More 528i Wagen Fun!

About two weeks ago I had a ball joint fail in the rear suspension of Der Wagen. I had to have it towed to my local shop for repair.

I was driving through the parking lot at work looking for a space when all of a sudden there was a “bang” from the rear of the car followed by a grinding noise and an immediate slowing down.

Putting it on the big hook.

That doesn't look good.
That doesn’t look good.

At least it didn’t happen at 65 MPH on the freeway…

Unfortunately there were a few issues that caused the repair to take a lot longer than it should have.

Complicated E39 rear suspension.

The part that broke is #10 in the diagram. The ball joint on the end came apart.

The primary issue was that whomever assembled the rear suspension the last time put in the bolt (#11) backwards. That meant that what should have taken about an hour to repair was going to be a huge pain in the ass.

The shock absorber (not shown in the diagram) now needed to be removed to get the bolt out and of course it broke because it was old.

So now I needed new shocks. The shop said I could order them myself since they were having trouble finding any locally and we wanted to keep the cost down. Of course, since it’s a wagen with air suspension and lowered ride height it needed special shocks.

Anyway I found a set at RockAuto but they were in the UK. However even with international shipping they were still half the cost of any in the US. So it took a few days for those to arrive.

Of course at this point, after the damage was done, it struck me that we could have avoided all this hassle if the shop had just cut the head off the bolt and replaced it.

Damn it.

Then the alignment machine at the shop blew up, so they needed to get that repaired. Throw in the fact that the one guy there who could do the work (apparently) was busy and didn’t work on the weekends and it was almost two weeks before the work was done.

I finally picked up Der Wagen last night.

Of course the silly car is still not 100%. Part of it is expected, part is new.

The expected part is due to the rear wheel cutting the ABS sensor wire when it was tipped in due to the broken ball joint. The shop didn’t replace the sensor because they know I can do that job (should take about 30 mins and the part is $59) and we were trying to keep the bill low.

I got in the car at the shop to drive it home and when I started it the dash lit up like a Christmas tree.

The ABS, Traction Control and brake light were expected due to the broken ABS sensor.

The Air Suspension light was not. But the car is weird and I thought “Who knows, maybe it’s related…”

As I pulled out into the street I discovered that the turn signals were not working. That’s new. Then I noticed the radio also was not working. Odd. Neither of those should be ABS related.

The speedo and odo were also not working, but that’s a known symptom of a busted ABS sensor (I know this from when a front sensor went out.)

I decided to just drive it home and do some investigating.

I checked all the fuses (okay, that’s a lie, I checked the fuses in the three easy places to check them – I didn’t pull the passenger seat) and they were fine. So I figured I’d just install the ABS sensor when it arrives and see what wierdnesses are left over.

This morning I did some googling. Apparently when the air suspension light comes on and the turn signals and radio stop working it’s often related to the CD changer and/or IPod adapter.


Apparently if the IPod adapter goes on the fritz, or there is corrosion on the plug for the CD changer, the CAN-BUS can freak out and make the turn signals, radio and air suspension stop working. It’s also possible that the exterior turn signal lights were working but the dash indicator and “click” were not, but I didn’t notice if this was true.

The fix can be one of three things:

  • unplug the ipod adapter to reset it – leaving it unplugged if it turns out to be broken
  • disconnect the battery for an hour or so to reset the car
  • clean the connectors for the CD changer

Wow. Awesome design there BMW.

It’s possible that the problems may be caused by the fact that the battery went a bit flat while the car was sitting at the shop. The low voltage may have caused the IPod adapter to get wonky.

I guess I’ll find out when I play with it tonight.

Ya gotta love cars that a full of computers…

Update: I went out after work today and unplugged the IPod adapter. Sure enough, that fixed the issues with the turn signals, air suspension and radio. Go figger.

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