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E85 / E86 Z4 (2003-2008)
E85 Z4 Roadster, E86 Z4 Coupe, E85 Z4 M Roadster, and E86 Z4 M Coupe talk with our BMW gurus here.

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  #1  
Old 09-03-2011, 08:39 AM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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Z4 sticky steering fix $285

I had the sticky steering problem on by '04 Z4 and was upset that my "Ultimate Driving" machine was no longer fun to drive. I took my z4 to an independent mechanic who specializes in BMW's to work on 2 other problems and I asked him to look at the steering problem while he was at it.

He took the steering column apart and found a bearing that is anything but good engineering. There is a bearing in the middle of the steering column that is not sealed. With time and with heat the lubricant gets dry and cakes up. He told me this is what is making the steering sticky. He cleaned out the bearing and put in new lubricant and my Z is fun to drive again. $285 for all the work including the other two problems.

Now for the bad news:
He told me it was a temporary fix. The result of lousing engineering/design. The bearing is in the middel of the steering column. It is NOT a sealed bearing. It will happen again. The bearing is not replaceable. BMW does not list it as a part - you have to buy the entire steering column assembly (parts and labor over $3500). The inner bearing race is the column itself, which also means it cannot be replaced.

This is really poor engineering: It is UNSEALED and unreplaceable and it will happen again. In the meantime it is fun to drive again.
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  #2  
Old 09-03-2011, 08:52 AM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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Just an additional note: When the lubricant begins to dry out and cake up the the steering column shaft can no longer move smoothly. Caked up material creates little peaks and valleys. the rollers want to stay in the valley and when you turn the steering wheel wheel the rollers resist till it gets over the top of the caked up peak then it rolls into the next valley where it again resists movement.

The steering feels like detents on a switch, like the fan or temperture switch, which does not move smoothly like an infinitly controlable radio volume conrol knob. A fan speed switch goes from stop point to stop point or detent to detent. That is what my steering felt like before the fix.
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  #3  
Old 09-03-2011, 09:11 AM
rsutoratosu rsutoratosu is offline
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Good to know, that is an awesome mechanic
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  #4  
Old 09-03-2011, 09:13 AM
chickdr chickdr is offline
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This issue is a serious soil spot on BMW's record. They should have recalled and replaced all of the defective columns with the new, improved design.
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  #5  
Old 09-03-2011, 11:59 AM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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Yea, good mechanic. lousy engineering. a poor response by bmw.
It tranishes their claim to the "ulitmate driving machine"
It soils the reputation of elite german engineering
It tells us all how much BMW management thinks about and cares for its customers.
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  #6  
Old 09-03-2011, 12:52 PM
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IgotBMW IgotBMW is offline
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Great info. Thanks for sharing. How many miles on your car?
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  #7  
Old 09-03-2011, 04:21 PM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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42,000
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  #8  
Old 09-05-2011, 05:30 PM
Gerard2222 Gerard2222 is offline
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Z4 sticky steering fix

Where is your mechanic located?, I have the same problem with my steering and I can't find a mechanic to help with this problem, all of them want to change the complete steering. Is there a way you can share this info with me?
Thanks
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  #9  
Old 09-06-2011, 11:40 AM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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Mechanics name is Richard Behn in Pensacola Florida rfbehn@gmail.com
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  #10  
Old 09-06-2011, 08:00 PM
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bten bten is offline
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If you get the chance, have the mechanic "mic" the bearing. There is a very good shot that you can find the sealed version at one of the industrial bearing shops. Motion Industries is the most well known. There is a chance that they would be able to get a sealed bearing that matches the dimensions on the unsealed one in the steering column.

Needless to say, if you find it, let us know.
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  #11  
Old 09-07-2011, 05:04 AM
Mikey48 Mikey48 is offline
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Ultimate Driving Machine ????
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  #12  
Old 09-07-2011, 08:30 AM
ZEEBOY ZEEBOY is offline
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I know this subject has been talked about extensively, but just for clarification, let me relate my problem. Our 2003 Z4 has what I would call a "dead spot" at the center. Sometimes, when driving straight down the road, when you move the steering wheel a little to the right or left, it seems like nothing happens for a second or two. Similar to the feeling you have on a conventional vehicle when a pitman arm gets worn and sloppy. I never notice this most of the time. Is this what the group is talking about?

Last edited by ZEEBOY; 09-07-2011 at 06:19 PM.
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  #13  
Old 09-07-2011, 02:05 PM
Psygnosis Psygnosis is offline
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Yes it is, chances are you only notice it when it is hot out.
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  #14  
Old 09-12-2011, 10:19 AM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bten View Post
If you get the chance, have the mechanic "mic" the bearing. There is a very good shot that you can find the sealed version at one of the industrial bearing shops. Motion Industries is the most well known. There is a chance that they would be able to get a sealed bearing that matches the dimensions on the unsealed one in the steering column.

Needless to say, if you find it, let us know.

The bearing is not replaceable because the inner race is the shaft itself. That is what makes it "poor" design or engineering - unsealed and unreplaceable.
Every bearing (that is not a friction bearing) has an inner race and and outer race and the balls or rollers in between. On this bearing the inner race IS the shaft.

Sorry for my delayed response - spent the week in Honduras.
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  #15  
Old 09-12-2011, 01:53 PM
estrov estrov is offline
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I have the same - well known - issue with my Z4, but I am having a problem believing that the issue is an internal bearing. This bearing would have to be binding horribly tight to counter the rotational force being applied at the much larger diameter steering wheel.

Secondly, the binding is barely noticeable when not moving forward.

Lastly, the problem is worse when hot. This is counter intuitive given lubrication and metal expansion of bearings.

This leads me to believe this is an electronic steering assist issue with the sensor in the column.

I have been around mechanical assemblies for a career (I am a PE certified mechanical engineer) and this just doesn't all add up.

I would like to find a fix as much as the next guy while trying to avoid a $3K bill to replace the column.

So, let me hear your thoughts on this. It is clear BMW and the NHTSA is not going to help on this.
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  #16  
Old 09-14-2011, 11:48 AM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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Yea, it seems counterintuitive that the grease would be a problem when it got hot. I did not open up the steering column and I did not see it.
I can tell you that it drives well now like it did when I first purchased.

I suggest you talk to Richard Behn, he did the work and you might be able to give you better information. I gave contact info on him earlier in the thread.

rus
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  #17  
Old 09-14-2011, 07:00 PM
estrov estrov is offline
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Rus, I emailed Richard, but did not get a response. Do you have a phone number?

estrov at yahoo dot com
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  #18  
Old 09-27-2011, 03:39 PM
RusHz4 RusHz4 is offline
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(850) 512-8467
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  #19  
Old 07-04-2012, 08:59 PM
keenmachine keenmachine is offline
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Anyone have any more info on this issue? Mine behaves a little differently; when the car has been in the sun all day, the steering will feel like a magnet is holding it in place; you have to steer a little harder than you should to get it to move. This also results in it not centering as it should. Is this the same issue?

So this bearing was under the dash? Can it be lubricated without removing the steering column? I agree it sounds more like a motor issue. Anybody have any DIY success?
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  #20  
Old 07-06-2012, 05:29 AM
gerald33 gerald33 is offline
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Thumbs down Stickey steering when hot

I have the same problem and would like to get it fixed. Steering sticks when warm. BMW refuses to repair it even when mentioned in the warranty period. Wife thinks the car is cute and will not get rid of it.

If it is not the bearing then why does changing the steering column a fix? My dealer quoted me $1500 for the column.
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  #21  
Old 07-08-2012, 10:51 AM
BruceJM BruceJM is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gerald33 View Post
I have the same problem and would like to get it fixed. Steering sticks when warm. BMW refuses to repair it even when mentioned in the warranty period. Wife thinks the car is cute and will not get rid of it.

If it is not the bearing then why does changing the steering column a fix? My dealer quoted me $1500 for the column.
If you cant get BMW to do this for Goodwill then $1500 total is a bargin. Unfortunately this issue has been well beat, screamed about and reviewed, even by the NHTSA. They stated its not a problem.
http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/pr...h&summary=true

There is internal binding associated with high cabin temp. Seems expansion coeffiecients were not well engineered within the column itself.
There were quite a few folks that got BMW to replace the column for free. Do a search in this and Zpost forums. Maybe you will hit on the right dealer and get lucky.

http://www.zpost.com/forums/showthre...ticky+steering

Good Luck
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Last edited by BruceJM; 07-08-2012 at 10:57 AM.
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  #22  
Old 07-08-2012, 03:38 PM
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Zedfor Zedfor is offline
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I find this explanation hard to swallow. If it were the bearing and "caked" grease, then the problem would exist all the time, but it doesn't, it only appears at very warm temps. Also, grease would have less tendency to "cake" and be more supple with the higher temps making this diagnosis counterintuitive. I don't think this is the panacea you thnk it is.
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  #23  
Old 07-09-2012, 02:34 PM
Stromtech Stromtech is offline
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I don't buy the bearing fix either...I know heat is a factor and I know lubing U joints eases the steering and for a while I thought it was fixed...but it's not.

Speed seems a a factor as mine does not act up at slow speed which seems to indicate a problem as boost is lowered at speed.
Sitting in the sun is a factor as it does not do it when driven from the shady but hot car port.
Age seems to be a factor as I think it impacts vehicles several years old after warranty.

I'm not sure what the heck is going on but the redesign seems to have targeted the worm gear area, but I tend to agree with Estrov that the problem is related to electronics in the column...last week I did the reset with the key, 10 seconds in pos 1, 10 seconds in pos 2, then back to pos 1 and start the car...so far it has not happened again and we are having a heatwave...am I confident it's fixed? ....No

Last edited by Stromtech; 07-10-2012 at 01:09 AM.
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  #24  
Old 07-10-2012, 06:37 PM
keenmachine keenmachine is offline
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I'm pretty sure the problem is the electric motor control. The cogging in the steering feels like the cogging you get with a DC brush motor. I bet if you could disengage the motor it would go away (ie not the bearing at all). But I get the impression that is not something you could do.
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  #25  
Old 07-24-2012, 04:45 PM
keenmachine keenmachine is offline
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So it doesn't sound like anyone's had any DIY repair success. Anyone have an opinion on if this is just something you live with, or does it continue to deteriorate until something breaks?
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