BMW 3 Series (1999-2005) Engine Air Filter Replacement DIY

Replace the Engine Air Filter on an E46 (1999-2005) BMW 3 Series

Works For:
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 BMW 3 Series Models
BMW 3 Series Includes:  316, 318, 320, 323, 325, 328, 330 and M3 .


This install takes 5 – 10 minutes.

Step 1: Getting the required items together

This install requires:

  • 1 Air Filter (if using an OEM, then use part #13 72 1 730 946)
  • A BMW M3 (E46).
  • 10 – 20 minutes of free time.

OEM Air Filter

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Step 2: Locate the Air Cleaner Housing

  • Open the hood.
  • Locate the air filter housing (box) (see image).


Location of Air Filter Housing 

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Close Up

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Step 3: Unlock Air Box Retaining Clips

  • There are 2 silver clips located on the side of the air box facing the fender (see image).
  • Unlock these by pushing them toward the fender.


Hold Down Clips (one open, one closed)

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Step 4: Open the Air Box

  • Once the retaining clips are unlocked lift that side of the housing up about an inch.
  • The other side of the box is retained in place by a set of plastic tabs (see image).
  • While lifting the clip side of the box, gently slide the upper portion of the box toward the fender.
  • Once you have moved the upper part of the box far enough (3/4″ or so) the tabs will release and allow you lift the upper part of the air box housing.
  • DO NOT TRY TO PULL THE TOP OFF COMPLETELY! The upper portion of the air box is connected to the intake and the air flow sensor. If you try to pull it out of the car you will tear these items loose or worse. You only need to be able to lift up the top about 2 or 3″ to complete this install.


Rear Tabs 

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Upper portion up high enough to access the filter

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Step 5: Removing old filter and installing the new one

  • The old filter will simply lift out of the box.
  • Install the new filter the same way as the old one was oriented (long side down into the box).
  • Once the new filter is in, place the top of the air box over the filter and gently slide it sideways to fit the plastic tabs into the bottom of the housing.
  • Once the tabs are in, check to see that filter is still seated properly and then close the box and snap the retaining clips back into place.
  • Note: New Air Filters tend to have a thicker gasket than the older version making it a royal pain in the ass to close the top of the air box – patience and a little elbow grease maybe required.

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