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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 12-09-2011, 04:56 PM
airlinebound airlinebound is offline
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Location: Denver
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 8
Mein Auto: 98 528i auto 91 535i 5spd
I flew there too but its been a long time. Just drive your bimmer and remember why you need money$$ cuz the ride is worth it!!!
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Old 02-03-2012, 03:29 PM
MooseKatBimmer MooseKatBimmer is offline
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Location: Tennessee
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 1
Mein Auto: 98 BMW 528i

Originally Posted by airlinebound View Post
Okay new to board for posting, have been reading for a long time. Please be gentle!
Current car 98 528i e39 172,000 miles.
I am posting my finding to random overheat to maybe help anyone and maybe help you.
Car was fine and one day boom into the red! Pulled over cooled it down topped fluid(which i had never had to do) Car drove fine for 5 days. Boom overheat into the red then right back to normal! Thermostat replaced, coolant topped. 5 more days.. Boom right back to red and back to normal. Time to get serious. Cooling system rebuild was completed 15,000 miles back, started over again, pressure tested radiator, new water-pump(shaft was going bad) all hoses check, fan clutch okay, went through all the DIY's found here. After water-pump another 5 days then you guessed it Boom into the red and back. Bleeding never worked and a 528i should never have that much air! Gave mechanic okay to get down to the head and check it out. Car had a small hairline crack by cylin#3 to water jacket about 5mm in length, very small but with definite ramifications. Found head and had it placed on. Car runs amazing again! Looking back I had definite warning signs. I had developed a rough idle only on the first start of the day 10-15 seconds then smoothed out and was fine, this went on for 4 months. Idle progressed to the mid day start, then to every start by the 6 month. Thoughts were the secondary air pump was failing. Nope it was the cracked head. Just to clarify I did not show antifreeze in oil or oil in antifreeze, it was pumping straight in and getting burned up in cylinder #3 without much to see on spark plugs other than running a little hot, little to no white smoke until the very end when car wouldn't go over 2 miles without trying to overheat. My check engine light would pop on sporadically and give me a misfire cylin #3 off and on. Performance was down overall but not significant. Gas mileage never really dropped. Moral of the story if you have a rough idle on start and a random overheat and have checked everything else it is most likely the head. Heads on this car are amazingly hard to find. I found mine at autoheadperformance.com as a last resort. They were amazing and got it shipped out same day when I called at 15 minutes to closing. Happy reading.

This is the same exact thing happening to me, same year, same model. Just bought it used and it already had this issue. Plus when you take the oil cap off there is a sticky orange goo inside the engine. Never owned such an awesome machine before but now i'm wondering how much this is going to set me back.
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Old 02-03-2012, 06:56 PM
airlinebound airlinebound is offline
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Location: Denver
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 8
Mein Auto: 98 528i auto 91 535i 5spd
For me I took it back to mechanic I bought it from. If I purchased the head he would put it on for very a very low rate and some cookies. I shopped around and was estimated 3-4 thousand to do head and 5-7 thousand to replace entire engine. Obviously I did not end up paying that as my mechanic also wanted to make things right. He blamed a lot of different things but I think the head had a defect originally. And they are know for this on that year. My head set me back $650.00, I ordered from autoheadperformance.com.
Personally I would keep dropping heads or engines on my own car. I had someone park on top of my car two weeks out of the shop for the head. I am now in a rental car that is a 2012(completly dissapointed in new vehicles). I miss my 528i dearly and can not wait for it to return from the body shop, for the price is it worth it for you to buy another used bmw or to fix it up and have it go 200,000 miles. My advise is fix it up and put some research into mechanics who will do it right. Hope that helps. My car is rock solid after the head and is an amazing treat to drive.
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Old 02-03-2012, 10:09 PM
bluebee's Avatar
bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 25,236
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Originally Posted by airlinebound View Post
My advice is fix it up
We have a set of threads for people with normal cooling system failures ... and a DIFFERENT set of threads for those who suspect engine damage.

Here's the set for suspected engine damage:

- Summary advice to provide users who suspect a major engine repair due to overheating (1) (2) (3) (4) & how to test an engine for a blown head gasket, cracked heads, a warped block, stripped head bolt threads, cam seizures, contaminated bearings, coolant hydrolock, or piston, ring, or valve damage (1) (2) & what are the major factors in deciding whether to rebuild the engine, replace the engine, or sell the car (1) & a DIY for replacing the I6 M54 head gasket (1) (2) & replacing the V8 M62TU head gasket (1) & why these engines are so prone to heat-related damage in the first place (1) & welding the crack between cylinder #3 and the water jacket on the exhaust side (1) & what engine swaps are most recommended (1) (2) (3) & where to obtain a new or rebuilt head (1) replacement short block or long block (1) (2) & how to lift & remove the engine (1) & the most recent real-world results from people faced with similar blown engine problems from which this advice came from (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32) (33) (34) (35) (36) (37) (38) (39) (40) (41) (42) (43) (44) (45) (46)
Please read the suggested threads and add value, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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Old 02-08-2012, 05:49 PM
Marc4615 Marc4615 is offline
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Location: Iowa
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 1
Mein Auto: 528i
Sudden overheating

I, like airlinebound, am a new poster, but occasional and grateful visitor. My 528i is behaving very much like he described. Before replacing the water pump, I removed the thermostat to see if perhaps it was just sticking closed. The car ran cool, but fine for several days then suddenly overheated. I had noticed occasional steam in my exhaust and it sounds like I may have the same problem, a cracked head. The heater runs cooler without a thermostat of course, but I also noticed that sometimes the right side would be cool, and the left side hot. My heat also seems a good indicator of whether it is about to overheat. While I had the radiator out, I flushed it with fresh water and water flowed easily both directions. I have suspected an obstruction somewhere in the system, or some type of electronic control issue as well as the water pump.

Since I am only a mechanic out of necessity, I was wondering if someone might answer a few questions for me.
1) With no thermostat and after following the instructions on the proper way to refill the system, I noticed there is no pressure on the top drivers side radiator hose for some time after starting. This will be the case even if there is back pressure to my coolant overflow reservoir. I assume this is the return, and thought it unusual.
2)How does the cracked head explain the exploding reservoir, and the spontaneous overheating.
3)More confusing to me is that today I am able to drive endlessly with the car running cool, as I would expect, yet yesterday it ran at 'normal' and then overheated repeatedly.
4)Is the fact that when I remove the bleeder by the overflow cap on a cold start and there is no particularly strong pressure pushing out steam or water an indicator that my impeller is broken on my water pump.
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Old 10-19-2012, 09:15 PM
dinmon dinmon is offline
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Location: Indianapolis, IN
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 1
Mein Auto: 1997 528i
Hello, I have a 1997 BMW 528i, 127,000 miles. My car overheated a few months ago while driving but only briefly and I forgot about it. last week I was in the middle of a long trip back home and the car went into the red. I was forced to drive it for quite a while in the red and the overflow exploded. I got it to an import BMW specialist in Chicago (on the way to Indiana) and they replaced water pump and thermostat, they weren't certain it was fixed but it was running the temp. it should. I got an hour out of chicago and it began to overheat worse than ever. Today I drove back north and replaced the radiator, followed the direction on this site except for one thing, I didn't remove the screw out of the engine to drain the fluid. I did remove the radiator and filled the system with two jugs of fluid. Long story short the car overheated again when I drove it, top hose hot, bottom hose cold. Can anyone tell me what they think the issue is? I appreciate any assistance you can provide.
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Old 06-15-2016, 02:52 AM
tredavid tredavid is offline
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Location: Illinois
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 3
Mein Auto: 528i
1997 BMW 528i Overheating Problem ***FIXED***

Hello All,

I currently drive a 1997 528i and the car scared the lights out of me when it started overheating. I purchased this car from a friend of mine who had the water pump replaced. Well, with the high millage on the car 200,000+, I was expecting some type of issues. As of last week the serpentine belt broke, wrapped around the fan clutch and boom there you have it, the car started overheating. I called my uncle, who ended up changing the belt and thought that everything would go back to normal. WRONG! It didn't. So, he told me that I needed a new thermostat, which was fairly cheep. We went to a local part store and got the thermostat. He changed it. Thought that fixed the issue, because it didn't overheat right away. Pulled off and made it a block down the street and AGAIN the car started overheating. I managed to get the car to Advanced Auto, there is when everything started to change. My uncle told me that I had trapped vapor in the cooling system. So he released the pressure, while the car was still hot (I DONT ADVISE YOU TO TRY THIS) coolant was everywhere. After all of the vapor got out of the car, I thought that was it. WRONG! 5 days later, the car started to overheat again. I nearly cried because I thought I had blew the head on the car. So, I prayed while at work. Something told me to go to the car. I went to my car and sat there. I didn't have any parts to replace on the car. Keep in mind, was still at work. I turned around and looked on my back seat and there was a flat head screw driver. I thought to myself, ok now what. I popped my hood and looked at the both coolant valves, and decided why not try to bleed the cooling system. Ironically I had a brand new bottle of coolant in the car. To add, I thought I had topped off the coolant before driving it to work. Moving forward, I began to bleed the cooling system and the car drank all of the new coolant. I saw air bubbles coming out of the thermostat valve. I guess it was still "trapped vapor" in the car. I prayed again before starting the car and waited 15 minutes until the car warmed up. I was expecting the worse, but better happened. The car didn't overheat. I drove the car away from my work site to see if it would overheat at a stop sign. NOTHING! The car hasn't overheated in 2 days. I hope this helps somebody. It never hurts to say a little prayer to the man above. No matter if you know him or not. Try! I dare you! There is only one way to bleed the system. Make sure you bleed it the right way.

Last edited by tredavid; 06-15-2016 at 02:56 AM.
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Old 06-20-2016, 06:14 AM
Tomiko Tomiko is offline
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Location: Canberra
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 1
Mein Auto: BMW 528
Originally Posted by jhewell View Post
I have replaced the water pump, thermostat, and cooling fan sensor. When I'm idling the temperature is fine.....less than a half mile driving and it quickly overheats. No white smoke on startup or anything like that.

This car has 125000+ miles and was working fine.....and suddenly....always overheats.

Any ideas on what to try next? Could it possibly be the radiator (it looks fine)?

I had the same problem here. Replaced thermostat,water pump,thermostat housing bla bla bla etc etc. Still going to the red after 20 min drive.
Please Note:
This advice is NOT recommendation.

Just a story how overheating problem solved on E39 1997 528.
1. Bought new thermostat again on 71 C. Original for VW not BMW cost $14.
- here is the link Engine Coolant Thermostat (71 Deg) - Behr TX3071D from http://www.eeuroparts.com/
2.Relaced the original BMW on 88 C.
3.Fill up with coolant to the max until bubbles disappear from expansion tank bleed screw.

After two months Im trouble free again.
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