BMW E46 Convertible Front Stut Brace

I finally got my car back all repaired and sorted, and it also passed the MOT at the same time.

Decided to buy the car a present i found a seller on eBay called “carparts_uk” who offers a front suspension strut brace for just under £30 posted out from Germany. (German = good start)

I have always been rather skeptical about the engine strut braces reading mixed reviews about them and never wanting to take the plunge as must of the solid ones sell for north of £100.. but for the price i went for it!


The install really was as simple as it looks.. bolt on and tighten up, it is a good solid bar with loads of adjustment options on it and the whole install took me about 35mins.

Having driven on it for few trips i genuinely do notice difference certainly stiffens things up in the convertible


Hi All,

I thought i would post an explanation as to why my posts have been lacking slightly recently

I have got pretty busy at work which has taken loads of my time up.. and unfortunately for me on way back from work someone decided to rear end my BMW pretty badly so im currently trying to sort it out! (im ok and the car is well…. we will see)

I’m just thinking happy thoughts at the moment.. hoping for the best and of course the dream of owning an E92 M3.. if anyone’s got one spare or wishes to donate the money to get one be appreciated:

Haha.. we all have dreams eh!

My posts may be quite for a few weeks whilst i try and get car sorted

Sorry for this..



BM54 Upgrade/Repair


For weeks now the audio in my E46 convertible was cutting in and out, I incorrectly assumed it was a loose wire. The truth behind this is more focussed on one downfall of the BMW/Range rover audio system.. the BM54 unit…

What is it?

The BM54 is an audio amplifier unit which sits at the heart of the audio system, its job is a bit more advanced then a standard car amplifier. it handles things like:

  • TMC – Traffic Message channel
  • Radio – Memory, signals
  • Car audio amplification/speakers (this is where the main fault lies)

Basically.. without this unit not much of your audio system will work (some might say its the single point of failure on the setup)

What happens?

These units are riddled with faults that can appear at anytime, most common faults are:

  • IC Amp Chip failure  – These chips control the audio channels ( all 4) and will take out part of the speakers/eventually all of them.
    • This can also cause sound distortion/funny noises on the channels (such as ticking)
  • Loss of power/Not turning on – This will be signified by not having an orange light on the head unit/not being able to use the head units functions.
  • Intermittent power – Fully functioning system/sometimes not turning on

So what can be done?

The device itself comes at a premium price.. you have options but not many:

  • Ebay/Auction Sites – used units go for north of £300 (and can come with faults)
  • Replacement direct from BMW – BMW will sell you a refurbished unit for anywhere between £500-700
  • Get repaired/upgraded – This is your most viable and cheapest option (price will vary depending on needs, but no where near as expensive as the above 2 options)

Who can help?

The are loads of people out there offering upgrade and repair services but be careful.. some people see easy money in “soldering together” to repair these units and can cause more harm to your audio system if things go wrong.

When i was looking for a repair upgrade job on my BM54 unit i settled on one company who really impressed me both in quality and in uniqueness.

Cartronics (website)- They are a company based in surrey in the UK (company not one man in a shed with a soldering iron) with full professional soldering/testing facilities. They do a whole range of services including:

  • Repair of all BMW audio units, CIC,CCC,ASK, L7 amplifiers Mini HK amplifiers
  • In house coding and software updates for ALL BMW models, retrofits for all models upto 2015 cars
  • ECU remaps

And much much more..

Mark is a very helpful and professional guy, who kept me updated and the whole unit was turned around in no time at all.


What people think is that its just a case of fixing the unit and that’s it… but its actually and upgrade in power and in quality.

Originally the IC audio chips are poor quality and run at roughly 20watts per channel with no additional external outputs.

A whole new IC chip setup is soldered in with its own power which can run up to 40watts per channel and is a much higher quality product. here is a pic that Mark was kind enough to send me showing the new board in place:

BMW 54 Repair Cartronics
Press on image to see larger

As you can see i have opted for the additional RCA outputs if i wish to bypass the unit all together and run and external amplifier unit instead:

Press on image to see larger

The difference in sound quality is amazing, you find yourself turning bass down!



Airbag Recall: Safety Alert, is your car one of them?

Well as per my quick previous post here i got a recall notice on my car.

I finally got to the bottom of the actual truth behind this, firstly don’t believe the standard BMW response that the dealers, customer support or anyone representing BMW are telling you. the response will no doubt be:

“just as a precaution measure we are replacing the airbag and due to parts shortage this cant be done till January 2015”

First Contact

First contact i made with BMW was a call to my dealer to establish what the letter means, as this was somewhat unclear. The letter mentioned the was a fault, said the parts possibly might not be there and to call various numbers, it  then went on to say wait to be contacted.

I rang up my local dealer, I said i have a recall letter on my car and without hesitation or mentioning airbag the girl knew exactly what it was about and said:

“ahh the airbag, just as a precaution measure we are replacing the airbag and due to parts shortage this cant be done till January 2015”

So being rather relaxed about the issue i accepted the answer and that was that.

The truth/Information

Whilst eating some lunch i decided to Google a bit and unearthed a whole load of information mainly from the US about the faulty airbag made by “Takata” this was widely used in many car makes (Honda, Subaru and BMW) just to name a few.

Feel free to google “BMW Takata airbag recall” this will return loads of information!

The worrying fact in all of this is the story is old and it has been known about for years, it has been officially linked to about 6 deaths! (so why the delay BMW- cost maybe?)

Second Contact

Pretty scared for mine and other peoples safety in my car i got straight on the phone, this time to the customer support number who told me.. (yes you guessed it)

“just as a precaution measure we are replacing the airbag and due to parts shortage this cant be done till January 2015”

The person on the phone went on to tell me that the car is safe and its not the same part. (ohh really?)

I wouldn’t stop there this time.. i got on the phone to another BMW dealer and this time the mechanic/parts guy (yep i went past everyone else) told me on the phone the part in my car is “Takata” and that it will be the same recall as has been known about for years.

Third and final contact

Customer support email, whats even funny about this contact with BMW is the person sending the emails somewhat shot themselves in the foot they sent out a standard mail merge response email(about the airbag) and then tried to recall the email as i had this in my inbox:

“Recall: Customer Service [SRNUMBER=”

I wont put the full email as it contains my address and cars details but a few quotes from this:

“just as a precaution measure we are replacing the airbag and due to parts shortage this cant be done till January 2015”

“a malfunction cannot indefinitely be ruled out”

The questions we need BMW to answer:

Why so long?

How have they managed to keep this away from the UK press?

If they are “safe” then why the recall..


E46 Airbag Recall Notice

Today i received a rather nice letter from BMW explaining that they are recalling my car due to a faulty passenger airbag, thanks BMW.

Firstly they really don’t get the idea of being discreet, the letter received was a big red bordered letter with “MOTOR VEHICLE RECALL NOTICE” written on it.


Thanks BMW for letting all the neighbors know my car is faulty..

So what are they recalling for?

Well the reason given on letter summed it up in a technical way:

“it has been established that, as a result of long term influences in areas with a high level of air humidity, moisture may penetrate the housing of the gas generator of the front passenger airbag”

What does this mean?

Well its possible the airbag could just go off/ if it went off it would tear and possibly cause injury to the passenger.

Here is what BMW say via press release: Link

Will be call my local BMW dealer to find out more on Monday

E90 Disable idrive disclaimer message

You know how annoying this screen is..

“attention use this system only when traffic conditions permit….”

BMW do this to cover themselves.. and im now going to show you how to turn it off. (im assuming you already have coding experience and know how to code modules)

You will need to change one parameter in the CIC module.. do a search on this module for “LEGAL_DISCLAIMER_TIME”

You need to change from: “ld_mit_timeout” and code “kein_ld” instead

This will prevent the screen from coming up when the idrive system starts up


Random E46 Convertible alarm!

About 6 months ago i started having fairly frequent random alarm triggers, very random.

Initially i assumed it was because i parked with the roof down sometimes.. but it started happening with the roof closed.

I had read on the internet that sometimes the under bonnet sensor/switch goes and being a cheap part was the most likely culprit. I went to the local BMW dealer and got a new switch (£12) fitted it and few days went by with no alarm.. finally fixed.. (or so i thought)

E46 Alarm switch


About a week later it started happening again! quite embarrassing for me now both my neighbours and my work were getting annoyed at the loud beep beep beep coming from my car. I frantically tried to research all the common problems and even rang up BMW for help neither came up with much.

I approached this from a technical point of view and quickly realised (after giving the car a good shake from outside) it was the internal alarm causing the problem. Now the internal alarm is microwave technology so my suspicions fell to this.

To turn off the internal movement sensor you can:

  • Press the lock button twice and this should flash the red light under the mirror for longer confirming this has been done

Few weeks went by (with no alarm going off) and my problem was “sorted” i got fairly busy at work so i sort of ignored this for a bit.

But one lazy Saturday i decided to try and fix the actual problem i got into the car, put roof down (shades on) and went to the local shop got a paper and drove back, i parked up at my house and locked the car (almost instantly the alarm triggered as i walked away to get a drink) hmm that’s odd.. the one time i didn’t double lock recently it triggers straight away.

I pondered this stood next to my car for a bit (think my neighbours thought i was mental) it suddenly occurred to me what i did was chuck the change from the paper into the centre cup holder slot.. surely this couldn’t trigger it?

I removed the change from car.. locked it and all was well.. suddenly everything for me clicked into place (the microwave sensor, the change and the fact i had replaced the centre storage with the cup holder 6 months ago!)

For next few weeks and even months.. i made sure i didn’t put any change or anything shiny in the centre cup holder and im happy to say my alarm hasn’t gone off since! (touch wood)


E46 Key Programming- AK90 Guide

Link to buy the AK90 Programmer:

AK90Programmer – Here

Back Story:

So when i first got my E46 325 convertible it came with 1 key (diamond shape) this worried me, i asked dealer local to me who sniggered and said it would be a “£150 custom order from Germany” to get another one. Not immediately needing one and slightly knocked back i declined and was back to square one..

I did hours of reading about it from all across the internet and now i have located the correct method for achieving a key and much cheaper.

Being a software developer/ general techie by trade i was not put off by the challenge!

Tools needed:

  • Ak90 Programmer-
    • More info on AK90 – here
  • New unprogrammed key internals + chip (the chip is important)- I got from eBay from here (£20 delivered – took 1 and half weeks)
  • Key case (new)- Again eBay was my friend from here £3.20 delivered
  • Key cut (for the lock of car) – Local key smith £6ish

Thats all you need..

Step 1: Remove the EWS Module (or immobilizer module from the car)

This is located here under the steering wheel of the car behind all the plastic trim:


What you need to do is remove 2 screws (possibly 3) mine might have been missing 1 so check all along the trim:


Once undone the trim panel should pull down.. like this:

If you stick your head up inside there you should see a white box this is your EWS or immobilizer unit for the car:


this is what we need to take out of the car.. it is held in by 2 plastic 10mm nuts on a clever but very fiddly to get at bracket. Once both bolts are undone the unit should just hang down.

The is a black plug on one side of the unit you need to push down on the tab and it should slide  out.. here is the plug so you can see how that works:


Thats it.. you should now have the EWS unit out of the car this is all you need:


Step 2: Software Install

I have provided the software i used with the AK90 programmer over at my downloads page here:

Downloads Page

Edit: I have had reports the software didnt open correctly so i have provided another setup..

Download and extract to a folder where you can see/use it for example your desktop

The first step is to plugin the AK90 using the provided usb cable windows should automatically detect and start drive install (im using Win 7)  the unit will beep dont worry. It will fail on driver install at this stage thats only so we have the unit plugged in ready to be installed.

Run: AK90+ setup.exe hit next and install to default path.

Once finished you should see two icons appear on desktop:


At this stage you need to install the drivers and make the drive work so hit:


Follow the install to the end and make sure “Launch the CP210x VCP driver installer” is selected, hit install and ok.

Replug the AK90 windows will now say the driver is installed.

Make sure to restart your pc to confirm the drivers/software install.

Step 3: Open Software and read key

Double click the AK90 icon on your desktop, the software should launch and you should hear it beep and click a  few times.

This is good it means the computer has found the device on the com port and we are ready to go!

ak90 soft

Lets test your key, place this in the slot in the AK90 programmer like this:


In my case this is the garage key/valet key im programming just to show everyone how to do it, i originally did this with the diamond key i purchased the process is the same.

Go back to the software and select “test key” this will read the data from the key and a box like this will pop up:


So as you can see the device has worked out its a key for EWS3/4 and doesnt currently have a VIN or any mileage data.. this is good it proves its a blank virgin key.

Here is my current diamond key tested(with my vin cut out):

key test 2

So we have proved the device works and is talking to our computer now what? its time to program our blank key to the module we took out earlier.

Step 3: Connecting the EWS module to programmer

Take your EWS unit and open the top, this folds open like this:


The circuit board is held on the far side by the black plug the is 4 bits you have to push in and slide the unit out:


Now we take the connector wire for the programmer and carefully attach this onto the circuit board, in this case the wire has a big red dot on it. We need to line this up with the dot on the chip:

20140524_185545 20140524_185618

What i did was made sure that the connection between the chip and the connector was at its best is to make sure that every pin on the circuit board is bare metal. I scratched gently with a small blade/screw driver to make the connection good.

Make sure you note down the chip type in my case it is: OD46J (this is important)

And then connected the wire


Connect the other end to the AK90..

Step 4: the actual programming

Open up the AK90 software which should still be open from earlier and close the test key box you should just have a software screen that looks like:

main screen

With the blank key out of the slot and the EWS unit connected:

Select your chip type from the drop down that you noted down earlier mine was: OD46J

chip select

Hit read EWS a warning message will appear double check you have everything connected and hit ok


Once donea save dialogue will appear just save this file to your desktop, basically this is a backup of the data from the chip

You should see a screen of random letters and numbers:


This is the EWS data we have collected from the module..

If you hit EWS analyse this reads the data and tells you what keys are being used, mileage and the VIN number.

ews analyse

This is the screen where you can disable and enable current keys (handy if you lost one)

Press exit and lets program a new key!

You should be at the main screen with all the numbers and letters on, place your virgin/new key into the slot on the AK90 and select write key

a screen should pop up:

key slot

This is where you select the key slot you wish to write this in my case that would be key slot 7 (no idea where the other 4 keys are! i only have 3)

Select the slot and select write key you will get a warning making sure that you have placed key in slot just select yes (obviously making sure the key is in the slot first!)

key warn

The device will make some chirping noises and beeps as it writes to EWS unit:

key write

After aprox 1-2mins you should see confirmation that the keys data is coded

key confirm

Press OK a new box will pop up:

chip ews

Select the chip type from earlier (see the warning i told you this was important!)


AK90 is now coding the key back into the EWS!

Wait for aprox 1-2mins and you should see:

data ok

Press ok, thats it you have coded your ews data to the key and then back to the ews unit.

Id recommend testing the key now again (hit test key)

Step 5:Put EWS unit back into car

Same process as before but in reverse.. can be a bit fiddly but stick at it..

What i did was place the EWS unit back in place and with my other hand put each nut on finger tight and then fully tightened up with a small socket

Thats it! test you new key and enjoy.. take that BMW 😉