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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 01-06-2011, 09:36 PM
GF235 GF235 is offline
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Location: Southern Maryland
 
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Mein Auto: 2001 540i
Seat Adjustment Module Failure (Elec. Short & Flame)

I just procured a 2001 540, w/126K, great shape, just one minor problem. When inspecting it the mech (who was excellent) was leaning on the passenger seat to get the glove compartment fuse box. The seat control “module” (switches and terminations for seat adjustments wires) must have been cracked since apparently several higher voltage wires shorted together just after he leaned on that part of the seat, generating much smoke. The resulting short burned/melted the module housing and harness end connector, and burned a fist sized hole in the side seat leather. To make a long story short the deal was still too good to pass on as the vehicle is in otherwise excellent shape.

All that said, hoping for useful advice on three items:

1 – Where can I get the module and seat harness at a reasonable price, first pass through a couple of BMW parts suppliers didn’t turn up anything? (might be using wrong term to search for the item)

2 – What’s the best source for decent used seats for a 540?

3 – Any recommendations on how to eliminate the severely acrid smell?

And – I would add one more item to the very useful list of common problem to look for on E39’s: Shorted Seat Switch Modules. A quick scan reveals what sounds like similar occurrences.

Will post some pictures once I take them.

Thanks
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  #2  
Old 01-06-2011, 09:42 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Quote:
Originally Posted by GF235 View Post
(might be using wrong term to search for the item)
From the bestlinks thread ...

- BMW part numbers (1) (2) labor rates (1) (2) (3) & where to find a good repair mechanic (1) (2)
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  #3  
Old 01-06-2011, 10:07 PM
GF235 GF235 is offline
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Very helpful, thanks. Now know what to call them and what to search for.
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  #4  
Old 01-07-2011, 05:28 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GF235 View Post
Very helpful, thanks. Now know what to call them and what to search for.
Not sure if you're serious or being sarcastic.

If you're being serious ... you're welcome. The first set of links contain diagrams of every single component in your car, with the correct names and complete part numbers (and even the nominal prices) for each of those components ...

If it's not in those first two links, then BMW doesn't sell it.

If you're being sarcastic ... the same answer above applies.

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  #5  
Old 01-17-2011, 12:09 AM
GF235 GF235 is offline
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The following is a jpg follow up to the original post. The event occurred while performing a PPI on an otherwise great 2001 540. (Apologies if jpg posts look poor, first time copying pictures. How do I get these to appear bigger?)

After leaning, with great weight, on the front passenger seat outer edge a heavy plume of white smoke emerged from the seat adjustment switch "box", followed shortly by a flame as the switch box plastic melted and burned. Long story short – put fire out, bought vehicle, and replaced the switch. Afterwards, I did a little investigating of the failed switch box and now suspicious its failure might be due to a manufacturing artifact of the terminal strips inside the switch. Thought it might be of interest to others, pictures below:


A view of the damage that resulted from the switch box failure. Note that the switch can only be depowered by disconnecting the battery, or presumably by pulling the right fuse (not having schematics yet I am not sure if there is a fuse.)

Click image for larger version

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The failed switch "box", mating connector removed.

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A close up of the connector.

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There are several ‘terminal strips” inside the switch box, each consisting of a metal plate and protruding pins. The stamped metal strips appear to have tangs to facilitate alignment of the terminal strip in the connector during manufacture. Inspecting the failed connector and the ‘new' (salvage yard) replacement it’s clear these tangs between strips are very close together as seen below, approx 10-20 mils. (red circle) It is not difficult to image that by applying just the right force at just the right corner this gap close sufficient for a sustained arc to occur, as appears to be the scenario in my particular case. For this “new” connector I inserted a small screwdriver and bent these tangs back so the clearance was about 0.125.

Click image for larger version

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  #6  
Old 01-17-2011, 12:30 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Interesting pictures of the seat control module (which also should affect your steering column automatic setting).

These modules often break - but yours is relatively unique in that it fried.

In the VERY best of E39 Links are these related threads:
- SEAT & STEERING WHEEL CONTROLLER BREAK OFF: seat covers that don't protect switches for both the steering wheel tilt & driver's seat control (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

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  #7  
Old 01-17-2011, 12:48 AM
GF235 GF235 is offline
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Location: Southern Maryland
 
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Mein Auto: 2001 540i
Thanks for teh links. In checking the drivers side seat adjustment switch I struggled with the unique locking connector and broke it, as I see a number of others had. Nice to see there is a DIY fix, wil try that.

BTW - Only asking since I am new to forums, how does one post those bigger pictures. Read the FAQ, used the attach feature and it insterted thumbnail sized, but those nice, easy to see pics as in your preceding one are great.
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  #8  
Old 01-17-2011, 01:52 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Quote:
Originally Posted by GF235 View Post
how does one post those bigger pictures
You already did everything you need to do once you uploaded the pics.

All you had to do additionally was to click on the "insert image" button on the top of every single post (see screenshot below and look where my cursor is).

BTW, I do suggest 640x480 (since some people, me included, are on tiny laptops - and others are on phones, iPads, and other small-screen devices).
- How to post, shrink, modify, edit, annotate, merge, & upload pictures for posting here (1)

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