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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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Old 12-16-2012, 12:00 PM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
Registered User
Location: Cambridgeshire, UK
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 14
Mein Auto: BMW 318i SE Touring 2004
Please help - at end of tether with E46 light on dash!

Please help - desperate and at the end of my tether.

I own a 2004 model BMW 318i SE Touring Automatic 1995cc (E46). I'm getting sick of this car. I have only had it three months, and during that time I've spent over £2,000 trying to get rid of a little orange "cog symbol light with an exclamation mark in the centre of it".

According to the manual it says:

"A fault has caused the transmission to switch to the emergency-run program. Have the system checked without delay."

When this light comes on, the automatic gearbox changes with harsh jumps, more noticeable changing down when I slow at a junction/roundabout etc.

The history so far. First I took it to ELMS BMW in Cambourne, Cambs. What they did, I don't know. But they charged me an hours labour of £100 plus vat, no parts involved, something about computer reset to manufacture specs.

About three days later, the light came back on. This time I took it to an independent BMW dealer in St.Ives, Cambridgeshire, who diagnosed it and said the computer was riddled with corruptions and needed to be cleared and re-set. He said he was convinced that this would clear the issue. So, upon paying this garage the sum of £60 or so, they did the following:

Reset adaption values, reset gearbox base settings and re-programmed engine control unit.

Two days later, the light came back on. So, I called same independent BMW specialist and they told me to take it back. This time, after hooking it up to their computer, it told them there was an issue with the Vale Tronic Drive Motor. After removing the old one, I was advised they found the motor U/S and unable to clear fault from memory. So, they fitted a new Valvetronic Drive Motor and found fault could not be removed. They reset adaption values and all was ok. I paid just over £380 for this.

Yes, you've guessed it, three days later, the light comes back on and I'm back to clunky and hard auto transmission changes. Now I'm really upset and annoyed to say the least. Having lost faith in this independent BMW specialist, I researched and found another, in Huntingdon.

So, I popped my BMW to the new BMW independent specialist, I was hugely impressed with their premises and professionalism. He plugged it into his computer and advised that the faults stored are for Air Intake Temp Sensor, Valvetronic Limit Position, Gearbox Can Fault. They found intake temp too high and inlet position 45 degrees out. They replaced the Air Mass Sensor, reset adaption values, reset Valvetronic Limit Position and road tested - all ok. I paid nearly £320 for this work.

Well, it was ok for, you guessed it, three days. What the hell is it with this three days thing, I asked the latest specialist. I was told the car needs to go through a certain amount of 'Drive Cycles' before it looks for faults again. By now, I'm seriously pi**ed off!!

So, back it goes and again, it is plugged into the bloody computer, which seems to be telling a bunch of lies from what I can see. This time the cam sensor is showing as faulty, so, he investigates further by using some good old fashioned hands-on mechanic stuff. After removing the rocker cover, he can see the timing chain cover has a crack through it. This, with the cam sensor is bound to sort it. But, it cost over £1,300. There might have been something else they sorted at the same time, can't remember. Anyway, all this takes a week to do, they test drive it for 30 miles or so after changing the cam sensor, timing chain (yes, you can't use the same one after changing the guard) and resetting all computer values etc etc.

I take my car back, and guess what, three days pass, I'm pleased and convinced the dreaded orange got light has gone for good. Not so, just 355 miles later, the damn thing comes on again and I'm back to a jumpy auto transmission change.

Now, I'm seriously annoyed, to say the very least as it is now getting close to what I paid for the damn car to start with and if it carries on like this, the repairs will soon over take the price of the car.

Now, I would have ditched this money pit weeks ago, but the reason I haven't is because I paid £1,800
having high end hi-fi installed and professional window tinting. I was not about to pay £400 labour to have it all removed and all the old system put back, never mind losing the £250 I paid for the window tinting.

This car has full history, brand new tyres and great hi-fi, tinted windows, looks great and drives great, when the bloody orange cog light is off that is.

I've since heard that these valvetronic engines of BMW are nothing but unreliable pieces of crap. Should I sell this car and lose thousands, or what?

I'm sure the dealers are obligated to sort this, but only if it is based on work they have done?

What if none of that stuff ever needed doing, after all, the light is still coming on so it has been misdiagnosed four times now and run a bill up of over £2000?

I want to drive to A, the lake district, and B, Belgium. But I don't feel like I can go more than 20 miles from home in fear of this damn light coming on again.

Does anybody have any experience with this, or advice as to where I should go from here or what I should do?
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