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richard40

Swivelling Towbar Problem

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I only discovered that my E61 had an electric powered swivelling towbar after I bought it - and after my initial delight, I began to wonder if it was reliable. I have just found out that it isn't!
It is now stuck in the out position and pushing the button just produces grinding noises but no movement. The towball appears to be stuck absolutely vertically (i.e. in the locked position) however the I-Drive screen is full of messages indicating it to be "not locked".
Has anyone else had this issue?
Question 1 - is the towbar still safe to use?
Question 2 - how easy to fix?

 

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Never heard of an electric towbar.

 

I have the removale type

 

There is an OEM electric tow-bar, it even has a module believe it or not.

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There is an OEM electric tow-bar, it even has a module believe it or not.

It has a module.. You don't say?!?!?!? 

I bet the MD of BMW has module instead of a nut sack

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For anyone who hasn't seen one of these devices - someone put this on Utube :

 

I guess that the problem could be "module related" - as you say, everything on the car seems to have a frigging module!

I have just had to have the antenna amplifier diversity module replaced (only £276!) as the remote stopped working last week. The tow bar problem has appeared coincidently with the replacement of the diversity module, but it seems unlikely the two are related as the problem appears to be mechanical (i.e. grinding noises when I hold down the operating button). 

I have e-mailed Westfalia (who are the O.E. supplier of the unit to BMW) asking the same questions and to date got no reply!

Does anyone know where the module is located? or if it could possibly be related to the new diversity module?

Yesterday, I drove 456 miles to Cambridge and back with a trailer on the back, with no trouble, so I reckon I have proved to myself that there are no safety issues, so I am now inclined to leave it stuck out - but only if I can get rid of the alarm bells and irritating messages on the screens.

All in all, my previous E39 was a much better car!(and better looking).

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Mine has the same tow bar and it has been fairly reliable. I say fairly because once I went to put it out to secure a bike rack to it and it gave the same message you got that it wasn't locked. I think it did it because I pressed the button while it was already coming down and I may have confused it. Switching everything off seemed to clear it. As you probably know the engine mustn't be running for it to move and the socket adaptor must be out for it to move. The button gets a green light if its ready to move and red or red flashing if not. If yours has the green light and is trying to move, but gives a grinding sound then that sounds a bit more serious, something may not be disengaging as it should do. Maybe a bit of assistance might free it.

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Hi Steve, I have a permanently flashing red light and I've tried every variation of button pushing/ignition position etc to get the thing to move, but to no avail.

I have even tried 'giving it a bit of assistance' by whacking it with a 4 pounder at the same time, but still no movement !

 

!

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Richard,

I just re-checked the lights I get. 

Fully up - Green Light

Fully down (socket adaptor not plugged in) - Green light

Fully down (socket adaptor plugged in) - Green flashing light

Engine running - No light.

 

As the tow bar reaches the fully down position the motor stops and then there's a click of what sounds like a relay and the light turns green. I haven't tried pressing the button while it's still flashing red because I think that's what I did when it got stuck and didn't lock properly. It could be that you tow bar is fully down, but a sensor is not detecting it and therefore disabling the actuation. Maybe some advice from someone more familiar with the detail of the electrical side of it is your best option. Hope you get it fixed.  

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Similar problem - tow bar will not fully engage when extended out and now will not retract, gets stuck half way.

Have tried 'helping' it when retracting by pulling & pushing it, but still gets stuck, so now constantly receiving warning message.

I've left it as extended as it will go but seems like something is wrong with the motor that drives it...

 

Only collected the car today so will be contacting the dealer tomorrow!!

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Similar problem - tow bar will not fully engage when extended out and now will not retract, gets stuck half way.

Have tried 'helping' it when retracting by pulling & pushing it, but still gets stuck, so now constantly receiving warning message.

I've left it as extended as it will go but seems like something is wrong with the motor that drives it...

 

Only collected the car today so will be contacting the dealer tomorrow!!

Hi,

 

I have the same problem to your post.... tow bar will not fully engage when extended out and now will not retract, gets stuck half way.

Have tried 'helping' it when retracting by pulling & pushing it, but still gets stuck, so now constantly receiving warning message.

Did you get anywhere with the garage about soling the problem.  Assistance would be much appreciated.

 

Meza

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Hi,

 

I have the same problem to your post.... tow bar will not fully engage when extended out and now will not retract, gets stuck half way.

Have tried 'helping' it when retracting by pulling & pushing it, but still gets stuck, so now constantly receiving warning message.

Did you get anywhere with the garage about soling the problem.  Assistance would be much appreciated.

 

Meza

Garage had a quick look but couldn't fix so waiting for a date to book in it to be repaired. I'll update once sorted.

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Garage had a quick look but couldn't fix so waiting for a date to book in it to be repaired. I'll update once sorted.

Same for me - the BMW dealer spent a couple of hours on the car about two weeks ago. They checked all the conections to the module (which is under the spare wheel!) but couldn't find the problem, so it is going in again tomorrow for them to have another go. I'm now content to leave the hook permanently in the out the position, as long as they can get rid of all the warning signals. However, I don't think BMW are permitted to anything other than fix a problem - so it may be a difficult time for the wallet!

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Update.

Car spent two hours at BMW Westerly in Bridgwater today. Again they were unable to fully diagnose the problem, but concluded that the fault must be in the unit itself and advised a replacement at £1500! I declined, not only due to the cost, but I have lost all faith in the mechanism so I simply don't want another one. They were also unable to get rid of the warning messages on the I-screen and dash.

 

My target now is leave the tow ball in the out position (appears locked) and simply get rid of the warning messages. This means getting into the harnes wiring and finding a way of fooling the system. Apparently, BMW dealers are not allowed to do this.

 

Does anyone have a wiring diagram for all this baloney ? If not, does anyone know anyone who might have one?

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hi richard and beermeup,

 

would appreciate knowing solution to problem following work by garage, if only to provide indication of what problem might be!

 

thanks, meza

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So, just collected car, tow bar all sorted. Mechanic said that dirt/grit had got into the mechanics of the tow bar preventing it from properly deploying/housing. They removed the bumper to get to it and gave it all a good clean, now works fine.

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Beermeup. Thanks for the info from garage which is great news. Much cheaper than BMWs solution!! Would it be easy to take off bumper myself or is it a job for a garage? Meza

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I don't know how easy it is, I'm the sort of person that makes things worse when I try them myself so would always use a mechanic for anything more difficult than changing wiper blades lol. Maybe a local garage could help and would certainly be cheaper than your dealer.

Likely for me I had just bought the car so they did it for free.

Good luck

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Hi,

 

When i bought my -07 525i (LCI) then i had the same problem, same error messages on iDrive ( https://onedrive.live.com/?cid=7ea266bef350d55b&id=7EA266BEF350D55B%211559&v=3&sff=1&authkey=!AIVGYNtmUiEoLU0 ) and center screen and this was very annoying, then i thought i have to solve it somehow, i was starting to reasearch does someone had same issue like my car, then first i found this thread, then it was clear that this is common problem. Ok, then i was calling to local BMW service, they were saying that come to here, but usuallt they will replace whole hitch (whole hitch 995 eur + work), ok this wasn`t acceptable solution, then i was checking aroung in internet and found this link: http://www.bmwetk.info/parts-catalog/prd/BMW/VT/P/E60N/Lim/525i%20N53/ECE/L/A/2007/03/50106/71/71_0441 now i know atleast this is Westfalia hitch (quite widely known producer), then i was calling to Germany, to Westfalia and i was asking does they know what can be the problem, they were saying that they will have strong contracts with BMW and they can`t help me with it. Ok, then i was going to local garage, dudes were taking off this hitch and dismantle hitch to pieces and they found the root cause, small plastic ratchet inside the reducer- yes, inside the hitch is small electrical motor which is mounted to reducer and inside this reducer there are three small ratchets and one was broken.

Of course there is no spare part available for it, only option was to produce it by myself and now i will have new spare part and probably can offer same part to you guys if needed. One picture how this ratchet looks http://1drv.ms/NutzaY .

Same hitch has been offered to E6x, F1x, E9x, VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne and maybe some more.

Ps, there`s no sensor or something inside the hitch or reducer, so you can`t foolish the system. When we were putting back the hitch then we tried to "test" the hitch and didn`t understand how motor/system will understand when hitch is out or in, maybe it will count motor rounds or something, but yeah, it`s not possible to foolish the system. Only option was to programing out the hitch functionality, but this means to overwrite software and in this case hitch socket also doesn`t work - you will have hitch with out-locked position, but you can`t use it because socket doesn`t work :)

Edited by Jaak Kõivistik

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Similar problem to others. BMW "inspected" the car and charged me £118 for the privilege and reported that there was a "sensor failure" and the solution was a new tow bar at £1500!! I declined this offer. The fault appears to be intermittent as the hitch is now in the locked out position and the warning on the dash has gone.  BMW won't assure me that the car is safe and a local independent tow bar specialist company has said that it probably would be but that if the sensor should activate it could unlock the tow bar at any time! But I have lost all faith in this product and I am having the bar replaced by this company with a detachable swan neck. They can use all the electrics and assure me that they will be able to reprogram the car's computer to erase the fault message as the button will be redundant and there will be no sensor. The cost for this is £427. I will be writing a suitable letter to BMW as this product is not fit for purpose after fairly limited use.

 

Since my last post BMW have agreed to replace the towbar at no cost to me.

Edited by Jeff Thatcher

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Hi everyone,

I had the same problems with my E60 electric towbar. It was stuck in out position and would not move back in. Just made noises and the red LED on the button in the trunk blinked.

After a while I mangaged to disassemble the whole towbar including its tiny gearbox, with the 3 plastic gears. And there was my problem: one of those tiny plastic gears was broken.

I quickly found out that BMW would not repair those but instead replace the whole towbar for approx. 900€. And of course I said no to that.

 

After some time of searching the web I found this thread and contacted Jaak Kõivistik (http://forum.bmw5.co.uk/user/50848-jaak-k%C3%B5ivistik/) who had the same problem and had manged to produce a spare gear wheel. He was able to send me one of his spare parts for a very reasonable price.

 

End of story: His spare part just fitted prefectly. I reassembled the whole towbar and everything is now working perfetly - and all for just a fraction of the amount my local BMW service wanted to charge me.

 

So  everyone with the same problem I'm encouraging you to put appart that gear box and check the gears ! Contact Jaak, he might have a very cheep solution for you. 

Thanks again Jaak !

 

Greetings from Germany,

Sebastian

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Now after one year i could say that this is common problem with Westfalia electrical towbars and can call it as a known error.

So far, i have send these gears to eight owners all over the world and i belive all these hitches are working fine after changing this tiny gear.

One thing what i don`t understand so far is the root cause why this gear will broke up, because it`s not possible to broke it during folding hitch, because it will stop automatically whenever something interrupts folding. So far, all hitches were broken down on outer position, so i belive theres something up with temperature conditions or something.

If you do have a problem with westfalia electrically folding towbar, if pressing button and you can hear electrical motor noise, but hitch doesn`t move then i`m sure gear is broken and i can help you to fix it.

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Hello everyone,

 

Can someone please explain to me how to open that gearbox inside the hitch mechanism? The removal of the electro motor is simple enough, but how do gain access to the gearbox that contains those three tiny gears?

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Rob

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