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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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Old 02-05-2013, 07:24 AM
jkelley429 jkelley429 is offline
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Location: Nashville, Tennessee
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Mein Auto: BMW 5-series
Need advice before buying

Hey. My name is Justin Kelley and I am obviously a first time poster. I have been looking into the BMW 5-series specifically the E-39 lately and i think i have come across a good one. It is a 1999 540i 6 speed manual and has approximately 195,000 miles on it. Here is a link to the craigslist ad if you want to look. I have been talking to the owner and she tells me that she had her husband replace the timing chain and guides (he also replaced the clutch about 5000 miles ago), although he either didn't know how or didn't have the time to reset the timing correctly. For the price she is asking (she said the least she would take was $1800) i think it is a very good deal. I guess worse case scenario it could have bent valves, but if not i would basically be getting an $8000 car for alot less. I figured before i spend the money i should ask some people that know a little more about BMW's. Do yall think it is worth the risk? (I have done my own mechanic work on my current vehicle, a 1989 Toyota Pickup, and i believe i could take on the task of rebuilding/ replacing the heads if possible.) Thanks for your help and I hope i can one day be an active member of the forum as i am over on yotatech._a_
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:56 PM
air_cooled air_cooled is offline
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Location: Canada
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Mein Auto: E39 M5 / E30 318ic
Paragraphs are your friend.
You're not getting a $8000 car for alot less You are getting a $1500 body and someones engine nightmare
From the small sampling of pictures the body appears in good shape.
The question you need to ask yourself is what is the worst case - maybe another engine? What will it cost you to install another engine? Can you source another engine and is it worth your time?
Me - I would not buy it. Don't know what prices are like in your area but for maybe a few thousand more I could buy a "turn key" that requires minimal work.

Good luck with your choice.
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:09 PM
JKRIT JKRIT is offline
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Mein Auto: '03 525i
+1 on air-cooled's assessment.

I shudder to think how "her husband" figured out that the valve timing was messed up. Did he try to start it and it made really bad noises? Sounds like he really got in over his head on this one. I wonder how well he did the clutch? Remember to lubricate the splines, or is the clutch going to freeze on the input shaft in a few months? . . and the A/C is out, and it needs a front bumper, and it needs a window regulator. .

Sure, anything can be fixed with time/money. Are you looking for a car or a project?
'03 525i Sapphire Blu/Grey, SP, Nav
'03 530i Sterling Gray/Blk, SP
'02 525it Titanium Silver/Grey, SP
'02 325it Orient Blu/Grey, SP, Nav
'01 M3 Laguna Seca Blu/Grey
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:10 PM
Saladdin Saladdin is offline
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Location: USA. NC
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Mein Auto: 1998 BMW 528I
Like JKRIT said, are you looking for a project or a car? I think that 1800 is still too much. I mean 195k. Maybe 1500.
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:29 PM
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Ltmax Ltmax is offline
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Doesn't sound like such a great deal to me. There are tons of low priced E39's on the market and if it were me, I'd absolutely avoid any with any type of overheating/cylinder head, transmission, or valve timing problems as they can quickly eat up thousands of $$ to get them fixed.

With almost 200k miles on that one it's a pretty risky gamble.
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Old 02-05-2013, 04:40 PM
mbell666 mbell666 is offline
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Mein Auto: e39 2002 540i6
It might be as easy fix as refiting the timing case and rocker covers (so cams sensors are correctly positioned). Or it could be new engine job.

I think you have to add up all the cost for the worse case, factor in your time and effort and see if you think it is worth it. Then anything that isn't worse case will see like a bargain.
An e39 is like a beautiful wife, needs constant attention, lots of money, lets you down at the worse times but you’d never be without it.
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Old 02-05-2013, 05:59 PM
jkelley429 jkelley429 is offline
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Location: Nashville, Tennessee
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Mein Auto: BMW 5-series
Thats what I was thinking. Best case scenario as mbell said just some light engine work and your good, but worst case a head/ engine replacement. My thinking on the issue was that if it is done for, could I get my money back by parting it out and scrapping? I definitely don't want to make the wrong decision, and I definitely plan on having a mechanic check it out before I hand over any cash. As of right now I wouldn't mind a project as I have a DD for a while. Thanks for the input and I'll keep you updated.

Last edited by jkelley429; 02-05-2013 at 06:00 PM.
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:23 PM
aspensilver540 aspensilver540 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 540i
I'd rather save my pennies for something running unless you really just like wrenching for the fun of it.
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Old 02-05-2013, 07:03 PM
thecushion thecushion is offline
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Mein Auto: 02 s55 AMG,02 540i
------->>--->----->----->---> > R U N away from it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!------------------->>>>>
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Old 02-05-2013, 07:18 PM
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rexgo rexgo is offline
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Location: Chicago
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 227
Mein Auto: 97 528i
pass - too much unknown - find something running to be safe

'97 528i, 99k DD
'91 CRX Si, 114k
'83 Supra, 109k

Last edited by rexgo; 02-05-2013 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 02-05-2013, 07:24 PM
mda185 mda185 is offline
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Mein Auto: 95 525iT w/S52, 03 530i
Given the fact that it is not running and at that mileage, you have to assume the shocks and struts are worn out unless they can prove their age. They probably can't prove the clutch is new so assume it is not. You have to assume the engine is beyond repair even if it isn't or else you are taking on too much risk. This means you should price out a replacement engine before making an offer. Rebuilding one of these is not cheap no matter how good your skills.

Setting cam timing is not a simple job and requires some dedicated BMW service tools. The fact that the PO could not or did not know how to do this does not bode well for indicating he took good care of the car. Other parts with a high probability of being worn out are the driveshaft, the guibo, front and rear control arm bushings, and O2 sensors. I probably would not offer more than $1000 unless I could be convinced that a lot of the parts mentioned above would not need replacement. That means receipts and a sense that they are telling the truth. A non-running E39 with known engine problems is not likely to sell quickly at $2000 obo. If they can prove that the suspension and other parts were replaced in the last 50K miles, I might consider paying the asking price.

Last edited by mda185; 02-05-2013 at 07:28 PM.
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