At the moment, the actual topic of the users of the original iCOM NEXT – what is the iCOM recall?
In this entry, all available information is compiled.
The problem in short: BMW AG has announced the recall of OEM iCOM NEXT units. Official partners, when fulfilling the iCOM purchase data in the AIR system, by mail receive an aluminum plate, which covers the part of the iCOM unit, where the MOST, USB and LAN plugs are located. This new cover is in yellow color, as opposed to the grey – unpainted plate, which is installed at the factory.
In the communication, BMW AG indicates, that only upgraded iCOM units are available from Germany warehouse; but from Sweden, instead, all items purchased (till the middle of March, 2019) are with a grey plate.
Where the problem lies? What does the solution(s) provide?
The new iCOM NEXT provides Gigabit (1000 Mbit) LAN connection, which means – for the connection you have to use Cat 6 LAN cable. This cable in yellow color is supplied together with iCOM NEXT.
Cat 6 LAN cable provide grounding (foil) connection at both ends of the connecting wire.
In specific conditions, this wire can become a cause of serious damages of iCOM unit and also car’s electronic modules. How?
Not taking into account, that LAN standard provides electric decoupling between units (using pulse transformers or special chipsets), Cat 6 cable can cause problems in the following situation:
a) iCOM NEXT is connected to the car;
b) the car power onboard voltage is maintained with the help of additional power supply; this power supply unit has an electro-socket with grounding (as required by safety standards);
c) iCOM via Cat 6 cable is connected to the computer which LAN connector is connected with its (computer) chassis; iCOM NEXT LAN connection plug body touches the body of the unit;
d) also the computer is connected to the mains – with another power source. The situation gets even double-dangerous if also this other power source has an electro-socket with a grounding.
The problem appears if the power supply of the car and power supply of the computer grounding conections have different potential. Such a situation for sure will be in the moment if separate electricity inlets are used if any of grounding contours is damaged if there are two different grounding contours, etc. Different potential will be even in the case if any of grounding contour is “loaded”, because some other powerful consumer is connected to the mains network, or the consumer has a leak to the grounding.
Also in case, if the grounding potential is significant (grounding contour – damaged: then typically in the grounding contour, the half of supply voltage or around 110 VAC is present), even if the computer without additional grounding is used, via units GND (Ground) connection the current can start to flow.
The consequences of the problem – the electronic module of the iCOM NEXT will be damaged, the car’s electrical equipment also can get damaged. This is a VERY dangerous situation!
How the problem is solved by iCOM developers?
- Replacing the aluminum plate on iCOM body to another – with a larger cut for LAN connector, flowing of the current in contour “car – iCOM – computer” is not possible anymore. With the larger cut, the insulation of LAN plug from the iCOM unit body was guaranteed;
- in additional – GND connection (the connection, which goes to the connector, which connects iCOM with a car), in iCOM NEXT unit the Polyswitch “automatic” fuse is added. If the difference of potentials reaches 10 .. 20 V, this fuse will save the unit and will “restore”, as soon the problem will be gone. In this situation no additional iCOM maintenance or repair is necessary.
Unfortunately, if the difference of potentials will reach 100 V and more (it usually happens, if the grounding contour is damaged), this fuse will hot help – it will get damaged, and the unit also will get damaged.
To make the situation as safe as possible:
a) check if your unit has the Polyswitch in Ground connection installed, as you see in the image below; if not – introduce this fuse (you can use 200 .. 500 mA Mini series Polyswitch);
b) ensure the insulation of LAN plug from the body of the unit. If you wish, you can make this upgrade by yourself during 5 minutes (the description will follow) or order the modified (in yellow color) plate from BMW AG;
c) if you don’t use Gigabit speed: use Cat 5 cable, without grounding at both ends of plugs;
d) better use the computer, whos supply unit has no connection of grounding. Yes, that is not correct from the view of electrical safety, but – in such way, you will save your iCOM and connected car;
e) make sure, that the body of iCOM unit (its metallic part) don’t touch other metallic parts/details (including car). If the body if iCOM will touch the chassis of the car (its unpainted part), the Polyswitch solution will not work! If possible, place the iCOM unit in an additional protective housing.
Of course, don’t connect the unit to the “unknown” source of power supply. The connection has to be with a correct grounding. Connect the car charger and check the voltage of the grounding contour with indicator:
If the indicator indicates voltage in the grounding contour – don’t connect the iCOM to the car! At first, solve the problem of electrical connection!
Connect the computer to the same contour (extension cord), to which the car voltage maintenance unit is connected! If your computer has such type of plug (without grounding) – iCOM in relatively safe:
Information regarding the upgrade of iCOM NEXT
Open the unit. In the picture, the Polyswitch fuse, included in GND connection:
If your iCOM don’t have this fuse, nip off two connectors of the plug (connection to iCOM GND) and connect the Polyswitch, as in the image below:
This is the solution to the problem by the manufacturer in a recall campaign. Unfortunately, the recall campaign has ended, and, if you will get in touch with BMW AG now, only part of the solution is offered (the modified plate of the body is sent – description will follow). Actia is not installing fuse anymore, it has to be done by yourself!
Here, the plate, which initially looks like that, but later (in upgrade version) is in yellow color:
Using the duct tape, place it on the plate, so from both sides it will look like this:
After installation the plate looks like this:
Plate, upgraded in such way, will guarantee the DC insulation of the LAN plug from iCOM NEXT GND.
Marked in the image:
a) chipset, which ensures DC/LF LAN insulation from the unit;
b) A capacitor in 1206 size body, which “grounds” LAN connector in RF range.
There is no smallest doubt – LAN connector has been intended to be insulated from the body of the unit, and the body of the unit initially is incorrectly made!
Here, an interesting fact from the manufacturer:
As follows from the description of the problem from the manufacturer, some customer has managed to “put” Ground current also via USB connection. The task is more complicated that scenario, previously described, but – it’s possible. Unfortunately, the USB connection has no DC insulation, which means – it makes no sense to insulate the body of this plug from the body of iCOM – it’s electrically connected with iCOM GND.
The only solution – if USB is not used, don’t leave the wire in the USB plug. If USB is used, make sure, that Ground loops are not created – the wire doesn’t touch anything.
The good news – Polyswitch fuse (of course, if it’s installed) in this situation will perform its duty and nothing bad will happen to the unit.