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Driveline, Engine & DME Tuning
Talk about driveline improvements, NA tuning and DME tuning your E46 BMW here. This includes diffs, intakes, exhausts, chips, software and OBD tuning.

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Old 03-28-2014, 07:24 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Wilmington, DE
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My Ride: 2003 330i (6spd ZSP)
Question Red oil light < 1k RPM (including idle) and no top end power. Any advice?

tl;dr My RED oil light is coming on when < 1k RPM, and I have no top-end power. They're most likely symptoms for 2 completely different issues. Does anyone have any advice/experience to share with me?

Fully detailed version...
Ok, my mechanic is stumped and hasn't found the cause to my issue, so I figured I'd through this over the fence to the collective mind of the internet and all you e46 experts in here.

I bought my 2003 330i 6spd almost 2yrs ago with 130k on the clock. At the time I bought it, I took it to 2 mechanics for a PPI, and to make sure there wasn't any immediate maintenance that needed to be done. Both said it was a really clean car. Since then I've put another 25k (mostly highway) on it. So now it's at 155k. Most of those came from the last year, since I took a job further away (70 mile round trip). I've been really babying my car (hardly taking it above 3k RPM) since last Fall until I had the time to find a really good mechanic, since my last mechanic refused to work on european cars. Things that I knew were wrong at the time were... slow oil burn/leak, a shot suspension, busted sun-roof (possibly just broken shade tabs) and a busted driver's side head light.

Monday, while attempting to pass someone (RPM > 3k), I heard a pop sound (now I believe it was a really bad engine knock), which was followed up by my EML, DSC and BRAKE warning lights coming on and my idle going crazy between 1 - 1.5K. The car restarted without incident after I pulled over, turned the car off and did a visual check for fluids, smoke and broken bits.

On Tuesday, I took it to a local mechanic that specializes in European cars (European Performance in Wilmington, DE), the mechanic found a leak in a power steering hose, a leak near the oil filter housing, and mentioned that my engine was very under powered. However, he was not able to determine the cause of Monday's incident. Except that he agreed that my engine knocked, which caused the lights to come on and my idle to go haywire until I reset the EMS by restarting the car. I had him replace the power steering hose, and as a preventive measure replace my spark plugs. I scheduled an appointment to return Friday(today) to fix the oil leak.

Thursday (yesterday), I tried push my car some in an attempt to replicate Monday's incident and possibly get more info surrounding what triggered it. During this I could definitely feel how under powered the car was on the top end (> 3k). The power would just drop off after about 3k. However, I was only able to replicate the EMS, DSC , BRAKE light trifecta of doom once; when I was revving it in neutral up around 5k.

Today, I took it back to the mechanic, and had him replace the oil filter housing gasket, vanos line, deflection roller (idk), belt tensioner pulley, serpentine belt, fuel filter and air filter.

However, I still have no top end power, and now have a new issue, which is that while at idle the RED oil light comes on. The light immediately turns off whenever I get the engine above 1k RPM though. The mechanic informed me that he double checked all his work around the oil filter housing, and pulled out the oil sensor to clean off the terminals (incase they were corroded and shorting out).

The mechanic is stumped in regards to both issues, but we agreed that I would bring my car back to him this Wednesday to replace the fuel pump and then reset the software. Afterwards if those don't prove useful, I asked him to do a compression test. He did suggest that I run a bottle of fuel injector cleaner through a half full tank to see if that helps things, which I immediately did after I left the shop today.

ALL THAT SAID, do any of my symptoms sound familiar (RED oil light at idle, and no top-end power)? Does anyone that's more mechanically inclined than me, agree that we're going down the right path in trying to figure out what's wrong with my car?

Thanks in advance to anyone who read all that, and double thanks to anyone who can give me some advice.

Cheers & thanks

Last edited by hypno7oad; 03-28-2014 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 03-28-2014, 10:08 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Wilmington, DE
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My Ride: 2003 330i (6spd ZSP)
So I drove around a bit more tonight, revving and pushing my engine, and to my surprise no oil light. Now, as much as I'm happy about that, I'm still really curious as to why the light came on in the first place. Anyone have an idea as to what happened?
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Old 04-02-2014, 11:46 AM   #3
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Ok, so I think we've diagnosed the issue. After replacing the fuel filter and replacing the fuel pump, my mechanic pulled the O2 sensors and ran with them out. IMPROVEMENT. Afterwards, he checked the backpressure. At idle it was ~6psi, and while revving it spiked to 11psi. Signs point to a clogged cat. I had no intention of doing any header work, but if I have to do all the same labor to fix the cat issue, I'll have to reconsider.

Thinking I might just do eBay headers and a spark plug defoulers...

... anyone have any other thoughts?
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Old 04-04-2014, 03:41 PM   #4
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My Ride: 2004-325xi,87-5000TQ
I'd change your oil pressure switch imho, maybe it was further messed up when it was remove / cleaned. When idling my car would have the red oil light flicker - wasn't lit solid. A bip on the throttle and it went out. Have you checked your crank case ccv system?
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Old 04-04-2014, 08:31 PM   #5
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Yep. Had clogged cats on my 04 ZHP 6 speed. I knew it when I was beaten in a drag race from 60mph by a 323 AUTO. Went with headers and I swear I gained 80hp.

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Old 04-05-2014, 03:45 AM   #6
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@jc179, I haven't checked the ccv system, but the oil light hasn't returned since that one day after they were working on it.

@smolck, haha that sounds horrible, but pretty much sums up my experience. My car can barely get out of its own way right now.

So I think I'm just going to go with the G3 headers from BimmerBrakes, and attempt the install myself. I have some vacation days coming up anyways. Plus if I can manage the install myself, then I can put the money I save in labor, to having my 3.46 diff installed (or attempt that myself as well).
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:35 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by smolck View Post
Yep. Had clogged cats on my 04 ZHP 6 speed. I knew it when I was beaten in a drag race from 60mph by a 323 AUTO. Went with headers and I swear I gained 80hp.

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lol this is great

how many miles were on that ZHP before the cat clogged???

Awaiting install: hot Cat Cams spec regrind, headers, Alpha-N tune
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oil light, underpowered

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