Project 46: Facelift Part I

Project 46 is an on-going series that demonstrates common fixes and preventative maintenance tips, as performed on our own E46 330Ci. Click here to read our introduction to the series, here for part two, here for part three, here for part four, here for part five, and here for the last instalment.

BMW E46 M Sport Wheel

We’ve gone on about this in previous articles on Project 46, but we think our 330Ci M Sport is a pretty good looking thing straight out of the box. The black-on-black colour combo, coupled with the shadowline trim around the windows, the subtle M Sport bodykit, and the beautiful Style 135 wheels all work together perfectly with the lines of the E46

But one thing that’s annoyed us since we got the car has been the wear and tear on the exterior. Owning and using a car means that scratches and dings will happen from time-to-time, no matter how careful you are. And although the previous owners did an okay job of looking after the car, there are areas that show its age and really take away from the overall aesthetic of the vehicle. Predictably, the rear front and rear bumpers suffered from scratches, gashes, paint chips, the bonnet has minor dings, and the wheels had the usual gutter-rash

The ethos of Project 46 has always been to update it with the best available parts. Sometimes that means fitting parts that are of equal quality to those fitted from the factory, and sometimes that means upgrading parts that make the car better. Subtle upgrades that all work together to make one of the best all-rounders on the road

We got in touch with Alex from Advanced Alloy Wheels Repairs in Moorabbin to see what they could do with the scuffed alloys on the 330Ci. Every wheel on the car had gutter-rash that stuck out like a sore thumb whenever they were cleaned. Alex arranged for the loose wheels to be picked-up from our warehouse, and we asked him if it would be possible to paint them in a darker metallic grey, matching the colour of the wheels that come standard on the BMW F20 M135i. Advanced can repaint wheels in almost any colour for no extra, and we thought the darker grey colour would change the tone of the vehicle slightly, without ruining that original, factory look that we love so much.

Three days later the wheels were dropped back to us, and we couldn’t believe the difference. The team at Advanced absolutely nailed the job, fixing the wheels to be as good as new, and finding the perfect paint to match our request. We couldn’t be happier with the results.

Although the E46 is a great all-rounder, it does tend to lack a bit of storage practicality. So a couple of months ago we began our search to find a towbar package that doesn’t require a lot of modifications and will be virtually invisible when not being used (which is most of the time). As we discovered though, the vast majority of aftermarket tow kits out there require a big ugly hole to be cut into the middle of the M-Sport bumper. There’s no point in making the car look good if you’re just going go and cut up the panels. Although, if you don’t have the M-Sport kit on your E46, the search for a tow kit is a bit easier.

Eventually we came across the Bosal vertical detachable towbar for the E46, which uses a U-shaped tongue and ball that lifts into the mount from below. Unfortunately the tow kit is not available to buy in Australia just at the moment. Although a more expensive option, it was a small price to pay to import the kit from the UK, rather than buying a kit locally that we think would have a negative impact on the car’s looks. In other words, all of the other tow kits we found locally just looked a bit crap.

With the rear bumper removed, the Bosal kit bolted to the chassis and replaced the normal bumper shocks. There was a small amount of cutting to be done with a Dremel tool, but that was on the underside of the bumper, meaning the modification cannot be easily seen unless you’re underneath the car. By far the most difficult part of the installation was the wiring. The kit itself is designed to plug directly into the electronics on the 330Ci, but the wiring must be routed to the front of the cabin, past the headlight switch, and into the fuse box behind the glovebox. One long Saturday, a lot of patience, and one broken interior trim piece later, and the kit was fully installed.

Probably our biggest complaint is that the safety chain coupling is a little fiddly to get to, but it’s a small compromise for what is actually a brilliantly engineered tow kit. The extra cost that was spent bringing it over from the UK will be easily recovered when the car is eventually sold, as it’s made the vehicle significantly more practical, but still retains its factory look. We’ve already used it to clear a trailer-load of pallets from the warehouse and it performed just as well as we’d hoped. The indicators do have an erratic flash when a trailer with LED lights is used, but we suspect the trailer itself needs some resistors soldered into the wiring loom. If you’re considering bringing in a tow kit from overseas, please check to see if it complies with local regulations and design rules.

Recently we also put in a call to our friends down at Brighton BMW. A little while ago BMW issued a voluntary recall notice for the passenger-side airbags in E46 3 Series models. Though they apparently haven’t had any incidents of airbags malfunctioning in E46s, BMW announced a global recall purely as a precaution. We booked the car in and took it down to Brighton BMW, where they replaced the potentially hazardous air bag for us at no charge. If you own an E46, we recommend checking with your local dealership about the recall notice.

Now the car is safer, more practical, and looks better than it ever has. If you’re in Melbourne and want to get your alloys refurbished, call Advanced Alloy Wheel Repairs on 03 9555 6893 and mention that you’re a Clickable customer for a very generous 20% off* the retail rate. Or head over to their Facebook page to see some of the wheels they’re working on:

*Advanced Alloy Wheel Repairs reserve their right to change or cancel the offer at any time.

New Mechanical Repairs: Airbag Recall - $0

Total Cost of Repairs: $2505

New Non-Essentials:

Refurbished Alloy Wheels - $840

Bosal Detachable Towbar - $950

Total Cost of Additions: $2397

Total Cost To Date: $4928


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