The check engine light issue bit me yesterday as I was getting my car smog checked, but I was able to convince the technician that our cars don't have one from the factory.
This prompted me to try to fix the problem at the root. There is a typo in the Smog Check Inspection Manual the techs use for procedures on checking various vehicles. There is a error in the book for our cars.
I submitted a request to have the typo corrected. Hopefully we won't have this problem in the future (at least in California).
Here's what I submitted to the California Air Resource Board:
From Sylvia Morrow [email@example.com]
I am forwarding your finding to the Bureau of Automotive Repair who write the Smog Check Inspection Manual and develop the testing procedures including exceptions.
Chiang Patrick wrote:
Dear Ms. Sylvia Morrow,
I would like to bring to your attention there may be a typographical error on the SMOG Check Vehicle Reference Book (I don't know what it's called, but the one the SMOG technicians look up when testing a vehicle). This occurred when the tech had to do a visual inspection of the check engine light.
It seems to me that all of the 1988 and 1989 (could also include 1990, 1991 models also) BMW E30 M3's with 2.3L 4 CYL engine that are US models do not have a factory "Check Engine" light indicator.
This vehicle is different that standard BMW E30's of the same year (the standard ones have 6 CYL. and a different dashboard.)
Each time an owner of this model vehicle goes to get the vehicle smog checked. The smog technicians always say there is a problem with "Check Engine" light indicator not being there. They assume the dashboard has been replaced. But this is not so.
I am asking you to please look into this matter as it is very frustrating each time explaining to the technician that the car is original and there was never a "Check Engine" light indicator from BMW North America.
If a vehicle owner is sent to a referee station it could cost even more money and time that it already does.
Please let me know if I can assist in any way.
Here are some quotes from other owners of this vehicle:
"No E30 M3's i'm aware of had a check engine light. You should just have a check light. I hope you get your problem resolved. Normally, the biggest 'check' light problem is when people go get their emissions done and have to prove that the car does not have a check engine light."
"Smog Check Fail: Message: It's OBD I exempt! There's no check engine light in the M3!!! somehow convince the tech that there really is no "Check Engine" light. It's an M3, not a 325i."
"I need help. Just bought another ///M and failed smog due to no check engine light."
"Go to the dealer and explain. They should provide you with something in writing, they did for me. Or take it to the dealer and have them do the smog check, less hassle running back and forth. Hope you get it worked out."
"I live in California and as you all know we have a tuff smog law. They are saying that my 91 need to have a check engine light inorder to pass smog, I told them that non of the E30 M have such light. For all you 90's and 91's out there do you all have a check engine light? and also do any of you know where I can get the info that say so. The smog shop need it to pass me and if I dont have that can't get my new baby registered. I tried to call the local dealers and they dont know what the hell they are talking about. Let me know and thanks in advance."
I need help finding some information on the 1988 M3. I'm currently trying to get my M3 smogged (California Emission Test), but they keep failing me. They say that my "Check Engine" light is not working. Therefore I won't be able to register it. I went to my mechanic and he says there is no check engine light. Does anyone have any info to back up my mechanic? I need to get this done to be able to keep driving it. Pls. help if you have any info on the instrument cluster (maybe a website or something that I can show these people)"
"Well, seems like those smog idiots don't know much about this car, there is no need to explain anything to them and educate them about the car.
Just tell them the flashing "CHECK" light at the center-lower part of the instrument panel (near the ///M logo) IS THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT ! You can convince them more by telling them once you start driving the car, the light will turn off, if there's anything wrong with the emission control unit of the car, this light will REMAIN FLASHING !
Don't tell them it's a "check brake" light, and don't tell them to step on the brak to disable the flashing. Because they will eventually step on the brake anyway, and the light will go away...then you pass the "check engine light" dilema.
"I just went through the same crapola here in San Diego. The smog book/computer shows all e30' s have a check engine light. The first time I ran into this issue my mechanic who is an expert on e30 m3's didn't know either so we pulled the instrument cluster. Sure enough no light or wiring to the place where the bulb would be. Even at the referee station they said I had to get a signed note from a BMW dealership stating that it doesn't have a check engine light. I have the Electronic Troubleshooting Manual for my 90 m3 which clearly shows no circuit for a check engine light. The head of the service dept. at the local BMW dealer also owns an e30 m3 and he made me a copy of the same schematic page from a 90 325ic ETM (showing the check engine light circuit). Between my m3 ETM and the 325ic ETM page the referee station accepted that there was NO check engine light on e30 m3's. As a side note the dealership would have passed it but I had to go to a "Test Only Station". The first thing I do now when I go in for a smog inspection is to say "This car doesn't have a check engin light." Then we can fight it out without having to pay first."
"This is a very common problem. I even had a so-called BMW expert here locally argue that if my car didn't have a check engine light that it must be grey market. Some people can't imagine that they don't know everything..."
"My 91 M3 passed the actual California smog test at a Test Only station.
But the tech failed me because he could not find Check Engine Light.
I called BMW NA. The customer rep checked with NA tech.
He called me back and told me M3 should have the CEL.
Local dealer's master mechanic told me there is no connection for a CEL on a M3.
I took car to a Referee station.
Referee found, on the emission sticker in the engine compartment, "OBD EXEMPT".
That means no Check Engine Light.
Car passed smog."
"I went through the same crap last year ... the smog guy failed me as I was trying to explain the "Check" (brake test) light to him from the owners manual. He said I had to take up with the referee which cost me extra. After running another smog check and referencing my owners manual he passed me. What a waste of my money and time!"
"In the past, I think the guys doing my smog have always thought the flasing "Check" light (the one that goes out when you step on the brake) was the light because they've always said "Your check engine light is on... does it go off?" "oh... yeah (scramble into seat, step on peddle) SEE!!!" "Oh... OK..."