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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 10-10-2012, 09:46 PM
e30lebanon e30lebanon is offline
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Question Euro spec BMWs better built?!

I went on some German websites looking for used cars and found BMWs going for over 2 MILLION kms. Why can I find BMWs in Germany with over 2 million kilometers in a good condition but It's nearly impossible to find a 400k km BMW in NA in parts (maybe other brands too)??!!
In my country Lebanon we used to import Euro spec BMWs and Mercedes before the went sky high and now we import NA spec and the reliability is noticeably worse for both brands. Most of my friends in Lebanon own e46s and all of them had trans. issues at some point What's funny is that I just read an article that 1/3 of cars in Germany have wrong kms..my 380k km 540 might be one of those If anybody here lived in Europe for a while could explain, it would be great


Here's my boring Story which led me to ask this question:

So today I went to test drive a 6 spd 540i. This is it http://www.autotrader.ca/a/BMW/5%20S...howcpo=ShowCPO
I knew it's in a pretty bad condition from the pictures and YES I only went to try the 6 speed I had a good look around before going to ask the dealer about it and it looked even worse than the pictures. Inside it isn't bad..just some plastics hanging by and broken cup holders. I then went to talk to the man inside, he said it has a dead battery, warning lights all over the dashboard and bold rear tires but perfect engine and transmission. We managed to get it started using his battery charger..it hesitated every time you reved the engine but no rough idle or anything like that and the lights he talked about came for less than a second every time I tried to rev it a bit. I wasn't courage enough to ask for a real test drive because of its condition and I never really practiced driving a manual before..I know just the basics but I'll pick a manual over an auto if I had the chance when I bought my 540. So I took it for a drive inside the dealership and I didn't stall it Even though it was that bad I preferred it to my dads 2012 civic that I HATE..I would take that lousy 540 over it without even thinking about it.
I own a German 98 e39 540 auto with 380k km which is more than twice the kms on the one I test drove. It covered 300k in Germany probably going back and forth on the autobahn just for the fun of it, and the rest were covered in Lebanon (tiny country in the middle east..probably heard of it in the news and no it's not really that bad ) The previous owner is a car enthusiast that imported the 540 from Germany in 2005 and he took good care of her till he replaced it with a brand new Porsche c4s in 2010. So the 540 wasn't used in the 2 years gap till I bought it. I searched A LOT for information about high mileage 540s and BMWs and I wasn't encouraged at all but I did buy it after all because it really was a stunning car even comparing to my US imported X5 with 95k miles (Lots of problems recently..thinking of selling). Because of complicated Lebanese laws that you don't want to know..we had to drive it hard and fast to get to the city in time where we will be registering it. So we spent about two hours driving in heavy traffic then on beautiful Lebanese mountain roads and finally lost trying to find the exact place we were supposed to go. We didn't have AC and it was a hot summer day but we were happy that we got there right on time. Four hours to register..pretty usual in case you're wondering. On the way back we tested the power of the 540s brakes when we were going 100 km/h and a slow Mercedes Taxi decided to change lanes without checking (don't worry..pretty usual too) Went back to the capital Beirut parked it behind the X5..payed the parking ticket. Took the X5 to my home city 30 min away..went back to Beirut by bus and taxi..no parking tickets for the 540 Rush hour started and eventually I was stuck on my way back (again) in a non ventilated tunnel for about 30 min with no AC and in a car that is known for overheating issues. I was out on the highway and I finally explored the V8 power and amazing torque available from the lowest revs. unlike the heavy X5 with an I6. The next morning it had a rough idle but it lasted for 2 min only. I filled the AC with gas (that's what they call it in Lebanon) and the guy who fixed it pointed out that the fan clutch needs replacement. I noticed on my way back in the tunnel that the temp. gauge kept going 1 mm up and a loud fan sound came every time it did that for about 5 min so it made sense. He also said that it should overheat but it didn't and it was in pretty bad conditions the previous day. I took it to a mechanic the following day and he replaced the fan clutch, changed oil for Total 10w40 (is it good?), cleaned MAF and he was astonished at its condition every time he removed plastic covers from under and he didn't know yet about the kms!
This adventure happened 3 months ago after I spent a month and a half searching for an e30 and I found a lot but nothing that I'd be proud to park next to an X5..I drove it for 6 days only and came back to Canada just to drive my dads lovely civic My aunt has the keys now and she drives it in the weekend. No problems at all till now..knock on wood!
Oh yeah I forgot my dad went to Lebanon for a month after I went back to Canada so he drove the 540 My dad owned a 92 S500 and a 2006 CLS500 and the German S500 started to overheat at 250k km after 7 years of ownership, so he sold it because he hates fixing cars. He confirmed that the 540 has no problems at all
And those are pictures of my 540 that I miss a lot..did I mention how much I hate the civic?
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  #2  
Old 10-11-2012, 06:31 AM
nsogiba nsogiba is offline
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Great story, great car, great action. Very exciting times.

I would love to hear more about life in Lebanon. Here in the US, everything you know about the Middle East you know from the news, unless you know someone from that country or have spent time there. I have always wondered what it was "actually" like.
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  #3  
Old 10-11-2012, 07:35 AM
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doru doru is offline
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Maybe in Europe there are mechanics trained to work on these cars? Also, I know in Europe you can service the tranny at ZF facilities, which will restore the tranny to as new condition with less $$$ than what you pay here (assuming you can find someone who will service the ZF tranny the correct way)?
The parts are the same. Quality of labor might be different.
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  #4  
Old 10-11-2012, 11:49 PM
e30lebanon e30lebanon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nsogiba View Post
Great story, great car, great action. Very exciting times.

I would love to hear more about life in Lebanon. Here in the US, everything you know about the Middle East you know from the news, unless you know someone from that country or have spent time there. I have always wondered what it was "actually" like.
Thanks man! Glad you liked all of that! You can't imagine how much the media can affect your opinion about your own country especially if you don't live in it anymore..I was afraid when I went back to visit my country this summer and I was away for less then a year! When I arrived I just adapted and forgot about the news and that's how people live their. I wouldn't recommend a non Lebanese friend to visit at this time because of the regional conflicts (northern neighbor) but before that it was all good and believe it or not the Lebanese economy is built around tourism.

Here's an old but good tourist guide video:
By the way Sidon is my home city..Beirut the capital..Zahle is where I registered the 540

And if you like to see some real problems in Lebanon have a look at this:
I'm 100% sure non of those was mentioned in the news right?
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  #5  
Old 10-11-2012, 11:55 PM
e30lebanon e30lebanon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
Maybe in Europe there are mechanics trained to work on these cars? Also, I know in Europe you can service the tranny at ZF facilities, which will restore the tranny to as new condition with less $$$ than what you pay here (assuming you can find someone who will service the ZF tranny the correct way)?
The parts are the same. Quality of labor might be different.
Good point but dealers or stealers as some of you like to call them, should have good experience and knowledge! I don't have experience with BMWs in NA yet so you may be right!
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  #6  
Old 10-12-2012, 12:33 AM
GreenTiger GreenTiger is offline
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Ahlan wa sahlan e30lebanon.

Lebanon is an interesting place to say the least. 34 different recognized religious groups. One of only two confessional governments in the world. 87% of GDP comes from tourism.

It amazes me how cars from the 70s and 80s are running strong despite tight roads, extreme temperatures, hills everywhere and it seems like those cars (85% of which are Merc or BMW) never break down. Good thing is replacement parts for German cars are much cheaper than anything else, top notch repair and body work for a tenth of what we pay here in the US.

Good to see a fellow Lebanese here on the boards. I am from Nabatieh.
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  #7  
Old 10-12-2012, 06:11 AM
granlund granlund is offline
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I don't think it's a matter of Euro vs. NA spec German cars. It's just that German cars from the 70's, 80's and early-90's were very well built and reliable. The later ones are not. In Sweden, a M-B w123 is colloquially known as a Beirut-Merc. The drivetrain literally runs forever with rust being it's only demise. In the late 90's, even the taxi drivers stopped driving Mercs because of the poor reliability; BMW and Audi not being too far behind on the slippery slope of building cars only for the warranty/lease period.

Recent trips to Africa and Central America made me realize that if I want a reliable car, I should pick a 10 year old Toyota. EVERYONE drives them.
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  #8  
Old 10-12-2012, 06:49 AM
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johnstern johnstern is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by granlund View Post
I don't think it's a matter of Euro vs. NA spec German cars. It's just that German cars from the 70's, 80's and early-90's were very well built and reliable. The later ones are not. In Sweden, a M-B w123 is colloquially known as a Beirut-Merc. The drivetrain literally runs forever with rust being it's only demise. In the late 90's, even the taxi drivers stopped driving Mercs because of the poor reliability; BMW and Audi not being too far behind on the slippery slope of building cars only for the warranty/lease period.

Recent trips to Africa and Central America made me realize that if I want a reliable car, I should pick a 10 year old Toyota. EVERYONE drives them.
+1. As an example I still own a Euro 1980 735i. It has over 200K miles. It performs and drives amazingly well. It has never had problems with ABS sensors or modules (yes it has ABS). All the window regulators are original and work perfectly. Never had to replace the crank sensor. The ignition switch is original. This list could go on and on so I do believe that 70's, 80's and early 90's cars were built better.

But I also believe that most American car owners do not maintain their cars like the Europeans do. Most Americans do not maintain their cars on a strict schedule. They take their cars to a shop when they break. Most do change the motor oil but they think that that is the only maintenance needed. Hence, as the cars age, they break more and the used car buyer has to foot the bill for all these poorly maintained vehicles. On the other hand, most Europeans treat maintenance as a serious part of car ownership. They are taught and realize that lack of car care means expensive repairs down the line so the average used car in Europe is in better shape than the average used car here. Many people in this country view their cars as a commodity of dubious value-I have seen car owners trade in their car because it needed a brake job.

Just my .02

Last edited by johnstern; 10-12-2012 at 10:23 AM.
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  #9  
Old 10-12-2012, 07:19 AM
BadBrad BadBrad is offline
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+1 Strongly agreed..........

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnstern View Post
But I also believe that most American car owners do not maintain their cars like the Europeans do.
As the mechanic in the old Fram filter commercials used to say "You can pay me now...or you can pay me later."
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Old 10-12-2012, 08:35 AM
e30lebanon e30lebanon is offline
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I think we got a reasonable answer now! That's what I thought but I wasn't sure. It's always better to hear what the suspect has to say! We can't deny that BMW was at its best in the 80s and 90s..Mercedes was always good till the late 90s when the M class was introduced. Lebanon is filled with old BMWs and Mercs..it's not unusual to see 5 or 6 w123 taxis driving behind each other by coincidence..e30s are perfect for tuning and everybody knows the sound of its I6 engine revving in the middle of the night.
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  #11  
Old 10-12-2012, 08:57 AM
e30lebanon e30lebanon is offline
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Originally Posted by King540i View Post
Ahlan wa sahlan e30lebanon.

Lebanon is an interesting place to say the least. 34 different recognized religious groups. One of only two confessional governments in the world. 87% of GDP comes from tourism.

It amazes me how cars from the 70s and 80s are running strong despite tight roads, extreme temperatures, hills everywhere and it seems like those cars (85% of which are Merc or BMW) never break down. Good thing is replacement parts for German cars are much cheaper than anything else, top notch repair and body work for a tenth of what we pay here in the US.

Good to see a fellow Lebanese here on the boards. I am from Nabatieh.
Ahlan fik ya hala!

I agree with everything you said except the extreme weather! I think the weather is perfect and not extreme at all! I mean here in Ottawa the temp varies between -30 and 35 degrees, at the Lebanese coast it's between 10 and 35! There is a small community of BMW enthusiasts in Lebanon and they have a Facebook page which you join if you'd like to come to there events.. https://www.facebook.com/groups/Bmw.club.lebanon/
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  #12  
Old 10-12-2012, 03:03 PM
GreenTiger GreenTiger is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by e30lebanon View Post
Ahlan fik ya hala!

I agree with everything you said except the extreme weather! I think the weather is perfect and not extreme at all! I mean here in Ottawa the temp varies between -30 and 35 degrees, at the Lebanese coast it's between 10 and 35! There is a small community of BMW enthusiasts in Lebanon and they have a Facebook page which you join if you'd like to come to there events.. https://www.facebook.com/groups/Bmw.club.lebanon/
Habibi

I completely agree with you. Lebanon has beautiful Mediterranean weather. What I meant was that if you want to find snow, you will find it. If you want 35 degree Cel+, you'll find it. If you want humidity, you will find it. I guess I was comparing Lebanon to California where its ALWAYS 65-85 Fah.

I will definitely check out the FB group. See you around!
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  #13  
Old 10-12-2012, 03:46 PM
Mikes530 Mikes530 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnstern View Post
But I also believe that most American car owners do not maintain their cars like the Europeans do. Most Americans do not maintain their cars on a strict schedule. They take their cars to a shop when they break. Most do change the motor oil but they think that that is the only maintenance needed. Hence, as the cars age, they break more and the used car buyer has to foot the bill for all these poorly maintained vehicles. On the other hand, most Europeans treat maintenance as a serious part of car ownership. They are taught and realize that lack of car care means expensive repairs down the line so the average used car in Europe is in better shape than the average used car here.
Agree, although there might be another factor at play. Many high end cars in North America are leased which probably contributes to a hard life for these cars in their early years. Europe is not as addicted to leasing so if you own a car and intend to keep it for a while you're more likely to care for it.

BTW I lived in Cyprus for a few years in the mid 1970's and we used to be able to catch TV programming from Beirut. What a jewel of a city!! It was tragic to see what happened to it in the recent past. Hopefully it's on a bit of a rebound.
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  #14  
Old 10-12-2012, 03:53 PM
BeavesBimmer BeavesBimmer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by granlund View Post
I should pick a 10 year old Toyota. EVERYONE drives them.
Very well said. I have a 95 Toyota 4 runner with a 5speed that I am driving this week due to a cracked radiator.

...the only thing my toyota doesn't do better than my 540 is corner, go fast, brake, or impress the ladies... Trade Offs.
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  #15  
Old 10-12-2012, 07:35 PM
edjack edjack is offline
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European maintenance schedule is more intensive than that in the USA, which is driven by BMW NA Marketing.
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  #16  
Old 10-19-2012, 12:14 AM
magic magic is offline
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I don't know if it is more strict in Europe. I used to drive a lot of BMWs in the UK and the last one I had was a 735 with the V8 and it is a 1999. I had no issues with it at all and it already had over 144,000 miles on it when I bought it. I take it an independent garage that has a lot of BMW experience and they only changed the oil after 10,000 miles. In fact when I wanted to change it earlier, they said No.
So I do not think it was a question of being stricter rules there. Furthermore, the safety they do is much more lenient that certainly the ones they do in Canada. Sure they do the emission test.
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  #17  
Old 10-21-2012, 12:20 PM
ayman ayman is offline
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Dear friend

Thanks for sharing your story with us

I am from bahrain, i had owned many bmw imported cars the cleanest alwayes japanes imported. Us and euro are middle clean car but of course butter then our middle east cars becouse of the hot weather

Our country is small island so no way to use it high millage You find 2003 with only 80k km


UOTE=e30lebanon;7128916]Thanks man! Glad you liked all of that! You can't imagine how much the media can affect your opinion about your own country especially if you don't live in it anymore..I was afraid when I went back to visit my country this summer and I was away for less then a year! When I arrived I just adapted and forgot about the news and that's how people live their. I wouldn't recommend a non Lebanese friend to visit at this time because of the regional conflicts (northern neighbor) but before that it was all good and believe it or not the Lebanese economy is built around tourism.

Here's an old but good tourist guide video:
By the way Sidon is my home city..Beirut the capital..Zahle is where I registered the 540

And if you like to see some real problems in Lebanon have a look at this:
I'm 100% sure non of those was mentioned in the news right? [/QUOTE]
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