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X5 E53 (1999 - 2006)
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  #1  
Old 01-05-2013, 01:22 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Delayed alternator charging in cold weather

Long story short been experiencing red battery symbol lights for the past three weeks in the mornings. Lots of troubleshooting since got me to this point. Each time the battery light has come on it has been soon after the first engine start of the day when the engine was cold and the outside temperature around 30 degrees. I performed voltage tests on several occasions, during engine start and observed that the alternator did not charge. When the voltage dropped to 11.5 the red battery light came on. Then after 5- 15 minutes I hear a surge in the engine and the alternator starts charging on its own and the light goes out. Once warmed up after a few minutes the system charges normally at 14V all day long. It will not happen again the rest of the day/night. This is just a problem in the mornings for a few minutes. I am trying to zero in specifically on the problem and not convinced it is the alternator at this point. When charging I turned on all all electrical systems -- steering wheel & seat heaters, wipers, high beams, etc. Voltage stayed at 13.7. No current or pending OBD II fault codes are indicated when the alternator is not charging. I inspected the drive belt while the engine was running with no alternator charge and there was no slippage. The tensioner spring is tight and normal " play in the belt when static. I am thinking there is a contact in the charging system that is not making contact when cold, but after running a few minutes, warms up and makes contact allowing the alternator to charge. My suspects are: voltage regulator which I thought was solid state with no electrical contacts, the wiring harness connector plug on the voltage regulator or the battery cable connection on the voltage regulator. I was unable to check the connections on the regulator because of the alternator's location requiring disassembly of various components. This is where I am. So a few questions to the group:

Has anyone experienced this problem before? Any ideas on what is going on? Are there electrical contacts within the regulator?

Last edited by JNMNL52; 01-05-2013 at 02:42 PM.
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  #2  
Old 01-05-2013, 07:34 PM
dryflyguy dryflyguy is offline
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JNMNL, going through the exact same scenario on my X. Only in the mornings and it is temporary. My vote is either the alternator or voltage regulator. Both are known issues with the E53 platform. My new stereo has become a victim of the voltage drop in that the digital processor is very voltage sensitive and does not correctly boot up in the morning when there is the greatest draw. It's very frustrating not having music after investing as much as I did. My car is going in to the shop in a few weeks for that problem as well as a list of other issues. I will let you know what they find and advise.
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  #3  
Old 01-06-2013, 06:24 AM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Originally Posted by dryflyguy View Post
JNMNL, going through the exact same scenario on my X. Only in the mornings and it is temporary. My vote is either the alternator or voltage regulator. Both are known issues with the E53 platform. My new stereo has become a victim of the voltage drop in that the digital processor is very voltage sensitive and does not correctly boot up in the morning when there is the greatest draw. It's very frustrating not having music after investing as much as I did. My car is going in to the shop in a few weeks for that problem as well as a list of other issues. I will let you know what they find and advise.
Thanks I would appreciate learning what your shop discovers. I have not found any information specific to the E53 and wasn't aware it is a known problem. The strange thing is this problem does not throw a fault code.
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  #4  
Old 01-06-2013, 10:17 AM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Did a little more internet research and learned of an identical problem which ended up being a lazy diode in the voltage regulator. It didn't function when cold, but worked fine after a brief warm up period. I see the E53 voltage regulator has a separate part number and can be ordered separately for 1/4th the cost of an alternator assembly.

The question I have is specific to the E53, can the regulator be changed with the alternator installed or does the alternator need to be removed?
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  #5  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:24 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Does anyone know if there is any electronic control module or relay between the alternator/regulator assembly and the battery or is it wired direct?
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  #6  
Old 01-09-2013, 01:40 AM
Tdgard Tdgard is offline
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Just went through this-this week. The length of time the light is on will probably get longer and longer. Once the battery gets too low your going to start getting all kinds of faults popping up. DSC/ABS inactive, trans failsafe, lights all over the dash, radio shuts off. Mine also only happened in the morning and i thought it had something to do with cold. However, it sits in a heated garage all night and the light would come on. Then I would go to work and it would get much colder sitting in the lot-no light.

I swapped the whole spinning electrical device instead of just a part to (hopefully) avoid having to pull it out 6 months from now when a bearing or brushes went out. All is now well.
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  #7  
Old 01-09-2013, 01:50 AM
Tdgard Tdgard is offline
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Forgot to say-it is throwing a fault code-you just probably don't have access to it. Indy told me there were 45 alternator/low voltage codes.

Last edited by Tdgard; 01-09-2013 at 01:52 AM.
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  #8  
Old 01-09-2013, 03:43 AM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Originally Posted by Tdgard View Post
Forgot to say-it is throwing a fault code-you just probably don't have access to it. Indy told me there were 45 alternator/low voltage codes.
Thanks. Looks like I will be replacing the alternator soon then. I am seeing that cold may not be a factor. Yesterday it was 45 degrees and it still happened. Alternator kicked in after 4 1/2 minutes. I do have a Creader VI OBDII scanner and it is not detecting any codes. What did your repair shop charge?
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  #9  
Old 01-09-2013, 08:49 PM
ALTY ALTY is offline
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Just bought a brand new alternator on Ebay for 75.00 and had installed... Works perfectly and no more lights on...

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  #10  
Old 01-12-2013, 05:56 AM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Still monitoring this delayed charging problem during every start with the OBC Test 9 voltage readout. The delay seems to be getting less. The last three days the alternator kicked in less than 3.5 minutes, 35 seconds, and 35 seconds respectively. I am thinking this delay is not related to temperature which has been in the low 40's each morning. The battery light has not illuminated in a week. If I were not monitoring test 9 voltage I would not know anything different this past week. Will continue to monitor.
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  #11  
Old 01-12-2013, 06:59 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Spoke too soon. Today when I started the X-5 the alternator never charged during a 25 minute trip running an errand. Watched the voltage at start drop from 11.9 to 11.2 during the trip with no red battery light - which tested OK during when ignition was turned on. Shut engine down, did my business and restarted. Alternator immediately started charging at 13.5 volts. Red battery light tests good, but did not come. I don't know if this is normal behavior or not????
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  #12  
Old 01-12-2013, 07:18 PM
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DirtyDan DirtyDan is offline
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I have a 3.0i motor 03 X5. In my experience just 2 weeks ago, I was stuck with a bad alternator. I was able to drive 60 miles with a brand new battery to get a new alternator installed. When voltage is at 11.2 that means it is running off the battery. I would replace the alternator with a Bosch or quality version soon. You don't want to be broken down. Also replace the battery, as every time the battery gets drained the battery has a reduced life.

I had a new battery from Autozone (1 year old), warranty replaced it and I bought the alternator (reman) Bosch from there too. I had it installed by a local mechanic in WV where I was stranded for $140 bucks. It is 2.7 hours labor by the book. Don't let anyone tell you its hard to do. I went ahead and had the belt changed too. I wish I would have had the oil housing gasket too since they were almost to their but I didn't have it in the car.

Good luck!
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  #13  
Old 01-13-2013, 06:24 AM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Originally Posted by DirtyDan View Post
I have a 3.0i motor 03 X5. In my experience just 2 weeks ago, I was stuck with a bad alternator. I was able to drive 60 miles with a brand new battery to get a new alternator installed. When voltage is at 11.2 that means it is running off the battery. I would replace the alternator with a Bosch or quality version soon. You don't want to be broken down. Also replace the battery, as every time the battery gets drained the battery has a reduced life.

I had a new battery from Autozone (1 year old), warranty replaced it and I bought the alternator (reman) Bosch from there too. I had it installed by a local mechanic in WV where I was stranded for $140 bucks. It is 2.7 hours labor by the book. Don't let anyone tell you its hard to do. I went ahead and had the belt changed too. I wish I would have had the oil housing gasket too since they were almost to their but I didn't have it in the car.

Good luck!
Thanks for the input. I replaced the original battery 3 weeks ago which was 6 years old. When I jumped the dead battery to start the X5, the engine started but when the booster cables were removed the engine died. I suspected the alternator. Had the X5 towed to my indy. The alternator tested fine by my indy, so just the battery was replaced. Not sure if I had this problem before the battery died but 6 years on the original battery is pretty good. The intermittent nature of this problem is puzzling but I think I have heard enough. I will place an order for a new alternator with Max @ oembimmerparts.com. Will close the loop and let all know if this solves the problem after installation.
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Last edited by JNMNL52; 01-13-2013 at 07:45 AM.
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  #14  
Old 01-13-2013, 08:54 AM
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DirtyDan DirtyDan is offline
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Yes - I replaced my battery last year after it was the original battery from 2003. The X5 does funny things when it is not getting the right power. My X5 ran for 3 years since I bought it making a funny noise (chirping) coming from the alternator. After I had it changed the funny intermediate check engine light coding up O2 sensors and DSC light and brake lights with ABS have stopped. The batteries are so large they can run the X5 a long time. I went 60 miles. A mechanic told me I could drive over 4 hours on one battery with no accessaries or lights running.

I paid a total of $350 ($210 part after core returned and 140 labor). If you are near Elkins, WV (which i don't think you are lol)- I have the best mechanic there AutoMedic down street from Autozone. He took awesome care of me and I was on the road the same day.

I live in Ohio so it turned a bad trip into a good one.
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  #15  
Old 01-13-2013, 01:39 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Originally Posted by DirtyDan View Post
Yes - I replaced my battery last year after it was the original battery from 2003. The X5 does funny things when it is not getting the right power. My X5 ran for 3 years since I bought it making a funny noise (chirping) coming from the alternator. After I had it changed the funny intermediate check engine light coding up O2 sensors and DSC light and brake lights with ABS have stopped. The batteries are so large they can run the X5 a long time. I went 60 miles. A mechanic told me I could drive over 4 hours on one battery with no accessaries or lights running.

I paid a total of $350 ($210 part after core returned and 140 labor). If you are near Elkins, WV (which i don't think you are lol)- I have the best mechanic there AutoMedic down street from Autozone. He took awesome care of me and I was on the road the same day.

I live in Ohio so it turned a bad trip into a good one.
You got off easy cost wise. Just ordered a OEM Valeo 170 amp alternator for $419.00. Just seems so strange......alternator does not charge right away during the first start of the day, and no battery light on. Then shutdown, restart, no problems the rest of the day. Something is not connecting initially then kicks in. Hopefully a new alter will fix the problem. Thanks for your inputs.
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  #16  
Old 01-21-2013, 03:11 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Several weeks prior to this delayed alternator charging issue my transfer case was replaced and reprogrammed by the dealer - due to a relatively minor mishap. While waiting for my new alternator and belts to arrive I experienced a "4x4 inactive" alert on my OBC with a yellow DSC symbol light. The DSC light remained on after subsequent engine starts. On Saturday I took my X-5 back to the dealer for troubleshooting since it was under warranty support. Today the service advisor told me they read out the eletrical system and found a faulty alternator and that is what was causing the 4x4 light to come on -- even with a fully charged new battery. The dealership wanted $1550 to replace the alternator. I already had one ordered and headed my way. I was willing to allow the dealer to install my parts but it was against their policy to do so. So I paid an hour's labor @ $140.00 for their troubleshooting efforts and drove my X-5 home. On the way home I monitored the alternator charge at initial start of the day and it was 11.8v ---- not charging. Then, like clockwork, the alternator kicked in within 5 minutes and started charging at 13.9v all day. During the 30 minute trip home, the 4x4 light came back on, as well as the brake, ABS, and low tire pressure lights. All of this apparently related to a faulty alternator --- with a new fully charged baterry. Go figure this light show from a failing alternator.

As luck would have it my new alternator arrived this afternoon and I took my X-5 to my indy for replacement. I will get it back tomorrow and hopefully close the loop on this problem.
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Last edited by JNMNL52; 01-21-2013 at 03:13 PM.
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  #17  
Old 01-22-2013, 03:02 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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Closing the loop on this issue for those following....... Today my new Valeo alternator and belts from max @ oembimmerparts were installed by my indy. This appears to have fixed the problem. The alternator charged 14v at engine start, no lights. The problem was either the alternator or the regulator. I put my money on the regulator as being the culprit. So this faulty alternator resulted in delayed charging during the first start of the day, occasional idiot lights on the dash and never threw a fault code that I could read on my Creader VI.


So at the end of the day it cost $419.00 for a new alternator, $34.00 for two new belts and $255.00 in labor totalling $708.00. Thanks to all who shared their advice and troubleshooting procedures.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:13 PM
dryflyguy dryflyguy is offline
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Thanks for the update. Mine is at the shop as this is being written. Hopefully they can convince the warranty company to replace the alternator and regulator so I don't have to deal with that dreaded battery light.
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Old 01-24-2013, 07:53 AM
upallnight upallnight is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JNMNL52 View Post
Closing the loop on this issue for those following....... Today my new Valeo alternator and belts from max @ oembimmerparts were installed by my indy. This appears to have fixed the problem. The alternator charged 14v at engine start, no lights. The problem was either the alternator or the regulator. I put my money on the regulator as being the culprit. So this faulty alternator resulted in delayed charging during the first start of the day, occasional idiot lights on the dash and never threw a fault code that I could read on my Creader VI.


So at the end of the day it cost $419.00 for a new alternator, $34.00 for two new belts and $255.00 in labor totalling $708.00. Thanks to all who shared their advice and troubleshooting procedures.
You should buy a new regulator for the old alternator, replace the old regulator and take it into one of those auto stores that test an alternator for free if you bring it in. You can keep the old alternator as a spare or sell it to recover some of your money. It's not that hard to replace the voltage regulator and brush assembly once you have the alternator out of the car.
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Old 01-24-2013, 10:37 AM
dryflyguy dryflyguy is offline
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It's official, new alternator and regulator and all is well.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:20 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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It's official, new alternator and regulator and all is well.
How many miles did you have on your faulty alternator?
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:28 PM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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You should buy a new regulator for the old alternator, replace the old regulator and take it into one of those auto stores that test an alternator for free if you bring it in. You can keep the old alternator as a spare or sell it to recover some of your money. It's not that hard to replace the voltage regulator and brush assembly once you have the alternator out of the car.
Interesting idea; will give it some thought. A new regulator costs about $125.00; not sure what I could get for this used alternator...maybe $200.00 plus shipping? Probably competing with junyard alternators.
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Old 01-25-2013, 06:29 AM
upallnight upallnight is offline
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You can also just remove the old regulator and take a look at the carbon brushes, since that is were the wear is. My local True Value Hardware sells carbon brushes for $5 to $10.00.

Or if you live in a urban area, you may be able to locate a starter alternator repair shop. I had the alternator for my 911 Porsche rebuilt for 90.
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  #24  
Old 01-27-2013, 06:22 AM
JNMNL52 JNMNL52 is offline
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You can also just remove the old regulator and take a look at the carbon brushes, since that is were the wear is. My local True Value Hardware sells carbon brushes for $5 to $10.00.

Or if you live in a urban area, you may be able to locate a starter alternator repair shop. I had the alternator for my 911 Porsche rebuilt for 90.
Out of curiousity I removed the old regulator and inspected the two brushes. I noticed that one brush extended out of its housing more that halfway with good spring tension against the rotor shaft. The other brush was worn a little more and did not extend as far, maybe 1/8" less, but still enough travel to place it against the rotor shaft -but not much to spare.

I suspect this worn brush may have been floating at initial start up with less spring tension and not making full contact. Then after the alternator rotated a while, contact was eventually re-established and the alternator started charging. Just a theory but that would explain the delayed charging issue I was having.

I attempted to reinstall the old regulator but, without breaking the brush housing, I could not figure out how to compress the brushes to allow sufficient clearance for them to slide over the rotor shaft. This begs the question - how do you compress the (new) brushes to properly install a new regulator over the rotor shaft?
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:01 AM
upallnight upallnight is offline
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There should be a couple of small holes that you can use a drill or paper clip to hold the brushes in the holder until the brushes are installed. Once install you just pull the drill or paper clip out and the brushes will come into contact with the rotor shaft.

In this video, the repairman uses a tooth pick to retain the brushes.


Last edited by upallnight; 01-27-2013 at 07:07 AM.
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