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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 04-02-2012, 08:20 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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e36 and the local carwash...

So i went through a car wash for the first time ever in my 94 325i and it dies about 10 seconds into it so i coast out of the wash into a parking spot and let it sit a few before i try to start it up. I notice an instant pool of water in both sides on the floor... So i try to start it and It cranks and cranks and cranks with no sign of turning over. Also the tachometer kind of bugs out.

So i assume its wet and leave it there sitting 3-4 hours. When i come back and attempt to start it again it cranks a few times then makes a thud sound from the engine bay and now the starter sounds like its spinning freely and not cranking the motor at all.

I had it towed home and am really bummed out this is my only form of transportation /:

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  #2  
Old 04-02-2012, 08:31 PM
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r33p04s r33p04s is offline
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soaked dme is what it sounds like to me... seems like car washes are what gets em every time... just speaking on what i've noticed never happened to me **knocks on wood**
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  #3  
Old 04-02-2012, 08:45 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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Do you think the starter issue is related? So I should replace the dme then? Thank you for your reply
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  #4  
Old 04-02-2012, 08:48 PM
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BiGPaPaRu BiGPaPaRu is offline
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Thats crazy. I am now scared to clean my car...Thanks
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  #5  
Old 04-02-2012, 08:53 PM
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r33p04s r33p04s is offline
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no prob... its the pressure and angle of the water that does it compared to normal driving in rain

pull it lay it out in the sun maybe bake it on low heat for a few minutes... try again if fails replace (probably a good idea either way)

the starter issue as you describe doesn't sound good **edit** look below

im sure one of the more knowledgeable guys will chime in on that

Last edited by r33p04s; 04-02-2012 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 04-02-2012, 09:50 PM
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After trying to crank the car repeatedly the starter will begin to make a high pitch sound and it will also sound as if the teeth ain't catching, this is normal. hopefully once you find the cause of the problem your car should start right up. I had this same problem and was really scared I ruined my starter but all was ok.
Good Luck my dude
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:02 PM
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Yep, you have clogged cowl drains and the water from the car wash flooded the cowl, the compartment the DME sits in, and eventually spilled into the cabin of the car. You can try drying out the DME, but you may have permanently fried it. In such case, you will soon be shopping for a used DME on Craigslist and/or eBay.

Let this be a lesson to us all. Clean out your cowl drains, people. In only takes a few minutes.
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:13 PM
kaos_325i kaos_325i is offline
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this scares the **** out of me as I just took my car through the wash on saturday. I am going to be a cowl drain cleaning M'er F'er
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffw247 View Post
So i went through a car wash for the first time ever in my 94 325i and it dies about 10 seconds into it so i coast out of the wash into a parking spot and let it sit a few before i try to start it up. I notice an instant pool of water in both sides on the floor... So i try to start it and It cranks and cranks and cranks with no sign of turning over. Also the tachometer kind of bugs out.

So i assume its wet and leave it there sitting 3-4 hours. When i come back and attempt to start it again it cranks a few times then makes a thud sound from the engine bay and now the starter sounds like its spinning freely and not cranking the motor at all.

I had it towed home and am really bummed out this is my only form of transportation /:

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Your windshield cowling clogged, and the leftover water flooded your DME compartment and passenger footwells.

Your DME is soaked, and most likely dead. You'll need a new one, unless you can manage to dry it out. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't.
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Old 04-03-2012, 05:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeGerman View Post
Yep, you have clogged cowl drains and the water from the car wash flooded the cowl, the compartment the DME sits in, and eventually spilled into the cabin of the car. You can try drying out the DME, but you may have permanently fried it. In such case, you will soon be shopping for a used DME on Craigslist and/or eBay.

Let this be a lesson to us all. Clean out your cowl drains, people. In only takes a few minutes.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moeman10 View Post
Your windshield cowling clogged, and the leftover water flooded your DME compartment and passenger footwells.

Your DME is soaked, and most likely dead. You'll need a new one, unless you can manage to dry it out. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't.
On the light side of the news, this was an issue that BMW finally acknowledged and corrected for the '95 and newer cars.
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  #11  
Old 04-03-2012, 10:42 AM
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On the light side of the news, this was an issue that BMW finally acknowledged and corrected for the '95 and newer cars.


Also, if you're willing to make sure it won't happen again, most shops will create a drainage system for the water if it ever clogs again
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Old 04-03-2012, 11:05 AM
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On the light side of the news, this was an issue that BMW finally acknowledged and corrected for the '95 and newer cars.
I have never heard this. How did they correct the problem? Did the DME compartment become totally closed off from the rest of the cowl?
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  #13  
Old 04-03-2012, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeGerman View Post
I have never heard this. How did they correct the problem? Did the DME compartment become totally closed off from the rest of the cowl?
The Bosch Motronic Engine Management system is what controls the ignition, timing and emissions controls of the later-model 3-series cars. As such, it can be considered the brain of the car. The ECU (Electronic Control Unit) will cause the engine to run poorly or to stop running altogether if it becomes damaged. In this tech article, we'll talk a little about the DME, how to troubleshoot its problems, prevent damage to the unit, and repair or replace the unit.

This is the Biggest Problem with The DME UNIT and i have experienced this.

E36 DME Compartment Flooding Problem

On E36 BMWs manufactured prior to July of 1994, there is a design problem with the car that has caused a lot of problems with the main DME computer. The water relief channels of the car are not beefy enough to withstand a significant influx of water onto the car, or the windshield. While perfectly adequate for anything that nature may throw at the car, the channels are woefully inadequate for a car wash. If too much water is used, or if the water channels are clogged with leaves or debris, the water will overflow and leak into the compartment where the DME is stored. I have heard stories of owners who have opened this compartment, only to have a Litres of water or more come flowing out. Needless to say, having the main computer for the car submerged in water is not a good thing.

How exactly does the water get into the box? The DME compartment is located right next to the intake plenum cowl for the heating and air conditioning system. This cowl is open to the enviroment, and thus will get rain water deposited into it. There are drains at the bottom designed to drain this rainwater. However, if the volume of water is too great, or the channels become clogged with leaves or other debris, this plenum will overflow directly into the DME compartment. If enough water fills this chamber, it may also leak into the passenger side foot well, although this often goes unnoticed, as the water will leak under the passenger floor mat.

BMW has issued a Service Bulletin and a relatively inexpensive fix for the problem. The fix is to install a third drain and use an improved style of drainage hose. The BMW factory bulletin that describes this repair is 41 03 93 (3914), and is dated July 1994. Begin by removing the plastic screen covering the plenum, the portion of the plenum that covers the firewall, and move the wiring harness out of the way on the left side of the engine compartment. Then remove the cylinder head valve cover - you will need to do this to gain clearance for working. Cover the top of the engine with a drop cloth or plastic garbage bag to prevent anything from falling in.

Now, pull back the insulation that is located against the rear firewall. Remove and throw away the right side plenum drain hose at this time (Figure 1). Behind the firewall material, there is a circular area pre-stamped in the firewall just above and to the right of the original drain location. You will be drilling out this hole and installing the new drain hose in this hole. BMW specifically recommends against using a hole saw here - the metal shavings are too likely to contaminate either the engine or the plenum area. Instead, start with a .375" pilot hole and use a 1/2" conduit punch. Then, use a 3/4" conduit punch and enlarge the hole to 28.2mm (1.11"). File off the edges, paint with a small bit of primer, and then reinstall the firewall insulation. Drill a corresponding hole in the installation, and install your two new drain hoses (part number BW-51-73-8-144-152), slightly angled 30 degrees towards the center of the car. That's the BMW fix described for this problem. Figure 2 shows the area where you need to drill (yellow arrow), and also points to the oil drain hose (green arrow) that should be pulled out and replaced.

If you are not fortunate enough to have read this article before your DME got toasted, you may still have a chance to revive it. Open the DME compartment and remove the DME unit. If your DME is covered and soaked with water, then you may be able to save it. Take the unit apart and expose the two circuit boards (Figure 3). Although I have not used it myself, I have had customers tell me that spraying the board with Q-20 helps to dispel any water, dries the board, and sometimes works. The board is already soaked in water at this point, what could it hurt? Take the DME boards and place them in an oven set at about 100 degrees, and let it sit for a few hours. This should help evaporate any remaining water that may have made it into the unit. Reassemble the unit, and plug it back into your car to see if the problem still exists. If it does, then you will probably have to replace the unit with another one.

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Old 04-03-2012, 12:55 PM
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Old 04-03-2012, 01:10 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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Wow woke up to all these responses, thank you all so so much! This is my day off and I'm going get it opened up to air out and dig out the dme and put the battery on a charger.

I will report back this eve, it's nice to have a community of enthusiasts out there willing to help out a stranger, thank you guys again
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  #16  
Old 04-03-2012, 01:23 PM
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All this means is that the '95 and newer cars are less likely to flood, but not by much. The problem certainly still exists for '95 and newer cars, since BMW didn't seal off the DME, which means that clogged drains will still flood the DME compartment. Tree debris will clog the cowl drains of any E36.
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Old 04-03-2012, 01:51 PM
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i should do mine, havent since i got the car
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Old 04-03-2012, 07:11 PM
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The water isn't the enemy, it's the soap that's mixed into the water. Pure water is non-conductive and an insulator. When you add the soap you add conductive ions and that's what kills your DME. If the initial soak didn't kill it just drying it out takes out the water but leaves the ionic contaminants so if you get any moisture on it again, even high humidity, you reactivate the conduction.
If you are trying to recover it you want to rinse it by submersion alternately in distilled water and isopropyl alcohol 8-10 times with alcohol being the last rinse. Let the excess alcohol evaporate, then dry in the oven at up to 150F for 10-12 hours.
Make certain you let the alcohol evaporate BEFORE going into the oven or you might get a nice kaboom when the evaporated alcohol finds the thermostatic switch in the oven.
We build thousands of circuit cards where I work and we do this cleaning process all the time to remove soldering residue.
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Old 04-04-2012, 11:33 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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Update: ive pulled the dme and it was soaked inside and out... So i will attempt to dry it out and fire it up tomorrow.

I hope i didnt break my timing chain but the starter sounds like it isnt even trying, and it certainly iant turning the motor over.

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Old 04-04-2012, 11:37 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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Originally Posted by dc_wright View Post
The water isn't the enemy, it's the soap that's mixed into the water. Pure water is non-conductive and an insulator. When you add the soap you add conductive ions and that's what kills your DME. If the initial soak didn't kill it just drying it out takes out the water but leaves the ionic contaminants so if you get any moisture on it again, even high humidity, you reactivate the conduction.
If you are trying to recover it you want to rinse it by submersion alternately in distilled water and isopropyl alcohol 8-10 times with alcohol being the last rinse. Let the excess alcohol evaporate, then dry in the oven at up to 150F for 10-12 hours.
Make certain you let the alcohol evaporate BEFORE going into the oven or you might get a nice kaboom when the evaporated alcohol finds the thermostatic switch in the oven.
We build thousands of circuit cards where I work and we do this cleaning process all the time to remove soldering residue.
I will que-tip it with the alcohol, it doea appear to have soap residue all over on the inside, thank you for the input!

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Old 04-04-2012, 11:38 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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Thank you for posting this info, it was right on the mark.

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Old 04-04-2012, 11:39 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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Originally Posted by BiGPaPaRu View Post
After trying to crank the car repeatedly the starter will begin to make a high pitch sound and it will also sound as if the teeth ain't catching, this is normal. hopefully once you find the cause of the problem your car should start right up. I had this same problem and was really scared I ruined my starter but all was ok.
Good Luck my dude
Thank you for posting this i reall really hope this is the case for me as well.

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Old 04-05-2012, 03:31 AM
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Originally Posted by jeffw247 View Post
I will que-tip it with the alcohol, it doea appear to have soap residue all over on the inside, thank you for the input!

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You'll need a several gallons of distilled water and similar for the alcohol. You want to IMMERSE the DME or the DME boards and move around in the water the mix the soap and dislodge it. Remove the unit, let any water drain, immerse the unit in the alcohol and move it around to mix any remaining water with the alcohol.
Discard the original water and alcohol and start with fresh and repeat the above process.
Each time you do the the soap dissolves into solution and each time you repeat the process more is removed. By the time you've done this 8-10 cycles little if any soap is left.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:49 AM
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This used to happen to me every time I went through a really good car wash (the crappy ones never did it). My e36 had recently sat for almost a year in the driveway after an accident, and as it turned out, the DME was sitting water because the wiper drain was clogged the whole time. After a year of that, it was so corroded that it just didn't send the signal to the fuel pump anymore. Everything else worked, just no fuel which made it brain numbingly difficult to diagnose right off. Here is a good write up on how to resolve the drain issue, how to fix the circuit board if possible, and how to seal the DME up to prevent it from happening again complete with pics.
When I checked my drain out, I found that it was so clogged with leaves and dirt that there is no way that it could not have been draining for years. I cleaned it, cut it in half to get better drainage, and cleaned everything out of the compartment it drains with a shop-vac. After sealing up the DME with gasket seal as described in the previous writeup, I am now able to go through car-washes without issue!

Last edited by clockworktech; 04-06-2012 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 04-06-2012, 07:10 PM
jeffw247 jeffw247 is offline
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UPDATE:

Ive pulled the valve cover and the timing chanin is in tact and tight thank god. The stsrter is also still making a funny rythmatic clacking sound once every crank.

I dried out the dme and when stsrting i smell gas but no spark so i guess my dme is no good?

Question: above the dme in the same compartment is another box with a wire harness connected to it, what is this box and should i pull it to dry it out?

Thank you all again for your help and input :-)

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