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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 09-12-2012, 12:24 PM
Adamcan2 Adamcan2 is offline
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Location: San Jose, CA
 
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Mein Auto: 2002 530i
My Experience with Cooling Overhaul 2002 530i e39 m54

Two weeks ago I did a cooling overhaul for my 530i with 123,000 miles on it. I bought a bundle from OEMBimmerparts.com that included:

Nissens Radiator
Expansion Tank
Graf Water Pump w/Metal Impeller
Wahler Thermostat and Housing
Upper and Lower Rad Hoses
Cooling Temp Sensor
a small washer in its own bag

This bundle cost around $430. I spent an evening pricing things out from different suppliers, figuring out what the cost individually would be, etc. It looked like I could have saved about $10 if I sourced all the parts separately, but I was happy to the extra $5 for the convenience of having everything put together and shipped at the same time. In addition, most of the best individual prices that I found were on eBay which is always a bit of a crapshoot.

The day of my fix, I also decided that I should change the Serpentine Belt. This part costs $30 online, but since it was day-of I went to the stealer and paid $61.86. Oh well, better than worrying about it.

I primarily used cn90's excellent DIY for the fix, which can be found here: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/199986"]. Besian also has good information about the fan shroud removal at http://www.beisansystems.com/procedu..._procedure.htm. I have heard that Pelican Parts has a good DIY as well but I did not use it. Because there are such great resources out there for this fix, I will not go into it step by step, but will put down a few details that I ran into. I also did the double Vanos during this fix, but I will put my specific experiences on that in a different post.

I recommend getting the serpentine belt and A/C belt if you are going to do this fix. If you plan ahead (unlike I did) you can have both for around $40, and again, peace of mind is why we do these fixes. You will be removing both of these during the course of the work, so it is no extra effort to replace with new.

Another item is the catch pan for coolant. I wasn't sure what size I needed. I ended up using a Rubbermade 3 gallon rectangular container. I only ended up draining about 1.5 gallons of coolant, but to be fair a good amount ended up on the garage floor. I also cleaned this puppy thoroughly after use. Since I had an issue with my fix I had to open everything up again, and having a clean container meant that I could re-use the new coolant when I had to drain it for the second time.

You will need a 32mm wrench for this fix as well. I bought one at a local bike shop for $12. This is also the wrench you will need if you want to fix the headset on your bike. Hooray, double use! I think I saw some posts that said they got away with using a wrench, and while I am sure this is possible, my life was made much easier with the 32mm. Also, if you have a choice of lengths when purchasing this wrench, get the longest one you can find. Mine was a bit short which makes it awkward to smack with a hammer, but even so it is not too bad.

Moving on to the fix, the first item that I was not clear on was how the radiator plug works. It is on the bottom of the radiator on the drivers side, and I guess it is usually blue (mine was). I turned it 90 degrees, as specified, and nothing happened. What you have to do then is pull straight down on it. It will pop out with moderate force, and you will get coolant all over your shirt. Or at least that is what happened with me. If I knew better, I would have positioned myself more out of the way and yanked more firmly. Then I would have only gotten it on my hand. You will get it on your hand.

The second item that gave me a bit of trouble was the hoses themselves. They are held on with a metal clip that is easy to pry up, but even after doing that the hoses can be difficult to dislodge. I wasn't sure if I needed to do something else or not. I did not. Just pull up the clip (half of them will fly off the hoses, but this is no big deal) and start to work that bad boy off. The first hose you take off, the one that connects to the auxiliary water pump, will spray quite a bit of coolant out even after draining the radiator, so be prepared. It comes out with a small amount of pressure so factor that in with your catch pan positioning.

Once you follow the directions and get the fan shroud loose, you get to the dreaded fan removal. I have removed this thing several times now, and it has been different every time. I assume it is because the fan is "clutched", so depending on the clutch position the fan may spin easily or it may not spin much at all. At any rate, the method described is exactly right--put the wrench on and hit is with the hammer. It is reverse threaded so you want to go righty-loosy. A snap of the wrist is better than a wind up power shot. You don't need power, you need pop. Two out of the three times that I removed the fan I popped it and then spun the fan to remove it, but the other time I couldn't spin the fan and had to use the wrench the whole way. It sucked, but it worked. I also had some trouble lining up the threads when I went to put the fan back on. Just keep at it, and know that this part is (normally) the biggest PITA in the whole project.

When I got to the Serpentine belt I was having some trouble removing it. The DIY says to use an allen wrench in the middle of the tensioner pulley to release the tension. I did not have a wrench that would fit. What I did find was a 16mm (I think) bolt head cast into the tensioner arm. I was able to use this to release the tension. It seemed easier to me than working with the rather small hole in the middle of the tensioner pully. The only other detail here is that when you release the tension the instructions are to put a drill bit into the holes that line up above the tensioner pulley to keep the belt slack. This works well, but you definitely want to put in the largest drill bit that will fit in the hole. I started out with a drill bit one or two sizes smaller than the hole, and that half millimeter made it so I couldn't release the belt.

Another issue that I ran into was the coolant temperature sensor that goes on the lower radiator hose. It didn't feel tight when I put it in, and I had this washer in a bag all by itself for which I did not have a purpose. Since the washer fit into the socket for the sensor, I put it in and replaced the sensor. I must have pushed too hard because I broke the housing of the sensor. It didn't leak any more, but I was throwing the code for that sensor--sorry I can't remember what the code was. I ended up buying another sensor and installing it without the washer, and no more code.

My last issue outside of the DIYs was that once I buttoned it all up, I was getting coolant leaking from behind the serpentine belt. I couldn't tell if it was the thermostat or the water pump. I posted a question about it on this forum and got many helpful suggestions, but the reality was that I made a mistake. I have a $20 torque wrench that is a POS. It is one of the beam-style ones. When I was replacing the Vanos during this fix, I broke a post from torquing it too hard, because to my eye the torque wrench had not reached the recommended N/m. Because of this I was way too careful when I installed the thermostat, and didn't bolt it back in strongly enough. When I finally inspected the thermostat I could turn the bolts with my fingers! I torqued this back down and everything was fine.

Based on my experience I strongly suggest getting a digital torque wrench. Sure, it costs $100 or more, but if you are a DIY person, tools don't cost you money, they save you money. Add that onto the fact that you will use this tool with nearly every fix you do, and the $100 seems pretty worth it.

To finish, a quick question: what is that little washer for? While it fits in the temp sensor socket, the bottom of the sensor is pointed rather than flat, so it doesn't seem like it is made for that application. With the new sensor that I put in without the washer I am getting random droplets of coolant leaking out. Not much leakage--maybe 2-3 drops on a 10 mile journey--but it seems the seal is not as good as it should be. Is that actually what the washer is for? Was I just being too much of a boy when I shoved the first sensor in and broke it?

Thanks to everyone for their posts and DIYs. This was a fun fix and I am feeling much better about my cooling system. I am running consistently 93 degrees C on the high cluster and I can just tell my car is much happier.

--Adam
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Last edited by Adamcan2; 09-12-2012 at 12:25 PM.
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  #2  
Old 09-12-2012, 12:41 PM
johnd. johnd. is offline
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Location: Plymouth Meeting, PA
 
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Mein Auto: 01 530i Sport 5MT
Hi Adam,

Thank you very much for posting your information! I have a 01 530 and it's running around 121K and I was figuring out if I should do a replacement of the cooling system. A friend that is a BMW mechanic said if it's not leaking don't touch it but I have heard how these systems just fail, which does not leave a warm fuzzie feeling with me. You got a great price since I thought the radiator itself was a lot of money.

Great job on DIY!

John
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  #3  
Old 09-12-2012, 12:48 PM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Nice writeup. I did my cooling system a few months back before the summer. Nice to have peace of mind for another 100K or so.

I think that allen wrench is used instead of the drill bit to hold the tensioner. And using a wrench to rotate the tensioner is the only way to move it. I replaced both tensioners as well as all pulleys and belts (mine were cracked) when doing this job. Put some anti-seize on the fan clutch. This makes removal the next time a snap. Don't know what your washer goes to. But if an old one didn't come out, then a new one isn't needed.
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  #4  
Old 09-12-2012, 12:54 PM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnd. View Post
I have a 01 530 and it's running around 121K and I was figuring out if I should do a replacement of the cooling system. A friend that is a BMW mechanic said if it's not leaking don't touch it but I have heard how these systems just fail, which does not leave a warm fuzzie feeling with me.
That's some BAD advice. Especially from a friend. If you intend to follow it, we should start a pool on this forum and guess when your cooling system blows up. I say you have less than 10K left if those are all original components. I strongly recommend you watch your temp gage until it does. And don't worry, it won't take long.
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  #5  
Old 09-12-2012, 05:41 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Great write up!

These add-on tid bits can make or break a newbie such as myself. I am copying this data and adding it to the two links you provided. Your add-ons help to fill the gaps that only experience can fill vs directions in a book.
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  #6  
Old 09-12-2012, 05:55 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
That's some BAD advice. Especially from a friend. If you intend to follow it, we should start a pool on this forum and guess when your cooling system blows up. I say you have less than 10K left if those are all original components. I strongly recommend you watch your temp gage until it does. And don't worry, it won't take long.
I've got $20 that says it goes between 125 and 127k. LOL

My radiator is new as well as associated hoses. Don't know the status of the rest. I'm currently at 104773 miles and the clock is ticking. Mine could go before his (scary thought).

Have to do front breaks for sure. Hope rest of coolant system can be put off a year before detonation. Car appears to have been maintained extremely well but looks can sometimes be deceiving. No service records came with her. So far nothing out of the ordinary has malfunctioned. Hope the streak continues for a year when funds are not as tight (my tenants are paying rent later each month).

I've been up and down mountains in her no issues. I've gunned her from Zero to 70 (on ramp to I-405) no issues. I've sat in traffic with no issues. Still keep coolant system in mind. Radiator hairline fracture leak occured and replaced a few months ago. If radiator failed could be sign of things to come just around the next turn.
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  #7  
Old 09-13-2012, 07:41 AM
johnd. johnd. is offline
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Well, you guys have lifted my level of fear of my cooling system failing that I will start to get the parts that I need together. Money is a little tight right now since I am getting a local indy to do the rotors and brakes, control arms/tie rod and mounting new tires, then an all wheel alignment. Plus I will be out of a job at the end of the year so it's better to do it now and have the piece of mind that the coolant system will continue to work.

John
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  #8  
Old 09-13-2012, 08:35 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Sorry for scaring you. That was not the intent as i get a bit sarcastic at times. Understanding the issues we all confront is important to prioritzing the limited resources we all face (If we were rich, we wouldn't be driving 10+ year old cars!). Unless your control arms and tie rods have faulty ball joints or bushings that fail inspection or cause driving issues, I would say that they would be a lower priority fix than your cooling system. Brakes and tires are higher priority because they deal with vehicle safety related performance. A blown radiator will not kill you but it can cost you a bundle. Failing ball joints and bushings are more an annoyance. Just my $ .02
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  #9  
Old 09-13-2012, 08:52 AM
Ed Cheung Ed Cheung is offline
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I blow a hole in the radiator the 2nd time I drive it when I bought it in April. Better to spend the few hundred bucks ahead of time, then not knowing when it is going to give up the ghost.
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  #10  
Old 09-13-2012, 09:21 AM
johnd. johnd. is offline
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Thanks Fudman and Ed. My dealership said that I had one control arm leaking and the indy said to do a four wheel alignment I need to replace that one control arm/tire rod, so I figured to replace both control arms/tie rods. You did not scare me Fedman and I have read the fourm on how these cooling systems just fail period. I need to have my car for work for the next several months, plus my Pop is prob going to get his heart valve replaced soon, so I need a functioning car to go see him in the hospital and it's a 40 mile round trip.

Have you replaced your cooling system Fudman? If so can I PM you to ask a few questions?

Thank you,
John
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  #11  
Old 09-13-2012, 09:54 AM
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bkgreene39 bkgreene39 is offline
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i will be doing the same thing on saturday, good thread.
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  #12  
Old 09-13-2012, 10:15 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnd. View Post
Thanks Fudman and Ed. My dealership said that I had one control arm leaking and the indy said to do a four wheel alignment I need to replace that one control arm/tire rod, so I figured to replace both control arms/tie rods. You did not scare me Fedman and I have read the fourm on how these cooling systems just fail period. I need to have my car for work for the next several months, plus my Pop is prob going to get his heart valve replaced soon, so I need a functioning car to go see him in the hospital and it's a 40 mile round trip.

Have you replaced your cooling system Fudman? If so can I PM you to ask a few questions?

Thank you,
John
Yes I replaced mine this spring at about 103K and you can PM me anytime. If your thrust arm bushing has leaked, the symptoms are typically steering wheel vibrations at certain highway speeds and during braking. If those symptoms are tolerable, I'd do the cooling system first and defer the suspension work til later. You can probably drive with a little vibration but you can't drive without an engine. If money is an issue, consider DIY on the suspension work. Not too difficult and only a few special tools needed. However, I'd wait to do it all (struts, both arms, tie rods, links etc.) at one time rather than piecemeal it. If you DIY, the cost of that partial job would cover your parts cost. And the difference in ride and handling would be VERY noticeable.
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Old 09-13-2012, 12:09 PM
Adamcan2 Adamcan2 is offline
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Location: San Jose, CA
 
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One more interesting thing that I forgot to mention: I did my cooling system because at 123k miles my expansion tank was leaking quite a bit, the radiator was leaking a tiny bit, and because I read the many posts here about the cooling system. I bought the car in 2007 with about 75k miles on it from a dealership. When I went in to change the cooling system, I found that the radiator was a Nissens (relatively certain that Behr is OEM), that the thermostat looked quite new, and that the water pump had a metal impeller, looked great, and was identical to the Graf pump that I was replacing it with. Because of my ignorance in 2007, I didn't ask the dealer for service records, but my guess is that the dealer replaced these parts when the car was traded in. If this assumption is correct, it means:

1: The dealer knows that this system fails often, and at 75k miles they would rather replace a couple hundred dollars in parts rather than having the thing blow up at 100k and hurting their reputation.
2: Even with the dealer replacement, the expansion tank and radiator failed within 50k miles. Now with the radiator this is probably more like bad luck. I didn't inspect it thoroughly, but it looks like a pinhole leak probably caused by an unlucky rock. The expansion tank, on the other hand, was toast.

For me this does mean that I replaced some parts that I didn't need to replace, but on the other hand I have a cooling system that I can count on probably for the rest of the time I own the car, some solid spare parts sitting on the shelf in case of failure, and the knowledge of what to look for when inspecting or when things go wrong. I'll take that for $430 any day.

--Adam
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Old 09-13-2012, 01:13 PM
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bkgreene39 bkgreene39 is offline
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Does your vehicle have an at? and if so did you remove any automatic transmission lines?
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  #15  
Old 09-13-2012, 02:18 PM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Yes and no
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  #16  
Old 09-13-2012, 05:24 PM
Adamcan2 Adamcan2 is offline
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Location: San Jose, CA
 
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Same for me. Yes to automatic transmission and no to touching any part of it. Part of me is really interested in learning more about AT, and part of me thinks that it is really scary. I'm pretty sure I'm still a couple of DIYs away from messing with it!
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  #17  
Old 09-13-2012, 06:41 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Nice writeup. I'll append it to the bestlinks.
- What to look for when your KTMP (1) or coolant temperature gauge indicates overheating (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) & what to look for in a perfectly normal E39 cooling system (1) & a picture of every failed part in the cooling system (1) & various techniques to properly bleed (1) (2) (3) & refill (1) & drain (1) (2) & flush (1) & what coolant to use (1) & what parts to replace (1) (2) & how to retrofit brass bleeder screws (1) (2) & what special tools to make or buy (1) & how to tell how old your cooling system is (1) (2) & how to test the cooling system auxiliary electrical fan (1) (2) (3) (4) & a DIY for replacing the auxilliary fan (1) (2) (3) & the infamous fuse 75 (1) & the aux fan relay (1) & how to diagnose lack of HVAC/IHKA heater core heat with cooling system (auxiliary pump) at idle (1) & a Behr radiator and Behr/Heat expansion tank autopsy (1) (2) & request for another Behr surge tank autopsy (1) & why new made-in-China Behr/Hella expansion tanks are DOA (1) & E39 Fan shroud removal DIY (Besian) (M54) & some of the better cooling system DIYs (cn90 1997-1998 M54TU) (cn90 V8) (aioros '99-03 M54) (Ågent99 '01 530i) (pelican 3-series) (bluebee M54B25) & tricks to replace the fan clutch nut (1) & lower-hose thermoswitch o-ring (1) & to non-destructively remove the heater hoses (1) or radiator nipple (1) or expansion tank nipple (1) (2) or Oetiker clamp (1) or misplaced thermostat wiring loom (1) or broken bleeder screw (1) & modifying the cooling system pressure cap (1), or using propanol-based zero-pressure fluids like NPG+ (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) or all-aluminum cooling system parts by Zionsville (1) (2) (3) aluminum radiators & what happens if you drive one mile too far with an overheated BMW cooling system (1).

EDIT: Unfortunately, I'll be doing my I6 cooling system again, after only two years!
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Well, it's 'my' turn again!

I noticed a puddle on my driveway today ...


So I started looking for the telltale white spots:

And, watching for a while, I found the culprit!


Note: I last replaced my Behr expansion tank in 2010 as noted by the markings on the side.
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Please read the suggested threads, where the best always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 09-13-2012 at 06:43 PM.
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