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5-Series (E12,E28, E34, E39, E60) Chat relating to the BMW 5-Series of all generations. Specific models include: BMW 518, BMW 520, BMW 520i, BMW 530i, BMW 528i, BMW 530i, BMW 518i, BMW 524d, BMW 525i, BMW 525e, BMW 528e, BMW 540i, BMW 535i, BMW 520d, BMW 525td, BMW 525d, BMW 530d, BMW 525i/xi, BMW 530i/xi. (BMW 5-Series Forum)

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Old 03-18-2005, 11:36 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Per the post title, I've got a '97 540i with about 58,000 miles. Just purchased the car back in December '04 out here in SoCal, and this is my first *problem* per se.

I've got a high-frequency rattle coming from what sounds like underneath the driver side. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not - but when it's there, it's THERE. Nothing specifically triggers it, it happens under idling (just after starting the car) and/or acceleration. It makes the car sound like a jalopy - which is the most frustrating thing. I understand it won't hurt the car in any way, but I don't want to sound like I'm driving around a POS. :P

I'll be the first to admit, I can't confirm it's my cat, but my buddy (who's worked on them before, alas, on a mustang) believes it to be so.

Now the problem, I've talked to a dealer and a couple other auto parts suppliers, it appears the replacement is going to run me between $1,100 and $1,300 (parts and labor) for one side!

Sorry for freaking out, but that seems ridiculous, I can rebuild a motorcycle tranny for less, unfortunately California's smog laws ( ghead )mean nobody makes aftermarket (cheaper) header-back exhaust systems. Ack. Net net net, I just want to see if there are any specific tests I can try to confirm it is my cat.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Oh, and happy belated St. Patty's day! <- me last night
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Old 03-18-2005, 11:42 AM   #2 (permalink)
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It is possible that you are hearing the heat sheild rattle and not the internals of the actual cat.

I would start by checking that.

Secondly, if it is the cat, you should be able to replace it using a Carsound cat. That is the company that Manu's Magnaflow and if you go to their (Magnaflow) website you can find link's to universal replacement cats.

Under California Law you can use aftermarket cats (and even change configuration) if the factory ones are dead. If yours are, find a shop that will pull your exhaust and weld in the biggest Magnaflow Cats that have the proper I/O pipe diameter.

Those cats should run no more than $150 each, and the fabrication shouldn't be too bad either. You'll also pick up some performance in the switch.
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Old 03-18-2005, 12:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Wow, thanks for the quick (and informative) response! I'll definitely be jacking the car up this weekend to search for loose bolts/heat shield. It's funny but that was my initial impression too given the frequency of the rattle, until my friend mentioned the cat - then I kinda started down the "worst case scenario" route and haven't looked back.

I did some poking around on that magnaflow site and found some generic cats and read up some on the ODBII systems/rules/procedures. From a sheerly technical standpoint, it looks like a law-abiding garage is only going to be able to (legally, as I mentioned) replace the non-functioning cat ... ... ... ... ... at the end of the day, if one cat is truly not working, I'm wondering if I should just got to a local welder. :wink

UPDATE: Crap. Just talked to magnaflow - the system they sell is currently "under review" by the official state agency (California Air Resource Board) - which means it currently doesn't pass smog, or at least they won't guarantee that it will pass smog. Currently the only system approved for use in CA is the OEM model.

Just about the only thing going for me is that I've found (online) the OEM part for $760 (shipping TBD) and I found another guy who'll welt it on for $100.
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Old 03-18-2005, 02:49 PM   #4 (permalink)
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FWIW, they are talking about a CARB # for the part.

The only time that would matter is if you ended up with a tech that gets under your car to look and see if the cat is OEM, or aftermarket with a CARB number.

When's the last time you saw a tech get under a car at a smog test. Cat's all look about the same, and most shops will weld one in if your's is bad without thinking twice, and would do the other side so you don't have to wait and do the repair twice.

Magnaflow is covering its behind with that statement. I know a number of guys who run the Magnaflow replacement X pipe on their Mustangs without issue. That doesn't even look stock and they don't get hassled.

Start with the easy stuff this weekend and work from there.
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Old 03-18-2005, 04:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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You make a great point about the tech actually going under the car to check it out... When I was coming back from lunch this afternoon I checked out the actual smog report completed in early December '04 to see how my care fared next to the "averages" they report. Interestingly the report also notes the "max" allowed under CA law.

Unless I'm reading the thing incorrectly, my car was *very* close to the average, and only maybe 10% of the max. I find it hard to believe that (if my analysis is true) it's that hard/cost prohibitive to make cheaper after-market catalytic converters. If that's the case, and this state regulatory board is holding all these products back, shame on them!

At the end of the day they're only screwing the consumer, we're talking a net price difference of 3-4x. Gov't red tape at work. *shakes head*

In any case, now I'm all worked up and am going to jack the car up tonight when I get home from work. Will let you know what i find.

Thanks again!
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Old 03-19-2005, 12:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Cats break into pieces . test it with a small hammer/mallet and check to hear if rattling is inside.
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Old 03-22-2005, 10:33 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Finally got around to jacking up the car last night.

Turns out the left cat is rattling (when knocked with a bar), and the right cat seems to be making noise as well, just not as much.

Damn. Go figure I've also got to replace 4 tires. So, if anyone has had significantly bad experience with Falken FK451's, please advise.
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