E36 Randomly dies on cold start


VID_20221221_160447.mp4 - VEED – Here is a video of the problem.

When I start the car cold in the morning It shuts down in random time periods and it shakes a lot. I have to wait for at least 5 to 10 minute to drive it so that I doesn’t shut down while I drive. I wonder if it’s a sensor or something more serious.

You need to visit a mechanic. Leave the car overnight so they can plug in a scanner to record what is happening since there are no check engine lights glowing.

Given the 416,000 km on the car, it could just be worn out or the throttle body need to be cleaned.


The first thing to check is the air duct from the air filter to the throttle body. Those get old and crack, and the car has more trouble compensating for the leak when it is cold.

Vacuum leaks are another possibility, but those will generally cause a rough idle and a check engine light when the car is warm.

I am unfamiliar with the 2 liter engine, and I don’t see mention of model year, but if the car has a VANOS, its miles and age make this e36 a prime candidate for a fresh VANOS O-ring. A leaking VANOS O-ring will cause misfires when cold and poor low RPM power even when warm. Most e36 owners do their own repairs, but you need to rent special tools to replace a VANOS O-ring and this is not a job for a beginner.

6-cyl e-36s are prone to valve cover gasket leaks every few years. Oil that leaks into the spark plug ports tends to short out the plug. For some reason, this effect is worst when the engine is cold and tends to clear as the engine warms. Pull off the coils and look at the rubber boots. If they are coated with oil, replace the valve cover gaskets (easy job) and thoroughly clean (or replace) the rubber spark plug boots.

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Assuming this car is OBD II tech, ask your shop for a fuel trim test. If there are engine air or exhaust leaks, good chance the problem would show up there.

Suggest to approach this by first determining what’s causing it. It could be a lot of things, but replacing stuff on a guess gets expensive very quickly. And can end up with the car in worse shape than when you began, b/c good stuff gets replaced with aftermarket bad stuff.