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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 09-07-2012, 06:58 AM
td2012 td2012 is offline
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Location: Maryland
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 6
Mein Auto: 2002 bmw 540i
540i Intermittently Stops - Alternator or Ignition Switch?

Car: 2002 540i Problem: Since last Jan., the car intermittently stops and based on feedback I've gotten here, I've driven the car for 5 months to test the theories (e.g., visor test, turn radio and seat warmers on while driving) and they do appear to impact the car. Everytime, I drive the car without turning them on, it drives FINE. But the minute I pull visor down or put seat warmer on the car idles abnormally and cuts off. Based on research on the forum, it could be 1) ignition switch or 2)alternator. My husband says ignition switch was replaced a couple of years ago but not sure it was done right. Don't trust shop used. Any ideas where to start? Dealership said they don't know what problem is after charging us $350 for diagnostics! Just yesterday, I started car and it acts like it won't start initially and then starts. Oh and red battery light flashes when I start up and turn car off. HELP!
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Old 09-07-2012, 07:18 AM
JimLev JimLev is offline
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Location: Sundance Mesa, NM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,319
Mein Auto: 540/6, '16 Highlander XLE
Sure sounds like the ignition switch. If your alternator was really bad your engine would continue to run until the battey went dead, then it would stop and it won't start.
Spending $350 for a diag is a rip off. The switch costs less than $100 and if you are even marginally handy with tools it will take less than an hour to replace it.
I've posted pics on how to do it, if you want to tackle it I can dig them up and repost them.

2000 540/6 Slightly tweeked...everywhere

Last edited by JimLev; 09-07-2012 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:39 AM
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johnstern johnstern is offline
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Location: Cape Neddick, Maine
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,737
Mein Auto: 2000 BMW 528iT/5, S/C
+1 on what Jim said. You could also unlock your instrument cluster


and read what the battery voltage with the car shut off & with the car running. With the car off the voltage should be 12+ volts and with the engine running (and the alternator working correctly) the voltage should be about 13.5+ volts. This would allow you to possibly eliminate the alternator as the source of your problems.

BTW-you have the high cluster on your 2002 540.

Last edited by johnstern; 09-07-2012 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 09-07-2012, 12:02 PM
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540 M-Sport 540 M-Sport is offline
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Location: Seattle, WA
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 6,010
Mein Auto: 01' 540 M-Sport, Scuderia
If you end up replacing the ignition switch, make sure to get the factory one. www.autohausaz.com has a good price, but to find it for an automatic transmission, you have to have the factory part number to search for it. It will not come up by searching via car make, year, and model.

Here is the part number: 61326901962

$77 with free shipping from Autohausaz.com The one they carry is from the original equipment supplier.
540 M-Sport package (Canadian market), factory Bluetooth phone integration, factory M-Audio 10" dual voice coil subs, Homelink, M5 rear stabilizer bar, M5 rear subframe braces, H&R 15mm wheel spacers, ST X (KW) coilovers, Stop Tech ss brake lines, Akebono Euro Ceramic brake pads, oem Brembo and Zimmerman rotors, Dinan Stage 1 software, Strong Strut front upper stress bar, BMP strut tower reinforcement kit, USA Spec Ipod/Iphone integration.

Last edited by 540 M-Sport; 09-07-2012 at 12:11 PM.
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