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Old 05-13-2013, 12:56 PM
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 2
reyez is on a distinguished road
My Trans.Failsafe.Prog problem

Hey all just looking for some help

2001 3.0 x5 130k miles

About 2 weeks ago we had some hard rain in my area of Houston, TX. My sister drove her x5 into some flood-like conditions (we're talking probably about 6-10 inches of rain). she noticed the Trans Failsafe light had come on as well as an SES light. No water had gotten into the car, but she did notice the car shifting a little bit odd, it was shifting like she was in DS mode but the car was clearly in D mode. The following day she told us the story and me and my dad did the research and checked out the SES code.

P0103: The MAF may be disconnected, or a wiring connection may be bad The MAF sensor may be damaged The vehicle computer may be faulty (very rare)

We cleared the SES light, but turned on again right after the car turned back on. Failsafe light would turn on everytime we started the car.

What we've tried so far:
We did our research on numerous forums and found that battery/alternators seem to be a very common problem so we went ahead and got the battery replaced, it was under warranty still. Then we went ahead and took out the MAF and cleaned it ourselves.
One thing to add about the car is about 2 years ago she was driving the car and had a violent flat tire for the rear driver side tire, which led to the tire speed sensor to be completely obliterated. This was replaced ourselves as well (dont get mad but we just duc-taped the wire instead of buying a housing for it).

As for the way the car drives now, its still as if the car was in DS mode, theres no problems starting up the car, no shaking, and shifts through all the gears. SES light still on, Failsafe light still on.
any ideas?
I'm hoping that we wont have to replace the alternator
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Old 05-13-2013, 01:10 PM
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Try to monitor the voltage through the obc:
BMW E38 Hidden OBC Functions

while the car is running it should be around 13.7 or 14. I had Trans Failsafe and for me it was the alternator. shooting up to 17 volts.
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Old 05-13-2013, 02:40 PM
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Houston, TX
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12.2 with engine off. 13.5 with engine on as low as 13.1 and high as 13.8.
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Old 05-13-2013, 03:03 PM
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NOTE--To BMW the failsafe light means if you drive it longer than to get out of harms way it go BOOM! That is more likely true as you have reset it and it came back.

MAF going bad usually causes the engine to stumble all the time or in a range of speeds. If that is happening, unplug the MAF and the engine should smooth out. With water that deep, at other than a snail's pace, certainly if wakeboarders were doing tricks in her rearview mirror, it could have sucked some water into the intake system up to the MAF, check the air filter, it should provide insight or be damaged enough to not allow the MAF to be within acceptable range of air/fuel ratio. Some have success cleaning the MAF, I have tried it several times and if it is successful, it is not to 100% or it lasts less than a full tank. If the MAF is the problem let us know and we can provide suggestion of what and where to buy.

.The alternator could have been doused but that would result in low or no charge rate that can be checked with an amp meter at the battery cables with car off than on. Should read at least 13.5 volts running or higher but less than than 15V.

Transmissions are hard to diagnosis and often misdiagnosed. It is probably an external electrical connection or the part driven by a connector that has been damaged or is shorting out . Water has certainly swamped the transmission which would suggest an electrical problem is the gremlin. That and other member claims are a shot in the dark. I suggest you pay for a BMW diagnosis and without telling a recommended independent shop what BMW said get a second opinion. Then check back and it will be much easier to help you. As is, expect many scary scenarios as to what can be wrong. Note--some problems will rapidly destroy a transmission if the X is driven after the problem is noticed.

BMWs electronics are sensitive to a bad battery or a battery that is not per specs. Be sure the new battery is comparable to original equipment (OEM) battery. Do you know if they did a load test on the battery to confirm it was bad?

Yes, you will likely get some grief about using duct tape, best to call it racer's tape--more high tech. If you are equating the blow tire to the current problem--I don't see how and the transmission issue didn't start until the boating incidence.

Troubleshoot first---don't throw parts at it.
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:35 PM
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I was having a similiar problem on my 2003 X5 4.4 with a random Trans Program Failure message. It has cleared itself, but I was getting ready to replace the neutral safety detent switch on the automatic transmission. The switch is located on the driver side of the transmission, has a mechanical shaft that actuates, and would be submerged if you went through some very high water. I had "zeroed in" on that switch as the my likely cause of my Trans Program Failure erratic messages, based on other info also on the forum. My Trans Program Failure Error has since cleared up, maybe just from working the switch quite a bit, but that is the place I would look and is something worth checking. I had also been down the low voltage path to no avail. Its more likely now the switch causing that issue on my car if it reappears. BTW, the switch is not cheap. Over $200. Electrical gremlin, or Bavarian equivelent, at work again.
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Old 05-16-2013, 10:31 PM
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My vote is for battery/electrical issues. I had the same Failsafe and SES problems intermittently, which were traced back to "a momentary loss of power on the CAN bus." Replacing my batt with a good $240 Bosch unit solved it.
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Old 05-16-2013, 11:30 PM
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there are 4 speed sensors, reporting to ABS module... in addition to reporting speed, each sensor also tasked with individual task of supplying info cluster, to DME and... drum roll.... to the tranny... if the info from "tranny" speed sensor is not matching to the info the EGS (tranny module, under rear seat, left on LHD) is getting from DME and GM, the tranny goes in failsafe mode, meaning, it stays in 3rd gear and thats it...

do you know how to troubleshoot the speed sensors?
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Old 05-17-2013, 12:37 AM
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if alternator goes bad.....and sends a signal to radio (cutting off/on, 4x4, Trans Fail safe + grinding noise feels like coming from front engine and floor board then loss of power feels like) ...then turn off car wait 3mins...resets back to normal......... did battery check 84% already...tmrow i replace Alternator....should cure the mystery.......
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:33 AM
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If you come to the conclusion that the abs/dsc module is suspect, or the wheel speed sensors may be the cause, check out my thread. I spent a lot of time trouble shooting my dsc module and posted the info. Speed sensor testing included.

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Old 05-17-2013, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by HEISING View Post
If you come to the conclusion that the abs/dsc module is suspect, or the wheel speed sensors may be the cause, check out my thread. I spent a lot of time trouble shooting my dsc module and posted the info. Speed sensor testing included.


Wow, excellent work. Very thorough and complete and looks like it takes the failure prone parts and makes them better.

Would you be interested in doing another module (not sure if mine is in need of repair, I had the "trifecta" a few weeks ago but it was showing brake light switch codes)
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failsafe, p0103, trans

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