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Old 01-13-2020, 11:25 PM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Jersey City
Posts: 72
My Ride: 2004 300xi
No crank / no start 2004 330xi

2004 330xi with 216k miles. Manual trans. MS43. I bought it new 17 years ago.

(TL;DR - replaced a failing battery and still have no crank. Outputs of DME and EWS appear correct. Roll-starting works. Is my next step to pull the intake so I can confirm that the voltages at the starter are good, and probably replace the starter?)

For a number of years, there's been an occasional grinding sound for a second or two from the starter after the key is released, so I expected that at some point, I'd end up replacing it.

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed that the car has been hard to start. Battery voltage as reflected in the instrument cluster or PASoft would not be much above 12V before starting and would drop to under 10V while cranking. Audibly, my V1 radar detector would let out a dying squeal during starts; the last time it did that was when my alternator started to fail a few years ago. Once running, the alternator output is a healthy 14.1-14.2V.

Saturday morning, two 30-minute drives. First start the car struggled a bit to start, and second start for the ride home was fine a few hours later.

Sunday evening, tried to start the car. First start worked. Shut it off and immediately tried to start it again. Turned over a couple times slowly and started. Third start - nothing. No crank.

Attempted a jumpstart from another car. While battery voltage in the E46 appeared much better (13.x), still no crank.

Today, I've done the following:

- Checked a bunch of fuses (I forget which ones)
- Replaced the battery with new. It's fully charged.
- PASoft EWS live data shows all green when I press the clutch pedal with the ignition switch at ON
- Confirmed the output of EWS pin #1 (solid black) goes to 12V when turning the key to START (this should exclude any problem with EWS or a bad key)
- Confirmed the output of DME (pin 6 of X6011 in the E-box, Black/Yellow) goes to 12V when turning the key to START (this should exclude any problem with DME)
- Battery voltage appears to drop 0.1-0.3V when START is engaged, and recovers when I let the key spring back
- Scanned for codes with PASoft. Nothing relevant.
- Roll started the car - works. Helpful that my driveway is a tiny decline, which is enough to start the car, but slight enough that two humans can roll the car back up the hill.

So, I think that the issue is either a bad connection at the starter (perhaps either the DME or EWS control signal), or the starter itself. I can't think of any way to get to the starter connections to check them without doing everything necessary to get to the point of removing the starter, so I'm thinking that maybe I should just replace it and hope that's it. I've read through all the "no start" threads, and watched a number of DIYs, and since this is an XI, the replacement is a daunting task from the top.

My questions:

1. I can barely see the starter through all the crap in the engine compartment. Would it be worthwhile trying to reach the starter with a broomstick and then give the other end a couple whacks with a rubber mallet, while my trusty helper tries to start it?

2. Anything I've missed? Anything I should try before I start ripping things apart to get to the starter and replace it? I'm not keen on replacing this thing if I don't have to.

3. Anything I should also replace while I'm in there? Already did the CCV. Will look at the hard coolant hoses, but won't replace them unless necessary. Was thinking that the crank sensor and coolant temp sensor are right there and super cheap so maybe replace those. If I pull the intake, I'll replace the gasket. I'll replace the rear vacuum hoses for sure. What else?

Last edited by Skydaver; 01-13-2020 at 11:25 PM.
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