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Discussion Starter #1
Since about October 2014 I've been feeling something grind occasionally only through the gas pedal while driving, it feels as if it's coming from the front drive-line. There are no accompanying noises at all, but it does seem to happen when the suspension moves the slightest bit. It's an 07 automatic with the 17" tires and 92k miles. About 15k miles ago I changed the trans fluid, transfer case fluid (with BMW fluid and had the clutches reset), and both differential fluids (again BMW fluid). The car performed flawlessly through the winter actuating the transfer case to distribute drive power quite a few times. So far I've had the car at 2 indy's who couldn't feel the grinding and also another one just yesterday who is a BMW expert and he also couldn't feel or see anything, although he never put the car up on a rack to actually look for anything. For the 3rd mechanic he did ask if I ever had any warning lights lit up and now since that happened at some point I'll probably get the car over to him with this latest info.

Last night while driving I got the dreaded 3 lights, ABS, 4x4, and Brake. I was going straight when they came on and the car seemed to be driving fine until I tried to turn right, turning the wheel was harder and it seemed as if all the drive wheels were connected by force equally. The front tires where squealing and I could barely turn the wheel completely to the right as if some component of the drive system was locked or binding. I parked the car and after I started it again there were no more dash warning lights but when putting it in reverse the car reacted as if I was doing a brake torque and the whole car lifted up as if all wheels were engaged after a few seconds it settled down and no there were no lights or turning problems. Then I drove all the way home with no problems or lights.

Below are the codes that were thrown. From the way the car acted engaging the front wheels so I could barely turn points me in the direction of the front diff binding and that would have caused the transfer case to experience a "servomotor or coupling force to high failure" warning. When the transfer case actuator gear goes does it constantly light the triad of lights? If so mine might still be good as they are not lit after about 30 miles of driving. I'm still guessing something in the front driveline, e.g., CV joint, ball joint, front diff, driveshaft....??? As for wheel bearings there is no grinding or noise when giving hard turns in either direction. What do you guys think.

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Put a new gear in and it stripped again!

Since the last post I put a new gear in about 3 weeks ago and just today on some pot hole filled slow Chicago side streets I was feeling some grinding in the gas peddle and boom all the lights lit up again. I turned the car off and then didn't start the car, but put the key in the #2 position and sure enough the car hunched up as if all wheels were locked and then something readjusted and it leveled out.

So per my initial thread some drastic change in something is causing this gear to strip, in my honest engineering opinion these gears are not just wearing out. After replacing and seeing the actuator gear I'd be surprised if anyone's plastic actuator gear is actually wearing out. As others have said I would bet it was designed that way to be a failure point.

After the gear replacement about 3 weeks ago I was still feeling something vibrate or jiggle occasionally through the gas pedal. I feel it most often while the suspension moves even the slightest bit whether going straight or making a turn and it's only about 50% of the time while moving. As an added thought sometimes when first driving and it's quiet out I thought I heard some lifter or valve rattle. My guess at this point is that it may be a loose transfer case chain that may be jumping a cog causing this, so I'm planning on changing the chain and most likely whatever bearings or gears are also wore out. I'll read the codes again tonight and post what I get, but right now I'm betting I'll pull the same codes.

Codes added.
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Discussion Starter #4
expert opinion

I forgot to say that the BMW expert I brought the car to mentioned in the top post said that replacing just the gear may not fix the problem and at times on other cars he's had to replace the complete actuator. He just wanted me to know that before the fix. In the end I replaced the gear myself at home.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm a little surprised of no responses

Well I'm a little shocked none of the local experts have been able to give any hints as to what's going on. Here's what has happened since the last post:

When the lights lit up this last time after the new gear was in the lights then went out after a restart and it drove fine for a few days. Then yesterday morning on the way to work they lit up and stayed on all day. Turning the car on and off and cycling the key positions did nothing to turn the lights off this time. Also this time when shutting off the car off there was never any clicking noise from the actuator trying to adjust itself, but the lights were all lit up and it drove terrible especially when taking any corners.

So last night I dug in and took the actuator out again. When unbolting it from the transfer case the actuator had a lot of torque on it as if it was still trying to rotate the transfer case gear. Well to get it off after the bolts were out it spun about 1/8 of a turn counterclockwise to a neutral position and then I was able to pull it off. On taking it apart the new gear wasn't stripped. So I took it apart again wiped everything clean and put it back in also clearing all the codes again. So far this AM on the drive to work it was fine. Anyone any ideas? Honestly I'm starting to believe I'm going to need to take this to the dealer for an accurate diagnoses or just rip into it and take the transfer case out. Unless it's a yaw sensor or some other sensor causing this but if it was wouldn't I be seeing codes for some electronic failure?
 

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actuator motor status ???

how was the actuator motor condition????? ....windings/shaft/brushes/bearings etc ????.....did y'all electro clean it/check for free brushes/hot spots etc.....you can put some volts on it and check it for smooth movement on the bench

also ....on some transfer cases you can get some idea of chain slack by feeding a long flat screw driver thru the drain hole onto the chain....sloppy/worn chains move beaucoup....and of course the oil is messed up with aluminum scraping off the case where the chain slaps it and bits /shards of metal debris from the chain
 

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good generic rangey sloppy T case chain

this is a good go by for how much slop can develop ....we've changed beaucoup of these .....the Rangey and loads of other transfer case chain swaps are close to the same borg warner stuff ....wish they all had removable chain link though.....if you do the swap ....be sure to check the driveline couplings/discs/shafting etc while close by

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJSTzxvCjS0

one on an X3

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDoQtwIwBQ&url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39rDYSI3nvU&ei=JWmdVez3LJXroASo2qagBg&usg=AFQjCNELVBhNh6MQWAespTJOtRYThtXRGg&sig2=0RMWhDpqNd5X6ueIIrNopA&bvm=bv.96952980,d.cGU
 

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Discussion Starter #9
how was the actuator motor condition????? ....windings/shaft/brushes/bearings etc ????.....did y'all electro clean it/check for free brushes/hot spots etc.....you can put some volts on it and check it for smooth movement on the bench

also ....on some transfer cases you can get some idea of chain slack by feeding a long flat screw driver thru the drain hole onto the chain....sloppy/worn chains move beaucoup....and of course the oil is messed up with aluminum scraping off the case where the chain slaps it and bits /shards of metal debris from the chain
For this second go around concerning the motor yes I did blow it out with mild air pressure then sprayed some electro-clean into it and cleaned it out and let everything dry. The brushes looked big enough still and the commutator didn't seem that bad for 94k miles. I didn't bench test it afterwards, but it's working today so that may not have told me anything. I also was thinking maybe the motor is on its way out, but then wondered how does the actuator have torque on it if the motor's not adjusting? Then the next question is if there was torque on it why didn't it adjust the clutches in the transfer case? I'm getting a very strong feeling I'm going to need to get into that transfer case.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Getting ready to rebuild the transfer case

this is a good go by for how much slop can develop ....we've changed beaucoup of these .....the Rangey and loads of other transfer case chain swaps are close to the same borg warner stuff ....wish they all had removable chain link though.....if you do the swap ....be sure to check the driveline couplings/discs/shafting etc while close by

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJSTzxvCjS0

one on an X3

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDoQtwIwBQ&url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39rDYSI3nvU&ei=JWmdVez3LJXroASo2qagBg&usg=AFQjCNELVBhNh6MQWAespTJOtRYThtXRGg&sig2=0RMWhDpqNd5X6ueIIrNopA&bvm=bv.96952980,d.cGU
So far from Cobra Transmission I've ordered the chain and a bearing kit any idea if I'll need anything else right off the bat?

http://cobratransmission.com/bmw-x3-bearing-kit-55133001-1 - bearing kit

http://cobratransmission.com/bmw-x3-chain-55133005-1 - chain
 

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more goodies you will want to order

http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/showparts?id=PA93-USA-05-2004-E83-BMW-X3_30i&diagId=27_0027

sealant for case halves
bearing pull and install tools
the correct diameter thing to install/seat seals OK
new T case oil
steel wool to clean case
case seals and O rings for shafts etc
some or all fasteners for flanges...try not to round them off
sticky grease for assembly
heavy gear lube for initial assembly.....or assembly lube
be ready for a possible clutch pack
nice magnetic drain plug/seal if you have the bucks....new fill plug with the captive O ring seal if they have it for your case (the same style drain/fill plugs like the diff cases have
a firm resolve not to hammer to death the bearings when you install them
a helper
a nice murl in your mini grinder to smooth out/remove burrs from any chain slap marks on the inside of the case
 

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Discussion Starter #12
swamp, thanks that's all classic stuff that once I've got it apart I slap myself on the head not preparing for it ahead of time. As for the helper I've got that nailed. My 14yr old anticipates getting this car in a few years since dad will need a new one by then, so he helps with all the work it needs. That's him screwing everything back together after we replaced the rear springs.

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Discussion Starter #16
Swamp, Thanks I saw some of this previously and I'm sure my son and 15yr old nephew, who's staying with us for the summer, will both be very interested in watching these. It seems they enjoy working on this and they both appear to have the motor skills. For this last time I had the actuator out they did half of the work taking it out and all of the work putting it back in. Then they both wanted to drive it to test it out!
 

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add thread lock/clean drain plan

loctite blue threadlock for the T case bolts

a very clean drain pan in case you have to drain the new 50 buck/litre T case fluid and re use it
 

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Discussion Starter #19
loctite blue threadlock for the T case bolts

a very clean drain pan in case you have to drain the new 50 buck/litre T case fluid and re use it
Funny thing you mention that about the transfer case fluid because I was already thinking how do I reuse the new stuff I put in a few hundred miles ago? Which is only after the new stuff I put in about 15k miles ago. I was giving everything a shot to try solving this problem.
 

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more t case overhaul tips items

dielectric grease for the actuator motor plugs/contacts etc

very fine emory cloth so the helpers can polish the commutator on the actuator motor

a fine pick to scrape clean the commutator slots
 
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