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Noise when turning on headlights

Discussion in 'E36 (1992-1999)' started by Raphaellacerda, Feb 5, 2014.

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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    Hey y'all,

    Got a 98 318i with 131k when lights are turned on a whining noise as if a a pulley or belt needs adjustment or replacement. Any thoughts ??
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    charlson89

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    Hard to say with out hearing the noise. But could be something to do with your alternator since you are turning on a major load on the vehicle thus making the alternator harder to spin and could cause noise. I start there just use a long screw drive and put it on areas you think the noise is coming from and put your ear to the screw driver and listen for the noise.
    Raphaellacerda likes this.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    So I followed your tip and the noise is coming from the alt. Will I have to replace it or maybe just the pulley ? The thing is I can’t tell if it’s belt since it does not look brittle or damaged.

    Thanks !
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    charlson89

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    Probably not the pulley most likely a bearing in the alternator. Glad you got it isolated.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    Have you checked out patsgeek.com ? I’ve ordered some cosmetic parts with them but never anything mechanical but they have a “refurbished” alternator for under $200, whether or not it’s any good who knows ??

    What do you suggest ?
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    MGarrison

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    No experience with partsgeek; w/ the proviso that there's always a risk of getting bad parts no matter where they're sourced from, it might come down to risk tolerance vs. budget. In _theory_, a factory replacement part, or oe equivalent, _should_ (don't forget that theory part) offer similar reliability/lifespan, and hopefully, for the price, will.. A refurbished part might do just as well... &, it might not.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    I should just pony up and get a new one from a more reputable place .. Where do you suggest ?
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    MGarrison

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    My having not dealt w/ partsgeek isn't meant to imply anything negative about them for sourcing parts, they may, and quite likely, be just fine - use google for partsgeek customer service feedback? I took a look at their alternator listings for a '98 318i, also autohausaz.com, & bavauto.com - all 3 are about the same in what they're selling & prices.

    Bavauto.com is a Roundel advertiser- they emphasize using proper parts for BMW's, so I tend to have high confidence in what they sell. So, the interesting part of looking at their listing (select your car & search "alternator") is that they only show one alternator, remanufactured Bosch #ALO736X.

    That tells me what I'd suspect, probably best to go with a Bosch alternator. Their price, $298.95, including the $100 core charge (you have to send back your old alternator & the core charge will be credited back to you). Note that Bavauto has a price-matching policy (or at least, they historically have, I presume they still do). With what else they list, look into what else is needed to swap the alternator; perhaps idler pulleys, a serpentine belt, &/or water pump are best done if you have to get into swapping the alternator.

    So, no harm in doing some comparison price shopping -

    Checking partsgeek, it has some useful information about the valeo alternators explaining a design deficiency. It shows two listings for a Bosch alternator, apparently showing the Bosch part number, & it looks like both listings are the same part (shows same part #). The other two listings are almost half the Bosch price, but with no experience with them or those brands, I can't say how long-lived they might be, or what quality they might be. I would tend to guess that if Bosch alternators of the late 90's are of the quality of the ones in the older BMW's I'm experienced with, they _should_ be of high quality, reliable, and long-lived, which would incline me towards the Bosch alternator, unless particularly budget constrained. If the $100 difference meant keeping the baby & parents from starving for several days, then, yeah, I'd say try those; otherwise, the extra 100 bucks presumably gives you an alternator good for, hopefully, the next 100k+ miles. Partsgeek has a lower core charge, but that's pretty much a moot point unless you don't return your original for the core charge refund, or, maybe, only have a credit card w/ a credit limit barely over what the whole charge would be including core, s/h &/or tax charges.

    http://www.partsgeek.com/catalog/1998/bmw/318i/engine_electrical/alternator.html

    Autohaus has several listings, but not so much information, which could be confusing without the info from Bavauto & or partsgeek sights. It would appear the new Valeo (no refundable core charge) would work, but perhaps leave you with the same issue as you have now in another 130k miles, & at a higher cost.

    They have the same ALO736X as Bavauto - the pricing isn't exactly clear, but I would interpret it as $195.39 + $100 core. IF their sale price is including the core charge (maybe, but I'm guessing not), then obviously that would be the deal price for the Bosch alternator. Otherwise, their price is about $3.50 less than Bavauto (which presumably they'd price-match), or about $2.50 less than the partsgeek price.

    Generally speaking, I expect Roundel advertisers to be quality vendors selling quality parts, because they have their reputation on the line. It may be worth considering supporting Roundel advertisers with one's business, for their support of the club as an advertiser, or, in any number of cases, more - such as event sponsorship, etc. That doesn't mean that the lowest-priced seller you can find isn't deserving of your purchase choice either; everyone will have their own priorities in such considerations.

    http://www.autohausaz.com/search/product.aspx?sid=h4c2r5ruj3v2hg55x5a0aofn&makeid=800003@BMW&modelid=1313543@318I&year=1998&cid=18@Electrical & Vacuum&gid=2412@Alternator

    Particularly with electrical stuff, Bosch in many cases is the oe manufacturer, & the BMW-branded part sold by the dealer is simply a Bosch part (maybe with a Roundel logo stamped on it), handed to you in a BMW box. It looks, possibly, like in this instance, Valeo and/or Bosch may have originally supplied the alternators. You might find shopping dealers advertising in the Roundel might have a deal worth considering, but I don't know dealer sourcing ensures you'd get a Bosch vs. a Valeo. If you go for the Bosch, looks like an aftermarket vendor might be your best option.

    For this I searched two I know of, & partsgeek - googling the part number, or more general search terms ("BMW E36 318i alternator"?) might have you finding a Bosch or something even lower. However, my guess is most places will be pretty closely priced, as we see in these comparisons.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    Great insight! I definitely like Bavauto has more of an authentic feel to them lol…. It’s extremely cold here in Mass. so I’m going to have to wait a bit for warmer weather. The car is in great shape mechanically and cosmetic with just in what I think is “minor” upkeep parts that need to be replaced and I’m really anal about little noises that most people would just chock it up to as “it’s an old car!” but I want it to run as well as it did back in it’s glory days.

    Another thing that’s worth mentioning is a little bit of shaking in the steering wheel when traveling in the highway, I did just have an alignment done so it could possibly be rotors ? Would love to take it to a BMW dealership and have it completely checked out by somebody who knows that car but the cost I’m sure would be astronomical to say the least!
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    MGarrison

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    If you had warped rotors causing a wheel shake, you'd feel that when braking. If it's steady-state cruising, you could have thrown a wheel weight, a bent-rim or out-of-round wheel, remote possibility of some tire problem (unless they're obviously unevenly worn, cupped, or something along those lines), or possibly something with things like tie-rods, control-arms, various bushings up front, &/or something related to the steering. Make sure your tire pressures are all even.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    Sorry did not add it does shake when braking. Tire pressure is ok, balance could be since I haven't looked at the rims for missing weight or anything. What it does have is nicks and dings from curb hits etc.
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    MGarrison

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    If you get heavy shaking when braking, seems logical the likelihood would be rotors. I think better to replace than try to have them turned down; normal street driving shouldn't yield warped rotors, typically.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    charlson89

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    You can also look for a local shop around you to rebuild your alternator thats what I did to mine for 150. Like mentioned above for shaking steering wheel when braking your rotors are probably warped and need to be replaced. I do not suggest to turn rotors mainly because your taking material away from them and thus shortening the life and most of the time they will just warp easier since there is less metal to dissipate the heat. Just a thought good luck.
    Ken.S.330 likes this.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    I made an appointment for this coming Monday @ my local BMW to check all the problems out ... Hopefully it won't be 1k !! I know besides the problems I mentioned before it needs front bushings or control arms, the rears are brand new with new springs. Have you had any work done at a BMW shop ?
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    charlson89

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    Well I work for a dealer so yes and no haha. The dealership is very expensive so just be aware of that but it will be done right.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    lol … Nice ! Any possible help with the cost for a fellow club member ?? :cool::cool:
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    How much to replace both front control arms ?
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    MGarrison

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    Ah - that made me think you meant it shakes only when braking, but you're saying you feel the steering wheel shake both driving and when braking. If you know you need control arms/bushings, I'd say get your front suspension issues addressed and see how it feels after that. Warped rotors can shake the steering wheel when you're braking, but typically not otherwise.
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    Raphaellacerda 98 318i “why don’t I have a steering tilt?”

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    So what are we talking about here a couple of hundreds or thousands ?

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