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E46 Xi Forum
The E46 XI was produced from 01-05 in sedan and touring body styles. Powered by either a 2.5L inline 6 in the 325xi or a 3.0L inline 6 330xi. Discuss all thing about BMW AWD E46 'Xi' here.

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Old 07-08-2012, 10:25 AM   #1
tomoyer
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No Start Condition - Read On

Looking for some expert advice to go along with my diagnostics/testing so far. I have a 2003 E46 325xi with 5 speed Manual Transmission. The car will not start, the starter motor DOES NOT engage NOR does the solenoid CLICK. Testing battery voltage, 12.75 Volts, hydrometer test, all cells float the float in the green, automatic battery tester says battery is good at 12.6 volts, cold cranking amps at 725. For some time, you would have to depress the clutch pedal 2 or 3 times to start the car, until finally depressing the clutch pedal, no start (all other electrical system are working, and all fuses are good). This car being a 2003, it has the clutch switch module attached to the clutch master cylinder at the top of the clutch pedal. The clutch switch module part number is 61 31 9 122 702 (there is also another part number listed, 61 31 9 231 129 for the same year, etc. and looks the same). Obviously this clutch switch module is working by way of a magnet being pulled when the clutch pedal is depressed, the clutch master cylinder rod moving to move the magnet to complete the circuit. Voltage check at the 4 pin connector (brown/black, blue, violet/yellow, blue black) shows 11.98 volts to ground, meaning, there is voltage coming from battery/fuse block (checked with fluke DMM). Also using DMM on audible alarm, and on any combination of pins with the probes and running a steel tool along the length of the clutch switch module, the alarm does not sound, meaning there is no connection made between any 2 of the 4 pins. To go further, all connections at battery are clean and tight, all major grounds are clean and tight, there is 12.75 volts when measured at the positive battery jumping location under the hood, the connections are all clean and tight at the starter motor. Is this clutch switch module a switch that has been prone to going bad (I know the early model E46s with the 2 switches, one for the clutch interlock and the other for the cruise control, were prone to going bad after some time/mileage)? Please refrain from answering that its the key, its the battery, its the alternator, as these items are all ok and have been checked (in the case of the key, the valet key doesn't hold any charge as it has no capacitor in it or eprom). This clutch switch module is not a very expensive part, ranging in cost from $39.27 to probably double that at a dealer and is a special order/non-stocked item and being an electronic part, not returnable, so I want to be even more sure than I already am that this switch has given up the ghost and is ready to be replaced.
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Old 07-08-2012, 10:43 AM   #2
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Bypass the clutch switch first before buying a new one. You'll have to do a google search on how to do it, I did it on mine when I had the same exact issue. My no start turned out to be the starter. Then the key a few weeks later. Good luck!

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Old 07-08-2012, 10:58 AM   #3
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Also, if you have access to a code reader read your codes. Thats how I found out my key was not working. (i used my peake code reader)

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Old 07-08-2012, 04:08 PM   #4
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Found a DIY Thread here that told you how to bypass the clutch switch module to add a button instead of having to push the clutch in. DIY instructions said to jump between the violet/yellow and blue/black wires. I did try this and still have nothing, so the module may not be the source of the problem. BTW, there is an after market clutch pedal stop installed, however, the very first thing done was to remove it to rule that out, not letting clutch master cylinder travel far enough to activate the switch (actually was working fine when installed after fine tuning the adjustment, so it doesn't come into play), and it wasn't an off base reply, it was relevant as when you install them, you have a good bit of fine tuning the height adjustment to get the clutch switch to make but also limit the pedal travel some. Have I ruled out the starter/starter solenoid has been asked. From past experiences, the starter solenoid usually doesn't go like that (intermittent having to depress pedal more than once to start AND just up a quitting without warning), they usually let you know that they are failing by clicking when you go to start the car, HOWEVER, all things are possible AND the only way to disprove the starter/starter solenoid is to check voltage at lug 30, and then at the solenoid trigger right down on the starter motor, which just happens to be a big sweet PIA on these cars and easier done with car up in the air and pans removed (this is the next check I will be doing once it starts to cool down a bit, about 100 degrees right now and very humid. Having several E30s, one a 1984, on all of them I have never had to replace a starter/solenoid and all have more than 200,000 miles on the clock. To me, the Clutch Switch Module seems like the weakest link in the chain, AND several people did respond to the DIY instructions to jump it, that it didn't work for them and their starters were good. Quite a puzzle. I don't have a Peake Research Code Reader, but if I'm not mistaken, the Bavarian Auto Code Reader is a Peake Research unit and doesn't seem to have codes for other than emissions, misfires, and engine management problems, but let me see what code(s) if any it spits out, no codes are stored.
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Old 07-08-2012, 07:07 PM   #5
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Ok, checked everything at the starter and starter solenoid, all cables clean and tight, on Terminal 30 measured 12.34 volts, at Positive Jumper location measured 12.35 volts and at battery 12.35 volts. With clutch pedal depressed, key to start position, measured 11.94 volts at terminal 50 (the solenoid trigger from ignition switch), but with key held on to start position it did drop to 0 volts and no audible sound of solenoid clicking to engage. Now leads me to believe that indeed the starter solenoid is bad and needs to be replaced (or the entire starter motor assembly which includes the motor and the solenoid). What do our experts think?
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Old 07-09-2012, 02:39 PM   #6
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Here's an update and something to remember. In my last post I mentioned that when depressing the clutch pedal all the way in and holding the key in the start position, I had 11.94 volts at terminal 50 (the solenoid terminal at the starter) and 12.34 volts on terminal 30 at the starter. However, the voltage of 11.94 volts quickly dropped to zero even though the clutch pedal was depressed and the key was still being held in the start position. Cause? There is an ignition switch control module that is located in the steering column and connected to the key cylinder. Its purpose is to supply current to start the engine, supply current to keep the engine running and accessory current when engine is off. Upon studying wiring diagrams and talking with 2 very experienced techs (more experienced on the E46 than I am, I'm much better on the E30s, so I have some of the quirks of the E46 to still learn), they both told me that this ignition switch control module is a known fail point and is a major cause of a no-start condition when NOTHING happens when you try to start the car. (a shorted starter motor and/or shorted starter solenoid would have this effect; if you have the headlights on, trying to start the car, if either were shorted, the headlights would dim or even go out indicating a short. Having ruled out all else in my case, I have ordered the ignition switch module (both dealers and several of the BMW aftermarket parts stores can not keep them in stock as they are a hot item) and will replace that part. Once replaced, I will add what happens to this thread.
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Old 07-11-2012, 05:00 PM   #7
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You should have just bought a starter and been done with it.
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Old 07-11-2012, 05:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomoyer View Post
Now leads me to believe that indeed the starter solenoid is bad and needs to be replaced (or the entire starter motor assembly which includes the motor and the solenoid). What do our experts think?
Replace both if you're in there already. The starter is such a PITA to get to and swap out that it wouldn't make sense to try one or the other. Just do both and call it a day.
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:04 PM   #9
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Think I OVER Diagnosed my problem, ordering and installing the ignition control module made no change/difference to the no start condition I have. So, with that said, I have ordered a new starter (my original gut feeling), however, before I open the box, I will be removing the old starter and bench testing it.
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Old 07-11-2012, 11:43 PM   #10
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An easy trick for testing a starter "in situ" is to lightly tap on the solenoid with a screwdriver handle or plastic mallet. It will usually free a stuck solenoid. You might have to bang a little hard, but don't dent the case. If that doesn't work, use a heavy screw driver and jump across the terminal from the battery wire to the starter motor (1/2" gap) and it should turn. If it does, then you know the solenoid is bad before you even remove the starter. I've had to do this to get a car started to avoid a tow home... Just make sure the car is not in gear (obviously!!).

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Old 07-12-2012, 03:20 PM   #11
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starters usually give a sign before they die, but that is not always the case. it is most likely what your issue is, good luck with the replacement. Refurb your old one so you have a spare!
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Old 07-12-2012, 08:02 PM   #12
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Not on a BMW but I did have a solonid problem where I could press the clutch a few times and it would start. Once I got it off and opened it up the wire to the solonid pos lug was broke. I think what was happening was from that little bit of movement from pressing the clutch in caused it to make contact and start long shot but posable solution. I would try bypassing the solonid

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Old 07-13-2012, 09:28 PM   #13
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I agree, most times a starter and/or starter solenoid fail, they let you know a bit ahead of time that they are failing, but not always. I my case, the last start before nothing, it cranked over slowly, like a dead battery and then next start nothing at all. Tapping on the solenoid didn't change anything, and the quarters are too close to try the old screw driver across terminal 30 (the battery cable) and terminal 50 (the solenoid connection), too easy to touch other parts. SO, the starter will come out tomorrow and be tested with a 12 volt power supply, not a battery charger, a true 12 volt power supply. Because it just stopped working like that is why I dug into the starting system deeper, testing everything trying to rule out other possible causes. (The only other indication could have been that every once in a while you had to depress, release and depress the clutch pedal to get it started, the reason I checked the clutch switch module thinking that it was bad, not completing the circuit). Will post results after taking the starter out and bench testing it (I don have a starter on the way).
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Old 07-14-2012, 12:53 AM   #14
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Don't bother trying to test the starter with a power supply. Even if it was 50+ amps, it would draw a lot more power than that to get up to speed normally (surge/CCA). Starters use a LOT of power to kick over. I use a set of jumper cables directly on the starter case and battery terminal when testing outside of the car. Then you can use a starter button, heavy wire or screw driver to jump the solenoid terminal to positive. A poor ground to the engine or starter can also make it run slow/not start, even if you are getting ~12V to the positive terminal on the starter and solenoid.

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Old 07-16-2012, 04:30 PM   #15
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Ok, here's the latest update. Usually the Bentley Service Manual is pretty spot on for diagnostics and for repair procedures, BUT not in this case. THere is virtually no way that you can remove the Starter Motor from underneath the car, the car being an all-wheel drive (quite possible for a RWD E46 though). Researched the Official BMW Service Manuals and for the E46 325xi, Automatic OR Manual, it is recommended to remove the Intake Manifold and it lists the flat rate for the job, start to finish as 6 hours. This happens to be the third thing I have found wrong within the E46 Bentley Service Manual, guess they are not as well written now a days as they were for the E30s.
So with that said, it is definitely the starter solenoid that went bad, they don't have to act like the old days, clicking when you hit the key to start. Removing the Intake Manifold does not require draining any coolant, but besides the Intake Manifold gasket(s), you will probably want to spring for the plastic hoses for the oil separator valve because they may not detach without breaking. There is a DIY Video in the archives detailing what I have stated.
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Old 07-16-2012, 06:00 PM   #16
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If voltage from all 4 poles of your ignition switch is ok, you may need to have the codes read out with peake or equivalent to check for errors in EWS module. Could need something as simple as a rolling code reset. but I'd definitely get it checked out before you spend too much money and have to pay to have it diagnosed.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:47 PM   #17
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It seems a lot of people have had to replace starters lately......so I'm leaning more towards the starter (probably just the solenoid), than anything. I wish it wasn't, but if you have a code reader - it wouldn't hurt to scan the codes.
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Old 07-16-2012, 09:21 PM   #18
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When I replaced my starter it came out from the bottom. My car is a 325xi manual. Didnt remove the intake manifold or lower the transmission either. Get a new lower intake boot when you do the starter cause I can almost guarantee yours is torn as these are notorious for breaking.

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Old 07-17-2012, 03:06 PM   #19
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It is indeed the starter solenoid that is bad, period. MF325XI, I have no idea how in the heck you got it out the bottom cause even with the vacuum canister removed and front prop shaft removed there wasn't enough room to sneak it past, PLUS as I said, the E46 BMW Factory Service Guide and Manual instructs to remove the Intake manifold to replace the starter on all XI Models, just saying.
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Old 07-17-2012, 06:42 PM   #20
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I remember removing the canister, but can't recall exactly how it came out. I do remember my arms being very scratched up for a few weeks. It was a very painful procedure!

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