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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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  #1  
Old 03-12-2011, 02:21 PM
JCasper JCasper is offline
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Anyone have info/advice for DIY head gasket repair on 2003 525i E39?

I'm looking for an itemized list of parts for a head gasket repair job. Also,
the PEARLS of the job, if you've done it before. 2003 525i
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  #2  
Old 03-12-2011, 02:24 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Aluminum block.

You are better off with a "new" engine.
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  #3  
Old 03-12-2011, 02:28 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCasper View Post
the PEARLS of the job
Look at this thread:
- My E39 overheated & I need a new head gasket (1)

Specifically this post:
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Here are the details I dug up for you ...

Overheating a BMW E39 engine is the most common cause of blown head gaskets in the BMW E39; if you have a blown head gasket, you don't have many options (the solution was not to let it happen in the first place).

Just maybe ... your head gasket is not blown ... (if you're lucky) ... but, nobody here at the other end of a keyboard can actually tell you that. You need to run some basic tests:
  • Cooling system "geyser test" (1)
  • Cylinder compression tests, wet & dry (1)
  • Cylinder leak down test (1)
  • Cooling system pressure test
  • Exhaust gas analyzer over the open radiator instead of tailpipe (1)
If the rings are good, maybe all you need is a new head gasket:
- Replacing the M54 head gasket (1) & 540i cylinder head (1)

Here are references for pricing out parts and labor & for finding a mechanic:
- BMW phantom diagrams (1) & nominal prices by part number (1) labor rates by zip code (1) (2) (3) where to find a good mechanic (1) (2) & finding a specialty BMW indy in your area (1)

Bear in mind, the entire BMW cooling system is a time bomb to overhaul the cooling system in any case.
- Complete cooling system overhaul recommended parts list (1)

Don't believe me. Believe these pictures:
- Pictorial look at typical E39 cooling system failure modes (1)

When this time bomb goes off, if you don't immediately STOP driving the vehicle, the engine can easily become toast. Again, don't believe me. Believe these people from these representative threads:
- 525i BIG problems!
- Major Decision - replace head or buy "new" engine
- E39 528i Engine removal/replacement
- Overheating and water loss
- Replace head gasket or replace engine
- E39 528i Engine removal/replacement
- E39 540i low compression
- Possible blown head gastket, but no mix of oil/water yet
- Blown 528i update.....New motor advice & subsequent Engine swap advice....528i
etc.

For a head gasket DIY, you might try these:
- BMW Head Gasket Replacement, Pelican Technical Article, by Wayne R. Dempsey
- Journal: M54 Head Gasket Replacement & Other Stuff Too
- M62TU Head gasket/ Timing guides journal
- DIY This! One Person M54 Cam Removal
- (Note: I need better head gasket DIY links.)

The basic cylinder head gasket DIY procedure is outlined below:
  • Raise the front of the car to gain access to drain plugs
    • Drain engine oil (probably contaminated with coolant)
    • Drain coolant (probably contaminated with exhaust gases)
  • Remove radiator viscous fan clutch & fan assembly
    • This job is easier if you purchase two recommended tools
  • Remove the radiator & the attached expansion tank assembly
    • Optional: Flush (or replace) the radiator & replace all hoses
  • Remove both drive belts
    • Optional: Replace with new
  • Remove the water pump & thermostat unit
    • Optional: Replace OEM plastic impeller waterpump with an aftermarket metal impeller design
  • Remove the ignition coils from the head & remove the spark plugs
    • Optional: Replace with new
  • Remove the valve cover to access the head bolts
    • Check for head bolts yanked out of their threaded holes by force!
  • After using the special camshaft alignment tool, remove the camshaft
    • You 'can' replace the head gasket without removing camshafts
    • But, head resurfacing requires camshaft removal
  • Remove the intake manifold (to access the cylinder head)
    • Optional: Consider replacing your knock sensors after removing the intake manifold
  • Remove the VANOS unit (to access the cylinder head)
    • Optional: Replace the VANOS seals while you're there
  • Remove the camshaft position sensor (CMP) from the cylinder head
    • Optional: Replace the crankshaft position sensor (CKP) while you're there
  • Remove the lower timing chain tensioner to loosen the chain on the camshafts
  • Disconnect the VANOS oil line (to access the cylinder head)
  • With a special tool inserted into a hole in the engine block & flywheel, lock the engine at top dead center (TDC) for cylinder number 1
    • This is to accurately time the camshafts when you reassemble the engine
  • Remove the cylinder head bolts hidden under the camshaft with a special Torx socket tool
  • Enervate all electrical connections and heater core hoses innervating with the cylinder head
  • Disconnect and loosen the exhaust manifold
  • Remove the cylinder head
    • Tie off the timing chain so it doesn't fall into the block
    • Remove the camshafts prior to sending the head for reconditioning
  • Send the cylinder head to a machine shop for resurfacing
    • Don't forget to save the oil pressure check valve on the bottom of the cylinder head
  • Have the machine shop check for cracks in the cylinder head
    • A crack will cause any new head gasket to fail!
    • Cracks 'can' be repaired by the machine shop
  • Have the machine shop measured, lap, and grind the valves
  • Optional: Have your fuel injectors cleaned & mapped
Note: While the parts are off the car, you may as well:
  • Do a complete cooling system & belt-drive system overhaul
  • Replace your VANOS seals
  • Replace your camshaft position sensor (CMP) and your crankshaft (CKP) position sensor
  • Replace the valve cover gasket (VCG)
  • Replace your spark plugs
  • Replace the oil filter housing (OFH) gasket
  • Send our fuel injectors out for cleaning
  • Consider replacing your knock sensors (once the intake manifold is off)
  • Consider replacing your oil pressure check valve (on the bottom of the cylinder head)
Good luck. Keep us informed.
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  #4  
Old 03-12-2011, 02:33 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Aluminum block.

You are better off with a "new" engine.
Hi Cam,
I tried to figure out which engines had not only aluminum blocks but non-ferrous cylinder liners - but I had to give up:
- What is the metal for the E39 short block, cylinder liners, & camshaft head (1)

Why, specifically, is the OP better off with replacing the engine if he has the aluminum short block?
  • Is it because the labor is much more to 'fix' the aluminum block engines than to simply replace them?
  • Or is it because the chance of 'fixing' the aluminum block engines is too low (due to heat-related cracks, bolts pulled out, warping, etc.)
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  #5  
Old 03-12-2011, 02:46 PM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Hi Cam,
I tried to figure out which engines had not only aluminum blocks but non-ferrous cylinder liners - but I had to give up:
- What is the metal for the E39 short block, cylinder liners, & camshaft head (1)

Why, specifically, is the OP better off with replacing the engine if he has the aluminum short block?
  • Is it because the labor is much more to 'fix' the aluminum block engines than to simply replace them?
  • Or is it because the chance of 'fixing' the aluminum block engines is too low (due to heat-related cracks, bolts pulled out, warping, etc.)
BB:
More of the latter as the cost of a total engine repair is usually more than that of replacing with a used engine. Since aluminum expands faster than iron, it causes more damage faster. Pistons and valves can sustain more damage faster with an aluminum block. Cam seizure is a possibility. If you have blown your head gasket, you have likely contaminated your main bearings with coolant. Some distortion of the block may also be permanent. Just usually too much damage to fix. But an inspection should be performed to ascertain the cost of a repair before making a decision.
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  #6  
Old 03-12-2011, 04:13 PM
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ztom ztom is offline
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"blown gasket" is a misnomer. Usually it is a crack in the head.
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  #7  
Old 03-12-2011, 05:25 PM
Jimmys 530i Jimmys 530i is offline
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Almost every single engine that I have pulled apart due to overheating has had a cracked head and a warped block. I have only had 1 engine out of over 20 that was rebuildable.
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  #8  
Old 03-12-2011, 06:42 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
the cost of a total engine repair is usually more than that of replacing with a used engine
Quote:
Originally Posted by ztom View Post
Usually it is a crack in the head.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmys 530i View Post
I have only had 1 engine out of over 20 that was rebuildable.
All of your information will NOT go to waste!

I've added it to this specific reply, which I hope to become canonical (over time) so that we can refer anyone who asks about a 'blown head gasket' to it, to get them started on the right footing.
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  #9  
Old 03-12-2011, 07:01 PM
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Jason5driver Jason5driver is offline
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I think I would install an M54 3.0L....
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  #10  
Old 03-12-2011, 07:11 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason5driver View Post
I think I would install an M54 3.0L....
That's an interesting point.

If someone were to have an E39 with a 'blown' engine due to overheating, do they have the option of 'upgrading' the engine?

If so, for future reference, do we have a table which shows what engines are plug-and-play fit'able into the various E39s as upgrades?
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  #11  
Old 03-13-2011, 05:58 PM
Jimmys 530i Jimmys 530i is offline
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I have installed a 3.0 into a 525i. I used the existing intake manifold, exhaust manifold, etc and it worked just fine. If you want to use the 3.0 accessories, you will have to buy a lot of extra parts like airbox, maf, engine computer, and align the DME to the key so it will start.
Here is a list of what can be done without a problem to the e39

1999-2000 323i e46 to 2001-2003 525i
2001-2005 325i e46 to 2001-2003 525i
1998-2001 Z3 2.3i e36/7 to 2001-2003 525i
2004-2005 525i to 2001-2003 525i

1999-2000 328i e46 to 1999-2000 528i

1996-1998 328i e36 to 1997-1998 528i

2001-2005 330i e46 to 2001-2003 530i
1999-2006 X5 e53 3.0i to 2001-2003 530i
2001-2002 Z3 e36/7 3.0i to 2001-2003 530i
2004-2005 530i e60 to 2001-2003 530i

2000-2003 X5 e53 4.4i to 1999-2003 540i
1999-2001 740i e38 to 1999-2003 540i

You can upgrade your engine, but you cannot easily go from single VANOS to dual VANOS, you have to stay with what you have. If you have a 2001 525i, you can upgrade to a 3.0, but you have to use all of your existing 2.5 accessories if you do not want to go with the hassle of getting your DME aligned to your key.

If you have a 528i, you cannot really upgrade unless you swap over the wiring, engine computer, transmission, transmission computer, and get the electronics aligned to your car. It is doable, but not really worth it.
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Last edited by Jimmys 530i; 03-13-2011 at 06:07 PM.
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  #12  
Old 03-13-2011, 08:42 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmys 530i View Post
Here is a list of what can be done without a problem to the e39
Wow. That's such a fantastic start on the problem that I decided to file a new thread starting with that information so we can refer people to this wonderful information in the future!

- What engine combinations are known to work in the E39 when the need arises to replace
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  #13  
Old 03-13-2011, 08:53 PM
Jimmys 530i Jimmys 530i is offline
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Anything is possible, the question is if it is worth your time and money. I have seen someone swap an engine out of a 2006 M3 into a 1989 M3. Was it really cool and fast? Yes. Was it really worth spending almost $20k for it? No. For that kind of money he could have built up an impressive euro S50 and blown away his current setup.
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