Warning Light Saga - book one: False 'Enthusiasm'
I want to get to the bottom of this without spending money unnecessarily - which has been the case for over a year and several visits to the garage. The car is a 2007 116i with under 35,000 miles on the clock. We have owned it for over three years, since 17,000 miles. It has been serviced as per schedule and other requirements by Williams Bolton, Stratstone Harrogate, Simon Green Horsforth, New Lane Garage, Bradford and Hometune. From the outset there was a flutter on the over run at about 40mph when cold, which I associated with black exhaust deposit and poor fuel mileage. The main agent put it down to an exhaust sensor, which they replaced under warranty. Then we started getting warning lights and dangerous limp mode episodes at low speed and short distances which the Hometune guy felt were either false readings or beyond his understanding as he could not identify a discernible cause and did not want me to waste money. He suspected the throttle. On his advice we took the car to Ian Horton at New lane who performed a thorough diagnostic and replaced the throttle body, assuming a dodgy sensor there also. No improvement, still intermittent warning lights and it seemed if anything to be getting worse. The problem entered a new phase when I was teaching my daughter to drive last November, beginning naturally enough with 'emergency stops'. Now the car went into permanent 'limp mode' and the recovery driver who took it to Simon Green for investigation observed, "I don't often get to pick one of these up but if you've done an emergency stop the timing chain has probably jumped some teeth." He was right, it had jumped three teeth. After a contentious five-way discussion between New lane, Simon Green, Stratstone and myself the manufacturer stepped in and replaced the timing chain and all related components free of charge. End of story? Sadly not, within a month of getting the car back last January the warning lights began again. Stratstone told me - 'its the throttle body'. 'No, that was replaced two months ago,' I told them. 'Well, in that case we can find no other explanation. You need a new wiring loom,' the workshop manager told me. You don't have an emoticon for 'sceptical as hell' do you?
Warning Light Saga, Book two: 'Disillusion'
"Just ignore it,' I told family members using the car, "Clearly there is nothing wrong with the engine, its running fine." "Well, I will never have another BMW,' said my better half. She still misses her Triumph Herald, which on the face of it was a lot more reliable. In the meantime the warning lights became more regular than UFO sightings over Mexico City. A timed service came up and Simon Green replaced oil, filters, plugs etc. Still no change. Not being in a financial position to happily throw good money after bad (this entire clueless scenario happened before with my Ford Galaxy and cost me two and a half grand over six months with one bodged and unnecessary job leading to another). I ordered a Haynes manual and began informing myself of plausible triggers that seem to mystify the experts and their expensive machinery. In amongst this history was a 500 mile round trip to Banstead without a hitch, other than a yellow warning light on a slip road coming off the M25.
Warning Light Saga, book three: 'Lateral Thinking'
Thinking aloud - Injector dribble?
I put in Wynn's injector cleaner a couple of times but maybe need to find a more concentrated version. Sadly, Wynn's rep could not find a garage using their old Power Purge. According to Simon Green this would be extremely unlikely, "In seven years working for BMW I never saw a car with faulty injectors," their engineer told me. I told him of witnessing a 520 that would start but only run for five minutes being restored to full manhood or womanhood (He for she) after running for fifteen minutes on the Wynns product. The owner disappeared for half an hour and returned with a smile as wide as the sky - six and a half thousand pounds of car now for sale under warranty. So I passed on Simon Green. An injector specialist on Wellington Road, Leeds said, 'It will need a full diagnostic' which would make six in total at a cost of £480 for diagnostics alone. Hold fire on that one.
Warning Light saga, book four: 'Self-help'.
I removed the spark coils and checked them for resistance, noting that #3 was not properly pushed down onto the plug (take note Mr Green). All resistances were low and identical range. The plugs require a special, thin socket! Thanks BMW, more wasted time and money! Still got warning lights!
I removed the cooling system header tank cap, guessing that there might be an air bubble after the timing chain job. Hallelujah, the lights went off even after a road test designed to race the engine in fourth up a long steep hill at high speed! (Addingham - Bolton Abbey). Ten days of short journeys in traffic and still no gremlins. Then . . . you guessed it . . .
Warning Light Saga, book five: 'Derision and contempt'.
I phoned BMW customer service, not the agent (who are evidently as clueless as I am). If you want to fob people off, employ a pleasant lass from Yorkshire with a vague interest in cars and an indulgent telephone manner. She spoke to someone in the back office and came back to me three days later to tell me what I already knew - essentially the broad regulations as to why manufacturers are obliged to install warning systems that elevate to limp mode - not an answer to, 'how does this work exactly and how do I bypass it, given that no-one can find anything wrong with my car and I suspect the system itself?'
Warning Light Saga, book six: 'Planning for the future'.
If I remove the thermostat or whatever cooling system sensors are telling my car to go into limp mode can I avoid 'a new wiring harness'. Clearly if a car can buzz along the motorway in all weathers at just on the limit for four hours there is absolutely nothing wrong with 'the wiring harness'. Its getting thousands of signals per second which are fine and the odd one every few days that isn't. Why should that cost an arm and a leg to cure? I have an Opel Manta i240 sitting on my path crying out for attention - as sophisticated and reliable as a pair of Dunlop wellies. Why sell it to some collector when I can enjoy it myself.My final question: If monkeys had a rocket manual, how long would it take for them to get into space?