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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 10-08-2014, 12:16 AM
uspowpow uspowpow is offline
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Mein Auto: 2000 BMW 528i
Advice on 2001 BMW 540i w/ 130k miles Purchase

Hi Everyone,

I recently (July 2014) had my 2000 BMW 528i overheat and die due to a pipe that broke in my cooling system. I just graduated from college and can only afford about 5-8k to spend on a car. That having been said, I'm looking into potentially buying a 2001 BMW 540i with 130,000 miles. Do you have any advice or anything to be aware of? I'm going to have the car looked at by a mechanic but for $5,700 it seems like a good deal (depending on the necessary repairs, obviously). Original owner is selling it and clean title. What should I be looking out for though, with 130,000 miles on the odometer?

Thanks,
Alex

Last edited by uspowpow; 10-08-2014 at 12:35 AM.
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  #2  
Old 10-08-2014, 03:03 AM
stickbuilder stickbuilder is offline
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Advice on 2001 BMW 540i w/ 130k miles Purchase

I'd recommend something more along the lines of a newer Honda with fewer miles. They are pretty much idiot proof and with you just entering the job market, you don't need a car that is iffy at best. You should already know that an old BMW is going to be a money pit.


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  #3  
Old 10-08-2014, 03:16 AM
GSXRYDER GSXRYDER is offline
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well that last post

Is tough to follow...but, I would say do it. That is a low mile car considering its age. If it is an original owner odds are very much in it's favor. Sure you can get a honda, lexus, or toyota that is likely to be 'reliable' to no end...but, for sheer driving comfort and thrill of driving perhaps one of the best drivers cars ever made go for the 540. Yes, you are going to spend some money but doubtful you're ever going to drive a more satisfying car. The guys in this forum are very helpful to DIYers and know this car through and through. Take the car out for a ride let the car 'talk to you' anything worthwhile will be said in a 'good spirited' test drive. Know our cooling systems are 'throw aways' you're gonna have to replace it every 3-4 years or so. Other than that keep the oil clean, change fluids regularly it will put a smile on your face everytime you drive it. You may want to get it inspected by a BMW dealer for safe measure, and pull the carfax...but it sounds great! Good Luck
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  #4  
Old 10-08-2014, 06:25 AM
MKJS MKJS is offline
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I just made a similar purchase and this has been my experience: I found and purchased a '99 540i w 114K on it and I love it!!! This one has is a no vanos engine (it's an m62 sept '98 production) so I won't have any issues with that but it does need the ccv/seperator system replaced, and valve cover gaskets. While I'm in there I'm going to change the plugs. Gas mileage is fair, combined 18.6, tires are good (w one exception) and has 17" M wheels.

On the horizon I'm looking to change: rad fluid, trans fluid, brake fluid, steering fluid, diff fluid. It has a new fan clutch, but in the spring I'm going to put in a Scahs and do a complete cooling system overhaul.

I picked up the car really cheep (<4K)and figure it will take me bout 1500-2000 to put it back in great shape. Got it cheep from a private seller because it was dirty, really dirty, greasy, nasty, carpets, seats, tint impaired, regulators broken, you name it and it needed cleaning or fixing... It looked BAD, but underneath it has a heart of gold.

Hard to find another car that is as much fun to drive as this one. It will run on 87, but it's a completely different car on 91+ gas and I get a smile every time I get in. You can keep your Honda/Chevy/Hundi... I know this one isn't new, but it drives better at it's present age than any of these ever did or ever will.

After going over it with clay and glaze and wax, after cleaning the carpets (3 times), the head liner, window posts and sun visors, after cleaning the seats, wheels, trunk, headlights, engine compartment after putting the buttons back on the climate control system... former owner says it doesn't even look like the same car.

doc
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Last edited by MKJS; 10-08-2014 at 07:06 AM.
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  #5  
Old 10-08-2014, 07:11 AM
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Nigel720 Nigel720 is offline
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Mein Auto: 2002 540i 6 speed Sport
The facelift model is the better one to go for. The big thing with these cars is HISTORY, HISTORY, HISTORY!!!!!!!! If it hasn't got it, walk away or it may cause you a whole world of pain. I have been around these beautiful cars since the 1980's and a well kept one will serve you well, you see threads on this forum with people that clearly have not done their due diligence and got their fingers burnt.

I have had mine 18 months now and it has cost me nothing, I spent a year finding it, I looked at some crap that looked really good but scratch the surface and found, shall we say, less than honest sellers that were looking for a mug. The V8 is a wonderful fun car to drive particularly with a manual transmission.

Good luck - remember HISTORY HISTORY HISTORY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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  #6  
Old 10-09-2014, 09:27 PM
uspowpow uspowpow is offline
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Hey Everyone - Thank you very much for your replies, I really appreciate how helpful they were. I'm going to test drive the car this saturday and am hoping it checks out. Quick question. What is VANOS and is that something I need to worry about? Also he said these are the current problems with the car:
- oil leaks at valve cover and upper timing cover gaskets ($1850)
- right sway bar mount is broken (explains the clicking noise) ($125)
- power steering lines at reservoir is leaking ($430)

Should any of this worry me too much? Also I forgot to mention that this particular 540i has the M sport package as well as a DINAN front strut bar and rear tower bar.
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  #7  
Old 10-09-2014, 10:08 PM
edjack edjack is offline
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When you're dishing burgers at McDonalds, you won't have enough money to keep this car running. Get a cheap Japanese car until you can really afford to own a BMW.
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  #8  
Old 10-09-2014, 10:13 PM
uspowpow uspowpow is offline
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Hahaha who said I was flipping burgers? Because I just graduated college you assumed that's what I would be doing? Frankly... you're quite literally insulting me. I would appreciate your advice, not cheeky comments.

Last edited by uspowpow; 10-09-2014 at 10:19 PM.
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  #9  
Old 10-10-2014, 04:04 AM
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Nigel720 Nigel720 is offline
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Mein Auto: 2002 540i 6 speed Sport
You have the common problems associated with the V8. Mine too, is suffering the same. They are on next years maintenance list and that's the thing with these cars. They are getting old and the parts need replacing. The alternator has just failed on mine and the part alone is almost a $1000.

The VANOS unit is the variable valve timing. The seals are the common problem on that.

Good luck, if you do buy it you will be hooked..
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  #10  
Old 10-10-2014, 08:27 AM
MKJS MKJS is offline
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Might also need to replace the ccv/oil separator system. There is a diaphragm in the ccv that seems to break leaving too much pressure in the crank case. If i run mine at a decent clip on the highway, then let it sit a couple of hrs it always lets out a big puff of smoke when I re-start it. Driven around town it never smokes upon restart even when left sitting over night. I attribute this to the large buildup up of pressure in the crank case at highway speeds, and it forcing oil into the intake system. Also it seems to me, when the ccv goes it has a tendency to take out the valve cover gaskets too, IMO. Of course, old cars tend to leak at the valve covers anyway.

When buying a used car, unless the maintenance records are perfect it is always wise to change the plugs and fluids too. Trans/rad/brakes/dif/steering. There's more... on these cars the upper timing chain tensioner tends to wear out leaving the chain to damage the guide. I'd think that also needs to be replaced, or at least inspected for spring tension.

On the plus side this car is a gem to drive. Handles great, nice acceleration, all while wrapped in leather and a fair sound system. I really love mine and am so happy I found it.

I'm thinking this purchase depends on the depth of your pockets and your ability to diy. Going to take one of the two, or a combination of both.

Best of luck to you,
doc
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Last edited by MKJS; 10-10-2014 at 08:30 AM.
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  #11  
Old 10-10-2014, 09:09 AM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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Mein Auto: 2001 540i/6, '90 BMW k75s
A couple of things:

1. The VANOS issue is overrated on the V-8's, to my mind. Mine had the VANOS knocking sound when I bought it more than three years ago, but it's never caused a drivability issue for me, after putting 30,000 miles on it.

2. You'll want to know when the front suspension was overhauled. You can do it yourself for about $600 (I did), or you can pay more than $1,000 to have it done.

3. Cooling system, cooling system, cooling system. Again, if it hasn't been done, this is a reasonable DIY project.

4. The timing chain guides will eventually be a big issue, and it's an ambitious DIY project (about $3,000 to have it done by a shop). I still haven't done mine at 185,000, but others have had failures at around 120,000.

For me, the manual transmission elevates the enjoyment of the car from "fun" to "satisfying and grin-produicng." At this point,even with the maintenance I've done and am facing. I've never regretted buying the car. It still draws compliments from everyone who rides in it, and it's good for people to experience what a great car feels like.
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Old 10-10-2014, 09:13 AM
GSXRYDER GSXRYDER is offline
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for the record

yes, there are some maintenance issues. These were premium cars when new so expect some premium pricing. But if you're a diyer it isn't so bad. One of the miracles of our cars is the common guy with some hand tools and a little motivation can fix just about anything that goes wrong. The ride is magnificent and the 540 is a BEAST to drive, unlikely to find a more satisfying car to drive...

Yep, stuff will go wrong and even the guys 'dogging' our cars are still here...that should say something too.

Don't 'fret' a vanos issue, Keep the oil changed and clean that is a big deal. Keep the fluids changed every 2 years as recommended...the longer you keep it the more you will realize just how awesome they are...

GL
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  #13  
Old 10-10-2014, 09:15 AM
edjack edjack is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uspowpow View Post
Hahaha who said I was flipping burgers? Because I just graduated college you assumed that's what I would be doing? Frankly... you're quite literally insulting me. I would appreciate your advice, not cheeky comments.
Sorry, I was merely trying to shock you into reality. It's tough enough to launch oneself into a career w/o having a 14-year-old E39 financial millstone around your neck.
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  #14  
Old 10-10-2014, 09:23 AM
plmadding01e39 plmadding01e39 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
Sorry, I was merely trying to shock you into reality. It's tough enough to launch oneself into a career w/o having a 14-year-old E39 financial millstone around your neck.
Ed really is right. I am 24 and graduated from WSU about 1.5 years ago. When I look at the money I have spent on my 540i in maintenance and replacement parts (approx. $4,000) I realize that I could be $4m closer to a house down payment rather than having a car that I like but keeps its claws around my wallet.

I made a decision that I cannot justify as reasonable or logical. But I do love that car.
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  #15  
Old 10-10-2014, 01:47 PM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
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Mein Auto: E39 540, E36 328is, E83x3
I have a 2001 540 6 speed..

I bought it with 119k on it for 11.5 it was mint,

Im now at 197k (we are talking 6 to 7 years since then... Ive spend about 10 grand on the car since then

timing .. Done
valley pan .. DOne
front supenstion.. DOne
cooling system.. partally done
verious little things... Nickel and dimed..

granted it took that amount of money to get it to the point its at now...
@ this point and time.. the car is reliable and ready to drive anywhere..

no one can tell you your own Money situation,

Ill tell you like this.. so we dont get confused..

On the left hand.. I dont know you, i dont car about you, and if you buy the car and end up having to give it away.. Ill be able to scoop it out from under you with out you even knowing what happen (as happens to many)
On the right hand.. you just finished college.. you want to buy a house? you want to get a wife and have a faimly? you want to save for the future? you want to make money disisions that make sence?
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Last edited by Burning2nd; 10-10-2014 at 01:48 PM.
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  #16  
Old 10-10-2014, 03:50 PM
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golferjohnm golferjohnm is offline
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i'd have thought the issue of what you need from a car would have been raised because this wouldn't be a prudent choice for an abusive commute, but for a moderate daily cruise to work with occasional Bahn-like blasts to faraway locales...I couldn't think of anything finer, almost regardless of price
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  #17  
Old 10-10-2014, 06:48 PM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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As long as you go in with your eyes open, knowing that you'll be hit with a few big repairs over a period of 4-5 years, it's really a kind of philosophical question. I remember my dad always wanted a TR-3. There was one in British Racing Green near our house, and he'd always look at it, thinking "Some day...," but he died at 42 and never got the chance. So when I was 22, I had a chance to buy a 1963 Porsche super 90, and I jumped at it. I spent a lot of money keeping it running, but I never regretted buying it.

Neither have i regretted buying the 540. I took it on a 16,500 mile trip around the country last year, through 41 states, and had to pay for an expensive alternator replacement, but it was a perfect car for my trip. It handled every road and every highway with aplomb, was amazingly comfortable, held all my crap (including a bicycle, thanks to the fold-down rear seats), and averaged 26 mpg. I expect to get at least another 100,000 miles out of it.

Just make sure you get a really thorough pre-purchase inspection and get good service records. If they can't document a maintenance or repair item, assume it hasn't been done.
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Old 10-11-2014, 08:04 AM
AV8R4AA AV8R4AA is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uspowpow View Post
Hahaha who said I was flipping burgers? Because I just graduated college you assumed that's what I would be doing? Frankly... you're quite literally insulting me. I would appreciate your advice, not cheeky comments.

+1
Give the guy a break. He loves these cars and wants the best car he can have
with his allotted money.
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  #19  
Old 10-11-2014, 08:27 AM
MKJS MKJS is offline
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The 540 isn't just a car, it's a mile stone in automotive history. Popular Mechanics lists it as number 7 of "The Greatest Cars That Time Has Forgotten."

http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars...asures#slide-7

It's no wonder you want one, it's one of the finest cars ever made. Is it going to take some work? Sure is, but did you ever see anything worth having that didn't?

doc
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Old 10-11-2014, 10:57 AM
bossboy302 bossboy302 is offline
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uspowpow has a PM

Sent you a private message.
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