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Pelican Technical Article:

Reading Fault Codes

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$100

Talent:

**

Tools:

Scan tool (code reader)

Applicable Models:

BMW E46 3-Series (1999-06)

Parts Required:

Scan tool

Hot Tip:

Write down fault codes before clearing

Performance Gain:

Diagnose fault codes

Complementary Modification:

Repair fault code

The impetus to control motor vehicle emissions, driven by the air quality needs of major metropolitan areas, has led to five decades of engineering innovation in the design of vehicle propulsion technologies. Because California cities (particularly Los Angeles) were hardest hit by the proliferation of vehicles and their emissions, starting in 1961 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been at the forefront of setting engineering standards for vehicles sold, first in California, then in the United States and now for the world automotive industry.

Modern vehicle engine operations and emissions (including evaporative losses from the fuel tank) are extensively controlled via an on-board digital microprocessor, the computer known as the engine control module or ECM (also ECU). Feedback systems, relying on sensors, allow the ECM to precisely control fuel/air mixture, spark timing and other functions. Of the many sensors on the engine and the vehicle, the primary ones are oxygen sensor(s), which monitor the combustion efficiency of the engine, and knock sensor(s), which "listen" for engine knock or pinging. The ECM, which adjusts the fuel mixture and adjusts spark timing uses the input signals from these sensors.

Computer control of the engine operations allows two benefits in addition to a precise air fuel mixture and, therefore, lower emissions. The computers can be programmed to detect faults (diagnostic trouble codes or DTCs) in their own operations, and the ECM can store this information and illuminate a malfunction indicator light (MIL), often called the Check Engine light, on the instrument cluster. The stored faults can be viewed later for diagnosis and repair.

Diagnosis of modern vehicle performance faults starts with gaining access to DTCs stored in the ECM. Start by looking for the 16-pin OBD II plug (diagnostic link connector or DLC) under the dashboard. By law, it is always located within reach of the driver.

Once the diagnostic scan tool is connected to the DLC, follow the instructions on the scan tool screen. These usually include:

  • Select diagnosis program
  • Select correct vehicle (scan tool should find this automatically)
  • Interrogate and record DTCs (fault codes) present in ECM memory

In many cases, it is best to clear DTCs. Then drive the vehicle and retest it. Follow the diagnostic and repair instructions on the scan tool screen. DTCs for the vehicle power train begin with a P and are followed by 4 digits. (They are also referred to as P-codes). During testing, the scan tool displays each P-code and a brief description of the fault. There are different kinds of faults indicated by DTCs:

  • Plausibility: If a sensor's output value is outside the expected range, the signal from the sensor is considered not plausible and a fault is set.
  • Power, ground, continuity: If power or ground is missing or continuity is lacking in a particular circuit or system, a fault is set.
  • Fault in sensor or module: If a sensor or module tests defective, a fault is set.

You should note that even though the scan tool displays specific DTCs, additional diagnosis is advisable. For example, if a DTC indicates a non-functional oxygen sensor heater, the simple explanation may be a blown fuse.  In other words, use common sense and do not ignore the obvious when diagnosing problems.

Working at dashboard, open OBD II connector access door.
Figure 1

Working at dashboard, open OBD II connector access door.

Plug scan tool into OBD II connector.
Figure 2

Plug scan tool into OBD II connector.

Follow directions supplied with scan tool to interrogate ECM fault memory.
Figure 3

Follow directions supplied with scan tool to interrogate ECM fault memory. Read fault code, diagnose problem, then clear fault code when complete.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Pete Comments: Im getting 3 codes: P0305, misfire on #5. Then I get P0313 and P0305 P. What does the "P" mean after the code - why is it up there twice? and could the misfire also lead to the gas starvation problem? I guess I'm asking if I do the coil on #5 will P0313 disappear. Also, just bought this thing with about 130,000 on it. Should I just replace all the coils?
November 18, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: P is for powertain. TO determine the cause of a misfire, I would check spark, fuel and compression on all cylinders. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Nicho Comments: I have a BMW 325 TI No spark
September 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Is there fuel injector pulse? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
When Unscrewing the Pulleys for BMW 318i E46 1999 model, which way is one Supposed to Turn the Screw Driver or Allen Keys, is it Clockwise or Anticlockwise? I have Asked Because i have Noticed a Clockwise Sign on One of them on my Car. I have been Thinking of Greasing Them.

Have a Good Day
Zambian
June 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: See this article:
http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/BMW-3-Series-E46/08-ENGINE-Idler_Pulley_Replacement/08-ENGINE-Idler_Pulley_Replacement.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
Where is the BMW 318i E46 1999 Model Coolant Temperature Sensor at Cylinder Head Specifically Located? Could it be the one near the Thermostat at the Front of the Engine. Kindly advise.

Have a Good Day.
Zambian
June 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There should be one in the cylinder head and one in the lower radiator hose. Your engine looks different than US models, so I can't be sure. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
How long is a Genuine BMW 318i E46 RADIATOR expected to last, say in Miles? I have asked, because I replaced my Radiator, its now Done 21,000 miles and it has started leaking from one of the sides. Would I be Wrong to Conclude that 21,000 miles is the Life Span of a Genuine BMW Radiator? Kindly Advise.

Regards,
Zambian.
June 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It should last 100,000 miles. If not, you may have an electrolysis issue. See here:

http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/E36-Coolant_Flush/E36-Coolant-Flush.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
I Drive a bmw 318i, e46 1999 model. I have noticed coolant drops when i park. When under the front, i could see and touch the leaked coolant just next to the Radiator DRAINING PLUG, But the plug is dry, so its not coming from there. The crack is inside the radiator. The expansion tank is new and dry.

IS IT ADVISABLE TO POUR IN RADIATOR STOP LEAK, AND IF SO IS THIS A PERMANENT SOLUTION OR IT WILL BE TEMPORAL.

Regards,
Zambian
June 1, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No. Replace the leaking component. Stop leak can cause a restriction in the system. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
I drive a Bmw 318i, E46 1999 model. I have done 162,000Km, without replacing the Rib Pipe. My question is; When am i supposed to REPLACE it? after how many Kilometers for instance? I want to avoid a situation whereby it blows apart while i drive. Please Advise me.

Have a good day,
Zambian.

June 1, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suggest before your vehicle hits 100,000 miles. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
Here is another photo of the same RIB PIPE. I hope this will make my question clear.

Regards,
Zambian
May 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: That looks like the one under the intake. See this article:

http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/BMW-Z3/42-WATER-Coolant_Pipes_Replacement/42-WATER-Coolant_Pipes_Replacement.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
Follow up to your response. I have attached a photo of a RIB PIPE. My initial question was how to replace the rib pipe, whether, i have to remove the entire intake manifold or i have to remove the starter motor, i do not know. The pipe is under the intake manifold.

Regards,
Zambian
May 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You wil have to remove the intake manifold to replace it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Dear Nick,
I drive a BMW 318i 1999 model. My question is; how do i remove the Rib Pipe? do i have to remove the entire Intake Manifold, to get to the Rib pipe or there is a way of creating space from the front of the Engine?
May 18, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Rib pipe? Not sure I know what that is. Can you clarify the part you want to service? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Dear Nick.
Firstly, i drive a bmw 318i 1999 model. my iddle in the morning when the engine is cold is very good, 800 - 900 RPM. but when the engine gets o operating temperature my iddle is very poor, 500 - 600 RPM almost wanting to go OFF. But Why?

Secondly after how many Kilometers am i supposed to replace my Rib pipe. I know the expansion tank is has to be replaced around 95,000 Km. Please advise.

Regards,
Zambian
May 17, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Could be an air leak, misfire or fuel delivery issue. I would start by checking the DME for fault codes. If the system is not working properly, a fault code will be set. This will be your best bet when diagnosing.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Les Comments: Could you give me the code reading on my 2001 BMW 325i
I have 2 codes that pull up P0369 AND P0414 Also give me some idea what I need to do to fix them and where to look.
Thanks Les Ph 281-682-5650.
May 4, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: P0369 is a cam sensor fault. P0414 is a secondary air system fault.
http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/BMW-3-Series-E46/106-FUEL-Camshaft_Sensor_Testing/106-FUEL-Camshaft_Sensor_Testing.htm

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Bigday Comments: Good day Nick, the mechanic have checked the compression and it recorded 9.5 bar, spark plugs are new and firing well, the fuel pressure on the injectors is enough but the car is still misfiring. On diagnosis machine it picks exhaust cam sensor error. Please advise. The mechanic now wants to check the computer box and the exhaust manifold, is he on the right track?
April 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The items noted, injector, spark and compression being good, indicate you have no misfire. Either they missed something or are not testing when the vehicle is broken. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bigday Comments: I have BMW 3 series 325i, it is now firing with only 3 cylinders. The mechanic checked the plugs, injectors and engine compression which are all fine. No error light on the dashboard. What might be the problem?
April 29, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If everything was checked to be fine, there should be no misfire, as you need spark, injector pulse and compression to run the engine. I would re-do the tests, check injector pulse, fuel pressure, spark and compression. Record the results and let me know what you find. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Karma Comments: E46 ignition cylinder... If I replace the cylinder will I need to have a new key or I can use my existing key
June 19, 2015
Followup from the Pelican Staff: The lock cylinder should come with a key to match your vehicle. - Nick at Pelican Parts

***My question is then do I need to take that new cylinder and key into my BMW dealership to be programmed so it will work in my car? I have a 2001 BMW 325i 4 door.

April 4, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, the lock cylinder is mechanical and doesn't require programming. Using your VIN, the lock cylinder is ordered to match your existing key. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dugzy Comments: A pleasant morning. I am getting a " oxygen sensor heater before catalytic, bank 1" on my diagnostic scan tool. Where can I locate this sensor, and also a link to purchase. Thanks in adavance.
April 1, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: That would be the oxygen sensor closest to cylinder #1. You didn't mention what vehicle you have, but you can buy the sensor from Pelican Parts. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
dugzy Comments: hello nick. i am getting a 'segment timing true running disturbed'. how can i rectify this problem?
March 24, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Mechanical timing could be out. Check camshaft and crankshaft timing. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
zimba Comments: Hi there,
I would like to know if it's possible to read the P error from my 2005 bmw 325i dashboard because I have the engine check light on.

Thank you
March 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, at the minimum you would need an ODB ii generic scan tool. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
David Comments: Last comment my car is a BMW 330i 2000 with 331,000km on clock
March 19, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Got it, thanks. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
David Comments: Hello my car is right hand drive And a code the picture of a engine with a light shining around the outer edge the light is on constanly.
Any heip would be appreciated.
Cheers David.

March 19, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There is a code stored in the engine module. I would start by checking the DME for fault codes. If the system is not working properly, a fault code will be set. This will be your best bet when diagnosing.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
G G G Comments: Hey nick!

I'm getting strange codes and I'm new to using electrical diagnostic tools. 02' E46 M3 w/ airbag warling light on, fault codes given in EWS were:

09-43-00-03 No Found!
09-43-00-0F No Found!
09-43-00-13
09-43-00-43

Can you shed some light on these codes or refer me to somewhere where I can learn about them? The codes in my bentley are all P-Codes :/ Thanks!
March 19, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Those codes are not defined or read correctly. Unless your tool has a chart to decode them, I don;t have info that matches them. Try a different BMW scan tool to see what the codes are. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Stevie.P Comments: Hi Nick,

Many thanks for your reply and advice.

All the best,

Stephen
March 11, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Stevie.P Comments: I have a 2004 E46 Sports Convertible and I'm having issues with the airbag light on the cluster.
I upgraded to a leather interior so I don't know if this is the issue?
It's not registering on my OBD2 reader for some reason and I've also changed the seatbelt tensioners from my Alcantara seats but the light is still on?
My mechanic for some reason can't seem to find the fault either?
Any suggestions would be great.

Many thanks
March 11, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: My guess is you set a fault code during the repairs. You will likely have to clear the codes, at the very least, using an advanced BMW scan tool. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
o2eZy Comments: I have a fault code SRS could you please tell me the resistance in the wires from seat pad censor mat ...blue and white wires also could you please tell me the resistance in the 3 wires that exit the control box where the blue and white wires enter
September 22, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: These specifications don't exist. You shouldn't check resistance on airbag components, you could trigger the airbags. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Noel Comments: I have a 2003 BMW 325i sedan. Recently a fault has cause the transmission to go to emergency-run program. I can select Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive. But Drive is at 5 gear. I check all wiring and fuses that I can check but no luck. This happens after I went to one of those automatic car washes. I suspect maybe the ECM is not sending a signal to the transmission to change gear. HELP.
September 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Water may have gotten into the E-box and soaked the control module or wiring.

First check the transmission fluid level to be sure it is correct. Then check the transmission ECM for fault codes. If the system is not working properly, a fault code will be set. This will be your best bet when diagnosing.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Zambian Comments: Hi nick. I have a bmw318i e46 that came with 1 electric fan. I ve noticed that another fan can fit just in front of the radiator. I have asked bcoz some models come with 2 electric fans. One in front and another one behind the radiator. If I installed another fan in front of my radiator, can my cooling system improve?

Rgds
Chungu
September 14, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't believe so, the front fan is for the a/c condenser. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Hi. Nick. BMW 318i e46. Whats the main purpose for Engine Earthing?
And what are the symptoms of bad engine engine earthing or grounding?

Rgds,
Chungu
September 14, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The vehicle has a d/c electrical system and the engine ground helps to complete the circuit. If faulty, you will have spikes or voltage loss and electrical issues. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Hi Nick,
Bmw 318i e46 1999 model. When is the best time to top up automatic transmission fluid ATF. Is it when the transmission fluid is cold and collected in the Sump, like before starting the engine in the morning, Or is it better done when the fluid is warm after driving around and the fluid is in the various transmission pipes. Kindly advise.

Warmly.
July 23, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: When warm, that is how BMW recommends. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Hello Nick. About the Bmw 318i E46. When u start car then u press the mileage counter button n hold, "test" appears. Tap the button until "test 19" appears. Leave it here, it will start flicking on/off. Tap it when it says "off" it will go to "0" then tap it until "test 7" appears. Stop tapping it, it will READ YOUR COOLANT TEMPERATURE.

Kindly educate me about the rest of the tests and what they read. Or provide me with a Link that has this information. Have a good day.

Warmly.
July 13, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't know the cluster tests off the top of my head.


I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Zambian Comments: Thanks Nick. Let me do just that n C wat happens. Gud day.
July 11, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Ok. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Thanx Nick. The link u provided is very helpful. I now understand what those temperature sensors are there for.

Additionally, I have noticed that my expansion tank 318i E46 1999 model always Cracks and spills coolant when I ve done just about 5000Km instead of the recommended minimum of 90,000Km. I just installed a new one today. After driving around I inspected the Hose from the Engine Block to the Expansion Tank and it was really hard with pressure. I suspect this is the same pressure that cracks my tanks. Is this normal? Isn't coolant suppose to flow freely thruogh the hoses/cooling system. If so what could be the problem with my system. My hoses are New, water pump is new, separator pipe is new. I make sure there is no Air in the system n always ensure I have the correct level of coolant.

I dont want to be replacing my Expansion Tank every 2 to 3 months 5000km. but surprisingly my engine never overheats.. Kindly advise.

Warmly.
July 9, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you have too much pressure, the cap for the expansion tank may be faulty. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Hi Nick. About the 318i E46 engine. I ve always wondered. What is the purpose for the temperature sensor on the pipe from the radiator to the engine block. It is located just before this pipe enters the engine block. What is the function for this sensor.

And there is another sensor located at the point where this pipe leaves the radiator. What is the function for this sensor as well.

Regards.
July 9, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It helps the DME monitor coolant temp for coolant fan operation.
http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/BMW-3-Series-E46/31-WATER-Radiator_Outlet_Temperature_Sensor_Replacement/31-WATER-Radiator_Outlet_Temperature_Sensor_Replacement.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Zambian Comments: Hello nick. I now understand whats happening to my beamer. So what this means is that I should take it to the workshop, they change the head gasket so that the coolant and oil intermixing can stop. Surprisingly it performs very well even though the head gasket is finishing. It has a the power, no hesitation when accelerating, only thing is that it has poor hydrin/idle when in slow traffic or when moving under 5km per hour, the rev count tries to go under 500 revs per minute, then the engine shakes and sounds like its switching off. So I have to rev it a bit every time it does that.

Regards.
June 11, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You had the head gasket replaced already?

if idle is dropping, you may have a vacuum leak causing a misfire, or a misfire at idle. I would check spark, fuel and compression on all cylinders.- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Zambian Comments: Hi nick. Thanx for yur time. The cooling system has no external leakages. The oil I found in the coolant is also very little. Just traces. So I was suspecting that, this could be oil that gather in the OIL SEPARATOR PIPES over time. Because I drove for 150km after putting Radiator flush in the system, so its like it cleansed everything.
June 10, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If there is oil it has to be from intermixing. The breather system could not fill the cooling system. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Hi nick. I put radiator flush and drove fir 150 km before I drained it. But then I noticed oil in the drained coolant. What could be the reason for
Rgds
Zambian
June 8, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would pressure test the cooling system. If the system will not hold pressure and there are no external leaks the head gasket may be faulty. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Thanx. I appreciate. Things look clear now. I ve also noticed that pelican parts stock almost all bmw spare parts for most models. Except the purchasing procedure is not clear to me. I live in Zambia, central africa.

I look forward to your advice.

Warmly.
May 21, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not sure if we ship there.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Zambian Comments: Thanks Nick for your time. The fault codes reading and DME reprograming issues are clear now. I wil invest in a Scan tool then learn the codes.
I should mention that i am a novice at auto electricals but keen to find out and learn. I drive a bmw 318i e46 1999 model. Once upon a time this car gave me serious night mares with coolant leakages, but fortunately never over heated. Thank God its now completely sealed, by professional people.

Now out of curiosity, I want to learn about coolant Sensors/temperature sensors/switches. How many they are and where they are located. Perhaps one day I can be replacing them myself. Instead of dishing out cash all the time.

Kind Regards.
May 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You should have one coolant temp sensor in the cylinder head near the intake manifold and one mounted in the lower radiator hose. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Zambian Comments: Hallo. Is there a way of checking out the fault codes for bmw 318i e46 1999 model onwards, without a Scan Tool. Someone explained how to do that for bmws upto 1995 model, that is switching on, but not starting the engine then depressing and loosening the accelerator pedal 5 times and the fault codes would then appear on the dashboard. Kindly advise me.

Secondly, the benefits are obvious, one can accelerate faster and have power even in higher gears, but what are the dangers of reprogramming the bmw ECU or computer box, so that it then has higher RPMs and higher Torque at the lower end.
Zambian
May 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, you need a scan tool.

The dangers of modifying a DME map is changing what BMW designed the vehicle to operate at. You can shorten component life.- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
tvin Comments: 325ci 2005 ambient air temp. Sensor location
December 7, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: left side of vehicle. In plastic under corner of front bumper. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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