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Neil.D

i Drive problems / frying of electronics by water ingress

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Hi All,

I have just joined this forum as I have just discovered a major problem with ingress of water in my 2008 5 series M Sport touring 535D and wanted to share it with as many other owners as possible to try to avoid others having the same expense as I am having right now!

Before I joined, I read the blogs on your forum about the ingress of water in cars with sun roofs. Well my car does not have a sun roof and has just packed up big time! The car is immaculate with no signs of any abuse or bad treatment. I bought it a year ago with around 40K on the clock and 1 owner. I have experienced no problems of any sort with the car and have completed nearly 15k miles since the purchase.

Just recently I inadvertently put some wet things in the back of the car on top of our BMW protective rear cover!

When I took the wet cover out the carpets were dry but I did not check the wheel well etc!

All was well until I turned the car round on our steep drive so that Autoglass could replace the windscreen! (front up the hill)

Soon after driving it again the car showed an auto level adjustment unit failure, followed by PDC failure. It got worse with the multi CD player cycling on start up and all sorts of messages about electronics failure, transmission failure and so on! The wipers would operate even when I switched off and removed the key in fact I couldn't stop them on several occasions.

I took the car to a BMW main dealer (in Sidcup!)

They had the car for a day and charged me the £100+ for diagnostics check.

They informed me that the PDC and auto ride height unit had failed due to water ingress and that on inspection they had discovered serious corrosion of these units, two relays and the wiring harness. They quoted a total of £2000+ materials and labour to replace the units, relays and the harness which included a harness at around £500. I was so angry that I asked to collect the car for a second independent opinion, hoping that all that was necessary was to dry out all the wiring and units and re-boot the I drive. When I got home I had a look under the rear floor and was amazed and shocked to see that the wheel well still had half an inch of water sitting in the bottom. You would think that the first thing BMW would have done would be to dry out the car??

That evening I looked up a few BMW specialist independent service and repair companies in the area and decided to drive the car to work in the morning and call one or two before booking the car in with one. Although the car started ok and just exhibited the usual ride height and PDC faults to start with, before long it was registering 150mph and suggesting I pull over and call BMW! I kept driving and changed route in the direction of one of the independents in Bexleyheath until all the I Drive went out and none of the instruments registered, I decided enough was enough and pulled into a side road and stopped, turning the engine off. As usual the wipers were still going and nothing I could do would stop them! After more than one hour I tried the key again a few times and eventually the I Drive fired up albeit with everything going mad! I managed to start the engine and drove the car the few miles to the garage. They took a look the same morning and confirmed that the wiring and units were in a terrible state having been corroding for years.

They obtained quotes from BMW for the parts and quoted me for the repair. When I gave them the details of the main dealer (Sidcup!) quote they informed me that I had been quoted the wrong wiring harness and that in fact it would cost £850 instead of £500! When the parts turned up they found the wiring harness was wrong and have now managed to repair the existing harness by changing all the plugs and electrical pins. I still have to pick up the car and at this time do not know the extent of the bill. At least I do not have to pay for that crazy wiring harness at £850! Even so with the PDC at £150 and the ride height unit at £250, with labour it is going to be a hefty bill!

It is clear that over time water has been getting into and collecting in the wheel well area and entering these delicate electronic units. Apparently on the 2008 version there are no drain holes so once in, the water has no where to go!

This is clearly a design fault and I am sure that BMW would have been aware of this when they investigated my car. However they were quite happy to charge me a fortune to sort it out!

Beware and keep a close eye on your wheel well and surrounding area! Keep it dry and if you have the touring model, make sure that you don't carry any wet loads without checking and drying out under the floor afterwards!

I love the car, which is unbelievably quick for an oil burner!, but will think twice about buying another one after this crazy incident!

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Many thanks for this useful guide. After purchasing a second-hand e61, with pan roof, I followed it as a precautionary measure and 'popped-off' the crimped ends as recommended.

Unfortunately however, this morning I discovered a wheel bay full of water. The electrics seem OK, and I have dried everything out, but any ideas what might have caused it? Are there other drain holes I need to look at? My wife did put the car through an automatic wash so we won't do that again, but it still shouldn't have happened.

Grateful for any steers on what else I need to do. Thanks in advance.

A sudden dump of water on the roof of the car could theoretically overwhelm the drains but it is unlikely with just a standard car wash - are you sure the water wasnt there prior?

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Many, many thanks to the originator and all the comments. My spare wheel well had a few litres of water sloshing around and the battery compartment too. Driving home had level control failure all sorts of towing indicator failures. Suspension dropped car started crashing over the potholes! Opening the boot what made me start to panic was a litre of water in the tray above the battery. How can it get there?? Water fried the light green relay which I believe was for the level pump and another salmon coloured relay, scrap!. Towing module was wet and the module for the level control. Removed them and sprayed them and the plugs with Halfords contact cleaner.Let them dry for about an hour each with the misses hair drier (light heat). Sevenoaks BMW had both relays in stock £10 each. BMW Sevenoaks were helpful and knew about the sunroof issue so I set about checking the drains. Could not find any problems but still pumped/cleaned the lines as discussed in this and other forums. Quite relieved that it only cost me £20 today. Will be checking the spare wheel well periodically from now on. Many thanks

I had water in the battery compartment, on the battery cover and in the bowel of the wheel well.

Whilst I was looking for the cause I initially thought I had a leaking window seal as the interior of the cubby hatch was wet too but then found the cause to be the sunroof drains.

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Hi All,

This is clearly a design fault and I am sure that BMW would have been aware of this when they investigated my car. However they were quite happy to charge me a fortune to sort it out!

Beware and keep a close eye on your wheel well and surrounding area! Keep it dry and if you have the touring model, make sure that you don't carry any wet loads without checking and drying out under the floor afterwards!

I love the car, which is unbelievably quick for an oil burner!, but will think twice about buying another one after this crazy incident!

Sorry to hear that you too have become a victim,

yes it is indeed a design fault - if they admitted this then a recall would be needed - which would be seriously expensive for the company.

Youre right about BMW dealers too, they tend to simply 'replace' rather than 'repair'. im not a fan and prefer BMW specialists just like the one you mention.

Some chap destroyed his by putting (which he later found to be leaking) a 2 litre bottle of water in his boot which flowed down onto his modules.

There is a module re-location BMW TIS that BMW published that involves undoing the wiring and sticking them around rather than in the wheel well which only needs some sticky tape and some cable ties - too little too late in your case sadly.

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Thanks for all the comments, actually the story continues, the independent company in Bexleyheath is called D& T Wise. They did a great job sorting out the wiring and were honest and fair in not charging me for part that they eventually didnt require. Unfortunately BMW would not take back the £850 wiring harness at first and it looked like D&T were going to charge me for this. BMW eventually took the harness back but charged D&T a 25% surcharge which meant that I ended up paying £250 for something that i didnt actually need or even require! I asked D&T for the name of the most senior Service guy at Stephen James and informed him I was taking this to the National papers. Would you believe that a couple of days later they backed down and refunded D&T completely for the harness and I was subsequently refunded the £250. Job still cost me nearly £1000 but at least the car is back in full working condition. Well done to Danny and his colleagues at D&T Wise. I would thoroughly recomend them for any BMW work especially I Drive electronics etc.

Cheers

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The sunroof(s) although they do not seal, do have a very close fit to the body works, so a sudden deluge of water would see most of it run away without entering the sunroof cassette. Might be worth checking the roof alignment

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Just feel foul of this in my M5 E61. I noticed the DAB unit on the left hand side had some rust marks, but thought nothing of it. Then one rainy day I parked on a hill, went to open the boot and it only moved a bit. I thought the battery was flat, but the car started. When I got going I had no end of error messages. Had a massive whirring noise in the back. I stopped and the self levelling suspension collapsed.

I did a very bumpy ride to the dealers and after a couple of days got a quote for £2400 to fix. As has been mentioned the sunroof drain decided to drain into the boot and fry all the electronics.

After a few discussions with the dealer and BMW UK they finally agreed to pay for parts but not labour (My car will be 5 years old in Nov).

I am still not happy, this is a design fault and they have now taken that pesky valve off. The problem is BMW is saying it has not been reported.

I think we might need to get a list of people with this problem and send in a mass complaint. This could have happened with a brand new car so age is irrelevant and theses electric bits don't fail.

Items that needed to be replaced where:

Air supply control unit

automatic boot control unit

LCPA module ????

tilt/slide control unit

DAB tuner

PDC unit

Total cost just labour was 937 inc VAT.

this was done at Fairfield Leigh on Sea, Clive the service manager was great and tried to help more, but without BMW acknowledging a problem this could happen to anyone. Adam at BMW UK claimed that I was lucky to get the parts paid for. I love this car, it is still the only car I want at the moment but this has got me so wound up.

Lets show some people power.

Ian

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hi all,

what a great post neil, really helpfull

my story is similar to other replies, in that my e61 with panoramic roof has had a leak in the boot

this cost me £1000 to fix and when i spoke with the service manager at bmw williams in stockport he said the following: in ascending amazingly un-believable order

the location of £2500 delicate electrical items below a load carrying area is not a flaw!

you should not carry liquid in the boot...?

he has never heard of this in his 14 years

drill a hole in the base!!

drill a hole in! sl he is basically admitting a flaw!, what about rust and water ingress from the hole?!

since seeing your post i did what you recommended, the pipes gurgled and cleared but no water

but worse than that i saw the cover tray for the battery was a lake!

the battery base was also and inch deep in water!

i am really worried about this and i think i will just sell as i am really gutted as the wife and i love the car.

i emailed bmw who basically told me thanks for informing us and they would add it to their list of cock ups!

it can't be coming from the pipes that much can it??

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Hi

Soon-to-be E61 530dT owner here. My car has no sunroof, so hopefully that reduces the risk a bit, but it still sounds like there can be an issue if any liquid gets in the car (leaky water bottles, snowmelt on snowboard boots, etc). Mine's a post LCI 2007, and it *sounds* like, from above, that there's no way for water to drain out once it's in the wheel well.

Any reason not to punch six neat holes around the well to help drain it?

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Sorry to hear that you too have become a victim,

yes it is indeed a design fault - if they admitted this then a recall would be needed - which would be seriously expensive for the company.

Youre right about BMW dealers too, they tend to simply 'replace' rather than 'repair'. im not a fan and prefer BMW specialists just like the one you mention.

Some chap destroyed his by putting (which he later found to be leaking) a 2 litre bottle of water in his boot which flowed down onto his modules.

There is a module re-location BMW TIS that BMW published that involves undoing the wiring and sticking them around rather than in the wheel well which only needs some sticky tape and some cable ties - too little too late in your case sadly.

Do you have details of the BMW TIS to relocate the modules and wiring ? Can they be relocated with a spare wheel in the boot.

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Ok. So after having experienced my iDrive forget all my preferences (radio stations, steering-wheel-button prefs, time and date formats - but *not* the time and date themselves) I got worried enough to have a quick rummage in the boot of my 57 E61 even though it has no sunroof.

The left side was easy to get into, and appears to have no tube at all (https://www.dropbox....17 17.18.01.jpg)

The right side on the other hand, is a bit problematic, due to being just a little full of auxiliary battery (ex-Police car): https://www.dropbox....17 17.10.21.jpg

The battery fit also makes it hard to get the wheel well liner out to check for water properly - is there a guide around, or can anyone provide tips -- it looks like all the left and right-side plastic beams need to come out as well as the flat boot floor coming off its hinges, but I see no way to do that without a right-angled Philips head - or am I missing something.

I am a bit concerned because, in addition to the odd iDrive reset, I can just about spy, down the right hand side right at the very base of the corner of the car, a little water pooled in a vertical screw recess. That may be condensate, or water from the dealer jetwashing it, but I'd rather get that carpet up and check properly. Any advice for how to get that b*gger out?

Cheers

Steve

Edited by steve_j

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I'd be grateful for some advice too please. As per my previous post, following the recommendation here I removed the rubber stopper from the end of the sunroof drain pipes of my E61 Touring. The bungs dropped off and I punched some holes in the bottom of the wheel well.

All has been fine since, except that on 3 or 4 occasions since I have had water in the side pockets, just like Adrian's pictures above.

So, I've removed the rubber bungs and this appears to have solved the water in the wheel-well issue, but some is still getting in from somewhere, and is settling in the plastic trays in the side compartments of the boot.

Any ideas what it might be? What should I check next? Thanks in advance.

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Ok. So after having experienced my iDrive forget all my preferences (radio stations, steering-wheel-button prefs, time and date formats - but *not* the time and date themselves) I got worried enough to have a quick rummage in the boot of my 57 E61 even though it has no sunroof.

The left side was easy to get into, and appears to have no tube at all (https://www.dropbox....17 17.18.01.jpg)

The right side on the other hand, is a bit problematic, due to being just a little full of auxiliary battery (ex-Police car): https://www.dropbox....17 17.10.21.jpg

The battery fit also makes it hard to get the wheel well liner out to check for water properly - is there a guide around, or can anyone provide tips -- it looks like all the left and right-side plastic beams need to come out as well as the flat boot floor coming off its hinges, but I see no way to do that without a right-angled Philips head - or am I missing something.

I am a bit concerned because, in addition to the odd iDrive reset, I can just about spy, down the right hand side right at the very base of the corner of the car, a little water pooled in a vertical screw recess. That may be condensate, or water from the dealer jetwashing it, but I'd rather get that carpet up and check properly. Any advice for how to get that b*gger out?

Cheers

Steve

A lot of Police cars are 'Police spec' from the factory as the demand is so great.

I can imagine the wiring and looms go deep to the core.

Can it not be shifted at all? I would assume that the batteries are linked somehow with for the auxillery assesories.

Sorry have no words of advice on getting the battery out, perhaps a contact at BMW HQ may have a PDF or similar on what the Police spec involves.

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I'd be grateful for some advice too please. As per my previous post, following the recommendation here I removed the rubber stopper from the end of the sunroof drain pipes of my E61 Touring. The bungs dropped off and I punched some holes in the bottom of the wheel well.

All has been fine since, except that on 3 or 4 occasions since I have had water in the side pockets, just like Adrian's pictures above.

So, I've removed the rubber bungs and this appears to have solved the water in the wheel-well issue, but some is still getting in from somewhere, and is settling in the plastic trays in the side compartments of the boot.

Any ideas what it might be? What should I check next? Thanks in advance.

Water has also been known to enter via the battery breather just above it.

It should sit flush with the side of the car when stationary, see if its damaged somehow.

With all this rain it could be getting in.

Before I found out about the drain tubes I removed the rear lights and cleaned all around them. Was only 4x small nuts and the loom for the bulbs.

The gasket is fairly poor and had a lot of cr4p in them, if they have previously been removed they could have been badly put back.

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I have a 2008 M Sport E61 and the drainage pipes shown in pictures are not fitted to my car. The space in the bodywork where the pipes would have passed through the bumper are just blanked off with rubber grommets. The water seems to run instead under the roof rails and out of a little channel in the roof and around the inside of the tailgate. Strange how some cars have the pipes, others don't. I guess BMW fixed the problem on later cars.

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Incredible! I have just suffered from this problem of water in the spare wheel well and typed the query into Google - which led to you guys. The very first post (sticky) at the top of the list was this one. We had about 2 litres of water in the well, plus water about 2cm up the battery. Same symptoms of i-drive showing level control system failure, telling me the fuel tank was full when it was half empty, and now the battery has completely drained. My local independant garage who have always serviced my car are trying to help before I take it to the Main Dealer. The control units and three relays were sat in water, so hardly surprising I was having problems. We are going to replace the relays and dry out the system then see what happens. I have a dehumidifier in the car now to help with the drying.

I only noticed a problem last weekend down in Devon. We had a torrential rainstorm overnight, then the next day drove up and down some very steep hills. Normally the car is used in a flat area. Reading the other posts I deduce that water was in the boot, and then driving the car at steep angles must have sloshed the water over the control units. Yes, we also have a sunroof!.

Will let you know what the outcome is.

Jim

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Quick update. Found the two rear hoses, though the pictures in the first post can be a little misleading. The little blighters are tucked well away right at the back of the space. I did not need to remove the fuse panel for the RH hose, but then I have smallish hands. If I still had a child living at home I would have got them to do it! The hose needed quite a tug to remove. The RH one was well and truly bunged up with mud. They are both now plugged back in - the little grommets should stop them from coming out, but the tube is several inches into the body and as there is nothing to snag it I cannot see how it will pop out of it's own accord.

Now I am waiting for my local indy dealer to come back with the recharged battery, three new relays, and the dried out control boxes. They did not look too bad so I dream that perhaps they will not need replacing! :eek:

Should I also drill drain holes into the bottom of the wheel well? A consideration.

Jim

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JimP I would like to think now you have fixed the drain tubes that this will be the end of your problems.

I pulled the ends off my drain tubes a while back and the last time i checked i had no water in the well

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Ok, latest update, and it is good news!!!! My local independent dealer has re-assembled the electrics and there are no fault codes. The car is in good working order and so no need to replace the expensive BMW electronic boxes in the boot. Just the three rather rusty relays - which will not cost much. He opened up the two boxes with the printed circuits, gave them a good clean and blew away the white powder that had started to gather over the damp circuit boards. I think I have been rather lucky really all in all.

I was lucky that my case was not as bad as the OP, in that my circuits had not yet fried - but it could have been a lot worse. We have also drilled a hole in the bottom of the spare wheel well and put a rubber grommet in - just in case. After all, I'm not going to ford any rivers - hopefully.

Just glad I did not rush to the main dealer and had a look in the boot for myself.

Jim

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Hi JimP

Sorry to hear about your issues.

Its always a shame but a fact of life that the majority of people only come across such problems after becomming a victim.

What its dissappointing is that BMW haven't sent out a service update for this. Whilst a recall clearly wasnt worth their while any switched on mechanic with an eye on servicing updates could have this avoided.

Good to hear your damage was - hopefully minimal.

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Good news about the electronics. I'm guessing they are like mobile phones, if you can get the power off to the circuitry quick enough there won't be any damage, normally once the water shorts out circuits on the boards you get electrolytic things happening where components get fried, maybe your rain water is very pure. You should bottle it and sell it

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