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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 01-04-2013, 10:58 AM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Exclamation Electrical problem - loose wire/connection?

Hi guys,

I've been having an intermittent electrical problem, which is slowly getting more and more frequent. There must be a loose wire or something that's causing my 530i to lose all electrical power, almost as if the battery were disconnected.

I first noticed it a few months ago when I tried to unlock my car on a cold morning. (The battery in my key is dead, so I open it manually nowadays.) I noticed I had to turn it slightly harder than normal as that engaged the manual locking mechanism. When the interior lights didn't turn on, I figured something was up and the ignition didn't do anything. I slammed the door in frustraton, and then everything was okay. The little orange light by the auto shifter lit up. (I use that as an indicator of if I have power or not...) it started up and ran just fine. No problems for the next week or so.

I've had a few more episodes of this, usually once a week. Sometimes the car goes dead when I turn the engine off after driving. (you kind of know when everything seems quieter than normal.) Usually a car door slam will fix that. Sometimes, I've slammed the trunk and power is restored.

I've also had slightly different episodes (not sure if connected or not) where I notice that my car is unlocked (I am very meticulous about locking my car) and when I open the door, the alarm goes off. I deactivate the alarm by inserting the key in the ignition and turning it to postion 1. But everything seems fine after that.

Once, I think it almost died while driving. I went over a bump in the road real hard, and for a very brief instance, it felt like it wanted to die, but didn't. I had the defrost on, and you could hear the fan cut off for a fraction of a second, and see the dash lights dim, but everything went back to normal. I pulled over and parked it, but there were no electrical problems at that time and it started up just fine.

Right now, it's an annoyance more than anything else, but I with the episode while dirivng, I can see it getting downright dangerous.


I've tried everything I can think of.
I've taken apart the driver's door and checked that the electrical connectors are all secure.
I've done the trunk snorkel repair where I've put in new patch wire, soldered the ends and shrink wrapped them. I haven't traced the wires to the ends, just what was visible when moving the "snorkel" back.
I've checked all fuses, tightened the battery terminals, and wires on the alternator.
The battery isn't dead, as the multimeter says 11.5 to 12 V when car is turned off. 13 to 13.5V when on.

Does anybody know of any other sources of loose wires or connectors to check? Anybody with similar problems?

Last edited by nyclad; 01-04-2013 at 11:00 AM.
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  #2  
Old 01-04-2013, 12:28 PM
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doru doru is offline
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Try and check the ground under the hood, below the electronic module on the right side. Sometimes it gets loose, and people have similar symptoms. If it checks OK, try to clean the battery terminals and carefully re-attach the cables. I say carefully, because the posts are not perfect cylindrical, but slightly conical, and it's easy to place the cable terminals wrong, thinking they are tight, but in fact being loose. At this instance, you can also shear the locking bolt(s).
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  #3  
Old 01-04-2013, 10:34 PM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Thanks doru,

I'll check the ground tomorrow. I did actually try cleaning the battery terminal, and yes, in the past, I did break off the locking bolt. Interesting thing though, Volkswagen has a very simlar bolt for the battery terminal that works as a replacement.

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  #4  
Old 01-04-2013, 11:10 PM
edjack edjack is online now
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Your battery is dead. At 11.5 V it's dead. Replace it.
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Last edited by edjack; 01-04-2013 at 11:12 PM.
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  #5  
Old 01-15-2013, 04:41 PM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Hi guys,

I finally found the loose connection.

It all happened while I was getting gas at the Fullerton Costco. I finished pumping gas and tried starting the car to leave and it was stone dead. That's all sorts of fun as you can imagine the people behind me in line.

The attendant helped push me into a nearby parking spot and I was thinking my battery might actually be dead. I have a Harbor Freight cheapo multimeter on me and the battery connectors measured 9 something Volts, so I figured the battery had run low. I figured I was at Costco, and maybe, just maybe they might have the correct battery. The tire/battery clerk at Costco said that they didn't have a battery for BMW's nor most European cars, and they didn't have a jump kit of any sort.

There is a Pep Boys a few blocks away, so I figured I'd just take the whole damn battery with me and walk there. On a whim, I checked the battery TERMINALS using the multimeter, and it read 12.63 V. But the battery cable CONNECTORS read 9 something Volts. So while basking in the light of the sunset, I hunted around and found a loose connector in the engine compartment, passender side, near the front. It's the ground connector that's bolted into the side of the body. Once screwed in tight, the engine started up just like that.

Good news is that I only wasted 2 hours at a Costco parking lot finding this out.

Edjack was correct about the less than 12V, but I thought about it, and I think I put the multimeter probes on the battery connectors, not the terminals. I've had no problems since then. I just have to get some Loctite on the ground bolts.

Moral: check those ground connectors guys...

Last edited by nyclad; 01-15-2013 at 04:43 PM.
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  #6  
Old 01-15-2013, 08:04 PM
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doru doru is offline
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So you didn't check the ground when you said you will, but did it when you were in a bind...You were lucky it was daylight, and not a miserable cold windy winter night....
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  #7  
Old 01-16-2013, 09:26 AM
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nyclad nyclad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
So you didn't check the ground when you said you will, but did it when you were in a bind...You were lucky it was daylight, and not a miserable cold windy winter night....
Actually I checked some of the grounds a week ago, but only gave it a quick once over. But there are a lot of ground connections in the engine compartment and it was one of those that I never bothered to check before.

Last edited by nyclad; 01-16-2013 at 09:28 AM.
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  #8  
Old 02-23-2013, 09:27 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nyclad View Post
The battery in my key is dead
You can buy a new battery for around five dollars:

See also:
- How to replace the old-style BMW square key battery (1) (2) (3) & how to replace the rubber key pads in the square keys (1) (2) & what the red LED indicates on the old square key (1) & what can go wrong with a key and where to send it for repair (1) (2) (3) & what battery to use in the new style 2000+ BMW E39, E46, E53, E85, etc. diamond key (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) & a square key to diamond key retrofit and transponder swap (1) (2) (3) (4) & diamond key to square key retrofit questions (1) & how to recharge your key out of your BMW and how long that key will last in the drawer before it needs that off-the-car recharging (1) & the details on swapping the BMW diamond key transponder (1) & the proper diamond key initializing or programming sequence (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) & what to do if your only key is locked inside your bimmer (1) & a description of the various types of BMW Remote, Illuminated, Spare/Wallet, & Valet/Service keys (1) (2) & a list of diamond key EWS, FZV, & DWA functions (1) (2) & all about the 10-key limit to programming your own keys at home (1) & a description of the ignition key ISN (individual serial number) ten-second rule (1) & what to do if you lost your only diamond key (1) or what to do if your BMW key was stolen (1)
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Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 02-26-2013 at 07:42 AM.
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