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E60 (2004 - 2010)
BMW 5-Series (E60 chassis) was first seen in the Unites States in the fall of 2003 with a 2004 Model Year designation. The E60 is now available as a 528i, 528xi, 535i, 535xi, 550i and a 535xi sports wagon! -- View the E60 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 03-17-2014, 06:21 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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Rough idle and carbon build up on plugs

I couldn't find a post with exactly the same set of symptoms. I'd appreciate it if someone would point me in the right direction if this has been covered before.
I have a 2007 525i, so N52 engine. It was silky smooth until it reached 100,000 miles last year, at which point it acquired the vibration at idle that seems so common. The engine idles around 600rpm and the vibration comes in waves. Given that it is common and doesn't seem serious - just annoying - I was going to let it go. However, the spark plugs I removed at 100,000 miles looked like new and the ones I put in are covered with carbon deposits after 20,000 miles. I'm wondering if it is connected.
Given that it's all six plugs and the engine isn't losing oil, I assume that the carbon build up is due to a rich fuel mixture. However, I'm not getting any codes. I would suspect the MAF sensor or oxygen sensors but the MAF sensor was replaced last year and my gas mileage is good (>30mpg highway, which is where I do all my driving). Does anyone have any ideas on what could be causing the carbon build up on the plugs and if it's related to the rough idle?
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  #2  
Old 03-18-2014, 06:45 AM
HPIA4v2 HPIA4v2 is offline
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hard to diagnose unless you read the code, even a small fault will be logged and you can read them using a good diagnostic tools.

wild guess, either you have a leak in air intake, dying coil-packs or like you said bad O2 sensor or MAF
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:42 AM
pcy pcy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrobert View Post
...
I have a 2007 525i, so N52 engine...
Does anyone have any ideas on what could be causing the carbon build up on the plugs and if it's related to the rough idle?
Which fuel do you use?
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  #4  
Old 03-18-2014, 03:19 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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I'm going to show my ignorance here. Can codes be generated without any warning lights showing up? I haven't had a warning light of any sort in the last year and the ones that appeared a year ago were cleared up at the time (that's when the MAF sensor was replace). This is why I wrote that there are no codes.

HPIA4v2 mentioned coils. Is it likely that all six would start to die at the same time? All six plugs have the same carbon coating, which is why I was leaning towards the fuel mixture.

pcy, I use 93 octane and stick to newer, busier gas stations but that sometimes means driving past Chevron or Exxon to go into Costco. I don't stick with the top tier brands. It's probably a 50:50 mix of top tier and other. I put a bottle of Techron into the gas tank ever few months to compensate for any shortage of detergents. I covered 56,000 miles in the car using the same gas without having any issues.

Thanks
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  #5  
Old 03-18-2014, 03:25 PM
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kskane kskane is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrobert View Post
I'm going to show my ignorance here. Can codes be generated without any warning lights showing up? I haven't had a warning light of any sort in the last year and the ones that appeared a year ago were cleared up at the time (that's when the MAF sensor was replace). This is why I wrote that there are no codes.

HPIA4v2 mentioned coils. Is it likely that all six would start to die at the same time? All six plugs have the same carbon coating, which is why I was leaning towards the fuel mixture.

pcy, I use 93 octane and stick to newer, busier gas stations but that sometimes means driving past Chevron or Exxon to go into Costco. I don't stick with the top tier brands. It's probably a 50:50 mix of top tier and other. I put a bottle of Techron into the gas tank ever few months to compensate for any shortage of detergents. I covered 56,000 miles in the car using the same gas without having any issues.

Thanks
@OP, you may want to read the thread below on engine vibration. There are some suggestion, and I have been trying to chase this for over a year now.
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  #6  
Old 03-18-2014, 04:06 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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kskane, somehow I missed your thread when I was looking for information. You've been working hard on a solution for this. I don't know if we have exactly the same issue though. The idle on your car is impacted by the a/c being on or off and I think you said that moving it out of gear also impacts the vibration. This isn't the case on mine. Once the engine warms up, the revs sit at 600rpm no matter what electrical devices are switched on or where the gear lever is.
If I put my foot on the gas pedal and raise the revs to 650 or above, the car is perfectly steady so I think getting the dealer to raise the idle speed would probably eliminate the idle vibration but I worry about the dirty spark plugs. I kinda like the low idle speed as it is going to show up any imperfection in the combustion process and I reckon that's where I have a problem. Someone on your thread mentioned looking for a vacuum leak and HPIA4v2 mentioned the same thing. I'll try to find time to look for this at the weekend.
Many thanks.
BTW, I use Mobil1 0W40, same as you. I know that was one avenue you were investigating.
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  #7  
Old 03-18-2014, 04:19 PM
H F H F is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrobert View Post
I'm going to show my ignorance here. Can codes be generated without any warning lights showing up? I haven't had a warning light of any sort in the last year and the ones that appeared a year ago were cleared up at the time (that's when the MAF sensor was replace). This is why I wrote that there are no codes.

HPIA4v2 mentioned coils. Is it likely that all six would start to die at the same time? All six plugs have the same carbon coating, which is why I was leaning towards the fuel mixture.

pcy, I use 93 octane and stick to newer, busier gas stations but that sometimes means driving past Chevron or Exxon to go into Costco. I don't stick with the top tier brands. It's probably a 50:50 mix of top tier and other. I put a bottle of Techron into the gas tank ever few months to compensate for any shortage of detergents. I covered 56,000 miles in the car using the same gas without having any issues.

Thanks
I suggest you drive past Costco , and start pulling into Chevron. I had my injectors out not too long ago and was amazed at how clean the injectors looked,, they were spot less. So I'm sold on Chevron . Here's a pic, not a good one but you can see how clean they look.

Managed to dig up a couple better ones
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  #8  
Old 03-18-2014, 04:29 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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HF, how big a job was it to pull the injectors? If it's not too complicated then it might be worthwhile for me to do so I can check for 'gunk'. Worst case, I get to rule out one suspect.
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  #9  
Old 03-18-2014, 04:36 PM
H F H F is offline
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Originally Posted by jrobert View Post
HF, how big a job was it to pull the injectors? If it's not too complicated then it might be worthwhile for me to do so I can check for 'gunk'. Worst case, I get to rule out one suspect.
Not to hard actually ,,I think yours are probably easier to pull out. Not sure here , but if your plugs are caked with carbon I would almost bet the farm that so are your injectors. Dirty injectors will for sure give you a rough idle ..
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  #10  
Old 03-18-2014, 04:42 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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Originally Posted by H F View Post
Not to hard actually ,,I think yours are probably easier to pull out. Not sure here , but if your plugs are caked with carbon I would almost bet the farm that so are your injectors. Dirty injectors will for sure give you a rough idle ..
Add it to my list of weekend jobs. I'll look for a thread on pulling the injectors.
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  #11  
Old 03-18-2014, 04:49 PM
HPIA4v2 HPIA4v2 is offline
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all 6-sparkplugs caked up with carbon, like you said it runs rich.
The only time I had a car like that was when the EGR(exhaust gas return) messed up. Car was smoking too though.
The common problem with BMW, driven very short distance would be clogged CCV, then the circulating of that unburn gas is affected. @120k miles something you may want to just replace. Not bad on inline-6, I did mine on V8 cause as preventative maintenance, then I found frailed vaccum line as well, so checl those vacuum lines.

Do you drive the car long distance? or short distance? (usually)

yes if you have diagnostic tools, it'll register small faults (no CEL on dash board).

GL.
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  #12  
Old 03-18-2014, 04:51 PM
H F H F is offline
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Originally Posted by jrobert View Post
Add it to my list of weekend jobs. I'll look for a thread on pulling the injectors.
Ya , put in a fresh set of plugs , clean the injectors with a brass brush and carb cleaner. Then switch to chevron and top off the tank ,, and it should run smooth again.

When I had my injectors out I just turned 100,000 miles, and have only used Chevron gas. When U take yours out post some pics. I'm curios at what yours are going to look like,, just to see what the difference is.
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  #13  
Old 03-18-2014, 05:06 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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Originally Posted by HPIA4v2 View Post
all 6-sparkplugs caked up with carbon, like you said it runs rich.
The only time I had a car like that was when the EGR(exhaust gas return) messed up. Car was smoking too though.
The common problem with BMW, driven very short distance would be clogged CCV, then the circulating of that unburn gas is affected. @120k miles something you may want to just replace. Not bad on inline-6, I did mine on V8 cause as preventative maintenance, then I found frailed vaccum line as well, so checl those vacuum lines.

Do you drive the car long distance? or short distance? (usually)

yes if you have diagnostic tools, it'll register small faults (no CEL on dash board).

GL.
Probably 95% of the miles I drive are on the highway. I typically do 4 runs of 550 miles each month. Thanks for the information on the diagnostic tool. I haven't invested in one because I assumed that with there being no CEL, there weren't any codes.

There is no smoke coming from the exhaust. I don't know if that rules out the EGR.

Last edited by jrobert; 03-18-2014 at 05:12 PM.
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  #14  
Old 03-18-2014, 05:09 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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Originally Posted by H F View Post
Ya , put in a fresh set of plugs , clean the injectors with a brass brush and carb cleaner. Then switch to chevron and top off the tank ,, and it should run smooth again.

When I had my injectors out I just turned 100,000 miles, and have only used Chevron gas. When U take yours out post some pics. I'm curios at what yours are going to look like,, just to see what the difference is.
I'm interested to see them too. I'll post pictures. The kids' soccer season has just started so it might be a few weekends before I get to this one. I'll start by checking for vacuum leaks this weekend.
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  #15  
Old 03-18-2014, 06:14 PM
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kskane kskane is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrobert View Post
kskane, somehow I missed your thread when I was looking for information. You've been working hard on a solution for this. I don't know if we have exactly the same issue though. The idle on your car is impacted by the a/c being on or off and I think you said that moving it out of gear also impacts the vibration. This isn't the case on mine. Once the engine warms up, the revs sit at 600rpm no matter what electrical devices are switched on or where the gear lever is.
If I put my foot on the gas pedal and raise the revs to 650 or above, the car is perfectly steady so I think getting the dealer to raise the idle speed would probably eliminate the idle vibration but I worry about the dirty spark plugs. I kinda like the low idle speed as it is going to show up any imperfection in the combustion process and I reckon that's where I have a problem. Someone on your thread mentioned looking for a vacuum leak and HPIA4v2 mentioned the same thing. I'll try to find time to look for this at the weekend.
Many thanks.
BTW, I use Mobil1 0W40, same as you. I know that was one avenue you were investigating.
I changed my oil from Mobil to a local oil in AU. As for the vibration, yes the bottom line is the engine vibrates at idle either in D or R and the RPMs are at 600. I have tried to tweak around with INPA and DIS and managed to get the RPMs at 750 on idle, but it does not stay there for long. Final suspect for me is in that thread, but I heard from guy here on the forums that maybe seafoam is a solution but haven't had time to check it out yet.

As for vacuum leak, that was grimma and he fixed the vacuum leak and it still vibrates. I have M54 engine, compared to yours N52. Does your engine has ICV?
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  #16  
Old 03-18-2014, 06:34 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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Originally Posted by kskane View Post
I changed my oil from Mobil to a local oil in AU. As for the vibration, yes the bottom line is the engine vibrates at idle either in D or R and the RPMs are at 600. I have tried to tweak around with INPA and DIS and managed to get the RPMs at 750 on idle, but it does not stay there for long. Final suspect for me is in that thread, but I heard from guy here on the forums that maybe seafoam is a solution but haven't had time to check it out yet.

As for vacuum leak, that was grimma and he fixed the vacuum leak and it still vibrates. I have M54 engine, compared to yours N52. Does your engine has ICV?
I think the N52 has an ICV but don't quote me on that. It's not something I've investigated (yet).

I did try Seafoam last year but only as a fuel additive. From what I've read, you need to be a bit more aggressive in its use than that. I've read posts from some people who swear by it and others who think it's snake oil. It didn't do anything for my car when I poured it in the fuel tank.

A vacuum leak would explain the deposits on my spark plugs, which is why I think it's worth a look. I'm associating the vibration with the fouled plugs, which may be a bad assumption, but the plugs are probably something I need to worry about more than the vibration.

I assume changing oil didn't make any difference as you still have the vibration.

One other thing I tried, and this was a bit of a long shot, was to check the torque on the spark plugs. I read that getting this wrong could impact your idle, as well as fouling the plugs. It didn't do anything for me but perhaps worth trying if you haven't done it yet.

Last edited by jrobert; 03-18-2014 at 06:35 PM.
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  #17  
Old 03-19-2014, 04:35 PM
banglenot banglenot is offline
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JR, just a preliminary suggestion in addition to the above. Try a bottle of Techron in each tank for a few tanks. I also use Chevron for that reason, but I also had a idle vibration problem last year. Two tanks of 93 with a bottle of Techron helped quite a bit.

One other thought. Take it out and run it at 5-6K for about 10 minutes on the highway (3rd or 4th gear). Just keep it steady, but really heat it up. Then go home, let it cool and check a plug or two. You may find you have an intermittent short-mileage driving profile, which will crap up these engines. I have to take mine out for a good hot run every so often to keep it running well.

Other issues may still be present, of course, but this is a cheap way to help things along.
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Old 03-19-2014, 04:42 PM
banglenot banglenot is offline
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Originally Posted by jrobert View Post
I'm going to show my ignorance here. Can codes be generated without any warning lights showing up? I haven't had a warning light of any sort in the last year and the ones that appeared a year ago were cleared up at the time (that's when the MAF sensor was replace). This is why I wrote that there are no codes.

HPIA4v2 mentioned coils. Is it likely that all six would start to die at the same time? All six plugs have the same carbon coating, which is why I was leaning towards the fuel mixture.

pcy, I use 93 octane and stick to newer, busier gas stations but that sometimes means driving past Chevron or Exxon to go into Costco. I don't stick with the top tier brands. It's probably a 50:50 mix of top tier and other. I put a bottle of Techron into the gas tank ever few months to compensate for any shortage of detergents. I covered 56,000 miles in the car using the same gas without having any issues.

Thanks
Yes. There is something called information memory in the controllers, which records all intermittent codes. You can have many codes that never light up the SES light. They can provide guidance diagnose transitional matters. INPA can read them. Not sure if BMWhat can (anyone know?)
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  #19  
Old 03-19-2014, 05:16 PM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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Originally Posted by banglenot View Post
JR, just a preliminary suggestion in addition to the above. Try a bottle of Techron in each tank for a few tanks. I also use Chevron for that reason, but I also had a idle vibration problem last year. Two tanks of 93 with a bottle of Techron helped quite a bit.

One other thought. Take it out and run it at 5-6K for about 10 minutes on the highway (3rd or 4th gear). Just keep it steady, but really heat it up. Then go home, let it cool and check a plug or two. You may find you have an intermittent short-mileage driving profile, which will crap up these engines. I have to take mine out for a good hot run every so often to keep it running well.

Other issues may still be present, of course, but this is a cheap way to help things along.
I use Techron but I haven't tried putting it into a series of back-to-back tanks. As you say, it's a cheap way to try something new.

Although almost all of my miles are accumulated on the highway, I drive like an old woman (no offence to any old women out there who drive like demons) so the engine doesn't get revved much. I basically sit with the engine at 2,700 rpm for hours. Could that lead to build up?
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Old 03-19-2014, 07:32 PM
schpenxel schpenxel is offline
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Originally Posted by banglenot View Post
Yes. There is something called information memory in the controllers, which records all intermittent codes. You can have many codes that never light up the SES light. They can provide guidance diagnose transitional matters. INPA can read them. Not sure if BMWhat can (anyone know?)
BMWhat should be able to.. it showed a few on mine that don't light up any error lights (like aux water pump)
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  #21  
Old 03-19-2014, 09:04 PM
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Try something almost totally free. Go drive in a low gear with revs above 4500 for 4 minutes. Then let it idle and see if it is smooth. Low revs don't rotate valves much if at all. When the seats get deposits it will cause rough running. 4 valve per cylinder engines use weak valve springs due to smaller and lighter valves. When the revs are higher the coils springs get a bit of resonance and the valves end up doing a little twist and it affords a little seat cleaning. I don't believe the rocker arm tips on BMW have any offset but on many engines the rocker arms are not centered and the faint offset of rocker will rotate valve as it wipes across valve tip. The rotating valve deal was big news in the 60's as it was supposedly the answer to burnt valves which were common in those days. Some makers used two piece spring retainers so the valve could rotate free from spring.

Steady light load driving was the cause of a phenomena (not on BMW's that I recall) called lawn mower syndrome. You'd do slow traffic commute and exhaust valve stem coked oil deposits and valve seat deposits would set the stage for LMS. You'd start the engine back out of garage and kill engine. Get mower out and cut grass and do chores and then at end of the day you'd crank car and pull it into garage and kill engine. The two short runs of very rich mixture with raw fuel and the normal condensation that is part of the the first seconds of cold engine running out of exhaust would dissolve the coked oil and make a sludge on the exh valve stems. The hydraulic tappets rely on continual valve spring pressure or the oil pressure extends tappets. The sludge would dampen the valve motion and tappet would extend a wee bit. You'd come out the next morning and the engine would sort of try to start and go dead and then would not start and the starter would spin engine over noticeably fast. the low compression of the not fully closed valves would let plugs fuel foul from incomplete combustion. The fix was extended cranking with throttle open and then the valves would free and flooding would clear. Then you go drive several minutes at high revs in low gear and then change the oil (fuel from flooding in the oil). Some car makers with this issue had revised spark plugs with increased resistance to fuel fouling (double platinum or narrow point iridium) that would be installed. The high rev drive was in the manufacturer's service bulletin.
Anyway, my point is that slow light driving is a known contributor to performance degradation and high rev driving is a known remedy and can be a way to head off the problem.
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Old 03-19-2014, 11:10 PM
H F H F is offline
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JR,
One other thought. Take it out and run it at 5-6K for about 10 minutes on the highway (3rd or 4th gear).

+1000 . I'm a firm believer of this. But I do a once a month 1 -2 hr mountain drive . In and out of 2 to 3d at 5500 rpm's in and out of s turns . On my 545 I have the secondary air system and I beleive a good dose of high rpm's for these cars is a good thing , it blows all the carbon out .
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Old 03-20-2014, 04:26 PM
banglenot banglenot is offline
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+1000 . I'm a firm believer of this. But I do a once a month 1 -2 hr mountain drive . In and out of 2 to 3d at 5500 rpm's in and out of s turns . On my 545 I have the secondary air system and I beleive a good dose of high rpm's for these cars is a good thing , it blows all the carbon out .
Back in the day, Gramps used to say that all the time as an excuse to drive the crap out of the car.

Grandma would snicker and shrug, and say, "yes John, have a good time"...

Interestingly, on todays' BMW's its true....
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Old 03-20-2014, 05:23 PM
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kskane kskane is online now
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.....but the plugs are probably something I need to worry about more than the vibration...
Quote:
Originally Posted by banglenot View Post
.....Try a bottle of Techron in each tank for a few tanks. .......
One other thought. Take it out and run it at 5-6K for about 10 minutes on the highway (3rd or 4th gear). Just keep it steady, but really heat it up. Then go home, let it cool and check a plug or two. You may find you have an intermittent short-mileage driving profile, which will crap up these engines. I have to take mine out for a good hot run every so often to keep it running well....
I changed my spark plugs with new NGK's (OEM) and problem still exist.

I have used the Techron in the fuel tank with 50L fuel, and that made no difference to the vibration.

@banglenot, can you explain the theory behind running the engine the way you mentioned above? What would it do apart from what you have already mentioned. I found it interesting, but strange.
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Old 03-22-2014, 07:13 AM
jrobert jrobert is offline
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I changed my spark plugs with new NGK's (OEM) and problem still exist.

I have used the Techron in the fuel tank with 50L fuel, and that made no difference to the vibration.

@banglenot, can you explain the theory behind running the engine the way you mentioned above? What would it do apart from what you have already mentioned. I found it interesting, but strange.
I tried the hot engine routine yesterday. I was on a long run and kept the engine above 4K rpm for about ten miles, let it drive normally for a half hour, and then drove for another 10 miles with the engine above 4K rpm. I didn't expect it to do much for my engine given the amount of highway driving I do. The only thing that happened was that a transmission whine started up. Fortunately, it didn't last for long. There was no impact on the vibration. I haven't checked the plugs.

I've ordered an OBDII connector through Amazon and I'll turn my laptop or iphone into a code reader when that arrives. I'll let folk know what I find.
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