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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 02-17-2011, 06:09 PM
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02BMW530 02BMW530 is offline
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Quick question concerning pad wear sensors and warning lights

It's time to do my brakes! Not a big deal, I've got that part handled. BUT... I'm wanting to "turn off" the pad wear sensor since I don't care much for it but had a few quick questions:

1- after a bit of searching, it appears that the light is reset with the key in position 1 with the driver's front door open for 30 seconds, yes? Is there a beep or anything to accompany it to say "mission accomplished good sir!" or anything?

2- once the sensor is tripped (creating the brake light and "check brake linings" message) it is done for. Will the reset work if I don't replace the sensor? I see you can cut the end and connect the wires to each other to "trick it."

This isn't some "I'm smarter then a dumb sensor" thing, it's just an expensive month and I'm not looking forward to shelling out $60 for pads and another $15-20 for a sensor.

Anything to look out for? Seems like a straight forward approach similar to every other car, minus the hex bolt in the caliper versus a normal bolt in most cars.

Thanks! I was hoping to delay this a little but I heard a familiar crunch pulling into my driveway tonight! Those brakes were a champ - excellent feeling and feedback all the way to the end!


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  #2  
Old 02-17-2011, 06:58 PM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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Once the light is on the sensor needs to be replaced. I've been told by my mechanic that the wiring trick doesn't work anymore with our cars but ymmv. If it's a problem it's dead easy to replace it later. Nothing will come of not replacing it. If you watch the pad thickness you can keep the sensor if you replace the pads before they trigger the sensor.

The light goes off when you reset it.


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  #3  
Old 02-17-2011, 07:01 PM
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02BMW530 02BMW530 is offline
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Yeah, it's been triggered (my guess is front). I honestly just want to replace the pads and get the two warnings without spending $27.99 (!) for a single sensor at AutoZone. I get that it's a done deal but if resetting it via an open door for 30 seconds gets the lights out, I'm golden. I'm just not sure if it'll reset the lights with a tripped sensor.

Stupid electronics, whatever did people do before pad wear sensors..?!


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  #4  
Old 02-17-2011, 07:35 PM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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Don't buy from autozone if you can help it. BMW parts from places like eactuning.com or oembimmerparts support this forum and are pretty reasonably priced too. If you are that tight they may be able to give you a deal (I haven't gotten one but hey...)

Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse typos and lack of links.
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  #5  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:03 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 02BMW530 View Post
I honestly just want to replace the pads and get the two warnings without spending $27.99 (!) for a single sensor at AutoZone.
Disclaimer:
My only experience with brake wear sensors is detailed in this thread:
- How to check & replace front & rear disc brakes, rotors , & sensors

I read what Geezer said, but, I always suspected the brake wear sensor circuit is a simple circuit. I'd need to dig up and autopsy my old sensors to know more, or we could blow the dust off the wiring section of the Bentleys - but I suspect it's simple enough of a circuit that 02BMW530 could "trick" the system into thinking that the brakes are fine.

One problem that 02BMW530 has is that his BRAKE sensor circuit already tripped, so, it might be problematic to reset it without a known-good wear sensor already in place.

That seemingly trivial complication makes things a bit more difficult for experimentation purposes because the normal procedure for "resetting" the red BRAKE light (presumably) won't work if the circuit is still sensing worn brakes.

So, to reset the system, he has to mimic a "good" sensor ... and to mimic a good sensor, he needs to know:
  • How does the brake wear sensor circuit actually work?
The fundamental question is whether it's a normally open or a normally closed sensor?

If it's a simple switch, and if it's normally open, he'll need to short the ends before performing the reset procedure; if it's normally closed, he'll need to open the end leads before performing the reset procedure.

Quote:
anything to look out for
It's a pretty easy job. I detailed all my "gotchas" in that thread listed above.

To summarize, from memory, I had to buy a 7mm allen wrench and micrometers and a dial gauge to check thickness and runout respectively.

I had to look up all the specs for minimum thicknesses and torque values (all posted to that thread in chart form).

The fluids you'll want are not intuitive at all.
- What fluids does a BMW E39 brake job use?

Nobody tells you this but you want to deal with the sensors before putting the brakes back together because of all the cruft that will speckle your newly anti-seize covered hubs (ask me how I know).

I'm sure I listed a few more gotchas in this brake thread so there's no need to trust my memory.

And, for a good idea of the brake pads most people recommend, see:
- What brake pads are recommended for street use on the E39?


Last edited by bluebee; 02-17-2011 at 11:14 PM.
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  #6  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:08 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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BTW, here's what I used for my first (of two) BMW E39 brake jobs:

- ATE front brake disc, 296x22, ventilated, P/N 34-11-6-767-061
- ATE rear brake disc, ventilated, 298x20, P/N 34-21-6-767-060
- Jurid 187 asbestos-free front brake pads, P/N 34-11-6-761-280
- TEXTAR T4071 asbestos-free rear brake pads, P/N 34-21-6-761-281
- BMW Front pad wear sensor, P/N 34-35-2-229-018
- BMW Rear pad wear sensor, P/N 34-35-1-163-066
- BMW Front inner hex bolt, M8x14, P/N 34-21-1-161-806
- BMW Rear Inner hex bolt, M8x14, P/N 34-21-1-161-806

I didn't have the courage to tackle the parking brake shoes; but OE would have been Jurid according to CN90's brake-shoe DIY (he used Pagid).

The fluids I used are discussed in this brake-job-fluid thread.
- 1 liter ATE Super Blue DOT 4 low-viscosity brake fluid
- 75 ml tube of ATE Superlube anti-squeal paste
- 2 oz Permatex Anti-Seize Lubricant

- 16 oz can non-chlorinated brake cleaner spray
- 1 oz high-temperature brake grease
- 1 tube of Liquid Wrench penetrating lubricant
- 1 bottle of "P21S" or "SONAX R2000" Wheel Cleaner spray
- 1 bottle of Gojo pumice hand cleaner or similar detergent

HERE IS MY PERSONAL PRICE SURVEY (notice the prices are all over the map):


HERE I ASSEMBLED THE SPECIFICATIONS CULLED FROM BENTLEY:



Last edited by bluebee; 02-17-2011 at 11:10 PM.
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  #7  
Old 02-18-2011, 05:13 AM
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Rustyzipper Rustyzipper is offline
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I just did my brakes.... and no I do not use the brake sensors.

All you do is snip the wire, (i did it up close to the box) about 3 inches or so. splice them together, use a small wire nut then tape it good. remove the old sensor from caliber.

Do the reset like normal, and your good to go.
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  #8  
Old 02-18-2011, 08:18 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rustyzipper View Post
splice them together
That was what I was looking for!

So it's a normally closed circuit which opens when the plastic-tipped brake wear sensor tip is ground off (or melted off?) by contact with the rotor.

To 02BMW530, when rusty zipper says he did it "close to the box", he means near where it connects in the wheel well above the left front and right rear wheels:

There are lots of pictures here.

It would be great if you try this and then report back to the team whether or not it worked.

It's either your front left or rear right wheel; most likely it's the fronts (since they wear faster than the rear).

Please do let us know how it works out for you (pictures of the spliced sensor wires would be informative).

Note: Ignore the text on the photo below as it's re-used from that thread:

Last edited by bluebee; 02-18-2011 at 08:26 AM.
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  #9  
Old 02-18-2011, 10:39 AM
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Rustyzipper Rustyzipper is offline
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Thanks Blue, for explaining that better... and yes it closes the circuit just as if you had the sensor in place.
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  #10  
Old 05-04-2011, 03:00 PM
559eddie559 559eddie559 is offline
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Did the splicing today and with no doubt it took away the red brake light.. Simple cut, splice, tape and good to go!!
Thanks for the good info on this trick
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  #11  
Old 05-04-2011, 03:06 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Couple things:

1. Cost: Brake Pad sensor used to be about $5-6 until last year when it rose to about $12-15 online.
My local Dealer wants $25 for the pad sensor!

2. If you decide you don't want to use the pad sensor, then visually check your pad thickness twice a year.
Once the pad thickness is down to 2mm or so, replace the pads.

The circuitry works like this:
- Normal: Circuit Open (Resistance is infinity)
- When pad wears down, the metal inside the sensor completes the circuit ---> dash brake light is ON.

So, if you don't care for the sensor, simply cut the wire and make sure both ends don't touch. Then zip tie it so it does not flip flop around and you are good to go. I broke my pad sensor during brake overhaul and simply cut the wiring and zip it up for now LOL.
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  #12  
Old 05-04-2011, 05:20 PM
s140s s140s is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Couple things:

1. Cost: Brake Pad sensor used to be about $5-6 until last year when it rose to about $12-15 online.
My local Dealer wants $25 for the pad sensor!

2. If you decide you don't want to use the pad sensor, then visually check your pad thickness twice a year.
Once the pad thickness is down to 2mm or so, replace the pads.

The circuitry works like this:
- Normal: Circuit Open (Resistance is infinity)
- When pad wears down, the metal inside the sensor completes the circuit ---> dash brake light is ON.

So, if you don't care for the sensor, simply cut the wire and make sure both ends don't touch. Then zip tie it so it does not flip flop around and you are good to go. I broke my pad sensor during brake overhaul and simply cut the wiring and zip it up for now LOL.
Im pretty sure the circuitry is the exact opposite. At least it was on my 01.

Circuit is complete until the wear sensors is rubbed when the pads are low, which then opens the circuit. I spliced both wires and the warning is gone.
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  #13  
Old 05-04-2011, 05:42 PM
air_cooled air_cooled is offline
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Agreed. Breaking the "fuse link" opens the circuit and triggers the light.
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  #14  
Old 05-05-2011, 03:36 AM
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AnotherGeezer AnotherGeezer is offline
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What did I say?

~wakes up scratching his head...
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  #15  
Old 05-06-2011, 01:18 AM
xraye39 xraye39 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 02BMW530 View Post
It's time to do my brakes! Not a big deal, I've got that part handled. BUT... I'm wanting to "turn off" the pad wear sensor since I don't care much for it but had a few quick questions:

1- after a bit of searching, it appears that the light is reset with the key in position 1 with the driver's front door open for 30 seconds, yes? Is there a beep or anything to accompany it to say "mission accomplished good sir!" or anything?

2- once the sensor is tripped (creating the brake light and "check brake linings" message) it is done for. Will the reset work if I don't replace the sensor? I see you can cut the end and connect the wires to each other to "trick it."

This isn't some "I'm smarter then a dumb sensor" thing, it's just an expensive month and I'm not looking forward to shelling out $60 for pads and another $15-20 for a sensor.

Anything to look out for? Seems like a straight forward approach similar to every other car, minus the hex bolt in the caliper versus a normal bolt in most cars.

Thanks! I was hoping to delay this a little but I heard a familiar crunch pulling into my driveway tonight! Those brakes were a champ - excellent feeling and feedback all the way to the end!


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I prefer to keep my car as OEM as possible and though I often visually inspect the brake pad linings it can never hurt to have the sensor in place. If the sensor end piece that clips into the caliper is not damaged it ought to be easy to merely do a Mcgyver fix on the tip of it with solder and small strip of copper wire for example.

From your description it sounds like you had better change the pads before you damage the rotors.
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2003 530i/5Spd Sport - Titanium Silber/Schwarz Montana
| PP | Xenons | Style 42s | OEM TCU Bluetooth | Euro Armrest | Beisan Vanos Seals |

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  #16  
Old 05-06-2011, 08:24 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by s140s View Post
Im pretty sure the circuitry is the exact opposite. At least it was on my 01.

Circuit is complete until the wear sensors is rubbed when the pads are low, which then opens the circuit. I spliced both wires and the warning is gone.
Well,

My circuit is now open (sensor broke off and I don't have time to install a new sensor yet) and no warning light on dash.
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  #17  
Old 05-11-2011, 06:08 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Well,

Just got a brand new brake pad sensor.
Measured the ohm across the terminals and you guys were right, the resistance if 0 ohm, which means the circuit is closed when new.
When worn down, the circuit is open.

I still can't explain why when I broke my sensor, I cut the wiring (both ends do not touch) and I still don't have any warning light on the dash, weird!

Anyway, will install the new sensor.
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  #18  
Old 09-26-2011, 12:17 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
the resistance if 0 ohm, which means the circuit is closed when new. When worn down, the circuit is open.
Thanks for double checking for us.

BTW, the right rear inboard pad sensor did NOT protect 'my' rotors from wear recently.
- Rear Textar pad nub wore against the rotor BEFORE the sensor tripped!

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  #19  
Old 09-26-2011, 01:32 PM
crazyb0064 crazyb0064 is offline
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wow, after reading this post i realized that im missing my pad wear sensor on the from pass side. was trying to check my speed sensor last night and i didnt give a second thought to there only being one wire down there. anybody know where the wire runs down? want to know where to start looking to repair/replace the sensor. btw, that might explain my red brake light
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  #20  
Old 08-21-2013, 07:09 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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For the record, this thread shows how to disable the sensor temporarily (or permanently):
Quote:
Originally Posted by poolman View Post
I cut the wire on the sensor then connect the wires together and roll the wire back into the box--the sensors are never heard from again--we don't need no stinking sensors
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See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #21  
Old 11-24-2013, 09:56 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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For the record, this question on how to reset the brake sensor warning came up again today ...
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > reset the check brake lining message
Quote:
Originally Posted by fieldman View Post
hey y'all,I have a 2002 540i.I replaced the rear brake pads since they were shot. I reused the pad sensor since it was ok. I went thru many of the E39 brake posts trying to find a procedure to reset the "check brake lining" message. The only mention I found says to turn the key to the accessory position for 30 seconds. This did nothing to reset the message or to extinguish the "brake" indicator on the dash. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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  #22  
Old 04-29-2015, 11:12 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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The related question came up today as to what the brake wear sensor affects:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > What brake sensor(not abs speed sensor)actually does?
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  #23  
Old 06-30-2015, 12:09 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Someone asked quite a few questions today about testing the brake wear sensor, so, I drew the diagram below to help others out...
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Red warning light (brake fluid)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix39 View Post
I've read those threads (and most other threads on the subject) countless times, without finding what I'm looking for..
Huh?
It's just a loop of wire.

The sensor only has two ends.
Here is a picture of the harness end on my bimmer.

The other end is encased in plastic.

Here's a picture of what "was" a good sensor on the other end, after I tried to yank it out and broke it.

See also the pictures in:
- One user's pictorial example of a complete brake job with all torque figures, specs, measurements, fluids, decisions, tools, tricks, mistakes, suppliers, costs, etc., that it entails (1)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix39 View Post
Do I only have to check the sensor wires in the other end to find out if the sensor is fine?
Huh?

it's just a loop of wire.
Take a string, about arms length long, and fold it in half.

That's exactly what the sensor is.
The loop is encased in plastic; the two ends are in the connector.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix39 View Post
I don't have any experience with measuring wires, can someone who's done this help me out? From what I've read online, I'm supposed to measure resistance and make sure it's low`? How can I use the multimeter to find out where the sensor or wires are bad?
Wow. Now I know how Bill feels when he's explaining electricity to me!

I think I was measuring resistance of wires before I was 10 years old, so, it's hard for me to "explain" now that I'm many times that age, but I'll try.

A wire, for the most part, will have ZERO resistance.
A broken wire, for the most part, will have INFINITE resistance.

When you test the resistance, it will be one or the other, or in between.
Let us know what number you get, and snap a picture of how you got it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix39 View Post
Also I tried finding a wire diagram with no luck... I'm aware of a site called BMW planet wds, but the java plugin didn't work on any of my computers/browser.
Now I've been accused of "overthinking" things myself, but, here I'm gonna tell you that this is the only wiring diagram you need:


Quote:
Originally Posted by JKRIT View Post
You can do the electrical testing at the connection (in bluebees's photo). Pull the plug apart and 1) Insert a jumper wire into both plug connections on the car side to short the circuit. If the light goes out on the dash (after a few minutes), then the car's circuit is OK. 2) Insert multi-meter pins into the plug connections on the sensor side to measure resistance in the sensor. This should be very low, like an unbroken electrical wire.
I like the jumper-in-the-harness idea, as that doesn't require measurement.
It has been a while, but I recall it took a while for the light to go out though.
(Does anyone remember if it's instantaneous or if it takes a cycle or two?)

If you measure resistance of the sensor end, you'll need tiny leads, because the holes are small.
Most of us use a thin wire, sandpapered to remove any varnish, wrapped around the test leads.
See also:
- Do the brake pad sensors come with the pads or are they a separate item (1) & how far you can go once the brake wear sensor trips (1) & how not to remove a brake pad wear sensor (1) & how to clear the check brake lining warning the right way (1) and how to hardwire the sensor (1)
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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; 06-30-2015 at 12:16 PM.
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