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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 01-04-2013, 03:09 AM
smithlonzo smithlonzo is offline
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Mein Auto: '02 540i
E39 Love/Hate Relationship

Good morning! I'm a new member from Kingwood, TX. My 2002 540I is my 4th BMW but certainly the most troublesome. I bought it online 4 years ago - the pictures were great but hid some mechanical issues. Drove it home from Phoenix and the radiator cracked in the driveway (ironically an answered prayer that if my new used car has a problem - let me get home before it surfaces - I did and it did). This week 'The Beast' as we call it was towed to a reputable and knowledgeable shop because the car simply would not idle at all. It had been idling very rough during cold weather but finally would not idle at all. The diagnosis is leaking intake manifold. Apparently made of plastic, it is warped such that replacing the gaskets won't fix the problem. The quote to replace the manifold, valve cover gaskets, replace fan clutch, a temperature sensor, coolant, front brake pads and rotors, spark plugs, and labor is $3500. The car has 113K miles. Compression is good they say. I'm struggling with putting $3500 into a car that would retail for less than $10,000. However I own it and loathe the thought of payments and/or writing a big check for another vehicle. As I have read through the threads regarding E39s the last few days it seems they are 'fun to drive', expensive to own and maintain' and have many issues due to 'poor design'. I am interested in your opinions as to why or why not to continue my love hate relationship with 'The Beast'.
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  #2  
Old 01-04-2013, 04:13 AM
AH673000 AH673000 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW 528i
My two bits..... It is a beautiful car.... Have it repaired and drive it......

In the future , try to buy a used BMW from a more temperate climate . Steer clear of California cars also. I picked my '97 up in Portland, Oregon and drove it to the East Coast . One owner, garage kept, full documented history, 106k . Cars that live in a 40-70 degree climate with zero salt and clean air and clean , non pothole roads are like new at 100k.

Worse States to buy a used car from.... Arizona , Nevada( extreme heat ) and Northeast. ( cold, heat, humidity, potholes, salt, poor mechanic base) .
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  #3  
Old 01-04-2013, 04:43 AM
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demas demas is offline
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sorry to hear about the troubles, sounds so familiar.

Fact is these cars are not getting younger and the latest examples are on 10 years now.

If you just have to have an E39 it will need serious willingness to put up with. Not just dollars but inconvenience of sudden break-downs at the worst times and an uneasiness to drive as you are constantly worrying about the next problem. Some have better luck than others.

you will hear shortly about 'should have done a pre-purchase inspection' and 'previous owner slash preventive maintenance' etc. but that doesn't help you now.


I've owned E39's exclusively 12 years straight and currently on a 2002 540 sport and it is without a doubt the worst BMW from a reliability standpoint I've owned. I absolutely love these cars - but I ended up with a bad example, stuck with it for 4 years and now moving on in a few months to an F10.

Honestly, best to cut your losses now - after the $3,500 repair job (if you go through with it) most certainly the next issue is around the corner and that cycle won't stop until it runs you dry monetarily or pushes you to the fatigue limit. In my case the latter.


now, hope someone posts something more positive - good luck
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  #4  
Old 01-04-2013, 05:14 AM
540nj 540nj is offline
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Sorry to hear of your problems. I was definitely on the 'love" side last night, taking the car out for a spirited run on the road, chasing down an elusive pork shoulder roast for my neighborhood poker game tonight (Chivas, you want to come?)

I don't understand why so many other items are lumped into the poor idle diagnosis - I DIY'd my fan clutch, thermostat, coolant last month, not a terribly difficult job. Next up is the VC gaskets. The front brake job is another DIY, you could easily do in an afternoon with the right tools ($3500 would buy a complete set-up including compressor and lift!). What's the price for the Manifold itself?

Good luck, like demas I have driven e39s for 14 years now, still brings grins everytime I drive.

dave
03 540i6
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  #5  
Old 01-04-2013, 05:34 AM
smithlonzo smithlonzo is offline
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Good question - the idle issue sent the car to the shop. I asked them to inspect the car for other issues. The manifold is $1000 and the labor to replace it is approx $300-500. Good point on DIY items. I used to enjoy DIYon cars but have spent the last 29 yrs (as a married man) doing dramatic DIY on homes! The most auto DIY I've done recently is changing headlights, oil changes, minor repairs. I suppose, since we just bought a house that doesn't need remodeling, that I could take up the auto DIY again... will have to give that some thought.
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  #6  
Old 01-04-2013, 06:00 AM
540nj 540nj is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smithlonzo View Post
Good question - the idle issue sent the car to the shop. I asked them to inspect the car for other issues. The manifold is $1000 and the labor to replace it is approx $300-500. Good point on DIY items. I used to enjoy DIYon cars but have spent the last 29 yrs (as a married man) doing dramatic DIY on homes! The most auto DIY I've done recently is changing headlights, oil changes, minor repairs. I suppose, since we just bought a house that doesn't need remodeling, that I could take up the auto DIY again... will have to give that some thought.
Careful on the fan clutch, several threads recently on fan explosion that causes severe damage to hood and hoses. To replace will take less than an hour as long as you have the right tool to hold the fan while unscrewing (I wedge a screwdriver on the bolts to hold while using a big crescent on the nut (reverse thread), but tricky the first time). Need to buy the clutch and fan separately. Here's the part numbers from the dealer invoice

11-52-1-712-110 Fan 11 Blade $48.32
11-52-7-502-804 Fan Coupling $212.24

I'm sure you can do better pricing online.

dave
03 540i6

Last edited by 540nj; 01-04-2013 at 06:02 AM. Reason: nut replaced bolt
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  #7  
Old 01-04-2013, 07:13 AM
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manticore33 manticore33 is offline
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What is your time worth? That would be the question I'd ask myself first.

Working on a car is a natural outlet for me because I spend my entire workday in an office and most of it sitting behind a computer. Thus, I gladly allocate resources to my cars. Given that, I enjoy a challenge and like to go against conventional "common sense." I choose demanding cars because I feel the effort to reward is much higher. An e39 while somewhat common, is much more of unique vehicle to drive than your average commuter. That experience offered by driving is what pushes me to keep it (mine is at 214k miles and rusting, but drives nice) until I don't need a sedan and can press the Porsche into near life-long DD service. To me, it is akin to working on a beautiful 1800s home versus some 1980s box on a box. The 1800s home will always be in more disrepair requiring more time and money, but the results are so much more beautiful when each project is finished.

Everything is time or money, and you need to find the right ratio for you. I am not sure if the boards are the best place for that answer.
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  #8  
Old 01-04-2013, 08:28 AM
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1BADBM 1BADBM is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by demas View Post
sorry to hear about the troubles, sounds so familiar.

Fact is these cars are not getting younger and the latest examples are on 10 years now.

If you just have to have an E39 it will need serious willingness to put up with. Not just dollars but inconvenience of sudden break-downs at the worst times and an uneasiness to drive as you are constantly worrying about the next problem. Some have better luck than others.

you will hear shortly about 'should have done a pre-purchase inspection' and 'previous owner slash preventive maintenance' etc. but that doesn't help you now.


I've owned E39's exclusively 12 years straight and currently on a 2002 540 sport and it is without a doubt the worst BMW from a reliability standpoint I've owned. I absolutely love these cars - but I ended up with a bad example, stuck with it for 4 years and now moving on in a few months to an F10.

Honestly, best to cut your losses now - after the $3,500 repair job (if you go through with it) most certainly the next issue is around the corner and that cycle won't stop until it runs you dry monetarily or pushes you to the fatigue limit. In my case the latter.


now, hope someone posts something more positive - good luck
I agree with this and can relate %100. I've had mine for six years, and year after year I've had to put money into it. I recently spent about 4 grand between suspension and a blown head gasket. It's hard to mod a car when repairs keep popping up. I took it out on the highway and of course it put a smile on my face, but sometimes I wonder if its worth it.
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  #9  
Old 01-04-2013, 08:43 AM
arucano arucano is offline
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Mein Auto: '03 530I/S blk/blk
A manifold failure / leak is a highly unusual failure. Have you seen where it failed? Are you sure it is not a vacuum leak in one of the hoses that is causing the problem. If the manifold has failed, it would likely have thrown a CEL code. We have an E39 540 and 530 with high milage. The radiator issue is normal for the E39s. I replaced mine at 140K on the 530. I have not heard of manifolds warping / leaking before however. (btw, I live in Kingwood as well)
good luck
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  #10  
Old 01-04-2013, 10:53 AM
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AnotherGeezer AnotherGeezer is offline
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Mein Auto: 2003 530i/5
E39's..

Fun when they run..
Bunk when they're junk..
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  #11  
Old 01-04-2013, 11:17 AM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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Mein Auto: 2001 540i/6, '90 BMW k75s
Quote:
Originally Posted by smithlonzo View Post
Good question - the idle issue sent the car to the shop. I asked them to inspect the car for other issues. The manifold is $1000 and the labor to replace it is approx $300-500. Good point on DIY items. I used to enjoy DIYon cars but have spent the last 29 yrs (as a married man) doing dramatic DIY on homes! The most auto DIY I've done recently is changing headlights, oil changes, minor repairs. I suppose, since we just bought a house that doesn't need remodeling, that I could take up the auto DIY again... will have to give that some thought.
I think you and Manticore have hit on the key question. Unless you're willing to spend a significant amount of time on DIY per miles driven, the 540i doesn't make economic sense. But if you're not going to put a lot of miles per year on the car, it's one of the most enjoyable cars to drive, and if you're willing to spend the DIY time, it's a rewarding car to own. I decided to buy mine two years ago, despite these misgivings, after seeing the wealth of DIY information available in forums such as this. I have no regrets, and in fact I smile every time I get behind the wheel.
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  #12  
Old 01-04-2013, 11:27 AM
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DHoang DHoang is offline
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Mein Auto: '98 528i, '82 323i
IF you DONT keep the e39,
what will you replace it with? New or another used car?
If it's w/ a new car (quite understandable w/ so many 0%/60 months factory incentives),
will it be another BMW or a different brand (Honda, TOyota,)?
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  #13  
Old 01-04-2013, 12:19 PM
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Studawg Studawg is offline
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Get a second opinion!
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  #14  
Old 01-04-2013, 12:39 PM
NZ BMW NZ BMW is offline
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Mein Auto: 2001 530i
Sometimes I want to beat my E39 to within an inch of its life:



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  #15  
Old 01-04-2013, 02:54 PM
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mpower997 mpower997 is offline
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Originally Posted by NZ BMW View Post
Sometimes I want to beat my E39 to within an inch of its life:



haha thats good
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  #16  
Old 01-04-2013, 03:30 PM
mhobryan mhobryan is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 528i 5 speed
Quote:
Originally Posted by smithlonzo View Post
Good question - the idle issue sent the car to the shop. I asked them to inspect the car for other issues. The manifold is $1000 and the labor to replace it is approx $300-500. Good point on DIY items. I used to enjoy DIYon cars but have spent the last 29 yrs (as a married man) doing dramatic DIY on homes! The most auto DIY I've done recently is changing headlights, oil changes, minor repairs. I suppose, since we just bought a house that doesn't need remodeling, that I could take up the auto DIY again... will have to give that some thought.
My two cents ... spent $1500 - $1700 to replace the intake manifold and the valve cove gaskets (shouldn't be too much extra since they are "in there" ...but i'm not a v8 expert) and DYI the rest piece meal...this board is a wealth of info to help you with the rest...and the rest isn't too difficult. When you ask a shop to check for stuff that need fixing they WILL find stuff.
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  #17  
Old 01-04-2013, 07:02 PM
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fullthrottle540 fullthrottle540 is offline
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Location: san diego
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 165
Mein Auto: E39
Quote:
Originally Posted by AH673000 View Post
Steer clear of California cars also.

HUH?? You don't like garage parked, rust-free, rot-free cars ??
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  #18  
Old 01-04-2013, 07:16 PM
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Stone Roots Stone Roots is offline
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Location: San Diego, CA
 
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Mein Auto: 2003 E39 2009 E60
Quote:
Originally Posted by fullthrottle540 View Post
HUH?? You don't like garage parked, rust-free, rot-free cars ??
HAHAHA - I was thinking the exact same thing....

My neighbor bought his E39 from Germany - passed away in 06. I bought the car from his wife and have kept it in the garage since. For a car that is a solid 10 year old DD - it is in damn near immaculate condition.

Last edited by Stone Roots; 01-04-2013 at 07:19 PM.
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