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#1 (permalink) Old 08-07-2003, 11:07 AM
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It seems I am replacing one bulb or another (headlight, brakelight, turn signal, etc.) every couple of months. First my local mechanic gave me some mumbo jumbo about the bulbs being high output and didnt think it was an electrical problem (I have a 1999 323i- no xenon lights). Now after seeing me burn thru a few, he agrees there's a problem. I have an appt. with BMW on monday and am concerned its going to cost me hundreds in labor. They said that despite all the new computer diagnostics, they still troubleshoot electrical problems pretty much as they did 10 years ago. First, what is the normal life expectancy of these bulbs in hours/days,etc.? Second, is anyone aware of this being a common problem? Third, what can I do to make sure I dont get taken for a ride (no pun intended) by the bimmer dealer? Any advice would be most appreciated.
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#2 (permalink) Old 08-07-2003, 11:18 AM
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Not sure on the specifics to your questions, however, when you replace the bulbs are you using aftermarket bublbs or the ones rated (by wattage, etc) for your car? If they are the OE rated bulbs then chances are you have a short somewhere. Are any of the fuses blowing?

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#3 (permalink) Old 08-07-2003, 12:15 PM
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I dont know about the wattage, but I assume my mechanic could get that right. I will check however. I dont think any fuses were found to be blown, because I checked on at least one instance and I didnt see anything on my mechanics bill for replacement (I believe he also would have mentioned that to me.) Thanks.
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#4 (permalink) Old 08-07-2003, 12:16 PM
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#5 (permalink) Old 08-07-2003, 06:54 PM
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Guess: voltage regulator. your alternator puts out about 16 volts max at high rpm. fully charged battery is 14.2 volts. the system runs on 12 volts, which is usually what the bulbs see (given resistive losses).

have the mechanic run a check on the voltage regulator; also there may be codes (remeber these codes go away from the memory after a certain amount of start/stop cycles).

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#6 (permalink) Old 08-07-2003, 06:56 PM
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i forget:

you ALWAYS get taken if you let them diagnose the problem. once diagnosed correctly, they often can fix it in a reasonable manner.

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#7 (permalink) Old 08-07-2003, 11:25 PM
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akrauss: peter has a very good point. It sounds like the alternator *could* be peaking a little high thus blowing the bulbs. There are several other possibilities if it were just blowing brake light bulbs, but you're having problems with bulbs all over. Have your technician do a bulletin search, if I remember correctly there was a bulletin on diode replacement within the alternator as well as a possible complete replacement. I cannot remember for sure as it has been some time since I've combed those bulletins. This might not be the culprit but it's a place to start (simple charging system test). If it does turn out to be something simple, after the tech diagnoses it then fix it yourself. That might piss him off but it's your money. Don't fret, it shouldn't be too bad.

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#8 (permalink) Old 08-08-2003, 04:54 PM
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Thanks a bunch for all your thoughts. I really do appreciate it. Two follow-ups: 1) How long should these bulbs be lasting (months, years, etc.)? and 2) assuming it is the alternator/voltage regulator, what's the damage $$$$$?
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#9 (permalink) Old 08-08-2003, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by akrauss@Aug 8 2003, 03:34 PM
Thanks a bunch for all your thoughts. I really do appreciate it. Two follow-ups: 1) How long should these bulbs be lasting (months, years, etc.)? and 2) assuming it is the alternator/voltage regulator, what's the damage $$$$$?
what kinda bulbs are they? secondly if they are aftermarket bluish ones they can last anywhere from a few months (yes a few months) to a year and a bit, mine usually last around a year and 3months (on average and also i have constant low beams on) stock ones last longer,

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#10 (permalink) Old 08-08-2003, 07:01 PM
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with the proper bulbs, they could last several months to a year plus. If there is an alternator problem, the only damage would be the alternator itself and the blown bulbs. When a charging system test is done, the battery will be checked also. This would be the only other place damage could be. If there were any control modules damaged then they would either no longer be working or a fault code will show up.
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#11 (permalink) Old 08-08-2003, 07:10 PM
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Thanks, I'll let you know how it turns out on Monday.
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#12 (permalink) Old 08-08-2003, 11:09 PM
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extech is right. bulbs last many months to years.

i have no clue if the entire alternator needs to be replaced (likely; they have internal regulators and these days people just replace entire modules as opposed to figuring things out... fuck, i am an old fart...).

is the car still on warranty ? (you may be able to claim extended warranty if the problem first showed up in warranty period, eventhough the car is too old now..)

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#13 (permalink) Old 08-09-2003, 01:23 AM
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isn't it cheaper to just keep replacing bulbs then the labor to fix a huge electrical problem

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#14 (permalink) Old 08-09-2003, 07:45 AM
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#15 (permalink) Old 08-11-2003, 04:43 PM
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Dropped the 1999 bimmer in question off this morning and just spoke to service. Said they found one (or more?) sockets with corrosion causing a short and (as suggested by "GreenDragon") the blown rear brake light was due to installation of aftermarket buld with incorrect wattage (My local mechanic will be hearing from me !). Total bill, incl. oil change (synthetic) was $190.00. Thanks again for all your help.
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