'97 528i fails to brake? - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums

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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 01-26-2014, 04:58 PM
matt914 matt914 is offline
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Location: California
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 8
Mein Auto: 2003 525i
'97 528i fails to brake?

As the title says, my 528i fails to brake.

I bought this '97 528 last year in August. I love it a lot. But around November, I was driving and got off the freeway. After a few red lights, the brake pedal went all the way to the floor which really scared me. I switched on the hazard lights and pulled over by using the E-brake to stop the car.

What was strange though was there were no signs of the brake fluid leaking, and there were no lights that came up on the dash. I checked the brake fluid reservoir which still had plenty of brake fluid. Stumped, I couldn't figure out the problem and just let the car sit. After some time (about an hour or so), the brakes started working again so I took the streets home just in-case the brakes went out again. During that return trip though, I could hear a cracking noise coming from the front left wheel while I turns and when I braked (I could also feel it through the brake pedal). Luckily, I was able to return home that night without getting into any accidents or the brakes going out on my again.

Last week, this same problem happened to me again. Only this time, there was this burning smell that I smelled right before the brakes went out on me again. I thought that maybe the calipers got burned and is causing this malfunction, but I just all of the calipers and they still look new (no burn marks or purple areas).

So my question is, what the heck is going on with these brakes?

I could only think of a few things why this happens:
1) ABS related problem
2) Caliper problem (but I checked already for any burn marks, none appeared)
3) Master Cylinder problem
4) Bearings are bad (which would explain the cracking noise I heard when this problem happened the first time)

Any help would be appreciated! I have stopped using my car temporarily, only driving it locally within 5 miles just to be safe.

(Sorry for the long read guys!)
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:04 PM
CitizenOfDreams CitizenOfDreams is offline
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Location: Orlando, FL
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 953
Mein Auto: 1998 BMW 740i
Here is what may have happened...

You have old brake fluid with water in it. You also have a seized piston and/or caliper in one of your wheels which causes the brake pads to drag and overheat. When the temperature inside the slave cylinder gets high enough, the water turns into vapor and kills your brakes (because water vapor, being a gas, is very compressible).

Drive the car for a couple of miles, using the brakes as little as possible. Then check if one of the rotors is hot (careful, don't burn yourself).
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:44 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Location: Omaha NE
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 14,362
Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
Brake pedal going to the floor is classic of bad Master Cylinder.
Since the braking system could be the difference between life and death...I'd suggest that you:

1. Overhaul the brake hydraulic system (all seals/boots on the 4 calipers, and 6 brake hoses), as they are due anyway. Detail below:


2. Replace the Master Cylinder using reputable source.
Enter your VIN number into realoem.com to get the proper PN for the Master Cylinder: DSC vs no DCS feature.

Then go to the websites below to see the prices, FTE (ATE) is the OEM maker...
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