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Old 4th December 2005, 08:16   #311
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Friends: Well, I'm a lawyer and I own a 2000 Dinan M5 that is experiencing the apparently growing problem of carbon build-up in the secondary air system.

It does seem to me that we have a claim against BMW. I have written to the Customer Relations Manager at BMW North America, explaining the problem and requesting relief. A copy of my letter is attached.

For starters, I'd suggest that each and every E39 M5 owner who is experiencing this problem send a similar letter. One page is sufficient, and the relief we're seeking is simple. We want BMW to pay for the cleaning and repair of our engines!

Only after we seek individual relief and are denied will we be in a position to bring legal action against BMW. Filing a class-action lawsuit before seeking individual relief from the company itself would be considered premature.

As has been suggested here, I also believe a letter on behalf of the several hundred members of this Board who have experienced this problem would be useful. The more BMW hears about this problem, the more likely they are to be responsive to our concerns. With every letter, we are also building the record we'll need for future legal action.

Please feel free and adapt my letter to your own circumstances, and send yours today!

Cheers, Mike
Attached Files
File Type: doc Model Letter to BMWNA.doc (33.5 KB, 118 views)
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Old 4th December 2005, 16:12   #312
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Mike,

Thanks for posting that. I knew there would be at least one attorney that owned a M5 and was experiencing CBU. I appreciate you stepping forward and "outing" yourself.

I am one that agrees that we have a legal precedent to possible legal action, but I am more than willing to participate in a letter campaign and attempt to work things out with BMWNA on an individual basis first. I do have a few reservations about individual letters though. If you read this entire long thread, you will see that individual have tried to work out their CBU with BMW and everyone has had mixed results, some getting it fixed, some nothing, some partial help. There are several people with leases and the car is still under factory warranty and BMW is not fixing it. Off the top of my head we have about 8 people that have tried to work this out by themselves with mixed results.


I will write my letter and post it here. It will probably be a combination of the JC Fox letter and your letter.


Thanks again for posting.

Luke
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Old 4th December 2005, 16:19   #313
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Quote:
Originally Posted by greg
I have no idea how "advanced" my particular problem is, but I just made it 1500 miles without an SES light. I did this by using VERY light throttle until the engine was warmed up. Yesterday was very cold, I started, turned out of my driveway and immediately up a steep hill (not my normal route) - I used more throttle than I needed - got the light.

So it is possible that cautious driving technique while cold can avoid getting it too - perhaps only if the system isn't compeltely plugged, I don't know.
Greg, I have experimented and found the same situation and thus drive the car very cautiously the first time I start it up, but eventually the SES light will get you. I generally test for the codes after I start the car, drive it to work and then I run the codes. Some days I would get no code, then others I would get the code, each time I drove the car the same.

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Old 4th December 2005, 16:53   #314
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mottati
This is what i keep thinking, it's only a cold start monitoring deal, right? Go out, get the car warmed up, reset the light and drive like a banshee to the smog station to keep everything hot, should be ok. I'd rather not live with an SES light, but i'd rather live with it and some money in my pocket than have a proper fix, unless the heads were coming off for some other reason.

Mike
This has been proposed several times in this thread, and IMHO would be a sufficent work around to pass emission. I have expermineted several times and found that when the car is HOT, you can start and run it as many times as you would like without triggering the SES light for CBU issues. Thus as you and several others have suggested, run the car until it is hot, drive to the inspection station when there are no other customers waiting and get your car inspected ASAP. The worse thing to do is get the car hot, then wait 1 hour until you get a inspection and let the car cool down. If the smog inspection place takes appointments. Make a appointment.

But as everyone has stated several times, ingoring the SES light is hard to do. Again, this has been stated several times by several board members, is fistt off you have this bright light always staring you in the face, and secondly the SES light may be for something else and ignoring it may not be the best thing to do.

IMHO I would like to invite others to experiment and provide data to this board. I TRUELY belive this CBU problem with affect the majority (not minority) of MY 2000 and 2001 USA M5's. I think there will be other MY 2002 and 2003 M5's with this CBU problem but I think they will not experince the magintude of CBU as MY 2000 and 2001, due to piston ring changes. I would like to solict and invite others to gather data and contribute to fixing this CBU problem. Throwing out suggestions are appericated by myself but we need more real "data" to fix this problem. Make your suggestion but bring some data with you. This is hopefully a team effort on this CBU issue. Please don't be a lurker soaking up all the info from this board on this and other topics and not contribute to it.

I have tried and docuemented how to clean the aluminium secondary air injection system, but that fix doesn't appear to the magic bullet I was hoping for. My next project starting in late Dec will be to direct the smog pump away from the head and directly into the headers right before the pre-cat O2 sensors. This way the pre-cat O2 sensors will see ALL the oxygen they wish upon cold start up. I will try and document how this procedure is done. But with others who have this problem I invite you to try this route also and add to the knowledge base.

A few other workarounds I would like to solict data from everyone are the following:

1. Find a shop or company that car "re-chip" the car to not look for . We have gone round and round on this issue. One person on the board stated they had a friend at powerchip, but we haven't heard back from them. My calls to Powerchip, were a run around and finally "there is a 30 day money back guarantee on our powerchips" if you are not satisifed. I could never talk to someone at Powerchip that could technically answer my question about if they can program their software to ingore the needed oxygen levels on cold start up. Again, I invite others to call Powerchip or other companys that specialize in "custom" chips. If there was a company that could do this, I think they could make a few extra dollars.

2. More cost effective way of fixing the problem. I am going to try and send the smog pump flow into the headers and away from the heads. This is going to mean custom fabriation of steel air injection lines and poking a hole in the headers. I say steel becasue you can not weld Al to metal headers, thus the entire secondary air injection line will have to be custom fabriated. Oh, we also have to leave the shut off valve in the secondary air line also. All custom work. I invite others to try this. Maybe you skills or shop could do a better job of this. Again more data will be better. I will take pictures and document but....the more the merrier!

3. Letter campain, legal action or public thrust to get BMWNA to do something about this. And once again, this has been dissused at length and I think we are making progress on this front. It is going to take people to write letters and then share their repsonse from BMWNA with the board. We need more time and data on this issue.

LL
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Old 4th December 2005, 20:45   #315
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

I feel your Pain! I have already had to write the check! The part was that the car runs just fine, with the secondary air injection ports clogged it fails emission tests and puts to much unburned fuel to the cat's when cold. The car did not run any better after the repair and ses light now stays off. Since this repair was so outragious I had the dealer replace the Vanos, Instrument cluster, all belts so I felt I got something for the Money. I run the car hard and red line it at least
4 times a week so my driving style it is questioned and The dealership acknowledged that. The carbon was not built up on the combustion chamber but in the secondary air ports in the head. The water trick I had read about but did not try due to where the carbon build up ended. The water trick will only help the combustion chamber directly as I was told. My oil consumption did not change either which I thought might, thinking that oil may be getting in through the oil seal at the valves. BMW is pretty quiet on this issue but they know that there is an issue here, I had 62,000 miles on the car when this problem arose and the dealer had the car for 2 months. The options available at the time was,
1) buy new heads and have them installed (most expensive) BMW would not pay for parts
2) have Dealer take heads off and send them out to be professionally milled,
cooked and cleaned and valves lapped ( in between most and least expense)
3) dealer wanted to R&R heads and clean out carbon ports themselves and
install (least expensive) but I did not like the expense without having the head and valves checked completely. this would probably worked out as well
but the unknown would get to me over time.

In the end this cost me more than a lot of used cars would cost and I thought of selling but without passing emmisions tests how would that go down. I did what I had to do and bit down hard and took it.
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Old 4th December 2005, 21:21   #316
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

BMWsilverstreak -

Thank you for sharing your story. It captures well the intolerable dilemma of the issue. Pay a ton of money to repair a cold-start emission system with a design deficiency, or be stuck with the SES light that kills your cars re-sale value (or renders the SES light fairly useless for other issues).

So sounds like your dealer would not give you partial 'goodwill' on the repair? (Or were the other items thrown in as goodwill?) What did the dealer have to say as regards why they wouldn't cover the expense of the repair?

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Old 4th December 2005, 21:44   #317
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Quote:
Originally Posted by BMWsilverstreak
In the end this cost me more than a lot of used cars would cost and I thought of selling but without passing emmisions tests how would that go down. I did what I had to do and bit down hard and took it.
BMWsilverstreak: It sounds like your BMW dealer did not offer to cover any of the repair costs involved. Did you appeal this to BMW North America, or take any other action to try and compel BMW to compensate you?

Most of us are not prepared to "bite down hard and take" an $8,000 repair bill caused by a design fault in the engine!

Mike

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Old 4th December 2005, 21:49   #318
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ridgeback_Pilot
Friends: Well, I'm a lawyer and I own a 2000 Dinan M5 that is experiencing the apparently growing problem of carbon build-up in the secondary air system.

It does seem to me that we have a claim against BMW. I have written to the Customer Relations Manager at BMW North America, explaining the problem and requesting relief. A copy of my letter is attached.

For starters, I'd suggest that each and every E39 M5 owner who is experiencing this problem send a similar letter. One page is sufficient, and the relief we're seeking is simple. We want BMW to pay for the cleaning and repair of our engines!

Only after we seek individual relief and are denied will we be in a position to bring legal action against BMW. Filing a class-action lawsuit before seeking individual relief from the company itself would be considered premature.

As has been suggested here, I also believe a letter on behalf of the several hundred members of this Board who have experienced this problem would be useful. The more BMW hears about this problem, the more likely they are to be responsive to our concerns. With every letter, we are also building the record we'll need for future legal action.

Please feel free and adapt my letter to your own circumstances, and send yours today!

Cheers, Mike
Hi Mike,

Very glad you could join the discussion. Sorry to hear you have the carbon scourge. Knock on wood, I have not yet been bitten by it, but I don't want to wait for my SES light to come on before working to get this issue aired out toward possible resolution path(s).

No doubt an individual letter to BMWNA would/should be a first step in unresolved situations. It will take the SES light coming on and the specter of spending thousands of dollars to motivate most of us into writing a letter. Since the absolute number of people with unresolved problems is probably fairly modest (if growing), I certainly agree adding some 'strength in numbers' will require a letter on behalf of M5 owners in addition to individual letters for case-by-case situations.

Your thoughts and input as a lawyer would be helpful on a few points:
  1. Often there has been partial good-will participation by BMW dealers in the repair. Do you think partial cost coverage should be accepted, or should full coverage be insisted upon (up the BMWNA chain if necessary)? Partial coverage would still be thousands of dollars out of the owner’s pocket.
  2. Given the language of the EPA emissions warranties fact sheet (see link in one of my postings a few days ago), what do you see as the basis of a class-action case against BMW?
  3. As regards a letter on behalf of M5 owners, any suggestions? I know my first attempt is too long and the suggested resolutions being sought may be inappropriate. I don't know if it would be effective to cite the Clean Air Act, since I'm not sure I see the mechanism of liability or exposure on BMWs part. It seems likely that the best we could hope for from BMWNA is written assurance that they will work with us on a case-by-case basis, ala the pixel problem. So perhaps letter content considerations might be more important from a documentation standpoint than anything else (ie, what is the most useful information to have in the ‘record’ in the event of litigation down the road)?
Cheers,
Dave
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Old 4th December 2005, 22:13   #319
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Quote:
Originally Posted by wilsodh
Your thoughts and input as a lawyer would be helpful on a few points:

1. Often there has been partial good-will participation by BMW dealers in the repair. Do you think partial cost coverage should be accepted, or should full coverage be insisted upon (up the BMWNA chain if necessary)? Partial coverage would still be thousands of dollars out of the owner’s pocket.

Dave: Thanks for your note. I would be quite leery of accepting partial compensation from a BMW dealer for this repair. Think of it as the equivalent of a settlement offer in a lawsuit. The first offer is usually far less than the defendant owes or is willing to pay, just to see if the plaintiff will accept. Also, accepting such an offer could preclude an M5 owner from recovering the full cost of the repair later, when and if BMW North America agrees to compensate owners for this problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wilsodh
2. Given the language of the EPA emissions warranties fact sheet (see link in one of my postings a few days ago), what do you see as the basis of a class-action case against BMW?


I'm not particularly optimistic that any warranty coverage will be helpful here, including BMW, emissions, or aftermarket warranties. Most aftermarket warranties (including mine) specifically exclude the emissions and exhaust systems. Most of our 2000 and 2001 model year cars are out of warranty with BMW. And it seems that the EPA does not require the complete emissions system to be warranted by the manufacturer for 80,000 miles.

It's pretty clear that what we're dealing with here is a design fault in the engine's emissions system. Over time, carbon builds up and clogs the secondary air system. This fault ultimately renders the cars inoperable because they can't pass an emissions test to be licensed.

So, our claim against BMW is that they sold us cars with a design fault that renders them unfit for the purpose for which they are intended (driving). The remedy is simple: We want BMW to cover the costs associated with cleaning the emissions system and removing the carbon buildup. This will restore the functionality of the emissions system and the driveability of the cars. Perhaps if we drive our cars over 140,000 miles this will need to be done again, but for most of us this is probably a one-time repair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wilsodh
3. As regards a letter on behalf of M5 owners, any suggestions? I know my first attempt is too long and the suggested resolutions being sought may be inappropriate. I don't know if it would be effective to cite the Clean Air Act, since I'm not sure I see the mechanism of liability or exposure on BMWs part. It seems likely that the best we could hope for from BMWNA is written assurance that they will work with us on a case-by-case basis, ala the pixel problem. So perhaps letter content considerations might be more important from a documentation standpoint than anything else (ie, what is the most useful information to have in the ‘record’ in the event of litigation down the road)?


My sense is that our letter to BMW ought to be relatively short and to the point. Using the letter regarding the pixel problem as a model is probably a good idea. I would not recommend going into great detail as to what we think is causing this problem. It's enough to say that carbon buildup over time is clogging the secondary air system, ultimately rendering our cars unable to pass a smog inspection.

I agree with you that citing the Clean Air Act probably won't be particularly helpful here. Our principal cause of action is a claim for liability due to a design defect in the emissions control system that apparently affects most of these engines once they accumulate 60,000+ miles.

It will be important to state clearly the remedy we're seeking: To have BMW cover the full costs associated with cleaning the repairing our engines so that the driveability of our cars is restored. Yes, I realize that the engine will perform just fine even with the secondary air system clogged. But if our cars can't pass an emissions test, then ultimately we won't be allowed to drive them (at least in states that require an emissions test as a condition of licensing).

I'd be happy to help craft a letter to BMW on behalf of the affected owners. I also know another lawyer in Palo Alto who has a 2000 M5, and may be able to help us lay the groundwork for a class-action suit. I don't know whether he's experienced any problems with carbon buildup, but I'm going to find out!

Mike
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Old 4th December 2005, 22:37   #320
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Re: FAQ on Carbon Build-Up Issue (First Attempt)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ridgeback_Pilot
I'd be happy to help craft a letter to BMW on behalf of the affected owners. I also know another lawyer in Palo Alto who has a 2000 M5, and may be able to help us lay the groundwork for a class-action suit. I don't know whether he's experienced any problems with carbon buildup, but I'm going to find out!
Thanks Mike. Seems like a good idea to leave a letter on behalf of affected owners to someone with a law background. I like your approach of linking this issue with passing the emissions testing and ultimately licensing of the vehicle for operation. I suspect most, if not all, states will not pass a vehicle with the SES light on, and that the consequences may be inability to drive the vehicle. In my state, you would not only be unable to drive the vehicle, you would be unable to drive ANY vehicle (your drivers license can be suspended). It should not be incumbent upon us to juke the system by re-setting the SES light just prior to the emission test. This is a design issue that needs to be addressed by the manufacturer.

For my part, I'll work on compiling the data we have on the issue (Carbon Poll thread) and report back with a summary. I think I speak for others on the board in saying your help is much appreciated.

Dave
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