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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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  #1  
Old 07-05-2008, 11:48 AM
andynation andynation is offline
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Question Oil Pressure Light flicker...do you have it too?

Red oil light flickers when to a stop and idling in D afterbeing driven for >10 miles. When in D, the car idles at just above 500 RPM from reading the tach needle, which I believe is considered to be on the low side. In every occurance the light seemed to cleared itself after shutting the car off, but invariably resurface randomly in a later time.

I had this problem for a year now, and I had brought the car the the dealer for diagnosis three times. First time they checked oil pressure, it was OK and we left it at that. Second time they replaced the oil LEVEL sensor along with Inspection II. Third time they replaced the oil pressure switch.

Each time the pressure light flicker has came back...it becomes the worst after they replaced the oil pressure switch, now the light will stay lit when idling in D but will go away once the engine revs up a little. Now the car is scheduled for another dealer visit where they will investigate things further.

It seems this problem is rather common with BMWs (not just E46) after googling a bit, but no definative answer as to the cause. The most common suggested fixes are to replace the pressure switch, change the oil and filter, and replace the oil pump. But after trying two of these suggested fixes the problem remains.

How many of you 'festers out there have this problem? And have you gotten it fixed? Please share your stories....

Thanks
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  #2  
Old 07-07-2008, 06:37 AM
KeithS KeithS is offline
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Not normal and not common to my knowledge. How many miles on the car and what oil are you using? You have low idle oil pressure. Causes include (but not limited to) the wrong oil, the oil pump is bad, the intake screen is clogged or you have excessive bearing clearances preventing the buildup of oil pressure at idle.
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  #3  
Old 07-07-2008, 07:29 AM
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The number 1 enemy of the oil pressure switch in our cars, moisture! If you aim the pressure washer directly at it, say goodbye to it. If oil leaks out at the connector and through the switch, say goodbye to it. If the yellow oil can is displayed, it's not pressure so hang on to your oil pressure switch. If you have an oil pressure problem, you bet theres sludge and you may need more than an oil pump.
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  #4  
Old 07-07-2008, 07:31 AM
andynation andynation is offline
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Keith,
The car has 28k on it. All oil changes were done by the dealer so I guess they used BMW's recommended oil (Castrol i think). Since I had the car i changed oil once per calendar year due to my annual miles is about 7k. I travel a lot for my work the car spends most of its time during the week parked outside in the elements, not sure if that has something to do with it.
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Last edited by andynation; 07-07-2008 at 07:39 AM.
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  #5  
Old 07-07-2008, 12:37 PM
glenn2m glenn2m is offline
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The first time

I changed my oil, I used the recommended Castrol Oil, or I thought I did. My light was flickering under exactly the same circumstances as yours. It turned out I had not used the European blend, which is LL01 approved. The non-European blend is not. After I changed the oil & filter and started using the European blended Castrol or Mobile-1 I never had the problem again. It could have been a coincidence, but it did pretty much stop immediately after I put in some LL01 approved oil...
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  #6  
Old 07-16-2008, 03:22 PM
andynation andynation is offline
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An update with the dealer's diagnosis:

The shop foreman, along with BMW technical services, offered four possible causes:
1. electrical short in the wiring harness where the wire of the pressure sensor goes through
2. DME (engine management computer) module defective
3. Instrument panel defective
4. "air bubble" in the oil causing pressure switch to trip

The dealer was able to duplicate the problem only once during their test drive, and the pressure was within spec according to them. The fix as of now is to re-wire the sensor to bypass the harness and thus the possible short.
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  #7  
Old 07-16-2008, 06:48 PM
burrito burrito is offline
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I have the same problem! Oil light flickering red at idle, usually after the engine is warmed. The dealer checked oil pressure and it read 18 hot which is ok. So they replaced the oil pressure switch. That was last week, then yesterday the problem returned. Taking car back into dealer tomorrow.
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  #8  
Old 07-16-2008, 07:37 PM
andynation andynation is offline
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Hey Burrito, I'm still not totally sold on the electrical short theory. When the light starts to flicker, try put the car in neutral and see if your rpm rises and th elight goes away. I tried on mine and the rpm rises to about 700 and the light goes away, drop it back into D and the light comes back on again ...
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  #9  
Old 07-16-2008, 11:14 PM
naregmeg naregmeg is offline
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will changing the oil pressure switch solve a transmission limp mode problem? and is there a transmission fluid pressure switch?
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  #10  
Old 07-17-2008, 08:46 AM
TenzoR TenzoR is offline
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I had the the flickering probably for a times last year but I haven't seen it flicker at all this year.
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  #11  
Old 07-18-2008, 09:55 AM
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iskoos iskoos is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andynation View Post
An update with the dealer's diagnosis:

The shop foreman, along with BMW technical services, offered four possible causes:
1. electrical short in the wiring harness where the wire of the pressure sensor goes through
2. DME (engine management computer) module defective
3. Instrument panel defective
4. "air bubble" in the oil causing pressure switch to trip

The dealer was able to duplicate the problem only once during their test drive, and the pressure was within spec according to them. The fix as of now is to re-wire the sensor to bypass the harness and thus the possible short.
I love how they go for wiring harness or DME or other sceniaros when they just can't find the actual problem.
Ask them if they will credit you back on the parts that they replace and it turns out the parts they replaced are NOT the actual cause!..
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  #12  
Old 07-18-2008, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burrito View Post
I have the same problem! Oil light flickering red at idle, usually after the engine is warmed. The dealer checked oil pressure and it read 18 hot which is ok. So they replaced the oil pressure switch. That was last week, then yesterday the problem returned. Taking car back into dealer tomorrow.
Isn't the oil sensor on the bottom of the oil pan pretty well known for crapping out? Could that possibly the problem?
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  #13  
Old 07-18-2008, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by smolck View Post
Isn't the oil sensor on the bottom of the oil pan pretty well known for crapping out? Could that possibly the problem?
Yeah but it doesn't turn on the RED oil light. He should be getting yellow oil light only if it is a sensor related issue.
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  #14  
Old 07-18-2008, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iskoos View Post
Yeah but it doesn't turn on the RED oil light. He should be getting yellow oil light only if it is a sensor related issue.
He shoots.....REJECTED!
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  #15  
Old 07-18-2008, 04:49 PM
burrito burrito is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andynation View Post
Hey Burrito, I'm still not totally sold on the electrical short theory. When the light starts to flicker, try put the car in neutral and see if your rpm rises and th elight goes away. I tried on mine and the rpm rises to about 700 and the light goes away, drop it back into D and the light comes back on again ...
Update

The dealer re-analyzed the oil pressure on my car, but this time with the transmission in D. They are saying the oil pressure registered slightly low at idle (but he didn't give me the number which I would be interested in knowing.) They think the problem is with the oil pump but they can't be sure. It would cost $2600 to find out (dropping the oil pan, etc.) Since the flickering light isn't happening very often I am just going to live with it, unless it gets worse.
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  #16  
Old 07-18-2008, 04:53 PM
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iskoos iskoos is online now
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Ouch... Changing oil pump should cost alot. Not the part itself but the labor.

I can only wish you some good luck unfortunately.
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  #17  
Old 07-18-2008, 05:04 PM
burrito burrito is offline
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Well, I have a Bentley manual and some tools. *In Theory* I should be able to diy, but that would be the most complex thing I've ever done in my life. I want to tackle replacing the belts first and see how that goes.
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  #18  
Old 07-18-2008, 07:57 PM
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Well, I have a Bentley manual and some tools. *In Theory* I should be able to diy, but that would be the most complex thing I've ever done in my life. I want to tackle replacing the belts first and see how that goes.
I'd try it. Even if you blow your motor you can still buy a used one for less than $2600!
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  #19  
Old 09-08-2009, 09:17 PM
rnd5925 rnd5925 is offline
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Oil Pressure Light intermittently flickers in drive

Quote:
Originally Posted by iskoos View Post
I love how they go for wiring harness or DME or other sceniaros when they just can't find the actual problem.
Ask them if they will credit you back on the parts that they replace and it turns out the parts they replaced are NOT the actual cause!..
I am having a similar experience with my 2003 325i;the light had been flickering for several weeks when engine was hot, at an idle, in drive. I replaced the oil switch-same problem, checked oil pressure at an idle in "drive" when hot, pressure = 9 lbs (factory min.spec. is .5bar= 7.5 lbs); brought car to the BMW dealer who measured 15 lbs and suggested that the problem may have been due to a low battery( alternator had failed one hour earlier) and there was no oil pressure problem; the dealer replaced alternator and battery. One day later after 20 minutes of driving, the light began to flicker once again. It appears that: 1. The BMW dealer failed to reproduce the problem in that the conditions as reported were not duplicated, and 2. Believes that the problem might have been the electrical problem. Please understand that the oil pressure switch does goes directly to the dashboard light, nothing-in-between other than wiring to give a false signal!
There are several reports of this problem on the web.
I have not tried Castrol, but did change the oil about 1 month ago to Mobil 1 and an OEM filter.

I am awaiting an answer from the BMW dealer.
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  #20  
Old 09-08-2009, 10:05 PM
qualicas qualicas is offline
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned checking and ensuring there is a good ground connection. As a test, run a wire from the ground portion of the switch and run it back to the neg side of the battery. See if that helps. It seems as though these sensors/switches etc really like good ground.
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  #21  
Old 09-08-2009, 10:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iskoos View Post
Yeah but it doesn't turn on the RED oil light. He should be getting yellow oil light only if it is a sensor related issue.
My red oil light flickered when my sensor went bad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rnd5925 View Post
I am having a similar experience with my 2003 325i;the light had been flickering for several weeks when engine was hot, at an idle, in drive. I replaced the oil switch-same problem, checked oil pressure at an idle in "drive" when hot, pressure = 9 lbs (factory min.spec. is .5bar= 7.5 lbs); brought car to the BMW dealer who measured 15 lbs and suggested that the problem may have been due to a low battery( alternator had failed one hour earlier) and there was no oil pressure problem; the dealer replaced alternator and battery. One day later after 20 minutes of driving, the light began to flicker once again. It appears that: 1. The BMW dealer failed to reproduce the problem in that the conditions as reported were not duplicated, and 2. Believes that the problem might have been the electrical problem. Please understand that the oil pressure switch does goes directly to the dashboard light, nothing-in-between other than wiring to give a false signal!
There are several reports of this problem on the web.
I have not tried Castrol, but did change the oil about 1 month ago to Mobil 1 and an OEM filter.

I am awaiting an answer from the BMW dealer.
This is almost certainly related to the oil sensor. It is VERY common.
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Last edited by tturedraider; 09-09-2009 at 04:04 PM.
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  #22  
Old 11-10-2009, 09:24 AM
garrettmarvel garrettmarvel is offline
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I have this now on my 92 328ic at 168k mi.

Does anyone have the oil pressure sensor part number? I want to be sure i purchase the correct part.

And is there a DIY replacement instruction out there?

Thanks all!
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  #23  
Old 12-23-2009, 07:28 AM
SnlvlBimmer SnlvlBimmer is offline
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Red Oil Pressure Light

When you measure oil pressure, measure the temperature of the oil as well. Recording the oil pressure with a data acquisition tool will show you that the oil pressure will actually drop below the "red line", meaning the low spikes of the pressure reading don't show up on a regular gauge, as the regular gauge shows you only the "average", and not the actual pressure fluctuation.
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  #24  
Old 12-23-2009, 08:36 AM
mujjuman mujjuman is offline
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I have a similar problem. Ever since I swapped engines, I get a yellow oil light when I turn the engine off after driving. Car is fully warm and everything.
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  #25  
Old 01-21-2010, 09:52 AM
cking825 cking825 is offline
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I have an X5 3.0 and for the last 4 days I get the red oil light and a message that says something like !STOP! Engine Oil Press. It happens under the same conditions as above. After about 20 minutes of driving when I idle or under 1000 rpms. I am having the sensor replaced tomorrow, so hopefully that is it. Maybe it is just coincidence, but I had an oil change about a month ago.
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