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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 08-22-2011, 10:35 PM
bimmerteck bimmerteck is offline
BMW Magician
Location: Nashville, TN
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 373
Mein Auto: e30 M50ish
"Hydraulic" Accessory Drive Belt Tensioner Rebuild DIY.

Begin by removing the dust cover from the tensioner pulley and it's pivot bolt.(missing on my example motor :/ ) The dust covers are Pivot PN 12 31 1 713 143 and Pulley PN 11 28 1 727 159

There should be a black plastic cover here.

Under the tensioner pulley you will find an 8mm allen bolt that holds on the tensioner pulley.

While removing this 8mm allen be sure to support the arm from extending past it's stop. I used a wrench I had handy and gently pressed down while breaking the 8mm loose.

Here are the parts of the tensioner pulley laid out in order of removal from right to left. Take note of rear dust shield that normally resides behind the pulley.

Now that the pulley is removed you can access the three 13mm bolts that hold the tensioner assembly onto the oil filter stand.

2 of the bolts to remove the assembly are fairly obvious. (bottom of the hydraulic spring and at the pivot of the tensioner arm) the third is in the shadows while mounted on the block but is pointed out here by the authors finger.

Here is the tensioner assembly brought over the the work bench for rebuilding.

This spring assembly needs to be compressed slightly for further disassembly. I'm fairly certain you could use a large "C" clamp for this but I used a large bench vise.

Once the spring is compressed the pivot portion will slide right out.

Here are those pesky needle bearings we're in here to service. (PN 12 31 1 713 153 if yours are damaged beyond repair)

I uses brake parts cleaner and a small brass cleaning brush to clean the old grease and rust out of these bearings. (hence the rust colored solvent running out)

The best way to get the bearings rotated is with a finger, so you can get all that old grease out.

Also clean up the pivot arm itself, I use light 1200 grit sandpaper to remove light pitting if necessary. It should look like below when done.

If the pivot base plate is damaged or seriously pitted like in the image below it should be replaced. (PN 11 28 1 726 744) The faint lines are where an improperly lubricated bearing assembly has damaged the pivot itself.

Heres the grease I've used on these for years, it seems to hold up well but it will be a few more before I can tell you if it was any better than stock. Axle grease would probably work well in this application as well.

Work your chosen grease into the now cleaned bearings until they are well greased.

Now is a good time to inspect the oil damped spring for damage to it's boot or binding of its movement. if it binds or has a damaged boot a replacement can be ordered. (PN 11 28 1 717 188)

Then return to where you left your compressed spring and reassemble the pivot to the spring and remove it from the vise. (or "C" clamp.)

That's it the tensioner is all ready to return to it's home on the motor.

Once the tensioner is bolted in place now is an excellent time to install a replacement tensioner pulley. (PN 11 28 1 748 131)

Don't forget to reinstall the dust covers.

Please PM me if you find any errors that need correcting. With this maintenance the belt drive should be good for 120k or so until the needle bearings need servicing again and 60k until it needs a belt and the tensioner and idler pulleys again.

Happy Motoring,
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Old 08-22-2011, 10:42 PM
bimmerteck bimmerteck is offline
BMW Magician
Location: Nashville, TN
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 373
Mein Auto: e30 M50ish
Reserved for future belt drive rebuild shenanigans.
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Old 08-22-2011, 10:50 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 21,020
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
An instant classic!

I'll cross reference to one or more of these threads so it can more easily be found in the future...

- How to tell if you have mechanical or hydraulic belt tensioners (1) & how to switch from mechanical to hydraulic (1) and what is the difference between the two types (1) (2) & how to rebuild your hydraulic tensioners (1)

Last edited by bluebee; 08-22-2011 at 10:53 PM.
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:53 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Location: Omaha NE
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 12,832
Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
Thanks bimmerteck,

For the most part we (including myself) simply replace the hydraulic tensioner and the pulleys without looking at the needle bearings!

Thanks for sharing this cute trick, it will be on my list at the next tensioner/pulley maintenance.

I think the needle bearings move very very little, this maybe why it is rarely an issue in these cars.
Unless as you said before, this comes from a junkyard engine that is left exposed to the element!
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:09 AM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
Freude am Fahren
Location: Cambridge, ON
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 6,372
Mein Auto: 99 528iA
Nice! Hoping this will save me some money when I finally do my pulleys.
'99 528i ('98/12 build). 174,000km BY29428/Royalrot
Breaking My Wallet since 2009
Mods: Stoptech SS brake hose, 280piece toolkit resting on trunk floor, Beisan VANOS seals
'99 540i (grandfather's)

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Old 08-23-2011, 07:15 AM
oembimmerparts oembimmerparts is offline
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Location: San Antonio
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Mein Auto: 2001 Z3
Very good write up Nice attention to detail.

I would add this though, If it is needed to replace the damper it may be wise to look at the entire kit which comes with the damper,pulley,mounting plate and swing arm as well as all bolts and dust cap.(basically the entire assembly) for right at 100.00 compared to just the damper that is around 55-60 by itself.

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