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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 06-20-2009, 08:53 PM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Alternator Cooling Vent - Important Maintenance

My alternator just died a slow death. Finally on its last legs delivering 8 amps to the battery at idle (should be 13+). It took the battery with it. Here's something interesting which may be worthwhile for everyone....
On the dead alternator, the cooling vent built into the alternator housing was packed with leaves. Obviously, the alternator draws air in via the duct and brought some leaves along with it over the years.
Can anyone tell me if I can access to the opening for the alternator cooling duct from underneath or somewhere?. I would like to put a screen over it to keep future leaves/debris and possible rodents out.
Thanks.
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2002 525i 164k
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1986 911 Coupe (track car)
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  #2  
Old 06-20-2009, 10:48 PM
jimybonz 528 jimybonz 528 is offline
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i dont think you can get a clear opening to put a screen on the alternator, from the bottom without removing the unit.
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[/SIGPIC]BMW
E39 Black/Black
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M5 Flat Black Kidney Grilles
OEM Clear Sidemarkers
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  #3  
Old 06-21-2009, 12:36 AM
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M///Chook M///Chook is offline
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Hey. I just had my front bumper removed today (a concrete parking block made a mess of the underneath of it) and while the bumper was off, the first part of the alternator duct is able to be removed & cleaned out. I found all kinds of gunk and a small tree growing in the debris that was collected in the pipe..

I put a bit of mesh in the opening to the duct ten minutes ago coincidentally (next to the foglight) so junk doesnt find its way in there again.

My advice after looking at the duct system, is to remove the front bumper (not hard at all-15 minutes work if you have the tools, and you dont even need to jack the car up off the ground) and clean the duct out. This is only good for cleaning the first 10 inches of ducting though.

To get right in close to the alternator though, you need to get the car up on a hoist, and remove the plastic belly pan to work from underneath.

Hope this answers your question somewhat
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1996 Carbon black/black BMW E39 3.5L M62 V8 535i -Australia Delivery-only model.
And this months "mods" are:
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  • Cracked windscreen
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  #4  
Old 06-21-2009, 08:23 AM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Thanks. That is helpful. I was not aware the bumper removal was easy. On most cars, it is not. Anyway, I was under the car with the belly pan removed and tracked the duct to behind the driver's light assembly (just as you describe). I don't see an easy way to get to the opening from below. There are several large plastic shrouds and the one which looks like, when removed, would provide access to the alternator duct source seems to be part of the full wheel well splash guard. I don't much feel like pulling that whole thing out, but could if I don't come up with another idea.
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2002 525i 164k
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  #5  
Old 06-21-2009, 08:37 AM
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gtxragtop gtxragtop is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Lovell View Post
Thanks. That is helpful. I was not aware the bumper removal was easy. On most cars, it is not. Anyway, I was under the car with the belly pan removed and tracked the duct to behind the driver's light assembly (just as you describe). I don't see an easy way to get to the opening from below. There are several large plastic shrouds and the one which looks like, when removed, would provide access to the alternator duct source seems to be part of the full wheel well splash guard. I don't much feel like pulling that whole thing out, but could if I don't come up with another idea.
The leaves and other debris follow the duct to the back of the alternator housing where they block the airflow into the alternator. You need to remove the air filter unit, remove air ducts to alternator, remove 12V from the battery and remove the rear cover off the alternator. You can then remove the debris with the cover removed. I tried both a leaf blower and compressed air and got quite a bit out with the rear cover still on. But, given that crap kept coming out, this suggested that there was debris still in the cover. After removing the cover, I found quite a bit still in there that was well packed and blocking airflow. It is a pain to remove the cover but it could save your alternator. Besides, if the alternator goes, the cover needs to come off anyway.
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  #6  
Old 06-21-2009, 03:47 PM
poolman poolman is offline
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I removed the back cover off of the alt back a month or so ago--remove the air intake box and all, down to the throttle body. Then you can start with on nut on the alt cover then there's a screw that has a cover over it.
After all that just disconnect the tube coming from the front bumper and the back alt cover and clean up the mess. Had a bunch of debrie in mine--used compressd air and blew out most of it. Had to use a mirror and a flashlight to find the screw that held the cover from coming off. You can do all this from up top.
Hope that helps
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  #7  
Old 06-22-2009, 01:14 AM
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M///Chook M///Chook is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poolman View Post
I removed the back cover off of the alt back a month or so ago--remove the air intake box and all, down to the throttle body. Then you can start with on nut on the alt cover then there's a screw that has a cover over it.
After all that just disconnect the tube coming from the front bumper and the back alt cover and clean up the mess. Had a bunch of debrie in mine--used compressd air and blew out most of it. Had to use a mirror and a flashlight to find the screw that held the cover from coming off. You can do all this from up top.
Hope that helps
Not applicable to your car, but for V8 owners, I dont believe you can do it all from up top
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1996 Carbon black/black BMW E39 3.5L M62 V8 535i -Australia Delivery-only model.
And this months "mods" are:
  • leaky power steering reservoir
  • Cracked windscreen
View my album- http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/album.php?u=158428
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  #8  
Old 06-22-2009, 02:57 AM
03bmw525i 03bmw525i is offline
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Great advice everyone! My alternator died in February, probably as a result of overheating due to blocked air duct. When mechanic took out old and replaced it, he said there was a lot of debris in duct and he cleaned it all out . 2003 525 with 98k.
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  #9  
Old 06-25-2009, 11:00 AM
eddiec eddiec is offline
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This was what I found last weekend after removing alternator to fix leaking oil filter housing.



I'm sure it would have failed sooner rather than later. Very lucky to have spotted it.

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  #10  
Old 06-25-2009, 11:13 AM
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I'm afraid to see how mine looks like...
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  #11  
Old 06-25-2009, 11:20 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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As we speak, I am doing a "Triple" Preventive Maintenance Job:
- Replace CCV + Hoses
- Clean ICV + Replace its hoses
- Replace the Oil Line to Vanos

So I have the Air Filter Housing Off.
I will clean the Alternator Air Vent and take pics and post a DIY soon for the whole thing:
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts...=12&fg=22&hl=7
Stay tuned.

Many cars don't have Air Vent for the Alternator. May be we can simply take the Air Vent hose off?

Last edited by cn90; 06-25-2009 at 11:42 AM.
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  #12  
Old 06-25-2009, 11:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
As we speak, I am doing a "Triple" Preventive Maintenance Job:
- Replace CCV + Hoses
- Clean ICV + Replace its hoses
- Replace the Oil Line to Vanos

So I have the Air Filter Housing Off.
I will clean the Alternator Air Vent and take pics and post a DIY soon for the whole thing.
Stay tuned.

Many cars don't have Air Vent for the Alternator. May be we can simply take the Air Vent hose off?
My car is non sport but came with the air duct from the brake duct, so that's 7 years of exposure to crap.

When I put on my m3 front the brake duct I got didn't have the air duct for the alternator, been running it with the tube hanging down down for 6 months... I'm just worried that the alternator might over heat a bit, that is the reason for the air duct.
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  #13  
Old 06-25-2009, 11:45 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solidjake View Post
My car is non sport but came with the air duct from the brake duct, so that's 7 years of exposure to crap.

When I put on my m3 front the brake duct I got didn't have the air duct for the alternator, been running it with the tube hanging down down for 6 months... I'm just worried that the alternator might over heat a bit, that is the reason for the air duct.
Well in my previous 1983 735i 5sp, the alternator is the vanilla garden variety no air-cool and it lasted 140K miles!

Alternator dies because of age and mileage and worn bearing/bushing.
At idle, the Fan Clutch blows some air through it.
At highway speed, there is enough air flowing through the engine compartment that negates the usefulness of the Cooling Duct.

BMW engineers tend to over-engineer things. In this case the idea is nice (although not proven to be important) until leaves block the duct!!! So it defeats the purpose.
I feel comfortable with the Air Duct Removed!
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  #14  
Old 06-25-2009, 11:48 AM
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^ Thank you.
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  #15  
Old 06-25-2009, 05:31 PM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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I just opened up the splash guards and pulled the airduct for the alternator from behind the headlights. I will post pictures later. I took a doubled up 4" square piece of chicken wire and pressed it into the inner airduct. If I had to do this over again, I would remove nothing and simply press the wire mess in fron the front. The air duct is wide open entering beside the driver's side round running light. Again, I'll post picture later.
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  #16  
Old 06-25-2009, 07:58 PM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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So I went after trying to prevent debris from clogging my new alternator. I jacked the driver's side, removed the front tire and removed the plastic splash shield from the front of the wheel well.
Click image for larger version

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Now remove the screws holding the splash guard to the right of the alternator duct and the two screws holding the duct in place.
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Now pull the duct free by moving it up and down and pivoting the front toward the side of the car and back. Maybe the picture helps. This separates the duct from the front air intake and the round flex pipe inside the engine bay.
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Once out, you can see some more leaves ready to be blown into the alternator.
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I removed the leaves, cut a 4" square of 1" chicken wire which I folded over itself and then stuffed it into the duct. That should stop the big stuff from getting through.
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I reinstalled the pieces. I did need to take off the engine bottom splash pan to reattach the flex pipe to the alternator duct. Once all connected, I buttoned it back up. I took one more picture from the front lower bumper. You can see the chicken wire easily in this picture (as well as the butt ugly and way dirty car). In natural light, you cannot see the chicken wire at all.
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Looking back on this project, it would have easier and just as effective to stuff some chicken wire or screen right through the bumper and out of site. My way took 1/2 hour. The optional way would take 3 minutes. Your call.
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  #17  
Old 06-25-2009, 08:02 PM
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Bucknekkid Bucknekkid is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Well in my previous 1983 735i 5sp, the alternator is the vanilla garden variety no air-cool and it lasted 140K miles!

Alternator dies because of age and mileage and worn bearing/bushing.
At idle, the Fan Clutch blows some air through it.
At highway speed, there is enough air flowing through the engine compartment that negates the usefulness of the Cooling Duct.

BMW engineers tend to over-engineer things. In this case the idea is nice (although not proven to be important) until leaves block the duct!!! So it defeats the purpose.
I feel comfortable with the Air Duct Removed!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Solidjake View Post
^ Thank you.
I told you that very same thing Jake, why didn't you thank me ?...
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  #18  
Old 06-25-2009, 09:10 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Has anyone here removed the Cooling Air Duct?
I am just about to do it soon.
No Air Duct is still better than a blocked duct!
I think the whole idea about Air Duct for the Alternator is Non-sense. It does not work, it even makes things worse when blocked.
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  #19  
Old 06-26-2009, 05:21 AM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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If you mean the air duct from the left front fender area to the alternator, that's just what I did two posts above. Post back if you need something more specific.
CL
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  #20  
Old 06-26-2009, 07:07 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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No, I will leave the Front Air Duct alone.
I will disconnect right at the alternator.
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  #21  
Old 06-26-2009, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Bucknekkid View Post
I told you that very same thing Jake, why didn't you thank me ?...
Thank you!
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  #22  
Old 06-27-2009, 07:17 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Follow-Up.

I just did the write-up:
DIY: Oil Line ---> Vanos, CCV, ICV and Alternator Air Duct (Very Long!)
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=379225

Last edited by cn90; 06-27-2009 at 11:45 AM.
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  #23  
Old 07-03-2009, 06:18 AM
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M///Chook M///Chook is offline
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Holy $%^&*() those gunked up pictures are incredible....

I realise that the bit of mesh I put in front of the duct next to the foglight saved my bacon today when I went offroad ditch surfing. So it was a worthy mod

Since I'm going to pull the bumper off tomorrow and the underbelly pan to clean things, I'm going to pull the duct off the back of the alternator & see what mine looks like... I dont imagine its going to be very nice. Its had near 13 years to accumulate debris at the back of the alternator plate
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1996 Carbon black/black BMW E39 3.5L M62 V8 535i -Australia Delivery-only model.
And this months "mods" are:
  • leaky power steering reservoir
  • Cracked windscreen
View my album- http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/album.php?u=158428
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  #24  
Old 11-04-2010, 09:53 AM
ULTIMA ULTIMA is offline
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Neversaynever, what is that plastic splash shield called, in the first picture, I need a new one (both right and left) on my 1997 e39, but I cant find the parts on realoem...I not sure which section its hidden under...can you assist

Thanks
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  #25  
Old 11-04-2010, 01:23 PM
poolman poolman is offline
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Is there a DIY for removing the front bumper?
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