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Idle Control Guide

Idle Control Guide



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Published by xLibelle

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Published by: xLibelle on Feb 25, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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(If you'd like this emailed to you via within minutes, send a blank email toidle@mesaperformance.com)I decided to put this FAQ together in the hope that others won't have to suffer the many hours of frustrationand hopelessness I went through just to get the car to idle! The info contained herein was obtained from manysources including what I learned from my toils, Bentley, and snippets sent to me by other Bimmernetters(sorry I can't cite sources - there were too many). If you have any additions or corrections, please send them tome. DISCLAIMER: my own experiences were based on my '85 325e and '84 528e, and a friend of mine's '86325es, so any references to other models are based on info I couldn't verify myself. Many thanks to all who provided information. Hope y'all find this helpful...Sorry I couldn't cover other years/models, but as it is, writing this up took several hours as it is. The infocontained herein applies to models w/ Motronic units prior to 1.1 (which eliminates the ICM and controls theICV directly). Models covered include 1982-87 5 and 3 series.After writing this, I found out that a similar FAQ had been added the WWW server. I've appended it after myFAQ.-Sam
TechFAQ: The Idle Stabilization System1. Idle System Overview
In a conventional idle system, idle speed is controlled setting a baseline throttle opening. The idle speed isincreased by increasing the throttle rest opening, and decreased by decreasing the throttle rest opening, usuallyvia a throttle-positioning set screw.With the idle stabilization system, the throttle is completely closed at idle; instead, air gets into the engine viaan electronically controlled bypass system. Air for the idle system is obtained via a hose tap in the intake bootupstream from the throttle, and fed into the engine through a manifold tap next to the cold start valve. The idlespeed is controlled by modulating the amount of air which bypasses the throttle via an electronicallycontrolled closed loop stabilization circuit.
air filter --> airflow meter -----> throttle ------ manifold --> engine| ^ ||----------> ICV --------| |^ || |ICM <- input signals --|
Engine input signals and feedback allow more accurate control of idle speed over changing ambient air  pressure, temperature, etc. (and hopefully, reduced emissions).
---> Note that the idle system gets its air downstream from the air flow meter! The air ismetered so the DME knows about it!
The heart of the system is a small brain box, called the idle control module (ICM) (or idle control unit (ICU)),which takes engine signals as inputs. Although the ICM works in concert with, and shares some inputs w/ theMotronic (DME), there is no direct electrical communication between the two systems. The sole output of theICM is a control signal which modulates a solenoid operated valve (the Idle Control Valve (ICV)). The ICV inturn adjusts the flow of bypass air through the idle system. The DME responds to the idle system via the air flow meter and its effects on input signals, such as engine RPM.From the above description, a common fallacy about the idle system is instantly dispelled:Fallacy #1: An idle system malfunction can mess up the mixture and destroy my oxygen sensor or catalyticconverter, costing me mucho dinero.
 Repudiation: Fallacy #1 arises from the notion that somehow an idle system malfunction canresult in richening of the mixture, thus resulting in destruction of the O2 sensor and cat. However,
air through the idle system is
by the air flow meter. Also, there are
electrical outputs passed from the ICM to the DME. Therefore, the idle control system can onlyaffect the idle mixture to the extent that changing the idle speed can cause the DME to vary themixture.Salient Points: Your mechanic is full of sh--. Experimentation with the idle system won't destroy your car in some unknown way. The only way you can directly change the idle mixturevia the idle system is to introduce a vacuum leak (which results in
of the mixture). Theonly thing that can cause a rich mixture is a malfunctioning DME.
The ICV control signal appears to be PWM (pulse-width modulation), meaning that the ICM varies the dutycycle instead of the voltage to change the valve opening.
2. ICV Overview
The ICV is a dark plastic or silver-colored metal cylinder 3.5" long and 1.5" in diameter mounted on top of atwo-legged support bolted to the valve cover near the firewall. An intake hose gets air from a tap on the sideof the intake boot between the air filter and the throttle (the intake fitting is directly opposite the electricalconnector). The output is at a right angle to the intake, and feeds to a short 2" hose, which in turn feeds intothe intake manifold next to the cold start valve. A black plastic two-pin connector feeds control current to thesolenoid-operated valve flap with the ICV.When there is no current, the valve is completely open. Increasing the current decreases the opening. Thesolenoid valve in the ICV does not entirely control the air flow though it; an adjustable bypass system withinthe ICV allows air to flow through it even when the solenoid valve is completely closed (hmm...a bypasssystem within a bypass system!). When the adjustment screw on the side of the ICV is turned all the wayclockwise, no air bypasses the solenoid valve; turning it counterclockwise increases the bypass air flow.
----> The adjustment screw analogous to throttle position screw in a conventional idle system. Opening it up is like cracking open the throttle.
Bentley describes adjustment of the ICV screw as "adjusting the ICV current." In reality, the adjustment screwonly indirectly affects the control current to the ICV because the ICM reacts to the RPM fluctuation caused bythe change in idle air. When you open the screw, it lets more air bypass the valve, increasing the idle speed;the ICM responds by increasing the duty cycle (current) to decrease the ICV opening.Bentley also says that adjusting the screw isn't supposed to affect the idle speed. I haven't found this to be thecase (even when borrowing my friend's working ICM and ICV), so don't be too alarmed by it.
ICM Overview
The ICM is made by VDO. It is a 2"x2" box located above the glove box, to the left of the Motronic unit. Toaccess the ICM, open the glove box and remove the black plastic upper cover (two phillips screws facing youat the junction of the dash and the cover; two black plastic retainers, in the back - rotate and remove). The big box w/ the large connector is the DME. There are different colors of ICM: solid black, black with a greenstripe, and solid green. Black is the oldest. The solid green one it is the latest update (the one you want). TheICM is held in by a single bolt, and a 2x6 12-pin connector is connected to it. The pin numbers are clearlymarked on both the ICM and the connector:1) ICV (output)2) Power supply3) RPM sensor 4) Ground5) ICV (output)6) Coolant temperature switch7) Automatic transmission range switch8) N.C.9) A/C switch10) Air temperature switch11) Coolant temperature sensor 12) Throttle rest position switchAll of the signals are inputs except the ICV outputs. Inside the ICM is an analog circuit mounted on twocircuit boards w/ a flexible connection. The circuit consists of an assortment of resistors, capacitors, op-amps,etc. Its job is to decrease the duty cycle of the ICV signal when RPM's dip and increase it when RPM's rise,contingent upon its various other inputs. Sounds like a pretty easy task, doesn't it? Why it doesn't do a better  job is a puzzle to me. It seems like any idiot could design a better circuit. For one thing, the ICM can't seem tocompensate very well for changes in ICV friction (that's why it's a no-no to clean or lube the ICV! It'll messup the calibration and the stupid ICM won't be able to control it right!).
4. Troubleshooting
Of course, the easiest thing to do is buy a new ICM and ICV but that costs a lot of buck$ - about $300 frommy sources. Getting used stuff from a yard might seem tempting at first, but bear in mind that the ICM is adelicate electronic circuit that overheats easily (that power transistor doesn't have a heat sink!), and the ICVcan appear to function correctly, but still be out of whack. If you want to buy a used ICM, at least get the solidgreen one, because it's supposed to be the most reliable. Even if an ICV passes electrical tests, it could still be

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