controls and gave me great Sat Nav directions via the phone! But it wouldn’t fit right due to depth issues and it well, looked crap! It would take a year before I decided what to do!

The E46 HU choices have been discussed here many times over the years. Some things to me weren’t clear which I will discuss. I never realised that installing a Double DIN HU would require a chunk of fabrication, even with the shallow depth units.

We all know that conventional (read most) Double DIN headunits will not fit the car without compromising the heater function, specifically the foot and window demister function. Furthermore it will require a bit of cutting of the heater box. While you can buy kits to make the heater box functional again it does add cost on and further work to make it work. This of course leaves you with two choices:

The Choices:

1) Get one of the Chinese E46 Lookalike HUs. These seem to have a variable reputation with some being better than others like the Dynavin and the Eonon. These can work with Android phones however. Some people like the look, but a few also feel the quality of these is poor despite looking fine in the photos.

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2) Consider Alpine’s iLX-702E46. This does DAB, has built-in Sat-Nav and has Bluetooth & Apple CarPlay. However, it is rather expensive at £750. It is one of the few plug-and-play conversions out there. If you want a zero hassle conversion that does almost everything this possibly the headunit for you:

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3) Look at the Alpine iLX-700 and Parrot Asteroid Smart. Both have their pros and cons. The Alpine doesn’t have Bluetooth, and the Parrot is a little pricey in addition to some people not getting on with the interface; it seems fine from what I’ve seen. Both however will still require fabrication of the cage to actually mount them. Some people use the fascia which looks like it was never designed for that kind of job, others modify their single DIN/heater control unit cage to mount the lot while others will get a metal cage for around £60 to mount the HU on. If you pay someone to install it that cost naturally will increase significantly. There is also a Kenwood HU on the market which is also a shallow depth head unit.

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4) Get the Sony XAV-AX100. With the Enfig kit this is a plug-and-play affair, circumventing the need to construct cages etc. and the fascia kit for this HU from Enfig is of a very high quality. If BMW did a factory Double DIN Conversion like they did for the Single DINs it looks like it may have been this. Most people out there could install this.

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The Sony also comes with a couple of bonus features too. Firstly, you can buy a TomTom module from Sony to give you permanent Sat-Nav for £180 more, it has Bluetooth unlike the Alpine and it can also do Android Auto. If its CarPlay is as good as it has been so far I would expect similar results on Android Auto. This is great news for people with a robot phone.

Anyway, it’s time to bore you folks here with my experience. This can be done in the next instalment.

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Have I gone Big Enough?

I left you folks at the edge of your seat wondering what was happening with my engine. The truth is I was anxious myself! I have worked on the car almost solely over the years, with it only seeing garages for an MOT, manufacturer recalls as well as Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP) reinforcement. ETA were considered for the big end bearings but getting to Brands Hatch on weekdays only can be a royal pain.

I’ll be honest, I wanted the phone to ring ASAP with good news after that!

So there I was, sat at work worrying about the engine. I was hoping that welding a bolt onto the bolt would free it. In short, it did! My relief, however, did not come until I came back home and I had a text stating the car was ready to be picked up! Without hesitating, I arranged some transport at short notice and got down to Autobahn. There Rob talked me through what he had done. Then he showed me partly what I wanted to know; the state of the bearings that came out. With 138k on the clock were they beyond gone? The answer?

One was(ish) on the limit with some copper showing but the rest were not too terrible. A few were scuffed as you can tell. But compared to others I have seen removed with less mileage mine were in a pretty decent state; many after even 70k generally have some copper showing on all of the shells! Some would argue I should have left them in! But at least I have the confidence to drive my M3 as intended :).

Maybe this maintenance has had the wrong effect on me. Only time will tell, however.

It’s Time to Go Big End on the M3

It’s fair to say the car hasn’t been the cheapest thing to run, where thoughts of selling up were dancing in the horizons of my mind. They often do when faced with expenditure. Why? I wished to change the big-end bearings.

But why? That is pretty simple really. The way I see it, two things can finish off an M3, well, make keeping the car unviable:

1) A boot floor cracked badly enough to warrant a new Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP); About £5k no matter where you go
2) The Rod Bearings; If these go and the crank is marked/scored there is a question mark over whether the crankshaft can be saved; They are tuftrided from the factory and it is said generally reground cranks aren’t as strong as original items. A shame as a new crank is over £2k from BMW, and even the S54 engines are £3k secondhand! That is before fitting!

Yes, head gaskets, VANOS & SMG pumps can go, but generally, the expense is much smaller and easier to spot without generally writing the car off. In those cases, cheaper and potentially longer lasting solutions have been found too in the case of the VANOS & SMG gubbins.

With that in mind I dropped the car off to Autobahn in Halesowen.

Given that Rob was known to colleagues of mine in addition to him racing E46 M3s I figured the car would be in safe hands.

All was going well! I dropped the car off on a Saturday, and then went to the Restoration show at the NEC. That was until Tuesday. I had a phonecall to say that one of my rod bearing bolts was being stubborn.

It was fair to say that I was slightly anxious at this point! But how would it all go? Would this really be a big stalling point?

It’s VANOS Time; And Yes, You can Do this on an M3!

It’s funny really.  Sometimes you see a minor problem and hope that it goes away.  On a few occasions however it will linger like a bad smell. This was certainly the case for my VANOS!  It started during autumn during an oil change. Not a kiss as Hot Chocolate put it.  There I was checking away the car’s diagnostic system using the much-fabled INPA system. All was well until I checked the engine’s codes.  Two codes came back.

P0012 (BMW 72, 0x48): Vanos intake timing over retarded
Pxxxx (BMW 184, 0xB8): Vanos intake position control

Crumbs, crap! This is not a set of codes that I wanted.  After doing some research it did seem that something as simple as an iffy connection to the VANOS solenoid pack could do this!  With that in mind, I cleaned out the connection, refitted it, cleared and codes and waited to see what would happen.  To my relief, the codes did not come back after running the car. Not then anyway.

However, come a week before I put the car away again for the winter period I was greeted with a very flat feeling engine!  Sure, it was not dead slow but it was felt very flat for an M3!  On top of that I also had an EML light make an appearance!  Once again, I got my diagnostic kit out, INPA for those wondering.  If you have a BMW this software is well worth the purchase price!

Like before, the codes came back.  Also like before, I tried to clear the codes!  This time however, code 182 refused to go.  Great!

After doing some research it became apparent that these codes are common codes to get on an E46 M3, even from many years ago!  It pointed to my VANOS seals and my solenoid pack going.  With that in mind I ordered a set of Beisan Systems Viton VANOS solenoid seals in addition to their refurbished solenoid pack, all of it coming from Hack Engineering.  With those things ordered it was time to crack on with the job with the help of a trusty teaboy.  OK, I lied, I meant a friend.

How easy is it to change these seals?  Very!  With the Beisan Systems guide, this job is a doddle.  The instructions for changing the components can be found here.  But I’ll take you through it, just in case you are having your doubts,

Once I took off the all too familiar engine dressing parts with nothing more than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.  With that done I took the opportunity to loosen the VANOS pressure regulator. I then carefully removed the solenoid connection and undid the VANOS solenoid bolts.  With rags underneath the solenoid to catch any lost oil, I put the valve block and solenoid assembly onto the bench.

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This is where the real work began!  I started by separating the solenoid pack from the valve body.  One thing the Beisan guide omits is that these solenoid bolts can get rusty; I’d purchase a set of these from BMW at the same time as getting the revised valve body bolts.  It will simply make life easier.

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While my friend cleaned out the valve block as best as he could with a can of highly pressurised carb clean in addition to a magnet (allowing the valves to open for further cleaning), I cracked on and removed the seals from the sealing plate.

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It was fair to say that my seals were shot!  You can buy a complete sealing plate from BMW for around £30. However, considering that the Beisan seals are cheaper and made of more heat resistant Viton I went ahead and installed the Viton items into place:

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With the valve body clean I attached the refurbished solenoid pack onto the now cleaned valve body.

 

With the Solenoid,Valve block and Sealing plate assembly all done it was time to put it back into place!  Not only did it brighten up the engine bay a little it also would end up cleaning the codes for good!  For £170 all in including the revised bolts from BMW it was a good result all in!  I didn’t change my VANOS filter as I previously did that almost a year ago.  I did however change the pressure regulator seals to the Viton items; the inner seal was already going square surprisingly!

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The CTEK was put onto the car since the poor car had been off the road for a month with all of the salt about on the roads!

Another job I got around to sorting was the appalling handbrake!  With the entire assembly stripped down I went ahead and cleaned everything!  Armed with some Ceramic grease I carefully applied it, reassembled the brakes and all was well again!

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I know what it sounds like! The car has broken again! I did however do some fun stuff!  But that can wait until the next installment.