e61 instrument cluster - recode or repair?

Discussion in '5 Series' started by ojbeemer, Dec 19, 2020.

  1. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    Hi all, some time since my last post. I still have my 2004 e61 [now 244k miles!].

    I've just had the instrument cluster replaced [with a second hand unit] at my local BMW specialist. The old cluster had a fault; showing the hidden menu constantly and remaining powered up, even with the ignition key removed & car locked (so draining the battery).

    Unfortunately I didn't have time to do any research before taking it in and just assumed this would be fairly straightforward. The replacement cluster now fitted works, but the specialist has been unable able to re-code the replacement cluster [with VIN code etc.]. The mileage of the replacement cluster has been matched ok but a number of warning lights are continuously on display [seatbelt, airbag...]. The car drives ok but the warning lights are a big distraction during normal driving, especially in darkness, so want to get it fixed but the specialist can do no more; has recommended I get the unit re-coded by BMW. Disappointed they did not highlight this outcome prior to the work!

    So I am thinking I have 2 options;
    1) get the replacement cluster re-coded, but hoping I could find a non-dealer service to save on cost
    2) get the old cluster unit repaired [the specialist has left me with the removed cluster], hoping that this would not need re-coding.

    I would appreciate any advice on the above options, including places for recode service or cluster repair..... or any other recommendations to fix!


    Many thanks.
     
  2. markyboyt
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    markyboyt

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    A bmw dealer won’t have the ability to code a cluster from another vehicle to yours as that isn’t an approved repair method so it’s not covered with dealer equipment.

    I’m surprised the Indy took the job on if it’s not one they can complete, did you supply the cluster or did they? I don’t know if this is something that could be sorted with ncs expert to read out the coding values from your old one and write to the new one, maybe someone the on bmw coding forum could advise.
     
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  3. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    Thanks, markyboyt. Yes; I was concerned that BMW dealer would not be prepared to do this, given the repair has not been through them in the first place.

    Got the feeling my specialist has not done this type or fix very often and may have been fortunate with previous similar jobs they've taken on which may have had a more positive outcome! The replacement cluster was sourced by them. Thanks for the steer re: bmw coding forum; I'll post a plea for help there, too!
     
  4. markyboyt
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    markyboyt

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    It’s not that the dealer wouldn’t be prepared to do it, they can’t. The dealer programming software won’t program another cars cluster. The only option they would have is fitting a new part.
    Clusters are very awkward to swap because of storing the mileage and also having the vin etc and option specific aspects in the coding. The Indy must have used someone capable of mileage manipulation to set the correct mileage in the cluster which needs specific tools as it is basically the same process as ‘clocking’
     
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  5. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    OK understoood; many thanks, markyboyt. I normally do a bit of research prior to getting major work done on the car; feeling like I should have done that this time round! The car is driveable, but annoying, especially given cluster swap has already cost c. £200.
     
  6. snrbrtsn
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    snrbrtsn WARLORD Site Supporter

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    Last edited: Dec 19, 2020
  7. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    Many thanks, snrbrtsn; wish I'd found these guys earlier. Will give them a call when they're back from Christmas. In the end - if they could repair at low cost, that might be the best route forward.
     
  8. Simon5705
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    Simon5705 Site Supporter

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    I sympathise OJ, we had similar issues with the cluster in our Focus mk2, warning lights and other random mileages appearing was the first signs of imminent failure, next was speedo/revs going to zero when driving which is hardly ideal. This also led to the gearbox staying in top and not changing down then limp mode occurring, probably because there was no speed/revs data for it to work, then sometimes the car wouldn't even start as the immobiliser data is held in it.

    After needlessly changing the battery and then cleaning all earth straps and all engine bay connections to no avail, I googled the fault........wish I had done so at first as there was loads of information about it being really common. I would never have found a good used working replacement as the automatic has a unique cluster, then no dealers are interested in coding them anyway.

    As a new cluster was £1k+ including labour, I found somewhere locally that rebuilt them. I think it was £120 + vat. The cluster then worked perfectly of course and even came with a calibration certificate. The speedo and odometer was then 100% accurate when compared to my Garmin gps, rather than the usual over-read which was interesting.

    Apparently in most vehicles, the connections for the multiplug to the board fail, also solder tracks can start to deteriorate on the cluster due to age/damp/vibration etc. Some people will have even scrapped older cars for what turns out to be a simple fix for an electronic specialist with proper equipment, but uneconomical for a main dealer parts-swapping repair.
     
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  9. markyboyt
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    markyboyt

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    I think that’s the key there. I expect the majority of this type of issue are down to a fault on the pcb, usually either a solder joint or a component that costs pennies. It’s just finding the right person that can find it and rectify it I guess.
     
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  10. Alan Gunn
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    Alan Gunn

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    I swapped the cluster in my 02 e53.
    Managed to code it so far and got rid of the tamper dot with BMW Scanner 1.4.0
    The only problem i had was i couldn't change the mileage but only 3k in it but i had no warning lights on everything was spot on.
    Could it be a faulty cluster ???..
     
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  11. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    The cluster certainly had some kind of fault; as mentioned in the OP, the matrix displays were illuminated all of the time - even with the ignition key disconnected! - and the hidden menu was also intermittently visible. If that could be fixed at low cost then that would be great.
     
  12. JasonH
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    JasonH

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    BMW would only fit a new "virgin" cluster and then code it to the car.

    However it is possible that BMW could code it. It might be that the cluster is a special case but ISTA can recode other used modules. It did a great job of recoding a used replacement idrive on my car.

    Someone who's an expert at coding BMW's would probably be able to use the "Factory" software tools to wipe and reconfigure the cluster. It is possible but it takes the right person.

    Even where the BMW software can't do it I've helped someone configure a replacement E39 cluster with, I think "BMW Scanner". Here we identified everything about the car and manually checked all the boxes and wrote that to the cluster. It worked perfectly, the scary bit was that you could enter any mileage you liked.
     
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  13. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    Thanks for the additional information. For the possible re-coding of the old cluster, I am waiting for moderator clearance to post a query in BMW coding forum, to see if I can find anyone to take that job on. For the possible cluster repair, hopefully clusterepairsuk will able to quote when they open after Christmas.
     
  14. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    Brief sitrep on this;

    I managed to speak with clusterrepairsuk yesterday....... When I described the specific symptoms of the failure on the original cluster unit [continuously illuminated even with ignition key removed and hidden menu intermittently visible without accessing it], they explained that they had never seen that type of fault before despite fixing MANY BMW units and were therefore not confident that it could be repaired. They did however explain that, given the unit has been disconnected and 'powered down' for some time, there is a chance that this has enabled it to 'recover' and it is therefore worth me reconnecting to the car to check; that of course would be a nice solution!

    Re: the re-coding of the replacement cluster, which is still installed in the car, clusterrepairsuk say that providing the replacement unit is exactly the same specification as the original, they would be able to re-code it and that this could be done without having the whole car [i.e. just send in the cluster]. To check the spec. I need to remove it from the car and compare the label data on the rear of the unit with the original. I have a hunch there may be a slight difference in spec because the replacement unit has slightly different gauge markings to the original.

    Job for the weekend will therefore be to get the replacement cluster out of the car, check the spec and temporarily refit the original, to see if it has managed to reset. If the original works, I will leave it in the car. If it doesn't, and the spec of the replacement unit is a match, then I'll be sending that in to clusterrepairs to fix. Of course there is a worst case scenario that the original is still not working and the replacement is different spec, in which case I am back to square one!

    Clusterrepairs agreed that my BMW specialist that took on the job should have been clear about the coding issue before starting work - i.e. the risk that it would not fix. With a bit of research that I should have done before the job, I can see that replacement clusters can be easily sourced online for c. £50-£60, which would also have enabled me to check the spec before buying. :(

    I'll post a further update once I've checked the units out this weekend....
     
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  15. ojbeemer
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    ojbeemer

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    I removed the replacement cluster this morning. The labelling on the unit confirmed my suspicion it was not an exact part match with the original; it was from an LCI car MY 2009, whereas my car is MY 2004. The BMW part numbers were different; see photos below.

    The good news, however, is that when I reconnected the original cluster unit back into the car, the fault disappeared; i.e. it now powers down when the key is removed & car is locked! Clearly there is some concern that the unit has a fault, but I am going to leave the original unit in. Driving during the period when the replacement cluster was in place was not an enjoyable experience, with many warning lights all lit up like a Christmas tree!

    I'll be taking the replacement cluster back to my Indy, seeking a refund. Feel they shouldn't have taken job on without being clear about the coding issue and, even if they had, should have sourced an exact part match.

    My thanks to everyone who helped with this query; much appreciated. I could not have resolved it without your assistance. Clusterrepairs uk advice was also spot on.

    I hope this post will help anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in this situation in the future. In summary, if your cluster unit fails, first thing to try is to remove the cluster from the car (having disconnected the battery); removal is easy - simply unscrew the 2x screws holding the top lip of the cluster in place [Torq T10 fitting] and unplug the multipin connector at the rear. Reconnect after powering down; see if problem recurrs. If it does, consider approaching a repairer (e.g. clusterrepairsuk] before taking in to garage. Repairing the original may be easier/cheaper than refitting a replacement and avoids the challenge of having to re-code the new cluster to the car, which in itself can be an expensive job and not many providers prepared to take that job on anyway!

    Original cluster is at the top
    Clusters.jpg

    Original cluster

    Barcode_original_1.jpg

    Replacement cluster

    Barcode_replacement_2.jpg
     

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  16. mach one
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    mach one WARLORD Site Supporter

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    glad you got the cluster sorted and lets hope it stays fault free. but at least now you have contact with somebody that may be able to sort out any further issues you may encounter (y)(y)
     
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  17. markyboyt
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    markyboyt

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    Interestingly, despite the slight differences in the cluster, the replacement one is actually a valid supercession from the one you had and is what would be supplied if you went to a dealer now according to realoem so I would expect the issue was the different coding inside it.
     
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