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Monday, February 06, 2012

How To Replace The Air Filter On A BMW 3 Series E46

You can buy a Fam CA9007 Flexible Panel Air Filter from Amazon.com.  I paid $12.93 with free shipping (Amazon Prime).  The process took me 40 minutes, including trial and error, but with the tested procedure documented below, you should do much better.

Some people may say it is as simple as unclip all 5 clips, take out the old air filter, put in the new filter, and then fasten all clips back on.  However, having tried it myself, I have concluded that it is very hard to loosen and fasten clips #4 and #5 without removing the whole air filter chamber.  Some people claim they could just pry open the cover without loosening clips #4 and #5 and jam the new filter in, but I can assure you that it is impossible without damaging the new air filter.  Therefore, the steps below are necessary to properly replace the air filter.
  1. Remove the 2 bolts shown in green circles
  2. Loosen the hose clip (also circled in green) using a screw driver
  3. While pressing down the metal lever, pull out the electric cable plug
  4. This is the hardest part. An adjacent unrelated hose is secured to the air filter chamber via a heavy duty rubber latched to the chamber as shown below in photo on the left.  It is very hard to yank it out.  If you have a pair of thin pliers as shown, that'd be what I would recommend.  Stick both tips inside the rubber loop, stretch it open, and pull the pliers at the same time. The photo on the right shows the after-picture.


  1. Pull the hose out
  2. Lift and pull the air filter chamber out of the upper and lower intake boots.   The photo on the left is the resulting engine cavity with the air filter chamber removed.  The photo on the right is the air filter chamber.

  1. Unclip all 5 clips and remove the cover
  2. Replace the filter.  The new filter comes with extra layer of black foam at the bottom.  It is not easy to squeeze the filter in nicely and close the cover.  Some efforts are needed to tuck in the slacks while closing the cover at the same time.
  1. Reverse the steps to put the air filter chamber back.

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