E30: turn signal turns on brights

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I've searched the net and haven't found a solution to this problem yet. I own an 87 325iC. Starting about two years ago, with my headlights on, whenever I used the turn signal and completed a turn and it would snap
back to the normal position, my high beams would come on. I explained the problem to a mechanic that told me it would cost about $800 to fix. I decided to just not use the signal lights at night. Now it's gotten worse. Whenever I turn on my headlight, my high beams come on and I can't turn them off. If I jam a peice of folded paper behind the turn signal stick, it will move it up enough for the high beams to turn off but then I can't use the turn signal or the paper will fall out and I'm back to brights. Has anybody else ever experienced this? Any idea what could be causing the problem? How hard would it be to fix this myself? Thanks.
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snuka wrote:

What I'd do, is take apart what I could of the column and reassemble. I've surprised myself with how many times this has worked. Not with what you specifically describe but with other stuff. Sometimes disassembling and cleaning, then reassembling actually works. Sure is cheaper if it works and you can take it in if it doesn't. I'd suggest not going any further than you feel you are mechanically capable though. Get yourself some contact cleaner and meter to test for shorts/continuity and look for any distorted plastic pins, keepers or missing springs. A decent shop manual with an exploded view of the column area would be a major help with this. There is a site on the net that for a small fee you can have access to exploded views of most systems on most any car. I can't for the life of me remember the URL. I got some great info when I was rebuilding the front suspension, actually putting back to stock, on my Son's Pick-up. Didn't have to buy an entire manual. Perhaps someone knows the name of the site. If memory serves, I found it through Google. I used "1997 Ford Ranger Steering Parts" and it was amongst the hits.
Just a thought.
Jeff
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OP may want to consider picking up a new stalk as well for the turn signal / high beam. They are on ebay from time to time -- just make sure if you have the full OBC that you get the stalk with the button for it or accept that you won't be able to change the display from the stalk any more.
Anyway it's probably bad/worn contacts in the mechanism in the base of the stalk which are probably not all that servicable. I paid $25 on ebay for a replacment for mine and I see others regularly. Doesn't take more than about an hour or so even if you don't know what you're doing -- best get a friend to help steady the wheel while you release the nut, don't count on the steering lock lest you damage something. Once you're into the colum you can hook up your new switch and test it right away before even installing it. It's all rather garden variety wrench work. Just make sure when you take the wheel off that it's perfectly straight or you'll never hit the right spline putting it back on...
-Russ.
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I agree, mostly.
I think the OP will discover a small piece of a contact has broken off and is shorting the parts that turn the high beams on and off. I think that he can feel the trouble but has told us that the feel of the switch has changed over time. If I am correct, he should be prepared to have the car out of service while he gathers up a new combo switch. I'm with you guys, I'd take the switch out with the hopes that I could clean it and see what is wrong and fix it with chewing gum and bailing wire, or whatever I have laying around. But, I think that one of the contacts has broken inside, and he is gonna need a new one.
As for aligning the steering wheel, this is not a big deal. The steering column should have a peen mark on the end, and the wheel should have a similar mark. When reinstalling the steering wheel, simply align the marks. If there are no marks (I can't imagine this to be true) then I would take my best guess at where the wheel goes, then button everything else up that I could without putting the nut back on that holds the wheel in place, and drive down my street to see if it is straight. If not, I could easily pull it off and adjust it, then test again. When the wheel is on straight, then put the nut back on, followed by the airbag.
ONE PROBLEM When driving the car with the airbag out, the Airbag Fault light will come on. This light will NEVER go out until it has been reset. This is a PIA because the car has to go to the dealer or to a BMW independent to be reset. The OP should be able to explain that the steering wheel was off for service and the system does not require attention beyond setting the light off.
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Agreed it's the switch, but with the cost and ease of replacement, I'd just pick up another used one. In my case, the stalk actually broke physically, and while I didd a field repair with a beheaded screw and some JB Weld, the eventual replacement of the unit was fast and easy. And cheap, used.

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Good advice.

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Luckily the OP was an 87 so he's clear of that issue.
-Russ.
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Lock the steering and see if the wheel is in the straight ahead position. If not, after slacking the nut and freeing the wheel on the splines but not removing it, lock the steering and mark the wheel with tape both left and right using a spirit level. On replacement just make sure the spirit level reads true - the splines are fairly course and it should not be possible to be one out.
--
*Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire *

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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OOPS, Does the E30 even have airbags?
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91's do, maybe a few 90's. Not his 87.
-Russ.
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Most 90s do, mine does have it (unfortunately as it's the old style big explosive bag.) Randy W (used to be active on aabmw years ago) figured out that only a few very early 90s do not.
PS: This is for US-spec E30s!
--
Ignasi.
'90 325is
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Hey i still pop in from time to time :-)
Yes, in the USA the E30 started getting an airbag steering wheel about a month after the 90 model year production began. The first month or so they still had the non-airbag steering wheel because the airbag supplier was a little late in getting the product to BMW.
Randy 89 325is
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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net (Randy W) wrote:

my '93 euro spec cabrio E30 has not:: likewise a '94 touring that lives near here. keith
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Not tried it with a BMW unit, but have had success with Lucas units. Provided the switch appears to be mechanically good - ie no excessive movement, etc. They can be full of springs and things that fly apart when dismantled so do it within a towel or similar. But fixing one where a pivot has failed is likely to be tricky.
But I'd be inclined to buy a secondhand one first. They're not usually difficult to fit on a car that age with no airbag or steering wheel mounted controls.
--
*If I throw a stick, will you leave?

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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seems kinda obvious to me: the the column switches are worn/broken... get thee down to a breakers yard and pulll another set from a similar year E30.. when you are extrcting them from the donor vehicle, pay good attention as to how the are fitted: takes pictures if you need to. take everything to the connector leads. figure on spending best part of a 1/2 a day getting them back in again. its not difficult, just fiddly.

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Extraction is the same on the donor as on his car, not complicated enough for pictures. Pry the roundel, release the nut, lift the wheel away, then release the few screws from the bottom to release the top of the column cover, exposing the stalk/switch assembly. A couple of screws to release it, disconnect one big integrated connector. Installation is the reverse of removal.
-Russ.
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Without actually experiencing your symptoms, I would guess the trouble is in the Combination Switch itself. The switch that operates the turn signals and high/low beam is called the Combo Switch, by the way.
There is no relationship in the turn signal circuit and the high/low beam circuit, except the mechanical parts of the combo switch. Now that the trouble is getting worse, this takes me even more strongly to the switch itself.
The switch can be relatively easy to replace, but I haven't looked at how my BMW is assembled. I have replaced turn signal/combo switches in the past, and as a general rule they are pretty easy once the steering wheel is off of the car. There will be a wire loom that snakes down the inside of the steering column and has a connection in the vicinity of the brake pedal, and frankly snaking the old wire out and the new wire in can be the tirckiest part of the job.
$800 seems to be a very steep price for this repair. I have no idea what the switch will cost, but I will take a stab that the repair time should be on the order of about 2 hours for a trained technician. If the shop rate was $75.00, then the labor would run $150 and the rest would be the cost of the switch.

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Thanks! I will carefully remove my steering wheel, combo switch and maybe stalk and then go down to the local yard and find similar replacement parts. wish me luck!
Jeff Strickland wrote:

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i'd drive down to local yard first before removing steering wheel switch and stalk...buy parts, then come home and rip it apart :) my $.02
snuka wrote:

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Thank for the advise but I was going to drive down in my other bmw! :)
dave wrote:

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other bmw....lucky bastard...lol...sorry its so easy to be a smart ass when its someone else's car btw if u r interested, i just checked my parts stash and i have a dirty greasy combo turn signal thingy high low beam switch(believe it's off an 87-88 e30 325i)i could clean up 4 u...only ever seen it sitting in a box in garage so i can't garantee it...let me know if u r interested...how's $20 + shipping? let me know...cheers dave
snuka wrote:

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Sounds great Dave, send me an email snukajc-at-eartlink-dot-net
dave wrote:

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