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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E46 (1999 - 2006)

E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 12-16-2012, 11:00 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Mein Auto: BMW 318i SE Touring 2004
Please help - at end of tether with E46 light on dash!

Please help - desperate and at the end of my tether.

I own a 2004 model BMW 318i SE Touring Automatic 1995cc (E46). I'm getting sick of this car. I have only had it three months, and during that time I've spent over 2,000 trying to get rid of a little orange "cog symbol light with an exclamation mark in the centre of it".

According to the manual it says:

"A fault has caused the transmission to switch to the emergency-run program. Have the system checked without delay."

When this light comes on, the automatic gearbox changes with harsh jumps, more noticeable changing down when I slow at a junction/roundabout etc.

The history so far. First I took it to ELMS BMW in Cambourne, Cambs. What they did, I don't know. But they charged me an hours labour of 100 plus vat, no parts involved, something about computer reset to manufacture specs.

About three days later, the light came back on. This time I took it to an independent BMW dealer in St.Ives, Cambridgeshire, who diagnosed it and said the computer was riddled with corruptions and needed to be cleared and re-set. He said he was convinced that this would clear the issue. So, upon paying this garage the sum of 60 or so, they did the following:

Reset adaption values, reset gearbox base settings and re-programmed engine control unit.

Two days later, the light came back on. So, I called same independent BMW specialist and they told me to take it back. This time, after hooking it up to their computer, it told them there was an issue with the Vale Tronic Drive Motor. After removing the old one, I was advised they found the motor U/S and unable to clear fault from memory. So, they fitted a new Valvetronic Drive Motor and found fault could not be removed. They reset adaption values and all was ok. I paid just over 380 for this.

Yes, you've guessed it, three days later, the light comes back on and I'm back to clunky and hard auto transmission changes. Now I'm really upset and annoyed to say the least. Having lost faith in this independent BMW specialist, I researched and found another, in Huntingdon.

So, I popped my BMW to the new BMW independent specialist, I was hugely impressed with their premises and professionalism. He plugged it into his computer and advised that the faults stored are for Air Intake Temp Sensor, Valvetronic Limit Position, Gearbox Can Fault. They found intake temp too high and inlet position 45 degrees out. They replaced the Air Mass Sensor, reset adaption values, reset Valvetronic Limit Position and road tested - all ok. I paid nearly 320 for this work.

Well, it was ok for, you guessed it, three days. What the hell is it with this three days thing, I asked the latest specialist. I was told the car needs to go through a certain amount of 'Drive Cycles' before it looks for faults again. By now, I'm seriously pi**ed off!!

So, back it goes and again, it is plugged into the bloody computer, which seems to be telling a bunch of lies from what I can see. This time the cam sensor is showing as faulty, so, he investigates further by using some good old fashioned hands-on mechanic stuff. After removing the rocker cover, he can see the timing chain cover has a crack through it. This, with the cam sensor is bound to sort it. But, it cost over 1,300. There might have been something else they sorted at the same time, can't remember. Anyway, all this takes a week to do, they test drive it for 30 miles or so after changing the cam sensor, timing chain (yes, you can't use the same one after changing the guard) and resetting all computer values etc etc.

I take my car back, and guess what, three days pass, I'm pleased and convinced the dreaded orange got light has gone for good. Not so, just 355 miles later, the damn thing comes on again and I'm back to a jumpy auto transmission change.

Now, I'm seriously annoyed, to say the very least as it is now getting close to what I paid for the damn car to start with and if it carries on like this, the repairs will soon over take the price of the car.

Now, I would have ditched this money pit weeks ago, but the reason I haven't is because I paid 1,800
having high end hi-fi installed and professional window tinting. I was not about to pay 400 labour to have it all removed and all the old system put back, never mind losing the 250 I paid for the window tinting.

This car has full history, brand new tyres and great hi-fi, tinted windows, looks great and drives great, when the bloody orange cog light is off that is.

I've since heard that these valvetronic engines of BMW are nothing but unreliable pieces of crap. Should I sell this car and lose thousands, or what?

I'm sure the dealers are obligated to sort this, but only if it is based on work they have done?

What if none of that stuff ever needed doing, after all, the light is still coming on so it has been misdiagnosed four times now and run a bill up of over 2000?

I want to drive to A, the lake district, and B, Belgium. But I don't feel like I can go more than 20 miles from home in fear of this damn light coming on again.

Does anybody have any experience with this, or advice as to where I should go from here or what I should do?
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  #2  
Old 12-16-2012, 12:37 PM
SixPotPsyco SixPotPsyco is offline
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Hello I am new here too but I may be able to give you some advice. A few years ago I owned a 1999 Vauxhall Omega Elite 2.5 auto. This car was built in Germany and was a lovely ride but from time to time I had exactly the same problem. Start the car, put it in D and move off. 'CLUNK'......orange gearwheel with exclamation mark on dash. The warning on the computer said 'Auto Gearbox in Safe Mode'. Clunky gear changes and it seemed like the auto clutch was slipping. The only way to get rid of the problem was stop, turn off engine and re-start but bugger me 200 yards down the road it went again. It progressively got worse until I was at the point of not wanting to drive it at all. Anyway, I got on the forums and found out it was simply the gear selector switch. I dont know about the auto Beemers but this car had little orange LED's next to the gear selector ie, R,1,2,3,D,N,P had lights next to them and would light up next to the selected gear. When the problem ocurred all the lights would come on regardless of what gear you were in. It turned out to be the selector switch which was a small black box on the side of the gearbox containing nothing but a circuit board. When the gear lever was in say D, a linkage to this box would simlply light the LED to indicate what gear your in.......pretty pointless but what this simple fault did was freak out the computer and tell the engine management there was a gearbox fault hence it went into 'safe mode'.

Worth a look buddy as Im sure BMW will use the same principle. It was a 50 fix for the Omega and it 100% cured it. Good luck mate let me know how it goes.

Last edited by SixPotPsyco; 12-16-2012 at 12:41 PM.
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  #3  
Old 12-18-2012, 02:54 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Ok, they said the software needed updating and to re-set ECU etc. Took an hour to install. Told that should do it. Let's see if I can get to 400 miles this time without light coming on - fingers crossed.
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  #4  
Old 12-18-2012, 05:10 AM
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jonathan2263 jonathan2263 is offline
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We don't have your model on this side of the pond, but maybe we have similar trans problems.

Have you tried a drain, filter change and refill on your trans yet? That may help extend the life on a weak transmission.
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  #5  
Old 12-18-2012, 06:06 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Not changed trans oil or filter. I'll see how it goes now.
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  #6  
Old 12-18-2012, 12:13 PM
SixPotPsyco SixPotPsyco is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigel-Author View Post
Ok, they said the software needed updating and to re-set ECU etc. Took an hour to install. Told that should do it. Let's see if I can get to 400 miles this time without light coming on - fingers crossed.
Good luck mate fingers crossed. Keep us posted
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  #7  
Old 12-18-2012, 08:38 PM
vandyboy vandyboy is offline
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I assume you needed all the other stuff you have replaced, but this COG light/shifting issues sound like an electrical gremlin in the ECU. I have a friend who is a BMW tech and he has spoken to me about major ECU headaches like these in some 5 and 7 series. I hope the re-programming will fix it. Don't give up the ship just yet - you may wind up solving it plus you've done some other good work to it.

Last edited by vandyboy; 12-18-2012 at 08:43 PM.
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  #8  
Old 12-19-2012, 02:16 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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I'm assuming the other stuff needed changing also, after all, they all flagged up as faults in the system. I hope a software update and re-set will have sorted it. We shall see.

I do notice a slightly high pitched 'wind howling' kind of noise when I'm cruising and put gentle acceleration or deceleration. It is only tiny, but as a musician, I notice it. Never noticed this on previous other BMWs I've had, but I have never had a 2004 318i before.
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  #9  
Old 12-19-2012, 09:24 AM
wahine312 wahine312 is offline
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I just had a software update for my transmission issues (hard shifting intermittently).... here's hoping it's the fix we both need!
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  #10  
Old 12-19-2012, 12:17 PM
SixPotPsyco SixPotPsyco is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigel-Author View Post
I'm assuming the other stuff needed changing also, after all, they all flagged up as faults in the system. I hope a software update and re-set will have sorted it. We shall see.

I do notice a slightly high pitched 'wind howling' kind of noise when I'm cruising and put gentle acceleration or deceleration. It is only tiny, but as a musician, I notice it. Never noticed this on previous other BMWs I've had, but I have never had a 2004 318i before.
Lol musician too. How strange that we are very aware of noises. I love the exhaust note on my 2.2 six....it reminds me of the low-kick bass on the Roland TR808
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  #11  
Old 12-25-2012, 04:07 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Well, that didn't work. Took it back in and they said the Mass Airflow meter has gone, again. This was only changed 4 weeks ago, at a cost of 350. He is replacing it free of charge. But, I just know the damn light will come back on after a few weeks. This damn car is going on eBay.
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  #12  
Old 12-25-2012, 04:09 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SixPotPsyco View Post
Lol musician too. How strange that we are very aware of noises. I love the exhaust note on my 2.2 six....it reminds me of the low-kick bass on the Roland TR808
OMG, TR808, now there is a blast from the past

I knew I should have stuck with straight six 3 litre engine. This 2 litre thing with it's valvetronic system is total pants.
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  #13  
Old 12-25-2012, 04:35 AM
kmorgan_260 kmorgan_260 is offline
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Did anyone ever verify that the transmission fluid is at the proper level? I had a friend who had something similar with a 1998 318i and it turned out to be low fluid level due to a small leak in the transmission cooler.
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  #14  
Old 12-26-2012, 08:02 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Thanks kmorgan I will have them check that in the morning.
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  #15  
Old 12-31-2012, 09:32 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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How easy is it to check auto transmission oil to make sure the level is perfect? also, should it be done when cold, hot etc and what should the oil look like for signs of healthy auto box?
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  #16  
Old 12-31-2012, 10:08 AM
scarede46er scarede46er is offline
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I don't understand you op. You clearly have the car telling you that something is amiss with the transmission. Yet you have done work on every component except the one that is screaming faulty. Here is a thought: go to an Indy and have em do a transmission flush and refill for you making sure that there is no leak. If that doesn't solve it, time for a new tranny or at least some major work thereon. In my opinion the timing work was unneccesary. Please read the wiki.
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  #17  
Old 01-01-2013, 03:15 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Scarede, I am going by what the BMW Independent Specialist is telling me. He is saying it is not the gearbox and the issue is coming from the engine.
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  #18  
Old 01-01-2013, 05:19 PM
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SJBimmer SJBimmer is offline
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Nigel, do not give up!!! As you have found out, there is nothing more expensive than a cheap BMW, but you have just been to bad mechanics. Peruse the UK BMW boards to see if you can get a solid recommendation of a solid mechanic who guarantees their work. To be honest you should have specified to the others that if the problem is not solved, they will not be paid, and may have some recourse through a solicitor. If the right mechanic is not nearby, have the car flat bedded where it needs to go. As mentioned, you may just need fluid change, or solenoids in the trans. In any case, the mechanics you have been taking it to are parts changers , and not qualified to work on your car. A lot of that goes on here in the US too. Good luck, and hang in there!!
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  #19  
Old 01-04-2013, 09:47 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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SJBimmer, my car was not a cheap one. It has full BMW history and 1 careful owner.

Anyway, the damn light came on again and this time the mechanic says it can only be one of two things. First, the ECU, he wants to change this at a cost of about 1,000 for the ECU, plus 20 minutes labour. He also wants to take rocker cover off, again, and look inside. Then, if that doesn't work, he said it must be the valvetronic system jamming.

For the record, this is a top independent BMW specialist in the UK, not just some dodgy mechanic.
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  #20  
Old 01-12-2013, 08:26 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Ok, the engine ECU was replaced with a brand new one from BMW at a cost of 1,050.00. Now that it has been done, the garage said the 'voltage' is what it should be - before it was really low.

I have since done 155 miles in the car - so far, so good. But, I'm not getting too excited just yet as the light has come on in the past at 80, 157, 278 and 378 miles. So, if I can get to 500 miles I will start to relax and think it won't be back.
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  #21  
Old 01-13-2013, 11:13 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Well, just 306 miles with a brand new 1,000 ECU and the f*&&^^g light has come back on!!!

This car has now had a grand total of 2,750 from one garage, and 650 from another, go get rid of this light, yet it still remains.

I am out of money now, don't even have a penny left to get solicitors and courts involved int this.

Anybody have any suggestions as to what I can do?
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  #22  
Old 01-13-2013, 11:18 AM
scarede46er scarede46er is offline
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I don't want to say I told you so. But I told you so. People that claim to be BMW specialists are anything but. If you look thru the forums, you will see plenty of people with problems with the stupid BMW auto trans. My recommendation now would be to do a transmission fluid and filter change. Never trust the BMW recommendation that the fluid is lifetime. What have you done with the old ECu? Maybe you can sell it to get some money back.
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  #23  
Old 01-13-2013, 03:39 PM
kmorgan_260 kmorgan_260 is offline
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I would tell them to put my old ECU back and refund my money for the new one. Why they would think it was bad based on your problem is beyond me. All along the car has consistently indicated the fault is in the transmission but as yet no mechanic has offered to look there. IF you decide to take it back to the shop I would insist that they do a fluid and filter change. Not sure what they charge for that but it takes no more than 1 hour to do. The filter shouldn't be that much unless it is integral to the pan like the e90. I have only done this on e36 and e90 so am not sure about e46. I would guess it is similar to the e36. The fluid can be expensive depending on the type but I am guessing it is Dexron VI so not all that much. This is money well spent unless you have evidence that it was done in the last 50K miles and I would recommend it even if I wasn't having trouble with the tranny.
Good luck!
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  #24  
Old 01-17-2013, 07:48 AM
Nigel-Author Nigel-Author is offline
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Trans fluid and filter change is 290
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  #25  
Old 01-17-2013, 08:09 AM
scarede46er scarede46er is offline
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that's expensive! but then I don't know much about the UK market. Between the high taxes and bad weather. you guys are ****ed arent ya? lol
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