BMW Wagen – The Burninating

Before you freak out from the title, no one was injured, and der Wagen did not burn to the ground. It’s still running.

But there is a story.

About 5 days ago a burning smell started occurring when the heat was running in der Wagen. It wasn’t the normal hot dust smell you get sometimes, but rather the acrid, burning electronics “letting the magic smoke” out smell.

It was also definitely coming out of the heat vent, more so on the drivers side than the passengers side.

And it didn’t always happen. Sometimes it smelled like burning, sometimes it didn’t. I had no idea what was causing the smell, but I was concerned for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t want the car to burst into flames while I was driving it.
  2. I was worried that it was something important burning that would cause the heat to stop working or worse, the car to stop running.

On Sunday I checked the blower motor resistors, they are easy to access and they were fine. The other obvious thing to check would be the blower motor itself but in true German fashion the blower motor is in the center of the dash, near the windshield and requires about 5 hours of disassembly to access. Besides the blower motor was still working so I assumed that was not the source of the smoke.

I was stumped and concerned. I had no idea what else would be in the heat ducts that could be burning up.

Today I discovered what the problem was.

I was driving along and the windshield was dirty so I pulled the stalk to spray the window. No spray came out. “Huh, that’s weird.” I thought. I figured it was just frozen and pulled into the Home Depot parking lot.

After I was done at Home Depot I got into the car and decided to try the spray again. It’s not really cold enough for the washer fluid to be frozen. So I left the motor off and pulled the stalk again. Sure enough, I could hear the washer pump running, but no spray. Interesting.

Then I noticed that the drivers side nozzle looked different than the passenger side one. It looked shorter. I thought “How did that get pushed into the hood?” Then I looked closer. It was melted.

burn3

Wonder why that doesn’t spray anymore?

You might also notice that the hood appears discolored around the nozzle.

One of the features of this car is that the washer nozzles are heated so they don’t freeze up in the winter. Apparently the drivers side nozzle decided to immolate itself. It almost took the car with it.

I popped the hood to assess the damage and discovered that the hood insulation around the nozzle had actually burned, and it burned enough to also melt another piece of plastic nearby.

burn2

Insulation looks a little toasty.

Here is the plastic part that also melted. That wet looking spot is the washer fluid that was spraying all over the engine compartment because the nozzle and hose are all melted.

burn1

More melty. That box to the right is the cabin air filter and that duct is how the air gets to the blower.

The burning smell was the nozzle immolating itself and the smoke was being pulled in through the cabin air filter.

So I’m happy that the mystery is solved and that it wasn’t an important piece of electronics that went up in smoke. I’m also happy that the whole car didn’t go up in smoke while I was driving it.

Guess I need to find a new nozzle now. Can’t really go though the winter with no washer fluid.

And the new nozzle costs: $41. Sheesh.