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Thread: Fix the E39 Steering Wheel Tilt Creak, Squeak, Noise Problem

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    99 540i/6

    Fix the E39 Steering Wheel Tilt Creak, Squeak, Noise Problem

    OK, since i got my car in August it has had the dreaded steering wheel creak, squeak, groan, whatever you want to call it NOISE problem. In other words, when I get in the car or shut it off, the steering wheel adjusts up and down and makes a terrible noise.

    I did many searches on this problem and narrowed down recommended fixes as using Wurth HHS 2000 penetrating lube and possibly backing off a nut on the steering wheel tilt. This was basically right and after playing around under there for some time, I figured out the exact source of the problem and fix.

    CONCLUSION:

    All the noise is coming from the threaded stud shown on the attached photo (see bottom of post). I could not initially isolate the source of the noise, but once I loosened this nut it got quieter and cranking it down made it loud. Bingo.

    Sorry I don't have more or better photos, but this will be obvious once you take of your lower panels. It is on the RH side of the column. Here is my recommended way to fix this:

    Supplies:
    - blankets/towels for overspray
    - HHS 2000 or white lithium spray lubricants
    - Loctite blue (or equivalent)
    - Various common tools.


    1) Put a blanket or towel down that will cover your entire floor area and also try to cover the side of your console. You will be generously spraying lube under your dash and need to protect the entire area.

    2) Remove lower panel trim from the dash. this is mostly obvious -- several little screws will be found under the dash. The steering column cover has a single screw to remove. The only part I had a problem with is there is one last screw on the upper left side of the lower panel (visible when door is open) and it has a cover on it, hiding the screw. I wasn't sure if a screw was under there or not and the cover was very hard to remove while being very easy to create a blemish in a very noticeable area. i ultimately got it off and discovered there was indeed screw under there. Just take your time and be careful not to damage your panel.


    3) Now that the panel is off, I can really save you some time. Go immediately to the nut on the right hand side of the column, closer to the firewall and remove the nut. no need to search around for what is causing the problem, this area is the culprit.

    4) With the nut off, operate the steering column up, down, in and out. stop at different points along the way and shoot a lubricant into this area. HHS 2000 is recommended, but white lithium grease would probably work too. The rubbing seems to be the up and down motion where the inner column is "sandwiched" together. Again, i wish I had a clear photo of this, but it will be obvious once you see it.

    5) While you are there, even though they are not the source, lube the other various joints that might squeek in the future.

    6) Apply loctite blue to the nut that you removed and fasten it on (it's a factory lock nut and since you won't be fully tightening it, thread locker is recommended). Tighten it fully , then back it off 1/2-1 full turn. This is subjective, but basically you want it barely snug but not tight at all. The thread locker will ensure an under-torqued nut does not fall off. You can play around with different tensions and test what works for your car's column by moving it down and up to see if the noise is gone.

    7) Optional: let the lube sit for a few hours or overnight, then test it again and re-lube. I did this since the HHS 2000 goes in as a penetrant that sets up over time, but this is not absolutely necessary. Other optional work at this point (since you have the car apart) would be to install a UUC clutch stop -- I did mine at the same time and it has made the car much more pleasant to drive.

    8) As they say, assembly is the opposite of removal. Put the car back together and enjoy!

    I hope this helps others...the recommendations I found were incomplete and I took a lot of time to make sure I isolated the exact area and cause of the creak. Enjoy your newly quiet, much higher-quality sounding E39!
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by peakay; 01-19-2009 at 08:27 PM.
    Former car, much missed: 1999 540i/6 Dinan 5 (new to me in August 2008)
    Dinan Stage 5 Engine Tuning/Dinan Springs, Konis, Camber Plates
    18 x 9.5 M Parallels with 265/35/18 tires at all 4 corners
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  2. #2
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    Nice job!!
    Unfortunately for me, my steering wheel creaks and groans when I turn it and not when it is tilting.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdc4 View Post
    Nice job!!
    Unfortunately for me, my steering wheel creaks and groans when I turn it and not when it is tilting.
    Thats a different issue...I found DIYs on that and it seemed far easier to fix.
    Former car, much missed: 1999 540i/6 Dinan 5 (new to me in August 2008)
    Dinan Stage 5 Engine Tuning/Dinan Springs, Konis, Camber Plates
    18 x 9.5 M Parallels with 265/35/18 tires at all 4 corners
    E38 Sport Contour Seats with Heating, M5 Front/Rear bumpers


  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakay View Post
    Thats a different issue...I found DIYs on that and it seemed far easier to fix.
    happen to have links to those DIY's?
    E39 - 98 528i
    Carbon 8 Carbon Fiber Hood|DJ Auto Projectors w/LED Angel Eyes|M5 Bumper|Staggered 19"|Eibach Springs|Shadowline|Smoked tail|Brembo S/D Rotors|Pioneer Avic-F90BT|2 12" Alpine Type-R subs @ 1500watts|4 Polk Audio 5.25" @ 680watts|Kinetik HC2000

    FOR SALE - $5500 E34 - 95 530i
    Black Rondell 58's |Eibach Springs|Shadowline|Brembo S/D Rotors|2 12" Alpine Type-R subs @ 1500watts|

  5. #5
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    11' 135i and 97 E39er
    yes please share DIY links on the dreaded left to right creak
    Tsw Volcano Staggered 19's, H&R and Bilsteins,
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    Hamann Rear roof spoiler,
    Hella Euros, Dice and XM
    5 for 5

  6. #6
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    Peakay,

    I fixed my Uzi sounding up, down motion by loosening that nut 1/4 of a turn only. Presto! factory silence.

    Good job though, sounds like yours still made noise even after loosening that nut.

    Whoever has the DIY for the left - right squeek please share.
    Last edited by Al's540i; 03-01-2009 at 01:17 AM.

    Current:
    2012 Audi A4 S-Line
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    Past:
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    1988 Honda Prelude

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    e39
    I fixed the turning noise issue with some felt from lowes. If you remove the covers around the steering column, you will find it is the outer section of the clock spring that is causing the noise. Turn the wheel while holding the outer section of the clock spring and it will vibe. Place some felt in between the clock springs outer section and inner section and all is good!
    It is item number 2 shown here, after the covers are all removed you will see...http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts...97&hg=32&fg=35

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by saj3n View Post
    happen to have links to those DIY's?

    yeah by any chance do you?

  9. #9
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    Thanks Peakay!

    Nice Job on the tutorial. I'm going to try.
    Having the same problem! Thanks again!

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    I fixed a clockspring squeak on my e34. It was as simple as removing the clockspring, and applying a very light coat of white lithium grease between the two halves, then reassembling. Sometimes you've got to get in there and figure out where the noise is coming from.

    The fix was still working over a year later in all weather.

    Now my issue on the e39 is that the clamshell rattles on rough pavement. Irritating.
    No current BMWs.
    1994 Roadmaster Wagon
    1974 Alfa Romeo Berlina

  11. #11
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    Now if you could fix the noise coming out of my wife's mouth. Speed up your doing exactly the speed limit. You want to slow the hell down your doing 5 over the speed limit.
    I nominate her as world's worst woman passenger. The world's worst woman driving is another issue.
    ~2001 540i/6speed~
    SPEC stage2+ kevlar clutch, JBR 11lb lightweight flywheel, ESS Tuning m60 manifold software tune, 3" SS freeflow OBX catback, afe cold air intake, m60 intake manifold, Cdv delete, powerflex urethane sway bar bushings, M5 rear sway bar ,Autozone replacement driver side blinker light bulb, 545 short shifter zhp weighted, "dsc off" sticker, m5 3.15 lsd differential, m5 chassis rods, akebono ceramic pads, G2 caliper epoxy, ecs braided lines, BC-Racing br-plus series w/swift springs 8/6
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  12. #12
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    Lower dash removal

    I removed all the srews as mentioned but the panel dosen't want to drop. Do I have to pull hard to release some clips or is it suppose to come out easy. I don't want to break it. Thanks

  13. #13
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    Thank you peakay!

    I've taken the clamshell and knee panel off on two occasions to lube and try to isolate the noise to no avail. Your instructions were perfect and loosening the lock nut 1/2 turn took care of that scraping sound! It's been three weeks of quiet. Thanks!
    -Bob

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob S View Post
    I've taken the clamshell and knee panel off on two occasions to lube and try to isolate the noise to no avail. Your instructions were perfect and loosening the lock nut 1/2 turn took care of that scraping sound! It's been three weeks of quiet. Thanks!
    -Bob
    You bet Bob - glad this helped. 3 years of silence for me!
    Former car, much missed: 1999 540i/6 Dinan 5 (new to me in August 2008)
    Dinan Stage 5 Engine Tuning/Dinan Springs, Konis, Camber Plates
    18 x 9.5 M Parallels with 265/35/18 tires at all 4 corners
    E38 Sport Contour Seats with Heating, M5 Front/Rear bumpers


  15. #15
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    Salfa Romeaab
    So you aren't supposed to hear the motor at alll?

  16. #16
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    wow so i had this problem come up right after you made this thread! Just attempted to fix it, as i took everything apart, i found the "bolt" so i wanted to tilt the steering wheel to see how the mechanism worked.... right after the sound went away!! what??

    Anyways, i had to remove the wood trim piece and the screws behind it to remove the lower dash. was that necessary? i don't see it in your instructions.

  17. #17
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    Once you fix the noise, do this:

    - Set the SW the way you want, Ditto for the driver seat.
    - Then pull Fuse #13 and keep it in the glovebox. Re-insert it only if you need to adjust SW or seat.

    I have removed the Fuse #13 now for 2 years, I no longer have to listen to the annoying sound of the SW going up and down upon entrance/exit!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by topaz540i View Post
    Now if you could fix the noise coming out of my wife's mouth. Speed up your doing exactly the speed limit. You want to slow the hell down your doing 5 over the speed limit.
    I nominate her as world's worst woman passenger. The world's worst woman driving is another issue.
    rofl This makes me highly appreciative of the fact that my girlfriend puts up with my driving habits!

    Try cranking up the radio next time and putting the windows down

    But to the OP great post, that stupid noise has annoyed me since I first got the car, might have to try this!!!
    Last edited by mxracer41; 01-29-2013 at 01:04 AM.

  19. #19
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    //M5s, 4.8iS , Z32TT
    Thanks for the info. My steering wheel does this sometimes. I'll have it fixed when swaping out the streering wheel.

    2000 Dinan S1 //M5 (my DD) --------------- 06 DINAN E53 4.8iS (wife's) -------------- 90 Straman Z32TT (my pride & joy)

    Gone, but not forgotten: 01 E39 M5, 01 E53 3.0i, 01 525i Sport, 03 DINAN 540i MSport and 91 Z32 TwinTurbo

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnn View Post
    Once you fix the noise, do this:

    - Set the SW the way you want, Ditto for the driver seat.
    - Then pull Fuse #13 and keep it in the glovebox. Re-insert it only if you need to adjust SW or seat.

    I have removed the Fuse #13 now for 2 years, I no longer have to listen to the annoying sound of the SW going up and down upon entrance/exit!

    I'd fuse 13 and it disabled my power seat as well.

  21. #21
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    Lightbulb

    Just finished my 2nd attempt to stop that horrific noise from the steering column moving when adjusting. the first attempt failed, as I didn't see all of the intstructions the first go-round, and didn't lube the right stuff... but the second seems to be at least mostly succesful,, but my ribs on the right side kept hitting the cheap arse plastic used on the plastic holding the electric seat switches.. not sure if the plastic on the first screw was broken already, from it being pressed to many times or my ribs made it worse,, I tried to beef up that screw with a washer to try to hold that section down, with the hole in the plastic slightly enlarge from the cheapo plastic breaking in the hole where that screw goes,, so I tried using a washer and the allen tool to fit the srew is another pain,,, I might try again sometime and get the plastic holding the seat switches tighter... I find it to hard to work ont he floor of a car and looking up and twisted, expecially with pabncreas disease, disc/back disease.. etc...The plastic parts, cheap screws etc used by BMW should be expected oncheaper cars, but BMW sure used cheap plastic where they could... that cover under the dash and trying to refit the srews back into the holes was another pain,, nothing ever goes back as the factory origiannly had it... and some younger person who does this stuff for a living would fare at it much easier than my old sick body...but again, i moved the wheel and the lube seems to have helped a whole bunch and some blue loctite, but that locknut (that I loosened and lubed the bolt too) ain't going anywhere anyways... that sound should have never made it past the bmw degners and inspection, in fact, it should have been recalled... if it wasn't...IMHO Note: if you lay around the floor and side buy the seat controls, beware of putting any pressure on the cheapo plastic with the seat control knobs in it on the side of the seat, by the door, while trying to work under the dash,,, the plastic clips and parts break very easily,, then you either have to repair or whatever....
    Last edited by retiredat44; 04-10-2013 at 05:05 PM. Reason: spelling mistakes

  22. #22
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    I took my seat switch cover off with the seat all the way back, seat wouldn't move, and didn't break anything in the process. Not bragging just saying you did something wrong. The plastic is pretty strong.

  23. #23
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    This is a great write up! I am going to give this a try - my steering wheel groans when I first get in and the wheel lowers into position.

    Thanks!
    2001 BMW 530i e39 / Automatic / Orient on Dove

  24. #24
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    For me, the fix was not to do with loosening that nut on the location mentioned in the first post.

    For me it was the WRONG grease!

    I had tried greasing with white lithium based grease, and the groaning just got worse.

    The area that I found to be the source of my creaking is the turning threaded section which you can see when the lower cover of the steering column is removed. When moving the column up and down, there is a threaded part which just drives the mechanism in or out, which levers the column up or down.

    When I switched from the white lithium grease to a heavy general purpose grease, the groaning noise eventually went after multiple applications of the grease. I believe that the threaded section is very fine so its hard for the grease to work itself completely into the area where it was needed the most. But after some persistence, it's all quiet again! Happy days!

  25. #25
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    I stumbled across this thread a few weeks ago & it gave me the initiative to have a go at my creaks & groans. Thank you peakay and all the other contributors.

    However, the cause of my noisy steering column adjustment was elsewhere; in the spline joint where the steering column shaft passes through the firewall near the gas pedal. I could understand why the joint might creak when extending or retracting, but was surprised it was also the cause of the noise when I raised and lowered the steering wheel, i.e. tilt. It turns out that the tilt mechanism also has a small motion in/out - just enough to creak.

    Here is the joint with the pedal trim panel removed. (4 screws and 2 locating tabs - 2 minutes work.)

    SplineJoint.jpg

    I first applied an aerosol lithium grease but the groans persisted in spite of exercising the joint in & out several times. I then used a product SuperLube which is a thin lubricant I usually use for locks. After a little more exercise, the groans & creaks were no more. I'm not sure which lubricant did the job. Perhaps the SuperLube was redudant and the lithium grease just needed a few more strokes in & out to work its way into the spline. Regardless, I'm enjoying the silence.

    There is an easy check if your noisy steering column adjustment has the same cause. With the trim panel off, exercise the steering column while holding a finger on either side of this giubo style joint in the steering shaft.
    GiuboJoint.jpg
    With mine, one could feel the grabby action on the lower side while the upper side was quite smooth during column movement.

    Worth a try since removing the pedal trim panel is much faster than taking off the knee bolster and trim covers behind the steering wheel.

    Regards
    RDL

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