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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 09-29-2013, 11:46 PM
e46_platform e46_platform is online now
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Mein Auto: 2002 330Ci 5M sport
battery light not on when key at ON position + dash lights acting up

if i remember correctly, battery light goes on in red when the key is at ON position.

observations:
1. when key at ON position, only oil pressure light and SES are on (normal). battery light is not on
2. when the engine is started, oil pressure and SES lights go off (again, normal), and if i turn on headlamp and/or fog lights, three dash lights come on in yellow: BRAKE, ABS and DSC lights.


Here goes the story:

on this Sunday afternoon, i did the following:
1) performed the engine cleaning procedure: when engine oil is 1 qt low, added 1 qt of ATF, run engine at fast idle (2k - 2.5k rpm) for 20 min.
2) drained oil (used fluid extractor) and filled with GTX 10w40 (traditional oil)
3) washed car
4) did a 20 - 30 min. back road fun drive aggressively while maintaining rev between 4.5k and 6k rpm most the time. of course it took me about 10+ min. in slow local traffic to get to the starting point of the back road fun drive

note: in case you guys ask me why i didn't use synthetic oil: except for step 3, these are recommended by Fast_Bob as a way to clean the engine and let the oil-control rings on the pistons sit properly

when i started the car after oil changed, oil pressure light came on in red for a couple of seconds then went off. my thinking was that the fluid extractor i used really sucked almost absolutely all oil out and after refill, new oil didn't get to every spot yet, so this may not be a problem.
when i started driving, i kinda felt like the engine is a bit noisier at accelerations. but the different is so subtle that it may just be my mind or ears. or probably the different oil (traditional and different weight than what i usually use) did make some subtle difference. i couldn't really tell the difference later on.
when i reached the mountain area, as the sun was setting, i turned on the headlamps and the fog lights (not my habit, but to see the ground more clearly while doing the back road fun drive). a few minutes into the fun drive, the battery light came on in red. i lowered my revs a bit (down to range of 3k-4k rpm). a short time later, the BRAKE, ABS and DSC lights came on in yellow. then went off after a short while, but the battery light stayed on in red. i tried to rev it up again and the battery light went off as well.

at this point, i kept in mind a little worry and resumed the fun drive. dash lights had been acting normally since that point. DSC was triggered a couple times during the fun drive as well, and everything seemed normal, until about half way into the local traffic trip after the fun drive. BRAKE, ABS and DSC lights came on in yellow again, then i turned of A/C (it had been on), but the three lights stayed on all the way till i reached home. when i was very near home, the clock and radio LCD turned off as well, and the radio anti-theft light started flashing as if the car were parked and locked. but i was still driving at that time!!!

about 10 min. after i shut off the engine, the oil level was measured at 99%
i tried to turn the key to ON position and saw that battery light didn't come on any more. i started the engine again. it didn't take long to turn over the engine, but the cranking seemed a bit weak and noticeably unusual.

when the engine was idling, i played around with the front lights....
- if no front lights or only parking lamps are on (side lamps for front and rear), all dash lights are normal.
- if headlamps and/or fog lights are on, BRAKE, ABS and DSC lights may or may not came on in yellow at the beginning, but then after a few tries, they consistently come on when headlamps and/or fog lights turned on.



facts
1. car is a 2002 330Ci 5-spd with sport package
2. no codes found using my low-end OBD-II scanner
3. car runs just fine
4. brake fluid level is fine (slightly below max)
5. battery is almost 5 years old. it's the autozone one that has 7 year warranty
6. i did a voltage measure after everything described above happened. it reads 11.89 volts
7. i checked the connectors conditions on the battery under the trunk and they looked fine
8. car started just fine when i started it for the fast idling and started out for the fun drive right after oil change and car wash. and i had only one attempt to crank it since those two. that was the only time the cranking sounded a bit weak but still started under a normal amount of time
9. the clock/radio LCD went off just that once when i was reaching home. later on when i turned on the electricity or start the car, this LCD came on just fine.
10. the rubber to seal the gap between lower end of the windshield and the rear end of the hood has a hole and it's covered by duck tape (see attached photo)



suspicions
1. time for a new battery?
2. during car wash (hand wash by myself) and perhaps including previous rains, water got through the hole under windshield and somehow shorted the battery. i've asked a respectful windshield shop; they said it's ok to let water go in from there, because it will just drain out without touching anything important. is that true?
3. oil dropped to alternator belt/pulley from oil filter housing during my oil change. so it slips and alternator isn't spinning?
4. drive belt or pulley slipping while i was constantly revving up the engine during the fun drive, so alternator couldn't charge the battery?
5. alternator went bad due to age?



i just learned about parasitic drain test from
it's a bit late now, i will try that tomorrow after work (lucky that i can carpool tomorrow)

sorry for the long story, but i'm just trying to recollect all the pieces that may be useful
just wanted to collect any thoughts from you knowledgeable people, before i throw a new battery in




photo taken when i just reached home, parked the car, but before turning off the engine



when key is at ON position



when the car started again, at idle, and fog lights and/or headlamps turned on (if i remember correctly, BRAKE dash light will turn to yellow if i release the handbrake in this situation)



rubber hole fix
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Last edited by e46_platform; 09-30-2013 at 01:41 AM.
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  #2  
Old 09-30-2013, 03:55 AM
my05crf280 my05crf280 is offline
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Mein Auto: 2000 323i 5spd
11.98 volts is kinda low. Is that with the car running? If thats with your car running I suspect your alternator is on its way out. Sustained high rpms can work an old alternator over pretty hard. Troubleshooting electronics can be a major pain. As for the battery, It's easiest to either replace an old battery first or at least have it tested. Good luck and keep us posted.
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  #3  
Old 09-30-2013, 08:12 AM
e46_platform e46_platform is online now
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Mein Auto: 2002 330Ci 5M sport
Quote:
Originally Posted by my05crf280 View Post
11.98 volts is kinda low. Is that with the car running? If thats with your car running I suspect your alternator is on its way out. Sustained high rpms can work an old alternator over pretty hard. Troubleshooting electronics can be a major pain. As for the battery, It's easiest to either replace an old battery first or at least have it tested. Good luck and keep us posted.
thanks mate!

11.89 volts was measured when engine was off.
i haven't tried to crank the engine since then.

good to know that high rpms can work an old alternator over pretty hard. i haven't been able to link the symptoms to whatever i've done. now this is the only connection i can see.

after work today, i will:
1. measure voltage again when engine off
2. try to crank it, and if it starts, i'll measure voltage when it's running - this will tell whether alternator is dying (i should expect at least 14 volts, right?)
3. when it's off again, i'll make sure all electrical components are off, and measure the current drawn - this will tell whether there's parasitic drain

will post results once done.
if 2. and 3. turn out to be normal, it's definitely the battery, hopefully

Last edited by e46_platform; 09-30-2013 at 08:16 AM.
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  #4  
Old 09-30-2013, 09:07 AM
my05crf280 my05crf280 is offline
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Mein Auto: 2000 323i 5spd
I would think at least 13.5 while running. Every alternator will probably measure a little different. If it shows sufficient voltage turn on some devices like the radio and defroster to see how low the voltage drops. Be careful testing current draw. A lot of people blow meters by either trying to crank the starter or other high current surges.
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  #5  
Old 09-30-2013, 10:47 PM
e46_platform e46_platform is online now
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Join Date: Nov 2008
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Mein Auto: 2002 330Ci 5M sport
Quote:
Originally Posted by my05crf280 View Post
11.98 volts is kinda low. Is that with the car running? If thats with your car running I suspect your alternator is on its way out. Sustained high rpms can work an old alternator over pretty hard. Troubleshooting electronics can be a major pain. As for the battery, It's easiest to either replace an old battery first or at least have it tested. Good luck and keep us posted.
mate, i think you nailed it. it is the alternator.
and as i said, this is the only logical relation between the symptoms and what the car had been through.

when i got back today, i measured the voltage w/o starting the car, and it was the same as yesterday. 11.89 volts. in fact, my multimeter's cables are a little loose, after changing them, it measured 11.94 volts. i think this already tells me that there's no parasitic drain as 20+ hours later, battery is able to maintain the same voltage level.

then i started the car. with only 11.9 volts, it started just fine. obviously better than the last crank yesterday, which was the only weak crank.
but guess what, while the engine is running, voltage measured is only 10.4 volts and keeps dropping gradually.
as soon as i fired up the car, all dash lights were normal. after i measured the voltage and went back to the driver's seat, DSC light already came on. before long, i shut off the engine and concluded the death of my alternator.
after shutting off the car, i measured the voltage again. it then dropped to 11.3 volts from 11.9 volts.


now the question is, do we even care what brand and specs for a new alternator?
and does a new alternator usually come with the voltage regulator?


thanks guys!

Last edited by e46_platform; 09-30-2013 at 10:49 PM.
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  #6  
Old 10-02-2013, 10:11 PM
e46_platform e46_platform is online now
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Mein Auto: 2002 330Ci 5M sport
took both the alternator and the battery to autozone to test
battery is good; can be fully charged
alternator failed all tests

so i expected that when i put the fully charged battery back in place, i should see the battery light on dashboard back on while my key is at ON position.
but it didn't happen!

anyone has any idea why that happens and what it really indicates?

btw, new alternator is ordered and on its way
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  #7  
Old 10-03-2013, 05:37 AM
my05crf280 my05crf280 is offline
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Relax. Install the alternator and go from there. Im pretty confident your problem will b fixed. If anything trickle charge 5he battery so its ready.
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  #8  
Old 10-04-2013, 06:32 PM
e46_platform e46_platform is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by my05crf280 View Post
Relax. Install the alternator and go from there. Im pretty confident your problem will b fixed. If anything trickle charge 5he battery so its ready.
you are so right, mate!

put in the new alternator. it's all good!
even before starting, i tried to turn the key to ON position. the battery light is back on (expected).
that indicator must be able to detect the failure of some circuitry in the alternator (probably the rectifier?)

one strange thing is.... when i reinstalled the battery (took it out to charge up in autozone), the plate to hold it down from the top can't press down to the battery. it's like the battery sits lower than before. i don't see how that is possible though.
it's the autozone 94DL battery, which has been in this car for almost 5 years.
i just inserted a couple pieces of wood between the plate and the battery top now.

Last edited by e46_platform; 10-04-2013 at 06:33 PM.
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  #9  
Old 10-04-2013, 11:46 PM
e46_platform e46_platform is online now
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Mein Auto: 2002 330Ci 5M sport
oh... one thing i forgot to mention... junks in cooling duct of the alternator
as some of the threads (e.g. http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...ght=alternator) mentioned, this is commonly seen.

so when i installed the new alternator, i actually removed the flexible part of the air tube.
now my new alternator isn't connected to the air tube, but the cover is still there with the opening facing downwards.
do you guys see any risk of lack of cooling capability for the alternator?
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  #10  
Old 10-07-2013, 12:46 PM
my05crf280 my05crf280 is offline
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I would only do that if u do not install the large plastic cover that closes off the whole engine compartment. Only one way to find out though.
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