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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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  #26  
Old 09-19-2011, 11:33 PM
edjack edjack is offline
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The electronics in these cars are very sensitive to battery voltage. As the battery died, the systems did not shut down in an orderly fashion. The new battery reset the systems.

Think about pulling the plug on your PC w/o shutting down the OS. Things get funky when you next boot up.
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Last edited by edjack; 09-19-2011 at 11:34 PM.
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  #27  
Old 09-19-2011, 11:52 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
The electronics in these cars are very sensitive to battery voltage.
I wonder if the decades-old battery charger had something to do with this, since I don't know of others who had the same symptoms ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
As the battery died, the systems did not shut down in an orderly fashion. The new battery reset the systems.
The strange thing is that the battery was still good enough to easily start the car quite a few times (after it was charged on the car when I first left the key in the ignition) and there was never a warning lamp.

I even used up a half tank of gas in the past four days with the cluster almost totally dead the whole time.

I'm wondering why we don't see this more often?

Anyway, I'm supremely thankful for all your help in my time of need! Thanks to you all!

Here's a pic of rush-hour traffic on highway 85 in San Jose today. Oh blessed alphanumerics!

The data I missed most was the fuel gauge & the odometer (because I couldn't tell if I had any fuel left)!
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  #28  
Old 09-20-2011, 03:53 AM
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Flybot Flybot is offline
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Low voltage
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  #29  
Old 09-20-2011, 06:40 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
So the question becomes, WHY/HOW could a battery that suddenly (and without warning) "went bad" cause 'just' the following units to suddenly stop working completely?
Glad to hear the battery fixed the problem. When it comes to electrical and software issues, my experience is that it is often better not to ask WHY/HOW since the folks that developed the system don't know the why or how either.


And the speedo is typically mechanically cable driven and not electrical.
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  #30  
Old 09-20-2011, 07:22 AM
bimmerteck bimmerteck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
And the speedo is typically mechanically cable driven and not electrical.

The last BMW with a cable driven speedo was an e21. (1983 320i)
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  #31  
Old 09-20-2011, 08:01 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bimmerteck View Post
The last BMW with a cable driven speedo was an e21. (1983 320i)
That was my previous BMW (1980 e21)!
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  #32  
Old 09-20-2011, 09:54 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
That was my previous BMW (1980 e21)!
For the future, a 'diagnostic' hint may be the particular voltage-sensitive controls that are affected ...

For example, if someone reports a tach & alphanumerics out and an intermittent fuel gauge but the speedometer and temperature gauge or manifold vacuum gauge working, we could 'suspect' low voltage:

To start the diagnostic tree ... my hypothetical assumption, for future diagnostic purposes, is thus:
  • The tachometer is much more sensitive to low voltage than the speedometer is ...
  • The fuel gauge is somewhat more sensitive to low voltage than the temperature gauge or manifold vacuum gauge is ...
  • The TIME alphanumerics on the MID are much more sensitive to low voltage than the RADIO alphanumerics are ...

Last edited by bluebee; 09-20-2011 at 10:01 AM.
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  #33  
Old 09-20-2011, 10:15 AM
bimmerteck bimmerteck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
For the future, a 'diagnostic' hint may be the particular voltage-sensitive controls that are affected ...

For example, if someone reports a tach & alphanumerics out and an intermittent fuel gauge but the speedometer and temperature gauge or manifold vacuum gauge working, we could 'suspect' low voltage:

To start the diagnostic tree ... my hypothetical assumption, [B]for future diagnostic purposes

What acts up first when voltage drops varies greatly from instance to instance, car to car, and rarely has any discernible pattern to it other than the complaint being "electronics are acting up".

It would be best to simply state:

In the case of seemingly faulty electronics in any BMW, one should first verify the integrity of both the charging system and battery before proceeding with further diagnostics.


It will take you more time looking for and then reading your "simple" diagnostic tree post than it will to simply grab a meter and check both components.
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Last edited by bimmerteck; 09-20-2011 at 10:18 AM.
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  #34  
Old 09-20-2011, 12:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bimmerteck View Post
What acts up first when voltage drops varies greatly from instance to instance, car to car, and rarely has any discernible pattern to it other than the complaint being "electronics are acting up".

It would be best to simply state:

In the case of seemingly faulty electronics in any BMW, one should first verify the integrity of both the charging system and battery before proceeding with further diagnostics.


It will take you more time looking for and then reading your "simple" diagnostic tree post than it will to simply grab a meter and check both components.
Agreed. You cant say at 11.8 volts this happens, at 11.7 volts that happens, etc. Its just Low Voltage, in general, will cause electrical faults, in general. Test system voltage (battery, alternator).
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  #35  
Old 09-21-2011, 02:20 AM
Whorse Whorse is offline
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good to hear a new battery solved your problem, i really thought u did alot of damage to the electronics with the key turned on. (i couldn't bring myself to tell ya that)
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  #36  
Old 09-21-2011, 05:30 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whorse View Post
good to hear a new battery solved your problem, i really thought u did alot of damage to the electronics with the key turned on. (i couldn't bring myself to tell ya that)
I did too!

The fact that the cluster was suddenly so very dead coupled with the car starting fine, didn't lead me to believe it was the battery (until I had tested it) - especially since I had charged the battery and it started the car up just fine - and drove for a half tank of gas - so the alternator was sure to be working.

Add the fact that the MID was out, and I was pretty sure it could be an expensive module that was kaput.

I started bemoaning the fact I used a 25-year old full-wave-rectified non-solid-state charger on a 'modern' vehicle, and/or the fact I hadn't waited the requisite 16 minutes nor did I disconnect the battery prior to charging.

I didn't 'think' I left the key in during the charging operation - and - I 'did' use the engine-bay battery connections ... but who knew if the ancient charger was malfunctioning, especially when it was pegged at >6amps (and who knew how many volts at the time).

My main hope, of course, was that it was just a blown fuse; but I didn't really think there was, for example, a single fuse for the TIME component of both the cluster & the MID ... so I too was sure there was a good chance that an expensive CPU was fried.

In fact, truth be told, I was as shocked to see the display suddenly come back as I was to see the cluster almost entirely dead!

The good news is that you guys were right on the money with 'low voltage' being the suspected culprit - even though the car started just fine (and, of course, I rued the fact I couldn't see any warnings on the display, if there were any).

Whew! Close call!

Right now, after almost two years of not working, I don't need capital expenditures. My main problem is that I can't afford the lifestyle I'm living ... i.e., my friends tell me I'm just 'playing retired' ...

But, I sure am enjoying spending my days in the Santa Cruz mountains, hiking the trails, hitting the beach (we called it the 'shore' back east but they call it the 'beach' here), laying back, and living the good life (for as long as it lasts).

Thank you ALL for being there when I needed you!
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  #37  
Old 12-03-2011, 06:33 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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For the record, a similar half-dead instrument cluster issue popped up today:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > Got back from shop, Tachometer/MPG non-functional

Quote:
Originally Posted by aspensilver540 View Post
...Tachometer and MPG gauges just sat at 0 and max mpg, never moving. The OBC, mph still work as normal. The other dash lights seem normal except the brake fluid light is on.
For which, it was suggested:
Quote:
Originally Posted by windsmith View Post
I've seen weird stuff like this fixed by simply disconnecting the battery for a few hours.
And, for which the OP just updated:
Quote:
Originally Posted by aspensilver540 View Post
Yup, that did it, thanks! 30 minutes disconnected, who knows if the time matters. I bet 1-2 minutes would have been the same result.
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  #38  
Old 02-28-2012, 08:00 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Just in case someone comes here looking for help with their cluster issues, here is a thread posted today which seems similar, at least with respect to initial symptoms:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > 1997 BMW Cluster Stopped Working!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by veco View Post
... my cluster stopped working.
The main parts that don't work are the trip meter, speedometer, tachometer, temp gauge, fuel gauge, and other little dashboard lights that don't turn on.

But the parts that function properly are the turn signal lights, high beam lights, fog lights, oil service lights, gear position lights(car is auto), etc.

There is one light that is constantly on, the seatbelt light. It stays on even though I'm wearing my seatbelt and the only light that works on command is the ASC light.

I looked up some forums but i only found one where they said it could be a bad battery causing the problem but im not so sure because my car turns on and runs perfectly.

Here is a video i took a few hours ago showing the problem. notice @0:43 how i rev the engine a little and the tachometer doesnt even budge.

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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
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  #39  
Old 06-12-2012, 10:31 PM
tarokyama tarokyama is offline
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Bluebee, I am having very similar problems as you,
I replaced my ignition switch, as well as put in a new battery,
checked all fuses. I also swapped the unloader relay,
still no gauges, it was intermittent at first, but now
no guages at all, and no radio, I think it may be important to
note that my horn IS working, which eliminates the slip ring as the problem.


any other ideas?
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  #40  
Old 06-13-2012, 08:36 PM
BMWgovernor BMWgovernor is offline
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Post Dead Instr. Panel possiblities

Check to see if your car has (batteries located in/on the back of the instr. panel). They could be low or dead. This could be your problem.
Remove the instr. panel. you should see an area with a battery or batteries. BEFORE you rip your car apart.
Check with your local BMW parts dlr. give them your VIN. they should be able to tell you if your dash panel requires addtl. battery power.

Last edited by BMWgovernor; 06-13-2012 at 08:40 PM. Reason: needed to be more specific and clear.
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  #41  
Old 06-14-2012, 07:12 PM
tarokyama tarokyama is offline
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Instrument clusters have batteries in them?!?
I've never heard of this.
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  #42  
Old 12-04-2012, 11:23 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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This came in today ... might be related to the same problem I had ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by prsch956 View Post
I have this weird electrical problem with my e39 530i. When the car is powered on, the MID is off but the radio turns on. Radio then shuts down after 40 seconds. I'm not able to communicate with the OBC either. The dealership could not either. The DSC light came on about 2 hours before this and it's been on since but I'm not sure if they are related or not. Any suggestions?
I have the high OBC setup with a separate MID.
Thanks.
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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
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  #43  
Old 04-04-2014, 06:12 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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For the crosslinked record, this came in today:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Instrument cluster problem 528i e39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Francis452 View Post
I have a 528i E39 and today, my speedometer stopped working, after 5 minutes the rpm gauge went down too and finally, when I restarted my car, the speedometer, rpm, engine temperature and fuel gauge were not working. My odometer, lightning and everything else is working. I have since a few months a abs and traction light. My battery is new. Do you have an idea of what it can be?
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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
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  #44  
Old 04-05-2014, 04:24 PM
Aussie528iT Aussie528iT is offline
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E39s don't have batteries in the instrument panel. Early cars E30s etc (circa late 80s) did but later BMWs don't have instrument panel batteries.

RonR
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