A Front Brake Job Means My 287,000-Mile BMW M3 Finally Stops Like New

·3 min read
Photo credit: Brian Silvestro
Photo credit: Brian Silvestro

Last summer I picked up a 2002 BMW M3 with an incredible 284,000 miles on the clock. Though it looked clean on the surface, I shortly discovered the long list of parts in need of replacement underneath. Thankfully the most important part of the car, the engine, was in good condition. The suspension, though, was not in good condition. I’ve begun to address the issues by replacing the tie rods. But more importantly, the front brakes were in desperate need of service. After replacing the pads and rotors, the car stops better than ever.

That Sounds Like a Pretty Straightforward Job.

It was... for the most part, anyway. I didn’t have access to a two-post lift at the time, so I had to do everything from the ground using a couple of jack stands and a floor jack, which wasn’t too terrible considering the nice weather. Because this car spent the vast majority of its life in the South before I bought it, there’s no rust to speak of. So almost every bolt came out without issue. And because FCP Euro offers a kit specifically for servicing brakes on the E46 M3, sourcing the right parts wasn’t a problem.

I say almost because the bolts that hold the caliper brackets to the knuckles would, for some reason, not budge no matter what I threw at them. I spent almost two hours trying to break them loose using every tool in my arsenal, but they just wouldn’t come out. Thankfully they actually don’t need to come out to replace the rotor; you can simply finagle the disc off the hub with the bracket still in place. So that’s exactly what I did. Other than that, the job went off without a hitch. Even the locating bolts that hold the rotors in place, notorious for rusting into the hub and stripping, came out without causing a fuss.

Because I didn’t have access to a lift I didn’t have enough time to do a brake fluid bleed. But even with the old fluid the car stops way better than it did before. And because the rear brakes were recently serviced by the previous owner, I won’t have to do any major brake work going forward (as long as nothing else breaks, that is).

So What Else Went Wrong?

I’m glad you asked. As I was reinstalling the front wheels after the brake job, two balancing weights on the front right wheel simply fell off the barrel. I didn’t realize this had happened until I was back on the road test-driving the car to make sure the brakes still worked. There’s now a horrible vibration coming from the front of the car, occurring mainly from 55 to 70 mph.

Photo credit: Brian Silvestro
Photo credit: Brian Silvestro

Living with this vibration will make me go insane, so I’ll probably address this soon. But I’d like to also replace the tires at the same time since they’ll need to be rebalanced anyway. I haven’t figured out exactly what kind of rubber I’m putting on yet, so I’ll have to move that up the list.

So What’s Next?

I’d like to flush the brake fluid so I don’t have to worry about it any more. After that I’m going to swap out the engine and transmission mounts to see if that improves the drivetrain lash. I suspect most of that lash, however, is coming from the differential mounts, which are much more difficult to replace.

Beyond those items I’d also like to address the sloppy shifter by replacing the bushings that connect it to the transmission. There are also the shocks and springs, which I suspect might be original. In any case they, as well as a handful of control arms with worn-out bushings, need to be replaced if I want this car to ride better.

It’ll only get more interesting from here. Stay tuned.

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