DIY – Front end creak remedy for 2006 BMW X3 (E83)

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February 13, 2015 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

Anybody can potentially repair a creaking BMW front end in minutes at no cost!

X3 front reinforcing plate

Front end creaking is a common problem for the E83 and other BMW models. The steering starts feeling loose and you might hear creaking and clunking when making sharp turns at low-speed or when backing up.

This sort of problem can be caused by a number of pricey component failures: worn suspension or steering components, failed struts, and CV joints. It is a major safety issue that must be addressed as soon as possible. Fortunately, these symptoms are often due to loose bolts on the under-body plate – a five-minute, zero cost repair.

Tools and Time

Tools: 18 mm socket and breaker bar
Supplies: None
Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Procedure

  1. Locate the bolts securing the front reinforcing plate to the bottom of the car. For the E83 (shown below), there are four bolts, one in each corner of the plate.
    X3 front reinforcing plate boltsOur Z4 (E85) has two bolts in each corner, so the number of bolts for different BMW model can vary.
  2. Tighten each bolt, as needed.

If any of the bolts were loose, take the car for a ride to make sure the problem is fully solved. If all the bolts were already tight, the problem is elsewhere.

If tightening loose bolts does not completely solve the issue, you can try these steps in an attempt to self-diagnose the problem:

  • Visually inspect for loose or damaged components. Torn CV joint boots need immediate attention! (These are the rubber accordion covers at both ends of the short drive shafts leading to the both front wheels on front-drive or AWD vehicles.)
  • Grab and shake the various suspension and steering components. Odd motion or strange noises can indicate that something is worn out.
  • Have a helper move the steering wheel back and forth while observing beneath the car. Listen for creaking/clunking and grasp parts to see if they are jerking as they move through their range of motion (movement of parts should be smooth and fluid).BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET YOUR BODY CAUGHT BETWEEN MOVING PARTS! YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS WITHOUT STARTING THE CAR. IF YOU NEED TO START THE CAR TO MOVE THE STEERING WHEEL, MAKE SURE THE CAR IS IN PARK/NEUTRAL WITH THE PARKING BRAKE SET, AND THAT THE PERSON INSIDE THE CAR HAS THEIR FOOT PRESSING THE BRAKE.

If anything seems wrong, it needs to be repaired or checked by a professional right away. Depending on your level of skill, you might decide to try fixing it yourself, but be aware that many repairs of this nature will render the vehicle undrivable if you stop in the middle of the task.

On our E83, all four bolts were loose, with three of them being loose enough to turn with your fingers – pretty amazing considering that the plate has never been removed. Tightening the bolts solved the looseness and noise issue 100%.

There are horror stories online about people spending well over $1000 to correct this issue. While I can’t say everyone is being ripped off, this does seem like a condition ripe for getting overcharged by a dishonest mechanic.

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