Failing in pro-active maintenance (BMW E61 pneumatic rear springs)

When there is something wrong with your mainstream automobile (yes, even a 5 series BMW is still pretty mainstream) you will quickly find a lot of suggestions what it could be on the internet. As I did a lot myself (it’s easier to look for the errors once the children are asleep than to make a lot of appointments at different garages during daytime) I quickly realized that you can read a lot there, but you will hardly find any pictures. Exceptions prove the rule, of course, but and contain largely text (which is OK, if you are still guessing where to look first to solve a problem).

In the past I have documented -mostly by uploading photos- how I…

…and it won’t be postet here seperately.

But this topic is different. This is not about normal maintenance work, but a bigger repair, that could have been avoided.

You can not only search the WWW, if it is already too late – specialized forums also contain threads about preventive or pro-active maintenance. And I did read this stuff about the E60 / E61 pre-facelift BMWs. In fact: I did check the drains of the panoramic roof, but ignored the air compressor for the pneumatic levelling system.

All the “Touring” models have air suspension, so every single E61 has this potential truble spot.

The compressor is mounted near the rear right wheel. To keep it as quiet as possible (vibrations are enormous) it is suspended in a seperate, sound damped compartment.

To take a look at the air intake you can open a seperate hatch, but before that I took a look inside the wheel house, as the suction hose lies there:

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Already found the first rupture here. But this is not, the weak spot I mentioned.

=> Time to order the spare hose & filter.

To get proper access to the compressor I had to raise the suspension 3 cm via laptop. (Yeah right, “only for developers” – good thing I am a developer. Not at BMW, not even in the automotive sector, but who cares: the ramps didn’t fit – M sport.)

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This is where the hose normally rips – right before the compressor. You’ll never notice this, until it is completely worn out by all the dirt sucked inside. Only then you start getting error messages about the suspension’s function being affected.

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If you are changing the hose proactively you’re almost done.

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I had to switch from ramp to car jack to get the wheel out of the way – then the new suction hose with filter was (zip tied) in place. (I did not take a picture of the new hose in the old fixtures.)


Don’t forget to replace the relay switching the compressor.

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If you still have problems with the compressor running too long (despite fresh relay, full battery, new hose & filter etc.) your intervention came too late.

This was the case for me, so I ordered a refurbished one and had it installed together with a bunch of new brake parts in a trusted garage.


(Original post, February 20th 2015)

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