Piston Slap: The E-Z Out for My BMW, Minivan

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the e z out for my bmw minivan

TTAC regular psarhjinian writes:

I just bought a E46 3-Series that needs some care (hey, it was cheap!) and snapped off both bolts holding the alternator to (I think) the oil filter housing. I’ve gotten the alernator off, but the last inch-or-so of the threaded section of one bolt is broken off. Thank you, BMW for using steel bolts in an aluminum block.

Question one: What’s the best method for getting these out? I might be able to back them out with a reversing bit, but there isn’t a lot of clearance (can’t centre-punch it; it’s not a clean break) and I would really, really not like to take the OFH off.

Same car, second question: these things leak PS fluid like crazy out of the reservoir (“they all do that”, but I’m replacing the reservoir and hoses anyway, and the clamps BMW uses just suck…). Combined with a hole in the fender and a prior owner who lived on a dirt rural road, this has created a mini Tar Sands in the engine compartment. What’s the best way to clean out an engine bay when you live in a rental and don’t have a outside water tap? I don’t want to take the car to a carwash and pressure-washer-blast it for fear of making things worse.

Third question: on my wife’s Pontiac Montana (2007) there’s an awful, junky rattling from the front driver’s side over even small bumps, and stretches of bad pavement sound like the van is going to shed parts, and if I rock the car side-to-side I can hear a clink/clank from the wheelwell. Since I need one working car, I need to keep downtime to a minimum and can’t go on a fishing expedition. Where should I be looking and what should I replace?

Sajeev answers:

The best way? It’s via screw extractor (aka E-Z Out) but that’s really the hard way: LSX-FTW swap is the far smarter route. Sure, it’s more expensive and far more labor intensive. But you’ll never have to curse BMW for their poor choice in fasteners, hose clamps, and everything else that nickel and dimes you at the E46’s age. And when the engine is out, you go right ahead and get some shop towels, soak them in engine degreaser and wear some rubber gloves.

Only slightly joking, considering your follow-up email…

psarhjinian added:

Question 1: had to take the oil filter off, tried to use an easy-out on the bolt. Broke the easy-out inside the bolt. Local machine shops won’t touch it and a new OFH is going to be cheaper. So that’s that question answered, dammit.

Question 2: Let’s say that getting the PS reservoir off has made even more of a mess, so this applies.

Question 3: Still here.

Sajeev concludes:

Question 1: Getting a replacement junkyard part is often the best move (time and value-wise, even for BMW spec spares), even if a machine shop would take your money for the work. This isn’t a Cord 812 or something, there are plenty of spares lying around.

Question 2: Don’t worry, take it to the coin-op car wash and use their engine cleaner. If you are really worried about your rubber lines, electrical connections, etc check the BMW’s “weak spots” that a power washer could get. Then cover them up with a plastic baggie. Modern cars lack distributors, I don’t see a problem if you refrain from shooting every little thing with high pressure water. If you are super paranoid, take a can of compressed air to shoot at the spark plug wires/ignition wiring plugs if the BMW doesn’t immediately fire up after being washed.

Question 3: Could be several things, but this seems to suggest worn strut mounts. The replacements are dirt cheap, but don’t buy until you are sure that’s the problem. A clean bill of health via mechanic’s diagnostic fee is worth the peace of mind, if you don’t trust your eyeballs when you remove the wheels and look for yourself.

[Image: Shutterstock user BoJack]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Join the conversation
2 of 32 comments
  • 05lgt 05lgt on Oct 13, 2014

    I reused a header bolt into my LA 340 (never again). It broke during install and I was still in a hurry. Wrench universal broke and dropped a piece down the valley. Then the EZ out broke. No more rush since I had to pull the pan and go fishing for shards to puzzle back together until I felt safe. Oil of wintergreen was my penetrant of choice back then. A good soak followed by some tapping with a hammer and driver to get it vibrating. Repeat for a day and a half. Took a dremmel to to cut a slot in the hateful E Z out which eventually turned out a squeek at a time. I still hate EZ outs.

  • Andrewa Andrewa on Oct 14, 2014

    Ahh yes, the Dremel with a miniature cutting disc in it to cut a screw slot. I too have been grateful for owning that particular tool.

  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
  • Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”