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E85 / E86 Z4 (2003-2008)
E85 Z4 convertible and E86 Z4 coupe talk with our BMW gurus here.

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  #1  
Old 03-15-2014, 04:13 PM
eekflyer eekflyer is offline
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2004 Z4 - finicky steering on test drive

Hi,
I've read plenty regarding the potential steering issues on 2003-2006 Z4s. I test drove a 2004 with ~34K miles today (2.5i automatic). When driving in a straight line at 40-45 MPH, the steering seemed to tweak the direction of the wheel in a notchy fashion. The alignment seemed straight however, but there was a tweak in the steering path that was noticeable. This doesn't happen in any of my other cars, including my Z3.
Is this condition simply the feel of electric assist steering, the run flats, or is it the dreaded Z4 steering issue? I'd think that the steering wheel shouldn't help me steer in a sticky manner, but a smooth one.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 03-15-2014, 04:53 PM
ZEEBOY ZEEBOY is offline
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Before purchasing four years ago...I first test drove our 2003 Z4 (2.5 auto)...the first thing I noticed was that "center wiggle" (kind of feels like the driver is not steering the car, the steering kind of goes dead for a nano second) that you mentioned...but at the same time it only seemed to do it momentarily and it then drove "normally". My wife really liked the car, so we went ahead and purchased. I am glad we did. Twenty thousand miles and 4 years later we have thoroughly enjoyed the car...taken it on numerous 2K mile trips from Ohio to Cape Cod....and yes...we still get that occasional "center wiggle" but frankly we now just ignore it....I too was comparing the Z4 to our 2001 Z3 coupe and was initially concerned about the steering feel, but as I said before we no longer worry about it. Having said that...based on conversations on this forum...I think there are varying degrees of this problem and some seem to be much worse that what I have experienced...my advice would be to drive more than one Z4 to compare that center steering wiggle feeling....

Last edited by ZEEBOY; 03-18-2014 at 09:11 AM.
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  #3  
Old 03-15-2014, 07:16 PM
coolvt coolvt is offline
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With my 2007 si I surely don't get any wiggle.....steady as rock.
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  #4  
Old 03-16-2014, 05:54 AM
kalali kalali is offline
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Mein Auto: 2003 Z4 2.5
Not sure what you mean by the wiggle but you may be experiencing tramlining which is common especially with the OE runflat tires.
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  #5  
Old 03-16-2014, 07:34 AM
Pierce Pierce is offline
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Run flats really amplify the tramlining. Toe setting and electric steering don't help. I have come to the conclusion that my 3.0Si doesn't "drive" itself near as well as my E46. The Z is a much more twitchyer car.


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  #6  
Old 03-16-2014, 06:42 PM
manana manana is offline
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There are rumours that the post facelift cars don't have that condition, but I can assure you that my '08 si most certainly does. I've had it one year and just after purchase reviewed the maintenance records which showed that the steering column had already been replaced once. I think you have described it well; mine is the same, while driving straight the wheel twitches just a bit one way or the other and it seems more pronounced in warmer conditions.

Driving a relatively expensive vehicle (for me anyway) where I have to accept this poor engineering and constant annoyance disgusts me almost as much as the fact that BMW is able to ignore it as much as they have. That combined with their ability to to ignore the soft top issue is pathetic.

There are so many things I love about my car..... but I'd be lying if I said the S2000 doesn't cross my mind regularly. I think I may try some sensor adjustments this summer and hopefully meet with some success to share.
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  #7  
Old 03-16-2014, 07:08 PM
coolvt coolvt is offline
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I would think that a car under warranty should be returned to the dealer as often as necessary to correct the problem If they can't correct it ask for a refund under the "Lemon Law" that most states have. Why is it that some cars experience the problem and some don't ? If it's in fact an engineering issue wouldn't it show up in all cars?
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  #8  
Old 03-16-2014, 07:36 PM
eekflyer eekflyer is offline
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Maybe a combination of tires, maintenance, setup, etc? This test car didn't seem to be in the best of condition. It also seemed to have a very clean u-joint to rack rod. Crazy clean, as if just replaced.
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  #9  
Old 03-17-2014, 11:58 AM
Psychodo Psychodo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kalali View Post
Not sure what you mean by the wiggle but you may be experiencing tramlining which is common especially with the OE runflat tires.
I noticed tramlining during the test drive as well. Thought it was alignment or some other issue but everything checked out. I switched to all seasons (still run flat) and it is much less noticable.

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  #10  
Old 03-17-2014, 12:35 PM
coolvt coolvt is offline
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TireRack has pretty good article on Tramling (see below). I understand a car wanting to follow ruts in the road as described in the article, but I'm not sure this is the same problem that Z4 owners are describing. I thought I was hearing people say that the car just jerked one way or the other. Or the wheel jerked at it's center position. I don't remember anyone saying anything about their car following ruts in the road. So maybe we don't have a tramming problem as described in this article. BTW, I have a Sunbeam Tiger that liked to follow the ruts in the road. After correcting the camber and increasing the castor most of the problem disappeared.
http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tirete....jsp?techid=47
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  #11  
Old 03-17-2014, 12:44 PM
eekflyer eekflyer is offline
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As coolvt mentioned, my experience was more akin to slight steering jerking at center than rut following.
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  #12  
Old 03-17-2014, 04:26 PM
coolvt coolvt is offline
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If this is as common as owners make it sound I'm surprised that there wasn't a factory recall to correct it. Has anyone ever asked if there was a "secret' recall? In other words it only gets repaired if the owner complains strongly. I remember a private recall on Mercedes S models. If problems arose in the very complicated dashboard, the only repair was to replace the whole dash. We are talkiing $2000-$3000. Well, there was a recall that dealers never told owner about unless they really complained. An owner on a Mercedes forum got a copy of the actual private recall and posted it for all owners on the forum. It was sort of like getting a free $3000 warranty;-)
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  #13  
Old 03-17-2014, 06:18 PM
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EdCT EdCT is offline
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My 2005 3.0 with sport package would tramline, but I never had any of the steering issues others sometimes report.

In general, the Z4 never drove quite as well as the best E46 variants it was based on - with the possible exception of the M Z4. Having owned and driven so many of them, that's my opinion - my ZHP convertible is just about perfect.
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  #14  
Old 05-17-2014, 11:03 PM
geoffm53 geoffm53 is offline
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So does anyone know what causes this twitch or how to fix it? I just got a 2005 2.5i automatic with 78000 on it, and it has the twitch.
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  #15  
Old 05-18-2014, 06:43 AM
coolvt coolvt is offline
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I think the consensus has been to be sure you have an excellent allignment on the car and to be sure that all items that can wear in the front suspension and steering are in excellent condition.
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  #16  
Old 05-18-2014, 11:50 AM
geoffm53 geoffm53 is offline
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sticky steering

Thanks for the info, I'll check it all out.
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  #17  
Old 05-25-2014, 07:43 PM
X5M5 X5M5 is offline
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What kind of twitch are you talking about, there was an issue in the steering column on earlier cars (2003-2006) where excessive heat in the cabin would cause a gear in the steering column to become slightly larger causing more force necessary to move the steering wheel left or right. It was very, very obvious on the highway. A great way to see if your car has it is to leave it out in the sun for the day with the windows up, and then drive it on the highway. The only way to fix this is to replace the steering column.

One thing you COULD do is get a remote-start installed on the car, which could fire up the A/C before you get into the car. Once the steering column cools, the steering is perfectly fine. Might be a MUCH cheaper fix, as I recall the steering column part is over $2k and labor is at least $1500.

Chris
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  #18  
Old 05-25-2014, 08:14 PM
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dc_wright dc_wright is offline
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If what you are calling a "twitch" is the tendency of the front wheels to want to follow irregularities in the road, that's called "tram lining" and is typically a function of alignment and tires. Some tread designs are more prone to this than others, and alignment settings, particularly toe in, can make the car more sensitive to it. When I had my E36 I had the front toe set at zero degrees and camber at -2.5 degrees. On the road it wanted to follow every crevice and crack in the pavement, but on an Auto X course or the track it made a huge difference in turn in so I just learned to live with it for daily driving. Not saying you shouldn't get yours checked out, just giving an example of what effect alignment settings can have. If you do take it to an alignment shop, make certain that they do an alignment and not just a check against specs. In a proper alignment the tech should be attempting to set everything to the nominal specs. In just an alignment check they don't adjust anything to nominal unless something is out of spec and then they just adjust it to be in spec, not at the nominal point.
I believe the Z4 steering column issue was almost the opposite where there was heavy resistance to turning the steering wheel when the power steering drive was hot. Felt like the steering wheel wasn't going to turn the wheels.
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Last edited by dc_wright; 05-25-2014 at 08:16 PM.
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  #19  
Old 05-31-2014, 05:51 AM
geoffm53 geoffm53 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by X5M5 View Post
What kind of twitch are you talking about, there was an issue in the steering column on earlier cars (2003-2006) where excessive heat in the cabin would cause a gear in the steering column to become slightly larger causing more force necessary to move the steering wheel left or right. It was very, very obvious on the highway. A great way to see if your car has it is to leave it out in the sun for the day with the windows up, and then drive it on the highway. The only way to fix this is to replace the steering column.

One thing you COULD do is get a remote-start installed on the car, which could fire up the A/C before you get into the car. Once the steering column cools, the steering is perfectly fine. Might be a MUCH cheaper fix, as I recall the steering column part is over $2k and labor is at least $1500.

Chris
Thanks for that info. That sounds like what I am feeling. I live in southeast Louisiana where it is hot. With top up and ac on I don't notice it, but with top down I do. Sound like something I should't worry about, or should I?
Thanks Geoffm53
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  #20  
Old 05-31-2014, 10:30 PM
Clearancediver Clearancediver is offline
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http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/acms/cs...020-42020P.pdf

This response to NHTSA by BMW in response to their questions, describes the issue...which is too fine a tolerance in the gears, which in hot conditions, the expansion of the gears caused by the heat, causes them to bind ..... in simple terms.




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