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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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Old 02-27-2013, 04:33 PM
MarcoP MarcoP is offline
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Location: Charlottesville, VA
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: 2000 528it
Water inside...grrr

Car: 2000 528it
Rant: EVERY BMW that I've owned now (5) has leaked water inside.

On the old 5ers, I cleared the sunroof drain tubes; no problem. On this car, I'm not sure where to go, because the water manifests differently every time. It always happens when it rains. It doesn't seem to happen after going through the car wash. My driveway is a little steep; I park pointed downhill, with one exception.

1) This morning, after it rained hard all day yesterday, I backed out of the driveway onto the road. When I started moving forward, water started dripping out of the passenger rear ceiling speaker.

2) One other rainy day, I noticed that the ceiling was wet above me, driver's side, just in front of the sunroof. I started dabbing at it with napkins and it dripped and dripped, soaking about 5 or 6 napkins before it stopped.

3) I came back from a short trip to Florida, the car having been parked in the airport parking lot, flat, for 5 days. I know it snowed one day, and it might have rained. When I got in the car, there was a puddle of ice in the passenger front floor.

4) Several different days, when it has rained, there has been condensation on various of the windows of the car. There doesn't seem to be a pattern as to which window might have condensation on it.

5) One day there was moisture on the driver's side door sill.

6) Another time, there was moisture on one of the passenger door sills; I don't remember if it was front or back.

I have searched the archives and read numerous accounts related to drain tubes becoming disconnected on the front of the sunroof "cassette," whatever that is, and about moisture barriers in the doors not being sealed (?). I've had numerous other cars where this barrier hasn't been well sealed but the cars haven't leaked, so I must be missing something about the design of BMW doors that makes them, um, special.

Please help me prevent this car from becoming a mildew-infested wreck...

Thanks for any light, or dryness, you all can shed on this problem(s)!
Marc in VA
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Old 02-27-2013, 08:40 PM
occhis occhis is offline
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Location: Westford, PA
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 837
Mein Auto: 1998 528iA
Rear door moisture barrier. Remove door panel and moisture barrier and reseal it using 3M Butyl tape. Some use silicone.
Either you are part of the solution, or you are part of the problem.
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Old 02-28-2013, 02:02 PM
MarcoP MarcoP is offline
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Location: Charlottesville, VA
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: 2000 528it
Passenger side or driver's side?
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Old 03-01-2013, 03:29 PM
MarcoP MarcoP is offline
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Location: Charlottesville, VA
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: 2000 528it
Okay, but seriously, I posted a serious and earnest request for information and received what I perceive to be an incomplete response. I can understand diagnosing condensation inside the car as a problem with the moisture barrier in a door. Are the rear ones prone to failure versus the front ones? If so, is there a way to narrow down which door seal might have failed without taking the door completely apart?

I seriously doubt the moisture barrier would cause water to be leaking from the ceiling. The archives point to problems with the front drain tubes coming loose, could explain the leak over the driver's seat. Are there rear drain tubes in this model of BMW? If so, how do you clear them, assuming they're blocked?

On Mye28.com, people respond within hours. I'm not used to the E39 forums. I appreciate that I got a response here; I have not gotten one yet on bimmerforums.com.

Thanks for any help y'all can give.
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Old 03-01-2013, 04:11 PM
rdl rdl is offline
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Location: Ontario, Canada
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,791
Mein Auto: 530i 2003
Sorry to hear of the problems with your car. I think you'll find people here quite helpful in spite of the few replies received on this thread so far.

Leaking vapor barriers in the doors result in water in the footwells, i.e. soggy carpets. Based on the posts here and b-forums, rear door leaks are common, front doors rare. The door configuration is such that if the barrier sealant separates from the door structure, water does drip just inside the sill and down into the footwell. There are repair DIYs.
EDIT: soggy carpet will be found at the footwell for the door leaking.

Water in the headliner is most likely from the sunroof. The "cassette" is the sunroof assembly including frame, drip pan, tracks, motor, seals etc. It's termed a cassette because it can be removed & installed as a single unit. But removal is not required for most repairs. There are drains front and rear, each side. Reported leaks are not particularly common problem, but a real PITA when they happen. There are repair DIYs.

For E39 diagnosis guides & repairs have a look at the first two posts ("stickies") on page one of this forum.
1) How to easily find information ...
2) the VERY best of of E39 links
You will find a comprehensive list of references, guides & DIYs.
The third sticky is usefull too.

If you don't find help after a seach, post back with specifics of what you need help with.

Last edited by rdl; 03-01-2013 at 04:12 PM.
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Old 03-01-2013, 04:30 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Location: Omaha NE
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Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
Search for threads on "sunroof cassette" by "pleiades".
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Old 03-04-2013, 01:15 PM
jtperkins jtperkins is offline
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Location: Detroit Burbs, MI, USA
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 20
Mein Auto: 2001 525i/auto Silver/Blk
I had a similar problem during the summer of 2011. Only the rear footwells got wet after a rain. I suspected the sunroof and did a test running water from a garden hose over the door glass, and the sunroof drains were confirmed as the weak link(s). But before I could find the location of the drains the problem resolved itself and hasn't returned. Yet .
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