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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
I fixed an issue today which was a bit of an irritant. My rear passenger door was difficult to open from the outside and passengers would think I was locking them out, not knowing if you lifted up with enough force, the door would open. It was a "nuance" of my car and kind of embarrassing.
Luckily for me the fix was very simple and didn't require any parts. There are lots of threads on replacing these parts but if you have a minor issue like mine, start by checking this first:
pulling the exterior door handle would not *easily* un-latch the lock, had to lift up with more force than the other doors. interior handle functioned correctly.
Diagnosis: Bowden cable was not seated in the guide properly.
Using the port on the side of the door, remove the exterior handle. This doesn't require removing the interior trim. see this video "Exterior Driver Side Door Handle Removal" for an idea of the port I'm referring to.
Right behind the handle, inside the door, I noticed the cable and that it's tip wasn't secured in the notch cut into the metal. hooked that up and whatta-ya-know! works like a charm.
Re-insert the door handle and use needle nose pliers to pull the metal slide back into place._a_