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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 02-22-2011, 12:18 AM
j_patterson j_patterson is offline
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Sunroof water leak shorted out my car

So its rained heavily in northern california in the last week, and i noticed a puddle of water on the floor of the front passenger side of my 1998 528i.

Reading several other posts in this and other forums, i learned that there were drains infront of the windshield beside and under the airfilters, for me that wasn't the problem

I then read about the drains in the sunroof cassette. The thread i was reading suggested pouring some water into the sunroof by the drain to see if its clogged. I did that (maybe 2 cups of water), and then i saw drips coming from the glove compartment area. Yay, i found the problem.

Then, my car started beeping as if the driverside door was open, the check engine light and other lights started flashing, it slowly died and will not start at all, as if the battery is totally dead.

I am afraid to jump it while it is still potentially waterlogged somewhere in the electronics.... but i don't see any blown fuses, nor were there any burning smells or anything. I havent seen water anywhere else. That was 3 days ago, but i doubt it has totally dried.

Did i kill my car with 2 cups of water to the sunroof?

I don't have a lot of money on hand.... I feel like an idiot for killing my car, hopefully i could redeem myself by taking care of it on my own with some advice from people here. Or maybe its totally dead.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions as to what exactly might have happened and what could be done. For now i have a very good looking brick outside my apartment...

Last edited by j_patterson; 02-22-2011 at 12:24 AM.
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  #2  
Old 02-22-2011, 07:57 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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I went through this..... sounds like you have the same problem.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...099&highlight=

Two cups of water actually is a lot in this situation because what's wrong is, the tubing that connects to those drainholes in each corner of the moonroof cassette has come loose, allowing water to leak out and down the A pillars into the floorwell.

I fixed the leaks and you can too. The electrical shorts could be underneath the passenger floorwell where assorted modules are located. Foam liner down there can hold a lot of water so you might need to check around here for some threads on opening up that area to get to the modules.

If you pour a small amount of water into the moonroof drainhole (front right corner), does water come out under the car onto the ground just behind the right front wheel?

If the drainpipes are loose, they'll leak right at the corner connection nipples on the cassette and down the A pillar, but water will still drain out through the proper outlets just behind the front wheelwells. If the drainpipes are actually clogged up, the water has nowhere to go after the drainpipe section fills up, causing the rest to pour out the A pillar and/or down beside the glove compartment onto the floor.

It's possible with the right tools to un-clog drainpipes but better to be sure that's your problem. If it's as I suspect (loose connection at the cassette corner), here's a thread that illustrates how easy it is to partially pull your headliner and get up in there.

http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/566588

Last edited by pleiades; 02-22-2011 at 10:31 AM.
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  #3  
Old 02-22-2011, 08:23 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Water on the front passenger carpet after rain due to leaking sunroof
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  #4  
Old 02-22-2011, 12:19 PM
j_patterson j_patterson is offline
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Thanks for the help! When this happened to you pleiades was there any electrical issues?

Hopefully it isn't a loose connection with the drain tube, removing the headliner looks kind of involved. When i did pour water in the drains, it drained only very slowly and ended up on the floor and such. If it wasn't connected i think it would have drained faster. I don't want to pour more water there anytime soon since that is what caused the electrical problems. But for now clearing a clog would be easier so i'm hoping for that.

Either way, i can keep the car covered during rain for now. I am more concerned with getting the car to start. Apparently the power distribution center is right below the passenger seat

http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1467364

Maybe enough water got down there to short that, blowing a fuse or something. I just hope none of the expensive electrical parts are permanently damaged.

Once I get the car started, I'll go back to worrying about the sunroof.
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  #5  
Old 02-22-2011, 12:51 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j_patterson View Post
Hopefully it isn't a loose connection with the drain tube, removing the headliner looks kind of involved.... .
You have to at least determine whether the draintubes are clogged, or just loose. They lead out to drains located just behind the front wheelwell. If you pour even a small amount of water into the small drainhole in the cassette corner and nothing flows out behind the wheelwell, then the drains are almost certainly clogged, causing the drainpipe to fill up and overflow at a connection lower down the A pillar, and you'll have to try compressed air or something relatively "soft" that won't risk loosening the cassette/draintube connectors in the roof.

On the other hand, if you see water dripping behind the wheelwell, the drains are -not- clogged but the cabin leak is due to loose rubber connectors on the corner nipples of the cassette.

[To test anything, DON'T pour water in too much or too fast, make sure you are aiming it into the small 1/2-inch diam. drainhole; if you pour a cup in that's way too much and you'll have some flowing through the sunroof rail connections and down into the A pillar anyway whether you have any draintube leaks or clogs or not....]

You don't have to remove the entire headliner.

One screw and a plastic snap to remove the A pillar cover (unplug battery negative cable if you have head protection airbags in there....).

A couple screws to remove ceiling handle, four more to remove sun visor and its clip.

Unclip the ceiling center console (map light panel etc, they just push out ... see the headliner DIY).

You can then bend/lower the corner of the headliner just enough [don't bend too much, it'll crease] to peek/reach in and determine whether the rubber hose connector between the cassette nipple and the drain tube going through the A pillar is loose or not.... If they're loose, they'll probably have a few beads of water still hanging off them from your earlier test ...

All that take about 10-15 minutes. Fix is detailed in other cited thread but in my case I just used Permatex black gasket maker to re-seal the connectors with the nipples; no more leaks and my car's parked outside plus we've had lots of rain this winter in Eugene.

To get to all the modules in the floor, you have to pull up all of the material down there and dry things out. Hopefully the electricals will work fine once they're dry again. I was lucky in that I didn't have anything in there get soaked enough to short out.... Search around you're likely to find some good DIYs on getting everything out and dry.
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  #6  
Old 02-22-2011, 01:43 PM
j_patterson j_patterson is offline
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you were right. i poured maybe 2 tablespoons of water directly into the draintube and it came out beside the wheel well.

I'm gonna take off the headline and check the tube connections sometime soon.

regarding the electrical issue:

I want to remove the carpet to dry out the area and check the fuses below the passenger seat. I have to unscrew the seat and i can't reach the bolts to do that unless i move the seat out of their way, the power is dead so i can't move the seat. I couldn't find anything on manually moving the seat like you can do with the sunroof motor and an allen wrench.

I also checked the battery, only 2V. So the battery is out of juice. Unless there is a way to manually move the seat, i can't get to the fuses that most likely were affected without jumping the car. But if stuff is still very wet, jumping it may make things worse.

Any thoughts on whether i should:
1. Jump the car now
2. wait a while for things to hopefully dry out more then jump it
3. dissassemble the seat to get it off and make sure everything is dry and fuses are ok before jumping it.

thanks
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  #7  
Old 02-22-2011, 02:22 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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WHOA, if the battery is that low, your car will do weird things anyway.

You need a a battery in good shape (fully charged) before you go any further with this. That -might- be your only problem now.
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  #8  
Old 02-22-2011, 04:38 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
You need a a battery in good shape
- DIY how to test a BMW E39 battery & alternator
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  #9  
Old 02-22-2011, 05:31 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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I am glad "pleiades" replied, he had the exact same issue!
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  #10  
Old 03-12-2011, 09:36 PM
j_patterson j_patterson is offline
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Thanks for the help. I waited a while to make sure my car had dried out, replaced the battery and it seems to be fine now. If i was smarter i would have unplugged the battery after the car shorted.... I think water got below the passenger seat and shorted out the power distribution thats down there, draining the battery. I freaked out so much i didn't do anything else, the battery died and i let it sit too long to recovery it. But once everything dried out, no permanent damage (other then the battery, $110). Its like dropping your cell phone in a pool or something, how long do you wait before trying to turn it back on?

So in the rare instance someone else's car gets shorted out by a sunroof leak and they find this thread (this would have helped me a few weeks ago): there is a power distributions box below the passenger seat that probably got wet, unplug the battery and charge it back up, let the car dry and it should be ok.

Now that i can turn my car on, i need to make sure the leak is fixed....
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  #11  
Old 03-12-2011, 11:47 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j_patterson View Post
there is a power distributions box below the passenger seat that probably got wet
So that others can more easily find useful information about this problem in the future, this was added to the bestlinks:

- How to repair & reset the sunroof (1) (2) (3) & how to fix sun roof rattles (1) & how to test & fix moonroof leaks (1) (2) causing water on the front passenger carpet & how to remove the roof headliner (1)
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  #12  
Old 03-20-2011, 08:21 PM
Whorse Whorse is offline
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careful i had an LCM go up in flames cause of a leaky sunroof drain pipe. It was broken right off the sunroof cassette. Water would leak right down the pillar directly on the LCM.

LKM Fire story


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Last edited by Whorse; 03-20-2011 at 08:27 PM.
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  #13  
Old 01-01-2012, 02:56 PM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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Originally Posted by j_patterson View Post
Thanks for the help. I waited a while to make sure my car had dried out, replaced the battery and it seems to be fine now. If i was smarter i would have unplugged the battery after the car shorted.... I think water got below the passenger seat and shorted out the power distribution thats down there, draining the battery. I freaked out so much i didn't do anything else, the battery died and i let it sit too long to recovery it. But once everything dried out, no permanent damage (other then the battery, $110). Its like dropping your cell phone in a pool or something, how long do you wait before trying to turn it back on?

So in the rare instance someone else's car gets shorted out by a sunroof leak and they find this thread (this would have helped me a few weeks ago): there is a power distributions box below the passenger seat that probably got wet, unplug the battery and charge it back up, let the car dry and it should be ok.

Now that i can turn my car on, i need to make sure the leak is fixed....
Well J_patterson, thanks for this thread because it just happened to me!

Imagine my chagrin when came home from a holidays vacation and the battery is dead, and the RF foot well has a pool of water in addition to the LR footwell due to a pre-existing bad door seal!

I will first disconnect and charge the battery, and then start my adventure, haha. Next step, figure out how to open he three locked doors!
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  #14  
Old 01-01-2012, 03:53 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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I will first disconnect and charge the battery, and then start my adventure, haha. Next step, figure out how to open he three locked doors!
I may be missing something here but -on my car-, pulling the inside door handle twice will unlock that door.
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  #15  
Old 01-02-2012, 05:16 PM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
I may be missing something here but -on my car-, pulling the inside door handle twice will unlock that door.
I thought so too, but i discovered they won't open that way if the battery is dead! Scary to think that you can be trapped in the car if that happens... Need to buy one of those emergency hammers to break the glass.

I just lost a long post I was drafting due to Safari crashing....

But the short version is:

Dried out he car, and charged the battery after removal.
Removed A pillar cover to see how the drain tube works
Replaced battery and started it up

I need to diagnose the clog. It may be debris accumulating near the drain exit. My car's underbody plastic near the RF wheel well is damaged and accumulating crud right where the drain lets out. It's hard to tell if the drain is obstructed, as it appears to be recessed.

I'm relieved the car starts, but I'm also annoyed that yet another thing is on my to do list for this car. Not too happy with the reliability. Still have to re do the rear door vapor barrier, and diagnose a cold start engine squeal, and replace power steering hoses and reservoir that leaks. Ugh.

Last edited by Jobu; 01-05-2012 at 05:58 AM.
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  #16  
Old 01-02-2012, 06:22 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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I thought so too, but i discovered they won't open that way if the battery is dead! Scary to think that you can be trapped in the car if that happens... Need to buy one of those emergency hammers to break the glass.
My comment was for an e39 without a battery connected at all, let alone just "dead."
How do you think your locked driver's door can open manually with a key inserted and turned in the keyhole?

The inside door levers are connected to the locking/latching mechanism by thick-gauge wire cables.

Oh... wait.... Could it be that your 4-years younger car is built differently? That would indeed be scary....

Last edited by pleiades; 01-02-2012 at 06:32 PM.
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  #17  
Old 01-02-2012, 06:42 PM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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All I know is that the doors didn't open. Only the doors with a keyhole opened: drivers door and trunk.

Last edited by Jobu; 01-05-2012 at 05:59 AM.
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  #18  
Old 01-02-2012, 06:49 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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All I know is that the doors didn't open. Only the "doors". With a keyhole opened: drivers door and trunk.
Did you sit in the car, reach across and pull the door levers that are on the inside?
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Old 01-02-2012, 07:08 PM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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Um, yes. Used the interior latch. Only the front pass seat however. Pulled it many times as I was removing the A pillar cover.

Last edited by Jobu; 01-02-2012 at 07:09 PM.
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  #20  
Old 01-02-2012, 07:29 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Um, yes. Used the interior latch. Only the front pass seat however. Pulled it many times as I was removing the A pillar cover.
I just learned something here, thanks. Very scary, must go buy a big hammer. Or two.

I thought I was being helpful here but actually my replies to Jobu were based on lack of experience. I've had to deal with a weak battery before, but it still had enough charge to power the locks. And I've disconnected a good battery many times when working on the car, but in all those cases I had unlocked the car first. Sitting in the car with battery disconnected, I noticed I can close the door, push down the door lock, and the door locks, yes, and the lock will unlock if I pull on the door lever once, and the door will open if I pull the lever twice (duuuhhh...).

What I hadn't noticed was that if the car is locked when the battery power is lost (dead, or by disconnecting), the passenger door inner latches will move the door lock up and down but will not disengage it. Maybe I should go read a bit about the central locking mechanism...

Last edited by pleiades; 01-02-2012 at 07:54 PM.
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Old 01-05-2012, 05:51 AM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
I just learned something here, thanks. Very scary, must go buy a big hammer. Or two.

I thought I was being helpful here but actually my replies to Jobu were based on lack of experience. I've had to deal with a weak battery before, but it still had enough charge to power the locks. And I've disconnected a good battery many times when working on the car, but in all those cases I had unlocked the car first. Sitting in the car with battery disconnected, I noticed I can close the door, push down the door lock, and the door locks, yes, and the lock will unlock if I pull on the door lever once, and the door will open if I pull the lever twice (duuuhhh...).

What I hadn't noticed was that if the car is locked when the battery power is lost (dead, or by disconnecting), the passenger door inner latches will move the door lock up and down but will not disengage it. Maybe I should go read a bit about the central locking mechanism...
Hey, live and learn. These cars are definitely quirky. It was scary to realize that I could be trapped in the car if the battery dies completely or the electrical system shorts out due to water or another cause.

The glove compartment did open; I suppose it's a simple mechanical latch. So I will be carrying a small ball pein hammer in there in the future...
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  #22  
Old 01-05-2012, 09:43 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Hey, live and learn. These cars are definitely quirky. It was scary to realize that I could be trapped in the car if the battery dies completely or the electrical system shorts out due to water or another cause.

The glove compartment did open; I suppose it's a simple mechanical latch. So I will be carrying a small ball pein hammer in there in the future...
From reading around a bit, I get the impression that at some point (MY 2000 forward) BMW changed things so that if you lock the car doors with the central locking system while inside the vehicle, it's a "single-lock" situation and you should be able to manually unlock the car even if battery power is lost (say, due to an accident).

It's the locking from outside that puts the car into a "double-locked" state and prevents the doors from being opened manually with the inside levers.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...4&postcount=22

So, your MY2003 car should actually be okay (you'll be able to get out) but in my case, hammer time.

[EDIT] .... No, this still isn't right, obviously these cars are too advanced for me and I should be back in my '67 Mustang with manual everything.

Re-reading for the third time, it seems we're okay if we locked the doors from inside but drivers with pre-2000 e39s who lock their car from outside need to worry about locking passengers inside with no way to get out.

Last edited by pleiades; 01-05-2012 at 09:55 AM.
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  #23  
Old 01-05-2012, 10:12 AM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
From reading around a bit, I get the impression that at some point (MY 2000 forward) BMW changed things so that if you lock the car doors with the central locking system while inside the vehicle, it's a "single-lock" situation and you should be able to manually unlock the car even if battery power is lost (say, due to an accident).

It's the locking from outside that puts the car into a "double-locked" state and prevents the doors from being opened manually with the inside levers.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...4&postcount=22

So, your MY2003 car should actually be okay (you'll be able to get out) but in my case, hammer time.

[EDIT] .... No, this still isn't right, obviously these cars are too advanced for me and I should be back in my '67 Mustang with manual everything.

Re-reading for the third time, it seems we're okay if we locked the doors from inside but drivers with pre-2000 e39s who lock their car from outside need to worry about locking passengers inside with no way to get out.
That's good to hear. I would like to test it before deciding to forgo the hammer! I didn't know about the double lock vs. single lock. Still not sure I understand it fully, but good to know.
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  #24  
Old 01-07-2012, 12:53 PM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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Fixed the sunroof drain clog

So today I fixed the sunroof RF drain clog, which caused the flooding of my glove box and right front footwell, and fully drained the battery (3v). What a relief. I sure didn't want another rain to kill my car again.

I was going to use compressed air, as some have suggested, but I found the 2 ft long tube that came with my Einzett Klima Klean. ( I'm not sure how to put the photo in line with the post...)

I threaded it down into the drain hole, and when I fished it out, it was dirty at the tip. After that, water flowed freely down the drain when I tested it.

Originaly I thought the drain was blocked a the exit, immediately behind the wheelwell, because my car had a lot of crud caught in that area. As it turns out, the drain hose aparently ends many inches above the bottom of the car, so it wasn't clogged by that gunk. In fact, I couldnt not see the drain tube at all when I peeled the wheel well back an looked. Several pics attached.

So I'm happy, I won't have another flood. While I was at it, I replaced the LR door vapor barrier seal also, since it started leaking again. (what a crappy design, by the way).
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  #25  
Old 01-07-2012, 12:54 PM
Jobu Jobu is offline
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Fixed the sunroof drain clog

accidentally double posted. don't know how to delete...

Last edited by Jobu; 01-07-2012 at 01:24 PM.
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