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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 01-21-2009, 05:45 PM
bfeng bfeng is offline
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Mein Auto: 540iT
Bilstein sports on a 540iT: review

A few weeks ago I finally got around to removing my worn out OEM shocks/struts and putting in a set of Bilstein sports (540iT with sport pkg). Install was easy. I used an old hex wrench to spread the front strut collars open (filed the sharp corners off the end and made it slightly oval in X-section). The springs are original sport springs.

The Bilsteins are definitely firmer than the original OE sport suspension (based on my memory of what the car was like long ago). Car handles much better now, better than new-stock (AFAIK). Weight transfer on turn-in happens much faster, enhancing the handling feel and overall nimblness of the car.

Ride: Although it's significantly firmer than new-OE, It's not at all harsh, and in fact it generally handles pot holes and abrupt discontinuities more quietly and smoothly than it did with worn out shocks. But it is firm enough that the car now has a bit of a jiggly ride (particularly in the back). It seems to me that just a tiny bit lower compression damping rate would have been a better match for the OE sport springs. I suspect that Bilsteins are harsh for some people because other parts of their suspension are worn out (control/thrust arms, etc).

If you value the smooth, unflappable nature of the OE sport setup, stick with OE Sachs parts.

If you're willing to live with a bit of a jiggly/fidgity ride, but want a much tighter/firmer/quicker feel, the Bilsteins seem like a good choice.

Had the Sach's shocks be available for the price of the Bilsteins, I would have stayed OE. The 540iT is too big and heavy to be a real sports car anyway, so why pretend it's an M3.

John Feng
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  #2  
Old 01-21-2009, 08:35 PM
paul325740 paul325740 is offline
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good info

I'm planing to change my also. My car is 540it 2002 sport package. Just got it back from service ( replacing rear airbag spring ).. where did you buy Bilstein from and $
thanks
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  #3  
Old 01-21-2009, 08:49 PM
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BlackBMWs BlackBMWs is offline
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Thanks John for posting this. I'm due too, but I'll go HD on my non-sport for now. It was just good to read there was no complexity with the change.

Access to the top of the rear shock towers I imagine are through the removable panel just aft of the rear seats?
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1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
1984 318i - Champagne/Tan, Stock - Sold

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  #4  
Old 01-22-2009, 02:38 PM
jsayreshepherd jsayreshepherd is offline
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I recently put HD"s on my touring. The ride is only marginally harsher than with new OE Sachs (and substantially less harsh than with blown OE Sachs), but it's much firmer and tighter. All in all I'm happy; I was curious about SP's, but kept hearing that they were better with aftermarket springs vs HD's for stock springs. I was also interested in Koni SA's, but the cheapest I could find them was about $900 after shipping, and the HD's were ~$550 shipped from Turner Motorsports.
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  #5  
Old 01-22-2009, 02:46 PM
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BlackBMWs BlackBMWs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsayreshepherd View Post
I recently put HD"s on my touring. The ride is only marginally harsher than with new OE Sachs (and substantially less harsh than with blown OE Sachs), but it's much firmer and tighter. All in all I'm happy; I was curious about SP's, but kept hearing that they were better with aftermarket springs vs HD's for stock springs. I was also interested in Koni SA's, but the cheapest I could find them was about $900 after shipping, and the HD's were ~$550 shipped from Turner Motorsports.
Do you recall what Bilstien part number you used for your rear HDs for your Tour? (BE5-6061-HO or BE5-6096-HO) the 6061 are listed as HD on Bilstien's web site, but not for self leveling. The 6096 are listed for self leveling but are also listed as Sport, not HD.

Did you start with a Non-sport suspension?

Thanks!
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1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
1984 318i - Champagne/Tan, Stock - Sold

BMWCCA# 160411

Last edited by BlackBMWs; 01-22-2009 at 02:57 PM.
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  #6  
Old 01-22-2009, 04:07 PM
JoeFromPA JoeFromPA is offline
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I think I've only heard of FSDs as an aftermarket strut on OEM sport springs and having a better ride with similar or improved handling.

All others seem to give better handling with a slight ride sacrifice.

Joe
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  #7  
Old 01-22-2009, 04:16 PM
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Adrian H Adrian H is offline
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Everyone's going to scream "MURDERER!" For this one but we replaced the shocks on my car not with OEM, not with Bilstiens, but yes, dear lord, Monroes. If you do that, I hope you don't have back issues. The ride is... "Immovable Object Firm" It makes for fantastic handling and great fun on curves, but I'd suggest if you happen to go the "domestic" Way with monroes you swap to some lowering springs at the same time. The car sits way too high on stock springs for it to be safe, but on lowered springs it'd be dancing across turns.

Just my .02.

OP - Did you have any major issues with going over holes in the road at high speeds? I know everyone's done it, was wondering what your say on it was.
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Heh. Well, you should know if its a touring. It would have a very large badonkadonk.
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  #8  
Old 01-22-2009, 07:26 PM
JoeFromPA JoeFromPA is offline
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FYI, my 88 turbo coupe thunderbird had electronically adjustable macpherson struts STOCK and I swapped them out for Monroes. Now that added some serious shimmy and made it hard as a rock, but man that car could handle
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  #9  
Old 01-22-2009, 07:48 PM
jsayreshepherd jsayreshepherd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackBMWs View Post
Do you recall what Bilstien part number you used for your rear HDs for your Tour? (BE5-6061-HO or BE5-6096-HO) the 6061 are listed as HD on Bilstien's web site, but not for self leveling. The 6096 are listed for self leveling but are also listed as Sport, not HD.

Did you start with a Non-sport suspension?

Thanks!
My car has the sport suspension and bags. I The bags are new and I left the stock springs on the front.

I remember seeing some confusing part numbers for the rear shocks: tirerack, bav auto and others would list them as touring/self leveling but would have different p/n's from one another. The set I got from Turner was 6096. I'm really not sure what the difference is, but I had them installed by a shop that specializes in BMW suspensions, and they had no problems at all (they actually completed the work faster - billing wise - than estimated).
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  #10  
Old 01-22-2009, 09:27 PM
mccuiswr mccuiswr is offline
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Mein Auto: 1999 540it
I have a 1999 540it and just this past week got Bilstein Front Shocks, Rear Shocks, as well as the lowering kit from Bav Auto that includes lowered front springs and adjustable rear end links.

I also had the front upper control arms/performance bushings completely replaced (crazy shakes are 100% gone). Got an alignment of course.

It's a huge improvement. Very happy with the ride and the way the car sits now. No more huge gap upfront which looks very nice with the upgrade 18's I put on a few months back!

Unfortunately, turned my secondary air pump was full of water and dead (service engine light + both primary and secondary air errors). What a ridiculously expensive part.

I also was able to finally rid myself of the "check coolant level light". That only took me replacing the reservoir tank and THEN replacing the new level sensor with yet another NEW level senor. Boy, that was fun. But hey, the dash is finally rid of all the nasty dings and dongs and errors lights.

Now my dash looks beautiful in all its pixellated glory.


Of course, being that it's an E39 and since coming out of the shop my car has developed a whining noise related to the brakes or rotors. Its ridiculously annoying.

So they tore the brakes apart today and found nothing. Next week they are going to rotate and overhaul the rotors. Great shop so they aren't charging me a dime but what a drag. Cars has been in the shop for most of two weeks!
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Last edited by mccuiswr; 01-22-2009 at 09:30 PM.
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  #11  
Old 01-22-2009, 10:43 PM
shabbaman shabbaman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrian H View Post
Everyone's going to scream "MURDERER!" For this one but we replaced the shocks on my car not with OEM, not with Bilstiens, but yes, dear lord, Monroes. If you do that, I hope you don't have back issues. The ride is... "Immovable Object Firm" It makes for fantastic handling and great fun on curves, but I'd suggest if you happen to go the "domestic" Way with monroes you swap to some lowering springs at the same time. The car sits way too high on stock springs for it to be safe, but on lowered springs it'd be dancing across turns.

Just my .02.

OP - Did you have any major issues with going over holes in the road at high speeds? I know everyone's done it, was wondering what your say on it was.
MURDERER!!!

Actually, alot of the e38 guys aparently run Monroes. The oem sport suspension is REDICULOUSLY ABSURDLY expensive (about $1700 from BavAuto), non-sport OEM is a choice (although I would NEVER mismatch non sport Sachs dampers with the sport springs - they won't even last 15K miles), Koni doesn't do anything for the e38, there's always the Bilstein HD option and of course...there's Monroe. Aparently the ride is not as harsh as the Billys and they have a lifetime warranty.

While I don't have any first hand experience with them (yet), for $400 I'm going to find out in the near future
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  #12  
Old 01-22-2009, 11:20 PM
luvnhatemya6 luvnhatemya6 is offline
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"Had the Sach's shocks be available for the price of the Bilsteins, I would have stayed OE."

I just fitted Sachs rear shocks to my 525iT. I used ones for the 540iT from Autohaus Arizona, they cost $80 each. Fronts are $90 each. Are you saying you got the Bilsteins for less than that?

The Sachs ones I bought look absolutely identical to the original ones on the car. New label says "Super Touring".
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  #13  
Old 01-23-2009, 12:02 AM
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BlackBMWs BlackBMWs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsayreshepherd View Post
My car has the sport suspension and bags. I The bags are new and I left the stock springs on the front.

I remember seeing some confusing part numbers for the rear shocks: tirerack, bav auto and others would list them as touring/self leveling but would have different p/n's from one another. The set I got from Turner was 6096. I'm really not sure what the difference is, but I had them installed by a shop that specializes in BMW suspensions, and they had no problems at all (they actually completed the work faster - billing wise - than estimated).
Thank you...
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1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
1984 318i - Champagne/Tan, Stock - Sold

BMWCCA# 160411
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  #14  
Old 01-23-2009, 11:14 AM
bfeng bfeng is offline
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Bavauto.com and ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by paul325740 View Post
I'm planing to change my also. My car is 540it 2002 sport package. Just got it back from service ( replacing rear airbag spring ).. where did you buy Bilstein from and $
thanks
Got all my parts from bavauto.com.
They also price matched a cheaper site for the rear shocks. I don't remember what the URL was, but I did a search on the Bilstein part number for rear shocks and someone else was about $35 less per piece that Bavauto. Bavauto price matched it.
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  #15  
Old 01-23-2009, 11:16 AM
bfeng bfeng is offline
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Bilstein's parts recommendation

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackBMWs View Post
Do you recall what Bilstien part number you used for your rear HDs for your Tour? (BE5-6061-HO or BE5-6096-HO) the 6061 are listed as HD on Bilstien's web site, but not for self leveling. The 6096 are listed for self leveling but are also listed as Sport, not HD.

Did you start with a Non-sport suspension?

Thanks!
Hello Mr. Feng,



Thank you for your interest in the Bilstein product line, and I'll be happy to assist you. For your vehicle, the following shocks would be the perfect upgrade:



F4-VE3-B409-H0 front struts

F4-BE5-6096-H0 rear shocks



These are monotube performance dampers that are designed specifically for the E39 touring with self leveling. Your ride quality will improve considerably over the products that you currently have, with a lot more handling and driver control.



Please feel free to contact me with any further questions. If you need assistance in finding outlets to purchase, you can also go to our website at:



http://www.bilstein.com/dealerlocato...9b7b60afae3387.



Best Regard,



Keith Robertson

Bilstein
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  #16  
Old 01-23-2009, 11:18 AM
bfeng bfeng is offline
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The OE sport sachs were only $80?

Quote:
Originally Posted by luvnhatemya6 View Post
"Had the Sach's shocks be available for the price of the Bilsteins, I would have stayed OE."

I just fitted Sachs rear shocks to my 525iT. I used ones for the 540iT from Autohaus Arizona, they cost $80 each. Fronts are $90 each. Are you saying you got the Bilsteins for less than that?

The Sachs ones I bought look absolutely identical to the original ones on the car. New label says "Super Touring".
Wow, I didn't check there. The OE sport shocks were over $200 ea for the fronts and well over $100 ea for the rears.
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  #17  
Old 01-23-2009, 06:09 PM
Jase007 Jase007 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bfeng View Post
Wow, I didn't check there. The OE sport shocks were over $200 ea for the fronts and well over $100 ea for the rears.

I bought the same "super touring" front Sachs shocks from autohausaz and installed them on my touring. They could not sufficiently dampen the stock OEM sport springs and I took them off after a few thousand miles and threw them away.

Remember, the shock has to be matched to the spring and really needs strong rebound control to dampen the "sprung weight" of the car pushing back down on the "unsprung weight" (compressed spring) of the wheel carrier / rotor / caliper / wheel and tire.

I next installed Koni sport single adjustable rebound only front shocks (yellow) and set them on the softest rebound setting. They are well matched for jounce and rebound to the OEM sport springs in front. I would describe the ride as firm certainly not harsh and i drive regularly on the crappy metro DC area roads on 17" ASA Ar1s.

If are going to "set and forget" get the Bilsteins. If you like to tinker, will be changing the unspring weight (wheel and tire combos, big brake kit, etc...) get the Koni SA Sports to be able to adjust the rebound to your liking.

I also replaced the rear sport shocks on my touring (with LOTS of miles on them) and the new BMW OEM Sachs sport shock replacements weren't that much stiffer. The rear carrier bushings really take the brunt of the abuse back there versus the shocks. The shocks are contained in the subframe whereas the subframe is dampened with four large fluid filled rubber "carrier" / subframe bushings.

I have the rear carrier bushing tool for rent, PM if interested / look for thread on here. Behind doing the double vanos seals, replacing the rear carrier bushings was my 2nd best "refurbishment."

FWIW
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2000 528iT Sport 5M (mfg. 5/1999) ~ 1990 325iX 5M
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  #18  
Old 01-28-2009, 06:29 PM
bfeng bfeng is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jase007 View Post

I have the rear carrier bushing tool for rent, PM if interested / look for thread on here. Behind doing the double vanos seals, replacing the rear carrier bushings was my 2nd best "refurbishment."

FWIW

I'll call you when I did the rear subframe bushings.
I was thinking about the best way to describe the feel of these Bilstein sports, and it dawned on me that if I could buy a M5iT, this is probably the right level of damping.

I noticed there's a set screw and locking nut on the bottom of the front shocks. Any idea what it's for?

John
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  #19  
Old 01-28-2009, 10:35 PM
Jared@EAC Jared@EAC is offline
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I agree that your rear problem is probably the rear subframe bushing. Jase is the man with the tool.

If anyone needs some Bilsteins give me a PM.

Jared
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  #20  
Old 01-29-2009, 11:30 AM
luvnhatemya6 luvnhatemya6 is offline
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"I'll call you when I did the rear subframe bushings"

This can be in the future tense, the past tense, or the subjunctive. It can't be future and past at the same time.
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  #21  
Old 01-29-2009, 09:29 PM
jsayreshepherd jsayreshepherd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jase007 View Post
I bought the same "super touring" front Sachs shocks from autohausaz and installed them on my touring. They could not sufficiently dampen the stock OEM sport springs and I took them off after a few thousand miles and threw them away.

Remember, the shock has to be matched to the spring and really needs strong rebound control to dampen the "sprung weight" of the car pushing back down on the "unsprung weight" (compressed spring) of the wheel carrier / rotor / caliper / wheel and tire.

I next installed Koni sport single adjustable rebound only front shocks (yellow) and set them on the softest rebound setting. They are well matched for jounce and rebound to the OEM sport springs in front. I would describe the ride as firm certainly not harsh and i drive regularly on the crappy metro DC area roads on 17" ASA Ar1s.

If are going to "set and forget" get the Bilsteins. If you like to tinker, will be changing the unspring weight (wheel and tire combos, big brake kit, etc...) get the Koni SA Sports to be able to adjust the rebound to your liking.

I also replaced the rear sport shocks on my touring (with LOTS of miles on them) and the new BMW OEM Sachs sport shock replacements weren't that much stiffer. The rear carrier bushings really take the brunt of the abuse back there versus the shocks. The shocks are contained in the subframe whereas the subframe is dampened with four large fluid filled rubber "carrier" / subframe bushings.

I have the rear carrier bushing tool for rent, PM if interested / look for thread on here. Behind doing the double vanos seals, replacing the rear carrier bushings was my 2nd best "refurbishment."

FWIW
Jason -

Conrats on choosing a wonderful combination of BMWs. e39 tourings and e30's in (or around) DC is a good combo
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  #22  
Old 01-31-2009, 01:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bfeng View Post
I'll call you when I did the rear subframe bushings.
I was thinking about the best way to describe the feel of these Bilstein sports, and it dawned on me that if I could buy a M5iT, this is probably the right level of damping.

I noticed there's a set screw and locking nut on the bottom of the front shocks. Any idea what it's for?

John
John, how did you access the top of the rear shocks and loosen the top carrier for the Touring? Didja have any issues in getting the shock off? Thanks!
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1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
1984 318i - Champagne/Tan, Stock - Sold

BMWCCA# 160411
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  #23  
Old 01-31-2009, 01:57 PM
bfeng bfeng is offline
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Very easy

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackBMWs View Post
John, how did you access the top of the rear shocks and loosen the top carrier for the Touring? Didja have any issues in getting the shock off? Thanks!
The hardest part was: the 3 screws that hold the access panels to the body are exposed (underneath) to the elements, and had gotten a little crusty. So, I had to be a bit careful not to let the phillips screwdriver slip when I took them off. A little acid to clean them up and re-install with some anti-seize to prevent future rust. The 13mm nuts all come of trivially with a socket and a medium length extention (6" or 8"). I had a slightly stubborn shock bushing (the metal part that fits into the suspension arm), but a couple whacks back and forth with a hand sledge loosened it up quickly.

Rear's are super easy and fast.

John
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  #24  
Old 01-31-2009, 05:36 PM
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BlackBMWs BlackBMWs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bfeng View Post
The hardest part was: the 3 screws that hold the access panels to the body are exposed (underneath) to the elements, and had gotten a little crusty. So, I had to be a bit careful not to let the phillips screwdriver slip when I took them off. A little acid to clean them up and re-install with some anti-seize to prevent future rust. The 13mm nuts all come of trivially with a socket and a medium length extention (6" or 8"). I had a slightly stubborn shock bushing (the metal part that fits into the suspension arm), but a couple whacks back and forth with a hand sledge loosened it up quickly.

Rear's are super easy and fast.

John
Yeah they were... Once I figured out there was an access panel (Thanks Hasso and Manowar!) and got the car up it was like 10 min to get both out.






The replacement took short of an hour and much of that was checking out the suspension... While I had the car up, I cleaned up the rear suspension subframe to check out among other things, the subframe bushings. 81k and my front two are cracked open. Couldn't tell on the rears visually, but since two are gone, all four will get replaced... I'll post some pics later.

Rear shocks are in and I'm going for a test ride here in a few...

Thanks everyone for their help!
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1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
1984 318i - Champagne/Tan, Stock - Sold

BMWCCA# 160411

Last edited by BlackBMWs; 01-31-2009 at 08:02 PM.
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  #25  
Old 01-31-2009, 07:57 PM
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Just installed a pair of Bilstien sport shocks on the rear of my 540it with the non-sport, self leveling suspension.



The rear seems more stable now and cloverleaf on-ramps seems more stable and firm for a heavy car. Definately a better feel. Looking forward to having the front's go in next week.

I do feel more of the road transmitted through the back now, but not harsh or teeth ratteling like my E28. It seems like it will be the right level of firmness for this non-sport suspension. The fronts get Bilstien HDs and new CA bushings next week.
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1999 540it - Jet Black/Sand Beige, style 5 rims, Zionsville Cooling kit
1984 533i - Schwarz/Schwarz, 17" style 65 reps
1997 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 68 rims
1995 318ti Sport - Schwartz II/Schwartz Anthratz, style 27 rims
1994 325i Sedan - Bostongrau/Tan
1991 318ic - Schwarz/Anthratz Stoff
1985 635CSI - Schwartz\Sand - Sold
1984 318i - Champagne/Tan, Stock - Sold

BMWCCA# 160411
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