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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 08-29-2008, 09:35 AM
awasi awasi is offline
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2003 BMW 525i alternator questions/problems

Guys,

I am running into a problem. I took my 525i into the dealership for an oil change, and some other work which included replacing the thermostat assembly and front thrust rod brushing. It stayed overnight at the shop. I brought the car back, no problem, everything was fine. The next morning, the car would not start. Just a couple of clicks and thats it. I was able to jumpstart the car, and took it back to the dealership, and asked them to check it out. The came back and said that they will have to replace the alternator, as the output of the alternator is only 12 V instead of 14 V, and also the battery, since its 5+ years old. I don't trust these guys, as I never had this problem, and find it very strange that the alternator has gone bad while the car was in the shop. Any ideas/thoughts/insights

Thanx....

Atif.
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  #2  
Old 08-29-2008, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awasi View Post
Guys,

I am running into a problem. I took my 525i into the dealership for an oil change, and some other work which included replacing the thermostat assembly and front thrust rod brushing. It stayed overnight at the shop. I brought the car back, no problem, everything was fine. The next morning, the car would not start. Just a couple of clicks and thats it. I was able to jumpstart the car, and took it back to the dealership, and asked them to check it out. The came back and said that they will have to replace the alternator, as the output of the alternator is only 12 V instead of 14 V, and also the battery, since its 5+ years old. I don't trust these guys, as I never had this problem, and find it very strange that the alternator has gone bad while the car was in the shop. Any ideas/thoughts/insights

Thanx....

Atif.
how many miles on it? Its only off by 2 volts? seems a little odd to me, id change the battery and go from there
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  #3  
Old 08-29-2008, 09:46 AM
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Check your PS reservoir--those hoses leak directly into the alternator and pretty much end its life drastically.
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  #4  
Old 08-29-2008, 09:56 AM
Ryan M Ryan M is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dannyc9997 View Post
how many miles on it? Its only off by 2 volts? seems a little odd to me, id change the battery and go from there
2 volts is a huge difference when talking about the charging system. The alternator should be putting out anywhere from 13.5 to 14.6 volts. So even a voltage of 13 would be extremely low and warrant a replacement.

To the op: If you have a DMM you can check the readings yourself.
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  #5  
Old 08-29-2008, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Ryan M View Post
2 volts is a huge difference when talking about the charging system. The alternator should be putting out anywhere from 13.5 to 14.6 volts. So even a voltage of 13 would be extremely low and warrant a replacement.

To the op: If you have a DMM you can check the readings yourself.
i know, just seems weird to me that its only down 2 volts Id think if it was failing it would be down alot more. You know the cluster test that gives you a volt readout? Is that the reading from the battery or the alternator? Mines always around 11 or 12
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  #6  
Old 08-29-2008, 11:40 AM
awasi awasi is offline
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Originally Posted by dannyc9997 View Post
i know, just seems weird to me that its only down 2 volts Id think if it was failing it would be down alot more. You know the cluster test that gives you a volt readout? Is that the reading from the battery or the alternator? Mines always around 11 or 12
Thanx for the responses. The car has only 43K miles on it. I bought it brand new and is very well maintained and garaged all the time. If the alternator is only outputting 12 v, how long do you think a new battery will last. Doesn't the car needs 12 volts output to run ?? I find it really strange that the alternator is the problem after the car just came back from the shop.
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  #7  
Old 08-29-2008, 12:03 PM
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If the reading is really 12 volts then it probably wont run and will just kill your battery. It is pretty odd to see the alternator go at just 43k unless something was spilled on it.
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  #8  
Old 08-29-2008, 12:09 PM
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I would take the car to an independent BMW tech/ specialist, and get a second opinion.

I would stay FAR away from the dealer, unless you liked getting bent over and screwed...???

Thanks!
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  #9  
Old 08-29-2008, 02:04 PM
awasi awasi is offline
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Originally Posted by Jason5driver View Post
I would take the car to an independent BMW tech/ specialist, and get a second opinion.

I would stay FAR away from the dealer, unless you liked getting bent over and screwed...???

Thanks!
Jason
I totally agree. This was my last visit there
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  #10  
Old 08-29-2008, 02:55 PM
luvnhatemya6 luvnhatemya6 is offline
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Charging 101 :

The battery is a 12V one. That means it produces 12V when charged, and nothing is charging it or discharging it.

The alternator is connected across the battery. Normally it produces a voltage of 1 or 2V above the battery voltage, charging it up. When charging, the battery voltage will read 13 or 14V.

If the alternator has blown, so that it is no longer charging the battery, the resulting test voltage across the battery will be 12V. Not zero, until the battery has been flattened by powering the car.

It appears very likely that the dealer did something to stop the alternator working. Shouldn't the no charge warning light be on?
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  #11  
Old 08-29-2008, 04:49 PM
awasi awasi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luvnhatemya6 View Post
Charging 101 :

The battery is a 12V one. That means it produces 12V when charged, and nothing is charging it or discharging it.

The alternator is connected across the battery. Normally it produces a voltage of 1 or 2V above the battery voltage, charging it up. When charging, the battery voltage will read 13 or 14V.

If the alternator has blown, so that it is no longer charging the battery, the resulting test voltage across the battery will be 12V. Not zero, until the battery has been flattened by powering the car.

It appears very likely that the dealer did something to stop the alternator working. Shouldn't the no charge warning light be on?
Okay so here is the latest. I got myself a multimeter, and below are the results:

1) Voltage output from the old battery 8.5 volts, so the old battery was bad.
2) Voltage output from the new installed battery 12.5 volts.
3) Voltage output from the battery when the car has started, 13.9 volts.

It seems to me that the alternator is working propery, as the voltage spikes to 13.9 volts when the car is running.

Atif..
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  #12  
Old 08-29-2008, 05:01 PM
luvnhatemya6 luvnhatemya6 is offline
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Yes, from those data it appears that everything is fine. Your old battery was the problem - typically they start to lose charge after 5 years.

See how it goes but 13.9V at idle is normal.
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  #13  
Old 08-29-2008, 05:46 PM
Ryan M Ryan M is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luvnhatemya6 View Post
Charging 101 :

The battery is a 12V one. That means it produces 12V when charged, and nothing is charging it or discharging it.

The alternator is connected across the battery. Normally it produces a voltage of 1 or 2V above the battery voltage, charging it up. When charging, the battery voltage will read 13 or 14V.

If the alternator has blown, so that it is no longer charging the battery, the resulting test voltage across the battery will be 12V. Not zero, until the battery has been flattened by powering the car.

It appears very likely that the dealer did something to stop the alternator working. Shouldn't the no charge warning light be on?
Untrue. A fully charged battery will be 12.6 volts with each of the plates in the battery producing 2.1 volts. A battery at 12.45 volts will be at a 75% state of charge while a battery at 12.15 volts will be at a 25% charge. A battery at 12 volts flat will be almost dead.
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Last edited by Ryan M; 08-29-2008 at 05:49 PM.
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  #14  
Old 08-29-2008, 07:51 PM
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dannyc9997 dannyc9997 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luvnhatemya6 View Post
Charging 101 :

The battery is a 12V one. That means it produces 12V when charged, and nothing is charging it or discharging it.

The alternator is connected across the battery. Normally it produces a voltage of 1 or 2V above the battery voltage, charging it up. When charging, the battery voltage will read 13 or 14V.

If the alternator has blown, so that it is no longer charging the battery, the resulting test voltage across the battery will be 12V. Not zero, until the battery has been flattened by powering the car.

It appears very likely that the dealer did something to stop the alternator working. Shouldn't the no charge warning light be on?
okkk I thought the test meant the alternator was producing 12v
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  #15  
Old 09-02-2008, 02:13 PM
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Ågent99 Ågent99 is offline
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I'm considering an alternator change on my 530i. Ever since replacing the OEM battery in 2005, my car depleats batteries in 12-14 months. I've taken it to my trusted indy mechanic and they've checked it out to find that everything appears fine. I draw 29 mA (0.029 A) when the car goes into sleep/hibernation mode and that is dead nuts on to spec.

Measuring the voltage at the battery with the car running in idle, I get 13.8 V which also seems fine to me although the guy at Kragens said he usually sees stuff in the 14.5 - 15.0 V so he thought my alternator might be low.

Kragens was cool and gave me my second replacment battery from them for free but he said the next one will cost me.

The car does sit a bit more than it used to but it is driven a couple times a week. I just wonder if a higher output alternator will help things?

What's an alternator cost these days? Anyone get quotes to have one replaced?
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  #16  
Old 09-02-2008, 03:20 PM
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doru doru is offline
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Hi Agent99.

Those alternators, pending on what model you have can be quite pricey.
Here's a link on how to check the battery (you prolly have it, but others might not) and also some battery brands.
And here's another link with Interstate batteries - some look identical to the OEM's.

So if the readings after you unlock the OBC like this you can make the decision if it's the battery or the alternator.

Good luck
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  #17  
Old 09-02-2008, 03:54 PM
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Ågent99 Ågent99 is offline
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Kragen had two Autolite branded alternators on hand:

(1) Bosch for $165 and a $65 core
(2) Valeo for $175 and a $59 core

Thanks for the OBC test...I'll see what that gives me.
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  #18  
Old 09-02-2008, 05:11 PM
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dannyc9997 dannyc9997 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ågent99 View Post
Kragen had two Autolite branded alternators on hand:

(1) Bosch for $165 and a $65 core
(2) Valeo for $175 and a $59 core

Thanks for the OBC test...I'll see what that gives me.
Just be happy you dont have the water cooled one, some stealers will charge 10x that installed.
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  #19  
Old 09-02-2008, 05:40 PM
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I didn't even know a water-cooled alternator existed! I just emailed back and forth a bit with my indy and apparently they do a slightly different test on alternators using the Midtronics tester (i.e. they don't simply measure the voltage at the battery). He didn't go into detail but about a year ago when they were diagnosing my issues with batteries, they measured 12.6 V @ idle for my alternator output. At that time, they noted it was "slightly lower than factory specified range" but felt that it wasn't an issue and didn't recommend any replacement.

He then quoted me the following:

Bosch (120 A) is $490.66 p/n 12317501599
Valeo (90 A) is $402.07 p/n 12317501687

Labor to install is $242.37.

I think I'll visit Kragen, pick up the correct one for my car, and slap 'er in. The next visit I have to my indy, I'll have him remeasure the alternator output to see if I've improved over the 12.6 V @ idle.
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  #20  
Old 09-02-2008, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ågent99 View Post
I didn't even know a water-cooled alternator existed! I just emailed back and forth a bit with my indy and apparently they do a slightly different test on alternators using the Midtronics tester (i.e. they don't simply measure the voltage at the battery). He didn't go into detail but about a year ago when they were diagnosing my issues with batteries, they measured 12.6 V @ idle for my alternator output. At that time, they noted it was "slightly lower than factory specified range" but felt that it wasn't an issue and didn't recommend any replacement.

He then quoted me the following:

Bosch (120 A) is $490.66 p/n 12317501599
Valeo (90 A) is $402.07 p/n 12317501687

Labor to install is $242.37.

I think I'll visit Kragen, pick up the correct one for my car, and slap 'er in. The next visit I have to my indy, I'll have him remeasure the alternator output to see if I've improved over the 12.6 V @ idle.
Yup, water cooled ones were put in the e38, and alot of 540s from 2000 and up. Here they go for about $950
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  #21  
Old 03-20-2009, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ågent99 View Post
I didn't even know a water-cooled alternator existed! I just emailed back and forth a bit with my indy and apparently they do a slightly different test on alternators using the Midtronics tester (i.e. they don't simply measure the voltage at the battery). He didn't go into detail but about a year ago when they were diagnosing my issues with batteries, they measured 12.6 V @ idle for my alternator output. At that time, they noted it was "slightly lower than factory specified range" but felt that it wasn't an issue and didn't recommend any replacement.

He then quoted me the following:

Bosch (120 A) is $490.66 p/n 12317501599
Valeo (90 A) is $402.07 p/n 12317501687

Labor to install is $242.37.

I think I'll visit Kragen, pick up the correct one for my car, and slap 'er in. The next visit I have to my indy, I'll have him remeasure the alternator output to see if I've improved over the 12.6 V @ idle.
I'm having alternator/ battery issues....What ever happened with yours?
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  #22  
Old 03-20-2009, 10:57 AM
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MakoyE39 MakoyE39 is offline
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You guys might want to check your FSR (Final Stage Resistor).

I've replaced both alternator and battery, and still having issue with battery being drained.
Found out that my car has a bad FSR, its draining the battery even the car is on park.
Replaced the FSR and everything is back to normal.

Just my 2 cents...
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  #23  
Old 03-20-2009, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MakoyE39 View Post
You guys might want to check your FSR (Final Stage Resistor).

I've replaced both alternator and battery, and still having issue with battery being drained.
Found out that my car has a bad FSR, its draining the battery even the car is on park.
Replaced the FSR and everything is back to normal.

Just my 2 cents...
I guess I'm going to have to break down and test the current draw next week. Did you change your own FSR or have it done?
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  #24  
Old 10-31-2010, 02:25 PM
Vartan20 Vartan20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MakoyE39 View Post
You guys might want to check your FSR (Final Stage Resistor).

I've replaced both alternator and battery, and still having issue with battery being drained.
Found out that my car has a bad FSR, its draining the battery even the car is on park.
Replaced the FSR and everything is back to normal.

Just my 2 cents...
Beautiful combo widd the bimmer and benz i have the same
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  #25  
Old 10-11-2014, 12:36 PM
FERNY LOPEZ FERNY LOPEZ is offline
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Hello everyone, my name is ferny and I'm having a bit of a problem with my 2003 525i BMW with approx. 84000 miles.. About a couple of days after replacing the factory fog lights to LED lights i started to experience cluster flickering and all cluster warning lights come on and off (erratically). a day later my car wouldn't start so i had it jumped. this only got me home to were the battery died. i slow charged the battery for 17 hours approx. and noticed the cluster problems immediately. I replaced the battery with a new Interstate battery and noticed it quickly drained it also noticing that this time the battery light stayed on after only about 2 miles of driving until dying or draining out. How can i determine if my alternator has given out before replacing since it aint cheap or what other component of the charging system can it be that giving me these problems? Thanks for any response. Ferny
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