The following article gives detailed instructions on replacing the fuel filter on a BMW E46 3 series car. Even though we have used a 2003 BMW 325ci to perform this repair, this article can be applied to any 1998-2006 BMW E46 3 series vehicle with minor modifications.
If you are experiencing sluggish acceleration, rough idle, or are having trouble starting your 1998-2006 3 series car, it may be time for a BMW E46 fuel filter replacement. It is recommended that you regularly change the fuel filter on your BMW as part of a “healthy” fuel system maintenance program.
One of the best maintenance programs you can run on your BMW is making sure you are feeding your engine plenty of good clean fuel. Filling up regularly with a good quality gasoline (we personally use Shell 93 octane only…but let’s not start that debate) is a major part of that maintenance program. Including a good fuel additive (like Techron) on a regular basis is also key. Doing both of these will help ensure you BMW engine runs smooth and delivers the power, performance and fuel efficiency you expect out of you bimmer. Well…for the most part.
Even though you are consciously maintaining your vehicle by using the best gasoline, it’s an unfortunate fact that dirt, water and microparticles are still finding their way into your fuel system. As these little beasties collect in your fuel filter they restrict the flow of gasoline, causing a drop in engine fuel pressure and a loss in performance and efficiency. A badly clogged fuel filter will most certainly cause a fuel pump failure, or even worse clogged fuel injectors. A regular BMW fuel filter replacement is cheap insurance against costly repairs down the line.
There is a lot of online chatter concerning when to change the fuel filter on your E46 3 series. Our opinion is this: you should do a BMW fuel filter replacement every 30,000 miles or 2 years, whichever occurs first. It’s that important. The fuel filter was installed in your BMW as a replaceable maintenance item to protect your engine and your fuel pump. It should be changed on a regular basis, just like your oil filter.
The good news is a BMW fuel filter replacement on the 3 series E46 is relatively inexpensive. A decent fuel filter will cost you under $100 and can be installed in about an hour or so. We show you how in the following step by step procedures.
***The BMW M52 engine (323i and 328i) has a slightly different fuel filter with only one inlet port. The BMW M54 engine (325i and 330i) has two inlet ports. Make sure to double check your year and model vehicle before ordering this part for your BMW fuel filter replacement.[otw_shortcode_divider margin_top_bottom=”0″ text=”Parts, Tools and Supplies” text_position=”otw-text-left” css_class=”PostDivider”][/otw_shortcode_divider]
1. Fuel filter (required) – The fuel filters for the M52 and M54 six cylinder engines are different…make sure you purchase the correct one. Not sure which engine you have in your E46 3 series? Use our engine finder above.
2. Hose clamps (required) – Always use new hose clamps when replacing your fuel filter. Filters for M52 engines need two clamps…M54 filters need three clamps.
3. Air filter (optional) – Doing a little maintenance on your BMW E46 3 series? Now is a great time to install a new air filter. Add some clean air to your engine to compliment the fresh fuel filter!
- Jack and support your vehicle using the “four corner” wheel stand method. Please click here to learn how to properly jack and support your vehicle for this repair.
- The BMW E46 fuel filter is located on the left side of the vehicle approximately mid way back. It is covered with a metal plate.
- Using an 8mm nut driver or socket wrench, remove the bolts securing the fuel filter cover to the chassis of the vehicle. Note the last two bolts are a bit difficult to get to…we have found that using a deep 8mm socket on a spinner handle is the easiest way to remove them.
- Remove the fuel filter cover exposing the fuel filter and fuel lines.
- Use a 10mm socket wrench to remove the fuel filter mounting bolt. With the bolt removed, unhook the fuel filter mounting bracket from the chassis so the fuel filter hangs freely from the vehicle.
- Use a flat blade screwdriver to loosen front fuel line hose clamp.
- Remove front metal fuel line from flexible filter outlet fuel hose, then quickly attach a small pair of pinch off pliers to stop the flow of fuel out of the filter. Make sure you have a 5 gallon drain pan under the filter to catch any spilled fuel.
- Remove the vacuum line from front of fuel filter with the aid of a flat blade screwdriver. Be extra careful not to break line when removing.
- Attach a large pair of pinch off pliers to the two flexible filter inlet fuel hoses on the back of the fuel filter (only one hose on M52 engine vehicles). Use a flat blade screwdriver to loosen the hose clamps.
- Pry the fuel hoses off of the back of the fuel filter using a flat blade screwdriver. Be aware the fuel hoses may be well stuck on the fuel filter inlets – take your time and slowly work them off with the screwdriver being careful not to rip or puncture them. It may take a little persistence, but they will pull loose.
- Remove fuel filter from vehicle and drain excess fuel into 5 gallon drain pan.
- On a bench, prep the new fuel filter for installation. Remove the filter outlet fuel hose from old filter and install on new filter with two new 12mm-13mm (L12-13) hose clamps. Remove the metal mounting bracket from old filter and install over rubber protection sleeve on new filter. Always make sure arrow on fuel filter points towards direction of fuel flow…especially on M52 engine filters that have only one fuel inlet!
- Install the fuel filter into vehicle, starting with the rear fuel inlets (or inlet). Make sure to always use new 12mm-13mm hose clamps that are securely fastened.
- Install vacuum line and front metal fuel line and secure with new 12mm-13mm hose clamps.
- Align fuel filter rubber protection sleeve and mounting bracket in center of fuel filter. Hook the mounting bracket back into the two slots on the chassis.
- Finish installation by replacing mounting bracket bolt and fuel filter cover.