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E34 (1989 - 1995)

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  #1  
Old 11-09-2012, 10:35 AM
ericole ericole is offline
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Location: AL
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 6
Mein Auto: BMW 1995 525i
Crazy electrical gremlin - car sometimes totally dead, until shaken or door slammed

My electrical gremlin started about a year ago with the hazard lights blinking when starting the car. Not every time, but a lot of the time. They would just come on - even though button was not depressed on the center console. Another thing that was also happening was that when the car got turned on, we'd have to enter the radio code to make it work. Just as if there had been a disconnection of power - but there had not been. This was like the hazard lights - periodic and random. Often enough to be annoying, but since the car was old and putting in the code worked, we just dealt with it.

Working with my independent BMW guy we finally decided that the hazard lights were acting like the alarm was actually being tripped, but in silent mode - thus the flashing lights. I finally just completely removed the BMW alarm box from under the rear seat - fully disconnected and put it away. We never activated it anyway since the key fobs wouldn't control the locks anymore. We'd reset the thing, the locks would work a while, then it would stop again. So I just pulled the entire alarm module to remove it as a source of potential problem.

Sometime around then I replaced the ignition switch with a brand new part from Bav Auto (part 61 32 8 356 026 Ignition Switch 1995 525i). That went off fine and it has worked great ever since.

For a while the hazard gremlin went away and I thought we'd fixed it with the removal of the alarm module. The code thing on the radio stopped as well. But over the summer the hazard light thing started happening again, but very rarely. One day the BMW guy wrote me and said he figured out what it must be - the fusible link. So one time while I had it there getting an oil change he replaced it -said the old one was definitely in bad shape.

After the replacement, all was well - UNTIL (you knew it was coming since I'm writing in the forum) the car just started dying! crap! Well, more accurate, wouldn't come on - already dead. We'd drive somewhere - everything working perfectly. Go to get back in - 10 mins later, hour later - usually shorter times - and NOTHING. Not like a dead battery (which is also new in the last year), but as if NO battery. Turn the key and NOTHING happens - no lights, no blinking, no dings, no nothing! After waiting a few minutes, opening/closing a door, shaking the car, whatever we've (so far) always been able to get it to start.

Of all days, it happened today when my wife had our son out to the store to get him some medicine (woke up with bad cold!). She first tried a hard slam of the door -nothing. Then she shook the passenger side of the car - and the hazards lights came on (no keys in!). She did some more moving around after waiting 10 or so minutes, and it started. She was able to drive home like normal.

It sounds like the guy in this post has (at least) one of the exact same problems as me:
http://forum.roadfly.com/threads/128...r#post12882255

BUT, the response doesn't help me (I don't think) since I've removed the alarm module.

If ANYONE can offer any solid advice, I'd sure love it. We were hoping to drive this car until the transmission went (have 226,000+ on it!). I'd hate to have to replace it b/c of this crazy electrical gremlin. And replace it we would since it's my wife's main car. Our old Saturn seems to have died, so I can no longer drive that to work. Having to drive my working truck. What a pain!

thanks!
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  #2  
Old 11-09-2012, 05:27 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Mein Auto: car
Well, the first thing you'll need to do is to download the Bentley manual. Please google for the links.

The second thing to do is to understand that this problem is probably going to take a long long time for you to fix because you'll have to trace wires everywhere and you'll need to test for shorts at different points until you find the culprit. I worked with a fellow member on this and it took us a long time and some luck to finally fix the problem. Much of the wiring's insulation could be frayed, be in hidden places, and could be shorting to ground or something else all over the place.

The easiest things to do when it comes to a problem like this is to check the simplest things and hope that you find the problem there. I mean, recheck your fusible link, recheck your battery, and recheck that the battery's terminals are properly tightened, etc.

The most important thing is to approach the problem with a beginner's mind of pure observation. This enables you to simply look and see without any mental stress....there have been many times when I've walked away from a problem, come back, and noticed something that I was missing very quickly. Your mark2 eyeballs, when unfettered truly perform yeoman service. Look at EVERYTHING. You will at the very least notice other unrelated stuff that is relevant to your car. its less of a case of 'seek and ye shall find' and more of a case of 'look and ye shall see'.

A cold one and plenty of time certainly helps with maintaining a beginner's mind.

Electrical problems can be difficult to sort out but they are not all that common with our model, so take heart that its probably something that you can find easily.

Your description certainly sounds like a loose wire somewhere, or something shorting to ground that gets moved to an unshorted position when the car is shaken.

You don't sound like you have the usual no-start issues involving the fuel pump, its relay, and the crankshaft position sensor. You should in any case change these out to new oem ones, if you intend to keep the car for the long term. There is more than way that the car can play dead, which you will realise if you read through the archives.

That being said.....check your cps's resistances right away. It should be 540ohms +- 5% if memory serves me right. The Bentley manual, if you download the unedited version, quotes exactly double what it should be...this is a well known printing error. Your symptoms could be a failing sensor. They usually just die totally, but in 5% of the cases they create weird starting issues.

Keep us posted about your progress. Good luck.


rgds,
Roberto

p.s. Please send your post to the original bmw guy who has been working with your car all along. He knows your car and might have more specific clues.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-09-2012 at 06:08 PM.
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  #3  
Old 11-10-2012, 04:13 AM
BMWFatherFigure's Avatar
BMWFatherFigure BMWFatherFigure is offline
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1,908
Mein Auto: E23;E30;E38;E32;E34 +
You sound to have a permanent power problem. Work first with ALL battery cables, joints, junctions, terminals and earth points. As slamming the doors solves it I would also check ALL dash plugs cables and earths. Electronics either work or fail. Electrics can come and go. BTW the crappy electrics often lead to premature electronic failures.
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  #4  
Old 11-10-2012, 12:55 PM
ericole ericole is offline
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Location: AL
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 6
Mein Auto: BMW 1995 525i
Quote:
Originally Posted by robertobaggio20 View Post
Well, the first thing you'll need to do is to download the Bentley manual. Please google for the links.

The second thing to do is to understand that this problem is probably going to take a long long time for you to fix because you'll have to trace wires everywhere and you'll need to test for shorts at different points until you find the culprit. I worked with a fellow member on this and it took us a long time and some luck to finally fix the problem. Much of the wiring's insulation could be frayed, be in hidden places, and could be shorting to ground or something else all over the place.

The easiest things to do when it comes to a problem like this is to check the simplest things and hope that you find the problem there. I mean, recheck your fusible link, recheck your battery, and recheck that the battery's terminals are properly tightened, etc.

The most important thing is to approach the problem with a beginner's mind of pure observation. This enables you to simply look and see without any mental stress....there have been many times when I've walked away from a problem, come back, and noticed something that I was missing very quickly. Your mark2 eyeballs, when unfettered truly perform yeoman service. Look at EVERYTHING. You will at the very least notice other unrelated stuff that is relevant to your car. its less of a case of 'seek and ye shall find' and more of a case of 'look and ye shall see'.

A cold one and plenty of time certainly helps with maintaining a beginner's mind.

Electrical problems can be difficult to sort out but they are not all that common with our model, so take heart that its probably something that you can find easily.

Your description certainly sounds like a loose wire somewhere, or something shorting to ground that gets moved to an unshorted position when the car is shaken.

You don't sound like you have the usual no-start issues involving the fuel pump, its relay, and the crankshaft position sensor. You should in any case change these out to new oem ones, if you intend to keep the car for the long term. There is more than way that the car can play dead, which you will realise if you read through the archives.

That being said.....check your cps's resistances right away. It should be 540ohms +- 5% if memory serves me right. The Bentley manual, if you download the unedited version, quotes exactly double what it should be...this is a well known printing error. Your symptoms could be a failing sensor. They usually just die totally, but in 5% of the cases they create weird starting issues.

Keep us posted about your progress. Good luck.


rgds,
Roberto

p.s. Please send your post to the original bmw guy who has been working with your car all along. He knows your car and might have more specific clues.
First, I don't know what the cps is. Also, if what you are suggesting is the steps of having to remove the seats, dash, etc - to trace all the wires - that won't be possible. This is one of our two cars - third car just died. My wife drives this everyday while I drive the other. If that's our only recourse, I guess we're going to have to try and sell it.

If that's not what you mean, please clarify. I did find the manual.

Oh, the guy who normally works on my car has sort of already done a lot of searching and checking on this problem. I haven't left it with him for weeks to trace any electrical shorts or anything b/c that won't work - and would be prohibitively expensive. But he knows the problem well.
thanks

Last edited by ericole; 11-10-2012 at 12:56 PM. Reason: left something off
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  #5  
Old 11-10-2012, 12:57 PM
ericole ericole is offline
Registered User
Location: AL
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 6
Mein Auto: BMW 1995 525i
Quote:
Originally Posted by BMWFatherFigure View Post
You sound to have a permanent power problem. Work first with ALL battery cables, joints, junctions, terminals and earth points. As slamming the doors solves it I would also check ALL dash plugs cables and earths. Electronics either work or fail. Electrics can come and go. BTW the crappy electrics often lead to premature electronic failures.
See my reply to the first post. If you are suggesting having to take out the dash, etc, that's not going to be possible. This isn't a play car, but a daily driver car that is needed. I agree about your assessment of electrics and electronics.

thanks
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  #6  
Old 11-10-2012, 02:50 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Location: earth
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 3,403
Mein Auto: car
Quote:
Originally Posted by ericole View Post
First, I don't know what the cps is. Also, if what you are suggesting is the steps of having to remove the seats, dash, etc - to trace all the wires - that won't be possible. This is one of our two cars - third car just died. My wife drives this everyday while I drive the other. If that's our only recourse, I guess we're going to have to try and sell it.

If that's not what you mean, please clarify. I did find the manual.

Oh, the guy who normally works on my car has sort of already done a lot of searching and checking on this problem. I haven't left it with him for weeks to trace any electrical shorts or anything b/c that won't work - and would be prohibitively expensive. But he knows the problem well.
thanks
The cps is the crankshaft position sensor.

You'll only need to remove your rear seats. That's pretty easy, just hold their front ends and yank upwards (there are probably videos and detailed descriptions on youtube and google).

You'll see your battery and your fusible links when the rear seat is off.

You won't be able to sell this car and live in peace. The new owner will call and curse you like blazers within a week. If you declare this upfront, you'll get peanuts for the car. Your only choice is to fix this problem.

The dashboard probably does not need to be removed.

If FF is correct (and he usually is), you'll need to start by tracing the main cables from the battery all the way to the front of the car. They should run by the right side under the floor carpetting, and through the wire cavity located under your glove compartment on through to your ecu (that's in the black box at the right windshield corner of the engine bay). Perhaps the main wires run along the right side of the car and through the firewall cavity under the steering wheel's panel. It can be found by tracing it through and others here will be able to guide you precisely (I've not done this myself but have read about it so can't remember where it all is).

You'll need to check your battery's connections. Clean the terminals using low grit sandpaper, apply dielectric grease, and reclamp them. Look at everything. Let the problem become clear to you. That's how it feels you use the beginner's mind with such issues. It won't feel like you 'figured it out', but just spotted something that was there. This stressless approach enables you to find problems, conceptualise solutions, and implement them competently and usually in good time.

That fusible link needs to be rechecked. Any main wires that appear to have frayed insulation needs to be retaped.

This will take some time. Its a good idea to do this with a buddy.

Its also a good idea to take this to a car electrician, or farm this out to some highschool kid wanting to make some extra money for fun and who is taking basic electronics and electricals in school.

The car's basic electricals for power are not difficult for someone who is familiar with electricals. Its just a little time consuming. Youtube will have videos on this stuff too.

It could be as simple as a loose connection. It happens all the time....reminds me of the time I first came to the fest. I had a problem with braking and with my transmission. The solution for the transmission turned out to be low fluid - suggested by members here. The solution for the poor braking...turning out to be an improperly tightened brake vacuum hose ! This had been messed up be a mechanic. So human errors can contribute to seemingly big problems. Emphasis is on the word seemingly.

Start with the battery under your rear seats.

rgds,
Roberto

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 11-10-2012 at 02:55 PM.
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