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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 06-16-2011, 05:11 PM
TerminallyChill TerminallyChill is offline
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Mein Auto: Honda Civic SI
E39 Common Problems

1 too many speeding tickets in my Civic SI (blue with a giant spoiler) and I'm looking for a car that's more suited to cruising and driving according to the law :P

I've got it narrowed down to an E39 5-series, hopefully with the manual transmission. I live in Canada and most of the E39's I've seen here range from 100,000-160,000 KMs. So I'm wondering, what are common problems that come into play at this high level of mileage? Anything would be good for me to know so I can make a decision.

Also, how much - roughly - are the scheduled maintenance bills for the E39 and how frequent? I've found a few of them for about $8-9k CDN (straight trade for my '04 Civic) and was wondering whether these are deceptively cheap or trustworthy.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks a lot
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  #2  
Old 06-16-2011, 05:18 PM
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mpower997 mpower997 is offline
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[QUOTE=TerminallyChill;6136420]1 too many speeding tickets in my Civic SI (blue with a giant spoiler) and I'm looking for a car that's more suited to cruising and driving according to the law




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  #3  
Old 06-16-2011, 05:41 PM
dvsgene dvsgene is offline
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Mein Auto: 98 540i M62 3.15
Trust me, this ain't no Honda. I spent more in maintenance on my 540i in the first year then I did in 10 years on my Acura GSR.

Expect to spend about US$1,000 per year for maintenance.

BUT since you asked, most common problems:

http://edgemotorworks.com/index.php?...d=27&Itemid=55

http://www.bimmerboard.com/members/q...e%208-2005.pdf

http://www.540i6.com/probsfixes.html
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  #4  
Old 06-16-2011, 06:46 PM
Youngproexec Youngproexec is offline
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First off Welcome to the forums ! I don't mean to be a policeman, because I hate it when people try to police me... But you really should try Searching the forums. I've seen this topic covered numerous times before. Each thread has different information inside of it which if read in succession helps you to understand as a whole the answer(s) to your question(s). You will also see people saying " Try searching" "Use the search" or most commonly just bypass answering because the topic has been covered so many times before. The significance of searching before posting a brand new thread, is to help cut out the "fluff" when others try to search for the same topic you posted. For example, this thread: If one decides to search for "Common E39 Issues" , he/she will see this thread title and review it's contents. If the thread is full of people like me saying search all the time, then the effectiveness of the search function has been diminished, and the forum as a whole has become a diminished source of "lean" information. The reader has not gained any insight on their problem.

Btw- Don't take my words offensively, Im just trying to inform you as a newer member. Its everyones responsibility
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  #5  
Old 06-16-2011, 06:48 PM
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det42phx det42phx is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TerminallyChill View Post
1 too many speeding tickets in my Civic SI (blue with a giant spoiler) and I'm looking for a car that's more suited to cruising and driving according to the law :P

I've got it narrowed down to an E39 5-series, hopefully with the manual transmission. I live in Canada and most of the E39's I've seen here range from 100,000-160,000 KMs. So I'm wondering, what are common problems that come into play at this high level of mileage? Anything would be good for me to know so I can make a decision.

Also, how much - roughly - are the scheduled maintenance bills for the E39 and how frequent? I've found a few of them for about $8-9k CDN (straight trade for my '04 Civic) and was wondering whether these are deceptively cheap or trustworthy.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks a lot
COOLING,COOLING,COOLING,COOLING and COOLING.
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  #6  
Old 06-16-2011, 07:21 PM
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redbull713 redbull713 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvsgene View Post
Trust me, this ain't no Honda. I spent more in maintenance on my 540i in the first year then I did in 10 years on my Acura GSR.

Expect to spend about US$1,000 per year for maintenance.

BUT since you asked, most common problems:

http://edgemotorworks.com/index.php?...d=27&Itemid=55

http://www.bimmerboard.com/members/q...e%208-2005.pdf

http://www.540i6.com/probsfixes.html
QFT. +1 I used to have a gsr also. I think my biggest expense ever was tires, lol.
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  #7  
Old 06-16-2011, 07:49 PM
NZ BMW NZ BMW is offline
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I've owned mine since April - I would be prepared to front up with about $1500-2000 worth of workshop costs. That is considering changing all the fluids filters and doing a couple of bits, in my case it was brakes and a new radiator. Beyond that if you plan on doing two services each year you'd be looking at about $1000 I would think that would include changing various other filters and fluids beyond the oil are they were needed.
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  #8  
Old 06-16-2011, 07:50 PM
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540 M-Sport 540 M-Sport is offline
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Service history is going to be one of the most important aspects of any E39 under consideration. No records, and I would pass. Even with a pre purchase inspection, no records still makes it very difficult to determine what has or has not been properly cared for. Things like regular fluid changes, etc. ALSO, being in Canada, I would HIGHLY recommend you consider only the 2001 to 2003 530 and 540 with the M-Sport or M-Executive option packages. Either will get you the nicer looking M-tech factory bumpers that everyone either wishes they had, or tries to upgrade to later, at great trouble and expense.
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  #9  
Old 06-16-2011, 09:12 PM
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Warren928 Warren928 is offline
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Reducing speeding tickets by buying a e39? That really is funny. They didn't make the Gone in 60 seconds and Fast & Furious movies with e39's in them for no reason.

It's really easy to spend alot of money on this car AFTER you buy it. Even if there is nothing wrong with it.
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  #10  
Old 06-16-2011, 09:31 PM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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Records may be hard to find. They may also be in the glove box. Either way, the scheduled maintenance only covers basic stiff.

Take a look at the e39 wiki to get an idea where to start. 160,000km is when sh!t hits the fan, but it's all preventative.

I live in Vancouver and might be able to give you some help if you need it as you buy the car. Werner's Auto Klinik is a good place to start for inspections, if you want honesty. You'll also want a nexus pass for car parts
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  #11  
Old 06-16-2011, 10:12 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Common E39 Problems
Common problems and fixes
E39 Problems Checklist
- Compendiums on common problems, fixes, & repairs for parts that go bad on the E39 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
etc.

Since these are 'common' problems, I doubt this thread will improve upon them ... since they've been covered numerous times ...

1. Go to the E39 bestlinks thread (at the top of this forum);
2. Press control+f (find) in your browser & type the desired keyword;
3. Press F3 (repeat) to find each of the links of interest, or press "Enter" to open that link in your browser.

The most common problems to check and/or repair in the E39 appear to be (1) (2):
  1. - COOLING SYSTEM CATASTROPHICALLY FAILS: brittle plastic expansion tank, radiator, & thermostat housings that blow up due to faulty plastic mostly at the upper hose neck and also faulty water pumps, hoses, and fan clutches (1) that send whirling blades through the hood and quarter panels (1) & autopsy here (1)
  2. - I6 VANOS SEALS DETERIORATE: they're made out of the wrong materials so that they harden and leak over time causing degraded performance (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) & how VANOS works (1) (2) (3) & what your options are (1) and vanos application table (1)
  3. - V8 VALLEY PAN GASKETS LEAK: poorly designed V8 valley pan gaskets that leak coolant (1) (2) (3)
  4. - CLUSTER PIXELS FAIL LINE BY LINE: press-fit pink connection tape lifts up over time on the instrument cluster causing dead pixels (1) [cluster removal instructions (1) (2)]
  5. - MID PIXELS SLOWLY DIE: press-fit pink connection tape lifts up over time on MID causing dead pixels (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) [MID removal instructions (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)] [MID pixel test sequence (1) ]
  6. - HEADLIGHT ADJUSTERS CRUMBLE: brittle PBT plastic headlight adjusters that simply crumble over time causing the lights to point downward (0) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) & a comprehensive list of all your available options, by price (1)
  7. - FAN CONTROL GOES HAYWIRE: poorly ventilated final stage resistur/final stage unit (FSR/FSU) modules that are practically sure to go haywire due to poor heat-sink design (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) ... Autopsy (1) (2) often causing the battery to drain overnight (1) (2) (3)
  8. - CCV FAILS: crankcase ventilation valve diaphragm tears, freezes (1), &/or clogs (1), necessitating CCV replacement (M54,M54,M54) (M52,M52) (M52TU) (M62,M62) ('99 528i) ('98 528i); raising pressures, often causing the OFH oil filter housing to leak (1) (2) (3); frequently blowing the VCG valve cover gasket (1); and sometimes the head gasket (1) (2); often causing vacuum leaks (1) (2) (3)
  9. - AMBER ABS/DSC/BRAKE LIGHTS: tack-welded steel resistance-welded Bosch 5.x ABS control module power wires that break off their gold contact because of being too close to engine heat and vibration (1) ... Abs control module autopsy (1) (2) (3) (4) ... and explanations by 540iman as to why the fancy diagnostic tools fail (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) & accessing the wheel speed sensor at the wheel (1)
  10. - REAR DOOR VAPOR BARRIER FAILS CAUSING WATER PUDDLES: improper adhesive used on rear door vapor barrier seals that allow rain water to fill the rear footwell (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) & sizes for the adhesive (1)
  11. - FRONT SHOCKS FAIL PREMATURELY VIOLENT SHUDDER WHILE BRAKING: OEM Sachs shocks fail causing violent shudder upon front-wheel braking on bumps (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
  12. - POWER WINDOWS SUDDENLY STOP WORKING: low-quality unreliable window regulator mechanisms (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) and a repair kit (1) (2) and for other models (1) (2) (3) (4)
  13. - TRUNK WIRING FRAYS ATROCIOUSLY: a badly designed trunk loom wiring harness certain to chafe causing all sorts of light and fuse blowing and locking problems (1) (2) & opening the trunk with the key when the car battery is dead (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
  14. - THRUST-ARM BUSHINGS TEAR: fluid-filled thrust arm bushings that crack and tear causing vibrations at speed (0) (1) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
  15. - IGNITION SWITCH FAILS: ignition switch that fails causing electrical problems (0) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11)
  16. - AMBIENT TEMPERATURE SENSOR BREAKS OFF: low mounted ambient temperature sensors in the passenger side front wheel well cover is practically designed to be ripped off on a parking curb (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
  17. - SEAT & STEERING WHEEL CONTROLLER BREAK OFF: seat covers that don't protect switches for both the steering wheel tilt & driver's seat control (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
  18. - SEAT CABLES BREAK: seat cables that fall out causing seat twist (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) & accidental airbag light fix (1) (2)
  19. - WINDSHIELD WASHER LEAKS: windshield reservoirs prone to leaking due to an ill-fitting pump o-ring gasket (1) (2) or to hose disintegration (1) (2) or to leaks in the main reservoir (1) (2) (3) or leaks in the intensive wash system (1) (2) or the pump itself goes bad (1) (2) & debugging hints (1) & adjusting nozzles after repair (1) & windshield washer fluid (1) and intensive cleaning system fluid (1)
  20. - POWER STEERING RESERVOIR CAP LEAKS OILY MIST: constantly wet power steering reservoirs due to poor O-ring design (1) (2)
  21. - POWER STEERING HOSE DRIPS ATF ONTO ALTERNATOR: power steering hose clamps practically guaranteed to leak (1) (2)
  22. - ALTERNATOR FAILS PREMATURELY: most say this premature failure is due to power steering leaks just above it so do a rebuild BEFORE your alternator fails catastrophically on you (1) (2) & how to prevent leaves in your alternator air-intake duct (1) (2)
  23. - WINDSHIELD MOLDING CRUMBLES: heat labile rubber windshield & back window molding that crumbles in three years due to poor choice of recycled materials (1) (2)
  24. - JACK PADS FALL OFF: plastic jack pads that fall off the underside of the frame due to poor latch design causing jack failures & wind noise (1) (2) (3) & good jack stands (1)
  25. - AIR CONDITIONING ODORS: poorly designed cabin-filter housing drain hoses to clog which leaves causing gym-sock smells from the AC (1) (2) (3)
  26. - BMW ROUNDEL PAINT CHIPS AWAY: cheaply painted BMW emblem roundels that wash away in the car wash over time (1)
  27. - CUPHOLDERS BREAK EASILY: front and rear (nearly useless) cupholder replacement strategies (1)
  28. - WOOD TRIM CRACKS SPONTANEOUSLY: wood trim whose varnish cracks and whose cd cover doors rattle (1) (2) (3)
  29. - PLASTIC VENT TRIM CRACKS SPONTANEOUSLY: plastic trim around the air vents which invariably crack at the corners (1) (2) (3)
  30. - SAP CLOGS or FREEZES (1): the secondary air pump (SAP) valve (aka diverter valve) clogs, taking out the SAS (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
  31. - MAF CLOGS: the mass air flow sensor (MAF) and idle control valve (ICV) require periodic cleaning (1) (2)
  32. - DISA VALVE FLAP BREAKS: the DISA valve flap breaks, sometimes with parts sucked into the intake manifold (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) & recommended parts (1) (2) & brand selection (1)
  33. DOOR EDGE PROTECTION MOLDING SEALS neoprene rubber crumbles prematurely (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
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  #12  
Old 06-20-2011, 10:00 PM
Melrose Melrose is offline
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I'd add Final drive CV joint ($187.) Cooling system EGR sytem and valley pan and manifold gaskets about $600. for parts. Gives out around 120k. Still have original water pump and radiator. Needed a wheel bearing ($60.) Do the work yourself and save a bundle. These cars are not for the mechanically challenged and lazy. I have cranked mine up to 115 Mph and yesterday passed a guy at 105 mph on a very dangerous two-lane road. It has more power and torque than just about any car made. You never have to fear passing anybody.
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  #13  
Old 06-21-2011, 03:28 AM
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first540i first540i is offline
my first bmw
Location: SGV, CA
 
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Mein Auto: e39
records are very important when it comes to bmw's, i didnt know i had any until i found all of it at Alexander bmw. the service adviser was shocked and was kind enough to add all the services that was done to see how much the previouse owner have spent on the car.

the total came out to $38,xxx after ten minutes of punching all the numbers into the calculator. the service record went all the way back to 2000 to it finally ended at 2009. the previous owner had done everything at the dealer, even the oil changes.

so if you are going to buy a bmw, remember service charges are not gonna be cheap. even if are going to do the job yourself, the parts are expensive too.

good luck!
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Old 06-21-2011, 06:07 AM
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energizedmortal energizedmortal is offline
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Mein Auto: 2003 530i
i became the second owner at 100k miles and had to do the following for it to be rattle, leak, and code free.


oil housing110 k
oil pan gasket 110 k
bmw belt cured tensioner whine belts ,140k
spark plugs 115k
used instrument cluster 120k
disa valve replaced 120k
alternator,120k
battery,115k
brakes 120k
power steering hoses,125k
thrust arm bushings,125k
control arms, 125k
tie rods 125k
pullies, 140k
radiator, reservoir and cap, hoses 115k
faulty alarm, 115k
tires, 110k
sealed vapor barrier,115 k
cluster from ebay (matched vin in ike), 130k
welded exhaust console hanger above front sway bar 135k
windshield washer jet 130k
sway bar links 135k
metal bleed screws
besian vanos seals 140k
valve cover gasket 140k
fuel filter 140k
right thrust arm with HD bushing 140k
water pump, 130k
radiator 140k
thermostat, 140k
upper radiator hose 140k
lower radiator hose 140k
fan clutch and blade 140k
side marker housing 142k
coolant flush 140k
oil and differential fluid change 142k
Motor and transmission mounts 142 k
Bilstein HD struts mounts pad 144k
Conti dws tires/alignment 144k
Emergency brake/ rear rotors & brakes 145k
ccv spare
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  #15  
Old 06-21-2011, 06:51 AM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
Under the lift arms
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Mein Auto: E39 540, E36 328is, E83x3
Buy a Valentine one radar detector and stop this nonsense

And I will argue the 99 Acura gsr price, we bought that gsr brand new and put 225k on it
It cost just about as much as this 540 but was a lot harder to work on

Stay were you are at or get ready join the dark side
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  #16  
Old 06-21-2011, 11:18 AM
QMAX1234 QMAX1234 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
Buy a Valentine one radar detector and stop this nonsense

And I will argue the 99 Acura gsr price, we bought that gsr brand new and put 225k on it
It cost just about as much as this 540 but was a lot harder to work on

Stay were you are at or get ready join the dark side
I agree, the Valentine one radar will stop all this nonsense. Police look in my winshield and they don't even bother to pull me over since I already know where they are at with my radar. Cops recognize the radar and they move on.
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  #17  
Old 06-21-2011, 02:12 PM
Joe@Bavarian Joe@Bavarian is offline
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Originally Posted by QMAX1234 View Post
I agree, the Valentine one radar will stop all this nonsense. Police look in my winshield and they don't even bother to pull me over since I already know where they are at with my radar. Cops recognize the radar and they move on.
^ +1 I just got a ticket two weeks ago. 81 in a 65 (238.00 ticket +65 traffic school = $303.00) That almost pays for the Valentine. I am getting one next month!!!

BTW- He was sitting on the overpass that's why I didn't see him.
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Old 06-21-2011, 02:21 PM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
Under the lift arms
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Mein Auto: E39 540, E36 328is, E83x3
v1 has kept me out of jail a few times,
but i must say it will not help you for laser hits, it will only let you know that he now knows

post #14 thumbs up dude... you are a star auto keeper... and you have a good mechanic you should be proud, your car will outlast us all
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Last edited by Burning2nd; 06-21-2011 at 02:23 PM.
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  #19  
Old 06-21-2011, 02:35 PM
Joe@Bavarian Joe@Bavarian is offline
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Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
v1 has kept me out of jail a few times,
but i must say it will not help you for laser hits, it will only let you know that he now knows

post #14 thumbs up dude... you are a star auto keeper... and you have a good mechanic you should be proud, your car will outlast us all
After he wrote the ticket he was all "so is it a real Dinan, what mods do you got?" trying to strike up a conversation. I was thinking "Really?"
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  #20  
Old 06-21-2011, 03:19 PM
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540indiana 540indiana is offline
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Mein Auto: 2000 540i Sport
If you are wanting power I suggest the 540 with sport package and 6 speed. I have an auto but it is still a blast to drive. Plan on $100 for every 10hp you want to add. Also it is good practice to have two sets of wheels and tires. One for summer and one for winter.

Now others will probably bash me on this but I ran Pirelli P06 All Seasons and were happy. But, I want snow tires.

To save you headaches on cosmetics. I would go with a 01 or newer to get the facelift.

Sound system is second runner up to the cooling system when it comes to disappointments.

I was toying around with a newer SI the other day (Safely) in a state park and he stayed on my ass. My car handled as good as his but these are 3800lb cars.

This is hands down the best forum I have ever been on. Just keep in mind to treat people with respect and you will recieve respect yourself.

With that being said. Welcome to the forums . Just dont fall in love with the first 5 series you test drive (which you probably will). There are far too many stories on here with impulsive buyers getting burned on a car they didnt investigate enough on. Some as soon as driving it back from the dealership. Ask me how I know!
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Old 06-21-2011, 03:24 PM
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540indiana 540indiana is offline
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How about you get a 540, do the repairs as needed, get proper suspension and take it to the track. Ticket free and far less danger to the public. Now I would be a hippocrite if I didnt tell you that I got clocked 125mph in a school zone back when I was a jr in high school. Im lucky I didnt kill anyone.
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Old 06-22-2011, 01:57 AM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
Under the lift arms
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Mein Auto: E39 540, E36 328is, E83x3
why in gods name would you do 100+ in town?

and im quite happy with the quality of the dsp sound system
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  #23  
Old 06-22-2011, 04:29 PM
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Shires Shires is offline
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Mein Auto: '03 E39 520I 2.2 M/T
Quote:
Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
why in gods name would you do 100+ in town?

and im quite happy with the quality of the dsp sound system
I'm quite happy with the sound quality of the I6. Screw the sound system.
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  #24  
Old 06-22-2011, 07:00 PM
thecushion thecushion is offline
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Mein Auto: 02 s55 AMG,02 540i
Quote:
Originally Posted by energizedmortal View Post
i became the second owner at 100k miles and had to do the following for it to be rattle, leak, and code free.


Oil housing110 k
oil pan gasket 110 k
bmw belt cured tensioner whine belts ,140k
spark plugs 115k
used instrument cluster 120k
disa valve replaced 120k
alternator,120k
battery,115k
brakes 120k
power steering hoses,125k
thrust arm bushings,125k
control arms, 125k
tie rods 125k
pullies, 140k
radiator, reservoir and cap, hoses 115k
faulty alarm, 115k
tires, 110k
sealed vapor barrier,115 k
cluster from ebay (matched vin in ike), 130k
welded exhaust console hanger above front sway bar 135k
windshield washer jet 130k
sway bar links 135k
metal bleed screws
besian vanos seals 140k
valve cover gasket 140k
fuel filter 140k
right thrust arm with hd bushing 140k
water pump, 130k
radiator 140k
thermostat, 140k
upper radiator hose 140k
lower radiator hose 140k
fan clutch and blade 140k
side marker housing 142k
coolant flush 140k
oil and differential fluid change 142k
motor and transmission mounts 142 k
bilstein hd struts mounts pad 144k
conti dws tires/alignment 144k
emergency brake/ rear rotors & brakes 145k
ccv spare
holy $hit!!!!!!
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  #25  
Old 06-22-2011, 07:10 PM
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540indiana 540indiana is offline
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Location: Beech Grove Indiana
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 1,723
Mein Auto: 2000 540i Sport
Quote:
Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
why in gods name would you do 100+ in town?

and im quite happy with the quality of the dsp sound system
I was too young to have a 5 litre mustang. I was only 17 and thought I knew it all and had ZERO common sense.

I should have probably worded my statement about the sound system. The lack of bass is the only downfall. Sorry bout that.
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