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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 07-17-2011, 03:56 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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DIY: Re-grease the 3 belt pulleys

After 30K miles, I decided to remove all 3 pulleys and re-greased them. I am glad I did.
The grease is still there but already dried out quite a bit. Each pulley is about $25 (or $75 total), so by doing this maintenance, you significantly prolong the life of these 3 pulleys.

Tools needed (Different years may require different tools):

- Thin 32-mm Fan Clutch Wrench

- 16-mm socket for Idler Pulley

- 5/16" or 8mm Allen Socket (some years use Torx socket, check with mirror to be sure)

- 1/2" Breaker Bar and Adaptor from 1/2"---> 3/8"

- Grease, I use wheel-bearing grease, some people prefer "high-temp grease", your choice. Since I will be doing this every 30K, I simply use wheel-bearing grease.

- Large socket 30-mm and 32-mm to seat the pulley seal back in.

- Pick Tools




PROCEDURE:

1. Remove Plastic splash shield (Phillips screw driver, 9 screws total).

2. Remove Fan Clutch (32-mm wrench, REVERSE thread, so strike to CCW to remove the Fan Clutch). Set the Fan Clutch/Fan Blade combo INSIDE the Fan Shroud.




3. Make a note of Belts Routing, draw them on a piece of paper. I engrave Belts Routing on my Air Filter Housing Plastic Cover so at a glance, I know where the belt is supposed to go. I also wrote Engine Oil Change = 7.0 Qt so when I change oil don't have to open the owners manual to check for oil capacity LOL.




4. Tensioner Pulleys x2 (AC and Main Belt): 5/16" or 8mm Allen Socket. Watch the large washer on the back side of the pulley and do NOT lose it.

5. Idler Pulley: 16-mm socket.

6. To remove pulley's seal: use the pick tool and hook it on the INNER side of the seal, then turn the pick tool 90 degrees and gently pull it out. Work slowly to avoid damage to the seal.




7. You can go to the extent of soaking the pulley in gasoline to dissolve everything, let it dry and repack with grease. I simply cleaned old grease off where I can (Q-tip); then pack new grease using my finger.

Then gently drive the seal back in. I used mostly 30-mm socket because it fits perfectly.
When removing the seal, pay attention to which side is which! The Black side faces outward. If confused, then look at the INNER Lip: it is slanted outward.

Re-installation is straightforward! Enjoy the quiet pulleys!
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Last edited by cn90; 07-17-2011 at 05:27 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-17-2011, 05:19 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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#2, you might want to say CW.... or toward the driver-side in the US.

#6 That's the way to do it but the older the pulley, the more likely that seal will be brittle and crumble....
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  #3  
Old 07-17-2011, 05:28 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
#2, you might want to say CW.... or toward the driver-side in the US...
Thanks!

#2 I just fixed the typo error.

Thanks again!
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  #4  
Old 07-17-2011, 06:02 PM
vetaldj vetaldj is offline
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cn90, you are THE MAN!!!
As always, just in time! I'm planning to do so soon (I want to change belts so I will have access to pulleys as well).

One question, I think mine pulleys as stock but I don't have any sound from them (well, just one is under questions - AC one, I have very strange sound when I turn AC on now...) and they look ok as well, do you think that grease will work or it's better to change them all together?

Thanks!
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  #5  
Old 07-17-2011, 06:08 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Check the bearing, if slight play = normal. Then re-grease it.

Too much play: replace it.
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  #6  
Old 07-17-2011, 06:09 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Another thought.

In contrast to wheel bearing, the pulley bearings are:
- smaller
- have less grease packed from factory
- constantly heated to high temp such as 200F.
- spinning all the time at high speed: the diameter of these pulleys is rather small compared with the crank pulley, so if the crank pulley moves once, these pulleys probably move 3 times. At engine speed of 3000 rpm, I would not be surprised if these pulleys run at 9000 rpm (simple math conversion of pulley diameters)!
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  #7  
Old 07-17-2011, 07:18 PM
JimLev JimLev is offline
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CN, you may want to try some Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease next time. A bunch of us on Roadfly tried it out about 3 months ago. Eurodavid found the stuff and posted it. Don't know why they sent the peanuts with the grease, should have included a few beers too.
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  #8  
Old 07-17-2011, 08:43 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Check the bearing, if slight play = normal. Then re-grease it.
Excellent suggestion to re-grease the pulleys every so often!

Here, for the record, are what my 'spinning tests' showed on old (~90K miles) & new pulleys & the idler roller:
- One users' example of total electrical failure (AAA towed away) alternator repair (1)

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  #9  
Old 07-18-2011, 07:57 AM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimLev View Post
CN, you may want to try some Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease next time. A bunch of us on Roadfly tried it out about 3 months ago. Eurodavid found the stuff and posted it. Don't know why they sent the peanuts with the grease, should have included a few beers too.
Thanks Jim,

I am aware of that thread on roadfly by EuroDavid.

The reason I did not want to try the Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease is that:
- At factory, the bearing is probably packed with High Speed Spindle Grease anyway, and yet it still dries out at 30K miles. My theory is the pulley is subject to engine heat + high-speed spinning (9000-15000 rpm), and these factors basically accelerate grease lifespan.
- I plan to re-grease the pulleys every 30K miles. It is an easy job, so no big deal.
- The pulleys are not that bad in prices: $25/each, worst case scenario I simply replace the pulley.
- The price of Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease is $16 as you said.
- Then the last question: is Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease better than wheel bearing grease? Nobody has an answer.

These are the reasons I stick to wheel-bearing grease because it is free (I have it at home) LOL.

Last edited by cn90; 07-18-2011 at 07:58 AM.
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  #10  
Old 07-18-2011, 11:44 AM
bwaysteve bwaysteve is offline
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A question about the pulley that attaches to the alternator.When reinstalling does it only fit one way with the long bolt in the alternator?Mine has only about 1/4 in. of clearance between the pulley and the tensioner.
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  #11  
Old 07-18-2011, 11:51 AM
aioros aioros is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bwaysteve View Post
A question about the pulley that attaches to the alternator.When reinstalling does it only fit one way with the long bolt in the alternator?Mine has only about 1/4 in. of clearance between the pulley and the tensioner.
Can you post a picture?
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  #12  
Old 07-18-2011, 11:55 AM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bwaysteve View Post
A question about the pulley that attaches to the alternator.When reinstalling does it only fit one way with the long bolt in the alternator?Mine has only about 1/4 in. of clearance between the pulley and the tensioner.
It is 16-mm socket. Only fits one way, is has a notch in the back that can only fit one way!

It is the Idler Pulley PN 11281738605 in this DIY:
http://bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/199986



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  #13  
Old 07-18-2011, 12:02 PM
bwaysteve bwaysteve is offline
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notch

Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
It is 16-mm socket. Only fits one way, is has a notch in the back that can only fit one way!

It is the Idler Pulley PN 11281738605 in this DIY:
http://bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/199986



I feel the notch in the aluminum,but when I bolt in it sits on top(unlike the pictured drawing it is not to the left,but right under) of the tension pulley wit not much clearance(1/8 in. Iwill try to post a pic ,but tight.
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  #14  
Old 07-18-2011, 12:39 PM
bwaysteve bwaysteve is offline
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pic of pulley

Here is the pulley and the proximity to the tensioner
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  #15  
Old 07-18-2011, 12:50 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Steve,

On the back side of that pulley, there is a notch, it must fit in the corresponding hole.

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  #16  
Old 07-18-2011, 12:54 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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This is the correct spacing between the "Idler Pulley" and the "Alternator Pulley":


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  #17  
Old 07-18-2011, 12:57 PM
glemere glemere is offline
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Thanks for help. This seems to really make sense. I will give this a try - Gary
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  #18  
Old 07-18-2011, 01:14 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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bwaysteve,

Another pic from the DIY (listed above) to show the spacing:


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  #19  
Old 07-18-2011, 02:09 PM
bwaysteve bwaysteve is offline
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C90.Thanks for the pic.I got all back together,started, and belts started squeaking.I removed the idler pulley and and looked on the back.There is a little bump that sits in an indent on the alternator.On the alternator there is a little round hole and a u shaped hole.I assume the bump on the pulley goes in the round hole.Trying both "holes" I still do not have the clearance you show in the pics.(see my pic 99 528i above).This has got to be a simple mistake I am making,but can't figure it out. Thanks
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  #20  
Old 07-18-2011, 04:53 PM
JimLev JimLev is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Thanks Jim,

I am aware of that thread on roadfly by EuroDavid.

The reason I did not want to try the Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease is that:
- At factory, the bearing is probably packed with High Speed Spindle Grease anyway, and yet it still dries out at 30K miles. My theory is the pulley is subject to engine heat + high-speed spinning (9000-15000 rpm), and these factors basically accelerate grease lifespan.
- I plan to re-grease the pulleys every 30K miles. It is an easy job, so no big deal.
- The pulleys are not that bad in prices: $25/each, worst case scenario I simply replace the pulley.
- The price of Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease is $16 as you said.
- Then the last question: is Timken Ultra-High Speed Spindle Grease better than wheel bearing grease? Nobody has an answer.

These are the reasons I stick to wheel-bearing grease because it is free (I have it at home) LOL.
For the 540 you can only buy one of the individual idler pulleys, I think it's ~$45, the other idlers are $138 each and come with the adjusters, so replacing them gets expensive.
I've used wheel bearing grease and found that it doesn't last more than a year. Maybe if you live in a cold climate it will last longer.
I've also looked at the grease in new BMW idlers and it doesn't look much different than regular wheel bearing grease. This Timken stuff looks much better.

Last edited by JimLev; 07-18-2011 at 05:01 PM. Reason: added text
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  #21  
Old 07-18-2011, 05:00 PM
bwaysteve bwaysteve is offline
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Still trying to figure out why the belts on the pulleys are almost touching and squeeling(not before repair was done).With the spring tensioner is there another way to tighten the belt on the 528i?
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  #22  
Old 07-18-2011, 05:01 PM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bwaysteve View Post
C90.Thanks for the pic.I got all back together,started, and belts started squeaking.I removed the idler pulley and and looked on the back.There is a little bump that sits in an indent on the alternator.On the alternator there is a little round hole and a u shaped hole.I assume the bump on the pulley goes in the round hole.Trying both "holes" I still do not have the clearance you show in the pics.(see my pic 99 528i above).This has got to be a simple mistake I am making,but can't figure it out. Thanks

bwaysteve,

Now I know. The only way to have your problem is to forget to install the LOWER alternator mounting bolt. During install, you probably forgot to install the LOWER alternator mounting bolt. See related info here:


http://www.forum.bimmerfest.com/showthread.php?t=414315


This picture will show you the relationship between the Idler Pulley and the Alternator:


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  #23  
Old 07-18-2011, 05:06 PM
bwaysteve bwaysteve is offline
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Thanks C90 Top and bottom bolt are installed and the PS pump bolted in aligned.So everything is where it was.
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  #24  
Old 07-18-2011, 05:20 PM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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Did this to my car when I did the cooling overhaul. Fingers crossed, 15,000km later it's still happy.

Good idea about engraving information. My car is 6.5L to the middle of the dipstick, but I guess the 7 doesn't hurt :P
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  #25  
Old 07-19-2011, 07:04 AM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Originally Posted by bwaysteve View Post
Thanks C90 Top and bottom bolt are installed and the PS pump bolted in aligned.So everything is where it was.
So did you solve the problem yet?
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