Project E46 M3: Part 8 – The dreaded EML Light
Today, the car is running great.  But let us update you regarding a little issue we've been battling over the past year-and-a-half, and thankfully got resolved.

Project M3, Part 8: The Dreaded EML Light

(and what to do about it)

by Pablo Mazlumian

We apologize for the eight-month hiatus with Project E46 M3, but we’ve been hard at work and—even though we had an issue we didn’t tell you about over the past year—the car is now running like a champ.  We’ve even dyno tested a new performance part and added a bunch of tasteful exterior and interior upgrades, but we’ll have more on that soon.  Today we’ll talk about the aforementioned issue that we took care of.

If you haven’t seen the yellow “EML” light on your BMW E46, it’s probably only a matter of time.  It stands for Elektronische Motorleistungsregelung, and it can mean a myriad of “electronic engine power control” issues, mostly having to do with the drive-by-wire system.


Ahh, yes.  The fun EML light.  In Project M3’s case, when this light would come on, the car would shut itself off in a matter of roughly 3 seconds and not start back up.  The engine would turn over but there would be no fuel or ignition, as if we had a dead ECU.  Not fun if you're not sure what to do.

Yes, that’s the windshield fluid low-level indicator, which is empty (because I accidentally drilled a hole through it while putting on a splitter I'll be sharing with you soon).  And yes, that’s also the airbag light, which seems to rear its ugly head on each of the five M3s I’ve owned.  I’m just so used to seeing it that I don’t worry about it any more.

 


The most common part to go wrong in the EML circuit is for one of the Throttle Position Sensors (TPS) to go bad, and the one you hope to be malfunctioning is this one—the #1 TPS—which is right above the air filter.  It’s just the easiest one to swap out.

The first time I had the EML light come on, it was right after our Corsa exhaust and VAC Motorsport pulleys swap, which was prior to the AEM Infinity EMS installation.  At first, it was puzzling because I’d swapped out TPS #1 and the car ran well, only to have the light come back within a week or two.

 


When you swap out the TPS, be careful not to strip the Phillips screws, which are weak-sauce.  I later replaced them with these socket head cap screws, which have an Allen head, size M4 0.7 x 25mm.

Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks the EML light would come on at times, and the car would stall again.  I had hoped that the new AEM Infinity install in Part 6 would clear this, things unfortunately didn’t change.  But then it drove fine for months again.  So far, so weird.

It wasn’t until my wife and I took a road trip last November, 2013, from Kansas City to St. Louis (to watch Argentina take on Bosnia/Herzegovina in a FIFA soccer friendly—holy cow there are a lot of Bosnians in St. Louis!) that I figured out what was going on, or so I thought.  First I’d thought we were stuck on the side of the road for good, and our weekend was ruined.  Luckily, we both figured out—OK she spotted it, and wants my readers to know it—that pulling fuse #29, and reinserting it with the key off cleared the EML light (I recently also realized that pulling TPS #1 and plugging it back in would do the same trick).  This trick would work, but only for 20minutes or so.

 

11 comments

  1. i have an EML issue in my bmw 323i e46, model 2002 and ive change the entire engine and it wont just go off, what do i do ? amimiservices is me mail, please can anyone help

  2. I just wanted to say, “Thank you.” My 2000 328ci went into “limp mode w/EML light on” while driving home, the other day. I was able to get off the freeway, and safely park. While I was wondering what the heck was happening, I started searching for solutions, and that is how I found y’all’s website.

    Although I don’t have an M5, I was able to pop the fuses, that got my vehicle acting normal, and I was able to get home. That piece of information was priceless.

    Now, I am chasing down what caused the issue. So, last night a buddy and I removed and cleaned the mass airflow sensor, idle control valve, and throttle body. Unfortunately, I thought there might have been a throttle position sensor somewhere within all that removal process, but there wasn’t. I also thought that there may have been one attached to the throttle body, and there wasn’t.

    To keep a long story short, I put everything back together, cleared all my fail codes, and all seems, “so fas, so weird.” All in all, thank you for taking the time to document your fails and victories, so other may benefit. Rock on!

  3. What a great article. I have a 2000 E46 328Ci doing exactly the same thing. I will take this article to my mechanic at Bavarian Motor Tune Services (BMTS) in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and ask him to emulate your course of action to possibly rectify this dreaded fault. Cheers mate.

  4. Hi i have a e46 320i 1999 model and have the same eml and traction control light at the same time on and then it will go in limp mode.its been going on sins last wheek but in the 1st day or so i only switch the car of and start it again and the light will go away for 3 or 4 days but now im stuck in limp mode and swithing it of doesent seems to work no more.can any one pls help?????????

  5. Hello, i truly need help. My brother has a bmw e46 (1999) and the eml comes on after a while and goes into limp mode. He changed the air massfillter but the mechanic was unable to erase the error code. He is now pulling the fuse 29 but what else can he do. He really needs his car for work… Any advise would be appreciated.

  6. hi. would start with changing out the TPMS sensors. cheap and easy to get to. Current owner of this lroject car had it happen again and it cleared it right up. Hope this helps.

  7. Hi, I have a BMW e46 ( 2000) and am having EML issues. It first started with fuel not returning from d second tank and I changed the fuel pump and the return verve and it was perfect for like an hour but discovered the the car started misfiring again the moment the eml light came up again. Please, I need urgent help!

    1. Other than making sure you read the entire article, you’re unfortunately in a position to start diagnosing. Much like Pablo’s process, it’s just a matter of going down the list of related components and eliminating them one at a time. Sorry we don’t have an easy answer for you.

  8. I’ve got an 05 M3 zcp 6spd and I’ve replaced the TPS #1 with a new BMW sensor, I’ve got a new throttle actuator (BMW), and swapped multiple pedal assemblies, changed the MAF, cleaned the throttle bodies, and even changed the DME !! I still have an EML light and get TPS codes. All the fuses are perfect and the car has a new battery and new alternator and new belts, pulleys, and idlers (all BMW) I have a genuine EML nightmare. The car used to randomly buck on throttle once in a blue moon until it got more and more prevalent. This has been going on for well over a year now.

    Any input would be much appreciated. Maybe I missed something ? Something to recheck ? Thanks.

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