BMW E36 M52B20 weird noise - possible pinging? - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums



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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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Old 03-24-2019, 08:56 AM
AlexFindley AlexFindley is offline
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BMW E36 M52B20 weird noise - possible pinging?

Hi fellow members,

I rarely ask for help with my car as usually I know what's wrong with it, but this time I am baffled.

I have a 1997 E36 20i Convertible with the M52B20 engine in very nice condition, but it's done 290k kilometres.
We went on a long journey (from Bari, Italy back home to Budapest, Hungary) and we ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere in Hungary, so unfortunately I had to fill up in a private gas station. Naive as I can be, I haven't asked what octane the petrol is (it wasn't there, you could fill up either "petrol" or "diesel", nothing about the octane), thinking it must be at least 95 RON (I've never seen anything lower in our country since a decade ago). I usually run 100 RON but I was not concerned this time, I already spent way too much on our trip so I was actually happy for the very low price per litre.

About 100 kilometres from the gas station, we got off the highway and then I started noticing a rattling sound from the engine at certain RPMs (between 1500-2500) only under some load, I would say 50% gas and up.

It doesn't make the noise when cold, it needs to run for 2-3 minutes until it starts making the sound. It only makes the sound when actually moving, doesn't make it when stationery in neutral / engaged clutch in any gear, and as I said, from around 1500 to 2500 only.
There is also a stronger rattling noise when disengaging the clutch, especially when switching to 2nd gear while going slow. Never made that sound before. I guess it's connected.
Diag says it's all clear.
The weirdest thing is that nothing happens other than the sound. No power loss, no vibration, nothing can be felt other than the sound itself. You can't even notice it with the top down at all, unless there's a wall or anything that reflects sound beside you.

I did not empty the tank yet, but can it be that the engine is pinging from the low octane / bad fuel I put in? I never ever heard a pinging engine and could not find a proper video about how it sounds. Can anybody provide a clip of what a pinging engine sounds like (I tried to capture it myself but the microphone couldn't pick it up), or has anybody encountered the same after filling up with worse petrol than usual? If so, did it go back to normal once filling up with premium fuel? Unfortunately I went full tank and don't really feel like depleting the tank manually but I'll do it if there's much harm in running the engine like this.

It's not the Vanos, unfortunately I heard several times what that sounds like when it goes bad.
The complete cooling system (radiator, thermostat, water pump and all hoses) were replaced to the highest quality (Mishimoto, Bosch) parts about 2000 kms earlier.

Last edited by AlexFindley; 03-24-2019 at 09:28 AM.
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  #2  
Old 03-24-2019, 01:14 PM
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hornhospital hornhospital is offline
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It's something besides an octane problem. It would ping under load, plus you'd get a code showing engine ping if that were the problem.
It sounds a little odd, but check the belt tensioner....
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Old 03-24-2019, 02:31 PM
john kaminski john kaminski is offline
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Plus that on the code
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Old 03-29-2019, 04:36 AM
AlexFindley AlexFindley is offline
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Resolved: a full tank of 100 octane fixed the issue, no sounds whatsoever.
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Old 03-29-2019, 07:46 AM
john kaminski john kaminski is offline
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Good to hear. When I used low octane "winter" gas I would just get a code with spirited driving - never did hear any pinging.
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Old 03-30-2019, 03:10 PM
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yeah, pinging is horrible. glad it was sorted. things that can contribute to pinging, besides low octane, could be running hotter than usual (altitude can sometimes be a factor), or carbon buildup in the combustion chamber.

a quick seafoam top engine cleaning will take care of the latter.

again, thanks for posting an update. i am sure it will be helpful for others in the future.




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bad fuel, bmw, e36, low octane, m52, pinging, rattling


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