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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

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 02-15-2011, 10:40 AM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Possible starter problem? FIXED!

Hi guys,


I'm thinking I have a starter problem, but I'm not 100% sure.

Starting yesterday, when I turn the key to crank the engine, I noticed it started pausing for half a second before the first crank, but it does start up normally, no excess cranking out of the norm. It seems to get progressively worse as I kept running errands. The pauses between the key hitting position 3 and the first crank seemed to get longer, maybe to a full second, but it still starts up normally.

I tested the battery using a multimeter, when the car is running, it reads 13.5V to 13.7V at the terminals. The unlocked cluster readings say about the same when I'm driving, sometimes going up to 14V when the rpms go up. When the car is off, it reads 12.4V to 12.7V. I even tested it just before starting it, and the battery still reads 12.5+ V.
I'm thinking it's not a battery nor alternator problem.

I read codes (I have an OBD2 reader,) and there are no codes, no pending ones neither.

This morning, it didn't start up when I turned to position 3. No cranking or anything. So I grabbed the multimeter and tested the battery, and it ready 12.46V. I got back into the car and tried it again, and the engine turned on normally, no pause or anything. This gave me a great scare, as I eventually have to get to work.

I have a video of it if anybody is wondering. I had to turn the key to position 3 twice. The first time, nothing, then the second time, it seemed to turn on normally.



I have it in my minds' eye that the starter is stuck and needs a second time to "break free?" Dunno. Any thoughts?

I did some searching around, but nothing seems to relate, it's either threads on the ignition itself or a weak battery where there's a lot of cranking but engine doesn't turn on.

Maybe I'm wrong and it is a battery or ignition problem?

Thanks,
Steve

Last edited by nyclad; 03-31-2011 at 05:49 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-15-2011, 11:08 AM
scott0357 scott0357 is offline
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It does not seem like a battery problem since you eventually get the car started. You can do the following to rule out the starter issue: Measure the voltage at the starter's positive terminal while having an assistant trying to start the car. If the starter does not engage and a voltage (~12V) is measured at the terminal, most likely the starter is dead. If you don't see a voltage while turning the key, it's possible that he starter relay is faulty/sticky. Also, since the battery is good, if you can hear a clicking sound from the starter but it does not engage, most likely the starter is dead.

Last edited by scott0357; 02-15-2011 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 02-15-2011, 11:40 AM
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lild lild is offline
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Sounds like the ignition switch is startin to go.
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Old 02-15-2011, 12:50 PM
edjack edjack is online now
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Yep, that's my guess, too.
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  #5  
Old 02-15-2011, 01:27 PM
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doru doru is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lild View Post
Sounds like the ignition switch is startin to go.
+1,000,000
once weird stuff will start happening when you will lower the passenger sun visor - dead giveaway.
You could repair the ignition switch (and get some decent more mileage out of it) - linky, or you can replace it - linky
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  #6  
Old 02-15-2011, 06:52 PM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scott0357 View Post
It does not seem like a battery problem since you eventually get the car started. You can do the following to rule out the starter issue: Measure the voltage at the starter's positive terminal while having an assistant trying to start the car. If the starter does not engage and a voltage (~12V) is measured at the terminal, most likely the starter is dead. If you don't see a voltage while turning the key, it's possible that he starter relay is faulty/sticky. Also, since the battery is good, if you can hear a clicking sound from the starter but it does not engage, most likely the starter is dead.
Thanks for the suggestion. I live alone, so I'm going to grab one of my co-workers to see if they can help me measure the starter's voltage.
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  #7  
Old 02-15-2011, 06:56 PM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
+1,000,000
once weird stuff will start happening when you will lower the passenger sun visor - dead giveaway.
You could repair the ignition switch (and get some decent more mileage out of it) - linky, or you can replace it - linky
Thanks for the info. Gawd, I really hope it's the ignition. I'm hoping I can repair/sandpaper it like the link above. I figure it doesn't hurt/cost anything to try that route anyways. I'm so tired of having to buy parts for my bimmer.

I'll report back and let you guys know what I found.
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  #8  
Old 02-15-2011, 09:42 PM
scott0357 scott0357 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nyclad View Post
Thanks for the suggestion. I live alone, so I'm going to grab one of my co-workers to see if they can help me measure the starter's voltage.
If you can hear the clicking sound, then there's no need to check the voltage at the starter -- it's there.
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  #9  
Old 03-31-2011, 05:47 PM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Fixed!

Hi guys, just to follow up on the initial problem. You were correct, it's the ignition. I'm pretty sure it's fixed...for now. Thanks to all those who helped!

I used doru's links to open up the steering column and remove the ignition and "cleaned" the connectors.

Opening up steering column and removing ignition:http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/244045

Cleaning up ignition/repair/rebuild:
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1539722

It was actually extremely easy, maybe 30 minutes or less.

A few notes:

I was slightly confused on what needed cleaning/sanding in the aforementioned rebuild DIY, and here's what I found out that made it more clear:

The ignition is basically a housing with a plastic cam that attaches to the key tumbler assembly. The plastic cam has little arms (or bumps?) that prevent the connectors on the housing from touching each other. The only thing I can see that will necessitate replacing the ignition with a new one is if the parts are physically worn down/broken, as there are no actual electronics/computer chips/etc... in this piece. It's pretty low tech, basically a more complex light switch type device.


When you separate the halves of the ignition, you have to be careful and play with it as you're separateing it, as you don't want the cam to come off the cam half. The cam half is under a little spring loaded pressure from the copper connectors, as the cam arms are holding the copper connectors.

Here's a photo of the 2 pieces separated, the close in part contains the connectors, and the part further away holds the cam. Looking at the connector half, you can see streaks of darker stuff on the copper on the inside half of some of the connectors. This is NOT what you are aiming to clean. The marks are created by the arms on the cam holding the copper connectors away from the middle. The copper connectors are actually bent in a U shape to form a spring.
IMG_3280

The next photo shows 2 red circles. The unlabeled red circle on the cam side shows the spring that holds the cam in each position. The labeled red circle is where one of the connections are between the copper connector and the gold plated middle connector. There are six of these connections, and that's what seems to need cleaning.
IMG_3282

This photo shows me using pliers to hold back one of the copper connectors, much like the arms on the cam would. It seems that there are several combinations of how the cam arms would hold back some of the copper connectors from touching, and allow the others to touch, activating POSTION 1, POSITION 2, and POSITION 3 (start engine) as we turn the key.
IMG_3285

To reassemble, you have to angle the free end of the cam into the little hole on the connector half without having the cam come too far off, releasing the little spring.

Hope this helps. So far, no ignition problems since the cleaning/sanding/rebuild...

Last edited by nyclad; 03-31-2011 at 05:51 PM.
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  #10  
Old 03-31-2011, 05:58 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Nice pictures. I'm gonna add them to the bestlinks so that others benefit from your information!

- What to do when both your automatic steering wheel tilt and manual & automatic driver seat control fails (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) & related automatic steering wheel tilt details (1) (2) (3) & what to do if your steering wheel & key cylinder locks in place (1) & signs of a failing ignition switch (1) or ring antenna (1) & the BMW TIS for when the ignition switch spins but does not engage (1) & rebuilding a failed ignition switch (0) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) & how to test your BMW E39 DSC steering wheel sensors (0) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & how to retrofit to a 3-spoke M-Sport steering wheel (1) (2) (3) (4) & heated steering wheel retrofits (1) & updating the life of an old steering wheel (1) & where to buy the BMW steering wheel roundel (1) (2) (3) (4) (5).

Note: Here are the pictures, attached, and resized to 640x480, so they won't go away on us in the near future.
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Last edited by bluebee; 03-31-2011 at 06:01 PM.
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  #11  
Old 03-31-2011, 06:08 PM
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rexgo rexgo is offline
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Hi Steve, and thanks:

I've had s similar situation - here: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...609&highlight=

And I have long expected an Ign-Sw. I've read the DIY, and yours is very helpful. I've been living with turning the wheel when parking & no problem. Good post - thks.
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  #12  
Old 03-31-2011, 07:10 PM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nyclad View Post
Hi guys, just to follow up on the initial problem. You were correct, it's the ignition. I'm pretty sure it's fixed...for now. Thanks to all those who helped!

I used doru's links to open up the steering column and remove the ignition and "cleaned" the connectors...So far, no ignition problems since the cleaning/sanding/rebuild
This is a great follow-up post, and the pictures are a valuable bonus. It's this kind of information that makes Bimmerfest such a great resource.
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