BMW X5 Owners & Service Manuals

BMW X5: Ignition System Diagnosis

The ignition system on modern BMW engines consist of one ignition coil per cylinder. This arrangement is known as RZV, or Direct Stationary Ignition. The ignition coil receives fused power usually from the DME main relay or IVM (N62).

The ignition coil primary circuit is controlled (triggered) by the engine control module (ECM). The ECM controls dwell and ignition timing on all cylinders individually. Electrical circuit faults on the primary circuit are recorded in the ECM and can be read out using the DISplus or GT-1.

Engine Diagnosis
Fig. 6: Ignition System Circuit Diagram

Most new engines use the "pencil" type coil. This design houses the coil windings for the primary and secondary circuit as well as the spark plug boot which includes the secondary circuit resistance.

Engine Diagnosis
Fig. 7: Identifying Pencil Coil

Due to the compact design of the ignition coil, much of the diagnosis is simplified. Misfire faults and/or ignition related faults can be easily diagnosed by swapping the coils between cylinders. If the fault moves with the coil, then it is obvious that the coil is at fault. If the fault stays in the cylinder, then the spark plug can be moved etc.

This greatly simplifies engine diagnosis. However sometimes, the diagnosis is not always as simple as swapping parts.

Engine Diagnosis
Fig. 8: Ignition Diagnosis Cyclic Diagram

This is where the oscilloscope function of the DISplus/GT-1 can aid in diagnosis. A good knowledge of fundamental ignition diagnosis can be helpful. The illustration above is broken down as follows.

1. This point represent the start of the ignition process, also known as "transistor off". The ECM turns off the primary circuit causing the magnetic field to collapse. This begins the production of the secondary voltage needed to fire the spark plug.

2. The is called the firing line as it represents the voltage needed to overcome the secondary resistance and cross the spark plug electrode gap. This voltage level will increase as secondary circuit resistance increases. Also lean mixture will cause this line to increase as well. On RZV ignition systems, this line should be around 3-5kV.

3. This line indicates the start of the combustion process. This is also referred to as the spark line. The line should start relatively level and should be about 1/3 to 1/2 of the height of the firing line. Also, there should be no rapid upward or downward slope.

4. This period of time represented here is the combustion period. This area indicates the integrity of the combustion event. Problems such as low compression, lean or rich mixture problem would be indicated here.

5. This line represent the voltage present during the combustion period. This line should be mostly level.

Upward or downward sloping can indicate mixture or engine compression problems.

6. This point represents the end of the combustion process. Combustion has ended and the remaining voltage available is the coil will start to dissipate.

7. This is known as the coil or decay oscillation period. Any excess voltage not used in the combustion process will "decay" and dissipate. The number and pattern of the oscillations is dependent on the coil type. Different types of coils and different coil manufacturers will be a factor on this pattern. Anywhere from 2 to 6 oscillations may be seen here. If no oscillations are present, this would indicate ignition coil internal problems.

Most newer engine use a "multiple spark" discharge when the ignition coil is triggered. This is to aid in startup.

When diagnosing these ignition systems, the additional peaks do not need to be factored into your diagnosis.

Referring to the illustration below, the relevant portion of the scope pattern is at point 1.

Engine Diagnosis
Fig. 9: Identifying Scope Pattern

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