E36 BMW owners-Spark plug replacement

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jay H, Jun 10, 2004.

  1. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    My '97 E36 BMW doesn't want to start. I tried to get it going so I could go kayaking after work yesterday, I biked home, got in the car and the car will turn over but the engine won't catch. I can hear what sounds like air in the "choke" (Yeah I know it's not a carburator) and there is a slight rumbling that sounds like the pistons are trying to turn but nothing.

    Car has 51k miles on it and on the original spark plugs, fuel filter, starter, alternator. The battery is new and was replaced in Dec'03 and I can turn everything electrical on and off fine without the engine running so it's not the battery.

    I'm thinking it's a good, inexpensive attempt to try to replace the spark plugs. The last time I started the car was Saturday, June 5th just to move my car 10 feet so my sister could park in the driveway. The last time before that was Memorial Day weekend. I bike to work which is also why it only has 51k miles on it.

    Any other ideas on what could be the problem. I was thinking the fuel filter but then again, I don't think the engine needs that much fuel to start.

    Does anybody know exactly what sockets I need to replace the spark plugs? Haven't done this yet although I think I have a 3/8" socket extender.

    Jay
     
  2. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Randomly changing parts probably will waste a lot of your time. Do you have access to an OBD-II code puller? Many autoparts places loan them out. If a code is set it will tell you exactly what's the problem. See for example http://www.midwayautosupply.com/deta...ption.asp?3352

    For sparkplugs, you need a spark plug socket - there are two sizes. Also a torque wrench so you reseat them properly. Do you have a shop manual?
     
  3. Andrew W

    Andrew W Supporting Actor

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    Sounds like electrical ignition could be your problem, but a bad coil or some other component is a more likely candidate than the spark plugs. It's not likely all of them would foul at the exact same time.

    If you do change them, be sure to put anti-seize on them and *use a torque wrench*. Also put dieletric grease in the boots.

    PS: For spark plugs you'll need the inch-pounds wrench which will go for about $50. Get a clicker type and be sure to unload it after using it.
     
  4. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    Not to mention, waste of cash. I've seen good plugs last way beyond 51,000 in a well maintained vehicle. If your plugs are really bad, this could indicate something far more serious. If your light is on then maybe try Dennis' suggestion.

    Don't waste time and money "stabbing in the dark." You'll quickly blow the $80-85 it would take to properly diagnose your vehicle at an authorized dealer.
     
  5. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Nope, no OBDII scanner and since the car isn't starting, no way for me to get to an Autozone or so. But I'm going by a Strauss Auto on my bike home, I can see if they let me borrow one...

    Called one auto parts store who doesn't rent them out...


    I have two torque wrenchs and there are places I've seen that say use anti-sieze and those that don't. (Something to do with BMW or Porsche engines)... I am going to at least pull out a spark plug tonight and look at them.

    If it's the fuel pump, then that may be beyond the time I have to spend tonight...

    If I do take it to a dealer, do you think they would charge me for the tow? Do you think any old auto repair shop that does "foreign" cars would work out? I have no experience in dealing with car repair outside of doing my own work and dealer's warenttee work.

    I really plan on trading the car in for the new Outback so I just want to get the thing running so I can get to the dealership. I've done all my routine maintainance myself and when my water pump died in '99 it was replaced under warentee of which I'm far out of it. I'm thinking the cost of a tow to a dealership would probably be in the range of a new OBDII scanner and I know how to replace the fuel filter and fuel pump via the net.

    Jay
     
  6. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    I'm not sure a OBDII scanner will help you out unless you are getting a check engine light, otherwise I don't think the computer will spit out any codes. I could be wrong though.


    Jeff
     
  7. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Well, I think the CEL goes on automatically at ignition... And will be cleared when you turn the key off the ignition cycle (assuming an OK status). I have never used an OBDII scanner nor do I know the workings of one.. I'm told all you need to do is turn the key to ACC and you should get the codes (if any, I guess)..

    Jay
     
  8. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    OK, took the old spark plugs out (BOSCH Supers) and they look OK. I might just put them back in and return the BOSCH platinum2s that I bought on sale... I didn't see any oil in the spark plug sockets not any white ash buildup or excessive carbon buildup. Do you think that while I have the spark plugs out, should I clean them in some fashion or should I just put them back in. I am going to see if I can test the ignition coils if I can figure out how to do that safely.

    I've read that you can connect the ignition coil and put the business end (the end that connects to the spark plug) really close to a ground and have somebody crank the engine and see if you get a jump from the coil to the ground.

    Speaking to the folks at Strauss auto, the guy thinks it could still be the starter or flywheel.

    In either case, they were out of $100 OBDII scanners and my friend is going to let me borrow a PC-based scanner but I might go out and buy a generic OBDII scanner, it is $100 there... I just hope the scanner codes that involve the ignition are the standard OBDII codes and not BMW specific.

    Somebody also told me I can check the fuel pump/fuel filter by spraying ether into the cyclinder(s) directly through the spark plug socket and then cranking the engine and see if the engine starts up... and if it starts and then dies, then something is wrong with the fuel pump or fuel rails/supply/filter

    I now am very happy that I can bike everywhere! [​IMG]

    Jay
     
  9. ClintS

    ClintS Stunt Coordinator

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    I would NOT spray ether into the cylinders. I would take to a reputable auto repair shop and let them fix it. You are not dealing with a simple engine, you are likely to cause more damage than good, I bet a BMW computer costs several thousand to replace. I knew a guy that fried his in a seven series trying to jump start it. Fortunatley he go one out a junkyard but it was still several hundred dollars. I'm all for DIY but sometimes its just makes $ sense to let an experienced person with the right tools do the job. Did you use a good torque wrench to reseat the plugs? If not the aluminum heads can easily be damaged. I would NOT touch the ignition coil for the reasons mentioned above the electronis are very sensitive.
     
  10. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    On high-tech foreign makes like this it's almost always cheaper in the long run to have it towed to the dealer, and yes you will have to pay for the tow unless it's a warranty repair. If there is a reputable independent shop in your area that specializes in late model European imports you might do ok with them but probably won't save any appreciable amount over the dealership. Any lesser shop is most likey to just throw parts at it the same as you've been doing.

    The dealer has the most experience with your car and it's systems. They may have a higher per-hour labor rate and possibly their parts are more expensive, but they will waste less of that per-hour labor charge on diagnosis because they know what they're doing and their parts will be OEM quality.

    If this were an old Chevy Lumina just about any decent shop would be ok, but it's not so you may have to bite the bullet and have it towed to the dealer.
     
  11. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Well, the spark plugs are cheap and I'll probably just return them anyway so I figured might as well look at them. I've read problems on early 90's 325is with cracked ignition coils but they were replaced with BOSCH ones and those are the ones that are supposedy better and those are the ones that I have. I think the 325s had a problem with possible cracked ignition coils destroying the car's ECU (perhaps a short) which is like super $$$ to replace, but supposedly it was fixed when BMW went to BOSCH ones.

    Haven't replaced the spark plugs yet cause I had to get a 6" socket extender so I can use my torque wrench. The BMW has a 5/8" spark plug wrench in the toolbox (cool!) which I used to take it out and a 3" extender is just enough for me to get the new plug back in, but not really enough for the torque wrench. Too bad the spark plug wrench wasn't made to use a torque wrench. It basically has a hole drilled in the end of the metal tube which you can stick the wheel set thing in and use that for leverage. Neat-o-keen thing that these germans think of... Makes one think that you can disassemble the whole car with just the tools in the toolbox. [​IMG]

    Jay
     
  12. Erik.Ha

    Erik.Ha Supporting Actor

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    Sounds to me like its either :

    1. Dead battery (the fact that you can listen to the radio and the lights work DOESNT mean it has enough power to crank your engine...) Do you have a volt meter? Check the voltage at the battery terminals... Less than 12 = Wont start. Have you tried to jump it?

    The NEWNESS of the battery is irrelevent. The fact that you dont drive it very often, and when you last did it was a short distance means you could have drained the battery and NOT given it enough time to recharge from the alternator. The e36 BMW has a TON of nifty electrical gadgets that each draw a small amount of current when the engine is off (Trip Computer, ECU, Alarm?, Radio, Phone? Etc...) This "parasitic drain" will leave a battery with less than the needed energy to turn the engine if it isnt recharged periodically,

    2. Dead starter. (Although, this usually results in a "clicking" noise, that doest sound like what you described).

    What it "might be":

    1. Rotor- Unlikely though. Bad rotors usually result in misfires... Like bad spark plugs... rarely amount to Nonstarts.

    2. Alternator- Possible- Unlikely though. Hard to check while engine is off.

    3. Voltage regulator- Possible... Also hard to check with car off. You could pull it and make sure the brushes are long enough, but thats a little premature before youve decided there is actually anything wrong.

    The first thing to do is get the car started... Then our true enemy will reveal itself!
     
  13. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Fixed it! My friend came over and then I was in a better position to check on things, I could try to start the car and he could peak in. Saw that fanbelt moving and the crankshaft was spinning up with the starter motor. We checked the spark at the ignition coils via a philips head screwdriver and that was good. I replaced the spark plugs with new ones. Then I removed the back seat to check the fuel pump. I opened the cover and saw a bunch of dirt that accumulated there via the road and got a shop vac and vacuumed it all out. I measured +12vDC on the connector so that was good. I was all set to have my friend put a finger on the pump when I turned the key to the ACC position to see if he could feel the pump actuate. Well I went to crank the car just thinking we'd test the fuel pump and the car started!!! Turned it off, started it again... Good! I guess the connector was dirty and was intermittent on the fuel pump. Good thing this didn't happen when I was driving. Anyway, I cleaned up the pump and put everything back together... Now I am extremely happy that I don't have to get gouged by the stealer or pay towing...

    Jay
     
  14. Bob Graz

    Bob Graz Supporting Actor

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    Cool, looks like you may have gotten lucky. Hopefully it'll stay fixed.
     

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