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-   -   Wary noob (http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=672269)

knownothindave 01-25-2013 07:16 AM

Wary noob
 
Hey all--I've been sneakily cruising your forums w/o registering for a few days now. I'm interested in buying a 540i wagon, but after looking at the Wiki and FAQ here, I'm kind of wondering if it's a good idea.

That is--it seems like there are so many things that go wrong with the 5-series; is it worth the buy? I own a 1991 Land Cruiser, so I'm not unfamiliar with preventative maintenance...but are these just lemons, or did I just make the mistake of reading all the "could go wrong" stuff altogether?

Short version--if I bought, say, a 2000-2002 5-series wagon (first BMW, if you haven't caught that yet), am I going to be under the hood constantly?

Thanks in advance, and congrats on an awesome forum
-D

pleiades 01-25-2013 08:27 AM

It depends. These e39s are all old cars now, many with high miles and the wear and tear you can expect with age. You are doing the right thing by researching in advance. The wagons tend to have rear subframe bushing failures but other than that, they share the same problems with the sedans. The real question is how much will you be able to learn about the car you actually plan to buy? Past maintenance records, a good pre-purchase inspection, how many of the driveline and suspension and cooling system parts have been replaced and how recently? Unless you have deep pockets, don't buy an e39 unless you are prepared (dare I say "like") to DIY.

edjack 01-25-2013 09:54 AM

Agreed.

Bear in mind, these forums attract the "lunatic fringe," so you will be exposed to many off-the-wall things that the average E39 owner never experiences, or doesn't bother to report.

The GOOD NEWS here is that this place is a catalog of the marque's foibles, and can be a great resource for your troubleshooting exercises.

THe E39 is definitely NOT a lemon, but it IS a German luxury/performance car, with a sophisticated chassis very much advanced from your '57 Ford Ranch Wagon. It is NOT a maintenance-free ride.

chiefwej 01-25-2013 11:01 AM

If you can maintain a Land Cruiser, you should be OK with an E39. Just pick a good one.

Nline6 01-25-2013 11:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by chiefwej (Post 7337579)
If you can maintain a Land Cruiser, you should be OK with an E39. Just pick a good one.

Its all in the product, With a little love a BMW can be a VERY reliable car. Its all in the preventive maintience. Fix it BEFORE it breaks :thumbup:

JKRIT 01-25-2013 11:58 AM

. . . and if you can live without the power of the V8, the six cylinder engines require less maintenance (e.g. have no valley pan gasket) and you might even find one with a manual transmission if you are so inclined. Unlike the autos, the manual trannies easily last the life of the car. Just some thoughts for you.

540nj 01-25-2013 12:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by knownothindave (Post 7337010)
Hey all--I've been sneakily cruising your forums w/o registering for a few days now. I'm interested in buying a 540i wagon, but after looking at the Wiki and FAQ here, I'm kind of wondering if it's a good idea.

That is--it seems like there are so many things that go wrong with the 5-series; is it worth the buy? I own a 1991 Land Cruiser, so I'm not unfamiliar with preventative maintenance...but are these just lemons, or did I just make the mistake of reading all the "could go wrong" stuff altogether?

Short version--if I bought, say, a 2000-2002 5-series wagon (first BMW, if you haven't caught that yet), am I going to be under the hood constantly?

Thanks in advance, and congrats on an awesome forum
-D

I own a 2000 TLC (115K miles), as well as 03 540i6. The TLC has only stranded me once, when the auto tranny went at 90K miles. Did the front sway bar links myself recently, and had the dealer do the timing belt at 85K as per Toyota's recommendation. Dealer did F and R and parking brakes over the years.

Service history
(oil changes myself every 5K - 7K)

On the 540i6 (105K miles)

Front brakes pads and rotors (warranty)
radiator and exp tank, hoses, belts (dealer) 55K
Wheel bearings (myself) at ~60K
F + R brakes (myself)
PS tank + hoses + complete front suspension (indy) 90K
WP, TStat, fan + fan clutch, some hoses (myself) 104K

I'm going to do VCGs soon, plus rear suspension in the next year.
Lots of very good info online to work on the 540, even more for the 525/528/530.
The 540 also doesn't have as much rust as the TLC, but it doesn't get as much snow action as does that car.

Hope that helps, I have owned both cars since new, so that gives some peace of mind, when you buy used you're at the mercy of the previous owner(s).

dave
03 540i6

mbell666 01-25-2013 12:51 PM

If you want a car to get in and drive and nothing else, then a BMW is not for you. Especially a E39.

If you want a car that is good to drive and are prepared to seek out what maintenance you should be doing, then do it, it is a good buy. Generally they a good car to work on and someone else has probably had every issue you will face and written it up the fix here.

knownothindave 01-25-2013 04:58 PM

Thanks, all!

So what I gather is that it's high-quality = high-maintenance for the E39.

Good to know! (Now we'll just have to see if I end up pulling the trigger...)

Studawg 01-25-2013 07:13 PM

Well Im a Land Cruiser fanatic having owned MANY of them, and am selling an 03 100 because I just bought the wagon in my details. I was a little tentative to do so, because I have done everything on the Cruiser and am very confident driving it everywhere. But I just got this car and I figure after I have owned it for 6 months or so, I will have it sorted. I am not new to BMW, but new to the E39. I have to ask you, have you driven an E39? They are near perfect. If you enjoy driving, you wont mind spending the money to keep them fixed because every time you drive it, it will make it worthwhile. It wont be as reliable as your FJ80, but, life is a series of compromises. :thumbup:

knownothindave 01-26-2013 12:11 PM

I tried searching a bit here (and on google)...seems some complaint about the 6cyl power/acceleration. I drive a 1991 FJ80 which accelerates like a paralyzed walrus, so I expect it's better than that--my real concern is fairly practical: in a 528i manual, will I be lagging up hills (or mountains--I live near the Sierras), will I be able to pass folks (hills or flat land)? (I.e., is it under-powered, or just not a race wagon like the 540i?)

Thanks again
-D

caryalon 01-26-2013 12:39 PM

Only you can decide if it's powerful enough. I have a 530i - in my opinion, the best blend of power and handling (the 6s use rack and pinion steering, the 8s recirculating ball, the 6s weight distribution is near 50/50).

I owned a 528i before that. I've driven, but not owned 540's. The power's a blast, but I've never been in a position where the 6 didn't have enough power for whatever situation. It's just not going to win drag races. It will cruise at 80 - 90 all day long, though.

the540wgn 01-27-2013 04:54 PM

I love my 540 touring.

If you find a clean car, you won't regret it

knownothindave 01-27-2013 09:30 PM

Soooo...

http://www.cuellarsautomotors.com/ve...?VID=176167977

??

JasonSC540ia 01-27-2013 11:33 PM

Looks clean. Depends on maintenance history.

540nj 01-28-2013 06:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by knownothindave (Post 7342505)

That's a rare car - wagon, sports package, five speed manual. Manual makes all the difference, full 1.0 second faster 0 - 60 over auto. Get it checked out (clutch, cooling), but will be hard to find another like it.

dave
03 540i6

Nline6 01-28-2013 06:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the540wgn (Post 7342027)
I love my 540 touring.

If you find a clean car, you won't regret it

Thats how I felt when I found my touring, drove 800 miles round trip to get her. Original owner, was an oral surgen, his other car was a DB9, among others. I made that drive based off talking to the man and a few photos. 92k and all original. I never looked back once. Although I do sometimes wish I still had the 540/6 :eeps:. But the I-6 has its place and I love it all the same.

JKRIT 01-28-2013 01:07 PM

Just for comparison, one in my area. Same miles, same options right down to the Nav.; Two years newer for $2k more.

http://www.concordmotorsport.com/det...d-9892636.html

QSilver7 01-28-2013 02:54 PM

I've never owned an e39 6 cyl...but did own an e34 525iT that I purchased from a seller from the DC/Arlington VA area back in 2004.

I rented a small 6 cyl Chrsyler product to drive there to look at the Touring...it had less than 100 miles on the odometer and the one excellent thing it had was a usable cup holder (Chrysler has that feature covered. :)

Now, the eastern continental divide through W. Virginia into Maryland is no Sierra Mountains...there were long uphill & downhill grades that had this practically brand new Chrysler thing grunting and groaning like an old man trying to get out of his Barcalounger. Needless to say, I purchased the 95 e34 Touring and the drive back to Indiana was totally different. BMWs ATC (adaptive transmission control) has 9 automatic transmission modes that makes uphill/downhill/curves etc seem like nothing. There was no grunting and groaning and struggling from the 95 525iT like the brand new Chrysler thing I had driven to pick up the Touring.

So although you may be considering the 6 cyl e39 Touring...it will be no slouch on the highway etc..if it's in good mechanical condition. I think you will be pleasantly surprised...and fall under the spell of how effortlessly BMWs handle highway cruising. ;) BTW, I was cruising like 100 MPH heading east toward Wheeling W Va minding my own business (light traffic initially) and enjoying my new purchase...and all of a sudden a caravan of about 6 black limousines seemed to come out of no where ...and zoomed past me. I was freaking out...because soon after they passed...I started noticing state/county/local police cars stationed along the highway and overpasses. I thought I was in some deep doo doo and was sweating bullets.

As I got closer to the city...I turned the radio on and found out that President Bush was in town for a campaign speech. Crisis averted (and yes, I slowed down). :angel:

Best thing to do is to take 'em for a drive...you'll soon know if the e39 is for you or not.


Edgy36-39 01-28-2013 03:50 PM

FWIW - if you're loving this forum after lurking for a few days, you might have what it takes for older BMW ownership. :thumbup:

Try to find a private party sale, not flipper dealer. Could be tough with a touring, though.

Re your HP question -- everything I've read says the 525 wagons are underpowered. But have never driven one.

knownothindave 01-28-2013 06:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 540nj (Post 7342895)
That's a rare car - wagon, sports package, five speed manual. Manual makes all the difference, full 1.0 second faster 0 - 60 over auto. Get it checked out (clutch, cooling), but will be hard to find another like it.

dave
03 540i6

Aaaaaand it sold. Today. :cry:
The search continues!

mda185 01-28-2013 07:37 PM

Dave,

I am kind of new to this forum but not new to older BMW ownership. I have been driving and fixing them for 12 years. Prior to that, I spent a lot of time and money on Asian AWD Turbo cars. I currently own a 97 328i Convertible, 95 525iT (Touring or Wagon model), and 03 530i 5 spd sedan w/Sport package. I am telling you what I own so you know what my opinion is based on.

The earlier E34 525i wagon with an automatic transmission has just enough power to be fun some of the time and it will cruise all day at 80 mph. It will not win any drag races with the lumbering SUVs that seem to be everywhere today. This car is about highway cruising, not getting away from stoplights ahead of other traffic. The E39 525i wagon will do a little better because the variable valve adjustment (VANOS) will give it more low end torque than the older E34 engine. It will still be seriously underpowered compared to most modern cars and SUVs on the road today. The addition of a manual transmission wakes these cars up a lot. When I converted my E34 touring to a manual 5 spd it transformed the driving experience in a very positive way. I am sure the manual E39 525iT is also much more fun than the automatic version.

I like the driving experience of the E34 touring so much that I have purchased a used S52 engine out of a 99 M3 and am in final stages of swapping that engine for the 2.5 liter that originally came in the car.

FWIW, I bought my E34 touring in Indiana and drove it east over the same mountains that QSilver7 mentions. It was good in the mountains at highway speeds but not outstanding.

Now to address your question about maintenance. The E39 touring models have the a much more complicated engine to maintain and service compared to the earlier E34 cars. This is true whether you buy the I6 or the V8. How well the car was maintained prior to your purchase will determine how much time you spend under the hood. Any E39 with 100K or more miles that does not have a well documented maintenance history is probably going to need $2-3K of remedial maintenance in your first year of ownership. That cost is with you doing most of the labor. You will need to address the crankcase ventilation system because it is prone to failure with both engines. Less so with the V8 but still a liability at high mileage if it the original. Shocks will be thoroughly worn out after about 80K miles but most E39 models I found on the used market were still on their original shocks. The cooling system requires overhaul at this mileage if it has not already failed and been rebuilt. Rear subframe bushings on the touring model have all failed by 100 K miles and most owners I spoke to played dumb and ignorant about this when I asked them. Power steering leaks from the hose under the reservoir are common. Oil leaks from a couple of locations are common on neglected engines.

Bottom line is expect a lot of maintenance actions if you don't find a car that has been well cared for and documented by the owner. Pay a little more for such a car if you do find one. You will not be likely to find one at any used car dealer lot.

Edgy36-39 01-29-2013 08:37 AM

Quote:

I like the driving experience of the E34 touring so much that I have purchased a used S52 engine out of a 99 M3 and am in final stages of swapping that engine for the 2.5 liter that originally came in the car.
Wow! :bow: Definitely do a thorough thread on that when complete. Seems like it would be a great engine in a wagon, lots of torque down low.

mda185 01-29-2013 09:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Edgy36-39 (Post 7345649)
Wow! :bow: Definitely do a thorough thread on that when complete. Seems like it would be a great engine in a wagon, lots of torque down low.

That is my expectation. I also like the fact that the S52 is the older design I6 with a simple crankcase ventilation scheme and fewer critical maintenance issues. It is essentially a stroked M50 with hotter cams. In addition, converting S52 to OBD I intake manifold and ECU should free up another 20-30 HP on the top end. If the E34 offered an interior and quiet highway cruise like the E39 does, I would not even own my 530i. The 530i is for times when we are going out with another couple or driving long distance with both kids. The E34 does not have enough rear leg room now that my oldest daughter is 14 going on 25. :)

I would convert an E39 touring but it is much more difficult to swap drivetrains into post 1998 E39 bodies in my state. I don't know how I would get such a hybrid through inspection. With OBD I E34, all I have to do is pass tailpipe emissions. FWIW, an early E39 528i sedan could be modified with an S52 swap. The M52 and S52 engines and wiring harnesses are very similar. Pity they did not make the 528i touring model in 1996-7 or that is what I would have purchased.

Don't want to thread jack any further. To the OP, Dave, try to find a well maintained touring from an owner that kept receipts and shows evidence that he or she liked the car a lot. The few with manual transmission probably will fall into that category more often than not. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you could buy a really cheap one and expect to spend a lot of time bringing it back to good condition. I see used up tourings in NY/NJ all time for <$3.5K. I would expect to be able to bargain the price down significantly on a high mileage model with no maintenance history. In your state, you should be able to find ones with high mileage and good paint. I would not recommend spending $8-10K at a dealership for a stick shift 528i or 525i touring model because that car will not have maintenance records to prove the previous owner(s) took care of it properly. That will increase risk to you and could end up costing far more than it is worth to put in proper running condition. If a private seller with documentation to prove maintenance was selling an E39 manual touring model, I would seriously consider buying it in that same price range.

If you are still looking for a 540i touring, be very afraid of any with over 70K miles that do not have proof of transmission fluid changes every 50K miles, ask if timing chain guides have been replaced on really high mileage engines, ask if valley pan leaks have been addressed, ask if rear diff fluid has been changed, ask if 02 sensors have been replaced and when, ask about rear subframe bushings, etc. If you are considering the V8 touring without a well documented maintenance history, you are in for even more trouble than the I6 versions. The auto tranny in particular is prone to failure at high mileage if fluid is never changed and very expensive to replace or rebuild. A 540i touring in good, well maintained condition is a lot of fun. The guy I bought my E34 touring from replaced it with a 2001 540i touring. He found one with only 50K miles so he could start a good maintenance plan early enough in the car's life to make a difference. It will get really poor gas mileage so be prepared for that. Owners that I know and trust tell me they average 12-16 mpg in all around driving. Higher mpg is possible on pure highway runs but that is not how most folks use their cars if they are honest.

knownothindave 01-29-2013 05:47 PM

I've been searching around here and haven't found an answer--on a scale from Dodge to Bulletproof, how are the E39 auto transmissions? (I'd rather get a manual, but they're apparently very hard to find)


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