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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 10-11-2010, 08:56 AM
toofast02 toofast02 is offline
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Low Oil Pressure warning--possible cause

I have a 2003 530i with 92,000 miles that has been showing the low oil pressure warning and the low oil light light for a couple of months. I switched to a heavier oil, bought a new oil filler cap, and flushed the engine. Nothing helped until I took the car in to have a rough idle checked. I had been getting codes for bad oxygen sensors and misfires in all cylinders. Replacing the sensors and spark plugs had no effect.

Turns out I had a vacuum leak. I had the shop replace all of the breather hoses and the CCV. Not only did the codes for the 02 sensors and misfires stop, I stopped getting the oil warnings. I asked the repair guy if the vacuum leak could have caused the oil issues. He said it absolutely could have-something about unmetered air being pulled across the sensor causes the computer to think there is excess air (and not enough oil) in the crankcase.

This kind of makes sense to me but I'm not a mechanic. I've gotten a lot of useful advice from this forum. Hopefully someone can benefit from my experience.
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  #2  
Old 10-11-2010, 09:00 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Low Oil PRESSURE problem trouble-shooting list. Search the forum but basically boils down to:
- ALWAYS check oil level first!
- Oil P sensor (located on oil filter housing, in the back of it): $5 item
- Connector and wiring from the sensor to dash
- Oil Pump lasts the life of the car, so unless you have sludge, don't worry about the oil pump yet.
- Oil Grade: is it too thin?
- Last but not least, worn VANOS seals can allow excess oil leaking past the seals (you won't see the leak because it happens INTERNALLY inside the VANOS housing). This bleeds off oil from the oil lubrication supply ---> low oil pressure light that goes away when you rev up the engine rpm.
So if you have not replaced the VANOS seals, do them now. Search forum for "Beisan VANOS Seals".
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  #3  
Old 10-11-2010, 02:42 PM
toofast02 toofast02 is offline
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Are you saying that the vacuum leak wouldn't cause the low oil pressure warning? That would kind of suck. I was hoping that a $900 repair bill had this car fixed (at least temporarily).

What would you estimate the cost to replace the VANOS seals? I did some research and it doesn't appear to be a simple job. Not for me anyway. Thanks.
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  #4  
Old 10-11-2010, 06:50 PM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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It's a lot of work and bits that you need to keep track of but it's really not that complicated as you have a double VANOS system. IIRC beisansystems.com says 4 hrs labour if you can find an Indy who will do it.

I don't like the mechanic's description of how the vacuum solved the problem, and I haven't heard that the universal VANOS problem causes low oil pressure. If everything else checks out I'd suspect a bad sensor. Has the pump intake been checked?
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  #5  
Old 01-21-2012, 11:14 PM
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For the record, by way of cross reference, this related thread was opened today:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > The Red Oil light thread E39 540i

Quote:
Originally Posted by redbull713 View Post
I am creating this thread in hopes of consolidating the collective knowledge of the community on this problem. I understand that many have experienced this issue. I'm experiencing the red oil pressure warning light at idle only after the engine has warmed to operating temperature. I otherwise don't have any other symptoms although I will occasionally feel an odd vibration or stumble as well as an rpm dip when it occurs. Anybody with experience is encouraged to post their findings.
Thanks
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  #6  
Old 08-10-2013, 09:06 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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For the record, this was posted today:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > 97 e39 red oil light

Quote:
Originally Posted by kakahmadishex View Post
hi every body
I have a problem with my 97 bmw 528i , the red oil light which is for low oil pressure comes on , its flickering and sometimes stays on for a while and sometimes stays off for awhile, sometimes its good while idling but when I put my foot on gas to a higher rpm (between 2 and 3) the light comes on and when I put my foot away the light goes off, I dont want to move the car in this case,I have read many threads on this, I changed the oil to thicker 10w-40 , new original filter , the oil level is good, I replaced the oil filter cap , I replaced the oil pressure switch with a new one, no luck and still have the same problem, the last thing that I want to do before I buy a gauge and check the oil pressure is to check the wire harness or the connector to the oil pressure switch, can anybody tell me how to check the wire for damages please? because when I touch the wire the light start to flicker and I think there is a short some where, can anybody please have the wiring diagram for the switch please?
I think the last thing is to check the oil pump itself , do you think I can do this myself? does anybody have a link of how to check or replace the oil pump please?

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Last edited by bluebee; 08-10-2013 at 09:09 PM.
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  #7  
Old 08-24-2013, 11:22 AM
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Someone asked today where the oil pressure switch is, so here are the related diagrams:
Quote:
Originally Posted by EconoBox View Post
Where is the oil pressure switch located?
See also:
- What to do when you have low oil pressure (1) & the difference between a red oil light versus yellow oil light (1) & how to diagnose oil consumption & oil pressure problems (1)

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  #8  
Old 08-24-2013, 11:37 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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bluebee, that diagram illustrates the location of the oil temperature switch.....

ElwoodBlues and CN90 have some good shots of these sensors they've put on the forum.

For example, here's one with the OFH out of the car and on its side. The oil pressure sensor/switch/sender (circled and marked "lower" in the pic) is the one adjacent to the vanos line banjo bolt connection on the rear of the OFH. It has only one pin in its connector. (The oil temp sensor connector has two pins.)


Last edited by pleiades; 08-24-2013 at 11:50 AM.
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  #9  
Old 08-24-2013, 02:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
bluebee, that diagram illustrates the location of the oil temperature switch.....
Serves me right for editing the picture!
Here's the unedited picture, with the pressure sensor in red.

BTW, I didn't know we even HAD oil temperature sensors (I don't think my E39 has one).
- Simplest BMW E39 oil temperature sensor retrofit? Has it been done?


See also:
- Getting to know your E39 engine, a photo & identification guide to every visible part in the engine bay (1)
- List of all possible BMW E39 instrument cluster 20-digit alphanumeric display warning/information messages (1)
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Last edited by bluebee; 08-24-2013 at 02:26 PM.
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  #10  
Old 08-24-2013, 06:48 PM
poolman poolman is offline
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Fixing the vacuum leaks helped in the following way in making you oil light disappear--unmetered air entering the system makes the engine labor,,at idle the rpms are down just enough to cause the light to come on. The engine needs a certain amount of rpm at idle to get the proper pressure from the pump to keep the light from coming on. In my case,,I have so many miles on the engine that I needed to go to a heavy weight oil--15W50 Mobil 1 syn is what I run now and the engine seems to like it and along with that, no more red lights with all the bells and whistles going off when coming to a stop sign at idle.
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  #11  
Old 07-14-2014, 10:02 PM
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For the crosslinked record, another low oil pressure thread was opened today:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Stop! Engine oil pressure
Quote:
Originally Posted by kristos View Post
I an driving a 528i BMW, E39 model. I would like to know what could be the problem? I was driving and suddenly there was a caution on the display reading STOP! ENGINE OIL PRESSURE and the car the shuts off the engine and stopped. I checked the oil and I thought oil was low. then I put in oil after which the car started and I drove. after a short while the caution light was on again but it did not stop. I then topped the oil but the caution goes off and after a while it goes on again. I did overfill the oil and after finding out that the oil is overfilled, I the reduced it to the required fill.The next day I drove the car and the light was on and it suddenly shuts the engine off after driving for about 40 km. After 5 to 10 minutes when you start the car it starts. But there is a very unpleasant noise when the car engine is running. The noise is so rough that you will think its a tractor. What could be the problem?
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  #12  
Old 08-04-2014, 01:59 PM
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For the record, the E46 team has this problem today ...
> E46 (1999 - 2006) > My oil light keeps coming on

Quote:
Originally Posted by zerbato18 View Post
Hi, I just bought a BMW 330i and the oil light was on but everything else was perfect. I went and got an oil change thinking that might be the problem. The light keeps coming on but only below around 1400 rpm. As soon as I get above that the light goes off. Does anyone know what it might be?
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalibuMafiaV View Post
Red or orange oil light?. Is the level ok on the dip stick?.

If it's red shut your car off immediately. That's your oil pump not working and or your far to many quarts low.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob View Post
If it`s the yellow warning light, it`s probably a faulty oil-level sensor (they`re known to be finicky), or, the oiol level is too low. If it`s the red warning light, then it`s something more serious, like an oil-pressure problem, and the engine should not be run until the cause is determined.

If yellow, try adding about a cup more oil, the level might just be a little low. A lot of "mechanics/technicians", if not real familiar with BMWs, don`t understand that these "little six-cylinders" require seven quarts of oil....

Where is the oil level on the dipstick ? (post a pic or 2)
Quote:
Originally Posted by zerbato18 View Post
It is the red light. The car isn't overheating at all and the light does shut off once I start rolling.
Quote:
Originally Posted by crowz View Post
Do a manual oil presure test. Either buy something to test it or take it to a shop NOW for them to do it.

Its either a bad sensor or you have a serious problem. Delaying will kill your motor soon if its not the sensor.

It may be the oil pickup, it may be the pump, but whatever it is its something to handle NOW.
Quote:
Originally Posted by zerbato18 View Post
Yes the oil is full
Quote:
Originally Posted by zerbato18 View Post
Update: the shop thinks it is the sensor not reading the oil level in the car. They believe that because it goes off when oil gets moving around in the car it goes off and the car at first believes there is no oil in it
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  #13  
Old 08-18-2014, 08:39 PM
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This is a nice post, which I bring here, so that all may benefit ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
From a technical stand point, it is a "switch", not a "sensor".

All it does is switch the light on and off when the pressure falls below a pre-determined value.

Your mechanic is correct, the light is an indication of a problem, however he is not familiar with BMW issue.
For the BMW, in 99.9999999% of the cases, it is nothing serious.
Just an annoying light.
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  #14  
Old 08-19-2014, 04:55 PM
poolman poolman is offline
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+1

Last edited by poolman; 08-20-2014 at 05:27 AM.
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  #15  
Old 09-16-2014, 01:54 PM
Softhands Softhands is offline
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I just had my low oil pressure light come on. It appears from what I read that the oil pump is probably not the cause of this low pressure warning light. I already checked the level of the oil and it was good, so I will check the others items. Thanks.
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  #16  
Old 09-16-2014, 01:59 PM
Softhands Softhands is offline
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Forgot to ask. Does a 2003 530i have a yellow warning light for oil pressure? The only light I have ever noticed is the red one with an oil drip coming from what looks like an oil container.
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Old 09-16-2014, 04:30 PM
pudl pudl is offline
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It does. The cutout has a red led and a yellow led behind it.
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  #18  
Old 09-16-2014, 05:11 PM
MKJS MKJS is offline
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Not sure if this has been mentioned but watched a youtube vid of a guy pull the pan and find 7 bolts in the bottom of the pan. That was most of the bolts holding the oil pump to the block. (and the ones still in the pump were lose) Once he cleaned them up and re-torqued them all the oil pressures issues went away.

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Old 09-16-2014, 06:55 PM
Softhands Softhands is offline
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Okay so if I do have a yellow light and I have only seen the red one come on does that mean it cannot be a sensor therefore it must be the oil pump? Thank you in advance for your help.
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Old 09-17-2014, 02:51 AM
pudl pudl is offline
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It is usually a combination of old parts making the pressure drop just below the threshold. Some people just replace the sensor with a lower threshold one. A new pump will certainly boost the pressure but 'it must be the oil pump' is too strong a statement.
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Old 09-17-2014, 10:33 AM
Softhands Softhands is offline
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Assuming that I will eventually have to replace the oil pump, is it directly below the oil filter on my E39?
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  #22  
Old 09-17-2014, 12:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Softhands View Post
Assuming that I will eventually have to replace the oil pump, is it directly below the oil filter on my E39?
You have to take the oil pan off. Major PITA.
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  #23  
Old 09-17-2014, 01:27 PM
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The oil pump is below that, you need to take the oil sump off, and that is a major job.
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  #24  
Old 09-17-2014, 08:36 PM
Softhands Softhands is offline
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From the sound of it it is not an easy job. Therefore are there any special tools involved and what is the difficult part of removing the oil pump? Also is there a way of checking to see if it is actually the oil pump?
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Old 09-17-2014, 10:30 PM
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mjalloul11 mjalloul11 is offline
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You need a pressure gauge to connect to the sending unit and check for the correct number, it different at idle then when you rev the engine.
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