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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 01-03-2010, 05:39 AM
DaveW2112 DaveW2112 is offline
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Location: Appleton, WI
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Mein Auto: 1998 540i
540i newbie questions

Thanks in advance for your help!!!!!!

I'm considering the purchase of a 90K miles 1998 540i 6-speed w/the sport package and have a few questions:
- I'm in snowy Wisconsin and this would be my primary year-around car. Any comments about this car on snow and ice? I grew up with rear wheel drive and autocross a Mustang so I'm comfortable in general. But is this car "decent" or "good" or is it just plain SCARY in these conditions?

- I read the following "E39 Buyers Guide" article (http://www.bimmerboard.com/members/q...e%208-2005.pdf) and it kinda scared me. It leaves me feeling like I'd be buying an expensive problem car. I can do a good deal of mechanical work myself but I'm far from rich ... and the car needs to be RELIABLE. Do they really burn through tires this quickly?

- Can I get two sets of golf clubs in the trunk? :-)

Thanks much folks!
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  #2  
Old 01-03-2010, 06:16 AM
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abanjableu abanjableu is offline
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Location: Eastern PA
 
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Posts: 754
Mein Auto: 02 540/74 911/01 Z3(hers)
buy it

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveW2112 View Post
Thanks in advance for your help!!!!!!

I'm considering the purchase of a 90K miles 1998 540i 6-speed w/the sport package and have a few questions:
- I'm in snowy Wisconsin and this would be my primary year-around car. Any comments about this car on snow and ice? I grew up with rear wheel drive and autocross a Mustang so I'm comfortable in general. But is this car "decent" or "good" or is it just plain SCARY in these conditions?

Meh...with snow tires it would be fine. I have summer tires and they work with 100% tread but I don't really like to drive it in the snow at all. Not nearly as bad as it could be though...

- I read the following "E39 Buyers Guide" article (http://www.bimmerboard.com/members/q...e%208-2005.pdf) and it kinda scared me. It leaves me feeling like I'd be buying an expensive problem car. I can do a good deal of mechanical work myself but I'm far from rich ... and the car needs to be RELIABLE. Do they really burn through tires this quickly?

The cooling system is the only expensive part that you must replace. Everything else is case by case it seems. You will burn the first set of tires quickly and then learn how to drive it more like a car and less like a track car


- Can I get two sets of golf clubs in the trunk? :-)

3 Sets according to the sticker in my trunk

Thanks much folks!
.
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  #3  
Old 01-03-2010, 07:30 AM
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kishg kishg is offline
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Location: Northern NJ
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
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Mein Auto: too many bmws
get snow tires and you'll be fine.
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  #4  
Old 01-03-2010, 07:35 AM
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dalekressin dalekressin is offline
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Dave,
I bought my 01 530i new. I t was not a lot of fun in the winter until I went with snow tires. Now I'm very pleased. This car is great. I have new wheels and tires from tire rack and I have no problems using it as a daily driver. I would consider selling it (just purchased 2010 M3). It is well maintained (new battery and new brakes/rotars summer 09 & coolant system overhaul as maint fall 09). You may PM if interested.
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  #5  
Old 01-03-2010, 07:50 AM
02540ico 02540ico is offline
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They're great in snow/ice with snow tires. Get a set of cheap wheels and good snow tires to throw on in the winter.
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  #6  
Old 01-03-2010, 08:20 AM
BosBmw540 BosBmw540 is offline
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Location: Boston
 
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Mein Auto: 00-540i
540i is a great car if you can do some mechanical work yourself.
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  #7  
Old 01-03-2010, 10:19 AM
KeithS KeithS is offline
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Mein Auto: '11 335d, '00 540iT
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveW2112 View Post
Thanks in advance for your help!!!!!!

I'm considering the purchase of a 90K miles 1998 540i 6-speed w/the sport package and have a few questions:
- I'm in snowy Wisconsin and this would be my primary year-around car. Any comments about this car on snow and ice? I grew up with rear wheel drive and autocross a Mustang so I'm comfortable in general. But is this car "decent" or "good" or is it just plain SCARY in these conditions?

- I read the following "E39 Buyers Guide" article (http://www.bimmerboard.com/members/q...e%208-2005.pdf) and it kinda scared me. It leaves me feeling like I'd be buying an expensive problem car. I can do a good deal of mechanical work myself but I'm far from rich ... and the car needs to be RELIABLE. Do they really burn through tires this quickly?

- Can I get two sets of golf clubs in the trunk? :-)

Thanks much folks!
The 540 can be a needy car, but is very rewarding to drive. If you can do much of your own repairs, is quite tolerable. There is an immense amount of help, tips and DYI's on these boards. With the help, most repairs are not that difficult. If you had to pay for all repairs, can be expensive.

In regards to snow, real snow tires are your friend. Everyone is so worried about going solving with 4 wheel drive. To me STOPPING is so much more important, which is ONLY improved with snow tires, even with 4 wheel drive. With snow tires your limitation will be ground clearance. The sport is on the low side and after about 8" of snow you will end up being a snow plow.

As others have said cooling systems are a weak link in all BMW's For the 98 540 you should also be concerned about the following:
  • Valley Pan Gasket Leak - They all eventually do it, an expensive repair ($1500), a big plus if already handled.
  • The oil pump bolts often loosen causing low oil pressure problems and related low oil pressure issues. If not already addressed (pan pulled and bolts removed and reinstalled with locktite), it should be soon. This issue was corrected with the M62TU version of the engine in 2000 MY.
  • Funky expensive water cooled alternator likes to seize up its bearings anytime north of 80K miles. Rebuilt alternator is on the expensive side.

With a manual trans no need to worry about the self destructing automatic transmissions. Properly maintained these cars are good for 300K miles. As far as burning through tires, it really depends on how heavy your right foot is!!! I get better than 50K out of a set of performance all seasons on our 540iT (With rotation - rear wear rate is faster than 2X the front).

Last edited by KeithS; 01-03-2010 at 10:23 AM.
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  #8  
Old 01-06-2010, 09:43 AM
nanda007 nanda007 is offline
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Location: Rochester, NY
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 21
Mein Auto: e39 M5
With snow tires it is one of the most fun cars in the snow. I drove tooo manyyy cars. Too many to list and I must say that my '00 540i (6-Speed) Sport Edition is the best even with 235/45-17 in the front and 255/40-17 in the back. I know, it is not the best winter set combination. You should not have any problems as long as your Dynamic Stability Controll (DSC) works as expected.

FYI - I'm runnin the OEM e39 M5 set during the Summer months.
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  #9  
Old 01-06-2010, 01:43 PM
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ttgxc ttgxc is offline
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Location: Hudson Valley - NY
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 827
Mein Auto: 1999 540i Sport
It is a great car and yes there might be a few repairs here and there (a lot you can do yourself with the help of this forum). Overall mine has been nothing but reliable and fun!
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  #10  
Old 01-06-2010, 03:37 PM
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weasel like weasel like is offline
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Location: Arlington, VA
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 446
Mein Auto: E39 528i 5-speed
- If you drove a Mustang in the snow and are comfortable with that, the BMW is more capable, especially with dedicated snow tires. Many all-season sets aren't great (I have a set of P-Zero Nero that aren't any good in snow), so a dedicated set might alleviate your concerns there.

- Tires last as long as you want them to. Really soft compounds (summer performance tires) tend to wear faster. Keep your suspension aligned correctly, and keep your tires inflated to spec and you'll be fine. Other wear items have been mentioned, but at 90k expect to do the following for sure: FULL cooling system overhaul is a MUST, suspension bushings will be going bad, suspension in general will be going bad, window regulators (the track that moves them up and down) will probably go any minute... There are lots of niggling things that break, but are mostly DIY capable if you're willing. Lots of information on these boards.

- You can get three sets in the trunk, among other things...







Bottom line is this: you are looking at purchasing a car that once cost $50,000+. The prices for maintenance and parts have not gotten much cheaper in the past 12 years, even though the price to purchase the car has. You WILL get a *OMG WTF* bill once and a while with these cars, but rarely over a few thousand dollars. Getting a thorough pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is absolutely critical before purchasing. This will give you an idea of what you're about to get into financially. Maybe you'll get lucky!


Good luck!
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