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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 11-26-2013, 01:30 PM
richiecee richiecee is offline
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Location: Staten Island
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 1
Mein Auto: 1999 528I
Post E39 Airbag and Seat belt light

I wanted to share some of my issues that I encountered over the past few weeks to contribute to the forum. A few weeks ago, my airbag as well as my seatbelt light lit up on my 1999 528I (E39 with 153k). I started to blog and found many threads that pertained to the ignition switch and some others which pertained to the "slip ring". I thought it was odd to consider the ignition switch especially since it was replaced around 110k miles. Three or four days passed as I was getting ready for a weeks vacation so I just kept blogging. That same day the transmission light came on and I started to get worried. I decided to take it to the dealer for a diagnostic test to see what came up. I made it clear to the dealer what my intentions were and they were fine.

The test listed the following:

2D Multifunction steering wheel controls
27 Brake light switch
6F Torque Converter
38 Air bag control module

Obviously, I was very nervous especially with the transmission etc. as that could run into a few thousand, easy. The dealer went through all of them with me and realized I did not want to do the transmission work there and he even mentioned that they do not like to repair. They would rather just replace the whole transmission. Anyway, he recommended someone not far away who has the tools and experience to work on my model. So I went to meet him and subsequently gave him the task of finding the problem. He said it could vary between a simple fluid change or the transmission had to be rebuilt which could mean a few large taken from my bank account. It turns out that it was the brake light switch which did appear on the diagnostics test. It appears that this has an impact on the torque converter when you hit the brake pedal. It some respects I was not really surprised since I never had any performance issues etc. as far as hitting the pedal or taking off from a stop light. In any event, I had the oil and filter changed which cost about $350 in total. Now I had to deal with the airbag and seatbelt light.

Next I decided to take a shot and purchase a slip ring for my E39 on EBAY. I checked the realoem.com site to look up the part number etc. Given I had the Sports Premium package, I looked up the part # for the M Series steering wheel. With that, I was away for a week and upon my return received the part and proceeded to install it. Much to my surprise, it was the wrong part! As I had everything apart, I took down the part # of slip ring on the steering wheel. With this I found out that the slip ring for my M steering wheel is from an E46 3 Series. The website I use was incorrect. Anyway, received the new slip ring and installed it etc. Unfortunately the lights were still on and I was mystified. The next day the transmission light re-appeared.

I went back to the person who sold me the slip ring to get some advice. He suggested that I look at the fuses and I am embarrassed to say that I forgot to do this. Anyway, I checked the fuses using the guide from my manual and they were all fine. Next I decided to check all of the buttons and switches inside the car. Still the steering wheel controls including the horn were not working. I then started to check the vanity mirrors and they did not work at first but then they turned on and when they did, my airbag and seat belt light went off. It was as if the mirrors were reset buttons. This worked for a few days until the next time I tried the vanity mirrors the radio would turn off as well as the indicator on the dashboard. And, the rear tail lights would illuminate. At this point, I was having a heart attack as this could not be from the ignition switch!

My next step was to speak with a technician on JustAnswers.com which I have used previously and have been very satisfied. The technician said that it was a 99% chance that it was the ignition switch which had been changed some 40k miles ago. Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

Response #1
My name is Steve and it will be my pleasure to assist you today.

this is most likely a failed ignition switch, you should replace yours

the only other possibility would be a failed control module which is causing interference on the communication network. do trace this you would need to unhook components one by one to see when the issues stop

again, most likely just the ignition switch, about $100 at a dealer

Response #2
I would definitely try an ignition switch first, it is not that hard to replace

the mdoules that you would need to unhook would be the slip ring, climate control, radio, instrument cluster, lamp module, general module, srs module,

you can try pulling fuses but direct unhooking the module is best.

slip ring - behind wheel
climate control - in dash,
radio, in dash
instrument cluster, in dash
lamp module in passenger footwell outside kick panel
, general module, behind glove box
srs module, under center armrest

Basically in summary, replace the ignition switch. If that is not it, change the components as mentioned in response #3 in that order and to disconnect them to really test them.

Well, I purchased the ignition switch for $110 in total and using some videos on You Tube and at last, all of the lights went off and have stayed off for the last four days or so.

The amount of issues this little switch created was unbelievable and the impact it had on the tail lights, vanity mirror etc were amazing. I just wanted to spell this out to the forum.

All the best!
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Old 11-26-2013, 05:51 PM
bluebee's Avatar
bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 20,421
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Nice information!
I took the liberty of cross referencing to these threads found by typing /srs or /airbag f3 in the bestlinks...
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > air bag light reset - was drivers belt buckle

See also:
- What is the cheapest usable BMW E39 airbag srs reset/scan tool on the net (1) & a cn90 DIY for replacing the driver seat belt buckle pretensioner and the passenger seat emulator (1) & what can cause a BMW E39 SRS airbag light (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) & what scan tools reset the fault (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & what happens when we disconnect the airbag before the battery or we connect the battery before disconnecting the airbag in seat and window regulator repairs (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) & where to obtain an airbag occupancy sensor bypass unit (1) (2).
Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 11-26-2013 at 05:54 PM.
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