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-   -   1997 e38 no headlights, no start. (

edognight 12-30-2012 03:23 PM

1997 e38 no headlights, no start.
I need some help!

I'll recap:

Bought a basketcase that the owner drove to a shop, wouldn't start, and decided to sell. The key wouldn't turn, and it wouldn't start. He did drive it there. I buy for cheap.

Took my tools, and took the steering clamshells apart. separated ignition switch and turned with a screwdriver, and it started right up. Let engine run with heat on max and the ignition key park lock came unstuck. Happy day.

Drove around, and the tire was so flat spotted and frozen, it wouldn't roll. Shut it off, and had it towed to my house.

Went to start it again after tow, and nothing. It had just run an hour before. Instruments work, radio, everything inside but the headlights, and the car wont start.

So: key in ignition, screwdriver in switch and no start, and no headlights, but everything else works.

Any help appreciated!

Had battery tested, its fine, but not the one the car calls for, the previous owner put it in because the stock one was toast. It is 750 CCA and tests fine with a load test. It did start the car before, but not now.

edognight 01-03-2013 01:52 PM

Bought a new battery and bypassed the ignition switch by jumping it on the wiring harness and nothing...

BMWFatherFigure 01-03-2013 08:03 PM

The car has a factory alarm/imobliser that registers if the wheels rotate while the alarm is armed. Towing will do that. The system will imobilise the car until the alarm is reset. Might be your problem.

edognight 01-04-2013 06:16 AM

BMWFF, thanks, you are my new BMWBFF.

Any idea how to fix it? I suspected something like that, but i have no experience with BMW's.

First740i 01-04-2013 05:23 PM

That is poly dealer issue. I think you need codes and computer, but don't quote me.

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edognight 01-07-2013 06:52 AM

Update: This is a weird one. New battery. It was sold as charged, but the trickle charger shows it has been charging for a day or so and counting.

Ignition switch shows + on a test light on the black and yellow wire with a ignition screwdriver twist (black and yellow wire lights up in 3rd position.)

Headlights do not work, taillights do not work. (the headlights did work before, but not now, all bulbs are fine.) I think when I started it previously, I pushed on the brakes--if that matters.

I checked power to the battery with jumping it off, and it does spark at the starter. Grounded the engine to the negative on the shock tower, and tried to start it.

I have checked all fuses, and wondering about relays. I have never heard a straight answer on if an e38 has a starter relay or not. Mine has three lime green boxes in the ebox that I assume are relays. All fuses appear fine.

I previously did get this car to start, it smoked at first, but seemed to run fine. I let it run for over an hour with no problems, had it towed home, and now i just cannot get it to start.

I will check the wire to the starter with a turn of ignition switch and see if the car is telling the starter to start, but I suspect it is not due to security issue. Any other diagnostic ideas? I will do it.


First740i 01-07-2013 07:02 PM

Major electrical issues. That's what it sounds like to me. Maybe a short in wiring harness I don't know. I'm a DIY that's to in depth for my knowing. Wish I could help more

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edognight 01-08-2013 01:28 PM

i hear ya.
I am starting to wonder if I got in way over my head. I had a hot hand on fixing cheap cars and selling them until this...

Limitless08 01-11-2013 10:51 AM

Ground connection
I have not had the no start problem, but I did have a problem with lights coming on. Under the hood on the passenger side, there are 3 little black boxes attached to the apron. They should have brown wires conning out of them. In my case, some of the wires had come off causing my lights to not come on. Once I reconnected them my lights came on no problem.

May or may not work but its worth a shot. And check ground connections elsewhere too.

edognight 01-12-2013 06:49 AM

will do.
Did the lights plug into some sort of 'light module' ? I was doing some checking, and both the headlights and taillights come through the light module thingy ( i forget what it is called) and the connections can go bad.

Also, the previous owner had some sort of jerry rigged circuit running up there under the glove box. it was jumped off the fuses in the trunk, and then run up there under the carpet. The wires were jumped off the hot side of the fuse, and run up under the GB.

It looked very 'un stock BMW ish'

This car was cheap and I LOVE the styling of e38's, but it has been a nightmare to get running!!!

Limitless08 01-12-2013 01:31 PM

Not sure
I never really got that far into it. I just changed a plug and reconnected the ground wires, and it solved my problem.
Sorry I couldn't be of more help...

edognight 01-17-2013 02:01 PM

Update with new info
So, I checked the voltage to the hot wire of the starter (from the battery) 12.4 volts.
I checked the voltage to the green wire going to the starter, (the quick connect) and nothing (no volts) with someone turning the key.

The 'starter relay' deep in the ebox (the ones deep down there where you have to move the computers) does click when someone turns the key. There are three salmon colored and lime green. The key works in the ignition and door locks.

I tried to jump the starter with a screwdriver, but the starter won't crank, it just makes a arc ing noise and sounds like a welder, but no starter engagement.

New battery, fully charged, new ignition switch. Checked all the fuses, moved the visors, grounded the engine to the frame.

I was told it's the battery. I was told it's the ignition switch.

Can an indy mechanic help? Someone with diagnostic tools? Any suggestions?

I am a bit irritated with this whole thing, but one little piece of information can turn it all on a dime, anyone?

kupplung 01-17-2013 03:47 PM

I am having two thoughts for you. First, the EWS, or Electronic Immobilization System, which has already been mentioned, would prevent the car from cranking.

You can use a digital multimeter to diagnose this properly. Have somebody turn the screwdriver to the start position, and you should get battery voltage on terminal 50 on the starter solenoid. (There are two skinny wires and two fat ones; terminal 50 is the skinny one on the bottom.) If you do not get voltage when turning the key, your EWS is tripped, and you need INPA diagnostic software and an EDIABAS cable to connect to the car.

It sounds like you already powered terminal 50 directly to test the starter. I am not 100% sure that will work on these cars, because it looks like the ground path on the other end of the solenoid going through a transistor in the IKE (instrument control cluster). I'm getting this from ELE-179 in the Bentley manual, btw.

Assuming the starter test works, or if you get battery voltage on terminal 50 when you turn the screwdriver to the start position, then I suspect your starter motor is bad.

edognight 01-18-2013 06:56 AM

Thanks for the advice, I am having a hell of a time getting this thing started!
You said the wire to test is the #50 on the bottom of the solenoid? Is this the same one where you dis connect the quick connect, and there is one green and one black one on the car side?

That is where I am testing it, in the quick connect on the car side.

I imagine there is only one wire to the solenoid?

Can an indy shop do the EWS thing/software stuff, or is that a dealer thing?

kupplung 01-18-2013 09:03 AM

Yeah, that is a fine place to check the voltage. According to my diagram, one wire should be black and yellow, and the other wire should be black and green. You want to check for voltage on the back and yellow wire.

As for resyncing the EWS module. Yes, an Indy can do it. Or, you can get INPA setup on a laptop without much investment of time or money. The USB diagnostic cable to connect to the car can be had cheaply on eBay , or there are more expensive ones ($80 or so). There are whole forums devoted to BMW diagnostics with INPA and GT1/DIS.

edognight 01-18-2013 10:21 AM

Thank you so much!
I have been searching all over, have three posts up on many forums, and searching in my spare time and couldn't find the information as well as you just put it!!!

I will do. I guess this isn't as much of a nightmare as I thought!

I guess that idea of having to take a car to the dealer to get reprogrammed is old news? Or do you still have to?

Also, do you have a guess why my taillights and headlights don't work. Light module? Bad luck?

Once again, thank you!! I owe you one.

kupplung 01-18-2013 10:53 AM

Thanks, I'm glad if I can help. Tackle the no-start and the lights as separate issues. Let us know the result of the voltage test on the black and yellow wire going to the starter solenoid terminal 50. If there is no voltage, it is EWS. If there is voltage, suspect your starter, or like you were asking, the starter relay.

FWIW, yes, there is a starter relay. Through 1996 it was underneath the left side dashboard, in 1997 it moved to the E-box in the engine compartment, under the control modules.

The reason for your lights not working is probably a fuse or the lighting control module. The lighting control module is located by the passenger's right foot. You have to remove the sill and pull back the carpet. The fuses that provide power to the LCM are f112, f113, and f23. F112 and F113 are 80 amp fuses located in the fuse panel under the right front seat. F23 is a 5amp fuse in the fusebox in the engine compartment.

kupplung 01-18-2013 11:10 AM

Also, no I don't think you need to actually reprogram anything. You just need to sync the EWS. INPA can reset the EWS. There is other software available to do actual programming, but I don't think you need to.

edognight 01-18-2013 05:17 PM

Thanks kupplung, I'm on it. I'll post when I check what you told me.

edognight 01-19-2013 11:06 AM

I took the front seat out I found about an inch of water (ice) in the bottom of the floor pan!!!

There is water in the back part, behind the front of the seat and about two inches of water in the front part. All those fuses and wires were about an inch deep, so...

This is why you don't buy a car on a i'll dry everything out, and see what I got...

I can only imagine all the damage, hopefully, I can replace, clean, etc. I will let you know.

edognight 02-05-2013 02:37 PM

flooded floor pan
Anyone have any idea if a flooded floor pan (and the fusebox immersed in water) would cause a no-start, funny electrical symptoms, etc?

I have a new box on the way, and hopefully that fixes it. But I am not naieve enough to think that what looks like the problem with cars is actually the problem. In my experience, it usually doesn't work that way.

BMWFatherFigure 02-06-2013 06:05 AM

The water in the fuse box will at least confuse or at worst bugger up most of the electronics. You need a good stealer or indy to get to the bottom of this; and that is after you have got everything cleaned, dry, tight and electrically sound. Once all the boxes and their joints and earths are good the car will come right. Might need a reprogram though, because of the water over the terminals.

edognight 02-11-2013 08:19 AM

update, small victory.
I have a small update in my quest to get 'the car that could not be started' started.

I found out that the pass. side floorboards were flooded, and for those of you in the loop, there is a fuse box down there. There was about an inch of water (ice) and I melted it and cleaned it out, removed the carpet, etc.

I got a used fusebox, cleaned up all the wires and installed it. Car still does not start, but the headlights now work!

Which is a small victory for me. Previously, the headlights did not work (though sometimes the did, and sometimes they flashed like the alarm was on) because the fusebox was literally under water for some time.

So after reading every no start thread on the net, I am reasonably convinced the EWS module is disallowing a start and I will need a DIS environment to reset it.

Anyone have and help, I am all ears.

BMWFatherFigure 02-11-2013 09:03 PM

Beck to the clean, dry, tight electrical stuff. Check further in. I guess you will find more corrosion.

edognight 02-13-2013 08:08 AM

is there anything else in the passenjer side floorboard that will cause a 'no start' if covered with water?

I havent taken off the right side cover (white cover, held on with cable ties)

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