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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 02-11-2013, 08:47 AM
jamiemoney88 jamiemoney88 is offline
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Location: Flagstaff, AZ
 
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Mein Auto: 1991 BMW 318i
Lurching and Power Cutting Out

Hi All,

I am new to the forum and new to being a BMW owner. I bought my 1991 318i in December and took her on a road trip in January (after getting all my belts, fluid levels, and tires checked, rotated and balanced) to Tucson, AZ, which was a 500 mile round trip. I should mention that I was unsure if my car was running rich because it smelled like gas until it warmed up and Flagstaff is cold this time of year, so it seemed to always smell like gas.

On my way down to Phoenix from here in Flagstaff, the car began lurching and the power was cutting out; the gas pedal was unresponsive, however, the lights did not dim so we knew (thank goodness) that it was not the alternator. This was the first time anything like this had happened to me in my car. We made it down to Phoenix and I went to my previously set appointment with the Chapman BMW dealer. The appointment was originally to get new keys cut because the person who sold us the car had made cheap copies and one had actually broken off in the door

When we arrived, I told the issues to the mechanics and they took a look; I mentioned to them that I thought the car was running rich. After evaluating it, they said there was a leak in my front gasket that was dripping oil on to the spark plugs and that it needed to be fixed immediately, and that the car was definitely not running rich. They were about 78% sure they could save the spark plugs. They went ahead and did the fix and said that they were pleasantly surprised how good the spark plugs were and that they were able to salvage them no problem.

They evaluated the entire car and said there were a few more suggested fix: the rear differential might start leaking soon, the muffler will need to be replaced in the next couple years, etc. Nothing too terrible.

I thought the issue was fixed, we went down to Tucson and almost all the way up to Flagstaff no problem. Then, about 35 miles from Flagstaff, it started doing it again. I was unsure if it was because we dropped in temperature, but the car had been driving for four hours no problem, and seemed to be warm. When we got back to town I asked a mechanic friend and he said to try running premium (which I hadn't been doing because the old owner said he just used regular) and put some ATF in the gas tank.

I went ahead and put the ATF and premium in my car, and like any car, she seems to like the premium so I think I'll keep putting it in. This morning she lurched and lurched, power cut out even when idling and she was having a bad time. We gave her 20 minutes to warm up before driving, and even after driving ten minutes and letting the car get fully warm, she was still lurching and having a bad time.

What could it be? Do you have any ideas? I understand that this morning being cold could have been the biggest issue, but I am still concerned that it was doing it on the way back up the mountain in January. I don't even know where to start looking. Thank you for any and all help!

TL;DR Car is lurching and losing power even after fixing front gasket leak in engine. Gas pedal is non-responsive, no lights on dash light-up. Happens in cold, but also on freeway with seemingly no warning

Last edited by jamiemoney88; 02-11-2013 at 11:53 AM.
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  #2  
Old 02-11-2013, 11:16 AM
SCJon SCJon is offline
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Location: Charleston, SC
 
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW 328is
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiemoney88 View Post
Hi All,

I am new to the forum and new to being a BMW owner. I bought my 1991 318i in December and took her on a road trip in January (after getting all my belts, fluid levels, and tires checked, rotated and balanced) to Tucson, AZ, which was a 500 mile round trip. I should mention that I was unsure if my car was running rich because it smelled like gas until it warmed up and Flagstaff is cold this time of year, so it seemed to always smell like gas.

On my way down to Phoenix from here in Flagstaff, the car began lurching and the power was cutting out; the gas pedal was unresponsive, however, the lights did not dim so we knew (thank goodness) that it was not the alternator. This was the first time anything like this had happened to me in my car. We made it down to Phoenix and I went to my previously set appointment with the Chapman BMW dealer. The appointment was originally to get new keys cut because the person who sold us the car had made cheap copies and one had actually broken off in the door

When we arrived, I told the issues to the mechanics and they took a look; I mentioned to them that I thought the car was running rich. After evaluating it, they said there was a leak in my front gasket that was dripping oil on to the spark plugs and that it needed to be fixed immediately, and that the car was definitely not running rich. They were about 78% sure they could save the spark plugs. They went ahead and did the fix and said that they were pleasantly surprised how good the spark plugs were and that they were able to salvage them no problem.

They evaluated the entire car and said there were a few more suggested fix: the rear differential might start leaking soon, the muffler will need to be replaced in the next couple years, etc. Nothing too terrible.

I thought the issue was fixed, we went down to Tucson and almost all the way up to Flagstaff no problem. Then, about 35 miles from Flagstaff, it started doing it again. I was unsure if it was because we dropped in temperature, but the car had been driving for four hours no problem, and seemed to be warm. When we got back to town I asked a mechanic friend and he said to try running premium (which I hadn't been doing because the old owner said he just used regular) and put some ATF in the gas tank.

I went ahead and put the ATF and premium in my car, and like any car, she seems to like the premium so I think I'll keep putting it in. This morning she lurched and lurched, power cut out even when idling and she was having a bad time. We gave her 20 minutes to warm up before driving, and even after driving ten minutes and letting the car get fully warm, she was still lurching and having a bad time.

What could it be? Do you have any ideas? I understand that this morning being cold could have been the biggest issue, but I am still concerned that it was doing it on the way back up the mountain in January. I don't even know where to start looking. Thank you for any and all help!
Okay, I have italicized some things up there and taken your bold out. Easy on the bold, anyone that can help will read the whole post, no need to highlight anything.

1. 78% sure they could save the plugs? Sounds like an odd number for them to throw out there.

And you added ATF to your gas I'm assuming to clean the injectors in your car?

You need to track down the source of that gasoline smell. Have you checked your fuel filter, fuel lines, looked for gas leaks, and what was the condition of your spark plugs if you saw them? But before you do all that is this something you want to fix yourself?
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  #3  
Old 02-11-2013, 11:52 AM
jamiemoney88 jamiemoney88 is offline
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Location: Flagstaff, AZ
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: 1991 BMW 318i
Yeah, I thought that was a weird number too, but I think what they were trying to convey was that they were somewhat sure they could be salvaged. Yes, the ATF was for cleaning the injectors.

Sorry about the bold; other forums I have used want you to get straight to the point.

As for the fuel line and fuel filter, they were given the green light (the dealer did a green light, yellow light, red lght as far as how well things looked and worked, yellow meaning replace soonish, red meant replace right away).

This is something I probably can't do myself:
1. Because I lack any tools and experience and
2. Because there is snow all over the ground and I lack a garage.

Because of the lack of experience, I wanted to ask the forum so I know exactly what to tell the mechanic to look for. This is only my second car ever and I will say I can be rather gullible and have been taken advantage of before.
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  #4  
Old 02-12-2013, 05:51 AM
SCJon SCJon is offline
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Snow is temporary man! Buying tools and working on the car can sound daunting but it'll be a whole lot cheaper in the long run if you want to keep the car for a while. But with the lurch you are experiencing I would look for something along the lines of fuel supply or ignition, which is pretty broad. But it could be anything. I would not use a dealer though. I would find an independent BMW mechanic somewhere close to you and develop a relationship with them.

You can find one by searching your zip code here.
But don't put ATF in your gas tank! They make dedicated cleaners for that, the best one and the one everyone here uses is Seafoam. This is designed to do what that mechanic told you ATF would do. Prepare for the car to smoke like crazy when you do it though. It will stop once it burns off all the carbon deposits in your motor. It's a good thing to do anyway.

By the way did the Check Engine Light come on? If so did you find out what the code was?
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  #5  
Old 02-12-2013, 07:56 AM
hnaz hnaz is offline
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Location: Communist Republic of Maryland
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 2,615
Mein Auto: 328i, M3, 325is M-Tech
Lurching, lack of power... have you checked the fuel pump? How about the MAF? Air filter? Ignition Coil Pack? Wires?

Start simple, then go complex. Seafoam will help clean up the engine, but like SCJon said, get ready for smoke!
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  #6  
Old 02-12-2013, 10:48 AM
SCJon SCJon is offline
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Originally Posted by hnaz View Post
Lurching, lack of power... have you checked the fuel pump? How about the MAF? Air filter? Ignition Coil Pack? Wires?

Start simple, then go complex. Seafoam will help clean up the engine, but like SCJon said, get ready for smoke!
I (for some unknown reason) was operating under the assumption his CEL did not come on, when it very well could have.
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  #7  
Old 02-12-2013, 12:12 PM
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hornhospital hornhospital is offline
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Mein Auto: 1995 318is / 1993 325is
A little heads-up......you're in the wrong forum. A 1991 318i is an E30. Not that we mind answering your questions, since the M42 in your car is basically the same one used in the E36 though 1995.
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  #8  
Old 02-12-2013, 12:14 PM
SCJon SCJon is offline
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Whoops. My second wrong assumption in this thread.
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  #9  
Old 02-12-2013, 06:32 PM
jamiemoney88 jamiemoney88 is offline
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Location: Flagstaff, AZ
 
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Mein Auto: 1991 BMW 318i
Sorry guys! I saw 1991 and just clicked...

Anyways, looks like we actually forgot to put the ATF in... so yay, in some ways! No check engine light whatsoever and it's not like the electrical units in the car lose power; the radio, headlights, etc. maintain their output.

When we went to the dealer, they said the fuel lines were good, but how would I go about checking that? Keep in mind that it is currently snowing ha ha! How do I use the Seafoam? Can I just buy that at O'Reilly's?
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  #10  
Old 02-12-2013, 08:20 PM
hnaz hnaz is offline
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Location: Communist Republic of Maryland
 
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Mein Auto: 328i, M3, 325is M-Tech
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiemoney88 View Post
Sorry guys! I saw 1991 and just clicked...

Anyways, looks like we actually forgot to put the ATF in... so yay, in some ways! No check engine light whatsoever and it's not like the electrical units in the car lose power; the radio, headlights, etc. maintain their output.

When we went to the dealer, they said the fuel lines were good, but how would I go about checking that? Keep in mind that it is currently snowing ha ha! How do I use the Seafoam? Can I just buy that at O'Reilly's?
You can get Seafoam almost anywhere (at least here in Maryland you can). Just follow the instructions on the can, splooge, have fun. Just make sure you aren't in a highly populated area. You will get looks of concerns from people that your car might be on fire.

But once it is done, you'll notice a slight difference in engine performance and gas mileage. Nothing to write home about, but slight enough.
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  #11  
Old 02-13-2013, 03:44 PM
tiger8mush tiger8mush is offline
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Location: Connecticut
 
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Mein Auto: 1996 328is
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiemoney88 View Post
the car began lurching and the power was cutting out; the gas pedal was unresponsive,
I only seem to chime in when people have symptoms similar to a major one I had, but I was having similar symptoms when my crankshaft speed sensor was acting up a year or two ago. Car would drive fine, then suddenly lose power, occasionally buck as if i didn't know how to drive a 5 speed.

Good luck!
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