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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Lot's of newbies (that's absolutely fine, of course) joining E9x.

BUT: lots of questions that say things like "My E90 broke...but I have a new battery in it, etc, etc,";or "My SRS (SES, etc) light is on, any idea what it is?"

Newbies: if you want your question to make sense, and get an answer, get a damn BMW code reader. You CANNOT ask intelligent questions without one. You cannot DIY without one. Just do it.

>>Standard auto-parts-store OBD code readers are next to useless. BMW readers have hundreds of codes that OBD readers don't.

>>BMW readers can be gotten for $50-150 or so. Yes, there's more expensive ones.

Here's a basic list (use Google for details):
>>Carly for BMW.
>>Protool
>>INPA + Cable (BMW factory test software)
>>ISTA+ (or ISTA/D) + Cable (BMW service software)

There are many others, but these are available, cheap and effective.

Also, help everyone out: tell us what year, mileage and model you have (please?).

Thanks!

EDIT: Fixing a mistake before I make it. Since BF locks edits after a couple of days, I've moved the latest edition of "So You Just Bought..." to Google Drive, with a share. I'll edit that in future, but the share URL will remain the same.

So: "So You Just Bought an E90" will always reside here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rj_G2f0O3tPH-rZq3wh0RYIxfPO9OAn8

(The E60 version was downloaded 30K times.)
 

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Nuclear engineer
02/2012 X5 35d M57Y CPO 99K miles NOKIAN WR G3 12K miles
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Attention newbies and that***8217;s just fine.

A Diagnostic Trouble Code does not identify a particular failed part to be changed, but a symptom that may be caused by any number of failed components or adjustments to be differentiated among by execution of a BMW Test Plan© guide through the fault tree of associated failures.
 

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Thanks for posting the E90 document Banglenot. I hope it will become a sticky to be available at the top of the forum.

With respect to OBD code readers, while a BMW specific one is best, a basic OBD should be part of any toolbox, if for no other reason than ease of diagnosis of a CEL issue. I used mine yesterday to check and clear a camshaft implausibility code that occurred on startup due to the car being parked with a dead battery for two months.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for posting the E90 document Banglenot. I hope it will become a sticky to be available at the top of the forum.

With respect to OBD code readers, while a BMW specific one is best, a basic OBD should be part of any toolbox, if for no other reason than ease of diagnosis of a CEL issue. I used mine yesterday to check and clear a camshaft implausibility code that occurred on startup due to the car being parked with a dead battery for two months.
Thanks. I ported it over from the E60 version, so I'm finding some leftover errors, mostly in URL's. I'll fix those.

I agree on the OBD scanner -- I also have one in the toolbox.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Attention newbies and that's just fine.

A Diagnostic Trouble Code does not identify a particular failed part to be changed, but a symptom that may be caused by any number of failed components or adjustments to be differentiated among by execution of a BMW Test Plan© guide through the fault tree of associated failures.
True, and ISTA is currently the best available to us for the Test Plans (AFAIK -- anything better, let us know).

But even just a code is a big help -- though I'd guide newbies to google the damn code and post the code with some info, rather than "I have an XXXX -- what does it mean?"
 

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...BUT: lots of questions that say things like "My E90 broke...but I have a new battery in it, etc, etc,";or "My SRS (SES, etc) light is on, any idea what it is?"
Suggestions for "Gearheads":
You (and I ;-) have a LOT of years invested in trying to understand, diagnose and repair/maintain our vehicles. Proper understanding of MAINTENANCE requirements, and knowing enough about how a vehicle actually works to recognize the early stages of a problem, or to prevent it in the first place by MAINTENANCE, is key.

What the "Gearheads" on forums such as this often fail to recognize is:
1) Many/Most(?) people today don't even HAVE a toolbox; :)
2) The reason for the post is often (unstated ;-) "can I keep driving it this way?"
3) The next reason for the post is: "Where should I take the car & how $much will it cost?"
4) As Doug suggests, MOST people with a scan tool figure it tells them what part to replace, hence often replace perfectly good sensors or other components for lack of proper diagnosis & testing.

It is unrealistic to expect all BMW owners to be BMW-trained techs. Even those techs today are often following a flow-chart or trail of bread crumbs (hence ISTA instead of INPA ;-) rather than actually understanding what sensor signals & DME algorithms set a particular code, and what that code means in the sense of WHY a particular system is NOT operating properly. For many reasons, proprietary, legal & practical, BMW is NOT sharing that information.

Suggestions for "Newbies":
So YES, it IS unrealistic to think that any knowledgeable person on this (or any) forum can provide any meaningful "long-distance diagnosis" without Fault Codes and their definitions.

However, don't let that scare you away or cause you to think you must spend hours & $$$ to do that. "Generic P-code Readers" are the perfect starting point for ANYONE to quickly, cheaply and easily read fault codes saved when the SES (Service Engine Soon) light comes on. Those P-code Readers also work on any car sold in the US since 1996, so if you now have, or later have, a NON-BMW vehicle, you can use that tool on ANYTHING.

Even someone with little or no understanding of how a car works can learn, in an hour or less, how to read P-codes or "Generic Fault Codes" that are saved in "Engine Control Module" (DME) memory whenever the SES (Service Engine Soon) light comes on. The code remains in DME memory even if the light later goes out.

A simple P-code reader can be obtained for $35 (example below of a "standalone" model that does NOT require any other device such as an iPhone, laptop, additional cable, etc.). In less than one hour, you can read the manual, connect it to your car, and check to see if any Fault Codes are present. If one or more fault codes ARE present, you can:
1) Read the code(s) (e.g. P0301: misfire, cylinder 1);
2) Read the code definition (e.g. "misfire, cylinder 1);
3) Read any Freeze Frame Data that is saved, indicating mileage, engine conditions (RPM, Load, Coolant Temperature) when the code was saved); this is a "snapshot" of those parameters at the moment the fault occurred, which is helpful to a trained "diagnostician";
4) AFTER recording the Code(s), Definition(s), and Freeze Frame Data, you can CLEAR the codes to turn off the SES and see if they return.
5) Learn to walk before trying to run, but also plan for "expansion." If you don't have experience with a scan tool for reading codes, start simple & cheap, such as with one of the devices linked below. Remember that if you use a laptop to read codes or FF Data, you can save a ScreenPrint in jpg format on your HD for your own historical records, or you can attach that jpg file to a post on this forum so others can see the data, just as if they were there diagnosing your vehicle.
6) The ultimate "expansion" is to use INPA or ISTA on a Windows 10 Laptop. The downloads are free, a K+DCAN cable costs $15 to $45 (BimmerGeeks). With that, you can read Fault Codes in ALL 20(+) control modules of your vehicle (Trans, DSC/ABS, X-Drive, Climate Control, Fuel Pump, Tire Pressure Monitor, Radio/Ent, etc.), AND you can read Parameters (Live Data) and do Activations of such things as Fuel Pump, Coolant Pump, Window motors, etc.
7) Although the software is free, it takes HOURS to download, install, setup, learn how to use, etc., and for someone who has NEVER used a scan tool, or someone NOT experienced in automotive systems & diagnosis, it's rather like trying to teach a beginner to ski on a "Double-Diamond" slope -- NOT likely to be a confidence-builder. :)

Example of "Standalone" P-code reader which I have used and would recommend as an entry level scan tool for those without a laptop; the second link ($30) is one step better for those with a laptop and who want to save information on the laptop HD:
https://www.amazon.com/Autel-AutoLi...=8-1-spons&keywords=autel+319+scan+tool&psc=1
https://www.amazon.com/ScanTool-OBD...ie=UTF8&qid=1547579944&sr=8-1&keywords=obdwiz

For those afraid to "take the plunge", I wonder how much time you have spent learning how to use your cellphone, laptop, or other digital device? WHY not spend LESS time than you have spent messing with those, learning how to best get help maintaining your vehicle that is worth $5,000 to $20,000?

If one of the primary purposes of the forum is to provide a mechanism for seeking and providing help and exchange of information related to E9x vehicles, we ALL, regardless of the extent of our specific knowledge, tools, experience, etc., need to understand:
1) We are ALL different;
2) We should ALL try to learn something NEW to enhance our "BMW-experience." :rofl:

George
 

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Lost but making good time
'11 335xi; '03 330Ci
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George, there are two big problems with generic OBD scanners ("P-code readers") that severely limit their value as diagnostic tools:
  • They cannot interpret codes in the P100-P1FF range. This range is allocated by the SAE to manufacturer-specific faults. A Ford and a BMW reporting the identical code in this range could have two totally unrelated faults. By now you might have noticed that a lot of fairly common problems on BMWs are flagged neatly by codes in this range. ;)
  • Generic OBD readers cannot communicate with most of the dozens of networked control modules in a modern BMW. Without that ability, a great many faults cannot be detected at all, let alone analyzed. Partial information such as this can encourage diagnosis by parts replacement, rather than prevent it.
That's why banglenot and so many of us recommend choosing a BMW-specific tool from the outset. The availability of apps like Carly and other moderate-budget options (for those who cannot or would rather not invest the effort in INPA/ISTA setup) make a generic reader a dubious investment (even at $35) for most any car, let alone BMW.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Great points, George.

I agree with much of it, particularly the difficulty of INPA and ISTA, and for clarity I wouldn't recommend newbies start with that. Your observation there is excellent.

But is starting with Carly (or Protool...) much harder than learning a P codereader?

Given some of the awkward menus of many P readers, menu-driven Carly might well be easier.

The user can scan for codes and get their interpretations in less than 10 keystrokes. Cost: <$150 all in.

So, I'll stick with my assertion that a BMW code reader (Carly or Protool) can be an easy way to get correct BMW codes from (important!) clearly identified ECU's.

I guess I'd say to someone asking for help: get a BMW reader; or if not that then SAE reader (P reader). But responding to "my SAE light is on" and nothing else? I'll leave that to those who can mentally read distant ECU's via telepathy. :D

For everyone's amusement, attached is an SAE code specification doc. I have no idea what that cover page is about, but the rest of it is valid.
 

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