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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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Old 11-12-2019, 08:10 AM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Exclamation Trans Fail Safe Prog + Codes

Once I got to the office this morning, I was going to post a different question (which I'll still don in a moment because perhaps it is related), but then I'm dropping my son off at school on this rainy morning and the trans failsafe prog pops up.

Recent background is that the car has exhibited no signs of transmission duress (no hard shifts, etc) *unless* some slight surging/vibrating sensation when stopped at stop signs/lights (in gear, foot on brake) is indicative of something. The car has done that on and off, particularly when ambient temps are cold, for awhile. Seemed like this got worse as my VC leak got worse and got better (but not fully solved) after doing my VCG a week ago.

When failsafe first popped, there were no OBD2 codes. Eventually, however, I retrieved the following:
P0600 Serial Communication Link
P0031 O2 Heater Control Circuit Low Bank 1 Sensor 1
P0037 O2 Heater Control Circuit Low Bank 1 Sensor 2
P0057 O2 Heater Control Circuit Low Bank 2 Sensor 2
Pretty sure also an O2 Heater Control Circuit Low Bank 2 Sensor 2 but accidentally erased before I recorded.

Car drove rest of the way this morning fine except for the fact it stayed in high gear, making pullouts pretty unnerving.

I checked battery voltage on the cluster when engine off and when running. Off was 12v down to 11.7v or so after leaving it on for a few minutes. Running was sub-14v...about 13.7v IIRC.

The current battery is a cheapie "unbranded" DEKA-manufactured 1yr warranty unit that I bought almost exactly two years ago shortly after getting the car. Always figured I'd be looking for another battery within a couple years, so just went ahead and grabbed an EverStart Platinum AGM H8 from Walmart this morning on the way back. Have the old battery out and the car sitting for a bit to see if the failsafe prog will "clear" when I install in the new battery.

So...not 100% sure what my question is other than maybe:
1) Could this issue be battery-related, as I'm hopeful that it is?
2) Could some wiring harness related to the transmission have gotten wet, as it does seem awfully coincidental that I've never had this happen until after driving 15 miles in this rainy weather?
3) Pretty confident in my VCG job since it's been going strong for a week with no problems, but any chance could be related to that? Or to the growing oil leak that was occurring before I replaced VCG (underside of engine was as wet with oil as I've ever seen it, though not enough to leave drips on pavement).

And, finally, the issue that was I *was* going to focus on before my failsafe...that I'll mention here just in case it ties in.

For quite some time now, I've noticed that in the mornings that the first 10mi or 10min of my drive that the car doesn't ride very smooth. I'm talking bent-rim, unbalanced driveshaft type of vibration.

I didn't think much of it back when I knew my suspension needed rebuilt, but now that I've done everything on the front end (and I mean everything) and shock, air springs, and subframe bushings on back, I'm starting to wonder about this behavior. I would blame it on the guidelinks and ball joints on the rear that I still need to do, but what is curious about this is that the vibrations go away after about 10mi or 10min of driving. By the time I'm about halfway to my son's school to drop him off, the car is riding smooth as silk. And, typically, it rides smoothly the rest of the day (going back out for lunch, on the ride home, etc). The next morning, without fail, it will ride like crap again for the first 5-10mi of my commute before smoothing out. I will emphasize that it feels like some type of driveline vibration. It isn't a "bucking" sensation from the engine bay. Acceleration is fine.

I've tried to Google this issue, but all I get are pages and pages of "rough cold idle" talk. The car doesn't "idle rough" or have a vibration at idle (at least not one that is noticeable to me). It also doesn't trip any codes, even in very cold weather...except for the one it did out of the blue on a cyl6 misfire that finally pushed me into the doing the VCG and new spark plugs.

Lot of stuff here without me really asking many direct questions. Just reaching out for some suggestions for those of you bored enough this morning to read thru this.

Last edited by pwgoo1; 11-12-2019 at 08:23 AM.
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  #2  
Old 11-12-2019, 08:18 AM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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I should also add this tidbit of info.

The last PO from whom I bought the car told me the transmission "went out" immediately after he bought the car. He was clearly pretty salty about it, as I think that is what made him want to sell it so soon after buying the car. He siaid he bought it for his daughter, who now didn't need it because she decided to live on campus her freshman year and was not permitted to have a car at school. Yes, fishy story, but I can relate. I've had cars that I wasn't sure I ever really needed in the first place and, while not being a piece of junk, was concerned it would start costing me money I didn't need to spend...so I sold it.

Moving on with the story....the auto trans in this car was "repaired" by AAMCO. I was given a copy of the invoice and even talked to the AAMCO manager where he had the work done. I say "repaired" in quotes because that's exactly how the AAMCO guy described it (seems he was careful not to indicate it was "rebuit"). From what I recall from that conversation over two years and nearly 40k miles ago, the issue was the pump.

Car has been relatively trouble-free since that time, though I know that doesn't necessarily exclude the trans from being a ticking time bomb since the day it was repaired.
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Old 11-12-2019, 09:02 AM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Update: Not that I expected it to be this simple, but leaving the battery disconnected for over 30min then installing a new one did not remove the trans failsafe.

I checked the DME compartment just to make sure that since I had to remove the air box from over there to do the VCG that I didn't booger something up and allow water to infiltrate...but, no, it was dry as a bone in there.
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:01 AM
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can you read the EGS (trans module) vs the DME for codes? there are electrical connections to the trans, when water gets in to them, it has caused a failsafe. at that voltage, the battery was definitely bad. whats your charge voltage now with the new one?
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:40 AM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Trans Fail Safe Prog + Codes

No trans codes. I have a Foxwell NT520 that I thought was capable but it either isnít, I havenít figured it out, or it needs a software update.

After fighting with this damn fuse holder and finally breaking the sliding lid (should slide back into place fine but not sure how locked down it will be), found this. Suspect this is why the failsafe and no comm. Question is what caused it. I checked to make sure I didnít have anything routed poorly from the VCG job. It all looks fine. Same as it did before.




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Last edited by pwgoo1; 11-12-2019 at 10:41 AM.
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:44 AM
djbecker djbecker is offline
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The key hint is "rainy".

That makes it very likely that the problem is a degraded wiring harness sheath where it enters the rear of the transmission, or a problem with the selector switch mounted externally on the side of the transmission.

Water enters through the holes in the harness sheath and collects in the connector body. That results in transient sensor and solenoid activation problems, as well as a long term corrosion failure.

The proper fix is a new harness ($$$ and difficult access). An acceptable repair, if the connector hasn't corroded too badly, is using self-amalgamating tape ($5) to re-seal the wiring harness.

There is additional information if you search older posts.
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:16 AM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Replaced the fuse. Started car. Immediately blew the fuse again. Have it up on ramps now to investigate previously-mentioned harnesses.
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:22 AM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Iím going to guess this is problematic? Pretty grimy and wet. This is why I was openly pondering whether my worsening oil leak could have caused gremlins. Probably could have thought to investigate this further before posting.



I think this is one at the rear. Dry.



Wiring that I can see peaking out for under either of the sheaths also seem dry and intact. Just the connector itself on that one on the side of the trans is soaked in oil and water.

Disconnect and dry it out may get me thru?


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Old 11-12-2019, 11:36 AM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Trans Fail Safe Prog + Codes

Little bit of oily water came out when I unplugged. Gonna guess that isnít optimal.



No corrosion so it seems like it is recent and/or sudden water infiltration.

Electronics not my strength so pardon the dumb question but, what to do here? Do I need to run out and get some electrical drier (stuff in a can), WD40, or what? Hit it with some of that then blow with a little compressed air to dry it out?


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Old 11-12-2019, 12:16 PM
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Clean if off as best you can. A general purpose degreaser on the outside followed with an electronic parts cleaner on the innards. Reassemble with a generous amount of dielectric grease to minimize the potential of future water intrusion.

Others may have better suggestions.

Best of luck.
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:49 PM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Looks like I was wrong about wires being routed well. Iíve never changed an O2 sensor on this car but it looks like it may have been done previously and one of the sensor harnesses routed too close to a heat shield. Iím sure I was guilty of not carefully enough positioning it after the VCG. Looks like it contacted the shield and melted some wires together.

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Old 11-12-2019, 03:22 PM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Trans Fail Safe Prog + Codes

Just in case anyone else comes across this problem, looks like this was the issue.

I cut and spliced in some hookup wire I had lying around around to replace the melted parts. Just twisted and taped for now to check before I go looking to more permanently splice it in. New fuse, started her up, failsafe gone.
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Old 11-12-2019, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazy4trains View Post
Clean if off as best you can. A general purpose degreaser on the outside followed with an electronic parts cleaner on the innards. Reassemble with a generous amount of dielectric grease to minimize the potential of future water intrusion.

Others may have better suggestions.

Best of luck.
+1 on the dielectric grease to shut water out of the connection.
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Old 11-12-2019, 05:10 PM
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glad ya got it fixed afore the cold front moves more eastwards. its so cold here not the local exhibitionists are running around handing out pencil sketches.
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Old 11-12-2019, 05:16 PM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Ha! I didnít quite make it. I had to pause to do some other work. Iím in the house now warming up between splices. Working cold and in the dark, my success rate on solidly connected butt splices on wire this small is pretty low. Going to end up doing a bit of a hack tape job on it to get me thru for the next bit until a warmer day comes!
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Old 11-12-2019, 05:38 PM
Chedley Chedley is offline
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Yep, a good electric tape should fix the problem definitively.
Hint: there are many other exposed wires on the car and in the engine bay. Tape them as well.
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Old 11-12-2019, 06:01 PM
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thatll probably work for a temporary fix, but in the long run i recommend a solder/heat shrink for the splices.
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Old 11-12-2019, 06:07 PM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Even though I read some stuff that suggested not to solder O2 sensor wires, Iíll eventually go that route. My plan tonight was crimp butt splice with heat shrink but I was struggling. Idk what my problem is but I can never seem to lock in a crimp butt splice on wire this small. Finally threw in the towel and went full on black tape, zip ties, self-sealing tape. Iíll come back later when it isnít frigid and 8pm on a work night to do it better. So long as this holds up for a bit and gets my car from A to B...
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Old 11-13-2019, 09:22 AM
djbecker djbecker is offline
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That's could be a result of the previous transmission work. The wiring harness has to be routed exactly as it was from the factory in order to be reliable, and even then you'll have the problem with the sheath above the rear connector. It's really difficult to get it right, and most shops don't even try. You need to either work on your own car, or use a shop with a specific mechanic that works on a specific model enough to get it right.

Even here we have great DIYs, but relatively few pictures that show exactly how wires and tubes are routed and clipped into place.

The harness to the side mounted switch should be routed underneath the mounting plate for the switch. In the pictures it appears to be routed outside the transmission cooler tubes, which is wrong. The harness should be clipped at three or four places along the top of the transmission, then through a larger spring clip on the stainless steel bracket at the rear of the head. The downstream oxygen sensor cables are also there.

The oxygen sensor cables are stainless steel wires with teflon insulation. You won't be able to solder them, you'll need to use special splices and even those aren't reliable. The transmission cable has regular copper wires with PVC insulation. Regular soldering and crimp splices will work, but the space is cramped.

Last edited by djbecker; 11-13-2019 at 09:41 AM.
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Old 11-13-2019, 06:23 PM
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You will never get the O2 sensor to work as designed by crimping or soldering and shrink wrapping because you will have broken the proverbial hermetic seal if you will.

Older style oxygen sensors (OBDI) actually have a small hole in the body shell so air can enter the sensor, but newer style (OBDII) O2 sensors "breathe" through their wire connectors and have no vent hole.

It's hard to believe, but the tiny amount of space between the insulation and wire provides enough room for air to seep into the sensor (for this reason, grease should never be used on O2 sensor connectors because it can block the flow of air and you should never use an aerosol contact cleaner on the connectors as well).

Venting the sensor through the wires rather than with a hole in the body reduces the risk of dirt or water contamination that could foul the sensor from the inside and cause it to fail. The difference in oxygen levels between the exhaust and outside air within the sensor causes voltage to flow through the ceramic bulb. The greater the difference, the higher the voltage reading.

I would just get some new sensors.
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Last edited by bmw blue; 11-13-2019 at 06:25 PM.
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Old 11-13-2019, 06:26 PM
pwgoo1 pwgoo1 is offline
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Trans Fail Safe Prog + Codes

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmw blue View Post

I would just get some new sensors.

I would, but...pretty sure the damaged portion is part of the body harness and not part of the replaceable sensor.

Edit: if Iím wrong about that, Iím fine with it. Would probably be getting around to replacing O2 sensors soon anyway.


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Last edited by pwgoo1; 11-13-2019 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 11-16-2019, 10:52 AM
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I'm glad you sorted it out. The NT-520 does read transmission fault codes. I used mine to diagnose a bad switch. I'm assuming you have the BMW software for it.
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Old 11-17-2019, 05:18 AM
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Those melted wires are copper main harness wires. The harness runs from the back of the engine right above the exhaust manifold. If the harness is not tucked into the clips, it will hang down and get melted. When the wires melt together, it will blow that fuse.

You can use regular copper wire to repair. Ask me how I know...
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