E-39 540I common problems - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums

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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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Old 01-17-2013, 04:25 PM
Registered User
Location: Washington
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 6
Mein Auto: 2000 BMW 540I
E-39 540I common problems

Hi fellow BMW enthusiast. This is my first post but I have viewed many over the years.
I have had my 2000 540 for about 6 years. When I first bought it had 73K now at 134000 miles. Car is tight and running great.
Here is a list of repairs that I have done. Anything I should expect in the near future?
Final stage resister-causing battery drain
Water pump and T-stat
Expansion tank
Radiator hoses
Right rear door vapor barrier repair
Driver door rattle caused by a screw backed out on window guide
Control arm bushings-I replaced the arms w/bushings.
Tie rod ends
Rear ball joints
Rear sway bar link
Valve cover gaskets
Spark plugs
Cup holder
Have a great day!
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Old 01-17-2013, 05:19 PM
edjack edjack is offline
Officially Welcomed to the 'Fest
Location: San Jose, CA
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 13,456
Mein Auto: '97 540i 6 speed
Looks like you've got it covered for awhile. Now, go out and drive the snot out of it!

Early V8s ate their cats and O2 sensors at about your mileage. The later cars seem to have more robust cats.

Valley pan and upper timing case gaskets, and maybe new chain guide rails.

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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Old 01-17-2013, 05:26 PM
Registered User
Location: Washington
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 6
Mein Auto: 2000 BMW 540I
Thanks. Pretty much what I thought. I think I can do all the work so...I'll drive on!
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:34 PM
Jayr1970 Jayr1970 is offline
Cool Jay
Location: Potomac Falls, VA
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 121
Mein Auto: 2003 540i Aspen Silver
Hey Fellow 540 Enthusiasts!
Thought I'd share one little tidbit that may help someone save money down the road.. I recently had my right rear taillight stop working on my 2001 540.. By all accounts I was told this was due to moisture getting inside and corroding the connectors and the only solution was a $500 replacement of the entire tail light assembly.. While I don't disagree with the assessment, I really don't want to shell out $500 at the moment... I'm not very mechanically inclined, I can do the simple things.. I pulled out the 6 pin wiring harness myself and could see all the corrosion that had crusted up on the female connectors.. So using the most mundane of tools, a steak knife and a wire brush I cleaned off as much of the caked-on mess that I could see and using the tip of the steak knife cleaned the holes in the connector as best I could.. Well, guess what? I plugged it back in and everything, the taillight, the turn signal, reverse light and turn signal are all working as good as new.. While I know this is most likely not a permanent solution and it's bound to reoccur in the future as long as the leak is still happening, I'll spend five minutes cleaning it myself a hundred times before I pay $500 for an entire new tail light assembly!! Hope this helps and gives someone another option to a costly repair..
Good Luck!!
Jay R
Potomac Falls, VA

PS - I LOVE my 540, silver with gray leather, 19" Chrome Wheels, $8000 sound system, all windows tinted one shade illegal, showroom condition inside and out, kept super clean and meticulous, completely detailed inside and out weekly!! This car is a midlife crisis wet dream!!
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:16 AM
Spencercat Spencercat is offline
Registered User
Location: CT
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 83
Mein Auto: '03 540i/6
I think one of the 'most likely' things that will cause trouble that's not listed above is that the thrust arms will need replacing. Symptom is shuddering through steering wheel when braking from 65 mph.
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Old 02-19-2013, 06:28 AM
Registered User
Location: Washington
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 6
Mein Auto: 2000 BMW 540I
Outstanding list.....great thread to refer back to.
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Old 02-19-2013, 08:07 AM
bluebee's Avatar
bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 25,236
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Originally Posted by s2kpunisher View Post
Nice, never knew there were so many threads like this.
Basically all the obvious questions have been asked and answered.

The more difficult part is finding a 'canonical' thread (one-stop shopping) that has all the myriad answers in it.

Here's just a sample found by typing /maintenance problems F3 in the bestlinks:
- An official BMW CPO retailer operations manual (1) (2) & a BMW certified preowned pre purchase inspection brochure (1) (2) (3) & a BMW service/maintenance schedule & checklists I, II, and III (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & a classic E39 inspection I, II, III DIY (1) (2) (3) & tips for BMW E39 150K mile maintenance issues (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) & a glovebox printout for the most often recommended BMW E39 fluids (1).
Please read the suggested threads and add value, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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Old 02-19-2013, 05:18 PM
mikerpsr mikerpsr is offline
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Location: Amish Country, PA
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 32
Mein Auto: e46 325ci & e53 X5 prem
dont overlook the radiator needing replaced, mine was replaced at 62,000
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