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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 08-02-2010, 10:01 PM
stewartfan stewartfan is offline
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Location: Eastern Sierras, CA
 
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Mein Auto: Future 06 e90 Driver
540i High Mileage Reliability, Common Probs?

looking into a 2001-03 post refresh 540, just doing some research, and used ones tend to be very cheap, considering the mileage (~60000mls). How well do these hold up with that kind of mileage? It'd be a daily driver, with a fairly short commute (2 miles tops). Although I'll probably be biking the commute part to most of the time, I'll still need to drive most other places, so it'll still be a daily driver. Also would be my road-trip car, everything. There is an extreme lack of BMW-specialty shops in my area also. There is a German Auto shop, but I don't know if I would trust it any more than the other corner shops around here for routine repairs, so I don't hope to ever have anything that must be completed at a BMW center over my ownership. I would replace the, in my mind, horrid-looking wood trim with something more sporty looking, like aluminum or some other sort of material. I guess my main question would be: are they reliable enough to be a daily driver? I'll be putting 10,000+miles on it per year. Any other comments/suggestions are welcome. Alternative BMW would be an e46 coupe/sedan.

also, would do all the maintenance I could by myself, to keep costs down

Last edited by stewartfan; 08-02-2010 at 10:21 PM.
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  #2  
Old 08-02-2010, 10:45 PM
pangolin pangolin is offline
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Mein Auto: 540i 6-speed
The V8 will leak coolant from the valley pan. Mine occured at about 80,000 miles. My radiator was replaced at 30,000 miles. The engine ECU at 35,000. The rear drive shaft cv joint was replaced, before 50,000 miles. Or at least I complained to the dealer that it leaked, and its not leaking anymore. Maybe he just cleaned it up, but I now have about 103K, and CPO is no longer in effect.
The ECU should not happen to your 'high' mileage purchase. Count on doing suspension work, that is, the replacing of suspension arms, not just the shocks, and the valley pan, if you get the v8.
BTW: The rear tires barely get to 15000 miles, i think this is normal (less than 20K), although I have tracked my car.
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  #3  
Old 08-02-2010, 10:56 PM
stewartfan stewartfan is offline
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Location: Eastern Sierras, CA
 
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Mein Auto: Future 06 e90 Driver
sounds not too bad, when I get one, it's gonna have to have good maintenance records. I'm currently reading up on some other threads about 528s, and I assume most of what's said on there applies to the 540. If I were to get a 5 series, it would be the 540, and if I was forced below that, either by unreliability, or whatever else (MPGs are a little scary, I must admit, but I plan on doing all I can to improve them) then I'd go down and get an e46, or maybe even an e90 if I can find a great deal. I expect the maintenance on a 3 series'll be a lot cheaper than a 5?
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  #4  
Old 08-03-2010, 09:15 AM
edjack edjack is online now
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Mein Auto: '97 540i 6 speed
If your commute is 2 mi, ride your bike, don't subject the car to the sludge that will build up.

Unless you have lots of money for maintenence, you'll need to DIY to keep this mistress.
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  #5  
Old 08-03-2010, 11:16 AM
e39BMW e39BMW is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW 540i
My 540i has over 220K miles and since i got it at 185K, i only invested about 1.2K into it and it runs amazing.
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  #6  
Old 03-12-2013, 10:20 AM
whfh99 whfh99 is offline
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Location: New Hampshire
 
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Mein Auto: 2001 BMW X5
Looking at a 02 540i with 207k miles and wondering the same questions. What about the timing chain tensioner issues? Does that apply to this engine?
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  #7  
Old 03-12-2013, 11:13 AM
edjack edjack is online now
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Mein Auto: '97 540i 6 speed
Yes. The rails shed their plastic lining. High-mileage E39s are like a time bomb, unless the car has had scrupulous care and maintenance, and there is documentation to back it up. Then, not so much.
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Ed in San Jose '97 540i 6 speed aspensilber over aubergine leather. Build date 3/97. Golden Gate Chapter BMW CCA Nr 62319.
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  #8  
Old 03-12-2013, 11:18 AM
whfh99 whfh99 is offline
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Location: New Hampshire
 
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Mein Auto: 2001 BMW X5
This car does have detailed service records from day one and lower oil pan gasket was done by dealer about 10k ago but no mention of timing chain tensioners. Trying to bake in some cost here for negotiation as I had a 97 540i years ago and it was a money pit. Always had much better reliability with the I-6 engines, for whatever reason but have a soft spot for the V8, six speed, sport package of this 02.
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  #9  
Old 03-12-2013, 11:34 AM
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Al's540i Al's540i is offline
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Mein Auto: 2000 BMW 540i
Ed, how many miles on your 540i?

Mine has 186k miles and runs like a top. Granted I've poured money into it over the 9 years that I've owned her (a lot of it cosmetic) but I still lover her. Thinking of eventually having her re-sprayed.
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  #10  
Old 03-12-2013, 01:26 PM
Nervous Nervous is offline
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Mein Auto: 01' 330CI 6MT / 00' 540i
I think, the weakest spots of e39 540s are:
1) cooling system overall (water pump, radiator, heater hoses, expansion tank)
2) valley pan in particular
3) auto tranny may crap out
4) ABS module craps out
5) Dash/radio lose pixels
6) VANOS seals wear, starts to produce diesel sound, losing low-end torque
7) smokes due to failed OSV
8) most expensive issue: plastic timing chain guides go to pieces, requires major engine overhaul.
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  #11  
Old 03-12-2013, 01:33 PM
KSUTJH KSUTJH is offline
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Location: Maize, Kansas
 
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Mein Auto: 2014 528xi
Wow, 60,000 miles is high miles for a 10 year old car? I wonder how to describe my 200,000 then.
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  #12  
Old 03-12-2013, 04:59 PM
Bwood1 Bwood1 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1999 528i, 2002 540i
I bought my wifes 02-540ia with a blown transmission and 185k for $3,500. I know now I paid too much. We are at about $11,000 and I have done all the work (except timing-after I put the timing chain guides in I could not get it right). Replaced whole cooling system, steering, suspension, etc, etc. but it is now dependable and does not leak a drop (knock on wood). Vanos seals are next since it is starting to sound like a diesel.
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