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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 05-15-2012, 05:27 PM
cliffxr cliffxr is offline
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Intermittent misfire, initially cylinder #6

Hi all,
I'm new to the list, although I've been lurking for awhile and searching previous posts trying to solve my problem I've had for the past few months. The car is a stock '98 328i, automatic with 127,xxx miles on it. I've kept up on maintenance (filters, plugs, oil, etc) and the car has run flawlessly.
About 6 months ago I started getting a very minor and abrubt miss...nothing that triggered a check engine light. Finally it started happening more frequently and I got a Check Engine light. Turning off the ignition would generally clear the code and the misfire temporarily. The car would run fine for several days sometimes. I ran the codes with the Peake tool and got 03 and F3 (Ignition Coil #6 and Misfire Detected, Cyl #6). Seemed like a no brainer. I inspected the plug (BMW, replaced at 80,000 miles) and it looked fine. I installed a new (Meyle) coil and boot and the problem persisted, still intermittent. I inspected the wiring and connector to the coil, performed a wiggle test and all checked out fine there also.
After doing some searching on this forum, I saw a post where a faulty injector and possibly intake manifold gasket was ID'd as the culprit. I installed new gaskets and reman'd injectors and the problem still persisted. Running the codes, I again got 03 and F3.
Next I swapped the coil on #5 and #6. Within a couple days the misfire was back. This time the codes showed 02, 03, F1, F3 and (Ignition Coil #4 and #6 and Misfire Detected Cyl #4 and #6). What the heck? How did cylinder #4 get into the equation? If anything I expected a misfire on #5.
Bentley's manual wasn't much help and I'm now at a loss. Is there any relation between coils? Could one bad coil cause another to misfire? I hate dumping money into unneeded parts and would appreciate any insight or potential solutions. Thanks,

Cliff
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  #2  
Old 05-15-2012, 08:44 PM
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hornhospital hornhospital is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffxr View Post
I inspected the plug (BMW, replaced at 80,000 miles) and it looked fine. Cliff
Welcome to the fest! Nice, comprehensive first post.You said you inspected the plug (singular) and it looked fine. Try changing them, all of them, preferably with OEM-type plugs (copper). You can't tell if a plug is working 100% of the time by looking at it.
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Old 05-15-2012, 09:00 PM
cliffxr cliffxr is offline
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Thanks Ken. I did replace the one plug but forgot to mention that also. The most peculiar thing about this problem is how it's intermittent. I'm sure if it would just happen all the time it would be easier to troubleshoot. Meanwhile I'll change all the plugs with copper ones.

Cliff
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Old 05-16-2012, 04:21 PM
cliffxr cliffxr is offline
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Ken,
Replaced all the plugs today with OEM style plugs. Miss is still there. Due to the intermittent nature I firmly believe it's an electrical problem, such as a wire. Because of the proximity of the coil wire harness to the exhaust, I suspect that might be an issue. While wiggling the connector with the car running, I did get the problem to cycle on or off. Not sure if it was coincidental though. Visually, the wire harness looks in great shape...no tears, rubber covering in good shape. Connections all look good and corrosion free also. Might see if I can find a junkyard wire harness next. Appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.

Cliff
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  #5  
Old 05-16-2012, 05:00 PM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is offline
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Hmmm... Interesting. Looks like you have covered most of the bases at this point. That said, of the years that I've been immersed in the E36 BMW world, I've never heard of a misfire being attributed to a bad connection at the coil harness. I'm not saying it isn't possible - just that it has never come up. If the injectors are new, plugs are new, and the coils have been confirmed good, the next thing I'd recommend doing is looking harder for a vacuum leak somewhere. There are plenty of places air could be getting in and messing things up. Also, I'd be curious to see what happens if you put the new Meyle coil back on cylinder 6. If it goes back to only misfiring on cyl-6, you can safely assume that whatever is causing the misfire is somehow directly connected to that specific cylinder. If you put the Meyle coil on cylinder 6 and it continues misfiring on cylinder 4 and 6, I'd think it's a vacuum issue which is slowly getting worse and affecting more cylinders.
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Old 05-16-2012, 08:53 PM
cliffxr cliffxr is offline
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Ken,
It's the abrubt on and off nature that leads me to believe it isn't a vacuum leak. I mean , it can change so quickly back and forth from running perfectly to dropping a cylinder. I've never seen a vacuum leak do that on any other car. Also, why would it cause a misfire on just one cylinder and give a specific code for the ignition coil? I might search some junkyards this weekend and see if I can find a used harness to test. I'll also look hard for vacuum leaks. Thanks for the continued support.

Cliff
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  #7  
Old 05-17-2012, 03:55 AM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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since it is intermittent, i suggest checking the cam position sensor. it is the identifier for the dme and will indicate which cylinder is which in the firing order.

unfortunately this would require a power graphing meter or oscilloscope to 'see' the voltage signal, so if you do not have on ethen i suggest that you seek out a shop that has one.

intermittents can be tough, and it appears that you have covered all of your bases.

a compression check may or may not reveal any additional clues, but the cam sensor fits with the #4 cylinder question you posed earlier.

it's what i would check first.


good luck, and please report back with your findings.



df
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:12 AM
cliffxr cliffxr is offline
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Df,
Wouldn't a failing camshaft position sensor throw a check engine light and it's own code? Or does it normally not throw a code until it completely fails? Either way, the sensor can be considered a wear item and replacement might not be a bad idea since it would probably cost more to diagnose it.

Ken,
I swapped back to the original coil last night. Driving to work today I had no issues but then it's normally on the way home when it's warmer when the problem shows up. Also, yesterday the problem was more noticeable at idle. Next time it does it and stays somewhat consistent, I'm going to wiggle the wire harness again.

Cliff
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Old 05-17-2012, 04:55 PM
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try wiggling the cam sensor wiring as well to see if that does anything. it should be scoped to be sure, as a cam sensor (iirc) is a hall effect type sensor and can be jostled into a 'false positive' if you get too heavy handed with it.

but cam sensors do not always flag a code, especially if the dme will 'see' another code (namely a misfire code). similarly with throttle position sensors and coolant temp sensors (and when *they* do, it's usually a bad t stat...)


and yeah, they would tend to fail when hot more than cold, so it would fit the profile.

not sure what the cost of a new one is, but i would get a quality part, not a cheapy, k??




df
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Old 05-17-2012, 06:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drivinfaster View Post
try wiggling the cam sensor wiring as well to see if that does anything. it should be scoped to be sure, as a cam sensor (iirc) is a hall effect type sensor and can be jostled into a 'false positive' if you get too heavy handed with it.

but cam sensors do not always flag a code, especially if the dme will 'see' another code (namely a misfire code). similarly with throttle position sensors and coolant temp sensors (and when *they* do, it's usually a bad t stat...)


and yeah, they would tend to fail when hot more than cold, so it would fit the profile.

not sure what the cost of a new one is, but i would get a quality part, not a cheapy, k??




df
just like how a vacuum leak will sometimes set off an o2 fault
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  #11  
Old 05-18-2012, 08:56 PM
cliffxr cliffxr is offline
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It's been two days and the car hasn't missed a beat. The last thing I did was wiggle the coil wire harness at the main connector and there have been no problems. I'll still try checking for vacuum leaks and wiggle the cam position sensor. Right now the car is apart for a coolant flush, new hoses and a tensioner/idler pulley replacement.

Cliff
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Old 05-18-2012, 10:55 PM
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hornhospital hornhospital is offline
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:19 PM
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Talking

I'd rather find out definitevely what the problem is rather than be driving down the road a couple hours from home and have it pop up again. I'll poke the bear...not too hard, but enough to get his attention.
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  #14  
Old 05-25-2012, 04:34 PM
cliffxr cliffxr is offline
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I finally tracked my misfire down to the coil pack harness connector (on the passenger side). Wiggling the connector caused the problem again. When I separated the connector, the outer ring wouldn't twist and just pulled straight up. Once off I still couldn't get the outer ring to twist. I found another harness on eBay and once installed correctly, my misfire went away. I'm guessing the previous owner must have had the connector off at one point and never got it seated correctly. Once again it runs like a champ. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions along the way.
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Old 05-25-2012, 05:15 PM
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hornhospital hornhospital is offline
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Glad you got it sorted. Thanks for posting the solution. It's bound to help someone in the future.
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Old 02-08-2013, 08:42 AM
charleskwinter charleskwinter is offline
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I think this thread is really helping me. I am having such a similar issue; number four cylinder after 25 miles of freeway/highway driving starts to misfire. I have an OBD1 S50B32US. Sometimes after pulling off the freeway and weaving through lights the misfire goes away without reseting the code or turning the ignition off, but it always seems to be triggered by long drives at mid range rpms.

Due to the misfire I have exchanged coils and replaced the Bosch plugs for copper NGKr's. The misfire stays with number 4. I also recently replaced the fuel filter and 02 sensor more out of maintenance than an attempt to troubleshoot the misfire.

I haven't heard anyone mention a head gasket leak, but as with my problem the plugs never show any signs of discoloration and they are all consistently the same color. This is the first time I have heard someone mention the cam sensor, so along with my wiring harness I will be looking at the cam sensor.

If someone reads this maybe they can explain the difference between the cam sensor and the crank sensor? I will consult my Bentley later today, but I thought the crank sensor gives signal for the ignition and the cam sensor for the fuel injectors. Thanks again for the thread guys!
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Old 02-08-2013, 05:25 PM
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crank position sensor tells the pcm the engine is spinning, the cam position sensor tells the pcm what coil to fire and what injector to pulse on sequential injected engines.




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Old 02-08-2013, 05:29 PM
charleskwinter charleskwinter is offline
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My Bentley mentions nothing about troubleshooting the Cam sensor. Should I just replace it? I just did a compression test cold with 160-175 throughout, checked all of the wiring especially the ground circuit and signal circuit, then took it for a drive. About 60 miles round trip, and it only misfired once in between stops at the 35 mile range after sitting for 45 minutes while in a muffler shop. I pulled it over with tools in the trunk to check the compression again, and after reading the codes (misfire #4) and starting it again, the code and misfire was gone.
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Old 02-08-2013, 05:36 PM
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well before you start throwing parts at this thing, get some more information gathered and do some basic stuff first.

also, it would help to know how many miles you have on the car, and overall condition.

pics would be a plus!!



now, for the red flag i saw in your post. this motor may be a wee bit tired. 175 as the highest +/- 10% puts you at 158 for your lowest allowable reading. 160 isn't that far away.

you could try to follow up with another test, just to verify the results, and then follow that up with a wet compression test to see if the numbers pump up. if they do, then that indicates ring issues.




df
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:41 AM
charleskwinter charleskwinter is offline
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The car has 152,000 miles on it. I have had it since about 120,000 but hardly drove it for a five years, then I recently started driving the piss out of it. Several road trips to Seattle and back from Idaho, and the car often makes it to 100mph rather quickly. I love the way it drives, the power through every gear.

With that being said, I have also been doing a lot of maintenance to the car. The entire front end has been replaced with Lemforder parts, which includes inner/outer ball joints, inner/outer tie rods, sway bar end links, lollypops, and new r-tabs. I replaced the rear diff fluid but haven't touched the transmission yet.

I then started to focus on the engine, with new Bosch plugs (not platinum or quad tip, just dual tip), a new fuel filter, which I believe after 150k had never been changed. I couldn't even blow through it. I then changed out the O2 sensor for a Bosch unit. I also had the fan sieze at one point, taking out my radiator. Someone ahead of me had changed out the t-stat housing to an aluminum one, however I did at first attempt an electric fan setup which made the car run hotter than normal, seeing the coolant temperature reach three quarters several times. I then ditched the electric fan and found a used mechanical one from an m50 motor, the car hasn't seen anything above the middle mark since.

Now that it has started to misfire, I have moved around the coils only to find the misfire staying with number four cylinder. I changed out all of the spark plugs for NGKr's as it seems like a lot of people see the Bosch's fail under heat. The misfire stayed with number four, so yesterday I started to tear into the wiring to discover that all six coils ground to the valve cover after going through a 280ohm resistor, which was confirmed with the multimeter. My Bentley's diagram didn't show the resistor but the schematics from http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...d.php?t=919575 showed the resistor in the ground circuit. The signal wire coming from the DME showed a steady resistance of .2ohms with plently of wiggling.

I then put back all of the wiring, pulled the plugs again and did a compression test with the engine cold. My buddy seems to think that the compression would be higher with the engine warm, and this is the first time I have ever checked the compression on this car. It was the number 1 cylinder which showed the lowest number at 160 but this was the first cylinder we checked and I was doing the cranking with the pedal at the floor and the main relay unplugged. The remaining five cylinders showed 165-170.

With the car all back together, I did a fifteen minute run on the freeway, then a forty minute run on the freeway to find no misfires. After sitting for forty five minutes, I got back in the car, brought it up to sixty and a few moments later it started to misfire. I pulled it over, with a trunk full of tools, to test compression on number four and three to compare. After reading the faults (misfire #4) I started the car again only to find that it wasn't misfiring, and seeing as I was running out of time I drove it the forty minutes home only to find it didn't misfire once. So here I am today, writing this....
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:03 AM
charleskwinter charleskwinter is offline
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I forgot to mention, I installed a Dinan Stage 1 chip about a year ago. Here are some photos!



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Old 02-16-2013, 02:49 PM
charleskwinter charleskwinter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drivinfaster View Post
crank position sensor tells the pcm the engine is spinning, the cam position sensor tells the pcm what coil to fire and what injector to pulse on sequential injected engines.




df
Alright so here's the latest.

I swapped the #4 fuel injector with the #1 fuel injector. Misfire stays with #4.

I got the car warm and to the point where it intermittently misfires. So I have it in the shop to test the compression again with a warm engine. #4 cylinder, the one with the misfire, now reads 183psi with wide open throttle. Here's the weird thing. According to my Bentley repair manual, you unplug the "Main system relay" to disable the ignition. My car started with this relay unplugged while I was trying to do a compression test, so I pulled out the fuel injector fuse. The car still wants to start while I am trying to do a compression test. I'm now starting to think there is something going on with my DME???

Either way, I poured a bit of engine oil in the #4 cylinder for doing a wet compression test. This is my first time doing a wet compression test, and with wide open throttle #4 jumped to 250psi. I am presently in the shop and have not yet warm or wet tested the other cylinders. What do you guys think is going on?
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Old 02-16-2013, 02:55 PM
charleskwinter charleskwinter is offline
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Another update:

#1 cylinder numbers: 160psi cold, 165psi warm, 250psi wet
#4 cylinder numbers: 165psi cold, 183psi warm, 250psi wet
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Old 02-16-2013, 03:11 PM
charleskwinter charleskwinter is offline
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#2 170psi cold 185psi warm
#3 170psi cold 183psi warm
#5 170psi cold 175psi warm
#6 170psi cold 185psi warm

also, all six spark plugs came out looking white. I wouldn't even call it grey. Definitely white, and the motor is very warm mind you
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Old 02-16-2013, 05:01 PM
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ok, so it looks like you did all of the 'basic' testing that you could do at this point by swapping the injectors and coils, new plugs.

the wet compression tests will always be higher, but i am not certain if there is a spec....

at this point the next thing that i would be looking at would be the gasses coming out of the tailpipe and verify the command from the dme to fire both the injector and coil. you may just very well have a faulty driver in the dme. a power graphing meter would be useful to 'see' the voltage signal. if the signal is missing or not clean, then that would indicate either a fulty wiring or pcm.



df
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