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E12, E28, E34, E39, E60 General discussion and technical help for all year 5 series cars.

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Old 03-15-2007, 11:44 AM   #1
browneyedgirl

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Red Check Engine Light

Hi all,
I'm new here and have a question concerning my 1993 525i. I apologize in advance for the length of my post. I was driving it Monday evening when the red check engine light came on. When I turned off the car, I got the message "coolant level" and "owners manual." Unfortunately, I bought the car used nearly 4 years ago and no owners manual came with it. Anyway, I had a couple of errands to do on the way home. I kept a close eye on the temp guage and it never went over the halfway mark (it is usually at 1/4 to 1/2 on the guage). It was dark when I got home, so the next morning I checked and the coolant was very low (probably about 1" remaining). I added coolant to within about 1" of the top of the reservoir. I started the car and the red check engine light immediately came on.

I drove to work (I only work about 2 miles from home) and the temp guage was in the little blue corner. Later in the afternoon I checked the coolant and it was just above the "cold" line. Once again, I added coolant to within 1" of the reservoir and made a mark so I could tell if the level went down. I called my independent mechanic who advised me to remove the screw next to the radiator cap and pour coolant in until it came out that hole. I drove the car home and was unable to do this that evening because the engine wasn't cool and it got dark.

Yesterday morning the coolant was still at the level of the mark I made...actually a little bit above it, so I couldn't add any more coolant. I didn't drive the car yesterday. This morning it was still right at the mark I made. Again, as soon as I started the car the red check engine light came on. I drove to work and checked the coolant a little over an hour later and it was maybe 1/2" below the mark.

My mechanic doesn't understand why the red check engine light comes on immediately before the engine even gets warmed up. The car is running just fine. Of course, the mechanic told me that it's not recommended to drive the car when this light is on. However, since it was running fine and not overheating, I decided to drive it only to work and back until tomorrow when I can take it in to the shop.

I have 2 questions:

(1) Has anyone ever had a problem like this?

(2) Do you think it would be OK for me to drive the car to the repair shop (about 15-20 miles) as long as I keep an eye on the temp guage and it doesn't get hot, or would you have it towed in?

BTW, this car since I've owned it seems to have an electrical short or something as I get weird messages occasionally like "brake lt circuit" when nothing is wrong. I appreciate any insight anyone might be able to give me concerning this problem. Thanks!
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Old 03-15-2007, 12:52 PM   #2
c1apton
 
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It's probably the level sensor itself is corroded/lose connection/or dis-conected causing the light to trigger. It's common on your model -PROVIDING the temp gauge is below the half mark and there's no steam coming out of your exhaust. (white smoke) The sensor might have just come unplugged and that too would trigger the red check engine light. When was the last coolant flush performed? They're supposed to be done every other year or 30k whichever comes first. Have your trusted mechanic look at the sensor.
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Old 03-15-2007, 01:05 PM   #3
drz

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Welcome to UB.c, fellow Arkansas dweller

I doubt the coolant issue has anything to do with the check engine light. I also get a check engine light before I even turn on the car -- I had the codes read at Autozone, and it turns out I need a new catalytic converter (confirmed by the dealership) and an O2 sensor. I have been driving in such condistions for over a year now.

Your car is pre-1996, so the engine management system follows a convention known as OBDI. The good thing about this is that you can read the check engine light codes directly off the car by following the procedure explained here: http://www.extreme-check-engine-ligh...%20Decoder.htm

All in all, it shall be safe to drive your car to the shop. In fact, you could probably drive all you want as long as the coolant is not dripping like crazy.

The spurious brake light circuit light situation happens to a lot of BMW drivers. It really is mostly an annoyance, but what you can do is have the brake light sockets removed and cleaned throughly. Sometimes corrosion forms at the terminals, increasing the electrical resistance of the contact and thus throwing off the onboard computer.

Once again, welcome and good luck. We'd like to have you back even after you get your car fixed
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Old 03-15-2007, 01:25 PM   #4
Dudesky

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Welcome to our forum. First off, let's be sure we're referring to the same warning light on your dashboard. There is a CHECK ENGINE light, and there is a CHECK light. Two completely different things, and I'm willing to bet that in your case, it's the latter. drz is referring to the Check engine light, which would mean the fault code(s) would have to be investigated. But as c1apton was saying, it's probably just the level sensor underneath the coolant reservoir. In fact I'm 99% sure of it, as it's a common problem, particularly if the warning comes on so early as you mentioned.

Usually, removing the electrical plug at the bottom of the tank and plugging it back in will corrrect this; just some debris or it's not making proper contact. If not, the sensor itself (inside the tank) will have to be cleaned or replaced; often times it just gets stuck.

Lastly, only fill the coolant up to the COLD (aka KALT) line- definitely not to within 1" of the top, and only when the engine is really cold, like after an overnight rest. Otherwise you'll end up overfilling it. While driving, and when the engine is hot, it's normal for the level to fluctuate, so it's hard to get a good assessment. You should also have your mechanic check to see if there was any reason for the coolant to get so low in the first place. Hope this helps!
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Old 03-15-2007, 01:37 PM   #5
browneyedgirl

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Thanks C1apton,

Yes, the temp gauge is below 1/2 and nothing unusual coming out of the exhaust. And yes, it is definitely overdue for a coolant flush, so I need that even if nothing else is wrong.

Obviously, I'm not much of a mechanic and I'm afraid that I'm also a bit lax in keeping my vehicle maintained. But, then of course, when the car isn't working right, I get really ticked off. Nothing more frustrating than a car acting up, right? We're so dependent upon them!
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Old 03-15-2007, 02:25 PM   #6
browneyedgirl

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Thanks drz,

I tried the method you posted for reading the codes, but I couldn't get it to work....I tried several times. Here's what I got...these lights were on: Oil, Battery, Park Brake, Brake Fluid, Red Check Engine Light (sometimes flashing). The only thing showing on the message space of the dash was the inspection bar with yellow and red squares.

Maybe I should go to AutoZone and ask them to check the codes before I take it to the shop? Do they charge for this? Initially, after talking to my mechanic (who isn't close enough to be convenient) I called a nearby Firestone where I've had the oil changed. They wanted $90 to hook the car up to their diagnostic machine....I told them "no, thanks!" When I called the mechanic back, he said that the dealership would charge $120 for the same thing....just another reason why I don't go there!

The brake lt circuit thing hasn't acted up in awhile so I'll probably just live with it.

Thanks for the welcome....nice to meet a fellow Arkansan; I went to college in Fayetteville! I'll try and come back from time to time and will definitely let everyone know how this situation turns out.
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Old 03-15-2007, 02:37 PM   #7
c1apton
 
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the brake light circuit light is also a common fault an the early 525s and there was a recall on the stoplight switch above your brake pedal (or as BMW refers to it "open campaign") you might want to have your dealer run your VIN # for all open campaigns & if there are any they'll perform them for FREE - even on the older BMWs - also when brake light circuit goes off, everyone overlooks the 3rd brake bulb in rear window - next ime it happens have someone step on brake pedal & make sure you have 3 brake lights on not just 2.
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Old 03-15-2007, 02:52 PM   #8
browneyedgirl

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Thanks Dudesky,

My problem is, in fact, the RED CHECK ENGINE light, so I need the fault codes checked. Hopefully, it will be something minor, like what c1apton said.

About filling the bottle with coolant, I kinda learned too late that I probably put too much in....silly me, I read the back of the antifreeze bottle and I'm pretty sure that's what it said. Yes, the engine was cold...it was first thing in the morning before I drove it. But remember, I'm not much of a mechanic and don't have an owners manual. BTW, does anyone know where I might pick one up for a reasonable price? I remember I checked on eBay a long time ago, but didn't find what I needed. I'm sure the dealer would want an ungodly price for one!
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Old 03-15-2007, 03:25 PM   #9
drz

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Autozone doesn't charge, but I don't think they can read the codes unless your car is a 1996 model or newer (becasue of the OBDI vs OBDII systems). You can give it a try, I guess. The pedal thing can't be done on my car, so I have no experience with it. However, it should work on yoru car; I have read that sometimes people don't push the gas pedal all the way in

Once again, good luck.
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Old 03-15-2007, 03:40 PM   #10
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you can order the owners manual from www.koalamotorsport.com

for $29.95 & shpg
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Old 03-15-2007, 04:59 PM   #11
browneyedgirl

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Thanks again C1apton,

I need to make a note to check with my dealer about these recalls. Also, thanks for the info on where to get a reasonably priced owners manual.
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Old 03-15-2007, 05:48 PM   #12
browneyedgirl

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Thanks again Drz,

You're right....I called AutoZone and they can't read the codes for my 1993 model.

I tried several more times to do the code retrieval with the gas pedal....still no luck, and I was pushing the pedal to the floor. So I guess it just isn't going to work for me :-( Oh, well, I sure tried.
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Old 03-16-2007, 03:17 PM   #13
browneyedgirl

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Hi,

Just wanted to let everyone know how my problem turned out. I drove the car to the mechanic today. He couldn't get his equipment to read any codes on my car. So he reset the computer and the red Check Engine light went off. He said the coolant looked fine.

I also talked to him about a problem I've been having the past few months with the brake fluid light coming on and having to add fluid. He checked everything out, but couldn't find it leaking anywhere so he replaced some seals....he said that over time the fluid breaks down the seals. So I spent a grand total of $64.74!!! I'm happy Especially since in the last two weeks I bought new tires and one of my dogs had to have expensive surgery to remove bladder stones.

Was talking to the mechanic's wife/office manager. She had recently traded a 97 BMW (5-series I think) for a brand new loaded Honda Accord, and she said she wishes she'd kept the BMW. I told her that they do kinda spoil you. Sometimes I think I'd like a newer model but, like they said, the newer ones are not as good....more plastic. And the newer 5-series look smaller to me. So, I guess as long as this one isn't giving me any trouble, I'll hang on to it. It has 151K miles on it; had about 126K on it when I got it and I've really had good luck with it.
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Old 03-16-2007, 04:40 PM   #14
Dudesky

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That's great news. 155k here on my car. I've had a good amount of repairs on her, but that's to be expected at such higher mileage. I've been lucky enough to be able to handle them all so far, as long as I have my trusty service manual
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Old 03-17-2007, 12:04 AM   #15
browneyedgirl

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Yes, I was really happy with the way things turned out!

My car came with a service manual, but no owner's manual. Since I'm not a mechanic, I'd rather have had the owner's manual. But thanks to C1apton, I now know where I can buy one
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