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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E36 (1991 - 1999)

E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 08-03-2007, 08:24 AM
pmccoy pmccoy is offline
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Location: Huntsville, AL
 
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Mein Auto: 1996 318i (E36)
Starter problems

Last week, I came home and forgot to close the sunroof on my 96 318i. Before I went to bed, I remembered and went out to close it. I lazily reached in the car, turned the ignition so the electronics came on and rolled the sunroof up. Then I closed the door and went to bed... with the keys in the ignition and the electronics still on. The next morning, the battery was of course completely discharged. I attempted to jump the car off but when I turned the ignition over, the electronics came on but I got absolutely nothing from the starter. No solenoid click... nothing. So I figured maybe the jump didn't have a good connection. I tried a new set of cables and then a different car to jump off of. Still nothing. I took the battery to the auto parts store for testing. It was a good battery and they charged it up completely for me. Re-installed the battery and the starter still does nothing.

So, I look through my Haynes manual for troubleshooting tips. After spending 30 minutes just figuring out where the starter is, I eventually found it neatly tucked under the intake manifold. They suggested disconnecting and checking the voltage on the "blade" terminal on the solenoid. I'm sure the "blade" terminal would be obvious if I could actually see the connections on the starter but I can't. They also suggest working on the starter from under the car but I'm pretty sure this isn't possible unless you have a lift or very long arms.

I'm also not very suspicious of the starter or solenoid. They have always worked fine and showed no signs of going bad. I'm more suspicious of a relay or the ignition but there are no troubleshooting tips on that. I did find a starter relay in my manual which is supposed to be located under the left side of the dash. I pulled the panel under the driver's side dash to have a look and I did find one relay panel but not the one with the starter relay. I haven't even started looking into the ignition yet.

With all that background out of the way, here are my questions:

Is there a good way to test the starter without yanking the thing out?
Does the starter relay really exists and where do I find it? Could this be the problem?
How can I test the ignition switch?
Given that the electronics were left on all night and something "burned out", what is the most likely thing that would "burn out"?

Thanks for any help!
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  #2  
Old 08-03-2007, 08:30 AM
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nelson22 nelson22 is offline
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Location: doncaster/uk
 
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Mein Auto: e36 318i 1996
have you checked the basics ie fuses
could just be a fuse
also on your car does your sunroof slide ontop of the roof or does it slide into the haed lining mine goes on top its the only part i don't like
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  #3  
Old 08-03-2007, 08:42 AM
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Pirate_copy Pirate_copy is offline
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+1 on the fuse...could have fried it

Have you tried hitting the starter with a hammer to check it is not stuck?
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  #4  
Old 08-03-2007, 08:58 AM
pmccoy pmccoy is offline
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Mein Auto: 1996 318i (E36)
I don't appear to have a starter/solenoid fuse. I've taken a brief look to see if any look blown but I haven't pulled them all yet. Any I should look for? Could it be in a position other than the main fuse box?

Haven't tried the hammer yet but I've see it suggested. Even if it were stuck, wouldn't it make some noise when the solenoid is activated?
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  #5  
Old 08-03-2007, 09:01 AM
pmccoy pmccoy is offline
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Mein Auto: 1996 318i (E36)
Quote:
Originally Posted by nelson22 View Post
also on your car does your sunroof slide ontop of the roof or does it slide into the haed lining mine goes on top its the only part i don't like
Mine slides into the roof and not on top of it. I only care whether it opens or closes since my AC is currently out.
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  #6  
Old 08-04-2007, 06:59 AM
pmccoy pmccoy is offline
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Location: Huntsville, AL
 
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Mein Auto: 1996 318i (E36)
I've deciphered the electrical schematics for my car and found a few things:

1 - There is no fuse for the starter. It just doesn't exist. Models build after 1996 (mine apparently was built in 1995) do have a fuse for the Immobilizer Control Unit which can turn off the input to the starter.
2 - Pre-1996 (and possilby others... I haven't checked) have a diagnostic connector under the hood. Some may be familiar with this because you can ground out pin 7 to reset the change oil light. Pin 11 on this connector feeds to the starter motor input. This can be used to test continuity/current to the starter.

This is all fine and should help immensely when I get ahold of a voltmeter later this morning. Either it is the starter or the circuit leading to the starter. If it is the starter then I know what I'm in for. If it is not, then I still have problems. Between the starter and the ignition switch are the Starter Relay and the Inhibitor Switch (the switch that makes sure you are in park before the car starts).

Where is the inhibitor switch so I can test it?
The manual says that the starter relay is under or behind the left side dash. I've looked and seen nothing like the illustrations. Does anyone know more specifically where this is?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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  #7  
Old 08-07-2007, 03:48 PM
pmccoy pmccoy is offline
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Mein Auto: 1996 318i (E36)
Quick update... for anyone having similar problems:

Gave up on figuring this out for myself and took the car to a BMW specialist (not the local stealer). They are getting a signal to the inhibitor switch but not out of it. As it was explained to me, and please let me know if this is more or less true, the key has a microchip in it that tells the inhibitor to transmit a digital signal to the ECU and also supply an input voltage to the solenoid. If the microchip in the key or the inhibitor is bad for some reason, the car simply won't start.

Since I have only one key, I'll have to wait for the shop to get a new one.
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  #8  
Old 08-13-2007, 07:22 PM
pmccoy pmccoy is offline
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Location: Huntsville, AL
 
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Mein Auto: 1996 318i (E36)
Just to wrap this up... the shop called today. It took them 5 days to get a new key (which seems a little long to me) but the new key worked. Good thing too as a new inhibitor was going to run at least $300.
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  #9  
Old 08-14-2007, 02:37 AM
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Pirate_copy Pirate_copy is offline
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Sounds about right to me buddy
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