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Towing a 330i home, whats the best way?

Discussion in 'E46 (1999-2006)' started by ten2doyle102, Apr 29, 2010.

    ten2doyle102 guest

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    I am getting a 330i next weekend from a friend of the family....unforunately its got a blown engine with a rod knock. I alread have a new motor and all the parts to fix it....but the car is located about 100miles from me. I'll be towing it back here myself and I have use of a truck. I'll be renting a little car dolly from uhaul (I wanted a car hauler but I wasn't able to get it with the limitations that the hitch and everything else has.)

    So....what's the best way to get it up here? Can i just put it in neutral with the rear wheels on the ground? Its 5 speed as well. Do I absolutely have to disconnect the driveshaft to tow it like this?

    Or should I try pulling it backwards with the front wheels on the ground and the steering wheel locked?

    Thanks!

    Matt
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    MGarrison

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    I hope someone pipes in who knows exactly what to tell you - I was doing some internet searching on a different topic, but in my looking found internet posts talking about disconnecting the driveshaft from the differential or the transmission due to, presumably, transmission and/or drivetrain damage. See what you can google up, perhaps search 'car dolly towing' or 'flat towing'. The info I was looking at was not BMW specific. I wonder if you could just as well remove the rear halfshafts. It might seem like a nuisance, but if that's what's recommended, that's a whole lot cheaper than a new transmission.

    I would guess it wouldn't be a good idea to tow front wheels down and relying on the steering wheel lock. I would think the steering wheel lock might not be relied on to sustain that kind of stress, and you could have a real emergency on your hands if the lock broke or failed somehow with the potential for the car to suddenly move all over behind you.

    Or pay someone a bunch of cash to transport the car for you, I suppose.
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    bcweir

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    The only way to be absolutely sure to avoid drivetrain damage is to flatbed it

    You mentioned the car is a manual. So as long as the gearshift is in neutral, it should be fine.

    But to be absolutely sure, don't take a chance. Flatbed it.
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    Zeichen311

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    The 2001 3 Series (E46) Sedan Owner's Manual states the following:
    Driveshaft removal is necessary for AWD vehicles because the on-road-wheels' shaft will be turning and the lifted-wheels' shaft will not, which will rapidly burn out the transfer case. There are no further special considerations given for RWD vehicles.

    From this, I would infer you can safely tow the car with the rear wheels on the ground, transmission in neutral and the front wheels on a dolly, provided you do not secure the vehicle to the dolly by means of any of the "soft points" identified above.

    This is my opinion based on reading the manual. If you decide to follow this advice and break your car as a result, you get to keep the pieces. ;)

    You didn't say which 330i but I assume a RWD E90 would be similar. To be sure, go to the owner's section of bmwusa.com, find and download your owner's manual and look up "towing."
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    bcweir

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    NotTheStig, your humor is almost as entertaining as your knowledge.

    When in doubt, FLATBED the sucker!
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    Zeichen311

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    :D
    Yeah, that's my preference too (as a couple of annoyed towing dispatchers could tell you) and definitely the way to go if it's in budget. Second choice would be a small drive-on trailer like I've seen behind RVs. U-Haul et al. might rent those as well though they may require a higher-capacity tow vehicle than a wheel dolly...no idea.

    While I wouldn't be comfortable towing an automatic long distances with wheels on the road, for a manual it should be OK. It's just shafts and gears spinning in oil, same as when you're driving it. With the front of the car elevated, I would be worried more about dragging the butt-end of the car on the pavement on inclines (like entering driveways, parking lots, etc.) than the transmission.

    All things considered, ten2doyle102, if you don't have far to go, just hire a flatbed as bcweir said and be done with it. If memory serves the cost is about $3-5/mile plus hookup charges from a decent outfit...by the time you factor in a dolly rental and all the aggravation it will probably be a bargain for any distance under 50 miles.

    ten2doyle102 guest

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    Yeah... I am not gonna be able to pay someone to tow it here. Its a 100+ mile trip so that towing bill could easily hit $400-$500. Trust me... if I could do it like that I would! :D

    Unforunately, I cannot get one of the nicer car trailer that you can drive the car up on to since it will exceed the maximum weight limitation for the hitch itself. That would be nice if it would work... Oh well.

    Also, its a 2002 330i, 5 spd. I'll make the decision when I get there...but I just don't understand how it would hurt anything since there's no pump that circulates fluid. I don't know how hard it would be drop the drive shaft though... I might be able to do that quickly.

    Thanks for the help guys!
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    MGarrison

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    Not sure on your car - at least on my (much older) 2 bimmers, you have to drop the exhaust and heat shields before you could fully remove the driveshaft. Not sure if you could get away with just unbolting the driveshaft from the diff, but if you could get a gap between the diff input flange and the driveshaft flange, probably would be ok. If the owner's manual says it's ok to haul a manual tranny car with it in neutral, you'd have to figure that's ok, presumably as mentioned earlier, not any different than coasting in neutral slightly uphill for... 100 miles - I guess that'd be like driving west on I-70 across Kansas approaching Denver. Seems like halfshafts would be easier to remove quickly than a driveshaft if you decide to disconnect anything, unless you could make sure the diff. flange wouldn't be spinning against the driveshaft flange.

    If the hitch won't handle at least 500 lbs. tongue weight I imagine using a full length trailer would be out.

    Good luck w/ the project, and don't drive too fast while towing - stick to the speed limit. Double-check the tow-dolly tires' air pressure too.

    ten2doyle102 guest

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    Oh its gonna be a project for sure. This is the newest car in terms of year built that I have worked on so I am expecting things to be a bit different. Most other cars that I worked on have been mainly e30s and older subarus.. :D

    I am going to call BMW to verify, but i still don't see how its going to hurt anything.

    Thanks!

    Matt
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    Zeichen311

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    The E46 cars/M54 engines are actually pretty easy to work on, for the most part. Even the AWD models, which as you would expect are a bit cramped in the lower part of the engine bay, aren't too bad except for a few really tight spots, but that won't be an issue for you.

    If you haven't already, buy the Bentley manual for the E46 (about $100) and read through the procedures you expect to perform. There are a number of BMW special tools that may be necessary for an engine rebuild and the Bentley manual identifies them (with part numbers). For some there are no substitutes, for others it may be worth the expense to avoid aggravation. Also, when you get into serious disassembly, there are components that must be disassembled properly or you will damage them, so don't rely on general technical knowledge and experience to get you through.

    Have fun and good luck!

    ten2doyle102 guest

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    Thanks for the advice. I am not comfortable with opening up a motor to do a full rebuild so I just ended up purchasing a used motor locally to swap in. Its got 80k on it and came with most of the accessories.

    Also, one of the first things I bought for this swap was the bentley manuel. I have one for my e30 and I know how helpful they can be. Well worth the $100 in my mind! I've been reading through it alot and finding that this really doesn't seem like its going to be that hard. The most diffcult thing looks like getting the motor itself out of the car. I have seen people take apart the whole front of the car and pull the trans with it and I have seen others just pull the motor seperately. I am thinking about just pulling the entire works out at once though and taking the front off. We'll see...

    -Matt

    cwbiii guest

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    It should be no problem to put the front wheels on a dolly and tow it home in neutral. The thing you need to watch out for is the overall weight and the braking capacity of your tow vehicle... remember you are now braking the weight of 2 vehicles with one. Take it slow, be very cautious and hope you don't have to do a panic stop... cause it just isn't going to go well if you do. If you can get a dolly with a braking system it would be a lot safer, but they are bit harder to come by. They work off of the pressure applied to the hitch by the car as you brake so they are pretty fool proof. I usually rent a car hauler with a braking system from u-haul for about a hundred bucks a day, but it adds another 1000 lbs to what you are pulling and the hitch needs to be able to stand up to the load. Sounds like yours is probably maxed out with the car alone. Got a friend with a heavy duty pickup? A case of his favorite beer and pay for the gas and another favor to return isn't too bad.

    Chuck

    cwbiii guest

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    Oh and don't forget to get a light bar for the back of the car in tow... you don't want to get stopped for that when you have a dicey towing situation to begin with. The place you get the dolley should have them.

    Chuck

    ten2doyle102 guest

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    Well the hitch on the truck is good for 5,000# which is fine for the dolly....but not for the trailer. At any rate, its not the first time I have towed something so I know that I am going to have to take it easy.

    Also, I haven't seen anything on the light bar. Normally they only require that you need trailer lights which they have on the sides. Meh...We should be fine.

    Also, I called BMW to make sure about towing it in neutral and was told that its not a good practice. It should either be flat bedded or worst case scenario have the drive shaft disconnected. So, what I am going to to do since the motor is already junk (has a rod knock...but still runs) is try to drive it here. I have a few things that I am going to try to improve its chances of making it here like cutting the fuel and spark to that cylinder and draining half the oil and putting some 20w-50 in it on top of obivously driving it slower, taking back roads and such. I know that it not a good thing to drive it like that....I get it, but like I said the motor is already knocking and they found metal flakes in the oil so its not like I can really hurt it anymore. I'll be bringing the tow dolly too just in case. I wish I knew someone with a bigger truck so that I could get the trailer...but unforunately, I don't. So....wish me luck!
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    bcweir

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    There is one more way of "disconnecting" the driveshaft

    It's quick, easy, and pretty cheap. Unfortunately it also destroys the driveshaft (but if you think about it, a driveshaft is still cheaper to replace than an entire engine, transmission, or transfer case).

    Get a manual or powered hacksaw and cut the driveshaft right off! You don't have to remove all of it -- just most of it between the transmission and the rear carrier.
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    Zeichen311

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    While I salute your creativity, that's a pretty dramatic approach to a $700 part! :eek:
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    bcweir

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    Like I said, it's a 'last resort' approach

    I will also point out that $700 for a driveshaft is still cheaper than replacing a transmission, differential, or (in the case of the xi/ix all wheel drive models, the front transfer case), or even a new engine (worst case scenario).

    Finally, if that car is near 200k in mileage, that driveshaft is going to be due for a rebuild or replacement anyway.

    I am also surprised and saddened that there is apparently NO ONE apparently in your area willing to donate an hour or two of time and the services of a heavy duty truck or SUV equipped for heavy towing. I would say even bribing them with gas money and one or two six packs of their favorite beverage would bring a stampede of volunteers. A RWD vehicle with sufficient power, a towing package, and a flatbed trailer would suffice also. U-Haul rents trailers and installs hitches, too.

    ten2doyle102 guest

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    bcweir - That made me laugh! I don't think I'll be doing that! ;)

    Well, the few people I do know are unforunately not going to be able to help. They're either going to be outta town or working. The guys that were working tried to switch but it just didn't work out.

    I think it will be fine. Worst case scenario it makes it about 1/2 way here which leaves about another 35 miles and we'll just have to tow it the rest of the way using back roads and taking it slowly.

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