E46 BMW Social Directory E46 FAQ 3-Series Discussion Forums BMW Photo Gallery BMW 3-Series Technical Information E46 Fanatics - The Ultimate BMW Resource BMW Vendors General E46 Forum The Tire Rack's Tire Wheel Forum Forced Induction Forum The Off-Topic The E46 BMW Showroom For Sale, For Trade or Wanting to Buy

Welcome to the E46Fanatics forums. E46Fanatics is the premiere website for BMW 3 series owners around the world with interactive forums, a geographical enthusiast directory, photo galleries, and technical information for BMW enthusiasts.

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which gives you limited access to view most discussions and access our other features. By joining our free community you will have access to post topics, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload content and access many other special features. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community today!

If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact contact us.

Go Back   E46Fanatics > E46 BMW > General E46 Forum

General E46 Forum
This is the place to get answers, opinions and everything you need related to your E46 (sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon) BMW!

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 06-15-2013, 09:10 AM   #1
chris5670
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Naples, Italy
Posts: 5
My Ride: 2000 323i
Electrical Issue

Hello all. I've been lurking on these forums for a few years now and they've been a huge help for various issues such as a window regulator install and a few other small things. I never considered myself knowledgeable enough to contribute, so I just registered for an account today. First off, thanks in advance to any who take the time to read this. It might be a little long, but I'd rather give too much information than not enough.

As for the issue. I left my house at about 4:30am this morning to get to work. My car started up fine, but about 5 minutes into my drive my headlights went out, my radio shut off and multiple dashboard indicator lights (ABS, traction control, airbag) turned on. I pulled over to the side of the highway and turned off my car hoping it would all go away when I restarted. Then my car would not restart. I had the classic dead battery indications (clicking, headlights blinking). I got a jump from a passerby and made it the next 20 minutes into work. After work I had to have a co-worker jump me. I had the same dead battery indications. At first everything looked normal after the jump, but then the traction control and ABS indicators came on again. I turned the A/C on to see if it would work and the airbag indicator light clicked on. By the way, the A/C would not blow cold and was extremely weak for being set to the highest level. I rolled down my window, which took about a minute because it moved extremely slow.

Luckily I had a slow day at work so I spent several hours researching this forum for potential problems. The best solution I could see was a bad alternator. The only question I have about this is that from all I read on here, if it was the alternator I should have had the battery indicator light illuminated as well. Correct? This light never came on. When I got home a few minutes ago, I popped the hood and noticed that the power steering resevoir (above the alternator) had a lot of "gunk" on it. I remember reading that a common problem with alternators occured when ATF fluid dripped from the resevoir onto the alternator. I'm still confused as to how to differentiate between the voltage regulator and the alternator being the issue.

I don't own a multimeter, and the nearest Autozone or whatever is about 6000 miles away. I'm currently stationed in Naples, Italy with the U.S. Navy. This kind of hampers my ability to troubleshoot the problem. I had the Autoport (base mechanic) recharge my battery a couple months ago. They said the battery was still good. My car had just spent 2+ months being shipped from Seattle to Italy. I don't want to take my car to them for anything major as they're known for shoddy work and exorbitant prices. There are a few independent mechanics off base that have a decent rep with the local American military, but I'd like to do the repairs myself if I can be certain it's a bad alternator. This would save me a few Euro. I just don't want to spend $200+ on a part if it's not going to fix the issue.

As a side note, I had some sort of parasitic drain on my battery last fall before I left the States. If I left my car off for more than 12 hours or so I would come back to a dead battery. I was going to look farther into that issue, but it just seemed to resolve itself. I didn't have a problem with the battery again until today. Just wanted to put that out there in case it relates as a symptom.

Thanks again for any and all help you guys/girls can provide. If any of you swing by Italy send me a message and I'll owe you some beers. Least I can do for the amount of help/knowledge I've gained here.
chris5670 is offline   Reply With Quote
Ads by Google

Guests, get your FREE E46Fanatics.com membership to remove this ad.
Old 06-15-2013, 10:49 AM   #2
NumbaOneNewb
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 3,149
My Ride: 2003 330CI Silver
Re: Electrical Issue

Sounds like a battery. If you start right up with a jump thats gotta be it. Happened to me. Plus I don't think your car would last long if the alternator craps out.

The battery drain most likely due to the darn blower motor something something. I forgot the exact name but im sure some guy will be along shortly to answer that.

Sent from my SPH-L710 using BimmerApp mobile app
__________________
Portland Metro: ECU updates, Euro tune, euro corner delete, air bag light, DSC light, cluster and any led color change, soldering work, transponders for keys, and all custom work related to computer or electronics.DIY AK90 A walk through on coding your mcu and transponders EWS3 How to make your own key (ak90 review)

Last edited by NumbaOneNewb; 06-15-2013 at 10:51 AM.
NumbaOneNewb is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 02:44 PM   #3
chris5670
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Naples, Italy
Posts: 5
My Ride: 2000 323i
I dismissed the battery as the end problem simply because the shop told me it was still good when I had it recharged. I know the danger of making assumptions though, and maybe I was too hasty in taking their word. Like I said, the base garage is not known for its expertise and quality work. Unfortunately they stay busy with the people who don't want to deal with the hassle of an Italian speaking mechanic. Would that parisitic drain ruin my battery in that short of a time? The battery is only 3 years old and the drain only seemed to last for a couple of months. I got used to unplugging the battery every time I knew I was going to be parked for a while. Also, the car showed absolutely no sign of a struggle when I first started it this morning. Then after 5 minutes or so...dead electrical. I am going to take your advice and replace the battery as it'll be due for it soon enough anyway. I guess my question now is...if I replace the battery and end up getting the same symptoms after a day or two, is it detrimental for the new battery or can I get the issue resolved, recharge the new drained battery and be good to go? Thanks for the advice. I'm pretty handy when it comes to things I can see work with my own eyes. Electrical has always seemed to stump me as I can't observe the flow of electricity. Also, you mentioned the drain possibly being caused by a blower motor. Is this the FSR issue I was reading about? And wouldn't I have noticed that running when the car was off? Last question I just thought of. If the alternator was still good wouldn't it have charged up my battery at least a little after the 20 minute drive, or is this the issue where amperage versus voltage comes into play? As soonas I shut it off I tried to start it back up and got nothing.

Last edited by chris5670; 06-15-2013 at 02:50 PM.
chris5670 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 02:52 PM   #4
NumbaOneNewb
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 3,149
My Ride: 2003 330CI Silver
you know, cancel the new battery thing. i just re read your post and you have the same problem as I did. this is how you can test it. first of all, i don't think the alternator is fried nor the battery. its odd you don't mention any weak starting during a jump or anything that would lead me to believe your battery is at fault. most would point to the alternator being it but its only part of it. are you noticing power loss with the dash flashing lights indicating something is wrong more so when you're slowing down? are you losing a lot of power steering fluid? I didn't suspect the power steering fluid leaking on my alternator as a problem because whenever i look at it, yes it was gunked up with black stuff but it always looked dried. I didn't realize that the heat coming from the alternator, the engine, and not to mention the fluid leaking when it did at a hot temperature itself baked it on there dry. i'm just so use to seeing any leaking fluid as a wet thing. how much fluid do you need to re add to that reservoir and how often?
__________________
Portland Metro: ECU updates, Euro tune, euro corner delete, air bag light, DSC light, cluster and any led color change, soldering work, transponders for keys, and all custom work related to computer or electronics.DIY AK90 A walk through on coding your mcu and transponders EWS3 How to make your own key (ak90 review)

Last edited by NumbaOneNewb; 06-15-2013 at 02:54 PM.
NumbaOneNewb is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:21 PM   #5
Stinger9
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 8,082
My Ride: '04 330Ci
I'm willing to bet you are in need of replacing your battery now. 2+ months of sitting did not do your battery any good. Add to that probably a new alternator. (BTW, your alternator has the voltage regulator built piggyback into the back of it. You should consider it one unit called the alternator. Do not get into thinking about doing only the regulator)
Are you sure you got no battery warning dash light as you were headed toward a failure? I did.

I'm surprised in your lurking you have not come across the powerful tool built into your car, and that is the OBC hidden functions that can be used to diagnose some important things.
Use function number 9 to read the car's voltage. Download and print out the attached.
Start your car and if the charging voltage is not close to 14v, you need a new alternator. If you were getting the proper volts, your car would not have started the auto shut down process.

All bets are off in the above if you have a bad cable connection somewhere on the way from your battery to the alternator by way of the starter motor. Or the engine grounding strap. But we are playing the odds and tackling what fails most often first.

Questions?

You can use www.realoem.com to analyze and understand some of your systems.

I don't want to overreach the limits of your DIY, but have you watched the somewhat useful youtube vid regarding this.
But your first problem is getting the car running and charging properly before we move to that.

Please fill in your garage with mileage, options, etc. so we can have all the facts when answering your questions.



We value people in our US military. Thank you.

Last edited by Stinger9; 12-14-2013 at 04:31 PM.
Stinger9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:28 PM   #6
chris5670
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Naples, Italy
Posts: 5
My Ride: 2000 323i
I did have to replace a decent amount of ATF not too long ago. It's been about six months. The resevoir was pretty low. I took off my air filter box a few hours ago just to get a quick look at the alternator. I read that it could be either a Bosch or some brand that started with a V and I wanted to know what kind was in my car. There WAS a significant amount of "gunk" on the outside of the resevoir, the hoses, and a bit on top of the alternator. It wasn't liquid or dried. I the best I could describe would be like a wet-clay consistency. I checked the resevoir again and it might be a little low again, but not as empty as before. Do you think maybe a loose resevoir cap allowed ATF fluid to spill out last time and now some of it just now worked its way into the alternator? Also, to answer your question I've noticed no dimming of any lights during acceleration or deceleration. When I got the jump after work, I revved the engine and the headlights flickered. After driving a couple of minutes they shut off again. These are the only lighting symptoms I know of. My car won't start, but the dome light, trunk lights, and keyless entry still seem to be operational. Theres just not enough juice to turn the engine over.
chris5670 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:33 PM   #7
Stinger9
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 8,082
My Ride: '04 330Ci
Very unlikely a loose ATF PS cap leaked as much as you say. Probably you are leaking from old hoses. Could have been better taken care of with regular PS fluid flushes which have additives that keep the hoses in better shape. There is an O-ring in the cap that should be replaced to prevent weeping, but that is mostly cosmetic.

Did you study post #5 yet?

Low volts can still operate low power lights, but not be enough to start the car. Takes 175 amps for that. That's 2000 watts.

Last edited by Stinger9; 06-15-2013 at 03:35 PM.
Stinger9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:33 PM   #8
NumbaOneNewb
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 3,149
My Ride: 2003 330CI Silver
in the meantime while you're trying other options, this is what i recommend you doing to confirm its your power steering hose. what i did was used brake cleaner, or you can use whatever type of chemical agent you want that can power through baked on ATF fluid. spray the snot out of your alternator. if you look you'll notice that the copper wires that are bundled up and swirling around like spaghetti noodles all up in there should be coated with a layer of black gunk. try and get as much of that black gunk off as possible. try to even look for something you can use to help wipe off or even brush off as much as you can. wait till it all dries and then take i for a drive again. see if it at least made things a tad bit better. if improvements are noticeable then do what I did. get the 2 hoses, clamps (i just used regular hose clamps bought at auto parts store near the same size as the hoses themselves), if you can afford to get a new power steering reservoir. it should come with a gasket to help prevent the fluid from leaking from the lid, although the major leak is coming from that hose directly hovering over the top of the alternator. in order to remove one of the hoses, you need a special tool made to help remove high pressure fluid lines on BMWs that you'll see on the power steering as well as transmission fluid line (i guess if its manual you might not see transmission fluid line). there are ways around this. people have used modifications and their own unique method to remove these things but if it ends up breaking the gray plastic clip that's responsible for helping the hose keep on there, then you're just going to have even more issues to deal with.

the 2 hoses are definitely a necessity. the reservoir not so much but there's a filter that's built into the reservoir that you might want to change while you're at it. the reservoir is very cheap. once I swapped those out, I stopped the fluid leaking. eventually I saw the problem occurring again after that, but it was due to the health decline in my battery that was also the problem. once swapped out I never saw the issue again. i almost didn't suspect my battery because it didn't seem to be in any sort of major stress. i have a hooked up stereo system so I guess that could have caused its demise.
__________________
Portland Metro: ECU updates, Euro tune, euro corner delete, air bag light, DSC light, cluster and any led color change, soldering work, transponders for keys, and all custom work related to computer or electronics.DIY AK90 A walk through on coding your mcu and transponders EWS3 How to make your own key (ak90 review)
NumbaOneNewb is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:38 PM   #9
Stinger9
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 8,082
My Ride: '04 330Ci
Quote:
Originally Posted by NumbaOneNewb View Post
in the meantime while you're trying other options, this is what i recommend you doing to confirm its your power steering hose. what i did was used brake cleaner, or you can use whatever type of chemical agent you want that can power through baked on ATF fluid. spray the snot out of your alternator.
Not a great idea to mess around with the enameled wire that are the windings of your alternator. If you dissolve of scratch the enamel, you could create shorted windings in there.

Do you really need to touch any high pressure hoses to replace the two reservoir hoses. I thought they were both low pressure? I've never done that job myself.

Last edited by Stinger9; 06-15-2013 at 03:40 PM.
Stinger9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:40 PM   #10
chris5670
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Naples, Italy
Posts: 5
My Ride: 2000 323i
Stinger. I had heard about that test. As a matter of fact, I watched a youtube video on it today. I got to the #9 test, but couldn't seem to get it to work. I must have missed something as the test wouldn't start and my dash kept reverting back to the original display. Its getting late here and I was going to research it more and try again tomorrow. I'll update my "garage" tomorrow as well. I didn't notice that when I registered. As for the car, its a stock 2000 BMW 323i with 121, xxx miles. Manual transmission. No aftermarket stereo or anything. Thanks for the tip about the test. I'll read the PDF you provided and hopefully figure out what I was doing wrong. And, yeah, I'm positive I didn't get the battery light. I thought it was odd too as I read over related threads earlier. It seemed to be a common symptom. When I drove home after work I made sure to doublecheck in case I missed it in the morning but it wasn't there.

Last edited by chris5670; 06-15-2013 at 03:44 PM.
chris5670 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:43 PM   #11
Stinger9
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 8,082
My Ride: '04 330Ci
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris5670 View Post
Stinger. I had heard about that test. As a matter of fact, I watched a youtube video on it today. I got to the #9 test, but couldn't seem to get it to work. I must have missed something as the test wouldn't start and my dash kept reverting back to the original display. Its getting late here and I was going to research it more and try again tomorrow. I'll update my "garage" tomorrow as well. I didn't notice that when I registered. As for the car, its a stock 2000 BMW 323i with 121, xxx miles. Manual transmission. No aftermarket stereo or anything. Thanks for the tip about the test. I'll read the PDF you provided and hopefully figure out what I was doing wrong.
OBC is tricky if you haven't done it before. I had to mess around for a while, but after I got it, becomes easy every time. Do it in my sleep.
Gotta get the time delays proper between button pushes.
Stinger9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 03:58 PM   #12
chris5670
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Naples, Italy
Posts: 5
My Ride: 2000 323i
Yeah, I hope your PDF breaks it down better than the video did. It was informative but I didn't hear anything about timing the button presses. I'll check it out again tomorrow after work. It's 10 pm here now and I have to be up at 3am so im delaying further troubleshooting until then. Borrowed a buddy's car so I could get to work and back. Thanks to both of you for the advice and hopefully I can get this taken care of. Its sounding more and more like ATF on the alternator, but is that a logical solution if I didn't get the battery indicator?
chris5670 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 04:08 PM   #13
Stinger9
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 8,082
My Ride: '04 330Ci
If you come to an impasse, we're here for you.
Ask away

I have heard of this without a battery trouble light. It is possible.


Hey! Watch what you say about my pdf!!!

Last edited by Stinger9; 06-15-2013 at 04:09 PM.
Stinger9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 04:50 PM   #14
jfoj
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Fairfax, VA USA
Posts: 12,086
My Ride: '06 330CiC, '03 M5
Sounds like a bad battery, my dash lit up like a Christmas tree when there was a bad cell in my battery.

You can do a poor mans load test with the Hidden OBC menu and use your headlights, if the battery drops much below 12.3 on the OBC, then likely your battery is bad/low.

If the batter is more than 3-4 years old, replace it.

You might consider something like this if your car sits for long periods, just put it on the dash and plug into the cigarette lighter.

http://www.amazon.com/Schumacher-SP-...attery+charger
__________________
Solve your misfires, lean codes, rough idle - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=897616

Fuel pump failures - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=929501

Temp Info - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=964491

Hidden OBC Menu - Check Voltage, Temps, Fuel Level - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=239619

E46/E39 GM5 Door Lock Info - www.bmwgm5.com

Lower hose fan switch O-ring - BMW #13621743299
jfoj is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 05:03 PM   #15
Stinger9
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 8,082
My Ride: '04 330Ci
Quote:
Originally Posted by jfoj View Post
Sounds like a bad battery, my dash lit up like a Christmas tree when there was a bad cell in my battery.

You can do a poor mans load test with the Hidden OBC menu and use your headlights, if the battery drops much below 12.3 on the OBC, then likely your battery is bad/low.

You might consider something like this if your car sits for long periods, just put it on the dash and plug into the cigarette lighter.
Bad battery with good alternator would probably not experience auto shutdown cycle. Always exceptions.

Should not use trickle charger when shipping overseas.

Last edited by Stinger9; 06-15-2013 at 05:05 PM.
Stinger9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 06:18 PM   #16
NumbaOneNewb
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 3,149
My Ride: 2003 330CI Silver
well, I know for sure its the alternator but technically,the alternator is in working condition. you just have to help it out. I cleaned my alternator very lightly, didnt do anything crazy. as far as the issue goes, I got $100 its your power steering hose. oh, heres a trick to see im right. find some kind of material that would handle heat well,not metal, and can withstand Atf, fluid. start from the top of hose, at the very bottom of the reservoir and wrap this material around it,winding it slowly down like a candy cane pattern. the rip itself is more than likely right at the part where the hose begins to bend and angle itself towards the back of the power steering pump (I think). what that will do is help divert the oozing of the fluid elsewhere instead of on top of the alternator. it will not however slow down your loss of the fluid.

just to inform you, only do this test long enough to be able to drive and confirm that it stops the problem. when you figure it out, stop driving it. I had thought this was a good solution and continuously drive like this for weeks until I could afford replacement parts. what it ended up doing was diverting fluid on over to the water hose that fed coolant on over to a hard plastic tube which eventually connects elsewhere then finally making its way to the heater core inside the cabin. that water hose, which I think is rubber softened up and the zip tie like strap holding it down began digging into the rubber, creating a cut which gradually grew. eventually when changing out the power steering hose,I noticed it leaking coolant.luckily when I did my coolant system refresh,I bought this part but didnt know where it went so I didnt bother worrying about it. it ended up coming in handy.
__________________
Portland Metro: ECU updates, Euro tune, euro corner delete, air bag light, DSC light, cluster and any led color change, soldering work, transponders for keys, and all custom work related to computer or electronics.DIY AK90 A walk through on coding your mcu and transponders EWS3 How to make your own key (ak90 review)
NumbaOneNewb is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-15-2013, 07:36 PM   #17
jfoj
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Fairfax, VA USA
Posts: 12,086
My Ride: '06 330CiC, '03 M5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stinger9 View Post
Bad battery with good alternator would probably not experience auto shutdown cycle. Always exceptions.
Battery is pretty easy to rule out, OP may have both a bad battery and questionable alternator.

All I can say is my 2006 E46 Vert had a bad cell in the battery still during the 48/50 Bumper to Bumper period. If I would not have seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed that things link the brake light, ABS light, airbag light and many other lights would have come on and off at different times. If during the crank cycle modules take a power dip, all sorts of strange things happen, module fail to proper communicate and many UNUSUAL things happen.

I actually also drove for a bit with the jumper box connected in the trunk and also had multiple dash lights come on at times. I did not use the headlights as it was during the daytime, but I am sure if I would have had other loads on I may have had some other squirrely problems.

So just for the wise, get the battery sorted, then move on from there. All you have to do is watch the Hidden OBC Voltage display when the engine is running and you should see at least 13.3-14.3 Volts. This is me adjusting for the typical 0.2 Volt drop I usually find in most cars. A healthy charging system should have 13.5-14.5 Volts at the battery, most cars/trucks. There are a few manufacturers that actually shut off the alternator for fuel savings and do other strange things. My 2005 GMC truck actually has a current loop on a battery cable and the ECU will shut the alternator off until it feels the charging system need to be turned back on. So on my truck you cannot use the "standard" assumptions that apply to about 90-95% of the cars on the road.
__________________
Solve your misfires, lean codes, rough idle - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=897616

Fuel pump failures - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=929501

Temp Info - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=964491

Hidden OBC Menu - Check Voltage, Temps, Fuel Level - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=239619

E46/E39 GM5 Door Lock Info - www.bmwgm5.com

Lower hose fan switch O-ring - BMW #13621743299
jfoj is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Censor is ON





All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:53 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
(c) 1999 - 2011 performanceIX Inc - privacy policy - terms of use