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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 12-05-2012, 11:23 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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'98 540i engine/engine management troubleshootng help needed

Backstory:
A friend bought a non-running '98 540i with 185K miles, and as often happens, it ended up on my front lawn., even though I have roughly no experience with BMWs. As gathered from my friend:
For the previous owner, it died on the freeway. Towed to shop.
Shop replaces "a 30A fuse", it cranks, but won't start. Previous owner thinks it didn't crank until the fuse was replaced, but details are sketchy.
Shop charges owner $$$$$ for a week's diagnostics work, decides engine jumped time.
Shop informs owner it will be >$value to repair, owner takes it back, sells it to my friend cheap.

So, we start poking at it... If you crank it enough at WOT, it'll catch and rev up a little (to around 4K held at WOT), but sounds like ****. Might have jumped time after all, but figure we'll check more...

Has obvious 4-on 4-off sound when cranking, that is half the cylinders sound normal and half don't, and backfires out intake repeatedly. Not good signs...

For the hell of it, check fuel pressure, 50PSI, moves a bit with throttle, decided it's ok. Tried some starting fluid to check for a lean condition, no improvement, just managed to light the intake on fire from the backfires. Fun times.

To see if it did jump time after all, checked compression. Compression is 180-190 on all cylinders. We figure it probably didn't jump time, at least not badly enough to make it not run, and troubleshoot further. My figuring is with spot-on compression numbers, the valve timing can't be much off, the valves aren't bent, and there generally aren't any mechanical issues (burnt valves, too) that should keep it from running. And yet it sounds like **** and backfires out the intake....

We both start looking at the electrical timing components. Unplugging the crank position sensor results in a completely dead engine, no attempt at life, just cranks freely. But now all 8 cylinders sound equally dead, not the odd 4/4 sound. Plugging it back in restores previous symptoms.

Unplug cam position sensor. No change whatsoever! Plug back in. Still no change. Dig out 'scope, connect to yellow wire - goes high when key is turned on, no sign of pulse train at all when cranking/running, just stays high. Check for power on red/blue, 12v. Ah-ha! Bad sensor! Order new sensor, plug in... No change. Get out 'scope, check new sensor, perfect pulse train. Put back in old sensor... perfect pulse train. WTF! This same sensor was never pulling the line low yesterday!

So, before I waste more time/money, any suggestions on where to look next? I can't spot anything obvious that would have made the sensor not work one day and work the next day. With the story about the blown fuse, I started checking all the sensor wiring. Wiring appears in good shape (traced back to pwr/gnd splices, traced yellow to ecu, checked grounds), no sign of a short or other damage. Was the lack of a reading just a red herring, caused by some glitch, like voltage dipping too low when cranking? Unplugging the sensor still changes nothing - not even the slightest change in the sound of the engine or how it attempts to run - something I always consider very suspicious - but the 'scope shows a nice pulse train in the shape of the trigger wheel.

If it's not raining Friday, I'll get my 'scope on the crank position sensor, but I figure I should see what other people more experienced working with BMWs think.

If the fuse story is correct, and related to the failure, something electronic probably fried itself - hopefully not something expensive like the computer. I can't think of what would make it sound so unhealthy, with obvious differences between cylinders and backfiring out the intake, other than the computer losing track of the engine position and firing the wrong cylinders, hence checking the crank and cam sensors, or a failed ECU. I would have stuck the 'scope on the crank sensor before posting, but my friend accidentally left with the keys and is gone until Friday. While I've seen lean conditions cause intake backfires, this problem has an obviously different sound for different cylinders, with the backfires not random. Any other sensor failure (maf, temp, etc) might completely kill the a/f ratio enough to do odd things, but I wouldn't think it could cause these symptoms.

Or, of course, the fuse was unrelated, the shop changed the fuse for some random accessory that happened to be blown and wasn't related to the problem, and their diagnosis is correct and the engine jumped time. But I don't like that option with the good compression numbers.

Where should I poke next? Checking the cam timing seems exceptionally difficult...

Thanks in advance,
--Bushytails

EDIT: My friend had someone with an OBDII scanner check the codes when he first got it, says there weren't any.

Last edited by bushytails; 12-05-2012 at 11:28 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-06-2012, 12:17 AM
edjack edjack is offline
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What do you want to do with this car? If you wish to resurrect it, buy a good scan tool and the Bentley E39 service manual. If you do not have these two tools, you will be randomly throwing parts at it.

You sound like a rather accomplished amateur mechanic (maybe a pro?). These cars are not mysterious - if you are motivated, and collect the diagnostic information, we can help, but you must give us concrete observations and any P-codes.

These cars are very sensitive to battery voltage, and it s/b 12.5+ at rest.

If the crank position sensor (at the flywheel) is not feeding the ECU, the fuel pump will be shut off.

A common test is to unplug the MAF sensor, and start the engine. If it runs okay, the MAF is bad.

This engine is quite robust, given reasonable maintenance. I doubt the cams are out of time, esp with those compression readings. Sounds like it's in good condition.

Keep in touch.
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  #3  
Old 12-06-2012, 06:34 AM
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TemporarySanity TemporarySanity is offline
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If the timing chain rails have disintegrated,(common on higher mileage 540's) the chain may be just loose enough to throw the cam timing off but not hit the valves. The chain is tensioned via oil pressure and there has to be enough oil for it to run. There is also a low oil sensor that kills the fuel if it is too low. As for the ECU, there have been instances where it has failed suddenly so don't rule that out.
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Old 12-06-2012, 09:42 AM
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buy a good scan tool .
These may help:
- INPA, EDIABAS, NCS Expert, DIS, EasyDIS, Progman, & other BMW factory & dealer programming, coding, and diagnostic software & cable interfaces (1)

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Originally Posted by TemporarySanity View Post
the chain may be just loose enough to throw the cam timing off but not hit the valves.
In the olden days, a timing light on the crankshaft pulley would show timing, right?
Would that work for our bimmers to check timing?
Or do you need to screw a dial gauge into the #1 spark plug hole to test timing?
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Last edited by bluebee; 12-15-2012 at 04:33 AM.
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Old 12-06-2012, 10:03 AM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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What do _I_ want to do with it? Get it off my lawn, which isn't happening until it either drives off or is positively confirmed to need an engine, and knowing my friend, the second isn't a guarantee.

What my friend wants to do, of course, is fix it.

I don't want to spend money fixing other people's cars, and if I bought a manual for every car I've worked on, I'd need to ask if they had a few spare rooms to store them at the poorhouse... so I usually end up looking for information online.


Oil level is OK, and water-free. A bit dirty, ready for a change, but that's not happening until we make sure we're not changing the oil by changing the whole engine. It's getting fuel, and will run, in a fashion.


According to my friend, another of his friends tried a scan tool on it when he picked it up, and reported it had no current nor stored codes. The mil goes out after it starts trying to run. Surprising, really, given as I've had it running with multiple sensors unplugged. I have a crappy HF scan tool, but it's with someone else right now - I might just go buy a better one, with can.

It had no sign of fuel or spark with the crank sensor unplugged, so I'm assuming it's working - but I'll stick my 'scope on it anyway once the keys are back.

I thought of the MAF sensor when I was poking at it before, but decided it was probably OK. If I unplug it while it's running, it tries to keep running. If I pop the air tube off, with the sensor still connected, it immediately dies. I figured this means it has some limp-home logic to deal with a completely dead sensor, but it can't deal with a working sensor correctly reading no flow even though the engine is running. I was going to pull it out to see if it had any obvious failures (cracked element), but didn't have my security torx handy. Did they use security torx for any reason other than to encourage you to buy an extra-expensive bmw-specific sensor? heh.


I too would like to doubt it's actually out of time, but the previous owner did get a multi-thousand-dollar diagnosis of that being the problem, and with the constant backfiring from the intake (yes, I know it's redundant to specify intake, but too many people assume I mean afterfire) and the really uneven sound it makes when cranking, I do have to consider it unless I can point to the actual problem.


If the previous owner is correct that it wouldn't crank until replacing the blown fuse, that would point to an electrical problem for sure - something fried and took out the fuse, but opened internally with a new, cold fuse, or something was collateral damage from a short elsewhere. But, past experience has confirmed I should never put too much stock in what a previous owner says, especially when they're as sketchy on details as this one was.

I don't think it's a general lean a/f issue - it just doesn't sound like one. When cranking, you hear four cylinders try to fire, four cylinders not do anything, then an intake backfire, then sometimes a pause while nothing happens (probably due to lack of oxygen), then four try... etc. It's four in a row, not alternating, so it's by firing order, not by bank. The only time I've heard similar noises, or a repetitive non-mechanical backfire, is when people have gotten their plug wires on wrong - not a possibility here, of course. With the completely electronic ignition, I'm leaning towards the computer not knowing which cylinder is coming up - it sounds like what a bad cam sensor might sound like, with the computer firing the wrong half of the cylinders every other rotation - hence why I started there.

I definitely did _not_ get a signal from the cam sensor the first time I checked it. The voltage went high as soon as the key was turned on, and stayed there while cranking. And yet the next day the same sensor has a perfect signal. It couldn't have been a loose probe connection, as it was showing high, not low. And _nothing_ changes with whether the sensor is plugged in or not. What are the symptoms of a bad cam sensor, or the symptoms of the computer limphome for bad cam sensor? I always consider it exceptionally suspicious when there's not even the slightest change in engine operation with a major sensor unplugged.


Or the whole cam sensor thing could be a wild goose chase, and the problem is just a lean a/f with odd symptoms...


Thanks again,
--Bushytails
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  #6  
Old 12-06-2012, 10:08 AM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
In the olden days, a timing light on the crankshaft pulley would show timing, right?
Would that work for our bimmers to check timing?
Or do you need to screw a dial gauge into the #1 spark plug hole to test timing?
I didn't spot any timing marks, but I didn't look too hard.

Valve timing is much harder to check for than ignition timing, and is usually done, except in cases of blatant failure, but checking the timing marks on the cam pulleys. Which, from what I've read, BMW helpfully decided we didn't need, instead preferring we buy a complete set of expensive special tools.

Ignition timing is presumably derived off the crank position sensor, so would probably be spot-on even with a major change in valve timing, unless the change was so far off as to throw off the cam sensor as well, in which case it'd probably fall under the blatant failure category as the pistons take out the valves, or at least would be observable as poor compression.

--Bushytails
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Old 12-06-2012, 02:07 PM
mbell666 mbell666 is offline
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~185K miles is common failure mileage for guide rails to fail. I'd want to rule that out, normal thing is to drop the sump pan and check for bits of plastic but you might not want to do that with it not being your car. With miss fire you might not be able to here the timing chain slapping about. What about disconnecting all the coil pack and then turning engine over. If it sounds smooth and good (after few seconds) guides are probably or if it continues sounds like a bag of spanners then you'll want to investigate that.

If timing chain/guide are good which from what you said they probably are. Then it is spark or spark timing issue. Is it the same cylinders that fire or random cylinders? (Could a load of the coil packs have been fried by what ever took the fuse out?)

Have you checked which systems have a 30A fuse that might have been changed or looked to see if any have a new fuse in them?
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:20 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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Friend finally showed back up with the keys.

First, scoped the crankshaft position sensor. Sine-ish wave, with a repetitive missing pulse that's probably every revolution. I assume the missing pulse is an index signal, and not indicative of a problem? A list of the proper waveforms for every sensor would come in handy...

Next, checked spark. First cylinder I tried... Nada! Testing all 8 cylinders (by scoping the primaries) showed that when it was trying to run, cyls 1, 8, and 7 had spark, with the computer never pulling the coils low on the other 5 - the computer side of the coil just floats at 12v. When not trying to run, only cyl 8 had spark. It sounds like occasionally other cylinders fire, probably out of time and causing the intake backfires, and it sounds like the ones that do fire repeatedly sometimes change time. When they do fire, the spark waveform is nice and clean, no sign of bad drivers.

So, we're back to my first guess... the computer is doing stupid things with the spark!

Re-checked both the cam and crank sensors. Nice-looking waveforms on both, measured at the computer connector to eliminate wiring/plug problems. We already tried a new cam sensor, so he decided to order a new crank sensor. Without a proper reference, I can't rule out the signal being weak or something, and other than those two sensors, I can't think of what else would cause the computer to only fire some cylinders.

Unfortunately, and this really bloody pisses me off, the computer does seem to be supplying fuel to the rest of the cylinders, which is dumping into the exhaust. Even though we never ran the engine for more than 30 seconds at a time, the cats bloody melted! Now, even if we get it running just fine, it's guaranteed to need some rather expensive new cats. I would have thought 30 seconds at a time was safe, but the pile of melted honeycomb (well, squarecomb) chunks in the grass under the tailpipe, and the cherry red glow from the cat housings, seems to have proven me wrong. Let this be a warning to anyone else troubleshooting a spark problem on one of these - those cats melt FAST!

So, where to troubleshoot next? my current options seem to be a bad crank sensor (even though it has a perfectly reasonable waveform, maybe it's weak), a fried computer, some power/shorted coil/other issue causing the computer to die every time it fires and skip a couple cylinders?

Thanks again,
--Bushytails
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  #9  
Old 12-14-2012, 03:19 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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So, deciding the problem really seemed like a computer problem, pulled the DME...



I'm not equipped for SMT rework, but the driver transistors can probably be replaced pretty easily with through-hole tools, since there's enough of an exposed tab to apply heat to. If the driver chip is toasted too, that'll be fun. I haven't tried crossreferencing the bosch numbers yet either.

Calling local junkyards didn't find a new computer, but I haven't looked online yet. Does a replacement require programming, keying, or other dealer/shop work?

I'll be checking the coils next, to see if the root cause was a shorted coil. Hopefully not an intermittent short

--Bushytails
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Old 12-14-2012, 04:05 PM
mbell666 mbell666 is offline
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Nice work finding that one, impressive diagnosis skills.

If you can't find anything local try http://www.lkqonline.com. I think it does need to be coded to the vehicle, but can be done by indies with the right equipment.
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Old 12-14-2012, 09:23 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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It's a particularly odd problem, to me at least, because of the symptom of mis-timed spark. The board got so hot the solder for most of the other transistors melted, allowing them to slide downwards (since the dme is mounted vertically) until they touched the transistor underneath them, shorting to its pads - so multiple coils ended up connected to a single transistor, causing the seriously weird symptoms.

I haven't been able to find any specs on the Bosch custom transistors, just someone selling supposedly compatible replacements (30057 instead of 30021) on ebay for $8 each out of Hong Kong. Probably 100% counterfeit too. Anyone have a source for proper replacements?

DMEs look to be around $100 on ebay, but I have no idea what it'd cost to get one programmed. Useless extra steps!

I might try removing some of the transistors, testing them, and soldering them back in their proper place. If it's just one that's blown, it might be easier to replace it, even if it takes a generic ignition transistor (bu323z?) screwed to the aluminum housing on some leads... or try the hong kong replacement. If they're mostly blown, or if the driver chip is blown, probably not worth it. Anyone fixed one of these before?


--Bushytails
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Old 12-14-2012, 10:29 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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Lifting the legs shows I have a whole two working transistors. They appear to be NPN darlingtons. Base, Collector (tab), Emitter across the bottom. Gain is fairly high. The ones at the very edges of the board test like a reasonable transistor, although the one next to the melted one tests somewhat funky. A light bulb, a random base resistor, and some test leads show the tested good ones (or at least the one with easy-to-get-to leads) work correctly. All the middle ones test open in at least one direction they should conduct, and do not function in any apparent way. Most of the bad ones conduct with a diode drop from collector to base, probably meaning they've been applying 12V to the driver chip. None test completely shorted. The one with the big hole in it probably would have tested shorted before the appearance of said hole...

I'll advise him to get a new ECU, as 7*$8 plus likely a driver chip is way too close to $100 for a new ebay computer.

How close of a match does it need to be? Same engine, obviously, but how close of a year range, tranny type, etc?

--Bushytails

Last edited by bushytails; 12-14-2012 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 12-15-2012, 04:36 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bushytails View Post
Does a replacement require programming
This thread should have the answer:
- What is the definitive list of electronic computer modules that need recoding once replaced (1)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bushytails View Post
I'll be checking the coils next
You probably already know how to check them, but you might be able to impart knowledge here:
- How to test a BMW ignition coil (1) (2)

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Originally Posted by bushytails View Post
DMEs look to be around $100 on ebay, but I have no idea what it'd cost to get one programmed. Useless extra steps!
This thread has all the coding software for the E39:
- INPA, EDIABAS, NCS Expert, DIS, EasyDIS, Progman, & other BMW factory & dealer programming, coding, and diagnostic software diagnostic tools & cable interfaces (1)
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See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 12-15-2012 at 04:39 AM.
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Old 12-15-2012, 06:24 AM
rdl rdl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bushytails View Post
... stuff deleted ...

I'll advise him to get a new ECU, as 7*$8 plus likely a driver chip is way too close to $100 for a new ebay computer.

How close of a match does it need to be? Same engine, obviously, but how close of a year range, tranny type, etc?

--Bushytails
I can't answer your question directly, but here are two ideas.

Ask the question in this forum,
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...play.php?f=233
Folks there have swapped, programmed (install/write software revisions to module) & coded (write options/switches to software in module) between models and years. If no-one has the answer for the specific model/year/engine/transmission, etc. someone is likely to point you toward a solution.

Enter the last 7 digits of the VIN here
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/select.do
then follow the menu to engine electrics / control units for a list of DMEs that BMW intsalled at the factory plus the dealer service supercede list.

EDIT: I should have mentioned, using "PART NR APPLICATION SEARCH" on this page allows input of a part number one might find on ebay to cross reference back to model/year/variant which the module was installed.

Also, in case you haven't come across wiring diagrams and service manual
http://spaghetticoder.org/
TIS is the factory service manual
WDS is BMW's wiring diagrams, including function descriptions, part locators, etc.

EDIT2: a list of models with the M62 V8 engine to help narrow the ebay/etc. search
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_M62
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RDL

Last edited by rdl; 12-15-2012 at 06:42 AM.
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Old 12-15-2012, 08:58 AM
nsogiba nsogiba is offline
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fascinating thread. i'm terrible at troubleshooting but all i can offer is that i'd replace the DME and see if that solves the problem.

wish you the best of luck and i hope you resolve it soon! subscribed.
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Old 12-15-2012, 01:29 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Originally Posted by rdl View Post
If no-one has the answer for the specific model/year/engine/transmission
And, if all else fails, these external links to forums & software should help:
- BMW diagnostic-tool forums (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & BMW factory & dealer programming, coding, and diagnostic software such as INPA, EDIABAS, NCS Expert, DIS, EasyDIS, Progman (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9)
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Old 01-03-2013, 09:27 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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Friend sourced two computers from '98 540is with manual trannies, and towed the car to the dealer today. I couldn't detect any obviously bad coil packs - all 8 had exactly the same primary resistance (within 2%), none showed a primary-ground short. We replaced the one that was connected to the transistor with the hole blown in it just to be on the safe side. Dealer should be programming one of the computers monday.

--Bushytails
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:05 AM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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Car appeared back on my lawn while I was gone, with no explanation. yay.
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Old 01-14-2013, 11:48 AM
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DHoang DHoang is offline
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From what I know, the DME needs to pair up w/ the EWS to enable engine start.
I assume your dealer programmed the DME to pair up w/ the EWS. I didn't read anything about EWS functionality, thought I'd ask.
If problem still exists, perhaps the EWS is DOA?
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Old 01-17-2013, 08:30 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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Why is it that about a third of the time I go to post, it gives me some message that I'm unable to post because I've logged in since I loaded the page (which I've done no such thing), and it loses my post? ****ing seriously broken software and/or configuration thereof.

I'm too tired to re-type it all, so here's a summary of what I had:

The dealer gave him some story about their being unable to remove the old software from a used computer to put new settings in, so they'd have to sell him a brand new one for $1300+programming. He told them to go screw themsevles. He found a company online that says they'll reprogram it mail-order.

--Bushytails
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Old 04-27-2013, 11:34 PM
bushytails bushytails is offline
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Haven't seen him in a while to get an update. He sent off the key and security module to an online company, got them back about two weeks later with a ready-to-use programmed ECU. Put it back together, fired right up, runs great - even passed smog, despite the handful of honeycomb that got spat out the exhaust. It's now his daily driver.

--Bushytails
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Old 04-28-2013, 12:46 AM
GreenTiger GreenTiger is offline
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Excellent thread. Thanks for checking in with the solution.

Very impressive problem shooting skills.
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Old 04-28-2013, 12:48 AM
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mjalloul11 mjalloul11 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1996 528i 1999 MB c240
Good to hear it ended with a happy note.
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