simeybinker

Three Bars of Death - the "impossible" problem... SOLVED

51 posts in this topic

EDIT: THIS PROBLEM HAS BEEN SOLVED!!

 

See Page 2 for update.

 

Short story: car was in the shop and had a transmission reteach with a STAR system, but this unexpectedly bricks it up. It throws three bars, unable to start, but no indication or code of what the problem is. Tested all motors and sensors, and eventually found two wires which were chafed from the intercooler intake. These were brought up top, stripped, dipping in acid, re-soldered and sealed. The car still did not operate until I had it towed back to the shop for that transmission reteach. It seems, if the transmission reteach is interrupted, it will not start despite fixing the original issue.

 

---

 

Howdy,

 

This is Sim - yes, the new guy. I call this the "impossible" problem not because I want it to sound intimidating, but I want to challenge the smarty smart people on here to see if it can be solved. 2006 450 diesel, 210k kms. the rod on the clutch actuator was loose due to wear - however the car drove fine. A couple times it gave me the three bars of death, but it would go away on restart. It would drive fine in the rain.

 

Yesterday I drive it to Uncle Glenn's place, for a list of items to fix. Below is the list in sequential order:

 

Rear wheel bearing swap

Soak glow plugs in penetrating oil for swap later

Front rotors swap

Replace the rear-right centre turn/brake bulb

Seat airbag connector delete and solder

blank off EGR

replace the actuator with a shimmed one

and eventually swap the glow plugs. 

 

After we swapped the actuator for one that had the shimming boot on the rod, Glenn fired up the Star system to do a transmission test (rifles through all gears). The transmission makes two clicks, and stops. Three bars on dash. 

 

We remove the actuator, and swap back to the original. Transmission test fails again. Every time we turn on the car, the actuator presses in (clutch disengagement), as this is the start position - this is expected and also tells us the actuators can move. We tried a third actuator, same thing. Any time we remove an actuator, because it goes in to the out-most position, reinstalling it is a pain. The actuator motor must be removed, the rack be spun back to its receded position, before being reinstalled. Clutch plate/fork move fine. With actuator removed, and the clutch engaged, the car is in gear, and we can spin the engine. We do a actuator test on the Star system, and there is no response. 

 

We test another car with the Star system, and the transmission test and the actuator test works fine. 

 

We check Fuse 30, and it is unbroken. 

 

When the car is turned on, there is no noise from the transmission or the actuator, just immediate 3 bars of death. Star system pulls up no codes.

 

We find out that the gear position sensor is only utilized when the Star system is used - so if this failed, perhaps the car could still drive as expected, until we plugged in the Star and then it would fail the transmission test because the sensor would give a faulty reading. So we swap the gear position sensor. Still fails. We swap the gear motor selector. Still fails. We swap the gearbox oil, and spin the wheels when the clutch is engaged to perhaps move the transmission around. Still fails. 

 

If you've paid for Evilution, this page shows all the most probable causes of the three bars of death:

http://www.evilution.co.uk/electrical/3_lines_on_the_speedo.htm

 

And you'll find that we troubleshooted each one of these. However, let me know if there's something glaring that we missed.

 

thanks,

Sim

Edited by simeybinker

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Yeah, I checked the usual suspects for obvious harness wear. The next step would be to check the continuity of all wires...

 

I'd like to, if I can, find a hypothesis, that fits these conditions:

 

failure only occurred from work conducted on Saturday (list shown above)

failure does not kick an error code

failure gives 3 bars of death

 

Sure, it could be just a lose wire in the harness; but we really didn't mess around with the harness that much which would trigger such a dramatic failure. No visual signs of wear, and no failures in the rain would also indicate that my harness may be sufficient.

 

For instance; the gear position sensor does fit these criteria. this sensor is not used for everyday driving (says Evilution) - so it could have been dead months ago. then, as soon as the car is plugged into the Star system, the transmission fails its test. Perhaps because this sensor is not used for everyday use, no code is kicked. our work on the car created this failure.

 

The battery being low fits these criteria; our work on the car with messing about could have drained the battery - but it seemed fine.

 

Additionally, why are the brake lights important? I've taken a look at the wiring diagrams and it's not immediately clear. How can an improper brake light, or a burnt out one, cause the whole car to fail? this is like the WORST Christmas light string ever. When the brake light/switch fails, is there a code? I find it interesting it was in the list of items I touched on Saturday. Something to note; the bulb that was not operating in the back end was the wrong one (previous owner). I removed it, and replaced it with a proper one. does this circuit have to have a certain resistance for the transmission to operate properly? why are light bulbs so critical?

 

When I turn on the car, it does not seem to even attempt to move the actuator or the gearbox. It seems to fail prior to any mechanical movement. does someone know the order of operation for the pre-flight check?

Edited by simeybinker

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Perhaps you have fitted wrong bulb or not inserted it correctly.  Which bulb did you replace and what type did you fit?  Have you confirmed all rear lights are working as they should?

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Engine & transmission control unit works in mysterious ways.  Transmission gear position sensor, which measures angular position of shift drum, is not used by control unit for gear shifting, it is only used for diagnostics.  On my old Cabrio I have confirmed that by disconnecting gear position sensor.  The car will usually run and shift gears as normal, until for what ever reason, the control unit decides to do an internal diagnostics check.  You then end up stranded with three bars on display.

Battery must be fully charged when playing around with MB Star and doing adjustments. I usually connect a battery charger just to be safe.

 

Test your transmission wiring harness using a test lamp (21 watts) and multimeter. You also need a 12 Volt battery or you can take the 12 Volt supply from your starter battery.  When testing harness I set multimeter to amps and connect in series with test lamp and 12 Volt battery.  Test each wire in harness from the plugs at transmission end to control unit plug.  A faulty wire will easily show up by test lamp shining less bright and lower amps.  You need to research pin outs of plugs.  Below diagram may assist you:

 

SmartTM_Wiring.jpg

 

Simply testing harness by multimeter in resistance checking mode is not sufficient.

 

Harness repair is done by soldering.  You will find that the copper has gone completely black so solder won't wet.  Cutting cable back to clean copper won't work as it will be black all the way to other end.  Use a hydrochloric acid solution to clean the copper strands to bright copper.  I use brick cleaner with about 9.5% hydrochloric acid strength by weight.  Available from builder merchants.

 

Example. Cleaning cables to battery lead plug for a Flymo lawnmower and making ready for soldering:

DSC04237.jpg  Note the black oxidized cables.

 

DSC04241.jpg

Now note how bright middle cable is after a few seconds immersed in hydrochloric acid solution.

 

Remember to insert suitable heat shrink sleeves prior to soldering.  Best to use heat shrink sleeves with adhesive.

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Thanks Tolsen,

 

When the car car is sitting parked, what should the gearbox and actuator be in? Is the actuator out or in? Does the transmission have a neutral and is it in neutral? 

 

My car car seems to always want to press the actuator out towards the clutch on start up, where it remains. The transmission is in gear.

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Smart 450 gear shift pattern is R N 1 2 3 4 5 6.

Drum does not move when moving gear stick into neutral at speed. Clutch is just moved to "off" position. Drum will shift into the most appropriate gear for the speed as car slows down when gear stick is in neutral. Confirmed all of the above a while back by test driving with diagnostics attached.

 

You should be in R when parked and key out.  Clutch will be engauged so clutch actuator rod will be retracted into its housing.

 

At stand still with foot on brake and N selected, transmission will be in N.

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39 minutes ago, simeybinker said:

Thanks Tolsen,

 

When the car car is sitting parked, what should the gearbox and actuator be in? Is the actuator out or in? Does the transmission have a neutral and is it in neutral? 

 

My car car seems to always want to press the actuator out towards the clutch on start up, where it remains. The transmission is in gear.

 

The transmission is a standard 'H' shift 'R' + '3 forward' gears pattern

The confusing part is that it uses a rotating drum to move the 'R'-'1' fork and the '2'-'3' fork

Thus the fixed R N 1 2 3 pattern that tolsen mentioned.

 

The transmission can be left in 'R' or in 'N' or in '1' when the key is off.

The actuator rod should retract in ALL of those cases.

The actuator rod should extend whenever the key goes to on.

 

If your actuator does not retract, then I suggest that the wiring for the actuator might be the culprit

Note that the actuator does not retract simply because power is not supplied, rather, it must rotate a cam, via the actuator motor.

 

educational/historical reading

 

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Well guys, 

 

good news, bad news. Good news is I found a mighty chafed section of harness at the usual intercooler boot position - the white wire was shorn right through, and the large blue one was 75%. I cleaned them up, soldered them back together, shrink wrap, electrical tape, and assembled it all back together expecting the car would fire up.

 

bad news; it didn't. Same failure. Unplugged the battery for about 2 minutes, plugged back in and tried again. Still three bars of death. Do I need to reset something?

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Did your solder wet the copper strands?  Have you tested all transmission wiring of engine wiring harness?  Have you confirmed alternator is not seized and turning freely?

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Now Tolsen, I've seen you do this before. I've only been on this forum for a few days, and I read a few threads where you precisely nail down what the problem is, despite how unlikely it sounds.

 

For instance, one guy had a no start problem, didn't give too much detail, and you said his alternator was seized. Not the starter like any reasonable human would suggest - the alternator. Sure enough he pops the belt off, and it fires up fine. 

 

my original post here stopped just short of declaring that it wasn't a wire failure. I said the problem was not intermittent, but rather immediate. The car operated fine in the rain. The problem cropped up when we did a hardware swap and some software - we didn't even mess with the loom at all. I even said I did a visual inspection and found nothing. And yet here you are, saying it's probably a wire break. I was going to say in the original post, to not just assume it is a wire break.

 

and sure enough I find a wire break.

 

what drives me more crazy, is that when I tell you the bugger still won't cooperate, you immediately imply that I didn't follow your clear instructions to clean the wires with hydrocloric acid and throughtly wet the ends of the wire. I mean, a normal person would have assumed I did this, and would have suggested something else. Clearly you told me to do this. Clearly I'd be an idiot to not follow your instructions.

 

but how did you know?

 

because I'm an idiot and rushed the job and assumed my unorthodox glob of solder was "good enough", and the Scotsman who never sleeps somehow knows through the Internet that I didn't do it properly. No really. I cleaned it a little with white vinegar because that's what I use on my copper pots, and then had a terrible time trying to solder it but being stubborn because I just wanted to get it done, and thought "this should work".

 

so you're saying it didn't work.

 

I'll get some acid, and redo it tomorrow.

 

you're starting to scare me.

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I have fixed lots of wiring harness repairs carried out by owners and garages.  Have removed both Scotchloks and screw type terminal blocks.  Usually get ridiculed when I suggest cleaning oxidised black copper with hydrochloric acid solution.  Have even had my posts deleted by moderators when suggesting the acid clean.  The experts say you should cut back to clean bright copper.  That does not work.  These copper cables will be black and oxidised from end to end.

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Attempting a wiring harness repair under the car is seldom successful.  I always get the rear end up on axle stands and drop subframe enough so I can disconnect transmission part of the wiring harness and lay it out on top of engine.  A small piece of an old carpet comes handy here.  Clean and remove engine control unit connector.  Use a paint brush and white spirit to clean followed by a few blasts of compressed air.  Then gently release the connector.

You can now start checking out the harness.  21 watt test lamp with mini crocodile clips. 12 volt power source and multi meter. Sewing pins and other suitable sized panel pins will be required to connect to plug terminals.  Do not force pins into plug terminals since that will cause bad contact later.  Never apply any graphite penetration oil to terminals and connectors.

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Thanks Tolsen,

 

Last night I disconnected all four connections under the car, and then pulled the loom up beside the intercooler so I could solder on top. It was a comfortable set up, but clearly needed to clean the wires a little more.

 

The big question is, once I have fixed the problem, will the car operate, or will it need a re-teach with a Star system? Because Glenn is no longer here, and I want to avoid the dealership. (I also tried calling the Burlington Active Green and Ross to find Andrew (the owner of Bessy), but the guy there said no Andrew worked there...

 

This came from Kane at Evilution (he didn't know that I had found the cut wires yet):

I had this on 2 Roadsters which share the same set up.
With these ones they had got confused with the gears and had gone passed a point were it understood what was going on.
I removed the gear change motor and manually moved the cog until it was in Neutral and the rear wheels would spin (there are 2 neutrals and only 1 is correct). After that, I refitted the motor and retaught the gearbox and then the clutch actuator and they were both ok.  

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16 hours ago, simeybinker said:

good news, bad news. Good news is I found a mighty chafed section of harness at the usual intercooler boot position - the white wire was shorn right through, and the large blue one was 75%.

 

Which plug were these wires leading to ?

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1 hour ago, cadillacman said:

 

Which plug were these wires leading to ?

 

Gear motor. The failure makes sense. I'll make a write up summarizing findings when this is settled for everyone's knowledge.

 

I haven't been able to source hydrochloric acid/brick cleaner for the copper. I can do a re-solder, but I'm unsure whether or not my fix last night actually DID fix the problem, and it simply needs a Star system now. 

Does someone who is closer than Glenn have a system that can reprogram this thing? I'm not going to ask him to drive back down again...

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You will have to do a gear change teach if a gear change teach procedure did not complete.  In that case there will be a self explanatory fault code.

If no relevant fault code, try disconnecting battery for five minutes or so.

Edited by tolsen

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I think there are two G&R shops in Burlington.  There is a list of Service Options at the top of the forum.  At the bottom of the Green and Ross page there are comments and Andrew's cell number is there.  I've never dealt with him but he does have a good reputation around the forum.

 

Nigel

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7 hours ago, simeybinker said:

 

Gear motor. The failure makes sense. I'll make a write up summarizing findings when this is settled for everyone's knowledge.

 

I haven't been able to source hydrochloric acid/brick cleaner for the copper. I can do a re-solder, but I'm unsure whether or not my fix last night actually DID fix the problem, and it simply needs a Star system now. 

Does someone who is closer than Glenn have a system that can reprogram this thing? I'm not going to ask him to drive back down again...

 

muriatic acid from home hardware or home depot...its used for brick cleaning so im assuming it will work ..never tried it myself on copper but it works well for cleaning oxidized aluminum 

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Lime scale cleaning fluid from shops also contains hydrochloric acid about 6 to 7 percent.  Weaker than brick cleaner so will take longer until you get bright copper.

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Thanks everyone - how flammable are these cars? Pretty sure I just want to light it on fire now...

 

So, I took it all back apart. re-soldered the two connections up top after letting them chill in muriatic acid (purchased at the local Canadian Tire) for a bit. Cleaned them right up. That stuff is NASTY. it was really damp outside and it was wafting this eerie "steam" from it - a small amount up the nose burns. One of the few times I wore gloves. 

 

the solder connection is SOLID now. 

 

But it still won't start. Three bars persist.

 

The alternator, when driving it to the shop, was fine and freely spinning. It also doesn't TRY to start. it doesn't try anything. No clicks of the transmission. The only thing it does, is if the actuator is not extended, it will extend, and remain there. Which means the clutch is always disengaged.

 

I figured out how to jump the actuator to get it to retract: 12 V, positive on pin 6, negative on pin 3.

 

I got a hold of Andrew - he's now across the street at the OTHER Green+Ross (the phone number on the service centres page here is incorrect). 905 681 8928 is the shop number. He said it shouldn't require a transmission re-teach... but I'm not sold. 

 

So out of curiousity (and to rule out a few more things), I decided to jump the gear motor as well. I spun it back and forth several times going through all the gears. no stuck gears. works fine. 

 

While attempting to start up, it does not even try to select any gears. it just fires the three bars of death immediately. I tried to have it unplugged for several minutes as well.

 

Other than checking every single bloody wire in the car, what else could it be? Now that the wiring harness is fixed, perhaps I should try and get my hands on a proper programmer.

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Gear change reteach will sort it.

 

I still offer diagnostics services to forum members for a good pint or two of ale.  Surely there must be members doing same in Canada.  

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Not everyone is lucky enough to live in Scotland and get diagnosis for pints of beer. But my last name is Hunter.

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jeepers.

 

So I signed up for CAA (something which I have been previously adamantly against), and had my car towed to a mechanic (also something I'm against), and he just reported that the gear change reteach is something that must be done with the car on? I didn't think this was the case. With the 3-bars of death and no way the car knows which gear it is in, the car won't start, and without the car starting, it can't do a reteach? sounds like a great catch-22.

 

so now, I suppose, I'm back to the drawing board; I guess a wire is still loose? or a sensor is fried? Is there is a real wiring harness schematic with colours and plugs and everything available?

 

thanks,

Sim

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