Pictorial discussion of charging, testing, removing, & replacing the BMW E39 battery
This is intended to be a pictorial thread, showing the steps to remove, test, charge, and replace the BMW E39 battery.
[WARNING] This may be too detailed for some for such a simple task! [ / WARNING ]
Note: For how to actually perform an exhaustive battery test, see detailed procedures here:
- DIY how to test a BMW E39 battery & alternator
For one reason WHY you'd want to test your battery, see details here:
- Warning: I charged my battery today & apparently killed my instrument cluster & MID
Even the MID lost it's clock:
So, today, after Autozone tested the battery, in situ, and found the following:
1. The charging system was good
2. The starting system was good
3. The battery was bad
I decided to remove the battery and charge it OUTSIDE the vehicle (far far far away from the vehicle!) ... :) and then to test out the procedures listed in the how-to-test-a-battery thread, one by one, in exhaustive detail (for the team).
The first step is to loosen the 10mm nut on the negative battery cable & pull the cable loose; then do the same for the positive cable:
Next step is to remove the 13mm bolt that holds the cross brace to the fender well, and the 13mm bolt that holds it to the floor of the trunk.
Notice I used the brace to short the 'cables' and 'almost' shorted the terminals! That would be a very bad thing!
Then remove the 10mm hold-down clamp bolt from the tail end of the battery.
HINDSIGHT WARNING: At this point, I had completely forgotten about the vent!
So, what I did was try to lift up on the battery handles:
Yeah, right! That thing is HEAVY!
I could not, for the life of me, lift the battery directly upward! So I tilted it to the rear and tried to nudge it up, ever so slowly one end at a time.
Eventually, I had tipped the entire thing on its end!
I don't think this is the proper way to remove it, but, it was the only way I could!
Note: I didn't realize it at the time, but the vent, still attached, must have had something to do with the problems I was having!
Eventually, I muscled the thing out of the vehicle!
Note: Reading "1 Stuck Piece" on the BMW label gave me a laugh!
With the battery out of the vehicle, for the first time, I could 'see' the green hydrometer in cell #2, and I could see there was no date stamp on the negative terminal (after brushing off the oxidation with a wire brush).
Looking below, I happened to notice the washer that was under the hold-down clamp bolt ...
So as not to forget it, I placed the washer back on the hold-down clamp bolt:
And, I replaced the hold-down clamp in its original position (as I lose bolts if I don't put 'em back right away).
I looked for the six cell caps, but didn't see any on the top:
The side view told me the manufacturer was "DBMC, Winston - Salem, North Carolina", which turns out to be Douglas' consumer line, which was (apparently) purchased by East Penn Batteries (details here).
Looking all over, I couldn't find a date stamp. Maybe this engraving is the date, hidden in battery code?
Getting to the hidden caps was as simple as peeling up the sticker ...
Even with a green hydrometer, the battery tested at around 10.5 volts, so I put the battery charger on. Guess what. It pegged (again) at something higher than 6 amps.
Yet, the DC voltage was only 11.40 volts, with the charger running (I expected higher).
Suddenly I had the bright idea of checking amperage (maybe the gauge was wrong on the 25-year old charger) ... so I pulled out my Radio Shack ammeter ...
But, I soon realized that ammeter probe was only for AC current, so, after about a half hour, the amperage on the charger meter lowered somewhat and I felt I could risk the Fluke 75 on the 10amp setting.
By now, the charger was reading about 6 amps, which jived with the Fluke DC amperage reading.
At some point, the VOLTAGE on the fluke wouldn't read; it just showed as overloaded. I wasn't sure what that meant (and I didn't snap a picture because I didn't believe the reading)... but ... maybe ... just maybe ... the charger has an intermittent high-voltage spike???
Anyway ... this picture shows why a sharp awl was a 'bad idea'. Do not use a sharp awl to twist the caps out!
For one, the caps don't twist out. For another, you'll puncture the super-thin plastic of the head of the cap, and, well, I'm sure that would allow electrolyte to evaporate out in the wrong way.
Giving up on spinning the caps out (they don't spin out), and on the sharp awl (I punctured the cap head), I used an 1/8th inch screwdriver. I really needed something thinner, but that was all I had.
No matter how careful I tried to be, the cap chipped at the edges.
With all six caps off, I checked the fluid levels and noticed some were below the plastic L-shaped level indicators:
So I got the bright idea of using a 1ml eyedropper to fill but after fifteen of those, I gave up and moved on to a 10ml graduated cylinder to measure how much water was being poured in.
The amount of fluid added was:
I decided to run out to the store to buy a hydrometer, but, by the time I got the bright idea, it was dark and the stores had all closed.
So, on my trusty computer, I googled to search for decent battery replacements.
What I did wrong was I didn't realize a seach for a "2002 BMW 525i battery" would NOT get the cheapest batteries!
Almost all the batteries were in the 150 dollar range!
What I 'should' have googled for was any decent battery of the following specifications:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > Good Replacement Batteries for the e39?
So, was the battery the cause of your cluster problem? :dunno:
The first thing I did was check the battery because charging the battery was the precipitating event to the cluster blowing out.
Since I like to learn about what I'm doing, I'm still on the topic of the battery.
I did digress a bit to start to check the fuses. The only fuses I've checked so far are those next to the battery in the trunk.
I put the (confusing) trunkbox fusebox information in this existing thread:
- Need help with location of the fuse boxs and overview of fuse positions for 528i?
For fun, I painstakingly annotated this picture of my fusebox, showing exactly which fuses I had in place, so that others may benefit:
I can't easily check the glovebox fuses at night, and my garage is so stuffed I can't open the passenger door; so I will wait until a good battery is in to see what the glovebox and ebox and under-seat fuses have in store for me!
BTW, one question I asked in that thread was:
Q: What is the "onboard monitor" (and could it possibly affect the instrument cluster display?)
Bluebee's post was too long for me to sit thru, was the charger voltage ever read?
Turning the key on seems like it might have been what killed things. I always charge the battery while it is connected, never had a problem.
This thread is a pictorial thread, just about the battery, as I like to take things one at a time and have some fun (and learning and teaching) with it.
The 'real' problem-solving thread is this one, as you alluded to:
- Warning: I charged my battery today & apparently killed my instrument cluster & MID
But, for here, this is the response:
I no longer have access to an oscilloscope, but the RMS readings from my decades-old Fluke 75 bear out that the charger is apparently still working to spec.
Without the battery in the loop, the 25-year-old half-wave charger reads 12.52 volts RMS, open circuit.
I bounced the unit around and it still read the same (I shook it and tugged at all the wires).
The battery, after charging since about 6pm (almost 12 hours), still reads only 11.39 volts (so it's obviously not taking a charge).
When I hook the charger to the battery, the battery climbs from 13 volts to about 13.3 volts (give or take as it bounces a bit & climbs slowly).
And, the current on the meter seems to be accurate based on the Fluke DMM doublecheck:
I had left the key on after I checked the mileage on the odometer; and that's what (I thought) killed the battery.
But now, I simply think leaving the ignition on just clued me into the fact that I had a suddenly-bad battery.
What I need now to do, when it gets light, is to check the rest of the fuses - but that's for a whole 'nuther thread! :)
When my battery died, I just had AAA come out and replace it with one of their batteries. I think it cost me about $125 total and that included labor and the alternator test.
It was worth even more than that because it was 15 degrees out that morning!
hmmm the Duralast battery replacement took me ~20 min including pick up & core drop off.
Cost was 15% off $150. Another Geezer did very well.
If history is any indication, I don't think the BB exhaustive investigation is complete yet until an autopsy has been performed.
COD is yet to be determined. Preliminary autopsy indicates electrocution. :thumbup:
As soon as the charger spiked and battery voltage didn't come up, that was a giveaway that the battery went Tango Uniform. I would've been at the battery shop, back, had a new one in and on to another project "days ago"......... Give me a break, talk about over-analysing.
I WANTED to do an autopsy. I really did!
But, they insisted they wouldn't give me back my core charge if I didn't (and, worse yet), they said I'd end up polluting the environment.
So I gave them back my old battery, in trade for the Duralast 49-DL! :)
Here they are, on the showroom floor, side by side, for a size comparison.
The goal is to learn as much as possible & to teach (with photos) as many as possible
Of course I asked them WHY.
The counter guy wasn't sure, but, he surmised it was because it 'was' smaller in height and length (if only slightly); and, more importantly, it has the vent hose in entirely the wrong position.
In fact, when you install the vent hose adapter that comes with the battery, and then when you put the battery in the vehicle, there is a VERY GOOD CHANCE that the vent hose will collapse unbeknownst to the owner (unless he's aware of this) ...
This is due to the geometry of the battery compartment, where a plastic piece juts out exactly where the collapsible vent hose lies.
So, it 'is' a bit dangerous if you're not aware of this misfit.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with single-minded goal of just fixing it ... but I was trying to both re-write the battery-testing DIY (which I did rewrite based on this experience) and learn from the endeavor. (EDIT: I have plenty of time & the weather out here is phenomenal, day or night, so it's a tropical paradise compared to what some of you have to deal with when testing YOUR batteries!).
Here is a picture, of the problem fixed, for example:
If I thought 'that' were fun, I'd be a mechanic!
I'd bet they don't take pictures of every step, analyze all their options, experiment, research, ask questions, autopsy, and report back and discuss every minute detail. Do they?
I'm trying to learn as many things as I can, and to show others as much as I can. Yes, even the mistakes are instructive.
Here, for example, is the vent hose highlighted that I overlooked when I had removed the original battery:
Since the Duralast vent opening is in the center of the battery, far from the end of the vent hose from the BMW, it wasn't obvious to me, before I did this, HOW that, rather rigid, vent hose was going to reach the middle of the Duralast battery. (Is it obvious to you?)
Knowing the battery is bad shouldn't stop us from having fun learning as much as we can. Especially since our DIY for testing the battery was so lousy before I updated it, based on all the steps performed here (so others benefit, as always).
BTW, here's the Autozone hand-held unit that showed the battery was bad in vitro. I watched the guy input the temperature (he simply guessed), append the CCA (for the load), and add few other variables before running his tests.
I wanted to do an autopsy. It would be fun. But the counter guy talked me out of splashing H2SO4 all over myself! :)
He told me it's illegal to cut open the battery and not dispose of it properly. And that I'd lose my core charge (although it was only 12 bucks). I hesitated, but, then I just let him have it. Afterward, I felt badly, giving up my redox reaction science experiment so easily ... without a fight.
At least I got a chance to watch and ask questions while he tested it. Here he puts it in a covered 'bomb-proof' door, just in case it explodes under test. Rest assured I made him test the new one too! :)
I'm always amazed how much must be 'obvious' to you guys that isn't at all obvious to me (like how to make the BMW vent hose, that only reaches to the side of the battery, reach to the MIDDLE of the new battery).
The goal is to have fun; LEARN as much as we possibly can; and to TEACH as many as we can.
If all we wanted to do was solve the problem, then I wouldn't be snapping pictures inside an Autozone to give the users an idea of what it's like testing the battery there.
I'd just pay my $115 to Autozone at the counter, and be done with the entire job!
Like this! :)
So has the coroner determined how long the battery lived before dying of sudden electrocution? I'm guessing 9+ years based on car's birth?
The dead BMW battery was put in about six years ago, by the dealer, as far as I can remember.
This time I wrote on the battery the date, and I even included a copy of the receipt, taped to the side, for future reference.
For the record, these next pictures show why, I think, Autozone shows the Duralast 49-DL as NOT fitting the BMW E39:
Considering my environmental variables differ greatly from yours, I'd say my decision to have someone else do what I've been doing for the past 35 years makes sense.
Ever change a battery in sub-freezing weather, at 6am, right before work? I have and quite frankly, I didn't enjoy it.
Since the Bimmer is my only car, I also didn't feel like walking 6 miles to buy a new one and lug that bettery back under my arm. Done that a few times in my younger years and it wasn't the pleasant experience one might think it to be.
Why buy a membership to AAA if you don't use it?
Bluebee, I'm glad you're here to educate those that require it and create really cool topics fit for publishing in Bentley, but let's keep the acid in the battery. m-kay?
For the record, we're still not done, because there is a very real danger that the Duralast 49-DL battery vent tube 'can' get pinched between the very heavy battery and the hard plastic protrusions on the side of the battery compartment.
That would be a very bad idea (see this thread if you don't know why).
So, by way of being excessively clear in a DIY, if you're going to put the 'wrong' battery (technically) into your E39, at least make sure the venting tube extension elbow isn't pinched.
See details starting from post #96 here:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > Good Replacement Batteries for the e39?
While we're on the topic of what not to do when replacing the BMW battery with the Duralast 49-DL, see this warning from cn90:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > 2003 530i battery dead today...
[QUOTE=bluebee;6332297]While we're on the topic of what not to do when replacing the BMW battery with the Duralast 49-DL, see this warning from cn90:
I think those over torquing situation happen more so when the clamp isn't fully seated on the battery post.
Notice the battery post is slightly tapered. If not pressed all the way down and seated properly, people tend to over torque to get it tight.
So another point to mention, although it may be common sense, press down on the clamp until fully seated before tightening the nut.
BTW, for closure on modifying the vent tube setup of the Duralast 49-DL so that it fits in the E39, pleiades & QSilver7 kindly showed me, over here in post #100, how best to route the Duralast 49-DL vent hose and/or to cut the last ¼ inch off the battery vent tube extension elbow so that the vent tube isn't squished between the heavy battery & the rigid vent grid on the side of the vehicle.
Here, for example, is Pleiades' method of routing the vent hose (notice the re-use of the original BMW positive terminal cover as this won't work with the flimsy Duralast terminal cover):
And, here is QSilver7's method of snipping off the last ¼ inch or so of the elbow so that it isn't kinked:
- Bimmerforums Duralast 49DL battery install - Advice please. (by jamesdc4)
This post #20, from today, shows yet another way to route the vent tube when retrofitting the Duralast 49-DL into the BMW E39:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > Battery Voltage
It may be sophomoric to note I read, with a certain weak satisfaction, that I wasn't the only one here who had a difficult time getting the battery out of the trunk! :)
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Question about alternator, 02 530
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