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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 05-28-2012, 08:33 PM
NeonNiteLite NeonNiteLite is offline
North Carolina Tar Heel
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 21
Mein Auto: '98 323iC, '98 GSX-R 600
Exclamation 1998 323iC lost all power and shut off while driving

I have a 1998 323i convertible 5-speed with 90K miles.

I was driving downtown around 20mph, when suddenly the car lost all power and shut off in the middle of the road. No headlights, no radio, no dash lights, nothing. I turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened - just dead powerless silence. A few minutes later a couple of random guys helped me push the car into a nearby parking lot, and as the car was rolling into the parking spot that I had picked out, all the electrical power suddenly came back on (headlights, dashboard, radio asking me to "INPUT CODE"), and 3 out of the 4 windows (the passenger window and the 2 mini rear windows) suddenly rolled themselves back up without me even pressing a window button. The driver window remained down and was entirely unresponsive when I pressed the window up button.

I turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened, no sounds, no clicking, just silence (although the electrical power remained on). A couple of minutes later, while I was standing outside of the car doing nothing, all the electrical power shut off again. I then opened up the trunk to check out the battery connections. The positive terminal was on 100% tight, but the negative terminal was only on about 90% tight (just slightly loose but seemingly "tight enough"). I wiggled the negative terminal and there were a few small sparks, and then the electrical power suddenly came back on. I kept wiggling the negative terminal and the electrical power remained on without any flickering.

I stood outside the car and made a phone call for several minutes, and when I got back in the car I pressed the driver window up button and the window suddenly rolled up just like normal. I then turned the key in the ignition and the car started right up just like normal. I drove straight home with no further issues. The car started up fine again when I got into my driveway.

There are not any Check Engine lights or Check Control lights on. My battery indicator meter on the dashboard shows one green bar. Does this sound like it's my alternator? my battery? a connection to either one of these? Something else? Thank you.

Last edited by NeonNiteLite; 05-28-2012 at 08:50 PM.
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  #2  
Old 05-28-2012, 08:41 PM
Eight Thirty Eight Thirty is offline
nothing.
Location: Rochester, Ny
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 13,511
Mein Auto: A dream
im not going to bother to read that.


use spaces and press enter a few times
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  #3  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:00 PM
NeonNiteLite NeonNiteLite is offline
North Carolina Tar Heel
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 21
Mein Auto: '98 323iC, '98 GSX-R 600
Sorry

As you can see, I am new to this forum. I tried to space things out to make it easier for people to read. Thanks.
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  #4  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:12 PM
Eight Thirty Eight Thirty is offline
nothing.
Location: Rochester, Ny
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 13,511
Mein Auto: A dream
no problem just hard to read.


sounds like your battery terminals to me
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  #5  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:15 PM
NeonNiteLite NeonNiteLite is offline
North Carolina Tar Heel
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 21
Mein Auto: '98 323iC, '98 GSX-R 600
But wouldn't the car still continue to run if a battery terminal or cable became loose or disconnected? I was under the impression that the alternator provided power while the engine is running.
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  #6  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:16 PM
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jonesin jonesin is offline
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Location: Fort McMurray AB
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 12,609
Mein Auto: '96 328is Cosmos
Welcome to the 'Fest. From what you've described, alternator is a possibility. So is failing battery. So is loose battery connectors. So is corroded battery posts.



Try one of these ^

Then go to a shop like Advanced Auto Parts and have them test your battery and load test your alternator. (Both tests should be free).

THen tighten your battery cables properly snug and see how she gets on.
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  #7  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:28 PM
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TRaV MaNN TRaV MaNN is offline
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One extra thing is to undo the battery ground, take a wire brush and clean it up a little bit and tighten back down.
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  #8  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:34 PM
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jonesin jonesin is offline
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Location: Fort McMurray AB
 
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Gotcha Trav
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Originally Posted by hnaz View Post
I grew up in a time when the internet was just a baby. Grammar back then versus now... holy cow. You could watch the degradation of society as the internet became more mature.

HAS KEN HAD HIS MEDS YET?
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  #9  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:39 PM
NeonNiteLite NeonNiteLite is offline
North Carolina Tar Heel
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 21
Mein Auto: '98 323iC, '98 GSX-R 600
Thanks, I'll definitely clean up the terminals first thing in the morning. But I'm just a little bit confused about why that would be the problem. Doesn't my car use the alternator while the engine is running and the battery while the engine is not running?
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  #10  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:42 PM
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jonesin jonesin is offline
The Canadian Prick.
Location: Fort McMurray AB
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 12,609
Mein Auto: '96 328is Cosmos
Yes. Which is why I suggested an alternator test under load. ( have everything on you possibly can).

The cleaning terminals is more preventive.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hnaz View Post
I grew up in a time when the internet was just a baby. Grammar back then versus now... holy cow. You could watch the degradation of society as the internet became more mature.

HAS KEN HAD HIS MEDS YET?
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  #11  
Old 05-29-2012, 07:01 PM
NeonNiteLite NeonNiteLite is offline
North Carolina Tar Heel
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 21
Mein Auto: '98 323iC, '98 GSX-R 600
Thumbs up

A bad battery was the sole culprit. I put in a new one along with new terminals. Alternator test showed 14.6 volts, which was definitely a big relief. Thanks for everyone's input.
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