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Thread: California hates my E34! epic fail on smog, help needed

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    125

    Default California hates my E34! epic fail on smog, help needed

    Hello BimmerNut, its been awhile!

    I recently made a move out to CA after finishing school and now that my CT registration has expired need to face the harsh reality of CA smog testing :-(

    I currently have 232,000 Miles on my e34, its a 95 525i. After 9 years in my hands and almost 0 engine issues, it really doesn't owe me anything, but I would love to get another 6mo to a year out of it if I can. I have until the end of the month to get my car through smog.

    I knew this was coming so I did some work that I thought may help my case in advance.
    -Cleaned the air filter (its a K&N and was really dirty, I got it a lot cleaner but it may still be restriction)(<2kMiles ago)
    -Changed oil(<300Miles ago)
    -Changed plugs("PLATINUM+2" Bosch 4303)(<2kMiles ago)
    -Changed O2 sensor (replaced with the Bosch one from Pelican Parts)(<8kMiles ago)
    -Removed my chip (EAT Ultrachip)
    -Ran two bottles of Guaranteed To Pass through it, ran the tank down to the emergency fuel light.
    -Plugged all exhaust leaks

    My car actually ran and felt better after all of this so I felt good going into the test.

    I was tested today and unfortunately CA standards labeled my car as a GROSS POLLUTER

    I attached an image of the failing results:

    HC (PPM)
    15Mph-
    Max: 81
    GP: 265
    Meas: 305
    25Mph-
    Max: 46
    GP: 215
    Meas: 150

    CO(%)
    15Mph-
    Max: 0.47
    GP: 1.97
    Meas: 0.64
    25Mph-
    Max: 0.44
    GP: 1.94
    Meas: 0.20

    NO(PPM)
    15Mph-
    Max:683
    GP:1894
    Meas: 1949
    25Mph-
    Max:692
    GP:1694
    Meas:180
    Name:  2012-08-04_18-21-49_761.jpg
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    Not the most encouraging results...

    I drove the car hard for 40 Miles going to the smog station so everything was good an hot. It sat off for about 3 Minutes before being tested.

    One thing I realized today after looking around the internet, I should have been running 87 Octane fuel during the test. I had a full tank of 91 as thats what I have been used to getting for the chip.

    However I don't know if that could be responsible for the seemingly large amount of HC pollution.

    Another thing that struck me as interesting is that my NO goes from being horrendous @ 15Mph to well within the limits @ 25Mph. Any ideas on why this may be?

    I just ran a stomAttachment 7677p code check and got '1000' so my ECU appears to think its running fine. (My battery also died yesterday afternoon however).

    At this point I am trying to figure out if I can get through this without changing the cats, and If I do need them changed, how to approach it. My exhaust is quite rusty after spending the majority of its life in the north east rust machine. It has had the flared compression joints between the cats and rear resonator and muffler replaced with welded sections, and the connection between the headers and downpipes is terrifying. Basically, I would be hesitant to dump money into welding new components into this exhaust. It also appears that many aftermarket cats may not be capable of passing in CA anyways?

    With the mileage this car has on it already, I am not ready to fork out $1k for a whole new exhaust.

    If I need to I would like to be able to pick up a slightly used one that I can bolt on. Anyone on here in the bay area that has a stock 525i exhaust that could part with it for a few weeks? Or know of any good junk yards around here.

    I'm not sure how I would know a good used OEM cat, are there still any E34s out there with <100kMiles on them?

    I am currently planning on cleaning my MAF, replacing air filter, and burning off the tank of 91 octane before filling with 87 and getting another test.

    Does anybody know if its better to run with a high or low amount of fuel in the tank?
    Would there be any advantage to running with the EAT chip (my intuition said no so I pulled it)
    I also have an aftermarket gas cap, but I thought that would only result in evap issues.

    Please help my keep my E34!

    Tyler
    ..

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Eastern Tennessee USi
    Posts
    14,693

    Default

    Another reason I didn't want to relocate to CA!

    Check ebay, I'm sure you can find a decent exhaust for your 525. Also check craigslist to see if anyone is parting one out in your area. There is no way I would be paying full dollars for a stock exhaust.

    Your aftermarket cats are probably the problem, are they supposed to be high flow? That could possibly explain the difference betw. 15 & 25 mph.
    95 E34 530I V2.31
    ===========
    Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

    John F. Kennedy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    446

    Default

    Had your car previously passed the CT. smog test without issues? Our 90 535i always posts much lower numbers then the 95 525iT & the 90 has an aftermarket chip.
    90 535im
    02 R1100S, 87 R100S
    76 R90/S,73 R75/5
    Alfa Romeos- 65 Giulia Spider Veloce
    & 66 Duetto 1600 Spider

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    4,892

    Default

    Make sure oil change is new... and thinner.

    Install regular air filter... K&N is too freeflowing for the stock chip.

    Make sure AC is off... all accessories off... these are loads on engine.

    High NOx is related to high HC so get the HC down and the NOx will be really down.

    Shogun posted a great Bosch diagnostic sheet... do a search for it.

    I recommends standard plugs... not platinum plugs... platinum plugs are worse.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    125

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by John B. View Post
    Had your car previously passed the CT. smog test without issues? Our 90 535i always posts much lower numbers then the 95 525iT & the 90 has an aftermarket chip.
    John, Good point! I just dug out my old CT emissions test from Feb 2009 and it was narrowly passing CT standards on HC. I don't remember if it was a rolling loaded test or idle either.

    Name:  2012-08-05_21-29-25_882.jpg
Views: 612
Size:  96.8 KB

    It was was un-chipped then as well and I cant imagine that 3.5 years is going to make my cats any better.

    I found and reviewed the Bosch diagnostics guide that Shogun posted as well, it seems the signs are glaringly obvious and I just want to make sure replacing my cats are the only option before I do it. So now the question is to do a pre-test with 91 Octane, the K&N and the chip, or go all the way back to stock. Based in the Bosch advice it would seem that Advanced timing is not something that is going to help NO.

    John, do you usually see a trade off in emissions performance with your chipped car? That is lower HC than your non-chipped car, but higher NO?

    There are options on ebay such as this But it looks like I have some reading to do, as the listing has a subnote that it is illegal for them to sell to California.

    I may have an option to purchase from a friend a pair of cats from a 2004 M3 that had the complete exhaust swapped. They would be low mileage and I could probably get them for $200 or so. Need to make some measurements to determine if they would fit. Even then I also need to do some research into how much scrutiny I will be under the next time I attempt a smog test, as I hear listing used OEM cats in CA is illegal too and may have to do with why car-part.com doesn't have any listed in CA. I may still be able to find a pick-n-pull and take them.
    Last edited by tgrandahl; 08-06-2012 at 02:29 AM.
    ..

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    4,892

    Default

    You might want to consider changing the CPS... older CPS tends to be a little off or 'insensitive' that your timing is slightly off...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    193

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    did the smog place warm up the cat before the test, after the car been sitting "around" 3 minutes? the cat can be cool down enough that they don't work. notice how you almost pass the 25 mile test. You should let the car idle, not shut it down while waiting for it been tested, it might give you a better chance of been passed, since the cats are on their last leggs. Anyway, that' what would do when I take my 92 525iT for the smog test, run it realy hot and let it idle, not shutting it off before test. The next time you went for the test, ask them to do a pretest to see if will pass. good luck
    94/540i/173k Miles original engine

  8. #8

    Default

    Hi Tyler,
    There are several Pick-n-pulls around the Bay, the nearest for me is in San Jose but I like the one in Newark more as they tend to have more BMW - you can check car inventory online. For the past year and some months, I had 2 E34, just today I wrote the 530i over to a friend (who had been driving it for a while already) so he will have to do the smog test also - and it passed narrowly last time, when I bought it... Some time ago he bought a new exhaust, because another friend had borrowed my car and almost lost the exhaust when the support broke and it dragged on the street. But it did not fit properly, so they ended up welding the busted muffler to close it again... Luckily the BMW are very popular in this area, so there is a large supply of 2nd hand parts from parted cars. Indeed, look at Craigslist and Pick-n-pull. Success! Cor (now only a 540i left...)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    446

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tgrandahl View Post
    John, do you usually see a trade off in emissions performance with your chipped car? That is lower HC than your non-chipped car, but higher NO?
    No, the numbers were lower for the 535i across the board. Ct. does use a rolling loaded test.
    90 535im
    02 R1100S, 87 R100S
    76 R90/S,73 R75/5
    Alfa Romeos- 65 Giulia Spider Veloce
    & 66 Duetto 1600 Spider

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    125

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    I thought I would post an update on my SMOG saga,

    After I first failed so miserably, I was able to get a two month extension on my temporary registration. I used this to procrastinate, and order partsÖ Two weeks ago I finally made the time to start getting my car ready to actually pass.

    I rented a small flux core welder from The Home Depot for the day for $50, which I split with a friend that had to do some exhaust work on his E30. It took about 12 hours of cutting and welding and hauling the entire exhaust in and out of the car about 3 times to get the new cat fitted in. Unfortunately the magnaflow cats did not have the same center to center spacing between the two pipes as the stock cats did so this required a lot of miter cuts and bends in the exhaust to get it to fit. However overall I think the welds came out pretty good. They are certainly a lot better than welds that Midas made the last time I got the exhaust on this car worked on.

    Immediately after this I changed my oil again and went to a test only station the next day for another test.
    Name:  smog 2nd.jpg
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    If failed the test again, this time not quite as spectacularly, It was clear the new cats were doing their job as everything was cut in half. However I was still double the HC limit at 15Mph. My car also overheated and died on the dyno due to the fact that my engine fan clutch was broken, something that I was aware of but hadnít taken the time to fix yet as the weather is so tame around here itís never been a problem.

    I assumed that removing my chip and switching back to 87 octane fuel would be the next logical step. Because I was going back to a stock chip, I also switched back to stock plugs, air filter, and In the process finally took the time to clean out my MAF. I replaced my fan clutch and figured I should be good for another pass at the test. But now the stakes were higher. I didnít realize until Oct 30th that I only had one day left on my temporary registration.

    This morning I head straight for the same Smog place as last time, the guy that runs the place was great last time and it was a good 30 min drive away. It failed the 15Mph test for HC again, however only by around 20PPM and the 25Mph test actually passed.
    Name:  smog 3rd.jpg
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    Unfortunately I was out of options at this point, I thought that I had already done everything that I should to legitimately pass this test it was time to get grey. I searched on my phone for gas stations that sell E85 and as it turns out there was one right down the street. I had roughly ľ tank left so I mixed it with around another 5 gallons of E85. I took a plastic 5 gallon gas tank that was in the back of my car and filled it with 91 Octane gas as a backup. I drove the car around for a while and gave the E85 some time to mix in and sink to the bottom of the tank. I didnít notice a significant decrease in performance and my car still idled fine but I decided to go back and get one more test. It passed with 1PPM of HC to spare!
    Name:  smog 4th.jpg
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    I drove down the street and poured the 5 gallons of 91 Octane in my tank and then filled up the rest as soon as I got to a gas station.

    I sold the old cats to a scrapper in PA, it paid for the costs of the new cats, and renting the welder. All in all this wasnít a very expensive process, just time consuming.

    This has been quite an experience to say the least, 4 smog tests and a lot of work! However it all paid off as it looks like I am going to get a little more time with this car after all. Thanks for all your advice in getting through this!
    ..

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