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shigeki 12-16-2009 06:25 PM

Malfunction Oil Level Sensor Caused by Vapor Condensation
[FONT="Arial Black"]I had earlier posted a thread about a warning red triangle that appeared on my display. When I went to check messages it read "Malfunction of the Oil Level Sensor". Unable to reliably calculate oil level. ( my 550i has no oil dipstick).

I had car in for service today. took it in at 9am and was given a 325i with 51,000miles (hardly compares to my 2008 550i with a 20way seat and all ameneties). I have severe degenerative lumbar disc disease and need the comfort of my 500i. Anyway, I was told by a FEMALE service representitive that the warning light just means "I NEED A QUART OF OIL". I told her I had car for 14,000 miles and at 5000 I had to add a quart as a different message was displayed informing me that I was to add a quart of oil. I also told her that an icon lights up with a beep when I either shut engine off or when I push check system switch on my steering wheel column. The icon is A PICTURE OF A CAR SUSPENDED ON AN HYDRAULIC GARAGE LIFT. I would think that icon was a "NO BRAINER" that my car needed service. The service rep than says my car probably needs routine maintenance. To that I replied that I just had it in at 10,000 miles for complete oil change and car was even routinely scoped and everything was okay.

Now its 5pm and I am still driving loaner 325i and no phone call from service rep so I decide to pay her a visit. She says my car is all fixed and paperwork is being processes as we speak. She then tells me that after technician scoped car he got an error code 2E9F. After checking recent service bullentins he is informed that the QLT sensor has moisture in it. Because weather has been extremely cold and I have been making short trips , the oil has not had time to get hot (over 100 degrees) and water vapor has formed inside the engine crankcase. Service rep said that when technitian opened the oil cap and swish of vapor was released immediately and problem solved.

Now I return loaner and transfer all my personal belongings to my car and start engine. Within 5 minutes same warning message displayes with icon of car on garage lift . My car also was not washed and was just as dirty as when I took it in the the morning, leaving me with the impression that nothing was ever done to my car.

At this point frustration sets in and I drive car into service stall and show service rep error message. At this point she tells me that error message was probably always on and I never noticed it before. She then attempts to be rescued by the service technician. Unfortunately he has already left for the day. She then opens hood and unscrews the oil cap. No vapor comes out. Error message is still displayed.

Now follows how the problem was solved! She shows me the service bullentin and even makes a copy of it for me. This is what I was told to do to get rid of moisture in my engine crankcase which was in turn affecting the QLT sensor.

I had to drive the car on the freeway aggressively at 3500 to 4000 rpm's for 8 minutes to heat engine oil up to 100 degrees quickly. Then let car idle for 2 minutes. Shut off engine , open hood and open oil cap to allow moisture vapor to escape.

The error warning triangle and all other error messages went away even before the 8 minutes were up driving at 4000 rpm's. Engine oil level displayed and all systems were A okay. I was lucky not to have gotten a speeding or reckless driving ticket.

I cant believe that no other Bimmer has experienced the same problem that I just had. To prevent moistue from reaccumulating in the future I need to drive more aggressively in the winter or take long freeway trips of at least 45 minutes to allow the oil to heat up to evaporate the water vapor that forms when outside temps are low. I had car for the winter of 2008 - 2009 and never had this problem. Temperatures here in Milwaukee get down to 10 below sometimes (not unusual). In another post I mentioned that I had my car only 3 months and 4500 miles when "check engine" light came on, Well, turned out I had a defective engine harness wiring and it took 2 months to fix. The new harness wire had to be manufactured from scratch in Germany and then sent back to Wisconsin for technician to install. I must admit, I had my doubts that such a huge repair could be accomplished succesfully. Well, I put on 14,000 miles since then without any problems developing until this malfunction message regarding my oil level sensor.

I took the time to post this thread so that all you Bimmers out there could benefit from my experience. I love my 550i. Just hope I can drive it for awhile before the next problem emerges. Happy Holidays! Shigeki

ChrisTO 12-16-2009 07:19 PM

thanks for sharing....i always figured short trips were bad for our cars...but this only proves the point of how finicky these diva cars are to short trips. :) clearly their test sessions needs to include short trips...or maybe they did and hence the fix. good to hear nothing permanent.

however these short trips can have an impact on the CCV. if the oil cap has yellow mayonnaise build up be very concerned. you can end up with a hydrolocked engine as has happened on the X5s due to plugged CCVs. I recall last year during a deep freeze of -20C for a few days one of the local BMW garages said many customers came in with bad CCVs. not cheap to replace and in worse cases engines would hydrolock from the excessive moisture buildup.

shigeki 12-16-2009 10:10 PM

Appreciate the warning about CCV . Yes, expensive to replace. I should be okay with original warranty. heard a Bimmer with an extended warranty did not cover CCV replacement and garage wanted $880 ($650 labor and $230 parts).

Going back to my fix for moisture in oil. Other solution would have been a full oil change and removing the QLT sensor and blowing out the valve to remove the moistue. Cheers . Shigeki

ronqureshi 03-02-2010 07:57 AM

ccv break (could it be caused by moisture)
Just wanted to report my ccv issue
my car = 2005 530i (45K miles)

I had these symptoms a few weeks after some below 0 temps.

rough idle (shakes)
air hissing sound from engine that continues for 2 seconds after engine turned off
also "increased emissions" warning (service engine soon light)

I took it to a BMW repair shop (not dealer)
They said it was broken ccv valve

They replaced ccv and attached hoses, total cost $569
Approx $100 less than dealer would have charged here in Austin TX

I am surpised that ccv valve would break after only 45k miles but the car
is 5 years old though

Anyway drives much better now

maheba 02-08-2011 07:57 AM

Oil Level Sensor Malfunction in 2011 BMW x3
I just bought a brand new 2011 BMW X3 on Jan 15. Not even a month now, and it shows the "Oil Level Sensor Malfunction" error message on the display. I have scheduled for a service, but this thread was very useful. I thought it was something to do with the cold weather. I will try following what "shigeki" has suggested and repost again if the problem is solved. I have a week to go to the service center.

But I am frustrated to see these kind of issues in a car that's not even a month old. it's a completely redesigned model and there are other things that concerned me. I will post it in my next thread.

bmw_n00b13 02-08-2011 08:06 AM

Hmm, I can't check now but the e39 CCV on I6 engines is only around 1 hr to replace if that. $850 sounds awfully steep!
I wish BMW would simplify matters. This CCV just doesn't work in most climates, only where it's very dry and above freezing most or te time.

Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse typos and lack of links.

Nube1kenobi 02-08-2011 12:33 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by shigeki (Post 4770535)
Appreciate the warning about CCV . Yes, expensive to replace. I should be okay with original warranty. heard a Bimmer with an extended warranty did not cover CCV replacement and garage wanted $880 ($650 labor and $230 parts).

Going back to my fix for moisture in oil. Other solution would have been a full oil change and removing the QLT sensor and blowing out the valve to remove the moistue. Cheers . Shigeki

There had been a few of this before thus the SIB...

MRV99 02-08-2011 01:43 PM

BMW has had a moisture issue with the CCV valves for many years. The main contributor to this issue is the way BMW has designed the oiling systems(for high RPM) compared to the way that American drive the cars(low rpm). From what I have read in the Bimmer and Rondel the daily commute and not really getting the car running at temp for an extended time. The longer they run, the less this is an issue. Another issues is the fact that many people do not run there engines at high RPM's which really help clean the oiling system out. You are not going to hurt these engines by running them up to redline. Now if you do this when the engine is not up to temp or say keep it at redline for 5 minuets, there may be some long term damage but standard redline runs will not touch it. These engines are high rpm engines and love to run at high rpms so don't worry. Besides, I have build engine 1/2 as nice as a BMW and have put tons or Redline runs and the engine was not damaged.

vadim76 02-08-2011 05:38 PM

It happened to me for the first time ever. It went away after a couple of miles and oil level showed up just fine. I figured it's because it was too cold here :)

UltimateDriving 02-08-2011 05:46 PM

Now this is GREAT INFO!
Another excuse to redline it every now and then :D:D :thumbup: :angel:

jesimmons 02-08-2011 07:32 PM

Not entirely off topic... but... This water vapor contamination in the crankcase is yet another reason why BMW-recommended oil changes at 15,000 miles are rediculous. These vapors condense and form acidic compounds that can damage internal parts over time. All oils have additives to counteract these acids, but as they do their job to neutralize the acids, they become depleted. Modern top-line synthetic oils have no problems lubricating for 15K miles, but usually by that time, the acid reducing additives are long gone. Specially if you live in really cold winter climates and run the engine for short trips. :( If you only do short trips in the winter months and the temps are cold, an oil change in the spring is not a bad idea. :)

cinergi 02-09-2011 08:19 AM

I've been taking mostly short trips lately, and I saw my service countdown indicator decreasing more quickly than my actual distance traveled. Then, I took a few longer trips, and the countdown indicator actually increased! So it would seem that the iDrive software has some built-in intelligence to count the number and duration of trips, and applies this information when calculating the service interval! It probably also uses data from the oil condition sensor (it's more than a simple oil level sensor).


toga94m 01-07-2013 07:57 PM

Digging up a 2-year-old thread... had the "below minimum" panic message today, no oil slick behind me (driving around town, 20mph) or in the driveway, so I doubt it suddenly dumped all my oil. I took my wife's car to get 2 quarts of replacement, put one in, restarted the car and waited for an update, got the same message.

More internet searching, and this turned up. Yes, I'm in upstate NY, it's cold, I have a short commute to work. I think I'll take the long way to work tomorrow... hopefully the engine was lower than full when I added the quart, so I'm not overfull now. I've had it for about 5000 miles (bought used) so it's probably burned up a bit of oil.

I'll probably post again tomorrow whether the message clears up, or if it blows a gasket and catches fire on the highway. Hoping for the better outcome... :)

toga94m 01-08-2013 10:55 AM

...And we have a winner. It was only +5F this morning, car started up fine, no funny noises or excess smoke (just typical brrr mist from the exhaust like every other car on the road). After 10+ minutes highway driving the oil sensor finally gave me a reading, 2 ticks above the bottom. As I kept driving, it went up to 3 green ticks. Went out for another half-hour at lunch, and at the end I had 5 green boxes above the tapered region above the oil pan. Now I'm wondering, if I went further/longer/warmer, if it would report an overfill...

After parking at lunch, I opened the fill cap and let it vent for 5 minutes - a light float of mist that made me happy to see moisture leaving the system.

As for the steady increase in level that others have seen, I'm assuming that colder oil sticks more to internal passages and walls, where as the car heats up more oil falls to the sump to be measured.

End result = happy car, no service call or tow truck, no $200 replacement sensor. Thanks to and Nube1kenobi for posting the SIB!

SG525XI 01-28-2013 08:12 PM

2007 525 XI - Oil Sensor MAlfunction message
I took my car to the dealer for an oil change today. It was -4* F today. After oil change I pulled the car out of the dealership and onto the street and within a minute the dashboards said "Oil sensor malfunction" and the warning flashed asking that I take it to the service center. I asked the service department about it and they denied doing anything with that part. But said that if they are responsible, they will honor and repair it....

Later in the evening I searched online and started looking for root cause for this issue...I found multiple...
1. Sensor is really faulty (appointment taken for another day)
2. Difference in viscosity of Original oil and new oil (service center rechecked)
3. Faulty oil filter (service center rechecked)
4. O-ring on the oil filter damaged (service center rechecked)
5. Oil leaking (not in my case)
6. Condensation in the engine due to cold climate

While I waited for the appointment day, I decided follow up on the condensation theory. As suggested by the shigeki and others, I took the car out for the spin and drove it at around 85mph for 10 minutes. Then parked in the parking lot, opened the hood after 2 minutes and opened the oil cap....out comes the steam from the engine...Next time I started the engine the issues were gone for about 15 minutes of driving and came back again....I repeated the same 85mph again and now, I have no issue with the oil sensor anymore...IT IS THE CONDENSATION that cause OIL SENSOR MALFUNCTION...


toga94m 01-29-2013 06:13 PM

Now just so nobody thinks this is a valid excuse to give the officer as he's writing your speeding ticket.... :angel: it's not the car speed that matters, it's the RPM. You can probably hold a lower gear with that auto-step-widget flappy-paddle gear thingy that 90% of you have, and keep the revs up while obeying the law. Us manual transmission guys can just leave it in 4th when cruising legally at 65mph (as we always do, right?). The engine warms up completely, turns the moisture to steam, you vent the steam, all is well.

Interesting to see the locations of people on this thread - Wisconsin, Toronto, Minnesota (* 2), Montreal, northern NY, Mass, and all in December/January/February.

bimmerzone 01-30-2013 01:07 PM

Had this same exact issue on my E63 650i, dealer replaced under warranty the Coolant Level Sensor first but it did not work, figured out it was the vapor, and did an oil change and now she is good as new :)

banglenot 09-25-2013 03:25 PM

Just did this in September in CT. Nowhere near freezing, but cool nights and warm days here next to the lake, and the car hasn't been flogged very much in awhile. Combo means moisture in the oil, etc.

Anyway, 6K rpm for 10 minutes in 2-3rd gear and suddenly the oil level indicator jumps from half to full. Steam from the oil cap as well.

Thanks, shigeki, et al. This internet thingy shore is keen....

toga94m 12-01-2013 06:28 PM

The north is getting into winter temperatures, so this issue is probably going to start popping up again in here. Coincidentally, I was looking thru the BMW WDS tech info tonight, and found this paragraph about the oil condition sensor..


Notes for Service department
General information

Note: condensate in the engine oil.

Condensate that forms in the crankcase due to short distance driving can influence the permittivity. If the water is mixed in the engine oil, it also collects around the oil condition sensor.
If there is too much water in the crankcase:
In individual cases there can be an incorrect display of the oil level or a warning requesting that the oil be topped up.
This ”false oil level warning” can be treated by means of a fault profile selection on the BMW diagnosis system, whereby the permittivity of the oil is also evaluated. However, there is no direct display of the permittivity. The permittivity depends on, among other things, the viscosity or age of the oil. This means that an appraisal of the quality is not ensured in every case.

w5lx 12-02-2013 05:05 AM

Just another benefit of not having a dipstick in these cars.:thumbdwn:
Thanks BMW.....that was a brilliant move.

banglenot 12-02-2013 12:46 PM

I had the problem. A 10 minute drive in 3-4 gear to hold it a 5-6 RPM fixed it. Hold it at the speed limit on the highway and all is well.

jparnes1 02-07-2014 07:48 AM

Thanks for posting this info. I had the oil level sensor malfunction warning yesterday. Following the OP's instructions, problem solved!

djvollmer 02-08-2014 07:55 AM

Oil level sensor malfunction
I had the same problem with the oil level sensor, a malfunction, on my 2006 530xiT, and followed the above fix, ran the car down the highway at about 3500 rpm in fourth gear. After two tries, viola, the malfunction disappeared. My oil also needed changing so I also did that, and the problem has not resurfaced. The oil appeared to have some moisture (milky) and I did have a recent problem with the oil cooler gasket, since replaced.

The weather here has been brutal (central Wisconsin) with average temps since the first of the year at about 11 degrees and with the wind chill, it's about 3 degrees below zero. I do drive about 20 miles round trip into town, but rarely see the temp gauge get to normal operating temperature (it took me 4 months to realize I had a temp gauge).

Thanks to all who led me to this fix. You saved me about $300 to $500!!

toga94m 02-08-2014 08:12 AM


Originally Posted by djvollmer (Post 8131668)
The weather here has been brutal (central Wisconsin) with average temps since the first of the year at about 11 degrees and with the wind chill, it's about 3 degrees below zero. I do drive about 20 miles round trip into town, but rarely see the temp gauge get to normal operating temperature (it took me 4 months to realize I had a temp gauge).

Well, it's not really a temperature gauge. It's an indication of the movable rev limiter, which goes up as the engine warms up. For a real temperature gauge, get a $12 ELM327 bluetooth OBDII adapter from ebay, and get the Torque app for your phone. You can see coolant and intake temperatures, as well as a ton of other geeky info. Or you can do the two-hundred button presses to get to the secret menu and show temperature on your dash display.

djvollmer 02-08-2014 09:21 AM


Hey, thanks for the info. Whatever it is, it's better than nothing.

I'd be more interested in the 200 button presses to get to the secret menu. I don't have a smart phone, barely a cell phone. I refuse to have something smarter electronically than me.

I also agree with a previous thread on a dip stick versus the oil level sensor. I've been driving since 1963 and have yet to have a dip stick fail. I can also see when I check my oil with a dip stick how the oil looks.

Tell me the 200 (or less) button presses to get to engine temperature, please.

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