Exquisite Goods

Author: UCrewX5 
Subject: SES light extinguished…..long story 
I’ve been driving for the past several months with my SES light on. Today, no thanks to BMW, I was able to clear it on my own. First a little background.

On a cold weekend back in January, I was toying with my navigation system and video setup in order to get the DVD player to work in stereo. Well in doing so, I managed to drain the battery (yes, it’s still the original one in my 2001). Following the steps in the owners manual, I jump started my X5 to get it going again. After it restarted, all of the lights in the dash lit up like a christmas tree – SES, airbag, DSC, and every other light you can think of. After a few minutes all of the lights cleared themselves with the exception of the SES light.

On Monday I called BMW Service to talk with my regular service advisor that I’ve used for the past 3 years and was told that he no longer worked at the dealership. They hooked me up with a different advisor and explained what happened. His response was that was fairly common and to drive it for a few days and see if the on-board diagnostics cleared the fault code and the light would go out on its own. Well, I drove it for about a week and the light remained on. So I made an appointment to stop by the dealer on a Thursday afternoon to have them throw the vehicle on their computer to check the codes and clear the warning.

When I arrived at the dealer they told me it would take about an hour to check things out. So I wandered down to the parts counter and bs’d with the guys to kill some time. About 20 minutes later the SA tracked me down and told me that the computer wouldn’t clear the codes and that there was a bulletin from BMW that when this occurs the solution is to download new software into the vehicle. I was told this would take about an hour, so I gave them the OK to proceed.

About 45 minutes later the SA approached me and told me that they were having trouble getting the software to download into my car’s computer. Whenever it was close to completion the computer would crash and it wouldn’t complete the download. They asked if I could leave the vehicle overnight to keep trying. All of their loaners were out for the day and I had made no other transportation arrangements, so I asked him if the vehicle was OK to drive until I could make another appointment later on. He said it was, so I made an appointment for the following week.

My X5 was brought around for me (all nice and washed – I do appreciate that part of the service) and I hopped in to drive back to my office. Well, I immediately notice that the MID says “TRANS FAILSAFE MODE” and I think to myself “this isn’t good”. I go back and speak to the SA and he pleads ignorance about the car being in this condition. Well, I quickly make arrangements to have a friend pick me up at the dealer so that I can leave the vehicle with them (I’m not going to drive it in this condition).

On Friday afternoon I receive a call saying that they still can’t get the vehicle to accept the software and they are doing further diagnostics to see what the problem is. They’ll need to keep it over the weekend and will let me know on Monday what’s going on.

Late morning on Monday I get a call from the SA telling me that they have isolated the problem to a defective EGS module (that’s the transmission control module). Their “theory” is that when the vehicle was jump started it sent a voltage spike that fried the EGS computer. The SA proceeds to tell me that because this was caused by the vehicle being “improperly” jump-started (which it wasn’t), it isn’t cover under warranty and will cost ME about $1500 to replace it. After picking myself up off the floor, I collect my thoughts and tell the SA that my X5 was running perfectly fine when I took it into the dealer, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the transmission when I drove it in, and if anything has caused the problem it was with their messing with it. We banter back and forth on this for a short while, and I quickly realize I am getting nowhere fast with this guy. So I tell him not to do anything else at this time and I’ll get back to him.

So next I call our good friends at BMW-NA. A nice friendly lady answers and I explain to her the situation. She checks her computer and sees the dealership where it’s being serviced and puts me on hold. A few minutes later she comes back on the line and parrots to me verbatim the same crap that the SA was telling me. She says that the vehicle was improperly jump started, so I ask her to explain to me the proper way that it should be jump started. Well it’s clear that she doesn’t have a clue. Seeing that this is leading nowhere fast, I hang up from her and call the dealership back and ask to speak to the head of the service department. He’s not available, so I leave him a brief voice mail for him to call me back. He returns my call about a half hour later and I explain to him everything that has transpired to that point from my perspective. How I brought the vehicle in to have the SES light cleared and it has now snowballed into the transmission no longer functioning and a $1500 job to replace the EGS computer. He promises me he’ll investigate and get back to me shortly.

Well, about 2 hours pass and I get a phone call from the SA. Guess what. The X5 no longer has the TRANS FAILSAFE MODE and everything is running fine except the SES light is still on. Basically the X5 is back to the exact condition as when I brought it in. I tell him not to touch anything else and I’ll be down to pick it up.

So I’ve been driving the X5 now for the past 4 months / 5000 miles and everything is running perfectly, except the darn SES light is still on. It’s annoying. As many of you know, I’ve been in the process of relocating from Chicago to Detroit and much of my stuff has been in storage. Well, this afternoon I finally opened the box that had my OBD2 diagnostic computer in it. Out of curiosity, I hooked it up to my X5’s OBD2 port and it began reading the codes. There were several faults stored, including many that were from when the car was in TRANS FAILSAFE MODE. Using the Actron unit, I was able to clear all of the fault codes and low and behold – NO MORE SES LIGHT !!!

Long story short, there is a way to clear the SES light on your own if you have a tool such as the Actron OBD 2 Auto Scanner. I picked one up on eBay last year for about $60 to diagnose a problem with my daughter’s Grand Am. It sure came in handy with the X5.


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