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Thread: AM Radio Reception Fix (1998 528i - also applicable to other BMW models)!

  1. #1
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    AM Radio Reception Fix (1998 528i - also applicable to other BMW models)!

    DIY: 1998 528i AM Radio Reception Fix (also applicable to other BMW models)! I posted this on bimmerfest. Here it is:
    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=396131

    -----------------
    It is a beautiful day so I decide to tackle my AM Radio issue. I have FM Radio but no AM Radio. Searched the internet, hundreds of threads and thousands of people with this problem and BMW is of no help. Just Google "BMW AM Antenna reception" and you will hundreds, if not thousands threads.
    So the matter is in our hands to fix, how about that!

    GENERAL NOTES:
    1. Get an independent Home Radio and tune to different FM and AM channels and copy on a piece of paper for testing on your BMW Radio.
    2. Get an independent "LOOP" AM Antenna for testing, usually sold with home stereo system. If not, get a "LOOP" AM Antenna at your stereo store for a few dollars.
    3. Do this outside (not indoor parking garage) for best radio reception.
    4. Clean your hand before touching the Interior Trim.
    5. Be careful not to damage the Rear Windshield Heating Elements. If any is damaged, auto parts stores sell repair kit ($5-6) to re-establish the continuity of the circuit.
    6. Do a search on how:
    - FM works (Open loop antenna)
    - AM works (Closed loop antenna)
    - BMW "Diversity" Antenna concept. Basically switching for best Channels. It was fitted for 1997 to ? 2001 models (can't be sure) then BMW dropped this concept.

    PROCEDURES:
    1. Get familiar with the Radio and Antenna layout. This was taken from realoem dot com.


    2. To remove M.I.D. and CD Player, see my other DIY for DICE and CD Player Install.
    Basically Allen or Torx #10 to remove M.I.D., then Torx#10 to remove the CD Player. Straightforward:
    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=235269
    Note that in early CD Player Models, there are 2 Antenna Connections (The Main and Diversity Connections) in the back. Here is a diagram of the CD Player Pinout:


    3. To check the FM-AM Antenna Amplifier, there are 2 separate areas: Driver's and Passenger's side C-pillars. The Driver's side (US model) contains the Antenna Amplifier and the Pass Side contains Diversity or AM antenna. Look it up, I can't be sure.

    4. No need to remove Rear Headrest, Seats (as seen in some DIYs). Simply pry the TOP of the light cover, it will come out. Then pull the TOP of the trim then wiggle it out:


    5. Note the 2 clips and 3 tabs for re-installation. During re-installation, slide the bttom tab first (BE CAREFUL not to damage any Heating Elements!)
    Also pay attention to the rear frame rubber seal to see how it fits for re-installation:


    6. The FM-AM Antenna Amplifier is held by either Torx #25 or Metric bolts depending on the years and models. Take a minute to look at the setup so you don't get mixed up later:


    7. I happened to open the FM-AM Antenna Amplifier to see the inside for any broken connection solder joints but found none so I closed it back up. For those who are curious what the Inside Anatomy of the FM-AM Antenna Amplifier, here it is:


    8. Look at REAR windshield glass: the Very TOP 2 "Heating Element" are not Heating Elements but rather part of the Antenna design. I believe:
    The Driver's side is OPEN Loop for FM reception.
    The Passenger's side is CLOSED Loop for AM reception.


    9. Then disconnect all the cables. Note that coaxial cables are designed with inner core and outer shield to be OPEN.
    Using an Ohmmeter and Voltmeter to verify that:
    - Ground Cable to Chassis is 0 Ohm.
    - The "Diversity AM" cable connecting R and L side is not defective by using an Ohmmeter to check corresponding parts of both ends and it should be 0 Ohm.
    - Main FM-AM Cable both ends (one end is in the driver's side pillar and the other end behind the CD Player) are OK and not damaged. Resistance should be 0 Ohm. Again, measure resistance with corresponding parts of both ends.
    - With Key ON and Radio ON, there should be 12V at the "Power Supply" wire as shown in Steps #6-7 above.
    Passenger's C-Pillar area:


    10. Now with MID and CD pulled slightly from dash (but still connected electrically); tune on Radio and tune to a known local AM Station. If you have been having problems then you should get no AM reception but here is the good news:
    - Check the FM Radio by using a short telephone wire inserted into the Connection Center Hole: you should get FM stations (switch to FM).
    - Check the AM Radio (Switch to AM) by using an independent Home Stereo LOOP AM Antenna as shown: one wire inside and one wire outside the Connection: bingo mine works, so I know my MID and CD Player units can get AM stations. So my AM reception problem is outside of these Units! The Problem maybe in the Cable or the Antenna Amplifier in the REAR pillars.


    11. After fiddling around for 3-4 hours, I figure out the root cause of this whole AM reception by BMW! The FM-AM Cable "Center Round Pin" is a bit too small for the Connection in the back of the CD player so it is hit or miss issue for different car owners.

    12. Take a close look at the FM-AM Cable "Center Round Pin", it has a star shape like Mercedes logo. Here is the trick, use a PICKING Tool and widen the 3 grooves in the FM-AM Cable "Center Round Pin" a bit. Be careful not to damage this cable; it is not expensive (about $40) but replacing this cable is NO FUN, routing through a lot of trim work to get to the Rear C pillars with tons of labor!


    13. The bottom line is by widening the 3 grooves in the FM-AM Cable "Center Round Pin" a bit, it makes the connection at the Rear of the CD Player better.

    14. Now re-attach FM-AM Cable to the CD Player, you should get AM reception now! The trick is to pull the FM-AM Cable out a tiny bit (maybe 1 mm) so it is tight.

    15. Now, with the radio tuned your favorite AM channel, slowly slide the CD Player in, making sure there is nothing behind to distort the FM-AM Cable itself. This FM-AM Cable Connection is a bit finicky, so you will learn how to deal with it during re-install. Leave the AM Radio On during re-install so you can adjust the Cable.

    16. The Morale of this lesson: Carry an Allen or Torx #10 key in the car. Should you have problem with AM reception, slide the MID out and reach your hand back there to wiggle the FM-AM Cable Connection Point to get AM connection.

    17. Congratulations, you just fixed a famous AM reception problem plaguing hundreds/thousands of BMWs causing bad reputation for BMW.

    18. Enjoy your AM Radio ball games and traffic report on AM Radio and have a beer.

    19. Last but not least, post your feedback after you have done this. All you need to fix AM Radio Reception problem is an Allen or Torx#10 and a PICKING Tool to spread the Cable Pound Pin, and this may be all you need to do (rather than all the stuff I described from Steps #1-15 above!), so others can learn.

    20. And send me a Thank You Note with 6-packs!!! Hehe.....
    ----
    Last edited by cnn; 09-06-2009 at 01:30 PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnn View Post
    DIY: 1998 528i AM Radio Reception Fix (also applicable to other BMW models)! I posted this on bimmerfest. Here it is:

    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=396131
    This is excellent write-up!
    Exactly what I need since after installation of ipod adapter my reception got worse and my wife bugging me for it almost every day. Thanks!

    I just tried it. It was no AM at all, now it is.
    It is definitely problem with the cable.
    I think I will need a new cable since mine is very bad.
    Dont want to replace it, but just fix it instead.
    Last edited by siny528i; 09-06-2009 at 09:35 AM.

  3. #3
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    Did you try Step #10 using a conventional Home Stereo AM Antenna to be sure your radio is OK?
    You need to play around at the end to move the connection a bit here and there.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnn View Post
    Did you try Step #10 using a conventional Home Stereo AM Antenna to be sure your radio is OK?
    You need to play around at the end to move the connection a bit here and there.
    I did not do step 10, but I moved FM-AM Cable here and there, widen the 3 grooves and now have a AM reception. Before it was just static.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by siny528i View Post
    I did not do step 10, but I moved FM-AM Cable here and there, widen the 3 grooves and now have a AM reception. Before it was just static.
    So did my trick help you?
    Do you have clear AM reception now?

    PS: you don't want to replace the cable (it is $30) but it is ALOT of work to replace the cable, routing it through alot of God knows what nooks and crannies!

  6. #6
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    Thanks again, cnn.

  7. #7
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    I have AM, but it's weak. I can get 880 and 1010, which is just all news all the day...660 and 770 are extremely spotty, the stations I truly want and this drives me NUTS.

    For long car drives, AM can be nice at times.
    "I'd smash that (Jennifer Connelly) like a failed coup in sub-Saharan Africa."
    ~Macktheknife in my epic Jennifer Connelly OT Thread

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by bimmerfiver View Post
    I have AM, but it's weak. I can get 880 and 1010, which is just all news all the day...660 and 770 are extremely spotty, the stations I truly want and this drives me NUTS.

    For long car drives, AM can be nice at times.
    Then read my DIY, give it a try and let us know how it turns out.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnn View Post
    So did my trick help you?
    Do you have clear AM reception now?

    PS: you don't want to replace the cable (it is $30) but it is ALOT of work to replace the cable, routing it through alot of God knows what nooks and crannies!
    Of course it did! Thanks a bunch!

    Oh, I dont want to change whole cable. I am not that AM (and generally radio) fan. Maybe to fix connector? But at this point I am satisfied with the results.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnn View Post
    Then read my DIY, give it a try and let us know how it turns out.
    Awesome FYI. My AM reception was a joke and has been for 3 years, now it rocks.

    I went out to the car, flat head and 8mm socket. I removed the driver's side panel. Checked all connections to see if they were tight, they were very tight. I unscrewed the two coax connections and unclipped the other other two (I have 4 only, not 5 as above). I carefully cleaned all 4 with CRC Electronic Cleaner:

    http://www.autobarn.net/elcl45wtoz.html

    Then packed them with Dielectric grease:

    http://www.acehardware.com/product/i...LAID=323881576

    I reconnected all four of them and my AM reception was improved 100%!!!

    I've been meaning to do this for three years now (and this thread finally pushed me to do it).

    I just drove around for 30 minutes because I thought it was an anomoly the AM reception worked in my driveway. The AM reception was SOLID GOLD the entire time.

    Shocked. The connections were already tight, but the cleaning/dielectric grease did it's job FTMFW. I highly suggest all peoples add this to the DIY.

    CNN, thanks for finally pushing me to address a &*%!ing annoying problem that I've been meaning to do for YEARS. It cost me nothing, had the elements in the trunk and took all of ten minutes.

    I can listen to WFAN (660) all day now!!!
    Last edited by bimmerfiver; 09-06-2009 at 05:00 PM.
    "I'd smash that (Jennifer Connelly) like a failed coup in sub-Saharan Africa."
    ~Macktheknife in my epic Jennifer Connelly OT Thread

  11. #11
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    Excellent write-up! If I might...You can take a soldering pencil and put a "dab" or small "ball" of solder right at the tip of the Mercedes star. If you can put the solder slightly off to one side of the center pin such that it acts to lengthen the center lead as well as act to make it "fatter", this will make sure that it is never intermittent again. Just make sure when you melt the solder gob to the end of the center connection that you do not just heat the solder and let the solder fall onto the center tip, but that you heat the center tip enough to melt the solder on its own so the solder bonds with the center leg. Once it has bonded, you can then "play with it" a bit drawing it out to effectively increase the length of the center leg and to also add enough solder such that the tip gets a tad wider so that it will spread the female socket a little to get the pin pushed in. This is stronger and more permanent than prying it wider as there is nothing to keep it from going back to original size. The dielectric grease will now help the newly widened pin slide in as well and improving the connectivity. This is also a great place to feed Sirius radio RF to cars that don't have the aux. input. They make a cable that senses when Sirius is turned on and will only allow RF from the Sirius head unit to feed the radio and will cut off the FM antenna. You can access the whole area right there at the DS pillar area.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by m5hoot View Post
    Excellent write-up! If I might...You can take a soldering pencil and put a "dab" or small "ball" of solder right at the tip of the Mercedes star. If you can put the solder slightly off to one side of the center pin such that it acts to lengthen the center lead as well as act to make it "fatter", this will make sure that it is never intermittent again. Just make sure when you melt the solder gob to the end of the center connection that you do not just heat the solder and let the solder fall onto the center tip, but that you heat the center tip enough to melt the solder on its own so the solder bonds with the center leg. .....
    Did you do this soldering trick. Does it work well?
    I am curious to know.

    Spreading the Mercedes star works very well for me because the coax cable connection is snug fit and does not put too much pressure on the Mercedes star. So far so good for me.
    But I like your soldering trick too.
    Last edited by cnn; 09-06-2009 at 10:18 PM.

  13. #13
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    Yes, I have done it a dozen times before on other similar situations and just so happened to do it in this application as well. Being a ham radio op since I was a small boy, I have used the solder trick to extend the center connector on some coax connectors that are too short for some reason as well as say I have a wall wort that has the correct size center connector "hole" but the outside barrel diameter is too loose or a sloppy fit inside the radio, laptop, or whatever I am trying to get the wall wort plug properly sized for and I just don't have one in the drawer. I melt a small amount of solder on the outside of the barrel and then remove almost all of it such that I built up the diameter just enough to made it now be a snug fit. Solder is a long (forever) lasting electrical conductor but also adds material to anything that is slightly undersized. Best to hold the connector sideways (horizontal) or slightly upside down as you don't just want the solder to flow too easily down inside to simply improve the connection, but you want it to "ball-up" at the tip making it about .010" bigger. The center female connection has some "give" to it such that if you add too much solder the female will give a little to hold is snug. If you were to maybe get a good connection with the solder but too big a ball at the tip, you can just lightly touch it to a dremel wheel or whatever and shape it very easily.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by m5hoot View Post
    Yes, I have done it a dozen times before on other similar situations and just so happened to do it in this application as well. Being a ham radio op since I was a small boy, I have used the solder trick to extend the center connector on some coax connectors that are too short for some reason as well as say I have a wall wort that has the correct size center connector "hole" but the outside barrel diameter is too loose or a sloppy fit inside the radio, laptop, or whatever I am trying to get the wall wort plug properly sized for and I just don't have one in the drawer. I melt a small amount of solder on the outside of the barrel and then remove almost all of it such that I built up the diameter just enough to made it now be a snug fit. Solder is a long (forever) lasting electrical conductor but also adds material to anything that is slightly undersized. Best to hold the connector sideways (horizontal) or slightly upside down as you don't just want the solder to flow too easily down inside to simply improve the connection, but you want it to "ball-up" at the tip making it about .010" bigger. The center female connection has some "give" to it such that if you add too much solder the female will give a little to hold is snug. If you were to maybe get a good connection with the solder but too big a ball at the tip, you can just lightly touch it to a dremel wheel or whatever and shape it very easily.
    GREAT Info from a previous Ham Radio Operator! Now people have 2 options:
    1. Spread the Mercedes star as in my DIY...or
    2. Soldering Trick (Although I have not tried this soldering trick, but I love this trick!).

  15. #15
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    Does anyone have a diagram for the 740il?

    Does anyone have a diagram for the 740il? The location of the components seem to be different for the 740il...

  16. #16
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    Very very similar for 740iL.
    More info on bimmerboard.com.

  17. #17
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    Will this cause the radio to emit nothing when it goes bad? My radio alternates between bad reception and nothing coming out of the speakers, but the tape deck and changer always work.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1995droptopz View Post
    Will this cause the radio to emit nothing when it goes bad?
    Yes!

    Give this DIY a try (should not take more than 15 minutes to do). Report back with results!

  19. #19
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    Radio help

    My wife's 97 528i FM reception is in and out and static sometimes. Will this help with that problem also or is this just AM?

    Thanks

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sri Haputantri View Post
    My wife's 97 528i FM reception is in and out and static sometimes. Will this help with that problem also or is this just AM?

    Thanks
    The same cable supplies input for both AM and FM, so this should take care of your FM issues.

  21. #21
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    I tried the AM radio fix DIY but problem

    13. The bottom line is by widening the 3 grooves in the FM-AM Cable "Center Round Pin" a bit, it makes the connection at the Rear of the CD Player better.

    I tried to widen the grooves of the center round pin, but I noticed that at the end of my cable, the housing looks identical to the one in the picture, but in the middle there is only one prong that goes into the radio. There is nothing there aren't 3 grooves. It looks like a headphone connection. its just one solid piece of metal.

    I have a 2001 330ci. Maybe the end of the wire is different? Does anyone know? thanks.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by rjmatalon View Post
    ...I have a 2001 330ci. Maybe the end of the wire is different? Does anyone know? thanks.
    The BEST option is to read thread #11 above by "m5hoot", he was a ham radio operator in the past.
    Just use a soldering gun and applies a thin bead of solder on the center pin (of the antenna connector) and you should be good.

  23. #23
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    thanks for your help. can i do this by myself? if so, i just put a tiny tab of soder on it and wait how long for it to dry? any tips? i never sodded before.
    thx

  24. #24
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    A soldering gun is about $5-10.
    Solder itself is $3-4 for a roll.
    Go to Radio Shack and ask for it.

    Then go to youtube and watch a few videos on how to solder, very very easy.
    Then get an old circuit board to "target practice" first before doing the real thing.

  25. #25
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    thanks for your help cnn....i did what you said with the soldering and it worked out. very happy. thank you.

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