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TS1997

Windshield wipers issue

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Hello!

 

I have a 1999 BMW E39 that have an intermittent wiper issue I can't seem to figure out. Everything started this summer when I was driving at 120km/h when it started downpouring and the wipers stopped working. They started working again as soon as the rain slowed down a bit. This happened multiple times and the conclusion was that the wipers only worked in less heavy rain. When I got home I planned on troubleshooting this and sprayed water on the rain sensor until they stopped working but this time they never started working again. 

 

I took everything apart and saw that everything was dry below the cowl but I didn't get any power to the motor. The motor worked if I gave it 12V though so there's an electrical issue. It ended up being the relay that didn't work and replacing that fixed the issue, or so I thought. Everything worked fine until this Friday when I pulled the stalk down once just to wipe off the windshield once. When I did that they started going on the lowest constant speed without stopping until roughly 45 seconds later when they completely died at their current location. They didn't start working again until I restarted the car and moving the stalk around did nothing. 

 

Does anyone here have even the slightest idea of what the issue might be? I'm out of ideas and don't know how to troubleshoot as I'm unable to reproduce the issue.

 

Thanks in advance!

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Hey! a little backhistory on the car and mods? Out of the blue I can think only of things I'd check on a car that I don't know PO or have records

 

Stalk?

 

Pinched/frayed wires under the carpets?

 

Coding mishaps with conflicting data on automatic rain sensor vs. poti interval for timed wipe, or road speed adjusting?

 

Does it have rain sensor or it's just a plain wipers arrangement? Intensive washer?

 

Wiring under the cowl pinched/cracked/isolation falling off?

 

Grounds?

 

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Probably a dying wiper relay. Easy and cheap fix.

 

I took my wiper relay apart and gently cleaned the contacts which allowed it to work for a while until it eventually died a few weeks later. Don't bother trying to repair it just get a new one from a BMW dealer, they're not expensive.

 

The wiper relay is located in a white plastic plenum box beneath the left or right side (sorry, can't recall which) cabin air filter boxes. Getting the lid off the white box can be a bit of an arse as the partially seized fasteners tend to strip the plastic. 

 

There's quite a lot online (Google) and on YouTube to give you guidance.

 

Hope this helps!

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Still sounds like a relay to be honest. Earlier cars use two relays for the wipers (identical ones, right next to each other), did you replace both or just one? I had some strange issues (wipers stopping in the middle of the stroke randomly) that didn't go away until I cleaned the contacts on both.

 

Later cars have a tall green relay that combines the function of both, think that came with the facelift.

 

 

 

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I replaced the relay in the image below which was located in a box under the right airbox. The same "new" issue that happened last Friday occurred today as well and I did notice that the washers didn't work during the time the wipers didn't work. The car is stock without coding changes as far as I know except for that I had to replace the trailer wiring in the car because it was pinched. The car does have a rain sensor as well as the intensive washer. I didn't see any issues with the wiring under the cowl but haven't checked under the carpets. 

 

Let me know if any additional information is needed. I do own most of the BMW diagnostic tools and the K+DCAN cable so if there's anything I should retrieve from there I can do so. I've already checked and no codes are thrown. What's the easiest way to test the stalk and are there any tests I could perform that might pinpoint the issue even though it's intermediate? 

2021-08-22 002.PNG

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Sounds like it's going into an excessive current protection mode, this is fairly common on the rear wipers on Tourings where it will stop working completely (including the washer) until the car has been turned off for a while, this is caused by excessive drag in the wiper pivot. Had the same happen on the front washers because the headlight washer motor was shorting out, all washers went dead until car had a chance to reset.

 

You may want to inspect/clean/lube linkage and pivots.

 

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@Clavurion I’ll check INPA when possible. @Carlton Thanks for the tip but I doubt that’s the case this time as the wipers started going more than they should before they stopped. I also went over the linkages when troubleshooting the first time around and they were fine

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the best way to check if the wiper stalk is to blame is either drop in a known working one from another car, or to inspect the diagram and bench test the positions with a VOM. If you go to the extent of removing the steering wheel, it might be a good idea to inspect/measure the wiring going from said stalk to the listed locations.

 

Still in the dark regarding which year we're dealing with, it might narrow down our suggestions to relevant and pertinent ones.

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On 15/10/2021 at 08:20, Clavurion said:

It's a quite simple grounding switch.

 

image.png.52b8f4ada7099da0168b57d5f95cebd5.png

 

Yes indeed. But most electrical gremlins/weirdness occurs when grounds gets pinched or rusty. 

Sometimes a tiny nick in the isolation and the movement of the harness (natural or produced by handling) can cause intermitencies, wire breakage or other issues.

 

groundnick.jpg

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Thanks guys! I had to drive in rain today and noticed something that makes me believe the stalk might not be the issue but I haven’t been able to troubleshoot any further yet.

 

I had them set to the lowest sensitivity using the rain sensor and they stopped working after roughly 2 minutes. I then had the ability to stop in a pocket and restart the car and then they started working again. This time I put them on the slowest constant speed instead to see if there’s an issue with the sensor but they stopped working again after another 2 minutes. I kept driving as I could see decent and they started working again as I was pulling into the parking space about 5 minutes later. 
 

Any ideas on what the issue could be? 

Edited by TS1997

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When the wipers stop, do they stop in a particular position? Can you make them go again using the single wipe function?

 

Inspect the relay base for burnt connectors/wiring, sometimes the wiring gets damaged by and old relay running hot. Relay base can be pulled up from its mounting bracket by moving the plastic slider to make inspecting easier.

 

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1 hour ago, Carlton said:

When the wipers stop, do they stop in a particular position? Can you make them go again using the single wipe function?

 

Inspect the relay base for burnt connectors/wiring, sometimes the wiring gets damaged by and old relay running hot. Relay base can be pulled up from its mounting bracket by moving the plastic slider to make inspecting easier.

 

They stop where they are at that time, they never go back to the "base" position. The stalk has no functionality at all while they aren't working. None of the wiper positions work and the washer fluid won't spray either. They did go again as soon as I restarted the car though (for a few minutes until they died again).

 

Thanks for the tip! I'll pull everything apart in there to see if I find any wiring damage

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I had a similar issue with an E28 wiper motor which turned out to be worn brushes on the motor.  They were worn down so much that they did not make sufficient contact causing a high resistance which got higher as it warmed up with use until it would stop.  Allow it to cool down rinse and repeat.  Replacement new old stock motor resolved the issue for me.

 

Not familiar with how the E39 works.

 

Stay safe and best regards,

 

Mick

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On 12/10/2021 at 18:12, TS1997 said:

I replaced the relay in the image below which was located in a box under the right airbox. The same "new" issue that happened last Friday occurred today as well and I did notice that the washers didn't work during the time the wipers didn't work. The car is stock without coding changes as far as I know except for that I had to replace the trailer wiring in the car because it was pinched. The car does have a rain sensor as well as the intensive washer. I didn't see any issues with the wiring under the cowl but haven't checked under the carpets. 

 

Let me know if any additional information is needed. I do own most of the BMW diagnostic tools and the K+DCAN cable so if there's anything I should retrieve from there I can do so. I've already checked and no codes are thrown. What's the easiest way to test the stalk and are there any tests I could perform that might pinpoint the issue even though it's intermediate? 

2021-08-22 002.PNG

That's what i changed on my e46, heading to catch the ferry at 4am they packed up in a deluge, eventually came back to life and we made the ferry but I invested in some rain-x!!

 

Changed it on my return and it never reoccured.

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11 hours ago, TS1997 said:

They stop where they are at that time, they never go back to the "base" position. The stalk has no functionality at all while they aren't working. None of the wiper positions work and the washer fluid won't spray either. They did go again as soon as I restarted the car though (for a few minutes until they died again).

 

Thanks for the tip! I'll pull everything apart in there to see if I find any wiring damage

 

Definitely still sounds like it's the general module going into protection mode. Since you've done the relay, it's going to most likely be the wiring, the wiper motor or excessive physical resistance in the linkage.

 

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Thanks for the info guys! Are there any ways for me to test the general module, the motor and the linkage? Where’s that module located? I’ve already put 12V directly to the motor and it worked then but maybe I should try again but keeping it connected for longer? Which size fuse should I use for that?

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It's unlikely to be the module, it just monitors the wipers for current draw and if it sees things out of the ordinary it will disable the wipers (and/or washers) for a few minutes. Basically a protection in case the wipers are frozen to the windshield.

If the wiring checks out, you can try disconnecting the linkage at the motor and letting it run for a while to see if the problem recurs (pointing to an issue with the motor) and check out the linkage at the same time. It's kind of hard to describe what "normal" feels like but disconnecting the various points and cleaning/regreasing them may be worth it. Wiper arms should move easily with one finger push while motor is disconnected.

 

 

 

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This just came to my mind

 

You say on one occasion they turned off, but as you were parking they started working again.

 

Have you noticed a pattern as for when do they stop? Meaning, specifically: do they turn off when you're steering? Or when you adjust the column for any position? the wiring from the stalk goes in a bundle that might move a little during steering operation.

 

I still think it has something to do with the wiring from the stalk to the distribution centers which I pictured above. Maybe because when I chased this same issue for months it ended up being a knicked ground, and one tends to relate everything to personal experience (at least, I know I do).

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The only pattern I’ve found is that they usually stop working when it rains a lot and come back on when the rain slows down. This happens independently of which position I have the stalk on though so it isn’t because the wiper motor goes faster because of heavier rain etc. I did inspect everything and nothing got wet below the cowl so that isn’t the cause either.

 

I’ll remove the covers around the stalk and inspect the wires as well though.

Edited by TS1997

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Another thing that may be counterintuitive but it's worth the shot trying it's disconnecting the rain sensor. You pry open the rearview mirror base and there's the connector for the rain sensor.

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7 hours ago, jicaino said:

Another thing that may be counterintuitive but it's worth the shot trying it's disconnecting the rain sensor. You pry open the rearview mirror base and there's the connector for the rain sensor.

I’ll try that as well! I just need it fixed at this point and will try anything that might fix the issue. 

Edited by TS1997

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I've scanned the car for codes again today with ISTA which showed nothing but when I scanned the GME specifically with INPA I got the following. Does anyone know what these mean? Based on what I understand there's an issue with the wiring regarding the relay. Could these be residual since before I replaced the relay? 

 

I've now done some additional troubleshooting and have looked over the wiring and pins for the relay as well as the stalk and there are no apparent issues with either. I've also cleared the codes below so if the issue persist I'll do a new scan to see what comes up. Depending on the results of that I might also try disconnecting the rain sensor to see if that helps.

 

I did notice one weird thing today though. When I sprayed water on the windshield in order to replicate the issue I was unable to make them stop working so I'll have to wait until it rains again to go any further 

 

image.thumb.png.cb49baef49b1f1401371f60f0263a12c.png

Edited by TS1997

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