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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 03-07-2012, 11:06 AM
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gonzilla gonzilla is offline
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Mein Auto: 02 540iT, 96 Carrera
SLUDGE CITY (Warning: graphic content)

I've had this '02 540i Touring for a few years now and use it as a DD. I got it with around 50K miles. And it now has just over 100K on it. It had a coolant leak that needed attention so I took it to my wrench who's also a good friend.

We found it was not only leaking from the radiator (which was just over 2 years old), but also some water pipes running through the valley towards the firewall, so the intake had to come off. This was going to start getting expensive, but I had no idea...

With the intake off, I decided that maybe we should go ahead and do the VCGs as well, since I noticed a little seepage. After the valve covers were wrestled off, this is what we found:



Ummm...


So, okay. I've never seen ANYTHING like that before. Neither had he. I'm just thinking, "do I just put it back together and forget about it and dump the car? Or do I try to get it back on the road and deal?" I voted for the latter.

The closest we can figure is that someone tried to see how long they could go without changing the oil. I decided that we should try to clean what we could and do some "while you're in there" stuff. Here's a few more pics of the carnage:

Bottom:

Front left:

Front right:


The strategy was to clean as much sludge off of the front of the motor as possible but not touch the valve train. The thought being that if some little piece fell down and got sucked into an oil passage and clogged it up, it would not be a good thing. On the other hand there were only like 3 or 4 places on the front of the motor that I had to be careful not to get anything into. If in the process of cleaning it, something fell down, it just hit the floor. So I armed myself with some Xenit and a few plastic scrapers and a dental pick and went to work. The top layer of sludge was like the consistency of Vaseline, under that it got a little waxy and the stuff that was stuck to the metal was very much like Cosmoline.

After about 6 hours:


After another 6 hours:


Here's a pic of one of the timing chain guides that we pulled (there's plastic under there somewhere):


After I was "done" cleaning, we decided to remedy the problem of the leaky cooling pipes. Basically there are two pipes that run down the valley from the water pump to an accumulator in the back of the motor. To get to them at the back where mine were leaking (and have before), you have to remove the intake which takes at least a few hours. Lots of labor to replace some o-rings. We decided that welding the pipes to the accumulator itself might work!




I guess time will tell if this was a good idea or not!

The valve covers are Magnesium and are powder coated some weird gold-ish silverfish color from the factory. After a while this powder coat starts flaking off. I never liked the color, so I decided to have them powder coated black instead.



Now the original reason for this shop visit was to replace a leaky radiator (plastic with plastic expansion tank). The system runs HOT, I'm guessing so they could eek out a few more MPGs. It also runs at pretty high pressure (2 bar). This I think contributes to the early failure of the whole system. Plastic gets brittle and breaks from the pressure.

I decided to try Evans this time instead of BMW's factory coolant (thanks Chief!). (http://www.evanscooling.com/products...mance-coolant/) So far when the car is up to operating temp I can grab a hose and squeeze it and it's totally pliable. If I open the cap it just lets out a little "pffff." Maybe 3 or 4 lbs of pressure instead of ~30. Much better. Again, we'll see how this all works out.



So in all, after about 12 of my hours and 30 of my wrench's, the front of the motor's clean, it's got a new timing chain, new guides, new tensioner, new motor mounts, all new hoses, new water pump, new tstat, new radiator, new oil separator, modified coolant pipe/accumulator assembly, new VCGs, resealed intake manifold, resealed injectors, crank seal, basically resealed the whole top and front of the motor, finally new headlight adjusters and new rear hatch and glass shocks. Ughhh... Still on the list are new rear subframe mounts and shocks at some point. I just need to recover from this bill! Hopefully I've done enough at this point to secure me a couple more years with the car. Only time will tell.

What did I learn? NEVER buy a used car without FULL RECORDS! I had the records from the PO who had owned the car for a couple of years, always serviced at the dealer. I f course also had a PPI done, but nothing would have shown the extent of the mess we found inside the motor. When I first got the car I noticed a little balls of oil inside the fins of the oil filter. I did a few low-interval oil changes that seemed to clear it up pretty much. I just thought maybe the car had a little gunk, but nothing this bad. I couldn't see the damage from just looking inside the fill hole. So yeah, FULL RECORDS next time.
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  #2  
Old 03-07-2012, 11:29 AM
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BentValve BentValve is offline
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Wonder how long it went without an oil change.
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  #3  
Old 03-07-2012, 11:41 AM
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gonzilla gonzilla is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BentValve View Post
Wonder how long it went without an oil change.
By what I saw I'm guessing a long time. Not that the car fax means anything, but the first record that they have of a service is at 21,972, the next at 33,910, the next at 48,571. 8000 miles later I got the car.
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'02 Titanium Silver 540iT Sport - Birch Anthracite trim, retrofitted window shades, DJ Auto Euro clear corner lenses, BSW t110 subwoofer, Dice Silverline w/DSP, lowering links. Lots of upgrades waiting in the garage for time to install
'96 Polar Silver Porsche Carrera - MY02 5 spokes, Bilstein PSS9s, Euro TT Sways, KLA Strut bar, Big Red TT Brakes, RS Motor Mounts, RS Shift kit, Recaro A8s, FVD 360mm wheel, HIDs, Big Oval tips.
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  #4  
Old 03-07-2012, 11:53 AM
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Jeez-Louise! Nice job cleaning it up.
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  #5  
Old 03-07-2012, 01:19 PM
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doru doru is offline
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Your pics reminds me of Ketchup's sludged engine - this is his thread (long and interesting)
This is how his oil filter came out:



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  #6  
Old 03-07-2012, 02:06 PM
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Flybot Flybot is offline
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Those are some horrible pics, including that oil filter. Never seen one that bad.

Nice job on the cleanup tho.

Just for comparison, here is a pic of my 528s top end when I did the VCG at about 170k miles (Ive had the car for the last 70k):

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  #7  
Old 03-07-2012, 04:14 PM
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Andreas540i Andreas540i is offline
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I never realized how lucky I was at 125k
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  #8  
Old 03-07-2012, 11:54 PM
z168 z168 is offline
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Wow what a mess. Just by looking through the oil filler cap that sludge shouldve been already seen. Glad everything got buttoned up nicely.

Will that ever happen to synthetic oil?
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Last edited by z168; 03-07-2012 at 11:55 PM.
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  #9  
Old 03-08-2012, 10:05 AM
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gonzilla gonzilla is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by z168 View Post
Wow what a mess. Just by looking through the oil filler cap that sludge shouldve been already seen. Glad everything got buttoned up nicely.

Will that ever happen to synthetic oil?
Yeah, no, not so much. You could see a little buildup, but no real indication of what was found. I guess you'll just have to trust me on that one.

This DID happen with synthetic oil. It doesn't matter if you're using synthetic or dino, if you don't change it this is what happens.
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'02 Titanium Silver 540iT Sport - Birch Anthracite trim, retrofitted window shades, DJ Auto Euro clear corner lenses, BSW t110 subwoofer, Dice Silverline w/DSP, lowering links. Lots of upgrades waiting in the garage for time to install
'96 Polar Silver Porsche Carrera - MY02 5 spokes, Bilstein PSS9s, Euro TT Sways, KLA Strut bar, Big Red TT Brakes, RS Motor Mounts, RS Shift kit, Recaro A8s, FVD 360mm wheel, HIDs, Big Oval tips.
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  #10  
Old 03-08-2012, 01:01 PM
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pungo pungo is offline
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I wonder if it ran with a wide open thermostat or no thermostat at all for a while. That will sludge up a motor, especially if run in a cold climate.

I would suggest some seafoam before an oil change, but would be afraid it might clog up some oil passages
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  #11  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:10 PM
barneyhyphen barneyhyphen is offline
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Daughters 323i at 147k when I replaced the head gasket....

For anyone interested, story and more pictures on E46fanatics "sludge" under BarneyHyphen.

BH
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  #12  
Old 01-10-2013, 06:00 PM
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champaign777 champaign777 is offline
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My car was maintained by BMW dealer only

LOL what a bulsh**

I saw 10 years old BMW maintained by BMW dealer where air filter was never replaced and was original from 2002
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  #13  
Old 01-10-2013, 06:02 PM
SeanMH-6 SeanMH-6 is offline
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I had pretty bad sludge on mine, not quite as bad as that. I cleaned what I could see with my shop vac as I scraped it so it didn't drop down, I figured that sludge wasn't hurting anything and me messing with it could hurt something if I wasn't careful. I'm hoping after multiple oil changes the sludge will work its way out. I have considered deadpan but as someone said earlier may cause issues so I haven't done it yet
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:23 PM
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bkgreene39 bkgreene39 is offline
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What would be the solution to such a sludge buildup? Would shorter oil change intervals with synthetic help clean that out?
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  #15  
Old 01-10-2013, 06:42 PM
SeanMH-6 SeanMH-6 is offline
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I think the "correct" thing would be to tear it down, clean as much as you can by hand, then follow the manual on oil change intervals. But who has time to do that for sludge? Seafoam according to their bottle can be put in the oil. But two things, probably not approved in the manual, possibly even forbidden. And you run the risk of it taking this sludge build up off in chunks and clogging oil passages.

I see oil changed more frequently helping, how much would have to be confirmed by some of the guys on here. Personally I don't see it making a noticeable difference from the little experience I have.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:45 PM
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bkgreene39 bkgreene39 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skibbySTFU View Post
I think the "correct" thing would be to tear it down, clean as much as you can by hand, then follow the manual on oil change intervals. But who has time to do that for sludge? Seafoam according to their bottle can be put in the oil. But two things, probably not approved in the manual, possibly even forbidden. And you run the risk of it taking this sludge build up off in chunks and clogging oil passages.

I see oil changed more frequently helping, how much would have to be confirmed by some of the guys on here. Personally I don't see it making a noticeable difference from the little experience I have.
Interesting. I do not have this issue currently, however I was curious. I read a long time ago that certain mechanics would put atf into an engine to clean it? Ever heard of that?
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:46 PM
mhobryan mhobryan is offline
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something that bad....yeah, no you have to manually clean it. I don't have pics, but I've 'seen' worse....

Long story short, family friend has a 18 yo son who was clueless about car maintenance and owns a 1989 merc grand marquis (yeah i know, a real classic). After completely replacing the front brakes (he actually ground THROUGH the rotors) told him to stop by the following week so i could show him how to do an oil change and change the plugs. Checked the oil before draining it was only a 1/2 quart low . We drained the oil, and before I fired it up it was reading WAY high .... like i put two gallons in it instead of 5 qts...hmmm... figured maybe it had the wrong dipstick.

Fired it up and she was purrin' like a kitten. Took it out for a quick trip around the block and all of sudden it started blowing white smoke and missing like crazy. . took back to the garage, scratchin' my head...then it dawned on me. I ask, "Has the oil ever been changed since you got it?" Nope. He'd owned it for a year. They had bought from a friend and come to find out they hadn't changed the oil either. The WHOLE oil pan was full of sludge, so all of the new oil was simply floating on top.

Called around and found out that you had to pull the engine to drop the pan....car isn't worth the $500 it would cost to do that (could i do it? Yeah, I'm a nice guy, but not that nice). We seafoamed it and did a couple of short interval oil changes, and replaced the plugs again. I used my air hose to blow down the dipstick tube to blow out some of the gunk. I can get about 3 qts in it and it only shows abt 1 qt over. Amazingly, 5 mos later it is still purring like a kitten.
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  #18  
Old 01-10-2013, 09:33 PM
BrandonMag BrandonMag is offline
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AutoRX is what I'd recommend to the OP. Google it. I swear by the stuff.
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  #19  
Old 01-11-2013, 01:09 AM
Reuvers Reuvers is offline
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Out of curiosity

Any ideas here on the comment of adding ATF to the oil, running it for 30 minutes or so and doing a full flush and filter change?
I know this is done quite often, even in garages.
But does anyone here have experience doing this on a e39?
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  #20  
Old 01-11-2013, 03:22 AM
SeanMH-6 SeanMH-6 is offline
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I've never heard of them running with it in the oil. I have heard of them doing system flushes with atf, diesel, ect. to clean inside. I would be afraid not all of it came out. I don't want any left over to mix with the oil.
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Old 01-11-2013, 03:37 AM
Reuvers Reuvers is offline
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I am referring to a system flush
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  #22  
Old 01-11-2013, 03:44 AM
SeanMH-6 SeanMH-6 is offline
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Ok. I've never heard of them running the car with it during the flush. I would be worried that it would release chunks to big and clog passages, as I said earlier I've been thinking about doing this with seafoam so I am curious as well.
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  #23  
Old 01-11-2013, 03:47 AM
4given 4given is offline
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I put about 1/2 a quart of ATF in my oil about a week before I change my oil and I've never had a problem. I did the valve cover gaskets on my Volvo 850 turbo that has 290k and it looked brand new inside. The car had 101k when I bought it 7 years ago.
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  #24  
Old 01-11-2013, 03:48 AM
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Stone Roots Stone Roots is offline
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After viewing this thread I think I have a new recurring nightmare that will replace the fire breathing T. rex that shoots laser beams out his eyes and sounds remarkably like Barbara Streisand or the one where my E39 gets stolen and my insurance company replaces it with a electric only prius

Last edited by Stone Roots; 01-11-2013 at 03:50 AM.
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  #25  
Old 06-18-2013, 07:21 AM
pendleton pendleton is offline
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Ive got this exact problem right now! I'm lost as hell as to what to do.
I have loved BMW's for as long as I could remember. Found what I thought was a great deal the other day. 1998 528i Super straight body, nice wheels and tires, clean inside. 186,000 miles. Picked it up for $2,200. The seller said the ICV needed replacing. I've dealt with this before and knew I could clean it out so I bought the car. All the symptoms were correct. Pulled out the ICV, cleaned, ordered a replacement hose and have to wait a few days. Thought in the mean time I would do the VCG while I'm in there and waiting for the hose to arrive. Pulled off the valve cover and HOLY SLUDGE! Mine looks like the pics from barneyhyphen's post. Using a shop vac and various pics, flat blades, scrapers to start the cleaning process. Not sure what I'm doing though. I'm pretty good with basic maintenance and general mechanics but I think I'm in over my head here. Started poking and cleaning before I thought about oil return passageways etc but now I'm committed since I have started moving crap around already.

Any advise to help would be incredibly well received. Anyone that happens to live in Tooele Ut want to come help, my fridge is full of cold beer and you can have as much as you want as long as your turning wrenches. lol. Please some advice would be great.
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