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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 02-23-2010, 06:41 AM
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How do diagnose a sudden and disturbingly unsettling cold-engine misfire (vanos?)

Advice sought for debugging a suddenly severe & disturbingly intermittent cold-engine misfire.
EDIT DESCRIPTION: Random cold-start single-cylinder misfire with concomitant fuel shutoff lasting only a single ignition cycle (or OBDII code clear in lieu of an ignition cycle).

My story:
Two nights ago my 2002 525i stumbled a bit upon cold-engine start (about 55F ambient); but within a minute or so it ran fine as always.

Last night, at about 45F ambient, the entire BMW bucked like a washing machine after I started it up and barely was able to crawl out of the garage. I had to actually FLOOR the gas pedal to get the E39 to creep up a simple hill, amazingly, it was stumbling so badly, as if it were on a single cylinder instead of six.

As if to chastise me for neglecting some critical maintenance procedure, the Service Engine Soon (SES) light blared yellow at me. It was horrid as I was defenseless and uncertain what to do next but I was meeting someone so I had to drive.

This unsettling stumbling remained for about 15 miles, even though I was able to attain freeway speeds ... until I shut down the car. Miraculously, as if to toy with me, when I started it back up 2 hours later, there was no stumbling. I did some errands at various stores and again, even with three or so additional starts, no stumbling. (The SES is still lit brightly and ominously though, as if to say ... "I'm still here" ... whatever it is indicating.)

Of course, I need to check the OBDII codes (I have been borrowing an OBDII tester but maybe it's time to finally buy my own).

Contrary to what I've read on Bimmerfest, I visited the fabled Autozone but, the counterman said in California it's illegal for AutoZone to test your car. I next tried Kragen and they don't test either. AutoZone pointed me to AAMCO but I didn't know where they were. Plus, I don't mind getting a good OBDII tester - the only thing stopping me is that I want only one and there are so many out there I'm not sure which one to get.)

In the meantime, to start my debugging sequence, I looked up the double VANOS symptoms, but they seem to be "gradual" misfire upon cold start - which happens slowly, over time. This misfire is sudden and unmistakable - almost as if something broke or fell off catastrophically!


Last edited by bluebee; 03-08-2010 at 10:10 AM.
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  #2  
Old 02-23-2010, 06:59 AM
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I would strongly suggest you get the code read before you start trying other / all options. You can read the cam pulses from the connector using a scope, but you cannot tell whether they are correctly times in relation to the crank, which is what you would need to know to determine whether the vanos was working correctly.
Don't the sell cheap ISO obdii readers at autozone and alike in california?

chet
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  #3  
Old 02-23-2010, 07:46 AM
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Sounds like cam position sensor, vacuum leak, or O2 sensor. I highly doubt it's VANOS-related. Start with simple first, then go complex.
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  #4  
Old 02-23-2010, 09:26 AM
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Bluebee:
Doubtful this is VANOS related as a "bad" VANOS does not typically throw a code. The degradation is also typically gradual so the performance degradation is also very gradual. You appear to have some other issue. Concur with others to get the codes read first. That can narrow down the problem choices immediately. I use a Peake (~$100) and it works fine. I kind of wish I bought a standard OBDII reader so that I can use it on other cars but oh well...
Good luck & keep us posted on the outcome.

Last edited by Fudman; 02-23-2010 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:27 AM
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Philboski Philboski is offline
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Amen on the standard code reader -- it works on everything with an OBDII port. I have a simple one that has paid for itself many times over.
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  #6  
Old 02-23-2010, 11:15 AM
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When starting my M54 engine cold --it would shake and go crazy--then would just about die--then throw a code of a misfire in certain cylinders--now say or think what ever you want--once the Vanos seals were installed I never had a bit of trouble when cranking the car since. If you haven't changed the seals out and you have read about the difference they make--I suggest that you make the change and reap the benifits.
Now you may have a vac leak or a sensor out--but at the same time--why put off and dread something
thats going to help your engine and help you enjoy the auto for years to come? Change the seals
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  #7  
Old 02-23-2010, 11:43 AM
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This phenomenon has happened to me as well. One morning mine felt like a "washing machine" on cold start up. The CEL came on and I took it to my indy to get the codes. The codes showed misfires in 4 of the 6 cylinders. He told me to watch it for a while and get the coils changed if needed. The next day it started fine and it was fine for a few weeks. Periodically, the misfires do crop up again, but I just turn the car off and try again in a few minutes. Voila! it runs smooth again. Seals this summer, anyone? While in there, may as well do the gaskets. Oh ya and I gotta redo the back door vapor barriers AND the suspension AND get it detailed. Love the car though.

Last edited by Gian; 02-23-2010 at 11:55 AM.
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  #8  
Old 02-23-2010, 11:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poolman View Post
it would shake and go crazy--then throw a code of a misfire --once the Vanos seals were installed I never had a bit of trouble
Today, the third day, I was apprehensive when I started the car at about 55F and it started just fine.

I was surprised since two days ago there was slight stumbling; then yesterday it was so severe it seemed as if a washing machine had invaded my engine compartment; yet, today, surprisingly smooth as silk.

The SES light is still on so my good friend is lending me his Actron today so I should have codes by tonight. Luckily I passed smog last week. This BMW is like history (i.e., "one damn thing after another").

I will keep an open mind on the debugging but we all agree, step 1 is to see what code(s) were thrown.
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  #9  
Old 02-23-2010, 11:57 AM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Bluebee,
I've had this exact problem many times. I suggest next time just turning off your engine, wait 30 seconds and try again. For me, it tended to clear up after a few restarts. I do not think driving with cylinders missing is a good idea.
The following link should sound familiar.
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...929&highlight=
I will say that since my VANOS replacement last fall, I have only had the rough start problem once. And that was a third hand report by my wife who is all in all pretty reliable. And from past years, I definitely would have seen this rough start problem many times. Another consideration is that we changed plugs along with the VANOS. That may have some effect as well.
Hope you find something concrete as we are all interested.
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neversaynever View Post
Bluebee,
The following link should sound familiar.
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...929&highlight=
Interesting. I'll try your wait-and-see 30-second restart procedure next time as it was still badly misfiring yesterday 15 minutes into the highway drive (which, as you noted, can't be good for the engine or catalyst). Yet, today and yesterday (after the first leg of a multi-point shopping trip), it ran as smooth as silk.

Whatever it is, it's intermittent!

I see from your thread, possible culprits of:
- vanos
- maf (I'm not sure what that is but will look it up, especially the "boot")
- vacuum (again, I'll have to look up the weak points to test)
- plugs & plug boots (and maybe a related valve-cover leak)
- dirty fuel or clogged fuel filter or leaky fuel system or injector
- oxygen sensors
- coolant leaking into the cylinders
- ?
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:14 PM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Yup. Totally inconsistent. I also found my 525 to smooth out on its own most of the time. I am thinking maybe individual ignition coils or something else electronic. Vac leaks and MAF just don't seem like they would be inconsistent. But, I am just guessing...
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  #12  
Old 02-23-2010, 12:52 PM
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The inconsistency to me says CPS or O2, but could be MAF. Maybe even plugs or coils. Agree that a vacuum leak would seem to show up all the time.

Any bets on what the codes are? Place yer bets, place yer bets . . .
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  #13  
Old 02-23-2010, 01:55 PM
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He hit it on the cold start at 45 % --the car would shake and go crazy--at 55 on a cold start it's fine--The temp when starting the car has everything to do with Vanos seal problems. Mine would go crazy at around 40 %
Now with the new seals--hit the key and the engine jumps to lfe and is smooth--that can be anywhere from 0% up now. I haven't had to hit the key more than once in so long I can't remember the last time it didn't crank right up.
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  #14  
Old 02-23-2010, 02:20 PM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Same with me Poolman. No problems post-VANOS at <40 deg F (with one minor exception) Can't explain it but the facts is the facts.
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  #15  
Old 02-23-2010, 05:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh P. View Post
Any bets on what the codes are? Place yer bets, place yer bets.
Much to my relief, the engine ran as smooth as silk all day today (ambient temperature about 52F, rain most of the day). What a contrast from yesterday's horrid engine problems! This is a strange problem we have.

By the time I picked up the Actron scanner from a friend, the "Service Engine Soon" (SES) light went out; but the Actron OBDII scanner revealed one stored code: P1349

Based on a lookup of BMW codes here and here, that translates to:
Misfire Cylinder 4 With Fuel Cut-off (BMW)

I'm googling as we speak to figure out what that actually means in terms of problem, test, and solution.
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  #16  
Old 02-23-2010, 06:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
VANOS does not typically throw a code. Concur with others to get the codes read first.
For the record, this seems to be a bigger problem on bimmerforums and on bimmerwerks than on bimmerfest ...
- Multiple Cylinder Misfire With Fuel Cut-off
- Misfire Cylinder 4 With Fuel Cut-off
-
Diagnosing 540i Misfires - P1347 P1353 P1355 P1357 P1341
-Random Misfire,fuel cut off,start up Help!!!!
- cylinder misfire fuel cut off
- Need help codes p1341 , p1343, p1345, p1349
- Multiple "misfire with fuel cut off" codes
- etc.

Am reading, one by one ... to see what intelligence I can glean from these ... If I haven't reported back, that indicates I'm still dumbfounded.
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Old 02-23-2010, 07:18 PM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Go Bluebee go! I'm dying for the summary.
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  #18  
Old 02-23-2010, 07:59 PM
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flyboyy flyboyy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
For the record, this seems to be a bigger problem on bimmerforums and on bimmerwerks than on bimmerfest ...
- Multiple Cylinder Misfire With Fuel Cut-off
- Misfire Cylinder 4 With Fuel Cut-off
-
Diagnosing 540i Misfires - P1347 P1353 P1355 P1357 P1341
-Random Misfire,fuel cut off,start up Help!!!!
- cylinder misfire fuel cut off
- Need help codes p1341 , p1343, p1345, p1349
- Multiple "misfire with fuel cut off" codes
- etc.

Am reading, one by one ... to see what intelligence I can glean from these ... If I haven't reported back, that indicates I'm still dumbfounded.


no worries dude, I had same problem... its your ignition coils.... multiple misfires most likely you have bad coils in several cylinders, if you have the money just replace all of them cuz they will eventually go bad... and if you dont... just change out the ones that are bad... sometimes it goes away because its not 100% defected now.... so thats why sometimes your car will start up smooth.. or when you turn on and off car.. this only happens during cold weather....


I replaced all of my coils... never have those shakes anymore... its soo freaky.... I thought my car was falling apart... lol... freaking thing would shake like crazy....

good luck.
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Old 02-24-2010, 03:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyboyy View Post
its your ignition coils.... multiple misfires most likely you have bad coils in several cylinders ... this only happens during cold weather....
Just for the record, I didn't have "multiple" misfires stored; others did but mine was a single cylinder misfire/fuel indication:
P1349: Misfire Cylinder 4 With Fuel Cut-off (BMW)

Embarrassingly to say, I haven't actually learned much from reading the threads (so far), mostly because (a) OPs don't always report the solution, (b) many culprits are suggested and replaced at once, and (c) the problem is intermittent so you never know if what you replaced was the culprit.

For example, in this thread, the OP swapped the #3 and #4 coils; yet the P1349 misfire/fuel-cut-off came back. In contrast, another in that same thread replaced coils and their P1349 did not return.

In this Q&A, the first suggestion was the car was low on fuel (which makes no sense since all 6 cylinders would be misfiring). For the record, my tank was 1/2 full. Then they ended with swapping spark plug boots.

In this X5 P1349 thread, it was the "idle control valve".

I wonder: What's the difference between a simple "cylinder misfire" versus a "cylinder misfire with fuel cut off"?
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Old 02-24-2010, 04:43 AM
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P1349, that's a good starting point. Let's try and rule out what it isn't:

Typically the codes associated with VANOS are camshaft position codes, per Beisan. I have not heard this code associated with VANOS (anyone else?) so you may be able to rule that out.

It didn't sound like you had done any service recently and this problem occurred from nowhere. That would suggest it is not related to anything you did during a service (which is where half my problems come from).

This leaves electrical (coil, plugs, etc.) or fuel system. It is doubtful there is anything wrong with the fuel system otherwise the symptoms would occur in multiple cylinders. Hence, I would say that the problem is probably electrically related. The first link: Multiple Cylinder Misfire With Fuel Cut-off suggests a good approach (no cost, relatively easy) to isolate the problem and establish some linkage to a possible source of the problem. Swap the coils between cylinders 3 & 4 (See the Beisan VANOS procedure for this) and clear the codes. See if the problem recurs. If it does, see if the problem moved to cylinder 3 per the code. If it does, it is your #3 (previously #4) coil and replace it. If the problem stays with cylinder 4, we need to rethink this problem (sparkplug?). If it doesn't recur, don't ask why and just drive the car.

Good luck and please post on the aftermath.
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Old 02-24-2010, 05:29 AM
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The code can be associated with Vanos--crank the car on a cold day--timing is off and the car won't idle because of the cold--engine trys to die and rpm falls--misfire in a cylinder happens--code comes up.
Replace your seals--it's something that needs to happen anyway.
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Old 02-24-2010, 07:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
codes associated with VANOS are camshaft position codes
Understood. As per poolman (and others), I'll almost certainly be tackling the VANOS in my future ... just not yet (given my currently precarious predicaments in life - I really don't need to tackle "big fixit jobs" just now).

Plus, as my record shows, I'm much more interested in the debugging procedure than the actual repair itself (which is often anticlimactic, in comparison). I'd rather leave a legacy of debugging than a long list of replaced items. Coming up with proper debugging tasks is what took me so very long (almost a year) to send my ABS module out for repair, for example. I tried and tried to figure out which part was bad. In the end, we learned a lot to help the next guy so that's a good thing.

Quote:
It didn't sound like you had done any service recently
None whatsoever. The last thing done was my ABS control module was rebuilt and then I had to pass the California smog. The good news is we KNOW that this P1349 is a NEW code since the codes were clean as a whistle on February 16th!

Quote:
This leaves electrical (coil, plugs, etc.) or fuel system.
When an engine is involved, the culprit will always be:
(a) gas, (b) air, (c) spark, (d) compression, or (e) timing

The sheer sudden yet intermittent nature tilts me to an electrical causation also ... but I wonder why the P1349 even mentions "fuel cut-off". What is a "fuel cut-off" anyway?

Quote:
Swap the coils between cylinders 3 & 4 ... If the problem stays with cylinder 4, we need to rethink this problem (sparkplug?)
I agree this is the most logical first step. In general, I spend more time debugging than I do the actual fixing and this problem won't be an exception.

What I like about the swapping the coils approach is it allows great debugging.
(a) Misfire goes away (consider myself lucky)
(b) Misfire returns on the same cylinder (aim at the plugs and whatever is referred to as the "plug boots")
(c) Misfire moves to the cylinder with the coil (replace the coil)

I will check the Besians to figure out where the coil is and how to move it.

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Old 02-24-2010, 07:40 AM
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Josh P. Josh P. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poolman View Post
The code can be associated with Vanos--crank the car on a cold day--timing is off and the car won't idle because of the cold--engine trys to die and rpm falls--misfire in a cylinder happens--code comes up.
Replace your seals--it's something that needs to happen anyway.
Poolman, no offense, but you sound like the proverbial man with a hammer who sees every problem as a nail. Degrading Vanos is not the culprit of every engine-related problem in our cars. Why would you have her take apart the Vanos and replace the seals (which, sorry, I've read the DIY, is not as easy as you make it sound) when there can be many other (and more likely) causes.

I realize you are are a Beisian evangelist, but c'mon, there's more to it than Vanos. It could be something much simpler. No? I'm not saying her seals are perfect, only that perhaps a 3-4 hour take-apart job to fix THIS problem may not be warranted. I respect your knowledge bro, really, but you do seem to cry "Vanos" at every possible opportunity.
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Old 02-24-2010, 09:22 AM
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I don't blame poolman for recomending a Vanos seal replacement as I also believe EVERY e39 should have that done. It is simply the best single maintenance step you can do for your car. However, much like Bluebee's predicament, when my car throws a code, I feel I need to fix it immediately. While I believe replacing the Vanos seal job is an eventual necessity for all e39s, I am not entirely convinced that this is the the actual cause of her code (although it might be). There just appear to be some easier & cheaper potential fixes available. I always recommend doing the easiest, fastest and cheapest (potential) solution first, to see if that fixes the problem. If it doesn't, go to the next more complex, time consuming, and expensive corrective action on the list.

Then when you have the time. money and inclination, replace the Vanos seals. You will definitely NOT REGRET it!!!!
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Old 02-24-2010, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh P. View Post
Poolman, no offense, but you sound like the proverbial man with a hammer who sees every problem as a nail. Degrading Vanos is not the culprit of every engine-related problem in our cars. Why would you have her take apart the Vanos and replace the seals (which, sorry, I've read the DIY, is not as easy as you make it sound) when there can be many other (and more likely) causes.

I realize you are are a Beisian evangelist, but c'mon, there's more to it than Vanos. It could be something much simpler. No? I'm not saying her seals are perfect, only that perhaps a 3-4 hour take-apart job to fix THIS problem may not be warranted. I respect your knowledge bro, really, but you do seem to cry "Vanos" at every possible opportunity.
Prior to changing the Vanos seals on my car, I experienced twice or maybe 3 times that startup shake, and actually once I had the "check engine" light on. Every time I turned the engine off, waited a bit (under a minute), re-started and the car was smooth as silk, like nothing ever happened. I know I had the O2 sensors changed (I once had a code for those), the MAF was cleaned, never done the CPS's.
Since the Vanos seals were changed out, I never experienced that shudder anymore.
So, by saying that, I aknowledge that there can be a number of reasons the engine starts with shakes, but also just because the Vanos seals are a known weak link that fails on our cars (the OEM ones), I would consider what Poolman said, and actually this might be the hammer case. Because the Vanos seals are gone for sure. And even if they are not the main reason of the shudder (which they might in a proportion of more than 80%), they might be main contributing factor. They will have to be changed anyways, so there's no harm there. And if you would have searched in this and other forums you might have noticed that Poolman actually contributed quite a bit with his knowledge. Just lookup "vacuum leaks" for instance. Maybe then you would change your mind and say that the other thing is he is crying "vacuum leaks" at every opportunity.
I don't want to be a pr*k, but what's your contribution to this forum?
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TMS underdrive pullies - Stewart WP - PSS9 - Beisan Vanos seals - Zimmerman cross-drilled & Akebono Euro - Deka 649 MF - 55w HID headlights - 35w HID foglights - Hualigan double din - ACS (rep) alu pedals - Euro central storage console - Breyton Magic Racing staggered wheels - M5 bumper - M5 steering wheel - Tint
Stable: e39, e53, e46 & Tribby
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