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E36 (1991 - 1999)
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Old 04-20-2020, 11:01 AM
Sharsh01 Sharsh01 is offline
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95 318i Cranks but Won't Start

I am helping my neighbor troubleshoot his 95 318i with a standard transmission. He replaced the motor due to a valve chain guide breaking. He installed a rebuilt M42 engine (not the same engine that broke). The car did start and run with the new engine and from what I have been told it ran very well. It started and ran numerous times while in the garage and on jack stands. He took it off the jack stands, restarted it, and drove it just outside of the garage where he left it idling. I am not sure how long he left it idling, but he said after a little bit it started to spit, sputter, and backfire then shut off. After that it would not restart. He is an old school engine builder and not an electrical guy so he has been throwing parts at it. Which is where I come in. I have been an electronics technician for the past 30 years and have built and repaired a number of engines in my days.

Before I got involved the owner had replaced the fuel pump and DME relays. I have also tested the oxygen sensor relay and it is good. All of the fuses test good. The owner stated he had 200 psi of compression across the board. I am sure each cylinder wasn't exactly 200, but I am willing to say they are close.

The cam and crank position sensors, fuel pump, fuel filter, idle air control, throttle position sensor, coil pack, battery, ignition switch, plug wires, and plugs are all new.

The coils all measured .6 ohms, which is in the middle of what they should measure. The plug wires were (1-4 respectively) 5.4K, 5.3K, 4.7K, 5.4K ohms. Number three is a bit lower, but It should be fine.

I checked for spark on each plug by pulling them, grounding the body, and looking for spark when cranking. Each plug has spark.

The crank sensor reads 542 ohms and the cam sensor reads 1326 ohms. Both are within the 10% margin.

Fuel pressure is 48psi when cranking.

I back probed the injectors and they are receiving pulsed signals from the DME. They are also receiving correct power. Pulled the intake manifold to pull the fuel rail. With the fuel rail removed I jumped the fuel relay to make sure I had flow to the rail. That would confirm there isn't a pinch or blockage from the pump to the fuel rail. Good to go. With the fuel rail pulled and fuel lines extended and reconnected I placed a large pail under the injectors and cranked the engine. The injectors pumped fuel in what looked to me a nice strong ^ pattern. The return line had plenty of fuel coming out of it as well.

Blew air into the return line to the tank to make sure there isn't a blockage there. All good.

Cleared the cylinders by removing the plugs, putting a little bit of oil in each cylinder, pulled the fuel pump fuse, cranked the engine for 15 seconds. Everything back together and the car still won't start.

Opened the DME and found a little bit of corrosion. Cleaned that up and with a magnifying glass looked at every solder joint for cracks or bad connections. None found.

Before I got involved the owner hooked up an OBD1 scan tool, but it did not pull any codes. I performed the stomp test, but I can't even get it to go into the initial routine. The CEL just stays solidly illuminated.

I did some reading on DME's and the EWS systems. This car was manufactured in Jan 95. However, it does not have the ESW II system. The VIN on the DME matches the vehicle VIN plates. FWIW the DME has the maroon sticker on it.

All of the fuel has been drained from the tank. I even pulled the fuel pump and manually removed what little fuel was left in the bottom and the plastic cup that surrounds the fuel pump filter. 5 gallons of new fuel was added. Hooked up an extension on the output of the fuel rail and jumped the fuel pump really to push any old fuel out of the lines.

Checked the air flow meter and I have correct voltage going to it. I also have a varying resistance as I manually operate the door. When trying to start the car you can see the door open when the car chugs occasionally like it wants to start.

When we try to start the car it just cranks over. Every now and again it chugs a bit and will run for maybe a second before it stops. About the only thing left I can think of is that the DME is bad. I have some videos I can upload later to show what it does when trying to start.

Last edited by Sharsh01; 04-20-2020 at 11:06 AM.
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Old 04-20-2020, 06:37 PM
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dc_wright dc_wright is offline
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You mentioned a bit of corrosion in the DME. Did the owner happen to give the car a wash in between when it was running and when it wasn't, or did it sit out in a heavy rain?

The reason I'm asking is the back of the DME compartment is open to the cowl area for ventilation. Unfortunately the cowl area drains can get clogged or plugged and the DME compartment floods.
There is always some level of power in the DME so it usually winds up cooked when it gets flooded.
Just a wild guess but it sounds like you're dealing with a bad DME is why I'm suggesting the above.
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Old 04-20-2020, 06:50 PM
Sharsh01 Sharsh01 is offline
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No washing between when it ran and didn't. The car has been in a garage for at least the past 4 months so it hasn't been sitting in the weather. The DME compartment looks to be fairly clear of rust.

The owner supposedly has a DME coming from a running 95 car. I just worry that the DME he gets will be from a car with the EWS II system. If that is the case it would be looking for a signal from the EWS II system. However, from what I have read I can swap the chip from the current DME into the other DME and it should work.

I was doing some reading today and found a thread on this forum where someone had a similar no start issue. He took his car to a BMW dealership who diagnosed a bad harmonic balancer. He was told that the rubber inside had deteriorated which lead to a huge vibe that triggered the knock sensors and retarded the timing to a point that it wouldn't start.

Towards the end yesterday I started to hear a little squeaking in one of the pulleys when we were cranking. When I get a chance I am going to go over and see if anything looks off with the balancer. It is attached the the rotor that the crank position sensor reads.

Last edited by Sharsh01; 04-21-2020 at 04:22 AM.
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Old 04-21-2020, 05:13 AM
Sharsh01 Sharsh01 is offline
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Pics of the corrosion before I cleaned it up.





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Old 04-21-2020, 02:15 PM
Sharsh01 Sharsh01 is offline
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Swapped the harmonic balancer with the one that was on the bad engine. It made no difference. The car still acts like it wants to start, but won't. At this point the only thing I can think of is that the DME is bad.

Last edited by Sharsh01; 04-21-2020 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 04-21-2020, 07:25 PM
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Have you tried some starting fluid sprayed into the throttle body? If it fires and runs for a moment then you know you're chasing a fuel issue, not an ignition issue. I know you ran the test with the fuel rail pulled, but never hurts to try some fuel directly.
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Old 04-22-2020, 06:39 AM
Sharsh01 Sharsh01 is offline
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We have. It is difficult to say that it "fires and runs" off of the starting fluid. It kind of does, but not like I have seen other engines do. And it won't fire and run all the time when we have tried to use it.

I don't know why the owner is hesitant to pull the cam cover. I am going to try and convince him to and at least double check that time cam lobes, came gear marks, and timing mark all line up.

I was also thinking that there could be a bad vacuum leak. I don't know if the air shrouds on the injectors is vacuum or ambient air pressure. The Bentley and Haynes manual never say.
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Old 05-03-2020, 04:07 PM
Sharsh01 Sharsh01 is offline
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WE HAVE A RUNNING CAR!!!!

The guy finally came through with a DME to swap in. As soon as we plugged it in, cranked the car, it came to life and ran smooth as butter.

He said the DME we had was for a 6 cylinder. I question that. The VIN that is on the computer matches the cars VIN. Decoding the VIN it shows to be a 4 cylinder car so I don't understand how it could have changed. Regardless, the car runs so it really doesn't matter to me.

Thank you everyone for your assistance.

Pic of the DME that works.
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