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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 07-17-2015, 01:02 AM
mydartswinger mydartswinger is offline
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Location: Texas
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 2
Mein Auto: 2001 525iT
2001 525iT Tensioner Snapped

This afternoon, I was idling in a parking lot trying to take care of some business, and out of the blue my battery light comes on and my power steering was inactive. I didn't know what was going on, but I needed to go get my wife from work, so I figured that I'd just go ahead and go get her, dealing with the hard steering, and check it out when I got home. I made it about 1/4 mile down the road before the car's engine temp went through the roof. I wasn't in a position to pull off (was at a light getting ready to turn left), so I went through the light and POP and coolant was spewing from under the hood. I finally managed to limp it off of the road right after the pop.

After shutting her down and checking her out, I found something had snapped either on the tensioner or whatever it mounts to, causing the tensioner to fall into the fan. Basically, all of the issues that cropped up stemmed from the tensioner coming off.

My sister's boyfriend (a tech at a Chevy dealer) and I came to the conclusion that the overheating that the car experienced last summer before I could get the radiator replaced caused the aluminum to weaken and today it just had enough.

Bringing me to my questions. What part does the tensioner mount to? It looks like the timing cover, but I'm really hoping not. What do you guys think broke based on the pictures below? What all parts would I need to complete the job properly (gaskets, etc...)? What tools beyond a metric socket set, torque wrench, and prybar would be needed to repair it? Where could I get the parts the cheapest (in a rough situation at the moment, and just need to get her going to get me a couple years or so until I can get into a better situation)?

I want to make sure I get the right parts the first time so I can get them overnighted and try to get the car fixed Saturday or Sunday. She's my only ride, so I need to get her going quick.

Thank you in advance.

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Old 07-17-2015, 07:23 AM
Silver-E39 Silver-E39 is offline
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Location: Texas
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 32
Mein Auto: BMW 2001 530i
please go to the "Best of links" and search for whatever you need to change. Changing out the tensioner has already been covered in extensive detail in the DIYs.
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Old 07-17-2015, 07:33 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Location: Omaha NE
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 13,642
Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
Couple things...

Never never ever drive a BMW (or other car) with bad alternator light, the problem is much bigger than the alternator light in the dash. An episode of overheat is usually the death certificate in this engine. In fact, this is the most common cause of death LOL...

1. Since you already overheated the car...
Do a compression test, dry then wet...
If good...

2. Search forum for "cooling overhaul". Likely:
- new idler pulley
- new tensioner pulley (yours look like mechanic type (not hydraulic type)
- new belts x2
- tstat (Wahler only)

Looks like you have more than 150K on the car...

3. Tensioner is mounted to OFH.
So get a used OFH on ebay.
Replace the OFH gasket ($5 at dealer).
I wrote a DIY for OFHG a while back.

Last edited by cn90; 07-17-2015 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 07-17-2015, 09:37 AM
AV8R4AA AV8R4AA is offline
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Location: Dallas
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 237
Mein Auto: 1987 //M6 2000 528it
Where is the car now?
I love my BMW 528it
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Old 07-17-2015, 10:04 AM
mydartswinger mydartswinger is offline
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Location: Texas
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 2
Mein Auto: 2001 525iT
It's at home right now.

Thank you for letting me know what it mounts to.
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