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Rus -
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Discussion Starter #1
I had the sticky steering problem on by '04 Z4 and was upset that my "Ultimate Driving" machine was no longer fun to drive. I took my z4 to an independent mechanic who specializes in BMW's to work on 2 other problems and I asked him to look at the steering problem while he was at it.

He took the steering column apart and found a bearing that is anything but good engineering. There is a bearing in the middle of the steering column that is not sealed. With time and with heat the lubricant gets dry and cakes up. He told me this is what is making the steering sticky. He cleaned out the bearing and put in new lubricant and my Z is fun to drive again. $285 for all the work including the other two problems.

Now for the bad news:
He told me it was a temporary fix. The result of lousing engineering/design. The bearing is in the middel of the steering column. It is NOT a sealed bearing. It will happen again. The bearing is not replaceable. BMW does not list it as a part - you have to buy the entire steering column assembly (parts and labor over $3500). The inner bearing race is the column itself, which also means it cannot be replaced.

This is really poor engineering: It is UNSEALED and unreplaceable and it will happen again. In the meantime it is fun to drive again.
 

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Rus -
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Discussion Starter #2
Just an additional note: When the lubricant begins to dry out and cake up the the steering column shaft can no longer move smoothly. Caked up material creates little peaks and valleys. the rollers want to stay in the valley and when you turn the steering wheel wheel the rollers resist till it gets over the top of the caked up peak then it rolls into the next valley where it again resists movement.

The steering feels like detents on a switch, like the fan or temperture switch, which does not move smoothly like an infinitly controlable radio volume conrol knob. A fan speed switch goes from stop point to stop point or detent to detent. That is what my steering felt like before the fix.
 

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This issue is a serious soil spot on BMW's record. They should have recalled and replaced all of the defective columns with the new, improved design.
 

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Rus -
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Discussion Starter #5
Yea, good mechanic. lousy engineering. a poor response by bmw.
It tranishes their claim to the "ulitmate driving machine"
It soils the reputation of elite german engineering
It tells us all how much BMW management thinks about and cares for its customers.
 

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Z4 sticky steering fix

Where is your mechanic located?, I have the same problem with my steering and I can't find a mechanic to help with this problem, all of them want to change the complete steering. Is there a way you can share this info with me?
Thanks
 

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Luv'in Texas
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1,001 Posts
If you get the chance, have the mechanic "mic" the bearing. There is a very good shot that you can find the sealed version at one of the industrial bearing shops. Motion Industries is the most well known. There is a chance that they would be able to get a sealed bearing that matches the dimensions on the unsealed one in the steering column.

Needless to say, if you find it, let us know.
 

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The Arkleyologist
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594 Posts
I know this subject has been talked about extensively, but just for clarification, let me relate my problem. Our 2003 Z4 has what I would call a "dead spot" at the center. Sometimes, when driving straight down the road, when you move the steering wheel a little to the right or left, it seems like nothing happens for a second or two. Similar to the feeling you have on a conventional vehicle when a pitman arm gets worn and sloppy. I never notice this most of the time. Is this what the group is talking about?
 

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Rus -
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9 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
If you get the chance, have the mechanic "mic" the bearing. There is a very good shot that you can find the sealed version at one of the industrial bearing shops. Motion Industries is the most well known. There is a chance that they would be able to get a sealed bearing that matches the dimensions on the unsealed one in the steering column.

Needless to say, if you find it, let us know.
The bearing is not replaceable because the inner race is the shaft itself. That is what makes it "poor" design or engineering - unsealed and unreplaceable.
Every bearing (that is not a friction bearing) has an inner race and and outer race and the balls or rollers in between. On this bearing the inner race IS the shaft.

Sorry for my delayed response - spent the week in Honduras.
 

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I have the same - well known - issue with my Z4, but I am having a problem believing that the issue is an internal bearing. This bearing would have to be binding horribly tight to counter the rotational force being applied at the much larger diameter steering wheel.

Secondly, the binding is barely noticeable when not moving forward.

Lastly, the problem is worse when hot. This is counter intuitive given lubrication and metal expansion of bearings.

This leads me to believe this is an electronic steering assist issue with the sensor in the column.

I have been around mechanical assemblies for a career (I am a PE certified mechanical engineer) and this just doesn't all add up.

I would like to find a fix as much as the next guy while trying to avoid a $3K bill to replace the column.

So, let me hear your thoughts on this. It is clear BMW and the NHTSA is not going to help on this.
 

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Rus -
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Discussion Starter #16
Yea, it seems counterintuitive that the grease would be a problem when it got hot. I did not open up the steering column and I did not see it.
I can tell you that it drives well now like it did when I first purchased.

I suggest you talk to Richard Behn, he did the work and you might be able to give you better information. I gave contact info on him earlier in the thread.

rus
 

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Anyone have any more info on this issue? Mine behaves a little differently; when the car has been in the sun all day, the steering will feel like a magnet is holding it in place; you have to steer a little harder than you should to get it to move. This also results in it not centering as it should. Is this the same issue?

So this bearing was under the dash? Can it be lubricated without removing the steering column? I agree it sounds more like a motor issue. Anybody have any DIY success?
 

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Stickey steering when hot

I have the same problem and would like to get it fixed. Steering sticks when warm. BMW refuses to repair it even when mentioned in the warranty period. Wife thinks the car is cute and will not get rid of it. :thumbdwn:

If it is not the bearing then why does changing the steering column a fix? My dealer quoted me $1500 for the column.
 
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